The best AR Laser can take a novice and turn them into a straight shooter. It can take the fear and the debilitating adrenaline factor out of first and follow up shots in tactical, self-defense and hunting scenarios. It can make range time a little more comfortable, enjoyable and accurate.
A laser on a firearm doesn’t make you good at shooting, but it can positively alter the variables that can make you bad at shooting, and therefore, it has become a standard for tactical operators, elite law enforcement and even competition shooters all over the world.
It is not a substitute for good training, practice, and experience, but it can definitely be a game-changing addition when the stakes are high, and failure is not an option. It doesn’t matter if those scenarios are in combat, defense, hunting or competition.
In this article, we will cover 9 lasers that are a good fit for the AR 15 and explain why they may or may not be the perfect fit for you. They are all top-quality lasers in their given price spectrums and are all great additions to your AR rifle, carbine or pistol.
The 9 Best AR15 Lasers of 2020
- Rail mounted laser Green, fits Picatinny rail
- Ideally suited for the small compact and subcompact pistols
- Adjustable for wind age and elevation; Class IIIa Laser Product:
- Class IIIA laser,
LaserMax is a known brand with a good price point that always gets good reviews from the user. The simplicity of the design and the easy to understand the operation of the laser makes this a very nice option.
Simplicity combined with price point makes this a natural choice for those who are not using the laser for advanced tactical purposes, but instead, want an occasional laser, or something to assist at the range. The green light laser can be seen more easily in daylight and under artificial light.
- Primarily made for small guns
- Battery life may suffer a bit
Why it’s recommended
A simple cheap design that allows a good entry point into lasers for users that don’t need a very robust feature set. The compact design and green laser make the LaserMax seem more capable than it is feature-wise and that’s a good thing. For simplicity and ease of use, this is a good option.
1 used from $33.22
- Low profile design
- Compact and light weight
- 180 lumen Flashlight
- Powered by single CR2 Battery
Yes, it’s very cheap and somewhat cheaply made, but if you mount it properly and understand that it is not the high-end models that have more durability, you can get a lot of very good use out of the Firefield Charge unit.
It’s not a premium model but for the new user, it’s a good foray into the world of lasers. The flashlight is a good additional benefit, especially given the low price of entry.
- Looks good
- Flashlight addition
- Very inexpensive
- Somewhat cheaply made
Why it’s recommended
An entry-level device that has been proven to work well enough to be a good introduction to the genre. With lasers and durability and longevity, you get what you pay for, so you’ll need to be a bit more careful and secure the mounting with lock-tite.
Or some other additional security to handle the potential of it falling off the mount. But for the money you pay, you get a lot out of the Firefield Charge.
Viridian Universal X5L-FDE
- VIRIDIAN GREEN LASER: This green tactical laser utilizes a precise 532nm wave length for a more visible targeting dot in day or night, indoors or outdoors. Class 3R Laser Product (Does not exceed Class IIIA emission limits), ≤ 5mW power output
- LED LIGHT: 178 Lumens of bright CREE LED light blinds attackers. Use the 224 Lumen strobe mode to disorient.
- EASY ACTIVATION: Easily activate the world's brightest laser and/or LED light when drawn. No fumbling with buttons in critical situations. Ambi activation also available.
- BATTERY LIFE: 6+ hours constant laser, 10+ hours of pulsing laser runtime, 60 minutes tac laser and light. Includes one CR123A 3v lithium.
- UNIVERSAL MOUNTING SYSTEM: The modular rail set allows for quick mounting to virtually all railed handguns and rifles.
The Viridian Universal X5L-FDE is a very nice option that starts to get into the legitimate build quality that is needed for a dedicated tactical laser.
The green laser light and the added 224 strobe flashlight feature make this a defensive powerhouse that helps the shooter make sense of complex personal protection or duty situations.
