Laser sights are one of the most valuable additions to a pistol setup. From models that maximize the tactical advantage, to subtle and easily concealable options, the best pistol laser sight will improve the speed at which you can set aim at the target, as well as hit chance, especially when firing follow-up shots.
From the times we played with laser pointers as kids, we have all learned that they are essentially quite simple. However, designing pistol laser sights is far from simple, as a high-power laser beam has to be powered from a very small battery, all wrapped in a rugged and durable casing.
When it comes to self-defense situations, a laser sight is particularly useful. In some situations, you might not be able to establish a sight picture or even raise the sights in line with your eyes. Having a laser dot to guide your aim as you’re securely holding your gun will drastically improve the chances of hitting the right target.
In low-light conditions, laser sight makes a crucial difference. Illuminated iron sights certainly help, but in combination with a laser dot hitting the target and providing depth perception, shots in those situations become considerably easier. Weird angles and cover might prevent you from acquiring a sight picture at all – but with careful aim, a laser sight will assist you in target acquisition.
In the following list, you will see a wide variety of solutions by different manufacturers, some of which you’ll be quite surprised by. I’ve made sure to cover options compatible with everything from Glocks and 1911s, to compact pistols and revolvers, so join me as we discover the best pistol laser sights for you!
Best Pistol Laser Sight 2020: Our Picks
|Product||Weight||Tactical Light||Battery Life||Our Rating|
|Streamlight TLR-4||2.81 oz||Included||11 Hours Laser/ 1.5 Hours LED + Laser||4.7|
|Crimson Trace LG-401||N/A||None||2 Hours||4.9|
|Viridian C5L-R||N/A||Included||20+ Hours Laser / 75 minutes Laser and Light||4.4|
|LaserMax Centerfire Laser||0.50 oz||None||4+ Hours||4.5|
|Crimson Trace CMR-206 Rail Master||3.5 oz||None||2 Hours||4.5|
|Crimson Trace Lasergrips for Revolvers||N/A||None||4 Hours||4.4|
|LaserMax Spartan||1.3 oz||Included||4+ Hours||4.5|
|Tacticon Laser Sight||1 oz||None||N/A||4.6|
|NC Star AQPTLMG||3.3 oz||None||N/A||4.5|
|Battery Life||11 Hours Laser/ 1.5 Hours LED + Laser|
The Streamlight 69240 TLR-4 is an excellent option offering both a tactical light and a red laser sight in one packaging. It is designed to fit compact and sub-compact pistols, as well as most full-sized pistols. Designed and assembled in The United States, the TLR-4 is built to the highest production standards, making it highly reliable.
The impact-resistant polymer construction not only protects the TLR-4 from shock, but it can also withstand extreme cold, hot, and humid conditions, as well as complete submersion in water. An anodized aluminum face cap and a borofloat high-temperature glass seal the sight.
The C4 LED technology is used to produce a powerful and blinding, 125-lumen, 5300-candela light source. It is impervious to shock and will last for 50,000 hours, and can run for 90 minutes on a single battery. Speaking of controls, the on-off switch is ambidextrous, a three-position switch allows for toggling laser sight, illumination, or both. Lastly, windage and elevation can be adjusted by a screw mounted in brass bushing for a dependable hold of zero.
While it won’t fit every type of pistol, the list of compatible models is quite high, allowing for some interchangeability. The integrated LED flashlight adds a lot of versatility and added value to the mix, which is a very appealing feature. Take everything discussed, and add a lifetime warranty, and you get one of the best pistol laser sights currently available.
|Wavelength||633 nm or 532 nm|
|Battery Life||2 Hours|
I’ve mentioned the extraordinary ways in which manufacturers solve the issue of fitting an additional piece of equipment on a package as small as a pistol. Crimson Trace has certainly found a revolutionary way with the LG-401 Lasergrips.
