One of the easiest ways to drop your target acquisition time and boost your ease in low light is to equip a laser sight. They offer a heap of benefits and are often relatively affordable, no matter which type you prefer.
But when you start browsing lasers, you can just about get lost in the number of options that are out there. The worst part is, so many of them are as low-quality as they are plentiful. So we’ve gone and done the hard part and weeded out a ton of trash to show you 8 treasures.
Best AR-15 Lasers
- Steiner DBAL
- B.E. MAWL
- Pinty Green Laser
- Ade Advanced Red Laser
- Ozark Armament Green Laser
- Streamlight TLR-8
- Crimson Trace CMR-206
This laser is bad. This laser is the Samuel L. Jackson of lasers. It’s an absolutely top-of-the-line compact red laser built for the M-4 & AR-15 platforms. It has separate windage and elevation adjustments, and a simple toggle that you can hit without leaving firing posture. The aluminum casing saves weight, while the battery lasts up to 5 hours. The quick-release mount allows super-fast mounting and dismounting.
- Mounts behind the sight for unmatched accuracy
- Recessed dials preclude any accidental changes
- Rear-facing toggle for simple operation
When you need to operate at night, in extremely low light conditions, you need to be able to use some type of aiming device. Red dot sights are very popular, but if you are leveraging night vision technology, you will have issues seeing the dot, and you will generally have an issue getting your observation device behind the optics with any effectiveness. That’s where the impressive, civilian-legal MAWL-C1+ comes in handy. It is a commercially available near infrared and visible green laser device that uses a class 1+ laser to provide a greatly improved infrared illumination power over conventional class 3 or 1 lasers.
The MAWL has a much longer illumination range than previous revisions, as well as a greatly improved beam pattern and quality at short range, mid range, and long range. It also features individual power settings and divergences for each range as well, so the beam is always visible. The intuitive lighting system has been improved to not only illuminate better at longer ranges but also minimize the illumination of objects outside the target range, like vegetation or shrubbery. The new revision has done away with the old style of stacked divergences to provide sharper distinction.
Night shooting is fun, and night shooting with night vision is really fun. But using night vision often requires a little extra infrared light to help boost performance. This is where a good laser can help out a lot. There are a ton of lasers on the market, but the ATPIAL-C is one of the most popular civilian lasers available currently.
The ATPIAL-C is a little less than the full power version given to special forces members but is still a formidable laser in the field. The laser is able to broadcast a definitive beam at surprising ranges, and even though the illuminator is a conservative 3mW it does a more than adequate job of putting light where you need it, while the divergences keep it from going where you don’t. If you need a little bit larger indicator, it even has a diffuser to modulate the laser dot size.
The rotary function switch requires a little memorization, but it has positive clicks to set it simply with a fingertip. The large power button is located on top to prevent any accidental activation or deactivation, and it takes up a minimal amount of real estate on the rail.
Pinty Green Laser
One of the best budget green lasers that are on the market now, the Pinty is a solid laser for less than $30 at the time of writing. It has a super-bright green dot, and even after a mess of hard rounds, the zero shifted very little. It’s even brighter than some more expensive green lasers.
- Universally affordable
- Nice tactile feeling when making adjustments
- Easy to mount right out of the box
Ade Advanced Red Laser
The Ade Red is one of the better budget red lasers available, it has an incredibly bright red dot compared to what you would normally expect. Really solid zero holds, with only minor adjustments needed every few hundred rounds. This little laser will surprise you.
- Small form factor fits anywhere
- Easy to spot dot even in holo sights
- Much smaller than similarly priced lasers
Ozark Armament Green Laser
For a budget laser that can be had for less than fifty bucks, the Ozark Green laser is a pretty decent option. While it does tend to need to be zeroed after a long day of heavy rounds, it’s easy and quick to do. It’s a cheap laser for a gun that you need to accessorize in a pinch, and it’s got a nice bright green dot.
- Separate windage and elevation adjustments
- Super-affordable green laser
- Easy to adjust
The bright red dot from the TLR-8 will make sure you put your shot on target each time, even out past 25 yards in the dark. It’s a compact but chunky little light/laser combo. It is able to fit on just about anything from compact pistols to your AR-15 with minimal hassle.