- Great combination of light and laser with a strobe feature
- Pretty durable, and has relatively robust mounting hardware
- The color matches some of the flat dark earth accessories very well
- Somewhat bulky
- Battery life may not be amazing
Why it’s recommended
For those consumers looking for more of a “PROSUMER” model, where they can access some of the professional quality durability and tactical feature set that a professional tactical user would desire, the Viridian Universal is a very good unit at a pretty good price point.
Crimson Trace CMR-204
- ULTRA BRIGHT GREEN LASER & TACTICAL LIGHT: Features a 5mW peak, 515-532nm, Class 3R visible green laser - the brightest beam allowed by law.
- INSTANT ACTIVATION: Ambidextrous Tap-On / Tap-Off Controls for immediate laser activation from either side of the unit.
- OVER TWO HOURS OF BATTERY LIFE: Powered by one CR2 Battery (included). This product is eligible for Crimson Trace’s Free Batteries For Life Program.
- EASY INSTALLATION: User installed- no gunsmithing required. Factory sighted at 50 feet, but is fully user adjustable for Windage and Elevation with provided tool.
- WARRANTY: 3 Year Manufacturer Warranty and FREE Batteries for Life
The Crimson Trace is a remote operation wireless unit that gives you control over the on/off and mode change functionality of the laser with your dominant shooting hand.
The grip + laser unit combination allows infinite mounting options as long as you can use the grip. Crimson trace is a well-known, good brand from a quality and functionality perspective.
- Wireless pairing
- Easy function changes that are intuitive using the dominant hand
- Good quality
- Only fits on the forged receivers NOT on milled receivers
Why it’s recommended
A well-known brand option that adds more functionality than other competitors without a massive price increase.
The Crimson Trace unit can be controlled by the dominant hand, so your secondary hand can be concentrating on the other things that need to be done in tactical or adrenaline-filled scenarios. Robust quality and green laser light for good overall utilization.
- EYE-SAFE IR LASER – Count on the first eye-safe IR laser pointer, now available for the commercial market.
- COMPACT IR ILLUMINATOR – Combined into a single, compact unit, this IR illuminator and green laser pointer is efficient and effective.
- WEAPON-MOUNT USABILITY – An adjustable illuminator provides better illumination at longer ranges.
- RELIABLE LASER POINTER – With dual activation switches and high/low power modes, this laser pointer is designed for efficiency.
- LOW-LIGHT OPTICS – Count on Steiner’s reliability for extreme accuracy in low- and no-light maneuvers.
The Steiner eOptics is the strongest feature set that is commercially available in the civilian market for the most part.
This is a true professional quality unit that you will realize the second you need to count on it in a real-life, life or death situation. However, the quality production and fit and finish of the unit will give a very good indicator upon opening the package that you have purchased a unit worthy of the money it cost.
It is perhaps overkill for most civilians but has legitimate features that can be used for tactical duty operations for military and law enforcement personnel.
- Dual-beam aiming laser
- Remote switch for function and activation
- Adjustable beam angle 2 degrees to 30 degrees
- IR light/IR laser/IR illuminator
- Very expensive
Why it’s recommended
Of all the laser units on the planet, this is among the highest quality device you can buy. This is not a civilian targeted model, it is made for people who need to rely on the advanced functionality of the unit for their welfare or as a military or law enforcement professional.
That is not to say that a civilian cannot use the equipment and benefit greatly from it, but it has advanced functionality that most civilians will never use. Steiner eOptics is a very nice unit with a very high price tag to match.
Streamlight TLR-4 Tac
3 used from $120.02
- Ultra lightweight and compact
- C4 LED technology
- Ambidextrous momentary/steady on off switch
- One handed snap on and tighten interface for safe and quick mounting
- Securely fits a broad range of sub compact, compact and most full size handguns
Streamlight is a proven brand, and this is a good way to get into their product line for a reasonable price point with a multi-functional unit that can do what most bigger, more expensive units do.
The good functionality and the robust construction allows you to treat it like you treat the rest of your “working gear”. Be sure to bring extra batteries though.
