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Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Gunday Product Reviews: Laserlyte Red Center Mass Laser vs. LaserMax Micro II G

Once again I have a head-to-head pistol laser comparison, this time between LaserLyte and LaserMax. These lasers were tested on my mother's Kel-Tec PMR-30. This is because 1) she's wanted a pistol laser for a long time now, and 2) it's the only pistol in the house with an accessory rail.

Disclaimer 1: I have a friendly relationship with the various LaserMax representatives. I try to review things objectively, but it's possible bias might creep in, so please consider my review with that in mind.

Disclaimer 2: I have favorably reviewed products from both companies in the past. I genuinely like both companies and the products they make.

Disclaimer 3: People are inevitably going to ask "Erin, why didn't you review a non-Center Mass laser from LaserLyte, or the red Micro 2? Isn't that like comparing apples to oranges" and my response is "I reviewed what I was given. They send a green, I review green; I get a CML, I review a CML." I have tried to review them both on their merits as pistol lasers, while pointing out that each have less expensive alternatives.

The LaserLyte Red Center Mass Laser retails for $164.95, but is available at Amazon for $99.95.

However, if you don't want the Center Mass effect and just want a single laser, you can get the LaserLyte SCV4 from Amazon for $64.99. They both have central dots for point of impact; the more expensive CML has a ring of 8 other lasers around it.

The LaserMax Micro II G retails for $199, but is available at Amazon for $167.23. The LaserLyte comes out looking better in this regard, but notice that I'm comparing a red laser to a green laser.

LaserMax also makes a red version of the Micro 2, which is exactly the same other than beam color. It sells for its MSRP of $119 at Amazon.

Winner: LaserLyte, but not by much
(see below). 

The Red CML takes three 357 silver oxide batteries, with a life of 2.5 hours constant-on and 5 hours of life on pulse. The Micro II G needs only one lithium battery, with a life of "over an hour" for green and "4+ hours" for red. 

Given that the Micro 2 Red uses the exact same battery as the green, you get nearly twice as much life as the red center mass laser for a difference of $20 -- and that's constant-on time, not pulse time. (You can make the Micro 2 pulse as well by turning it on and then pressing and holding the switch for 5 seconds. Pulse life for green is still "over an hour", although I would think it would last somewhat longer than on constant; red on pulse extends its life to 4.5 hours.)

The Micro 2's battery is easier to replace, as well: the cover is a spring-loaded lid that just pops open and snaps closed, as opposed to a circular plug that must be unscrewed with a coin or screwdriver (but don't use too large a coin, or you'll hit the mounting rail). 

Both lasers come with auto-off features: the CML after 6 minutes, the Micro 2 (both versions) after 10. This helps to prevent battery drain after accidental activation. 

It's worth noting that both lasers come with batteries included, which is a nice touch. 

Winner: LaserMax, but also not by much.

At this point we have "cheaper price and annoying battery installation" vs. "more expensive but easier to replace, and if you use the red Micro 2 you get better battery life."

Both slip onto an accessory rail and install quickly. The Micro 2 uses a flathead screw, while the Center Mass Laser uses a hex wrench (which is included in the package). The instructions for mounting and using both are clear.
Winner: a tie.

Both come with a tiny hex key for adjustment, which is a good thing because the CML key is so tiny I don't have one in any of sets. The Micro 2 uses a 0.05" key which I happen to have in my set of Stanley hex wrenches.

Both sets of adjustment screws suffer from what I call "gummy screw syndrome", where the screws just move the laser without giving you any feedback like MOA clicks. I realize this is standard among laser sights, but it's still annoying to me. However, the Micro 2's screws are just slightly tighter than that of the CML, meaning I felt like I had more precision when dialing it in.

Winner: Lasermax, but just barely. 

This is because their screws were slightly better and because they used a wrench size I own. That's important, because we all know how easy it is to lose teeny-tiny hex keys. 

Both lasers have ambidextrous controls, which is great as I'm a rightie and my mom (whose gun the lasers were on) is a leftie. I preferred the controls of the Micro 2, as they are switches on either side of the casing; mom preferred the rear pushbutton controls of the CML. I believe that makes control placement a matter of personal preference. 

Winner: another tie. 

This is the part you've all been waiting for.

