While at a LaserMax media event, I learned a lot about lasers. Like most everything else with a battery or plug, the technology is evolving at a dizzying rate. One of the things I learned was that “green” lasers aren’t green. Actually, they’re invisible (to the human eye) as they are derived from infrared light.
Allow me to explain. To produce green laser light, you need to shoot an infrared laser beam through some seriously mysterious conversion crystals. It’s a process called diode pumped solid-state technology, or DPSS for short. The invisible infrared light goes in one end of the crystals and comes out the other side green. It’s a process called “magic.” Make sense?
While DPSS works, and does produce bright and easy-to-see green light, there are some drawbacks.
First, those magic crystals add bulk and weight. Not much, but when you’re trying to build a laser device small enough to work on a gun, every little bit counts. Think about those Ghostbusters Proton Packs. While not technically lasers, they generated some awesome light shows, but required a full-sized backpack particle accelerator. That would never be practical on a carry pistol, as concealment would require a cover garment the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
The other consideration is efficiency of the DPSS system itself. At high- and low-temperature extremes, the conversion process starts to break down and the light becomes less effective. For example, standard DPSS lasers (which use the crystal conversion process) operate beautifully at temperatures between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Those temperatures don’t cover the full range of normal field environments. Any area north of the Florida border is likely to experience near-freezing temperatures for a large part of the year. And while 100 degrees sounds like a reasonable top-end, think of our men and women deployed in sandboxes around the world, where temperatures reach 120 degrees. Or, consider interior environments like those spooky shipping containers and warehouses prevalent on TV crime dramas. Those non-air-conditioned places get insanely hot in the summer, right?
LaserMax’s new “Native Green” lasers generate green light right off the bat using a green laser diode. With a Native Green light source, there is no need for the extra bulk of crystals to convert the light beam to green. Additionally, the effective temperature operating boundaries are extended. For example, a Native Green laser retains operating efficiency all the way down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. At the high end, they continue to generate bright green light up to about 150 degrees.
I spent some time looking at side-by-side comparisons of DPSS and Native Green laser light and noticed a couple of differences. The Native Green light was noticeably brighter, especially in daylight conditions. I also noticed that the Native Green lasers had more of a “bluish” tint than DPSS green lasers.
Small, small packaging—in a Guide Rod laser device
The reduced size requirements are allowing LaserMax to design the smallest of devices. Some of the very first implementations of Native Green technology by LaserMax will be packaged in their Guide Rod series. The entire laser unit, including batteries, is contained in a replacement guide rod for popular pistols. That’s really, really small.
LaserMax Guide Rod models have a number of benefits, especially for the concealed carry user.
The laser assembly is contained completely within the existing frame of the gun, so there is no additional bulk on the outside of the frame. The biggest benefit to this packaging is that there are no special holster considerations. Whatever holster you already use with your gun will continue to work just fine after installation of a Guide Rod laser.
Guide Rod lasers use “Controlled Activation.” This means that you turn the laser on and off on-command using an on/off switch. The Guide Rod lasers include a replacement takedown lever, As the takedown lever on guns like Glocks and Berettas is on the slide and reachable by your trigger finger, you can easily turn the laser on and off while your index finger is in the safe position.
One more thing to mention: Guide Rod lasers are aligned very close to the bore and centered laterally under the bore. So point of aim and point of impact are naturally very close.
Shooting Native Green
I tested the Native Green lasers in three different scenarios on various Gunsite Academy ranges.
First, I did a “house clearing” exercise with a Glock using a prototype Native Green laser housed in a LaserMax UNI-MAX rail mounted model. The scenario took place in daylight conditions equivalent to what any home interior would look like in the middle of the afternoon. Moving through the house, I observed the Native Green laser dot on walls, floors, and multi-colored clothing on evil dude targets. On all backgrounds, the dot was bright and easy to see.
The second scenario was the traditional Gunsite Academy class “duel.” We shot a LaserMax UNI-MAX Native Green laser mounted on a Glock 17 at steel targets on an outdoor range in the middle of the day. Again, at ranges from 10 to 20 yards, the bright green dot was easy to acquire.
The final scenario was like old-home week for a green laser. We shot steel targets at night, in fully dark conditions. Needless to say, the Native Green lasers functioned somewhat like Star Wars lightsabers. Yeah, this scenario was especially fun.
The first LaserMax Native Green models available will be Guide Rod offerings for Glocks. You can check the LaserMax website for full details, but most Glock full-size and compact models will be covered. Other options will become available over the coming months.
Images by Tom McHale