- Good versatility
- Robust construction
- Good price point
- Low battery life potential
Why it’s recommended
A good quality build and a lot of functionality for the money, this offers the types of features you can only get on units for twice the price.
The Streamlight TLR-4 represents good value for the money from a brand that knows what they are doing and this unit has a robust outer structure.
Streamlight 69265 TLR-2
$316.07 in stock
3 used from $249.98
- C4 LED technology, impervious to shock with a 50,000 hour lifetime; 510 530nm direct drive green laser with wide operating temperature range
- Streamlight TLR 2 HLG Tac light with laser black finish, includes rail locating keys for Glock style 1913 Picatinny S&W
- White and green laser settings. TLR 2 HL G runs 1.5 hours (Laser/LED simultaneously). 17 hours (Laser only). Operating temperature: 40°F to +120°F
- Green laser provides high visibility long range targeting. Beam distance - 283 meters
- Includes keys for Glock style, Picatinny, Beretta 90two, S&W 99 and S&W TSW
A top-quality prosumer model that has all the features most consumers want without the stuff they will likely never use, and at a price that is still justifiable given the high-quality build and the brand history.
Streamlight makes very good quality products and this laser/light combination offers the best of both worlds with decent battery life and a low-profile design.
- Nice quality
- Long battery life
- Proven brand
- Costs enough to ensure you are committed to the platform before you buy
Why it’s recommended
You can get everything you want in this model for about half, or less than the legitimate, full-blown professional models that are available – as long as you don’t need the advanced functionality like IR specific functionality or dual laser aiming modules. The Streamlight 69265 TLR-2 800 is a robust, well-built laser unit from a proven maker.
$62.75 in stock
- Easy ambidextrous push-button Activation for left and right-handed users; Recessed on/off buttons eliminate accidental activation; Automatically shuts off after 5 minutes to conserve power
- Next generation, High-Efficiency Superconductor Laser Diode Red Laser; Operating temperature: 14˚F (-10˚C) to 122˚F (50˚C)
- This product is a Class 3R (IIIa) with power output
- Weights less than 1 ounce; Made of lightweight CNC-machined aircraft-grade aluminum
- Sport type: Tactical & Military
TRUGLO has a good reputation, but this is a bit on the cheap side. That said it has some very good features and some very admirable design qualities, namely the compact, lightweight size.
The red laser is significantly less expensive than the green laser (by about half), and that’s why it was chosen for this list. If you need an entry-level laser, this is a very good option.
- Compact size
- Great price
- Decent quality compared to other cheaper options
- Somewhat cheaply made
- Somewhat less durable than other options
Why it’s recommended
The TRUGLO is a cheap entry-level model that helps you understand the utility of a laser device and will undoubtedly be a gateway purchase as you realize the benefits of having such a device.
- Up to 300 lumens of illumination
- Better visibility in any situation
- Single-piece mount for rock solid zero
- Quick, easy tool-less laser adjustments
A good balance of low cost, sufficient power and nice looks with a relatively durable design, even if it is a bit blocky and large for the use case. The Sightmark is a good entry-level device that offers decent functionality and looks good.
- A flat, good looking device that fits in well with other accessories
- Remote activation
- Not as durable
- Has a bigger footprint so you’ll have to be careful with where you mount it
Why it’s recommended
The Sightmark is a good model for entry-level use and can be more than enough for new users to the laser device world. The design is fairly straightforward, and it doesn’t include unnecessary components.
Brightness and Laser Output
Generally, the output of the laser is mandated by the laser ratings which are a set-in-stone specification by the governing body that oversees classification. There are no lasers available on the consumer shooting market which are not classified as 3A/IIIA or 3R. That is simply a fact.
The overall reason for this is that the amount of output needed for normal use will never exceed the limitations of the 3A/3R class and the danger of using such devices is extremely low for the user, and much lower than other higher classifications, for the target. The classification in the simplest terms means that the output of a specified laser must not exceed 5mW power output.
