Laser “sights” – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This post is for Paul at Pyramyd Air, who gets several calls a week asking about the usefulness of laser “sights” on an airgun. Today, I want to cover them and tell you what they can do, and what they cannot do.

Lasers are not sights!
First off – lasers ARE NOT SIGHTS! That’s why I put the quotes around the word in the title. Somewhere along the line, salespeople started referring to lasers as sights, and now the market is very confused. Lasers are not a means of sighting a gun, but they can perform a similar function by pointing out where the pellet will go. Instead of a sight, a laser should be called a designator, and indeed, they are called that by the military. Don’t expect Pyramyd Air to change their product descriptions, however, because the entire industry is now calling them sights.

Most people know that a laser projects a beam of light in the same way a flashlight does, but the light it projects is different. It is light traveling in a parallel path – meaning that instead of spreading out, a laser light stays tight for a very long distance. The better the laser, the less it spreads. And that is part of what you need to know. A cheap laser will spread faster than an expensive one. The dot from a $15 laser may be 2″ in diameter after traveling 100 yards, while the dot from a $300 laser may be almost as tight as when it began. That makes the more expensive laser easier to see at longer distances, regardless of the laser’s power.

Power does play a big part in laser effectiveness. The cheapies are all less than five milliwatts (probably less than four) and fire a beam of 630-680 nanometers, which appears red to the human eye. More powerful lasers bump up the wattage and fire a green beam at 532 nanometers, which is easier to see at long distances. But, even the cheapest red diode laser that’s a class IIIa (low power and red beam) laser will appear to the eye to be brighter than the sun. And, you know to never gaze directly at the sun!

Looking directly at a class IIIa red laser at close range can cause flashblindness – same as a photo flash unit. The green lasers can burn retinas at up to 50 feet and cause flashblindness at up to a quarter-mile! The stargazer who disoriented the airline pilot with a green laser telescope designator in 2005 faced a 20-year prison term for doing what he did.

How they work as designators
A laser beam can be adjusted to coincide with the strike of a pellet if the laser is mounted in an adjustable mount. That’s where the confusion about it being a sight comes from. At close range, this is a very handy thing for several reasons. First, most people can easily see a laser dot on a target of almost any color at 20 feet. Except in bright daylight, the dot appears bright on almost anything. But as the distance grows, the dot gets harder to see – not because it grows dimmer, but because our eyes cannot see the reflection of the dot off the target farther away. That’s what many people do not appreciate. And animal targets sometimes reflect very little light, though other times they are good reflectors.

Don’t be fooled by indoor demonstrations
Indoors, where most lasers are demonstrated and sold, they appear bright at distances of 100 yards and farther. But step outside and the distance at which they can be seen drops dramatically. A red dot laser disappears in less than 20 feet on a sunny day. If you spend the money for a law enforcement grade laser, then, yes, you’ll be able to see the dot much farther outdoors. However, most of us would balk at spending $350 just for a laser. I know I would.

Lasers force compliance
Another great use for a laser is to let a bad guy know you mean business. Many times all it takes is a green or red dot to appear on a person’s chest to get them to stand down and listen to reason. That’s because in their chosen profession, they are well aware that the laser projecting that dot is mounted to a firearm that can send a bullet to that same spot in less than a second! I am not telling you to use a laser pointer to bluff a criminal. Never do that! I’m telling you that having one mounted on your personal defense weapon may be a smart way to avoid having to shoot someone. But always be prepared to follow through if you have to.

But airguns?
So why are lasers sold for airguns? Three reasons, really. No. 1 is simply the coolness factor. People just want them, and there’s money to be made in selling things people want. No. 2 is that airsoft guns need lasers to complete their tactical look. Because the firearm mounts a laser, the airsoft equivalent has to, as well. Reason No. 3 is the most important one, I think. Lasers have a place on a hunting airgun!

