Crimson Trace Defender Series
Carrying a handgun or having one at hand in the home for defense is a smart thing. It provides an invaluable tool with which good lives can be saved. But it is all for nothing if we can’t place the shots where it counts. Half-dozen missed shots might scare off some threats, but not all. Well placed shots are needed to immobilize a threat and keep you and your family safe. Enter technology – the laser sight. It’s like GPS for your bullets.
And when you think of laser sights, you think of Crimson Trace. A pioneer in civilian and law enforcement aiming tools, Crimson Trace has earned its place at the top by providing high-quality products at reasonable prices for a wide variety of firearms. Now, when I say ‘reasonable prices’, I don’t mean cheap. A decent laser sight for your pistol has been a decision that would set you back a few hundred bucks easily, making it a hard purchase to justify for a lot of folks. For 2013 however, Crimson Trace has created a new model line to address the market for a lower-cost but fully functioning laser sight. At a list price between $129 and $149, or roughly the price of a good set of night sights, you can now equip your self-defense handgun with an easy-to-use laser. it is currently available for all Glock and Springfield Armory XD/XD-M handguns, as well as the Ruger LCP and most Smith & Wesson and Taurus J-Frame and small revolvers.
I took a detailed look at the new Crimson Trace Defender Series (CT-DS) using two versions – one for most Glock models, which I mounted on the G17; and one for the Springfield XDM platform, which I mounted on a XDM Compact. Installing the DS is a pretty simple process –
literally a snap, but I found that there was more difficulty installing the XDM variant versus the Glock. The fit seemed tighter, and most noticeable was the difficulty in getting the front “tab” into the cross-channels of the pistol’s rail. After a minute of fiddling, it went together just fine – but not without applying a bit more pressure that I was comfortable with (no one wants to feel they might break their new $120 part installing it and be told “user error”). The CT-DS matches well to the polymer frames of both the Glock and the Springfield, looking right at home as a well-integrated accessory. The material of the unit seems adequate and should be tough enough to hold up to regular use. A small Phillips screwdriver (like you would use for eyeglasses, etc.) is needed for installation and does not come with the unit. Everything else you need is included.
Next step – check the factory-set aim point of the laser and make any necessary adjustments. Crimson Trace states that they factory set the laser sight for 50 feet. That is a bit far for me. This is a self-defense tool, not an offensive sighting tool, and anything past the 7-10-yard mark is impractical for me. The laser beam and the bullet trajectory can only intersect in one point in space and time, so say the laws of physics. Therefore, you will need to make that decision for yourself regarding optimum accurate distance.
You can do much of the adjustment without going to a range and without firing a shot. At the desired distance, obtain a normal sight picture with your traditional sights on a ‘target’. That target can be any fixed point. Keep in mind you are handling a firearm, and use all the safety precautions you would use for a dry fire exercise – no ammo in the room, finger off the trigger, etc. In fact, I recommend locking the
slide back on a semi-auto or opening the cylinder on a revolver for best safety. Once you have your sights on target, activate the laser and note where it strikes. Using the supplied wrench, make adjustments for elevation and windage. The adjustments need only be small – I recommend ¼ turns initially. Repeat that sighting step to witness the result of any adjustment, and perform any further adjustments as necessary. If you are confident of your open sights and know where to hold, you can just about get a zero without ever loading a round in the gun. Crimson Trace claims approximately 2 hours of battery life with normal use. I thought I might use all that up sighting it in, until I got the hang of it. Once I had my “ah-ha” moment, it went quickly and gave me a good “zero”. But the instructions for adjusting height don’t include the DS models. Some adjust clockwise for down, some counter-clockwise for down – so it took trial and error. For the record, it is clockwise for down, as I recall. Aside from that extra step, the process of getting a good zero is simple, easy, and effective.
I recommend taking your laser-outfitted gun and to the range for some live-fire confirmation and fine-tuning at this point. You can achieve the accuracy of the bullet striking almost exactly on the laser dot without much trouble. I haven’t used laser sights very often when shooting, and each time I do I have to remind myself that everything I know about a sight picture has changed. The best practice sight picture is of course, fuzzy target, fuzzy rear sight and tack-sharp front sight. The whole purpose of a laser sight is to change that dynamic. You put the red dot on the target and press the trigger, period. You look at the target and the dot. It takes my brain a few shots to get into that mode, but once I do it is not only accurate and fast – but quite fun. I ate an impressive hole in the middle of my target at seven yards using this method.
The performance of the Crimson Trace Defender Series was overall very good. I did have two occasions where the laser shut off during a string of fire. I don’t know whether that was due to the recoil of the handgun, or if I failed to have the on/off button fully depressed. But in either case, this would not be a desirable circumstance if I were fighting for my life. The on/off switch is located on both sides of the CT-DS and can be operated from either side. Basically, you push the small red rectangular button “in” from either side and the laser is on. To switch it off, simply press it again. The switch seems to be well made and worked reliably during my hundreds of presses.
What about holsters for CT-DS equipped guns? My research indicated that the holster market has not yet caught up with the Defender Series, and very few of the top holster makers specify this device as compatible with their holsters (and many do specify other Crimson Trace models). This lag is common and even happens with new handgun models. I have little doubt that the industry will catch up, but until that time, if you intend to install the Defender Series on your carry gun, you might have a challenge. Crimson Trace does a nice job of referencing holster availability on their website, and I would recommend checking it periodically. It’s also a good idea to contact your favorite holster maker and ask about the DL Series. The more requests they get, the higher up the priority list it goes.
Making laser sight technology budget friendly and novice friendly is a Crimson Trace hallmark, and the new Defender Series puts an affordable, effective and dependable unit within easy reach. Currently limited to most Glocks, Springfield Armory XDM line, Ruger LCP, S&W J Frame and some Taurus small-frame revolvers, the Crimson Trace Defender Series is worth looking at. For the newer gun owner or less frequent shooter, a reliable laser sight can provide the confidence and accuracy that literally means the difference between life and death.