Micro 2

After I dialed the sight in as best I could, this is what I achieved at 25 feet, unsupported. The first three are in a nice stitch across the X, and the other 17 are kind sloppy because I'm not an experienced shooter and my hand gets tired. You'll note that all but two are 9-ring or better.

[It is worth noting that time passed between these two shooting situations, as .22 WMR became hard to come by for a while. This explains the differences in targets, and possibly an improvement in my shooting. Ammunition was the same, however.]

Red Center Mass Laser

I had significant problems sighting this laser in at 25 feet; all of my shots were dropping about 3 inches low, no matter how I adjusted the laser. (I didn't photograph the original target that's full of low holes, but if you want to see it let me know.)

I am willing to state for the record that the problem in zeroing it may have been me, since the procedure for both is the same. I'm not sure why it gave me trouble; it simply did.

After about 50 rounds of this I gave up and moved the target to 10 feet, the minimum distance the range allowed. I figured this would probably be the range that my mother would be engaging a bad guy in a self-defense situation*.

*Yes, I know all about the Tueller drill. Mom is old, carries in a purse, and doesn't practice her draw stroke. I can't change any of these factors. 

The first five shots in the head are me using the fiber-optic sights. This was to prove that the gun itself was accurate and that I could shoot worth a damn. (Why add a laser, then? I hear you ask. Well, just because I can shoot better with the iron sights doesn't mean my mother can, and I was doing this for her carry piece. She has trouble with sights in general.)

The three shots in the chest are from me zeroing the sight. The high one is before laser adjustment; the middle one is after. The bottom one is from when I went "Okay, I have this zeroed, let's move it back some" and I moved it to about 18 feet out. Those extra eight feet caused a drop of one inch.

Now, I'm not saying it's the laser's fault; it might be my fault as I don't claim to be anything more than an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to shooting guns. But that was the point where I went "Clearly my shots are dropping for some reason, so let's just go back to mom's likely engagement distance and try it out."  That resulted in the cluster of shots around the thorax.

Why the thorax? Because 1) it was a place I hadn't yet shot, and 2) I was thinking of the "White Triangle of Death". You see, if shots are going to fall 1-3 inches at 25 feet, then let's aim at the thorax; if they hit there it's good, but if they drop then they're still within the center of mass.

I do think it's weird that I shot better without the laser than with it, though.

Winner: Depends on who you ask.

Mom really, really likes the big red Center Mass ring that the LaserLyte puts out. She has terrible vision -- has astigmatism, wears trifocals, and had cataract surgery recently -- and so the big pattern of the CML is a draw for her, despite the fact that for me it yielded less precise results.

I prefer the LaserMax Micro 2, because I found it easier to turn on, easier to adjust, and had better accuracy with it.

But Erin! If this laser is for your mother's pistol, 
why hasn't she shot with it?
That's an excellent question, and it deserves an equally good answer. Sadly, I can't give you one. Mom is full of good intentions but can never quite find the time to go shooting with me; first she had neck surgery, and then cataract surgery, and then it was the holidays, and then it was cleaning up after the holidays. At this point, I frankly don't know if she's just reluctant to go because she's afraid to find out she's lost a lot of progress, or if she just can't find the time to go, or if it's something else entirely.

But I'm a dutiful daughter, so if she wants me to install the laser she wants, I install it. I can't physically drag her to the range to get her to practice with it.

Which One Should You Get?
Again, it depends. If you asked me this question in conversation I'd answer with questions of my own: Who is it for? What is their skill level? Is this for target practice or self-defense?

These are both fine lasers, and if you get the red versions the prices are comparable once you factor in battery life. If you like the one dot, get the Micro 2; if you like the big Center Mass Ring, then by all means get the one from LaserLyte. I prefer the one I'm more accurate with (obviously), but if you have poor vision then the CML is clearly a better choice.

The biggest difference is the red vs. green. The green Micro 2 is $30 more expensive than the red, and you get increased daytime visibility in exchange for a greatly reduced battery life. There was no real way for me to compare the red Center Mass Laser against the green, because the green CML (see my earlier review here) is far too large to mount on a pistol. For a long gun, size won't matter much, but again the price issue comes up:  $99.95 for red vs the now-current $147.48 Amazon price.

TL;DR version:  Unless you absolutely need the green, get the red version of whichever model suits you best.

Obligatory FTC Disclaimer:  I genuinely like both products. Both were given to me for free for reviewing purposes. I was not paid to give a good review. Go away and fight some real crime. 

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