Laser "sights" - Part 2
by B.B. Pelletier
Before we begin, I have to tell you that last Thursday's post about light, shootable air rifles got the biggest response we've ever received over a two-day period. Apparently, I struck a nerve.
Paul at Pyramyd Air asked for this post about lasers to help him explain them to his customers. I'm sorry it took so long to get back to finish it, but the gas springs sort of distracted me.
Today, I'll discuss mounting and aligning the laser with the bore, battery life and switches. I'll also discuss one particular very nice laser that I know a lot about.
Lasers attach to airguns with either an 11mm dovetail clamp or a Weaver dovetail, which fits either a Weaver or a Picatinny base. Since you want the laser to stay aligned, the mount should be rugged enough to withstand whatever recoil plus general handling bumps the gun is likely to suffer. Most laser come with mounts since they have 3/4" tubes instead of 1" tubes. If you don't get a ring mount with the laser, B-Square makes one for an 11mm dovetail and I believe a Weaver dovetail, as well.
Some lasers, like the Walther PPK/S laser have the mount built right into the laser body so there are no extra parts to look for. But, most lasers are separate tubes that come with some kind of clamp to attach to a gun. It's the clamp that comes in different dovetail sizes that you must be aware of.
Scope mounts are now being offered with additional mounting dovetails for lasers to ride piggyback with the scope. While they look really cool and tactical mounted on top of a scope, they're exposed to every bump the gun takes, so be sure they're mounted rigid enough to stay put.
Aligning a laser
I think the easiest laser to align on today's market is the AirForce LS-1. When I used to attend trade shows for AirForce Airguns, I had to mount and align the lasers there at the show. The way we shipped our guns to the show required that all the accessories be packed in their separate boxes, so on set-up day I had to mount scopes and lasers on 6-8 guns. I let the lasers go until last, because if the show had opened, I would align the laser with the scope while talking to a customer. Anyone who had even owned a laser before was immediately impressed with me holding the rifle with one hand and aligning the laser with the other while sighting through the scope. The only thing easier would be magic!
The AirForce laser has two thumbscrews that push on the laser tube inside the device for windage and elevation, in the same way scope adjustments push on the erector tube. A third screw tensions the tube to lock it after the adjustments have been made. Don't be surprised if the dot doesn't move straight in any direction, because it never does. It's always left or right with a little up and down, or vice-versa. Also, when the locking screw is tightened, it will move the zero a little, so you back it off in the direction it will move, then nudge it to the aim point as you lock it. These are things you figure out in the first 10 minutes.
Every other laser I've used has Allen screws in the body to make these adjustments. That means you need a separate tool, you can't make both adjustments with one hand while holding the gun with the other, and they just take a lot longer to adjust. Once adjusted and locked, though, both mechanisms hold equally well.
One final point about aligning a laser. Unless you have a bright green laser you won't be able to see it very far in daylight, so align it for a close point of aim like 20 feet. Then sight the scope for 20 yards. That covers you for all distances in-between through interpolation with either sight.
There are two common types of laser batteries: either several button batteries in series or one CR123A camera battery. Serious lasers like the AirForce LS-1 use the 123A. They say the battery lasts a minimum of 20 hours of run time, but I've been using one to play with cats for three years and it still has the original battery. Several of my other lasers with button batteries gave about an hour of use before they died. The more expensive lasers use the 123, the cheaper ones use buttons. If my life depended on the laser, I'd get one that uses a 123 (some now used two). Look for an exciting new laser, tactical flashlight combo from Leapers that uses 123s. The price will probably be good.
Switches are a big subject when it comes to lasers. The LS-1 has a 24" pigtail cable with a pressure switch at the end. You can locate it anywhere on the rifle you like with adhesive-backed Velcro that comes with the unit. With a cable that long, the LS-1 isn't suited for use on a handgun, but there are plenty of other units that are.
Some lasers have a simple spring-loaded push switch that doesn't let you leave the laser on. It has to be pressed all the time it works. Others allow on/off or push switch operation, depending how you set them up.
The thing about laser switches is people don't think about them when they buy the laser. Then, the first time they try to use it, they become instant experts on what they wish they had. Here's my guidance. If you have a laser that uses a 123A battery, try to get an off/on switch. If it uses button batteries, a push switch will prevent you from running down the battery.
Well, that's about it for the laser designators you'll see for airguns. Even the inexpensive ones are incredibly bright, so you must use care at all times when using them.