Intended to replace the grips of a 1911 Full-Size Frame, the LG-401 is compatible with a long list of variants from various manufacturers. Despite the slick profile, the laser sight can be fully adjusted for windage and elevation, albeit through more complicated means. You won’t have to worry about the extra step of activating the laser sight, as the instinctive activation feature integrated in the front of the grip will take care of it for you.
This design is not without its limitations, as 1911 models with ambidextrous safety are not compatible, with shortened safety replacements available. Unlike other options, you cannot install the LG-401 without a gunsmith’s assistance. Still, it is a very well built product for a niche market and it will truly shine as an attachment to a personal defense weapon.
|Battery Life||20+ Hours Laser / 75 minutes Laser&Light|
A serious contender for the best pistol laser sight comes from the Viridian Weapon Tech factory in the form of the C5L-R laser sight and tactical light combo. Due to the rail mounting, it is compatible with most pistols, and thanks to its small profile, it fits perfectly under the barrel. Application use includes conceal and carry, law enforcement, military, as well as self-defense situations.
The Radiance combat optics technology with a CREE LED is used for the tactical light provides an oval-shaped light beam that provides an advantage over the conventional light. With the 100 lumens of constant and 140 lumens of strobe, it’s quite powerful for such a compact packaging.
The most impressive part of the C5L-R is the battery life when using just the laser. 20 hours of constant or 35+ hours of strobing is miles ahead of the competition and allows the user to not only carry it but also practice extensively with it, without carrying a pocketful of batteries.
On the C5L-R, you’ll find the light mode controls, as well as windage and elevation adjustments. The innovative INSTANT-ON technology allows for automatic activation of the laser sight as the weapon is drawn from the holster, however, it does need the proprietary TacLoc holster to function. Overall, Viridian has done a stellar job with the C5L-R, from packing a tactical light into such a small package to having an impressive 20-35 hours of laser light.
|Battery Life||4+ Hours|
The fabled reliability of the revolvers meant they never really went out of style, but don’t think that the laser sight market isn’t aware of it. LaserMax introduces an excellent option for Ruger LC9/LC9s, Ruger LCP, and S&W Shield with their rather uninspired sounding, Centerfire Laser model.
Designed in such a way so it perfectly fits the contours of the revolver, the LaserMax Centerfire Laser does not extend past the snub-nose barrel and feels like a natural extension of the gun. LaserMax has ensured that the concealed or holster carry will not be limited, or impeded in any way by the use of their laser sight, enhancing the personal defense aspect these revolvers already have.
User controls include ambidextrous switching, programming for steady or high-vis pulsed beam, as well as wind and elevation adjustments. Reinforced nylon construction and a 5-year warranty are excellent signs of the build quality. For the revolvers of this type, there’s truly no better match than the LaserMax Centerfire Laser.
|Battery Life||2 Hours|
As a more convenient option among laser sights, the Crimson Trace CMR-206 Rail Master is a no-nonsense, rail-mounted sight that works well with a variety of pistols. The ambidextrous control switch helps left-handed people activate the sight fast, and with the auto shut-off feature, the Rail Master will turn off after 5 minutes of inactivity, prolonging the battery life.
Adjustable for windage and elevation, the CMR-206 fires a beam of green-colored light that can be adjusted to momentary, strobe, or constant-on mode of operation. At 50 feet, the diameter of the dot is roughly 1/2″, precise enough for accurate fire.
Polymer construction results in a rugged and durable laser sight, backed by a 1-year limited warranty. If you’re looking for a conventional laser sight option, the Crimson Trace CMR-206 Rail Master is definitely the right choice.
|Wavelength||633 nm or 532 nm|
|Battery Life||4 Hours|
Crimson Trace seemingly perfected the grip-mounted, Lasergrip series, and decided to expand the offer to the revolver users as well. This revolver series fits Smith&Wesson J-Frame Round Butt, and just like the 1911 option, provides an inconspicuous improvement to your weapon.