- Red/Green variants available
- Combines with 500-800 lumen light
- Holds its zero incredibly well
Crimson Trace CMR-206
Yes, it can fit on rail-equipped rifles. A super-affordable laser for less than $150, the CMR-206 is an absolutely minuscule laser that can be used in a competitive environment. It has a lower overall brightness than Pinty or Ozark, but the robust green laser can still be seen well past 25-30 yards.
- Plus zero function to do quick adjusts
- Bright green
- Extremely versatile mounting
An AR-15 laser is a small device that will project a highly visible dot of laser light on the intended potential target. They are compatible with most guns, depending on what type of rail and attachment system the gun has, and the best lasers compatible with the AR platform are the ones we’ll be looking at specifically. They are available in two colors, each having its own advantages and disadvantages.
They help with target acquisition by providing an extra lighting source and targeting reference in your sight picture. This makes properly zeroed lasers invaluable for quickly determining where your shot will impact after firing. Ideal conditions for both aiming down the sights, and for improved unaimed accuracy in stressful situations.
An AR-15 laser will also be able to provide additional help when reacquiring the target for follow-up shots. While they can be used during daylight hours, they are not at their most effective, and will often need to be at their brightest to be of use. They are optimal for low light conditions, as well as for helping new shooters learn how their AR-15 behaves when firing during practice.
There are several factors to consider when you are evaluating various potential AR-15 lasers. You should take some time to weigh the differences in lasers in regard to their beam intensity, size, shape, color, battery runtime, how easy they are to mount and operate, and of course the price. Some of these factors may be more important to some shooters than to others, so be on the lookout for what matters to you and your setup, so you can choose the best laser for your AR.
The intensity or brightness of the laser will play heavily into how effective it is. A brighter laser will show up easier at night, and during the day. Since a laser is cohesive light traveling away from you, unlike a tac light, a brighter laser won’t mess up your night vision. A super bright laser probably won’t allow you to make long-distance dot shots during the day, but it will make your short to mid-range target acquisition much quicker and easier. Low brightness lasers will be a challenge to see during the day, but they may still be effective with additional sighting systems.
Just light anything else that you attach to your AR-15’s frame, you want your laser to be as compact and light as possible while still retaining the features and quality that you want. The more weight on the gun means the more hassle it’s going to be to drag it around, and it can also begin to affect your shooting by changing the recoil. The physical size of it will matter as well since a larger laser will leave less room for other attachments or optics.
New shooters may not be aware, but for a long time, red lasers were the default. Over time as technology advanced, green was introduced. While they both perform essentially the same job, there are some distinct differences in how they perform.
Red beams are almost always going to be cheaper than a feature-equivalent green laser. Red lasers are dimmer by nature and are hard to make super-bright without significant expense. They are generally only for night shooting since they are so difficult to see in the day, however, when used at night they provide the longest runtime on average.
Green lasers are frequently the more expensive option, but they are significantly brighter and more powerful overall. Green lasers are also easier and faster to spot, due to how the color receptors in our eyes work. They are most useful at night, but they are also far easier to use during the day than red lasers. Another downside is that they will often burn through their batteries quicker than red lasers, however, many green lasers are compatible with rechargeable batteries.
Bright lasers will have a much shorter battery life than dimmer beams, generally speaking. On the other hand, many lasers do have the ability to adjust the intensity, allowing you to save on the battery drain. You’ll need to really think about how you’re going to use your laser before committing to something since your use case and shooting style will certainly have an impact on the battery life.
This is important and many people don’t give it much thought, but if you have a great laser that is an absolute PITA to mount, dismount, adjust, replace batteries, or zero, then you’ve got a laser that you will avoid using. Check out the activation method, a simple on/off will be more intuitive than a press-and-hold.
Be sure it will fit in with the rest of your gear so that it doesn’t alter the placement or zero of anything else. Make sure you can turn it on without leaving your shooting posture. Also, pay attention to the actual mounts, since Picatinny will be easiest. Conversely, there are adapters for M-Lok slots if you choose.
While the cost of the laser should certainly matter because nobody likes to waste money, it shouldn’t be the sole guiding light by which you shop. Don’t do that to yourself, or your marksmanship. Find a compromise between features and cost, and pull the trigger.
There may be models you look at that have a different beam consistency than you’re used to. Most shooters are used to constant beams, but there are pulsing beams as well, which have their own benefits and drawbacks.
Solid beams are on all the time and maintain strength and intensity. They illuminate surroundings better and are often better choices for close quarters. Pulsing beams are easier to see unaided, save battery life, and are better options for distance shooting and hunting.