Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Case AGAINST Lasers

Shooting Gallery - On the Outdoor Channel

Michael Bane's article on laser sights reminds me of an incident which occurred at an IPSC Winter Club Match a few years ago.

Okay, it wasn't an 'incident' as much as a 'revelation'.

This was a winter match, and everybody wore coats. It was the first year that the Sherwood gun club decided to concede the coats, and declared that this was a Concealed Carry match. Rules: handgun and ammo must not be visible when you stand with our arms outstretched, and the way you present yourself to the Range Officer for inspection must be the way you shoot the stage.

Fair enough. The kicker was "Bring Your Stubby Revolver/Carry Gun!"

At the time, my 'carry gun' was an STI Edge in 1omm, which only could be carried in a 'race-gun holster' due to the extended dust cover. I wore it with my rain coat buttoned up ... well, all of the velcro front-fasteners were velcroed together.

The whole point of the match, for "normal people", was to give us a chance to see how we would do in an IPSC match if we actually used our carry gun. Generally speaking, it was pretty embarassing.

One of the shooters, though, actually brought a stubby Glock with minimal barrel (I don't know what the model number was, I'm not much up on Glocks) equiped with a grip-activated Laser Sight.

The guy was a Master Class IPSC competitor, and accustomed to shooting with an Open Gun. He had a matched pair of hard-chromed open guns with Holosights, and usually was among the top competitors in the club.

Not today.

Every target he engaged, he put on a dancing exhibition. It was a performance similar to the classic "C-More Shuffle", in which a shooter with a red-dot sight is trying to learn how to shoot it during a match. When he started to shoot at a target, he was looking at the minimalist sights, and expecting to see a dot on the target. The problem was, he was accustomed to shooting over the SIGHTS. He wasn't use to looking for a dot on the target.

And when he was looking for the dot on the target, he couldn't find it. Well, it was daytime and the bright cold winter sun just washed out that little red dot on the brown cardboard target.

He ended up with a lousy score, and placed low in the order of finish, because he was relying on his ability to put the dot on the target ... and see it ... and not drag the dot off the target when he pulled the trigger. None of which happened, mostly.

Now, Michael makes a great case for he 'intimidation factor' of a laser sight. Heck, I've seen "Predator" probably a dozen times, and you just can't argue with that kind of graphic evidence.

Or can you?

The thing is, for a "Bad Guy" (Michael's "BG") to be intimidated, he has to see the dot tracking on his anatomy. If the gun is pointed where it oughta be, it's either painting his heart or his head. How many of you thing that you can see a dot on your face? How many of you expect a BG to look down at his chest when he has been TOLD that there is a gun pointing at him?

Show of hands?

Right. The laser sight is only intimidating if the BG realizes he is being painted.

So what if he's not intimidated, and he makes a big rush at you -- the home owner?

This is "rubber meets the road" time, and you probably are going to revert to point-shooting techniques. That is, you're going to swap one shooting technique for another, under the most extreme conditions imaginable. You think you've got the BG buffaloed, and suddenly you're in a Robert Ruark situation where the Buffalo is charging you and you don't know whether to follow the bouncing ball or go with your instincts ... so you hesitate.

What will you do? What WILL you do? Drag out your American Express Card, a la Karl Malden?

Or will you be confused, distracted, and dead?

I'm picking Door Number Two.

The way I see it, if you're counting on your Laser Sight to save your bacon, this should be the gun and the sight that you use "all the time." When you go to the range, you practice with the belly gun and the laser sight. Forget about practicing with your iron-sights, or your dot-sight. Your goal in practicing is to build the groove in which you look at the target, point the gun around the room (or the range) until you have confidence in your ability to rely on the laser sight exclusive of any distractions such as a 200 pound biped Buff charging through your foyer directly at YOU!

If you have any other handgun-shooting interests, consider that the skills needed to shoot well with a laser sight COMPLETELY ignore the skills needed to shoot without it. Point-shooting, being entirely aware of the orientation of the gun, is not a skill which is apparently reinforced with a Laser sight.

Need proof?

Got to a gun store, ask to try one of their laser-sight equipped guns, and try to sight it on the Cape Buffalo head on the North Wall. See how long it takes you to redirect your attention from the over-the-barrel sight picture to the dot-on-brown sight picture. Consider what the Wall Buffalo might be doing if he was an aggressive biped while you're trying to find the dot, and ... walk away.

Use of a laser sight is an unique skill which must be learnt, and practiced constantly. If you're not willing to shoot somebody in the privacy of your home, at the cost of allowing all other gun-handling and gun-pointing skills to atrophy, you might reconsider the vagrant thought that lead you to consider a Laser Sight handgun for home defense.

Or, you can rely on bluff to defend yourself against the Buff.

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