In the July issue of LET I wrote that night vision equipment provides our law enforcement officers with tactical advantages. (Read “IR aiming lasers: a love story” in LET July 2011, Page 50 or online at www.officer.com/10283478.)
At this point in our industry’s history, the use of night vision has become commonplace for many agencies. The next step is equipping our officers to take full advantage of this technology during violent or potentially violent confrontations. This means equipping their weapons to be accurate and dependably used in conjunction with night vision devices.
Infrared (IR) lasers have been used by the military for decades now to accomplish this. Unfortunately, law enforcement has been slow to adopt this proven technology. In my July article I introduced you to the new Class One IR lasers offered by Laser Devices. Those lasers are designed to be placed on rifles and shotguns, but due to their size are not practical for handguns. For a variety of reasons an officer may find that the handgun is the preferred weapon over a long gun. As such, we must look for a way to combine IR lasers with the officer’s handgun.
For years I had heard rumors about Crimson Trace (CTC) making IR versions of their excellent handgun laser grips. I did some digging and found CTC Defense. This is the new military and law enforcement wing of Crimson Trace. The CTC Defense website says that, “All new products have been built from the ground up using new technologies and resources that are innovative solutions for today’s hostile environments requiring white light, IR (infrared) and quick change day-to-night sighting systems. With superior innovation and patented technologies, CTC Defense is able to provide military and law enforcement agencies worldwide with unique products that expand and enhance their ability to be the supreme force on the battlefield.” I found the products offered in this product line to fit this description well.
CTC Defense offers IR and dual red and IR laser units for many military and law enforcement handguns, as well as the MVF-600 vertical foregrip for use on long guns. IR laser-only grips are available for the Beretta 92/96, 1911 Government and Commander, nearly every Glock model made, S&W M&P and J frame, HK45C, Springfield Armory XD9/XD40 and the Ruger Mk. II/III. Dual IR and red laser units are only available for the SIG P226 and Glock full size 9mm and 40 S&W frames.
I was able to acquire a set of CTC Defense model LGD-426 grips, which are dual red and IR laser grips for the SIG P226. I chose this model because my current agency issues the P226R. The grips arrived in a standard Crimson Trace (CTC) black box. Inside the box were the grips, owner’s manual, cleaning and zeroing tools as well as two CR2032 batteries. I read the manual and then installed the grips. The LGD-426 comes with a lanyard loop at the base of the grips. It is up to the owner if they want to install the lanyard or not. This model, unlike the LG-426M, has two pressure activation pads located on the left and right of the front of the grip where the grip wraps around the sides of the pistol. The LG-426M is the Mil-Spec version of the standard red laser grips offered by Crimson Trace, and has one pressure activation pad located in the center of the front of the pistols grip. My agency issues the Surefire X200/300 with the DG pressure pad. The LG-426M will not work in conjunction with our lights due to the single pressure activation pad located exactly where the DG switch is located. I immediately found that I preferred the double activation switch locations on the LGD-426 red/IR model. The off/on switch is located at the bottom of the right grip panel. The selector switch for the red or IR lasers is located at the bottom of the left grip panel. Both of these switches are recessed and did not inadvertently change position during use.
The laser housing is necessarily larger on the dual laser unit than the single laser models because it houses two laser diodes. I did not find the larger size of the housing to interfere with the handling, feel or operation of the handgun. Sighting in the unit was the same as sighting in any Crimson Trace laser grip. The IR laser automatically “co-sights” with the red laser. This makes it unnecessary to sight in the lasers individually, and you do not have to try and sight it in using night vision equipment. CTC does recommend though that you confirm the IR laser is zeroed with night vision equipment before using it.
The IR laser that CTC Defense uses is a class 1a 850 nm laser. Once sighted in, I tested the red and IR lasers to see if they were both zeroed. I found that I was making my hits with both lasers and did not need to make any further adjustments. Using my personal set of ITT PVS-14 Pinnacle night vision goggles to test the IR laser, I tested the laser in several buildings (including at my own home and in open farmland completed with an almond orchard) to see how useful it was. I found that after adjusting to the night vision, the use of the IR laser was comparable to using a red CTC laser indoors. I was able to pick up the laser well past 200 yards. Like all lasers, the “brightness” of the laser was dependent on what type of surface it was aimed at. Overall I was very impressed with the performance of this IR laser.
Using this unit with the red laser and my Surefire X200 light with the DG switch was a dream. The pressure activation pads worked together very well. Unfortunately the X200 does not have an on/off switch. When shooting I was unable to control the pressure pads well enough to isolate the IR laser and the X200 light. This caused me to activate the white light when I was using my night vision goggles, losing any tactical advantage the goggles gave me at that point. To use this handgun properly with night vision goggles I needed to remove the DG switch or remove the light. By the end of my evaluation this was my only complaint, and it was one of compatibility with another manufacturer’s accessory.
Overall the CTC Defense dual laser grips meet my needs for an IR laser for my handgun. The fit and finish was great and did not add that much to the overall size of the grip. The controls were easy to operate with and without gloves. I have used Crimson Trace laser grips on other handguns and this unit was the best I have ever seen.
I still believe what I wrote in July: As the future presses on we’ll see more night vision devices in the hands of law enforcement, and the need for IR aiming lasers will follow. Crimson Trace’s CTC Defense line meets this impending need. I highly recommend that if your team or agency issues or uses night vision devices, you strongly consider the excellent CTC Defense line of IR laser grips.
Dennis Haworth is an officer with a California state agency. He has been a range master and armorer for over a decade and served as a police academy instructor. Much of his free time is spent as an advisor to the Shooting Sports Club at his local University of California campus.