LaserMax has come out with a new line of products that truly bring innovation and functionality to your concealed carry or backup handgun. The LaserMax CenterFire with GripSense technology features a unique method for activating the light and red or green laser. It also allows the user complete control of what is activated; you can choose light and laser, light only, or laser only, and in each of these modes you can shine the laser as a flash or a constant beam.
The GripSense Technology on the LaserMax Centerfire utilizes the same kind of technology that your smart phone uses, allowing the GripSense to know when your finger is in the proximity of the detection zone area of the trigger guard to activate the light or laser instantly. This technology even works with gloves. To turn the laser off, you simply release the bottom of the trigger guard. The LaserMax’s laser and light can also be turned on manually by an override selector switch. This is a dual switch arrangement, with one on either side of the gun. Currently, LaserMax offers GripSense units that fit the S&W M&P Shield, Ruger LC9, LC9s and LC380.
Finally: Some Real Data
Karl Rehn, a well-respected trainer that I have had the opportunity to meet on several occasions, recently published an extensive study on handgun-mounted lasers and red dot optics.
In 2015 & 2016, KR Training partnered with the Texas A&M Huffines Institute to jointly fund and conduct an academic study comparing shooter performance while using iron sights, green lasers, and slide-mounted red dot sights (with and without backup iron sights).
The study is currently being submitted to some academic journals for full review, but there are some rather salient observations that can be made from just the top line information that Karl has released.
Author’s Note: These are direct quotes from the study.
Did shooters using the slide mounted red dots shoot better than those using irons or lasers? No.
Many, regardless of experience level, had a hard time finding the dot on initial presentation of the pistol from ready, with the most difficulty occurring when no backup iron sights were available.
A frequent “talking point” for those selling and promoting red dot sights is that they are better for older shooters who cannot focus on the front sight easily. Our data did not show that to be true.
Those with more experience and skill with firearms were able to use the laser and red dot more effectively, with those at the instructor level having the most success with the red dot sight and slightly more difficulty using the laser (likely because it requires a target focus). Those with moderate skill were able to use the laser as effectively as iron sights, indicating that the learning curve for the laser is much shorter than for the red dot.
Carl makes a very interesting point about your return on investment.
Adding a slide mounted red dot sight typically doubles the cost of the pistol, providing at best a 10% gain for those at already high skill levels. For those not already at the USPSA B class, IDPA Expert, 80% on FBI qualification test or higher skill level, particularly those that do not dry fire regularly and do not practice getting the gun from ready (or holster) to target under time pressure, adding a red dot sight to the pistol in an attempt to buy skill with equipment will likely not produce the desired result. Trying to go the cheap route and removing the rear sight, replacing it with a red dot sight, leaving the user with no backup iron sights is a particularly poor decision. That configuration produced significant performance losses in all users in our study.
Installing the LaserMax took about 10 minutes, including time spent glancing at the included pictorial instructions. It was relatively easy and straightforward, requiring two screws and two batteries to be installed. The screws were of unequal length, making it easy to determine which one fits in which receptacle. Once the LaserMax was securely screwed in place, it gripped the gun via the trigger guard.
I don’t know if I was lucky, or if they are just designed this well, but my laser was accurate at the time of installation; zero adjustments required.
The LaserMax GripSense offers you every option that you could think of. You can select the brightness of the light. You choose whether the laser flashes or maintains a steady beam. You are also able to select whether you get only the light, only the laser, or both. I can’t imagine why, but you have the option to disable the GripSense and rely solely on the side switch activation method.
The Laser and Light
The laser is a 5 mW that comes in two color choices: a red laser that is a 650 nm, or a green laser that is 520 nm. Although the power is exactly the same, the human eye works much better with the green 520 nm color. The 5 mW laser is the most powerful consumer laser that is currently available; this power will serve you well in most self-defense situations, both in low light and daylight.
LaserMax describes the light as a 100-lumen mint green light. This is an LED light that delivers a slightly greenish hue but is still quite usable. I think the green light is designed to be picked up more easily by the eye.
I have shot the M&P Shield platform frequently, as it is one of my personal carry guns. I must confess that during testing, I tended to rely on the sights and see the laser as a confirmation. With some time on the range, I began to point-shoot the red laser. I found the learning curve to be quickly overcome at 10 yards. The light was usable at the same 10 yards. When I tried to increase the distance, I found that I tended to overcorrect with the laser.
The two holster choices that LaserMax offered worked excellently on the range and for daily carry. I usually carried the pistol in the soft holster in my right front pocket. Since it is summer in the South, I mostly carried in shorts. It was nice to stroll around in shorts knowing that I had a 9mm compact pistol with a laser and light quick at hand.
I was pleased to discover that this product is truly unique. With its capability to provide numerous options and the combination of activation methods, the LaserMax GripSense unit for the S&W Shield breaks free of the one size fits all mold. Its unique activation method is the most intuitive on the market today and has the most minimized impact on the natural firing grip of the gun. With a full retail price of $200, this product is a bargain compared to most quality red dot sights on the market today. My only criticism is that I would like for the white light to be brighter, but in all fairness, I have a 600-lumen light on the pistol that I have holstered while writing this … and I wish it was brighter, too.
For more information about LaserMax’s light and laser options, click here.
To purchase a LaserMax unit on GunsAmerica, click here.