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Best Pistol Laser Sights for Training and Defense [2024]

Image of Bryan Hill, Founder of Pistol Wizard Bryan Hill / March 21 2024

Crimson Trace LG-443G Laserguard green laser for Glock 42 and 43

Laser sights are an outstanding training tool, and in some cases, the best sight system for defense. What else do laser sights excel at? How else do lasers compare with red dots? When should you consider a laser for a compact or full-size pistol? Jow do you tell a good laser from a bad one? Let's find out.

Are Pistol Laser Sights Worth It?

Some say lasers are a gimmick. I say they're wrong. In the right cases, lasers are the best choice for daily carry.

In pocket pistols, height is everything: If your pistol is too tall, it won't fit in your pocket, or it will snag as you draw it. Red dots add height to your pistol, but lasers do not: they go under the rail. Pocket pistols tend to have terrible iron sights, and sometimes they can't be replaced. A laser solves that problem, and others.

What about for compact and full-size pistols? It depends. Let's look at the pros and cons:

  • Shooting around cover. If you have to go prone, shoot around a wall, with a ballistic shield, etc., a laser rules.
  • Fast learning curve. It takes less training to get good with a laser.
  • Overcoming poor eyesight. Are you cross-eye dominant? An older shooter? No problem.
  • Low-light shooting. A laser is better than the best night sights in the dark.
  • Compatible with iron sights. Unlike a red dot, any irons will work.
  • Threat focus in self-defense. In a life-or-death struggle, our instincts force us to focus on the threat. Lasers work with these instincts instead of against them.
  • Situational awareness. Since you can focus on your target(s) instead of the front sight, you can quickly adapt to changes in the environment. This isn't a big deal on the range. But in a fight for your life? It's gold.
  • Shooting on the move. More situational awareness means you can move and engage targets faster and easier while moving. Again, not a thing you notice on the range, but you will when the targets shoot back.
  • Shooting moving targets. In a real gunfight, people move. It's hard to hit a moving target with irons, but with lasers, it's easy. I can't overstate how much easier it is when you can focus your eye on a moving target and your aim at the same time.
  • Cost ($200+).
  • Holster compatibility (pocket pistols, rail-mounted lasers). If your pistol already has a holster, you'll need a new one if you get a rail-mounted laser.
  • Grip adjustment compatibility (grip-mounted lasers). Grip-mounted lasers replace your pistol's back strap or side panels. They may not be the ideal size for your hand.
  • Slower in bright conditions. Lasers (especially red lasers) are harder to see in daylight and on white or brightly colored targets. That makes it take longer to acquire the laser dot on target.
  • Slower for advanced shooters. In most cases, trained shooters are slower with lasers than with irons or red dots.
  • Gives away position in smoke/fog. Lasers only show a dot where it begins and ends, but smoke or fog reveals its path. Gunshots make smoke. Most gunfights end in a few seconds. In a rare extended gunfight with a laser, move often and keep the laser off until you fire, or you'll be easier to hit.

Is a Laser Right for Me?

It depends.
If you don't shoot at USPSA B class (top 60-79% of competitors) or better, a laser is probably better than a red dot. See our review of red dot studies for details.

I've personally found lasers to own the night. I took two low-light classes: One was with a laser, one was with just iron sights. I was amazed by the results I got from the laser. However, I haven't had the chance to do low-light with a red dot yet.

For now, I think iron sights with a plain rear and yellow or red fiber optic front works great for daylight, and a green laser works great for night.

If red dots seem a good fit, they can do the job of both irons and lasers. Unsure which to pick? Check out Red Dot vs. Laser: Head to Head.

What Makes a Good Laser?

  • Rugged. It must stay accurate after thousands of rounds.
  • Grip-activated so you don't have to think when you draw.
    Below, this Glock 19 has a grip-mounted laser:
    A Crimson Trace LG-639G mounted on a Glock 19. The activation button is on the grip, so when you grip the pistol tight, the laser turns on automatically.

    And this Sig p365 has a rail-mounted laser:
    A Crimson Trace LG-422G mounted on a Sig p365. The activation button is on the grip, so when you grip the pistol tight, the laser turns on automatically.

    In each image above, the arrow points to the activation switch. When you grip the pistol tight, the laser turns on automatically. No training needed.
  • Green laser, so you can see and aim it faster, and use it in daylight and longer distances.

The Best Laser Sight for Pistols

Only one company meets the above standards for a defensive laser: Crimson Trace.

What about a weapon-mounted light (WML) instead? The best pocket pistol lights today are too weak to blind targets; they can only ID them. If you always carry a good EDC light, a laser on your pocket pistol can be a better choice.

For larger pistols, grip-activated lasers are either grip-mounted or rail-mounted.

Grip-mounted lasers are compatible with a WML, but not grip adjustments.

Rail-mounted lasers are compatible with grip adjustments, but not a WML.

For home defense pistols, grip-mounted lasers are better, as long as you can get one that fits your hand with size large grip inserts.

And what if you want a laser just for dry practice? You can get one for much cheaper than a defensive laser...

To help you pick the right laser for your pistol, use our Laser Selector:

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