A few words about product reviews. Any number of bloggers review products – I have as well. A select few have reviewed products that were sent to them “gratis” by various manufacturers and I have usually looked at these through a bit of a jaundiced eye while wondering if the content of the review was influenced by the value of the article being reviewed. Products I’ve reviewed in the past I’ve invested my own money in, used them and then shared my thoughts . . . . allowing me to sit “above question” in my reviews.
Heavy sigh . . . . things change?
A number of weeks ago the “Brown Truck of Happiness” came down the long drive, the driver tromped up to our front door, dropped a package by the door, knocked and left. Now, for my business, the UPS folks visit regularly and usually leave some type of computer gear . . . . not that day. I opened the door, saw a small brown box and noted it came from Crimson Trace. My “accountant” (read wife here) keeps fairly close tabs on household expenditures so I was certain no calls/orders/requests had been sent CT’s way. Taking the box in and opening it I found this:
A “Blue Gun” 1911 with a set of Crimson Trace LG-401 Lasergrips. The invoice stated the cost was “$0”. The company website values them in the $300 range depending on the variant.
And . . . . my resistance to “free stuff” caved like a . . . . heck, I don’t know. Let’s just say I didn’t send them back. So let me spent some time chatting about my thoughts battery powered gear, laser sights and then a full review of the LG-401.
Battery Powered Toys
I am terribly resistant to battery powered gear . . . I use various items – but I use them realizing that they may well have their batteries give out at a profoundly critical moment. Batter maintenance is on ME, and only me. That’s why I switch GPS batteries prior to every trek/paddle – whether they “need” it or not, and I carry spares. I cycle batteries in my Eotech every fall when the time changes – and I carry spares. I’ve moved to a solar powered watch go eliminate batteries. I have cell chargers in all vehicles, carry a spare power “brick” when I base camp as well as a solar panel. Yep – I am that paranoid, it comes from a long history of “oh shits!!” at just the wrong moment.
And, I see the Lasergrips in this category as well. The specs say the batteries are good for 4-hours use. Tough to see how I will be up on target for 4-hours in a year’s worth of range trips, we’ll see. Until then, I will dial the battery swap into my fall time change routine. The LG-401 comes with a “batteries for life” guarantee from Crimson Trace, I find that a nice feature – I’ll update this post as I replace batteries and will share my experiences.
Battery Powered Sights
I am also resistant to battery powered sights for personal defense . . . see paragraphs directly above. Again, that said, I do have an Eotech 517 mounted to my Panther Arms Oracle. But, I have iron sights that can “see” through the 517 as well. I train with both and am equally accurate with both systems out to 100 yards. Honestly, I do little work past 100 yards simply because I see the AR as an up-close, personal defensive weapon.
As for Lasersights my primary fear has been that shooters – particularly new shooters – will become dependent on them very quickly and simply take a pass on learning anything about sight alignment, sight picture, use of the weapon’s slide for sighting or even “metal on meat” and simply depend on seeing a red dot on the threat. Murphy will have a field day with them at exactly the wrong time.
Add to that the poor visibility of a 650 nm, 5mw red laser (the spec for the LG-401 and the vast majority of other lasersights) and should the need to engage a threat in typical daylight, with little or no knowledge of aiming a defensive weapon other than with a lasersight – a defensive shooter could have a very bad day.
All that said
All that said, there are places for everything. There are things lasersights do exceptionally well. And there will be a home on my carry Springfield 1911 for the LG-401. So let’s get the details out of the way and then we’ll talk about the first range trip.
From the Crimson Trace website:
The flagship LG-401 is our most popular 1911 laser sight model for Government and Commander variants. Featuring a rugged polymer side panels and a rubber overmold activation button, these are the recommended Lasergrips for most 1911 shooters. Standard to Crimson Trace® Lasergrips, the LG-401 features instinctive activation. This means that the laser sight automatically springs to life when the weapon is held in a natural firing grip.
Fits 1911 and 1991A1 full-size frames, including: Auto-Ordnance, Les Baer, Colt, Kimber, Nighthawk Custom, Olympic Arms, Para-Ordnance (full-size, single-stack), Safari Arms, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, Taurus, Dan Wesson, Wilson and most other 1911’s with grip screws measuring 3-1/16" apart
Factory Sighted at 50'
Master On/Off Switch
Batteries For Life
Two #2032 Lithium Batteries
Laser Battery Life
Over Four Hours
5mW Red Laser
Approximately .5 Inch Diameter at 50 Feet
Windage and Elevation
Polymer Grip with Rubber Overmold Activation Pad
Three Year Full Warranty
Approx. 0.50" at 50'
This specific version is a 650 nm Red laser and has a power rating of 5mw. While excellent in low-light, in bright sunlight I had difficulty seeing the dot at anything over 21ft. There are Green versions and if you are considering purchasing such an addition . . . go with the Green version, the green color is much more visible in daylight conditions.