The benefits of a laser grip are straightforward. As the grip itself becomes the laser sight, no protruding pieces are added to the pistol, aside from the small point of laser emission. Not only that, but the instinctive activation point in front of the grip ensures that the sight will be active whenever you grab the revolver in your hand.
In an effort to improve the design even further, Crimson Trace has incorporated their ShockStop system, which uses soft, anti-vibration material and a cushioned grip to reduce recoil shock on the hands. As a gunsmith is not required for installation this time around, the Lasergrip series becomes a very nice option for revolver use.
|Wavelength||510-535 nm or 650 nm|
|Battery Life||4+ Hours|
What I love about the LaserMax Spartan is the clever design. Symmetrical in appearance, it has only one tactical light source, with the other ‘barrel’ designed to fit a AAA battery. Not only will the Spartan run for over 4 hours, but the easy and cheap battery replacement makes it one of the best pistol laser sights out there. But the clever features don’t stop there.
Aside from selecting either vivid red or daytime green laser beam, Spartan has an automatic shut-off timer, windage, and elevation adjustment controls and oversized, dual electronic touch pads enable both left and right-handed use. Programmable for steady or high-visibility pulsed beam, and with the 4 to 120 lumen tactical light, LaserMax Spartan has plenty to offer.
While it looks like it’s on the larger end, the sleek design is actually quite compact. Durable and well-built, the Spartan comes with a 5-year warranty as proof of high quality. It has certainly earned its spot in the race for the best pistol laser sight.
This extremely affordable option comes from Tacticon, and while it fails to provide us with some of the much-needed information, such as battery life and waterproofing, it still manages to be a very appealing choice. Not exactly competing for the overall best pistol laser sight, Tacticon focused on producing a highly reliable, well-functioning sight for the lowest cost imaginable, making it the best budget buy.
You’ll still find windage and elevation adjustment controls on the Tacticon, as well as an on-off press-button in the back of the sight. A cool feature present on this laser sight is the additional Picatinny rail, allowing you to fit a flashlight or other attachment to the sight. The beam itself is in bright red color, capable of reaching 50 to 100 meters depending on the conditions.
In the package, aside from the sight, you’ll receive a rail, battery, plus windage and elevation wrench, as well as 6 batteries for two sets. There’s one more thing left to include, and it will definitely surprise you. Tacticon Laser Sight comes with a lifetime, no questions asked warranty. Tacticon impressed us beyond all expectations and established itself firmly as the best pistol laser sight on a budget.
Another affordable option arrives from the NC Star in a compact package codenamed AQPTLMG. It doesn’t offer much in terms of specification, but from the technology used, and reviews of satisfied customers, we can discern that it’s a good package overall.
Built out of aluminum with a black anodized finish for added durability, the NC Star features a quick-release system that provides compatibility with most Weaver style mounts or Picatinny rails. Windage and elevation are adjustable via which is not ideal, but the ambidextrous on-off switch is definitely an added benefit.
The Nc Star AQPTLMG is a cool-looking alternative among the budget laser sight options, and while it certainly doesn’t reach the best pistol laser sight level, it’s definitely more than worth its price.
How to Choose the Best Pistol Laser Sight
Selecting an appropriate laser sight depends mainly on the situations it’s going to be used in. As they come in all shapes and sizes, weight, and with or without an integrated tactical light, knowing what’s the right type for the job makes the purchase all the easier. In the following segment, we’ll go over the most important differences and explain the benefits versus drawbacks.
One of the more obvious differences between laser sights is the color of the laser itself. The red versus green debate has seemingly been settled, with green coming up on top. Through extensive testing and theoretical knowledge, it has been proven that the green laser would appear significantly brighter than the red with the same amount of power.
While the differences are noticeable, at shorter ranges, both colors subjectively even out. There’s certainly an advantage to going green, but as many manufacturers still produce red, or provide a choice between both options, it can also come down to personal preference.