Hunting with a laser?
I know a guy who shoots feral pigeons. That’s his thing. He’s a pest hunter and he specializes in wild pigeons. I sighted the scope on his Talon SS for 20 yards, so it’s on between 20 and 30. A lot of times, he gets much closer than 20 yards, which is 60 feet. He carries his rifle in the cab of his truck, and sometimes he pulls under bridge overpasses where there are hundreds of pigeons roosting. Then he rolls down his window and uses the laser to designate a bird at about 20-30 feet. The laser is sighted for that distance, and it works very well for him. He kills hundreds of birds that way every month.

In the next and final segment, I’ll talk about specific models and how they’re mounted, plus things such as battery life and how the switches work.

46 thoughts on “Laser “sights” – Part 1

  1. bb – I’m trying to decide between 2 Weihrauchs: the HW77 and the
    HW97K. I’m not currently doing FT, but intend to down the road. Will the shorter barrel in the 97K make any real difference in accuracy? My reasoning would be that a longer barrel might mean the rifling would impart greater spin to the pellet. Thanks as always.


  2. Airdog,

    Both the 77 and the 97 compete in field target, and both do very well. I would say get the model that most appeals to you, because there isn’t a real advantage to either one.

    I used to shoot a 77, and I didn’t care for the 97 when I tested it, but Beeman had received a shipment of 12 foot-pound guns that couldn’t be tuned hotter. Today that would be an advantage, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. But I have to say the 97 seems more popular than the 77 today. And the 97s are up to power today, also.

    As for barrel length and bullet spin, the length of the barrel has nothing to do with the rate of spin. A two-inch barrel produces the same rate of spin as a 27-inch barrel, as long as both are rifled with the same twist rate.

    B.B.


  3. BB
    I use the laser “sight” on my CP99. I would prefer to use the open sights, but as you pointed out in your review, the fake silencer blocks the sights so if you use the silencer, the laser is required. One thing I really like about the laser is how obvious it shows that I pull the gun to the left every time I shoot. Any suggestions on how to stop that?
    Thanks for all your help.
    MCA


  4. Sir: I’m primarily a plinker but on occasion shoot racoons and ‘possum. I always favored a .22 air rifle for both. I’m thinking about a RWS 54. My eyes are good so I don’t want a scope cluttering up my rifle. However, I use peep sights whenever possible. What do you think of that arrangement?


  5. MCA,

    Practice, man, practice. I’ve been shooting handguns for 45 years and I still have to work on that, so I think you will, too. There are no tips for controlling it other than to concentrate on the front sight post, or in your case, the laser dot, and practice your trigger take-up.

    B.B.


  6. I really like the RWS 54, but you will have some difficulty mounting a peep sight to it. The scope base on the rifle has no provision for a scope stop. You might get away with clamping pressure because the sight has low mass and won’t be as inclined to move as a scope would, but I doubt you can find a good peep sight that will extend back far enough to use. If you try to use one of the cheap peeps like Daisy, Gamo and Crosman sell, they will be too high for the front post, I fear.

    B.B.



  7. Markus,

    Ever hear the expression, “Like a deer caught in the headlights.”? The practice isn’t limited to German poachers.

    I suppose a laser might work, but I find the subject repugnant.

    B.B.


  8. I have tough about the possibility of using a laser and a scope to help estimate distances. Scope sighted for a distance, laser for another and the difference in cross hair and laser dot would help estimate distance. Or both sighted at the same distance but mounted a couple inches one from the other and see the difference in the cross hair

    Would you say that is practical?



  9. BB,
    Came across not so good reviews of
    Diana 34 and your good impression of the Panther 34. What is the difference of the two? are they not the same gun?. Thanks,

    Hank


  10. Hi BB, I have a couple of 909s questions please…

    1) How long does it take to refill a 909s? Start to finish (connecting through disconnecting), assuming a full supply tank and the gun has shot 6 shots from a full charge.
    2) On low power setting, what’s the max FPE, and about how many shots before that FPE really starts to drop off?

    Thanks!
    Tedd


  11. BB,

    remember what i was saying about those air tanks efficiencies?

