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Best and Worst Laser-Lights for carrying in Gun Holsters

Posted by Jonathan on

Gun Accessories 

     They are a growing industry. They can offer great benefits to a self defense gun. Examples: Helping in low light situations, Providing more accuracy in unconventional shooting positions, and assisting with keeping your eyes focused on the threat and your peripherals. As a Holster Company, do to their growing popularity, we could not eliminate offering a multitude of lights and lasers for our products. However, whether it is Trigger Guard Mounted or Rail mounted light and laser options, their are some we love and some we are not fans of. This article specifically focuses on which attachments we find are best for on the body carry and why they may be easy or difficult to carry. Just because an accessory makes our worst list does not mean it is a bad device, but it may be better suited to a bedside or home defense gun. Keep reading to see which Laser/Lights make for the best Conceal and Open Carry gun accessory.

First up, Lasers. 

     Pictured in the collage below, we have the CTC LG-496 on a Springfield Armory XD Mod 2 and the Viridian C5 Universal Laser on a Smith and Wesson M&P 9C. 

     The Laser accessory winner is the Crimson Trace Company. They did really well with their trigger guard mounted lasers. While you will need to buy one specifically for each firearm, it is worth the benefits. If you reference the photo below you will see that the profile of the laser is narrower than the width of the firearm. This benefits on the body carry because it is not requiring your firearm to become thicker and possibly harder to conceal. It is also beneficial to the retention of your holster, because it is not effecting the molding of the firearm itself in order to create space for the Laser to travel through. Best of all The Laserguard series is the only accessory on this list that has a button you don't have to think about. As can be seen at the lowest arrow, The on off button is a pressure switch placed right on the grip. So if you are gripping your firearm, then the laser is on.

     The loser, for this articles purpose, is the Viridian C5 Universal Laser. As it's name suggest, this one laser can be used on several different firearms. As seen next to the middle arrow pictured below, this laser has a push button that is used for on and off. It does not effect carry or holstering in anyway, but it does force you to do an extra step to turn on the laser. The need to be universal however, is what makes this laser a nightmare for drawing and holstering. Osborn Holsters spends time making hand adjustments with every laser bearing holster to ensure that it holsters and draws the best as possible (If you ever bought one of these and noticed a few indentions in the leather, then this is why). This accessory is always one of the hardest for manufacturers to make adjustments for and here is why. As the top arrow in the below picture points out, there are multiple points with hard corners that jut out beyond the width of the firearm. The hard corners catch and dig into a holster and create issues when inserting or drawing your firearm. However, this particular laser is not exceedingly wide, and therefore does not normally effect the comfort during carry as much as other accessories on this list.

 Next Up Lights. 

     Pictured in the collage below is the Streamlight TLR-1 on the Glock 17 (same frame is the Glock 22,31) and the Inforce APL-C on a Glock 19 (same frame is the Glock 23,32).

     The Light accessory winner is the Inforce APL-C. What this Light got right was getting out of the way. If you reference the photo below you will see that the profile of the light is not wider than the width of the firearm. Again, this keeps you from having to worry about carrying an, in effect, wider firearm caused by the accessory. The only part that does stick out beyond flush is a screw head. However it is beveled and does not have hard corners, therefore it has not shown to gouge holsters or your body and cause problems. The one issue you may come across with this light is the on/off switch, shown with the bottom most arrow in the below picture. Because it is a simple pressure switch, not outlined by any enclosure and trailing the front edge of the trigger guard, then it is possible to have issues with some holsters engaging the button while holstering or drawing. Again, I should take a second to point out that Osborn Holsters takes time with every light bearing holster to hand fit and adjust the holster to address issues like this, but usually the initial molding process is sufficient with this light, and the aforementioned issue is relatively rare.

     The Light accessory loser must be then? The Streamlight TLR-1. We will admit that this is partially to do with the fact that there are so many out there, and it is often put on firearms that it just does not fit well. Pictured below on the full size G17 it is not as bad as we often see with smaller firearms. Where this light goes wrong is that it is just plain to big, and it has an awkward square shoulder that tends to make re-holstering difficult (As shown by the top most arrow in the below picture). To further hinder this light, Streamlight has put a large faced, ugly cousin of a wingnut, screw on the side of the light. This thing is like dragging a boat anchor when drawing the firearm. It is apparent that they tried to make rounded edges to prevent this, but it has minimal effect. We often spend some extra time creating some ramp space for you to build up speed and defeat the drag when drawing. Where the TLR-1 will not give you issues however is accidental flips of the switch like we mentioned with the APL above. The TLR's use a paddle that can be flipped up or down and they never seem to have trouble with holster induced activation. Read on for possibly the overal best and overall worst of all popular accessories.

