Todd Jarrett had a mission. He wanted to convince me that the Crimson Trace Laser Grips were not only a useful gizmo on a handgun, but also the handiest training aid since the invention of the snap cap.
Full disclosure time: About five years ago, I was very active on the gun boards. I think the forum in question was The Firing Line, but it may have been The High Road during the TFL hiatus. Somebody asked about Laser Grips in the revolver forum, and I replied…
I called lasers a gimmick. I decried them as being detrimental to basic marksmanship. Most of all, I pooh-poohed the very idea of a battery-operated gizmo on a carry gun.
Crimson Trace apparently has always had a very forward-thinking marketing department. Even half a decade ago, they had folks stalking the internet forums to answer questions, and I quickly received a Private Message.
“Hey,” it basically read, “you’re obviously a pretty knowledgeable shooter. You have a lot of posts; you’re on staff; people listen to what you say. Have you given CTC Laser Grips a fair try?” He offered to send me a pair for my backup J-frame on the condition that I give them a fair shake and report my findings, for good or ill, but honestly. “…and don’t just try on your indoor range; try them in low light. Try them on the move. Try them against multiple targets.”
Sure enough, a package arrived in the mail with a refurbished set of the now-discontinued hard plastic grips with approximately the same contour as the famous J-frame “Boot Grips”. It also contained some propaganda literature and videos and, I was relieved to note, a spare set of batteries. I lost no time attaching them to the .38 Special S&W 442 I was currently packing.
I loaded up a bunch of the primer-powered CCI-Speer plastic training ammo, set up some IPSC targets in my living room, turned out most of the lights and, much to the chagrin of my cats, went to work.
Wow! Even cold, never having used the Laser Grips before, the difference was night and day. Drawing from concealment on the random signal of a timer, your eyes are on the A-zone of that first target. Especially when the gun is coming out of a pocket or purse, it’s hard to do that perfect IPSC presentation; no worries with the Laser Grips. As that dot tracks onto the A-zone, you start shooting, and the dot tracks your eyes onto the next target. Even if the batteries crap out, you still have your irons to fall back on, but picking up the first target is just amazingly faster. It’s like the difference between using iron sights and a red dot on a carbine; your eye doesn’t have to juggle multiple points of reference, and target fixation actually works in your favor.
But from where I sat, that was only a side bonus. At the time, I was working hard to master the double-action revolver trigger, and there is no better aid for diagnosing problems with grip and trigger squeeze than a laser. At the time, I was doing fifty rapid dry snaps a night with both hands and then, trigger finger wobbly with exhaustion, doing rigorous dry-fire practice, trying to keep my sights from wavering through the trigger pull. You can fudge your dry practice with irons, but that red dot don’t lie. Heeling the gun? Too much trigger finger? Not enough? The sudden lurch of the dot off target will let you know. I’d still be fumbling in the dark without the instant feedback the laser gave me. When Todd said he wasted his first million rounds of practice before using a laser, he probably wasn’t exaggerating as much as you’d think.
Is it a cure-all? Heck, no. You still need to know how to use your sights. The laser is an adjunct, not a substitute for basic marksmanship skills. But when even Jim Cirillo, who killed more bad guys than Cecil B. DeMille, said that a laser is a worthwhile addition to a fighting gun, I tend to sit up and take notice. (Incidentally, you may ask why I prefer the Crimson Trace grips over a LaserMax guide rod or a rail-mounted laser. The answer is that the CTC grips don’t require a separate switch to turn them on; the button is right there on the grip and doesn’t require an additional fine motor skill to activate.)
So when Todd Jarrett set out to convince me of the utility of Crimson Trace grips he failed. He failed because you can’t convert the already converted.
Oh, and about my worries about battery life? Well, it’s a good thing Crimson Trace sent me those spare batteries five years ago. That way when the set in my grips (which are on their second gun) finally go dead, I’ll have replacements handy, and won’t have to drive four blocks to the drug store to get more…