    Well i went back to the site to double check and air hog made a error on the info on the 9.5 cubic foot tank “PIGMEE”. ITS actually 13 inches long as they say in the text about it but say 9.5 next to the image of it.

    The 17 cubic foot looks pretty good now.

    -sumo


  12. BB
    I have been doing research for the Izh 61 and came across your condensed version some years ago. I now see that to get the full version I must pay for the old magazine. Do you know of any link on the net that is free? I have ordered the gun, but it would be great to keep this review with the gun.
    Thanks
    Ps If I like the gun, I have no problem buying the magazine, if I can find where to send for it.

    This is only a condensed version. The full length article of the IZH-60 is available (along with photos) in it.
    “Airgun Revue #2,” which was published Jan. 1998. And that issue is
    available for purchase ($12) .



  13. JW,

    If you can find an Airgun Revue for $12, snap it up! They were going from 15-20 at Roanoke.

    I know of no link to the article online. Since it is copyrighted and we defended that pretty well, I doubt you’ll find one.

    B.B.


  14. BB,

    I have an 88 and since i got it i haven’t even looked at any of my scuba tanks. I can take apart and fix a pump, as you know that is an accomplishment, and fixed my old one until the threads striped. A couple years of moving between 4-5 adaptors took its toll.

    I don’t shoot enough to justify a 4500 psi compressor. It can be a headache to have things like that. Its not much effort for me to get my tank filled anyway. If i did get a compressor i would have to get more tanks.

    Holidays are coming up so it wont stick out like a sore thumb if i buy a bunch stuff lol.

    -sumo


  15. Hello,

    You guys lost me. What’s an 88? I’m toying with the idea of buying my first PCP(Talon or Talon SS), and am very interested in anything that has to do with filling them up.

    That subject is quite a mystery to me. No matter how many times I look at the assessories list, I can’t figure out exactly what attachments I’ll need.

    I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying a hand pump, I just don’t know what goes with it.

    Has there been a blog I can reference that covered filling PCPs?

    Marc


  16. Marc,

    An 88 is nothing. Were using slang for 88 cubic foot carbon fiber air tank. 88 cubic feet is the capacity / size of the tank.

    this is what you need to go with the pump. heres a link:

    http://www.pyramydair.com/cgi-bin/accessory.pl?accessory_id=303

    There is a hole that it screws into below the pressure gauge. that and the pump is all you need.

    Filling a PCP with a pump is not much different than filling a bike tire. Heres a link to a video of how its done:

    http://www.pyramydair.com/cgi-bin/accessory.pl?accessory_id=1992

    the video can be viewed by clicking the picture of the camera below the specifications of the pump.

    -sumo


  17. B.B.

    Is there any danger to viewing the reflection of the laser dot on a target within a particular distance for a particular length of time? Even the reflection of the dot is awfully bright and can hurt the eyes.

    Matt


  18. BB,

    Great blog on laser “sights” I have a laser on my Genesis .177 for use in the attic when the tree rats come to visit. Works great.

    BTW, I figured out what non-regulated as it pertains to PCP’s means. I’m Still trying to figure out what regulated means. One question kind sir. How much more $$$ above the price of a $500.00 PCP do you think I will need to start shooting? I’m talking about pumps, fittings, etc. I think getting a quality PCP plus the other stuff needed would seriously hurt A $1000.00 budget. One last question BB. What would be your choice for A springer that is magazine or clip fed?


  19. Bobc,

    i know your not asking me but i would like to add my two cents. I have nothing to do lol.

    All pcps have the same basic needs.
    1. scope $150
    2. mounts $30
    3. adaptor $30
    4. source of air $200
    5. GOOD pellets $8 x 5= $50

    total: $450 to get the job done very well.

    you can spend any amount on any of those thing except maybe the pellets. If you set a 100 budget thats about where you would want to draw the line so that you can get the gun you want.

    I have almost always spent half on the gun and half on the accessories, budget or no budget.

