Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for Best laser sights

What gun owner doesn’t want a more accurate shot? While a laser sight can’t turn you into a marksman (or woman) overnight, it does offer numerous advantages. In short-range situations, they allow you to react more quickly without always needing to sight along the gun at eye level. In low-light conditions, they’re far superior to iron sights.

There are solutions for handguns, shotguns, and rifles — or all three. They’re usually easy to fit, and many are very affordable. If you want to know more about how to fit a laser sight to your gun, the best way to set it up, or the main differences between a green-light laser sight and a red-light one, you’re in the right place.

We’ve been researching what’s available, and have made some recommendations that encompass the wide range of price and performance options available. In the following buyers’ guide, we’ve looked at them in more depth and provided comprehensive information to help you select the best laser sight for your needs.

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A laser sight can help build confidence. Regular practice is still the key to a high level of accuracy.

Why should you choose a laser sight?


  • The biggest plus is target acquisition. Painting a target with a laser dot is a far more positive indicator of where your shot is going than lining up iron sights — particularly if you, the target, or both are moving.
  • Although early models were big and heavy, that’s no longer the case. Yes, there will be a small increase in weight, but it can be under an ounce. Even the biggest rifle-mounted models are seldom more than four or five ounces.
  • The iron sights on subcompacts and compacts are small — not easy to see in daylight and virtually impossible in the dark. Lasers offer the ideal solution.
  • With a laser, you don’t have to think about the firearm and lining up sights. You can concentrate 100% on the target.
  • Using a laser for practice allows you to adjust grip, stance, and other aspects of your technique — and by watching the dot, you get clearly visible results. You can also see if you’re pulling off target with trigger pressure or from recoil.
  • As you age, your eyesight inevitably weakens. Older shooters don’t have to struggle with standard gun sights. A laser is much easier to see.
  • It’s a frightening thing to be hit with that laser dot. It could be enough to deter some attackers completely.
  • The vast majority are user fit. You don’t need to visit a gunsmith.


  • Any additional device is going to change the dynamic of your firearm, so there will be a learning period until you’re fully acclimated.
  • Access to holstered weapons is slower — just how much will depend on the type of sight chosen. For most people, it’s unlikely to be an issue, and there are plenty of holsters designed to take laser sight/handgun combinations. [If you are interested in a gun belt or a soft gun case, take a look at our top picks.]

Laser sight fitting options

The two most common ways of fitting a laser sight to your gun are either using a firearm’s rail or, for rifles, clamping around the barrel. These are simple and often among the cheaper options. If you have a number of different guns, but each has a similar rail, your laser sight can be switched from one to another. You need to check it will fit the relevant rail type — Weaver or Picatinny — and you’ll have to realign it once mounted, but it can be a very flexible solution.

Of course, not all firearms have these so-called “universal” rails. There are a couple of additional mount options for handguns which, although more model-specific, are still widespread.

The first fits under the barrel and around the trigger guard. They’re quite streamlined — they don’t add any width and little bulk. On some, the on-off switch for the laser is activated by a sprung section at the rear of the device, so it works automatically as soon as you hold the grip or put the gun down. There are a few, though not many, that will fit revolvers.

The second is a very compact device that is built into a replacement set of grips (most are easy to change over). They sight along the side of the barrel, rather than under or over. The on-off button is built into the front of the grip, so again, activation is automatic and natural. Clearly these have to be a precise fit for particular gun models, but they are available for a wide range of semi-automatics and several revolvers. There’s even a similar model for a couple of Mossberg shotguns.

"Experts recommend dry-fire practice to improve technique. Laser sights can help, because movement of the dot on the target will show up areas that need improvement."

Specific laser sight features


You’ll often use a simple push button, but some laser sights for rifles have cable-operated remotes. On handguns, several trigger guard devices and grip replacements have automatic on-off switches.


The more milliwatts (mW) the laser generates, the greater the range, though output is restricted by law to 5mW maximum. Another thing to look for is laser class: 2, 2M, or 3R. Class 2 is the weakest, Class 3R the strongest. That doesn’t mean you should put off looking at Class 2 models. Consider all the features on offer, and judge their impact on your situation.