Installation was as simple as replacing the trips and went something like this:
The installation went very smooth – remove the old grip panels, slide the new in place and tighten up the screws.
On the left grip panel, in the lower right corner, there is an activation switch to turn the LG-401 on and off. The switch is quite stiff so accidental enabling – or disabling – of the LG-401 should not be an issue. The only difference in the size of the panels is a slight bulge just below the slide that actually houses the laser itself. I carry the Springfield 1911 in a Blackhawk’s IWB leather holster and this slight bulge did not cause any issues when inserting the weapon or drawing it. I noticed that there are two very small cleaning swabs that came with the lasergrips. These are for cleaning out the hole in the grips that allows the laser light to pass out of the grips. I can see where these could become clogged and the swabs should do a good job cleaning these out.
The activation switch is on the Frontstrap, just below the trigger guard. When you take a firm grip on the weapon – and the LG-401 is switched on – the laser activates. This activation was simply a byproduct of my grip. Given standard training for extending your trigger finger straight forward, just above the trigger guard – most shooters will block the laser beam with their trigger finger. It requires that you place your finger outside the trigger guard to see the laser beam. However, I teach that the shooter should place their trigger finger in the ejection port so it can feel when its “home”. This position caused no blockage of the laser beam what-so-ever.
Finally, after way too many weeks – my calendar cleared yesterday afternoon. I grabbed my gear and headed off to the range. I set up on the 50ft firing line since the factory specs indicated that was what the LG-401was sighted in for. Some preliminary dry fire on my SIRT range indicated that the laser dot rested about ½ below and ½ above my front sight. Honestly, I expected fairly good performance. My range setup looked like this:
I used my standard course target, a Cabela’s shooting bag and rested it all on the top of one of our movable barrels. What I hadn’t planned on was the low visibility of the laser on a clear, sunny late-October afternoon. You can see how clear the shadows are and it’s about 2PM. I could see the laser dot clearly at 15 ft. By 21 ft. I had to look where I was aiming to find the dot. By 30 ft., it was gone. So, I pack my bags and returned around 6PM. Not “dark” by any stretch, but certainly “low light”. The laser was clearly, brightly visible from the 50 ft. mark.
A couple things to mention when using laser sights and shooting from a bag. Grip still matters. To work the lasergrip sights, you still need a “firm” grip to turn on the laser. And, shooting from the bag does not make up for a poor trigger press. I ran a handful of rounds down range to get the “feel” of things, then did a target for “show and tell”.
All 10 rounds within a 3” circle. 6 of 10 rounds in a 1” square. Some obvious “flyers” – three left and one 2” low. I could feel them when they left – heavy sigh. So, as you can see – a Crimson Trace LG-401 will NOT make up for sloppy trigger control. But, with a firm grip and a trigger press straight to the rear – a 1” group is the norm . . . and not the exception.
What does this mean?
Basically, if you can hold the laser dot on the threat and press the trigger – you’ll get a hit, period. Remember a standard 230gr bulled fired from a 1911 at 830 fps drops about 24” for every 100 yards. Adjust accordingly.
The other place I can see the LG-401 excelling is non-traditional shooting positions. You have control of the weapon, you can see the threat but you can get your face behind the weapon to get a sight picture. Put the laser dot on the threat – regardless of the relative position of face and weapon – and you can hit the threat.
How does this group compare to me shooting 2-handed, full extension from 50 ft.? Sadly, I have the result of that as well . . .
My group here is 6” x 6” with a fairly even distribution. What this indicated is that there were no “bad habits” – too much finger, too little finger, flinching – simply normal body movement. I’m obviously not a Bulls Eye shooter – but I wouldn’t hesitate to engage a threat at 50 ft if required.
So where does this leave me?
The LG-401s have found a home on my 1911 – at least for the next year. I will give them a workout on each range trip, see what their reliability is, see what kind of shooting positions I can invent to wring them out in and then I’ll update this post next fall (or do a new one, we’ll see) and let you all know how it went.
And, while I still have the concerns I listed above – batteries and the dependence on “tech” – I can certainly see the benefits, especially in low light conditions where obtaining a sight picture may well be impossible, but putting a laser dot on a threat would be both quick and easy.
If you are looking for a set of lasergrips for your 1911 – regardless of model – Crimson Trace should certainly be one of the options you evaluate. And, while there are certainly cheaper alternatives – Crimson Trace comes with a long, distinguished history for their products. When your life may well hang in the balance – I wouldn’t trust my life to the lowest bidder . . . go with the one with a clear, positive track record.
Short answer . . . I like ‘em!