Frank's Review: LaserMax Gunsights

By Frank Borelli, Blackwater Newsletter

In past articles I''ve reviewed several pistol mounted lights. One of the, the Insight Lights M6 was both a flashlight and a laser unit combined. As most of your are aware, I''m not fond of having flashlights mounted on pistols except for very specific job duties. In law enforcement, those duties are K9 Handlers and SWAT team members - most specifically the guys on point who have to hold the bunker. Laser sights are different, and in this week''s review, I''m going to take a look at those available from LaserMax.

To assist me with the evaluation, LaserMax provided me two units: one to fit my Glock 19 (or 23) and one for my Glock 36. On LaserMax''s website (, they proudly make the statement that they now manufacture an internal laser sight for every Glock pistol. That is a significant statement when you consider that two-thirds of the law enforcement agencies in the United States today are carrying Glocks. When I spoke with the good folks at LaserMax, I really didn''t expect them to have one available for my Model 36. After all, it''s predominantly an off-duty gun and the sales might not justify the development expense. Not so. They had it readily available, and they have models to fit the "baby" Glocks as well: the models 26 and 27. But they don''t just make sights for Glocks. As I type this, I have a unit for my Springfield-Armory 1911 on order. I eagerly await its delivery.

So, I received the two Test & Evaluation units. First question: How hard are they to install? The answer is: not very. If you can field strip a Glock and follow simple instructions, you can install the unit. First you begin by making sure the weapon is unloaded: eject the magazine, work the slide - visually and physically inspect the chamber to make sure there is not ammunition in the weapon. Field strip the Glock as you normally would.

In the slide, remove the captured recoil spring/guide assembly. The actual Laser unit will replace this. You have to make sure that you insert the Laser/recoil spring assembly the correct way, but it is clearly marked so that you know which side has to be against the barrel.

In the frame, you have to replace the take-down lever and take-down lever spring. To do this, you use the provided tool to depress the take-down lever spring, and - holding the frame sideways - shake out the take-down lever. Carefully remove the take-down lever spring (tweezers or needle-nose pliers can help). The LaserMax replacement parts drop right in. Put in their take-down leverl spring and then depress it to insert the take-down lever. Reassemble the pistol.

To activate the laser you simply push either end of the take-down lever into the frame. Whichever end you push, the opposite end will stick out the side of the frame and is marked with red so that you can easily see that the laser is "on" (as if the pulsing red laser light isn''t clue enough).

Yes, I said "pulsing red laser light". The LaserMax laser blinks on and off at a high rate of speed. Why? Because the human eye reacts to and focuses on movement - or change. Therefore, it''s easier for your eyes to pick up the blinking red laser light than it would be to pick up the steady-on laser light. Think about that the next time you''re at the range with a laser unit in or on your weapon. If it''s a steady-on light, you usually have to move it, even if only just a little, to pick up where it is on, or in relation to, the target.

There are several advantages to having the LaserMax internal laser sight. The most notable (to me) is that fact that it IS 100% internal. It doesn''t add anything to the pistol that you need a special holster to accommodate. The external dimensions of your weapon don''t change. The fact that the activation switch is right at the end of either index finger - easily turned on or off - is a feature that I appreciate.

Operationally the laser can be effective if used properly. That little red dot, whether it''s steady-on or blinking - is a hint to the bad guy(s) that they''ve been targeted. Most of them have watched enough television and movies that they know what comes next: they do as they''re told or bullet holes appear in their body where the little red dot is indicating. So, we know that the use of laser aiming devices can reduce the number of Officer Involved Shootings because the laser dot is a sufficient threat to the bad guy that he takes the hint and stops acting stupid.

It is imperative to note, however, that the little red dot is not magic. Bullets only go where indicated if basic firearms skills are maintained. For example, I have a friend who is an accomplished shooter. He regularly qualifies EXPERT, is a firearms instructor, and a veteran SWAT officer. BUT, the first time we were at the range with a laser sight on his weapon his hits on the target were significantly different than his point of aim with the laser. He was convinced that the laser was improperly aligned. The truth was that he was sure the bullet would follow the red dot - and it did. As I stood behind him watching him shoot, I could see the red dot move down and to the left on the target, stopping when the weapon fired and the bullet hole showed up in the target almost exactly where the red dot was, and then he recovered from the recoil and brought the red dot back up to the x-ring. He hadn''t seen the laser moving because he was jerking the trigger and ignoring his mechanical sights. He never saw the red dot move because he was pulling the trigger so fast that it moved, the weapon fired, and he recovered. When I told him what was going on, he paid more attention to his basic marksmanship skills - most notably breath control, trigger squeeze and follow through - and his shots improved. Just because the laser is there and on doesn''t mean the bullets are magic. One must focus on the sight picture with the red dot just as much, if not more than, as with the sight picture of mechanical sights. The difference is the focus: instead of focusing on the front sight - and the target being slightly blurred - you have to focus on the red dot which is ON the target so that the target is in focus as well.

This also demonstrates how a laser can be used by Firearms Instructors to help diagnose shooting mistakes. If the shooter is jerking the trigger - as my buddy was - it''s easily seen since you can watch the laser dot move. If the shooter is flinching then the laser dot moves before the weapon fires. Again, an easily recognized indication of a marksmanship flaw. The fact that the LaserMax unit is completely internal allows the units to be used for training purposes, even if the officers won''t have them installed for actual duty use. With that said, I should also note that no officer should be permitted to go on duty with a laser unit installed until AFTER he (or she) has qualified both day and night using the laser sight.

With the units installed on my G19 and G36, I''ve put a significant number of rounds through the weapons to insure that the laser unit would stand up to the abuse. I''m not enough of an engineer to know whether or not the unit receives more or less energy as a part of the recoil system, but I knew that I wanted to be comfortable with it''s ability to take abuse. Two thousand 9mm rounds later (out of the G19) and five hundred .45ACP rounds later (out of the G36) and the laser units have showed no signs of damage or performance degradation. They are still in my guns today and I am wearing my G19 as I type this.

LaserMax offers both agency and individual officer pricing discounts. The necessary forms are available on their website. To assist agency''s who might have restricted budgets (which ones don''t?), LaserMax also has information available on their sight for Grant programs that might cover their products. I''ve found individual units listed on the Internet as low as $260 new, and $160 used (eBay). While other manufacturer''s products might have both a flashlight and a laser for that same price (or less), they also mandate added expenses for new holsters, carry pouches, batteries, etc. When you add all that up, how close do you get to the cost of a LaserMax unit?

I''m glad to have the two that I have and, as I said earlier, I''m looking forward to getting one for my S-A 1911. It''s the gun I wear most often and I''m sure I''ll enjoy having that laser sight capability without having to buy a new holster. Check out the LaserMax website for more information or email me with any questions I didn''t answer.

About The Author
Lt. Frank Borelli is the Training Commander for the Fairmount Heights Police Department, a DC suburb on the Maryland side. Lt. Borelli is responsible for creating, maintaining and updating training to serve five municipal police departments in that area. Any comments, suggestions and/or criticisms may be sent to Lt. Borelli via email to

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