    When i got my condor for $560 my total was $1300. I got an air-wolf for $2200 and then the total was $4000. If you need more examples i have them but the point I’m trying to make is that accessories of quality will help the over all gun.

    if you spent 800 on the gun and 200 on the other stuff you have a $1000 gun. Same thing if you spend 500 on the gun and 500 on the accessories.

    the worst thing is the source of air and adaptor. thats the only thing that separates the budget from a springer budget.

    A good way to look at it is that spending $200 on a source of air is like spending 200 more for a better spring gun. THAT 200 moves you into a whole new class.

    -sumo


  20. Sumo,
    That “logic” in your last paragraph is what’s going to convince me it makes good sense to get my first PCP. LOL

    How long do you think someone would be satisfied with a hand pump before they decided they needed a scuba tank, too? Or maybe what I’m really asking is whether a pump or tank would work better around the garage and backyard woods?
    Thanks,
    Pestbgone


  21. pestbgone,

    I started with a pump and a career 707 from Cabelas and thats how i got into pcps. I was hooked. So i got a Theoben and the guy from british sporting arms threw in the scuba tank. There was no negotiation. I gave him $1800 and he gave me what i wanted (i was one of those fools who at first thinks its just an $1800 bb gun) He let me shoot it and then that was that.

    I normally get a new charging gismo when i get a new gun lol.

    using a pump is more time consuming than strenuous if used correctly. Thats if you are heavy enough.

    to sum it up and give you a quick answer; i think you can last a while with just a pump.

    oh and yes, i was able to get the 707 off the ground with just a pump… and an inhaler. LOL i do not have asthma, but it was work.

    I was just reading this over and then realized something. my name is sumo, i am heavy enough to operate the pump (you don’t even need to be an average weight), and i made an asthma joke.

    i just want to assure you that that is not reflective of anything, especially not reflective of my health. LOL Ok enough jokes

    -sumo


  22. Sumo,

    Thanks for your input, it was very useful. For now, I’ll stick with my springers ’cause I don’t want to go into anything half-assed. But, I know that I’ll be getting A PCP somewhere down the road.


  23. BB
    Referring to the Air gun Review #2 for the AZH 61 Bakal. Since I have ordered this gun and plan to keep in for my collection, it would be nice to get the magazine even a $20.00. I cannot find where to get it. Do you have a suggestion.?





  24. Marc,

    Sumo gave you a good answer on the carbon fiber tank. Also good directions to the video of how a pump works. I wrote a complete article about the hand pump. See it here:

    http://www.pyramydair.com/site/articles/hand-pump/

    Read this about scuba tanks:

    http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2005/10/scuba-tanks-for-airguns-part-1.html

    http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2005/11/scuba-tanks-for-precharged-airguns.html

    There is no single blog that covers filling a PCP. The biggest problem is connecting the gun to the source of air. Connectors are not standardized, and that creates a LOT of problems. I wrote an article about that for Blue Book of Airguns (the 5th edition, I think).

    Please ask your questions, or tell me what it is that you don’t know. I will cover anything and everything for you.

    B.B.


  25. Matt,

    Like you I too was concerned about laser reflections. Here is what I’ve learned through observation.

    Lasers do reflect, but unless the surface is completely flat, the reflection will be scattered. I have beveled mirrors in ny house that will scatter an AirForce laser (a good one from the Class IIIb range) to the size of a quarter in 10 feet. A regular flat glass mirror will not scatter the beam unless it enters on a severe angle. Then it can be scattered to to 1/2″. However, I have a polished stainless steel mirror that doesn’t scatter the beam at all.

    The chances of being hit by a reflected beam with enough energy to injure is low, but not impossible. So for safety’s sake, handle lasers with care.

    You asked whether there is danger of injury from the reflected beam, and the answer is yes.

    B.B.



  26. Sumo,
    Starting with a 707 is certainly one way to begin! Thanks for the hints on PCP ownership. Sounds like you have to make a real commitment to do it right.
    My pattern is (I think) to first buy some cheap stuff or knock-offs and play with them, take them apart, mess them up and fix them. And THEN, when I’ve got that out of my system, buy something nice.
    Maybe this coming spring. I still have lots more learning to do on my Diana 54.
    Pestbgone


  27. B.B.,
    Thanks for the additional PCP pump and fill links. There certainly is a lot to consider before making the leap to a PCP. Time to ponder. I know I’ll waffle around for months.
    Pestbgone



  28. Pestbgone,

    Sumo gave you a pretty good answer and I agree that his last paragraph was a real sales job.

