Lasers vs. Red Dot Reflex Sights Part 3

Lasers vs. Red Dot Reflex Sights Part 3

Can a laser do better?

By Dennis Adler

This is a much shorter challenge because lasers are a very discrete form of aiming a pistol (or rifle) and have been in use by law enforcement and military longer. Red dot scopes predate practical firearm’s laser sights, but modern reflex sights, like those used on the Sig Sauer M17 and other pistols (centerfire and CO2), are comparatively new.

Red light or green light, which light is best? A green laser appears brighter and easier to see than red, but that’s a half truth. A green laser beam is easier to see but actually isn’t any brighter. All lasers are rated as Class IIIA – intermediate-power of 1 to 5 mW (milliwatts). Our eyes are just more sensitive to the green color spectrum, which makes a green laser appear brighter, and that is the principal advantage. In darkness or subdued light, red or green laser beams are easy to pick up, but as ambient light increases red lasers become more difficult to define and their effective visual range (EVR) starts to diminish. This does not happen with a green laser until much greater distances.

We do have some more context here when you add a laser to the Beretta 92FS. The Walther laser used on my 92FS is the same basic unit that is sold for the .22 LR Walther P22 semi-auto pistol. If we can just briefly segue here, there was a lot of overlap of designs between the Walther P22 rimfire pistol and its accessories and those sold by Walther (Umarex) for the CP99 CO2 pellet pistols in the early 2000s. The P22 bridge mount and Walther P22 laser are still available, along with a variety of accessories for the current full line of P22 rimfire models, including the P22 Target models shown. The laser on my 92FS is a version of the P22 laser.

A lot of the technology that was used in early optics mounts, red dot scopes, and lasers used on the c.2000-2002 Umarex Beretta and Walther CO2 powered pellet pistols was shared with the highly successful Walther P22, introduced in 2001 as the first polymer frame, tactical-style .22 LR semi-auto. The basic laser on the P22 at left is the same still used today for that gun and the basis for the laser that was made for the 92FS pellet pistol. The P22 bridge mount and red dot scope was also the basis for those offered in the early years of the Umarex Walther CP99. The two P22s shown are target models with extended barrels and compensator shrouds, as well as red laser and Walther red dot scope.
Here you can see the similarities in the P22 and CP99 bridge mount and Walther Top Point (also Umarex Top Point) red dot scopes originally offered for the CP99 models.

For the M17ASP I am mounting the very popular and affordable LaserMax Spartan green laser. This is an excellent for the Sig Sauer pellet pistol, so small and so light that it really has no effect on handling and proved very easy to adjust POA using the Sig Air reflex sight as a reference on target. A few test shots and adjustments to windage and elevation and the M17 ASP put eight rounds (again to keep it equal to the 92FS 8-shot rotary pellet magazine) into a large hole around the bullseye shooting at a Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C target.

That’s five of eight eight in one big hole from the Sig Sauer and LaserMax Spartan green laser. This was my second sighting in target from 10 meters.

I went back to the 92FS and checked POA with the laser, which needed a slight adjustment before putting eight rounds into the bullseye and 10-ring, still hitting a little high but with six of eight overlapping. With the weight of the 92FS and trigger pull it is more challenging to keep the last on target with the same precision as the lighter and easier shooting Sig Sauer M17 ASP. It is close enough to make the guns very competitive with each other, but the overall upshot of this third evaluation of lasers and red dots is that size, weight, and handling all play a role beyond the shooter’s own capabilities. With the old red dot scope and 92FS vs. the new Sig Sauer, the Beretta has a slight edge, but switch to lasers, and all the advantages of the M17 ASP fall into place and it gains the competitive edge.

This again is eight from the 92FS with the Walther red laser and it put six of eight into a very tight overlapping group.

After sighting in, my Shoot-N-C test target with the M17 ASP and LaserMax put eight rounds into 1.125 inches with five tearing out a portion of the target with a hole measuring 0.635 inches. The Beretta 92 and Walther red laser put its eight rounds into a spread of 1.125 inches with six of eight in one overlapping line measuring 0.625 inches.

I made a slight correction in elevation with the Walther red laser and shot a 10-Meter Pistol Target punching all eight into 0.875 inches with six of eight blowing out a section of the 9, 10, and edge of the bullseye measuring 0.5 inches. I finished the day with the Sig and LaserMax on a 10-Meter Pistol Target and put eight rounds into 0.75 inches with a best five at roughly 0.56 inches.

The 92FS and Walther red laser blew out a piece of the 10-meter Pistol target from 10 meters. Either gun can deliver great accuracy with a laser or reflex sight. As for which is best, it is all a matter of preference in both guns and sighting options. This is a win-win comparison.
The 10-Meter Pistol Target with the Sig Sauer M17 ASP and green LaserMax Spartan has eight shots in a fairly tight group not much bigger than a dime.

Twenty years of air pistol development in the Sig Sauer M17, an honest technological breakthrough in CO2 pellet pistol development, and the 20 year-old Beretta 92FS pellet pistol are rendered near equals (in accuracy) by simply adding a laser on the dustcover rail (actually mounting it on the older Beretta frame). Of course, if the gun is good to begin with, every enhancement will make it even better.

Whether it is a pellet pistol from 2000 or the latest pistol for 2020, the advantages of lasers and reflex sights (or red dot scopes) are undeniable. Which is better? I think the answer is not what you see but rather how you see it.

Not only time, but size and weight differ greatly between these two pellet pistols, but new technology has not made the older Beretta 92FS obsolete, just very different from the 21st century Sig Sauer M17 ASP. I would consider the Beretta a still-available classic pellet pistol well worth owning, and the M17 ASP the best of the best for the moment.

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