Shape and Mounting Type
You’ve seen some innovative solutions for mounting a laser sight onto a pistol, but there’s even more I thought were just too gimmicky to put into the best pistol laser sight category, such as guide rod or rear sight mounted. Still, you’ll have to make an important decision whether you want less weight and volume on your gun, or more versatility and convenience.
Rail-Mounted Laser Sight
The rail-mounted laser sight will always be a good option. Interchangeable between many pistols models, they’re typically compatible with rifles and other weapons as well. This versatility does not only add additional value to the laser sight but also reduces the overall cost, as the standardized mounting and liberty with design allows the manufacturer to produce their laser sight at a lower cost.
Most models do not hinder concealed carrying or quick-drawing in any way, but they’re still a clear attachment to the gun. Changing the battery, and adjusting the sight for windage and elevation is more easily done than on the other models. However, the on-off switch is usually located on the unit itself, requiring that additional step of turning it on before being able to fire.
Frame-Mounted Laser Sight
What I would classify as a frame-mounted sight is a model that has or doesn’t have the universal rail mount, but is built in such a way that it fits perfectly to the gun it’s designed for. The tradeoff with the universally mounted sight is clearly the loss of interchangeability.
However, frame-mounted laser sight provides a slicker design that only looks better, but functions slightly better as well. The perfect design allows for closer on-off controls, or a specially designed button positioned on the trigger guard, removing that extra step required of reaching out for the sight’s controls.
Grip-Mounted Laser Sight
The most instinctive and hassle-free experience comes with the grip-mounted laser sights. They add next to no volume or mass to the pistol, in some respects making it a purely beneficial addition. This type of sight is easily activated by gripping the pistol properly, making the process of firing exactly the same as without a laser sight.
Among the more unique designs, this is the one I would seriously recommend, but it doesn’t come without some drawbacks. Naturally, it’s specific to a single model and doesn’t always fit if the pistol has ambidextrous safety. They’re not entirely friendly to left-handed use, and the change in grip material and design can be unpleasant to some users.
However, if you consider this as an attachment to a primarily personal defense weapon, then you’ve got a built-in laser that will provide significant targeting benefits without any of the drawbacks.
The inclusion of a tactical light with a laser sight has always been popular and works best with rail or frame-mounted sights. The added benefit of having a powerful source of light will significantly improve visibility and remove the hesitation of taking an unsure shot from the picture. The main downside of this combination is that the tactical light drains the battery significantly faster than the laser, and the sight itself becomes heavier and bulkier. I would still recommend getting the integrated tactical light, as the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks in almost any case.
It doesn’t matter how well the laser sight is built if it doesn’t activate due to drained batteries. The limitations of most laser sight models stem from the compact package and the inability to house a larger battery. Because of that, a typical working period for a laser sight is just a few hours.
For self-defense purposes, this is not really a problem, and you can make do with any model, as long as you keep a fresh battery in for added security. But for target shooting, you’ll need one of the more specialized versions, to save yourself from having to replace batteries after every session. Luckily, there are some excellent options on our list, from the Viridian C5L-R’s impressive 20+ hours of battery life to LaserMax Spartan with a cheap and easy way to swap the batteries out.
As you can see, just like red dot sights and holographic sights, the best pistol laser sights also come in all shapes and sizes, featuring all kinds of clever solutions to make as little change to the process of operating a pistol. Frame-mounted or grip-mounted laser sights make for a better fit on the gun, but the universal, rail-mounted options offer more versatility. Add a flashlight to the mix, and you’ve got a proper setup to illuminate and track targets in low-light settings or in total darkness.
It all comes down to your priorities and preferences, but as long as the model fits your gun, you can’t make a bad choice with any of the options provided in the list. If by now, you’ve painted a clear picture of what you’d like to own, then this article has achieved its purpose. I hope you’ll enjoy whichever laser sight you pick, for years to come!