    As for how long you can be satisfied with a hand pump, I would say that it depends on the gun you’re filling. If it’s an AirForce Condor, I would want a scuba tank pretty soon, because you’ll pump more than you’ll shoot. With a USFT, however, you’ll get lots of shots and the pumping never becomes stressful.

    My Daystate Harrier is in the middle, but I still use a hand pump more often than a tank. About 30 pump strokes gives me 24 good shots.

    On the other hand, I get three shots from my Quackenbush Outlaw .457LA and then I would have to pump over 140 strokes to refill. Definitely a carbon fiber tank proposition!

    I have no choice but to pump the Air Arms S410 sidelever, because of the strange fill adapter they use. I’m not going to disassemble any of my working CF or scuba tank yokes to fit that adapter.

    B.B.


  29. BobC,

    Sumo’s answer to the cost for a precharged gun was better than anything I would have written. You are wise not to get into this halfway. Take your time and the right solution will present itself soon enough.

    B.B.


  30. B.B.,
    Thanks for the detailed pcp follow-up. You’ve made it pretty clear that this shouldn’t be an impulse purchase so I will exercise due diligence.

    Have we still got that big surprise coming? It’s been a little quiet about that lately.
    Pestbgone


  31. Pestbgone,

    There are actually two surprises coming. One relates to the Gamo Whisper,and is a real biggie. I can’t wait to tell you. I should be able to tell you in another week, I hope.

    The other is a surprise so large it will fill the universe! That one has a specific date that I will announce this month (I think).

    B.B.



  32. pestbgone,

    when i got into these guns i started with a 707 and used whatever pellets were available. I got the theoben mark 1 and used pointed rws pellets, because thats what the shop sold. I kept it simple. Why because i didn’t know better. I have a cheap spring gun (under $100) and when i shoot it i have a bucket of all sorts of pellets and they work fine.

    the point I’m making is that wherever you start on pcps. Your starting further ahead than i did. I just dive right into the pcp world.

    i agree that you shouldn’t. It was dumb luck that it turned out alright for me. I bought the 707 based on its velocity. 1250 in 22 according to cabelas. It was the highest number so there for the best. LOL

    You wouldn’t do that though would you? No of course not. You read this blog and know better. All the info you need to get it rite the first time is on BBs blog and its up to you to go out and get it; and you did. This blog was not around when i got into airguns. But thats no excuse. I should have got some intelligence somewhere.

    going back 2 paragraphs)> The 707 was not bought for the rite reason and there for dumb luck that it was / is a good gun.

    -sumo


  33. BB
    Regarding the adapter for the S410. If you used a tank to fill it and a pump to top it off, would you need 2 of those strange adapters?
    MCA



  34. Sumo,
    Sometimes it IS a lot more fun to dive right in and trust to dumb luck. Sounds like that 707 set the hook in you for good! On a whim I bought one of those $15 Chinese B3′s at a Cummins tool show a few years ago. The third shot I took with it nailed a squirrel at 20 feet at a bird feeder. With unadjusted iron sights. That set my hook! Haven’t hit anything smaller than a cardboard box with it since then. LOL And then I tried to “make it better”, which was either a learning experience, or a total disaster, depending on how you look at it.
    Now its several guns later and I can feel this PCP thing coming on. I’ll keep it fun and not analyze it to death.
    If it ain’t fun, it ain’t much of a hobby!
    Pestbgone


  35. pestbgone,

    Proceed with caution. LOL caution that you wont have too little amount of fun. LOL If you don’t analyze it enough you will not have fun.

    I guess there is a very specific balance of caution to analyzations needed to engage in hobbies.

    i agree, just have fun, whatever that means.

    -sumo



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