 Laser/Light Combos 

     Laser/Light combo accessories seem to be the fastest growing firearm accessories. Of course as the category suggest, these accessories offer both a light and a laser all in the same (sometimes compact) package. For demonstration we have a Streamlight TLR-6 on the Glock 43. (Extra Note: We often get asked if the Glock 42 will work in the same holster as the 43, the answer is no. The G42 will fit in a G43 Holster, but will cause retention issues.) The second Laser, Light firearm is the Streamlight TLR-4 on a Springfield Armory XD Full-size. 

     Possibly the best handgun accessory available on the market today is the Streamlight TLR-6. As seen in the below picture Streamlight has gotten the width right. Somehow they managed to fit a light and a laser all in a package that is no wider than the firearm. Let's knock the negative out of the way up front. Once more this is a model made to fit single (or very similar) firearms. So if you like to swap out your daily carry then you would have to buy multiple TLR-6's. However, what is the chance that a universal laser is accurate after swapping between different firearms? You would at least have to sight in a universal laser every time you swapped it. If you look to the middle arrow in the below picture you will find a hole. In the actual functioning model this is where the on/off switch is located. This location does not create holster induced activations, it does cause an extra step to activate. The positives are that you have a light and laser both in a setup that carries as if there is no added bulk and has next to zero effect on the way the firearm draws, inserts, or it's retention level. Adding this laser/light is almost un-noticable when it comes to how it effects the holster and comfort of carry.

     Coincidentally, in the same category and by the same manufacturer of accessories, is possibly the worst handgun accessory on the current market, for on the body carry. The Streamlight TLR-4 gets nothing right if it's aim was a concealed or open carry pistol accessory. The TLR-4 has a bastard of a wingnut screw that drags down your draw, a weird shoulder that catches during holstering, and an appendage along the bottom that serves as a location for an option switch, but we wish wasn't there. I won't spend anytime on the screw head because we already covered it's clone while we spoke about the TLR-1. However, our main focus will be on the switch appendage that  obtrudes out of the bottom. While it is nice that this provides an option of setting a switch for: laser only, light only, or laser and light it is not beneficial to the carry or the holstering of the firearm with this accessory. Clearing this interference means a holster has to move the mounting screw very far from the trigger guard. this can cause a sloppy wiggle in the retention. On top of that, the laser has a awkward shoulder near the front that creates a problem with re-holstering on occasion. As pointed out many times in this article, Osborn Holsters knows of these issues, and we do our best to address them. We have had many orders for this light, and many satisfied customers. I will still say that this Laser/light is better utilized on a home defense gun that will not be carried on person.

 Honorable Mention 

     With the Viridian X5L we seem to find a Laser Light combo that breaks some of "the rules", but still provides more Pros than Cons. The body of this universal rail mounted accessory tends to be wider than the firearm it is mounted on. In this case a Sig P320, but barely, as can be seen in the middle image of the collage below. While Viridian still has not addressed the aggressive edges of the screw head that protrudes from the side (shown by the bottom arrow) they did corner off a lot of the hard angles that other models exhibit. Take a look at the top most arrow in the image below, and you will see that the light itself has a beveled front edge. Also, all of the bodies shoulders have been angled out to help feed the light into it's holster. The on/off button is recessed in a shroud, preventing holster initiated activations of the accessory. This Laser/Light may add a small amount of bulk to your EDC, but it does not greatly effect the holstering or drawing of the firearm, and it gives you all of the benefits of both a light and a laser.

All about the end user.

     At the end of the day, if you do some research and find a holster that fits it, then carry the handgun accessory that works for you. We very often make holsters to fit all of the above mentioned accessories and many more. We even get great feedback from the users! Just know that some accessories are easier to carry on the body than others, and be prepared for the compromises your decision may require. Do you carry an accessory we listed here? If so, tell us if you think our opinion was fair. Do you love a laser or light that we didn't mention? Let us know! Available any time on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and GooglePlus pages. Shop Now for your holster or light bearing holster at OsbornHolsters.com