Crimson Trace Lasergrips LG-401

By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff

Crimson Trace Lasergrips
Lasergrips LG-401 on a 1911 pistol. Photo courtesy of Crimson Trace.

Crimson Trace Corporation (CTC) sold their first laser in 1994 and in the past 12 years has sold approximately a quarter-million sets of Lasergrips. During that time, Crimson Trace Lasergrips have been adopted/accepted by police departments all over the world, from Los Angeles to Singapore. In 2007 Crimson Trace moved its home office to a new facility in Wilsonville, in Guns and Shooting Online's home state of Oregon.

Thus, when our friend Wade Stevens, now Crimson Trace's Key Accounts Manager, wrote suggesting that Guns and Shooting Online review a set of Crimson Trace Lasergrips, we immediately agreed. Crimson Trace offers Lasergrips for a broad selection of pistols. For guns with removable grip panels, such as Colt 1911-style pistols or S&W revolvers, the Lasergrips simply replace the stock grip panels. For Glock pistols, with their one-piece polymer frames, the laser sight takes the form of an overmold attached to the back strap of the pistol and is retained by an extra-length trigger housing pin. Lasergrips are available for various Government Model 1911, Colt Commander 1911, Colt Officer's 1911, Beretta, Browning, CZ, Glock, NAA, Ruger, SIG, S&W, Springfield, Taurus and Walther pistols. They can also be adapted to AR-15/M-16 type rifles.

Oddly, the majority of pistols and revolvers favored for personal or home defense by the Guns and Shooting Online staff are not among those for which Crimson Trace offers Lasergrips (Colt SA and DA revolvers, NAA Black Widow revolver, Beretta 90-TWO, HK-USP, Kahr PM-9, Baikal IJ-70). However, Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays owns a Government Model 1911 pistol, a genuine Colt Model 1991, and that became our test vehicle.

Here are the basic specifications for the Lasergrips LG-401:

  • Fits - Govt. Model 1911 pistol
  • Type - Class IIIa visible laser diode
  • Peak power - 5mW
  • Wavelength - 633nm
  • Beam color - Red
  • Beam size - Approx. 0.5" at 50 feet
  • Battery type - (2) CR2032 or DL2032 lithium cells
  • Battery life - Over 4 hours of operation; 5 year shelf life
  • 2007 MSRP - $329

When our LG-401 black synthetic laser grips arrived from Crimson Trace, we were immediately impressed by how well they were engineered and manufactured. This is clearly a high quality product, with no loose wires or other potential problems. All you have to do is remove the pistol's stock grip panels (there are two screws per grip panel on a Colt 1911 pistol), drop one of the two supplied CR2032 batteries into each Lasergrip beneath the grip's dust shield and wrap the Lasergrips around the pistol in place of the stock grips. Attach the Lasergrips with the gun's original grip screws. It probably took longer to write this paragraph than to actually install our Lasergrips.

Once installed, the Lasergrips look much like the stock Colt 1991 black rubber grip panels, except the Lasergrips are a one-piece unit that is joined across the front of the grip frame. This is because the pressure switch that activates the laser is molded into the front of the grip, beneath the middle finger of the gun hand. Just press in this area and the laser comes on. A tight grip on the pistol will automatically turn on the laser.

To prevent inadvertently activating the laser when it is not wanted, there is a small master "on-off" switch located near the bottom of the left grip panel. This little slide switch is recessed into the grip panel and stays where it is set, a thoughtful touch.

Also included with a set of Lasergrips are two tiny hex wrenches that are used to adjust the Laser's point of impact. Note that the instructions provided for sighting-in the laser grips tell you how to move the laser's point of impact, not the bullet's. This is backward from most sighting systems, which tell you which way to turn a screw to move the bullet impact in windage or elevation. If, like us, you are used to adjusting scopes and optical red dot sights, turn the adjustment screws on the Lasergrips in the opposite direction from that indicated.

Crimson Trace advises in the Owner's Manual that Lasergrips are pre-sighted for a distance of 50 feet and often do not need further adjustment. When adjustment is needed, a good place to start is to align the laser with the pistol's iron sights. Since this Colt has fixed sights that, at least for us, do not shoot to the point of aim anyway, we took our newly Lasergrip equipped Colt .45 ACP to the Izaak Walton outdoor gun range south of Eugene, Oregon to properly sight-in the pistol. We were then able to get some practical experience shooting with the Lasergrips. It was a cold, gray day typical of Western Oregon weather in the autumn, but at least it was not raining. Our shooting was done at 25 yards at standard NRA 25 yard centerfire pistol targets.

We had no trouble seeing the bright laser spot on targets at 25 yards, but could not see it at 100 yards in the overcast daylight conditions. The Lasergrip is noticeably brighter than the laser sight on an H-K/USP 9x19mm pistol that we brought along for comparison, as well as much more compact. (We also had available a Makarov 9x18mm pistol with standard iron sights.) One of the good things about the Lasergrip is that, unlike trigger guard or front rail mounted lasers, the Lasergrip adds almost no bulk to the pistol, which holsters and operates completely normally. In addition, no external wires or switches need be attached to the pistol.

After we figured out the Owners Manual's reverse sighting-in directions, we were able to adjust the laser spot to coincide with the group center at 25 yards. (The manual says, "To move the laser to the right, turn the windage screw clockwise," so to move where the bullet hits to the right you have turn the windage screw counter-clockwise.) It doesn't take much screw turning to dramatically move the laser, so easy does it.

Three things immediately became apparent. One, the laser does not shrink your personal group size, although it is easy to see the point of aim. You still have to hold carefully and squeeze the trigger. We shot the same size groups with our Colt's iron sights as we did when using the laser. Two, the dancing laser spot shows everyone present just how much you are shaking and wobbling as you aim the pistol. And three, the laser equipped H-K/USP and iron sight only Makarov pistols both shot groups about 1/3 the size of our unmodified 1911 pistol. The latter, of course, had nothing to do with the Lasergrip, only the pistol on which it was mounted.

None of these pistols, by the way, has undergone any sort of accuracy tuning. This inferior accuracy is typical of our experience with 1911 pistols in general and not a reflection on the Colt Model 1991 in particular. Actually, unlike our experience with most 1911 type pistols, the full size Colt .45 distinguished itself by not jamming during our range session. (The H-K and Makarov pistols, of course, virtually never jam.) John Browning's big, heavy .45 pistol may have been a breakthrough design in 1911, but compared to modern pistols we have never found it to be particularly accurate nor particularly reliable.

Our only complaint about the Lasergrips is that if you keep your trigger finger alongside the frame and out of the trigger guard until you are actually ready to shoot, as you should, your finger is liable to partially or entirely block the laser beam. In the dark, the laser then lights up your finger, rather than the bad guy, revealing your position. To avoid this we had to learn to keep our finger low, on the trigger guard rather than on the frame.

The Crimson Trace Lasergrips proved to be a very well designed and built sight. It is simple to install, reliable, bright, easy to see and easy to use. It will not interfere with holstering your pistol or your gun's normal operation. We feel that it would be very intimidating to a bad guy to see that laser spot appear on his chest. He would certainly know that he is "under the gun." If you want a laser sight, we suggest that you check out Crimson Trace Lasergrips.

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