The most popular place to mount an IR laser on a carbine or rifle is 12 o’clock, top rail, up front towards the muzzle. It is a safe bet that about 95% of Special Operations run their lasers this way. The primary reason for this? So that the laser will not be obstructed by the front sight post or back up iron sights. Many shooters prefer to use the button on the laser itself, so they mount the laser so that it is where their support hand grips the carbine.
The other 5%, including myself, prefer to run it towards the receiver end of the rifle, mounted right in front of the optic. When people see this, it seems to confuse a lot of them, often generating a lot of comments such as:
- “The IR laser will be blocked and not work at all.”
- “One cannot zero it properly mounted that far back.”
- “There will be too much shadow produced by the front sight or forearm making it very hard to make out the laser beam or flood.”
Of course, if this were true, I would not run it this way. Believe it or not, it works just fine. In fact, I have found mounting it towards the rear, behind my support hand to be the ideal place. I came to this conclusion during multiple tours to Afghanistan. Running it in the rear not only facilitated my primary method of holding the rifle, but more importantly, supported the most prevalent conditions I could expect to find myself in during firefights.
Here are the most common questions and comments I get about my IR laser placement:
“The laser will be obscured by the front sight post.” – This belief comes from the older PEQ-2 that has a less defined beam. Because of its length, it needed to be mounted as far forward as possible to fit on a carbine handguard. Most if not all current aiming lasers, still have the aiming laser offset on the right to avoid the front sight post.
Regardless if it is mounted towards the front or back, the front sight post does not interrupt it. Now it can still affect the IR flood, causing some shadowing, but that depends how you set the IR flood. If you set it for room distance with an extremely wide circle, then there will be shadowing on one side. I prefer to set the IR flood to appear as a six-foot circle at about 50 yards. That is a pretty tight cone.
I do not use IR flood to illuminate rooms I am in, but rather to illuminate windows and doorways. The tight beam is perfect for this. Too wide of a beam washes out and you cannot see into things at greater distances. A six-foot-wide beam set for 50 yards accomplishes this regardless of where the laser is mounted on the rail; Side, top, rear, or forward, it is not affected too much by the front sight post (if there is one) or the rail.
Zeroing issues? To tell the truth I stopped performing live-fire zeroing of the IR laser years ago. A 25 or 50 yard zero it not as accurate as co-witnessing the IR laser to the primary optic at an object of 200 yards or more. The intent of a short range zero is to set the IR laser parallel to the bore of the carbine. That works fine, but I find its too time consuming. Let’s face it, no matter how well you zero, it is still only good for about 200 yards or so due to bullet drop from gravity.
The laser goes out in a perfectly straight line for infinity; unfortunately bullets do not. I have found that aiming at something around 200 yards away at dusk, then dialing the IR laser to touch it works just as well as live firing zeroing, regardless of the distance at which you dial it in. The point of aim (POA) of the laser and optic and the path of the bullet as it travels will be within a few inches of each to the point of impact.
That is perfectly acceptable combat accuracy. Zeroing your IR laser and optic at a specific distance works well at that distance. After that distance, the IR laser beam is now crossing the point of aim of the optic, causing the point of impact to move away as distance increases.
Dialing it in a dusk is also very handy. If you are using a LA-5 or LA-15, there is a good chance the tension screw that holds it onto the rail has come loose and the zero is lost. Re-dialing the IR laser to the primary optic before every mission corrects for this at whatever distance you expect to be shooting. I find this a lot more practical, than shooting it on a short range zero target. As far as mounting the laser on the side of the gun. I am not a fan of mounting it so the IR laser emits below the bore line. When I do mount it on the side, it is set so the IR laser emits top left. (It is still roughly within 2 inches of the bore and POA of Primary optic) plus being a lefty it is mounted opposite side of my support hand.
Why I Do It
In Afghanistan, the Taliban, insurgents, enemy, or whatever you want to call them, do not like to fight at night. It could be that they know we have superior night vision capabilities or because they lack their own night vision. Whatever the reason, it is not often that they will come out and fight at night.
The job of most Special Forces teams is to lead and advise Afghan partner forces. This usually comes in the form of leading Afghan Commandos or SF, on missions to find the enemy. Most of the time our missions would infill at night to avoid IEDs. At a pre-planned location we would hold up, fortify and wait for the insurgents to wake up, realize we are there and come at us.
Another method was to run daylight movement to contact patrols. If you wanted any chance of finding and getting the enemy to come out, it had to be during daylight. While we mostly moved during darkness, the reality was 95% of the time, the action I saw was during the day. Because of this. I wanted my rifle set-up to facilitate when I saw the enemy the most, day time.
I shoot best running a C-clamp support grip. Although it does not bother a lot of Operators, I don’t like having to grip around the body of a LA-5. I don’t find it is as stable or as comfortable as gripping around the rail alone. I like the IR laser mounted in the rear to keep it out of the way so that I have the optimum grip allowing me to shoot my best during daylight.
Does that block the IR laser if I had to use it? Yes, it does. To operate the IR laser, I would either run a pressure pad switch on a vertical foregrip or move my hand back to the laser and use the built-in button. Running my hand back or holding onto a vertical foregrip was not as stable for me as a C-Clamp grip. Most of us, when using lasers, do not get a perfect cheek to stock position.
Using the laser, most shooters shoulder the carbine and look over the gun focusing on balancing the laser on the target. A perfect body position and grip is not as important. Since you are indexing off the laser beam and not an optic or sights and breaking shots when you see the laser fall onto the target.
Why not just run it in front of your support hand? That exposes the IR laser to muzzle blast from the weapon and increases the likelihood of damaging the laser and will cause carbon build up on the lens. If you don’t regularly clean it, the laser will become blocked. I don’t want to have my laser disappear in a fight because it was obscured by carbon.
If you do anything that requires you to use the muzzle to strike with such as breaking glass or muzzle punching a threat, there is a chance you can knock it loose or damage your laser. The best reason to mount it reward is to help balance the gun. Although most lasers do not weight much, mounting it closer towards the middle avoids a front heavy gun that does not point well..
The Wrap Up
If you are doing something a certain way that works for you, by all means, keep doing it. But if you are doing things because that is the way everyone says to do it, or that’s “just how it is” then I encourage you to experiment to find the best method for you.
Running an IR laser in the rear, while not the conventional method, is ideal for maximizing my combat effectiveness. Next time you hit the range, don’t be afraid to switch things up. You never know, you might surprise yourself.
by Jeff Gurwitch
Jeff has served 26 years in the U.S. Army, 19 of those in Special Forces. Currently, he teaches shooting part time and is contributing writer for SWAT Magazine and defensereview.com. You can find him on Instagram and facebook @ Modern Tactical Shooting