In my last article on Adding A Laser To Your Pistol, I wrote the following -
"What about a light? My position, based on over a half dozen urban gunfights in darkened environments is that it depends on application. For police duty use, or SWAT applications, yes...without a doubt. Those are proactive events typified by - "I am going to the fight on purpose" applications. But for UC/OD/CCW work (under-cover, off-duty, concealed-carry), I prefer to not have a weapon mounted light. A separate hand held light will be far more useful in the second application than a weapon mounted light. I am certain the Lumen-Mongers will attack me shortly but that is my position on the matter.'
The points of discussion are these -
First - Who has the initiative in the fight. This is an aspect that the gun world at large seems not to grasp, but it is a determining factor in tactics used as well as weapons selected. Are you specifically going to that fight, on purpose, with several team mates to execute a pre-planned event? If that is the case, concealment is not going to be a factor, and you can afford to use a pistol equipped with light, laser, red dot and suppressor. This type of action can be typified by preparation, planning, and deliberate action.
Contrast that with the business owner whose day does not include a direct action hit on an MS-13 safe house. If he has a gunfight that day, it will either be an unexpected event which can be handled with a typical weapon and reactive skills...or it will be a decided response to an active shooter. The latter will again be handled by a typical quality carry weapon and in this case proactive shooting skills.
In either event, he won't suddenly find himself assaulted in darkness...nor pursuing an active shooter in darkness. If he enters a dark environment, it will be on purpose and the need for any additional illumination will be primarily for navigation. If he realizes he is being attacked in such circumstances, the light will already be in hand and he will use it in conjunction with his pistol. A weapon mounted light won't help him any more than a hand held light used in conjunction with a pistol in dark environments. Will a weapon mounted light hurt him? Not at all, but why have the extra weight and bulk for something of little to no tactical value?
In uniform, whether street patrol, SWAT or similar, with an open carry holster, sure...weapon mounted light all the way. In street clothes, concealed, nope...flashlight is carried separate from the weapon.
Two - Advantages of the Laser. For the SWAT, Uniformed Operator (the bullet golfers hate that word) the laser will provide the same benefits as for the Concealed Carry Citizen so I will keep it short and focus on the latter. My previous article defined some very specific advantages, but I want to get more in depth.
Shooting from disadvantaged positions where any type of sight picture is not available. Think hasty cover, on your back shooting up at an adversary, and at points on the compass where you must hold the pistol in ways that traditional sighting is not possible. Most of these events fall into the unexpected, reactive, "I was not expecting this" category.
Shooting at a rapidly moving adversary. While this can be done with both red dot and iron sights (easier with a red dot), for many people keeping the visual focus hard on the moving adversary is necessary, and the laser allows this to be done a little easier. Same for shooting from a moving platform, or from a moving platform to an adversary on another moving platform. Never say never.
As a secondary or tertiary verification of shot placement. We do quite a bit of work in counter terrorist/active shooter problems. A rather timely study, given that just last week an active shooter at a Jewish Temple killed eleven people. That is reality for our times. In a crowd, with a mass of moving innocents attempting to evade the terrorist, a laser allows the good guy shooter to "paint his target" and have a greater certainty of his hits.
These are tangible advantages presented by the laser that a flashlight affixed to the weapon does not. If I were working in a uniformed position today, I would certainly have a weapon mounted light, but I would also have an in tandem laser on that unit.
Reduced Weapon Bulk. The bigger and heavier a weapon is, the less concealable it is, and the less likely it is to be carried daily like it should be. I have seen those Instagram images of peoples "EDC pocket dumps", and so have you. The Glock 34 with a weapon mounted light that extends to the muzzle in the oversized Appendix holster stands out next to the key fob and de rigeur kydex wallet. But at 185 pounds and a 32 inch waist, I doubt I could ever carry such a combination for an entire day. Could it be that guys like that only carry on the range? And again...for what benefit?
Lights are necessarily larger than laser diodes. That may change but at the time I am writing this, my desk is strewn with versions of just about every quality light and laser sold in America for mounting on a pistol and in a phrase, "Lights Are Big - Lasers Are Small". It may a matter of centimeters and ounces, but there is a line where a single ounce is too much and a single centimeter is too big. For everyday concealed carry, generally smaller and lighter - within reason - should drive the choices.
Three - Applicable. For daily concealed carry, specially if you use "inside the waist appendix" like many of us do (AIWB) a weapon mounted light that meets our standards of use and application doesn't exist. There are many mini lights, but none allow for one handed use while the trigger finger is operating the trigger. And there are many lights that allow for one handed use while the finger is on the trigger...but they are excessively large. My position is that for every day concealed carry, a separate hand held light, that can be used proactively when entering areas obscured by darkness makes more sense than to compromise your carry methods to accommodate an accessory that will yield little to no actual operational benefits.
Can you do both? Maybe. The Crimson Trace Laserguard Pro is the smallest weapon mounted light that meets our criteria, and coincidentally includes a laser, but in my opinion, it is still overly large for Concealed Appendix Carry for most people. And for the private citizen everyday carry weapon, does having the light on the weapon really offer an advantage over a hand held light? In my opinion, it does not.