Before we answer this, it is important to know the difference between marksmanship (shooting accurately) and defensive shooting (shooting while fighting).
We will cover that topic more deeply in another article, but for now let’s simplify things:
Think of marksmanship as going to the range, getting in your stance, perfecting your grip, lining up your sights, and taking that perfect shot right at the bullseye on the paper.
Think of defensive shooting as “oh my god he has a knife and he’s lunging at me” 2 seconds to react, tunnel vision, hands go numb, legs buckle, instinctively draw your gun (because you practiced it with your instructor a hundred times) and fire. Possibly wet yourself or black out.
I wish we were kidding.
In defensive shooting, you can’t rely on being in the perfect stance, or the perfect position, with the perfect lighting, and a target that is standing still and giving you plenty of seconds to take your shot. Statistically, gun fights are over in less than 5 seconds. Which mean you have only seconds to end this fight. The traditional way of taking your time and lining up the sights won’t work here.
So instead, we rely on point-shooting and various other types of fast-acquisition shooting. Think of it like “Where I point my finger is where I want the bullet to go” instead of looking at the sights on your gun. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good-enough to stop the bad guy.
This is where our laser comes in. Lasers can greatly increase the accuracy of my point shooting because I have a visible marker to tell me where my “finger” is pointed, and I can still take a very fast defensive shot.
But there are some considerations:
1. Lasers can fail. They have batteries, and unlike red-dots or reflect optics, lasers like to eat batteries fast. Most weapon lasers only have a 1 or 2 hour battery life.
2. Lasers are distracting. Because of the nature of the human brain, think of the laser like the cat toy you use to drive your pets crazy. The dancing light breaks your concentration and most shooters tend to anticipate or flinch their shots when using a laser; which means the bullet hole is not going to be where the laser is.
3. Many lasers are useless in bright lighting. Green lasers are better than red, but more expensive.
4. Being too reliant on a laser can make your traditional shooting skills suffer. Not good if your laser dies or you don’t have access to it.
5. Like flashlights, lasers can telegraph your position at night.
6. Lasers must be sighted-in, just like optics and scopes. That means that at some distance your laser will be spot-on, but closer or further away and the laser dot drifts away from your actual point of impact.
Bearing these considerations in mind, a laser can be a very effective fast-acquisition tool for close-quarters battle.
As a final note, where the laser really “shines” (pardon us) is when using an IR laser in conjunction with night vision optics. Night vision googles (NVGs), and Night Optical/Observation Devices (NODs) cut out a certain portion of your immediate peripheral vision, making it challenging to use traditional sights and optics. When used in conjunction with NVGs, an invisible IR laser that can only be seen while wearing the night vision makes a formidable foe. Unfortunately, unless we use it as part of our jobs, most of us aren’t walking around with that kind of kit.