It’s common to see 1,000 feet or more quoted as a laser-sight range, but this will be at night. Daytime ranges are dramatically reduced, generally by at least two-thirds and often less, so you’ll want to check.

Maximum visible distance is offered by dual-mode devices. You select either a constant light or a strobe effect. The strobe is easier to see because your eye picks up on the rapid on-off switching. At close range, the difference is minor. But at a distance, you’ll pick up the strobing dot faster, particularly against the varied backgrounds that woodland and hills provide. The best of these lasers can be visible at up to a mile.

Windage and elevation

Adjustments should be straightforward, and tools should be supplied (often just a hex wrench). Some quote “tool-free” adjustment, which is an added convenience.


It’s nice to see that virtually every sight includes batteries. Some provide a spare set, and one manufacturer offers batteries for life (of the sight, not yours). It’s a good idea to check expected operating time. Green lasers use much more power, and batteries will likely last only a quarter of what red lasers will. Life can be as short as a couple of hours.

Combination devices

One popular option is to have a laser sight and tactical light. The use of LEDs provides bright illumination while keeping the unit small. Another option is a combined red-dot optical and laser sight, useful in bright situations where the laser is difficult to see or where use of a laser is not permitted.

Setting up your laser sight

Experts tell us that a common mistake among first-time users is to take the laser sight out of the box, fit it, and head out shooting. They then come back disappointed with the results.

As with any targeting device, you need to set your laser sight up properly to get the full benefits. It needs to be adjusted for point of impact, and in the case of handguns, perhaps at a greater distance than you would typically shoot from. The reason is that when you do shoot closer, accuracy is improved. Do it the other way around, and errors are exaggerated.

It’s important to follow the manufacturers’ instructions carefully. You may also find helpful video demonstrations on the internet.

Laser sight prices


The cheapest laser sights are the simple rail-mounted red light lasers, and you’ll find a range of entry-level devices for between $20 and $30. There are a few green lasers in this price bracket, but not many. If you’re an occasional shooter who wants to try out the technology, they’re functional and fun.


For between $40 and $70, you’ll get generally higher build quality and greater range. Many green-light lasers fall into this bracket. You might also get additional mounting or switching options. At around $100 to $150, you have numerous combination devices, which offer red-dot sights or tactical lights.


The most expensive laser sights are the handgun type that either wrap around the trigger guard or replace the grips completely. You’ll pay anywhere from $130 to $400, depending on the make and model. However, the latter in particular are very compact and have the least physical impact on your firearm.


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Lasers are great at pinpointing a target but provide very little illumination. Having a tactical light as well adds clarity in difficult situations.


Q. Which is better: a green-light laser sight or a red-light version?

A. Green light is much more visible to the human eye in normal daylight conditions, so if that’s when you’ll mostly be shooting, green has definite advantages. In low light and at night, both are equally effective.

Q. Are laser gun sights dangerous?

A. Okay, first off, you should never shine any type of laser in the eyes of people or animals. Even if it doesn’t cause permanent harm, it’s very unpleasant.

By law, all commercially available lasers used in gun sights are 5 megawatts or less and rated as Class 2, Class 2M, or Class 3R. Those in Class 2 are considered safe because your blink reflex, if someone should shine it in your eyes, will limit exposure to less than a quarter second. Those in Class 3 are considered “low risk of injury.” The most likely is a “flash burn” — like when you get spots in front of your eyes from staring too long at the sun or a bright light. Even if there is damage, if the exposure is brief, it should only be temporary.

Q. Are laser sights legal?

A. There are two answers. In the United States, it’s perfectly legal to own any kind of laser device. So having one fitted to your personal defense handgun is fine. However, if you’re hunting, you cannot use any artificial light capable of locating wildlife or projecting a dot onto a live target. So to clarify: laser sights are fine for personal protection and target shooting, but not for game.

Red-dot sights are different. They use a red dot inside the device instead of crosshairs. They don’t project a dot, so they’re fine for hunting.

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