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Monday, July 23, 2012

My 73 year old mother shoots a laser (Crimson Trace review, part 2)

Part 1 of this review may be found here.

Part 2: Range Use

Last Thursday was my mother's birthday. As a treat for her, my father and I took her to our local indoor shooting range so she could perform a practical test of her Crimson Trace lasergrip for the .357 Ruger LCR.

Her vital statistics as they apply to this review:
  • 73 year old lady
  • Arthritis in both hands (specifically around the thumbs)
  • Wears trifocals (has bad vision and therefore has trouble getting a good sight picture)
  • Novice shooter (still trying to find a grip and stance that feels natural to her)

When we got on the firing line, the first thing I did was to run the paper target out to 50 feet to check calibration because the manual said that the laser came sighted in at that distance. Unfortunately, it was not.

While elevation was good, windage put the dot several inches to the right of the point of aim as perceived by the pistol's fixed sight. I do not know if this was a failure of quality control, or if the laser's point of aim drifted due to shipping, or any other reason. However, every other laser I have used needed to be calibrated to the firearm, so I do not count this against Crimson Trace. It is simply noted as a discrepancy between the instructions and reality.

I then moved the target forward to the 25 foot position, because my mother doesn't have the best eyesight in the world. I informed her that the laser would be showing to the right of the point of impact, and that she should adjust accordingly.
Her first shot was approximately 2 inches to the left of the center of mass.
This is especially noteworthy when you consider that the last time she shot this pistol -- which was also her first time shooting it -- she performed so poorly that she forbade me from taking pictures of her target. She doesn't have any problems with me posting her target this time, though!

She shot 12 times, and there are 12 holes in the "critical zone" of that target. All are righteous hits. She stopped after shot #12 because the recoil was making her arthritic thumbs hurt. I asked her if she felt a difference between the recoil using the original soft grip of the LCR and the rigid plastic grip of the Crimson Trace. She said yes. When I asked her to rate it on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, she said:
"With the laser, recoil was a ten. With the original grip, it felt more like an eight."
It is worth noting that mom was shooting 125 grain FMJ, whereas the last time she was shooting 130gr FMJ*. I am not enough of a ballistics wonk to correctly speculate if the lighter bullet made for snappier recoil or not. All I know is that I was worried that the harder plastic would be less comfortable than the squidgey-soft grip, and in this case it was true. Despite all of this, however, my mother was enthusiastic about the performance of the lasergrip. She says it makes a huge difference to her and gives her amazing confidence with her gun. With 9 out of 12 shots within a three-inch grouping, I have to agree, especially since prior to the Crimson Trace she could (barely) hit a 12 inch target.

Mom's Verdict:  A+

I'm not sure if I would be quite so generous. From the perspective of an experienced shooter, yes, the design and operation of the product are flawless. However, from the admittedly limited perspective of an elderly novice shooter, I have two very specific nits to pick.
  1. The documentation said that the laser came pre-sighted at 50 feet, and in my experience it was sighted for a much further distance. As I said earlier, I am not taking points off for this, I feel this is worth noting because, absent my presence, my mother would have assumed that the laser was properly calibrated and become frustrated that the bullets weren't hitting where they were supposed to. 
  2. Absent any ballistic data that suggests the Blazer 125gr cartridge is somehow snappier than a Remington 130gr cartridge, I have to state the the different grip increased felt recoil. A difference of 2 points on an 1-10 scale is significant, especially to someone with arthritis. I don't know if Crimson Trace is capable of making a grip that keeps the soft, recoil-absorbing texture of the stock LCR grip, I don't like my mother being asked to choose between comfort and accuracy. 
Would I still recommend this product to shooters? Absolutely. It's well worth the money. However, I promised Crimson Trace that this product would be reviewed from the perspective of a senior citizen, and I think both of my points highlight this distinction.

* Yes, to maintain scientific rigor we should have used exactly the same ammo. We grabbed the wrong box. Mea culpa. 

Obligatory FTC disclaimer: I was given this product for free and without monetary compensation. I am neither required to return it, nor was I instructed to give a good review in exchange for this item. I have no personal affiliation with the manufacturer, and my professional relationship is purely that of a reviewer and as a customer.


  1. 8 yards using a snubbie  for the second time that's real good. Especially as that's at the far end of most use distances.

    The recoil issue is a very valid one.  Especially when it cuts into how many one can use for practice. 

    The enthusiasm and confidence aspect cannot be discounted.  A lot of shooting is in the head and with practice that group can easily get tighter.

  2.  Are you using the aluminum case Blasers?   With that line A) The aluminum cases make the cartridges weigh about 20% less than an equivalent brass or steel case.   B)  I've heard they load them a little more heavy because they know you aren't going to re-use the brass...tho a quick look at the ballistic data on their site the Brass and aluminum loads are equivalent, and also on par with other traditional factory ammo.

    Too bad the recoil feels a bit worse with the new grips....but I suspect the gun is a LOT more serviceable for her.

    BTW if she's hurting at the end of the range trip have her dial it back a bit.   its generally a bad idea for new shooters to push themselves to their physical limits.

    Also if she's got the scratch it might be a GREAT idea to get one of those 8-shot .22 LR LCRs for a nice cheap and easy trainer.    Then she can put a box of 50 through the .22 then maybe run a wheel of .38s through the centerfire big-brother!

  3.  Are you using the aluminum case Blasers?  

    Nope, all brass. 
    And I think her .380 will make a good trainer. More expensive than .22 LR, I know, but less expensive than buying another pistol. 

    (Yes, I know that if she shot a lot the savings in ammo would quickly make up the price of the new pistol. At the moment, she only goes every couple of months, so it's not (yet) cost-effective.)

  4. That's a lot better looking than my first several range trips.

  5. Iain at Crimson TraceJuly 24, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    Erin, thanks for the forthright review and many thanks to your mom for being such a great guinea pig. As you note, Lasergrips are pre sighted at the factory at 50' and to do this we use a test fixture made from an honest to goodness real gun.
    Due to differences between ammo and individual weapons however, (and yes, manufacturing tolerances in the grips themselves), you're definitely going to want to fine tune the zero. Fortunately, this is usually just a matter of a 1/4 turn of the windage or elevation screw, using the supplied wrench.
    I have to say, the feedback you've given us is invaluable and we're looking at ways to incorporate your suggestions into future products and packaging to make them easier for the novice shooter to use.


  6. CTC lasers really help with subcompact guns and poor iron sights. My father's groups with a P32 went from  a 6-8 inches down to 2 inches, all at 7 yards, once a laser was added.

  7. I SO want laser grips!  ---WAY TO GO MOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Kudos Caleb.  (even if you did grab the wrong box..)  hee hee


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