Sure, there are differences in brightness and laser output, but generally, and more importantly, the real difference is in the quality, accuracy, and precision of the component parts that the laser as a whole is using. The underlying laser component AND the housing and adjustment system work in harmony to create an output that equates to more than the sum of all of the parts.
You will find that higher-end lasers that are better quality and have better output, but the underlying specific power output of the laser may be EXACTLY the same as the cheaper lasers. So direct specification of output will have a corresponding effect on brightness, but it is not a singular indicator of the total perceived brightness.
Furthermore, the usefulness of the laser is not always directly correlated to the brightness of the laser on target. The definition of the laser and the size of the laser on target are also huge variables that can affect perceived brightness and can change the effectiveness of the laser.
Size of the Laser
Sizing can be important for anyone who is using lasers. The physical size of the laser can affect a lot of things in the shooting process. Namely, maneuverability, sightline, ease of use and usefulness.
Being able to move effectively is not just for elite military and law enforcement operators. It’s also for people who hunt in dense forest or target shooters who use a bench rest, or hikers who need to bring their firearm along with them. So, how large the physical implement is on your rifle/carbine will determine how maneuverable you are with it.
Sometimes the physical size will affect the usefulness of the laser because it becomes a detriment when it is hanging out, with the potential to be knocked off, slammed into trees or otherwise affected by environmental concerns.
The physical protection of the laser is more than just about buying one with a properly sealed and durable housing; it is also about how compact it is in relation to its position on your firearm. Furthermore, the design of the laser will affect the durability and protection that can be afforded a laser device, notwithstanding the physical sizing.
The sightline is also affected by the size, especially for those who also need to use iron sights or electronic sights or glass optics. You need a laser that is less obtrusive. This can also be a function of finding a different space to mount the laser on (like a separate rail or inside of another component). Generally, though, the smaller the laser, the easier it is to keep it out of the sightline.
Extras that may be available on Commercial Lasers
The more useful lasers will be part of a unit that acts as a total solution to sighting needs. Many lasers are combined in the same physical unit with a flashlight, either an IR or UV specific light or with an LED or other high output white light source.
This type of unit can be very effective, because it places the power and actuation of the laser in the same space as the light and can give you more options when shooting, especially in a tactical or defensive scenario.
Remote switches can also be an important feature, for those who have complex AR 15 setups. They will allow a different mounting location for the laser and a tight tactical protocol, which doesn’t require a ton of time to think it through and can lead to better response times through enhanced muscle memory and practiced techniques.
Adjustable beam size can be a huge feature as it allows you to more easily find your laser point of impact in difficult adrenaline-filled scenarios like during hunts or tactical situations. Better quality lasers can allow for such adjustments, so you can change your point of impact indicator to a much larger radius if needed.
IR pointers/IR illuminators can be very valuable for those using sophisticated tactical equipment to highlight objects in battle scenarios. But it can also be effective in many hunting scenarios too, hog hunting comes to mind quickly, as a situation that can benefit from a coordinated effort for those who have IR specific equipment and coordinate with their hunting partners.
Red Lasers Vs. Green Lasers
The differences between the lasers are very well documented and quite simple really, but ultimately it comes down to two factors:
- When will you use the laser the most and under what lighting?
- What color do you prefer?
Red lasers and green lasers differ mostly because of the way the human eye and the entire visual input system of the brain and ocular components read the light spectrum. Green is a color that the human eye has evolved for and was made to more easily attenuate. Simply put, it will be easier for any human to pick up a green laser on a target. Period.
That said, red lasers tend to be very good in lower light situations and green light tends to perform well in low light but thrive in daylight or bright scenarios.
If you know how you will be shooting and it is mostly low light, choose red or green, with red being a good choice because of reduced cost and clear visuals.
If you know you will be shooting in daylight or are using it for times where you will be under artificial lights that are bright, a green light is an obvious choice.
If you are unsure, you cannot go wrong opting for green, as it performs well in all conditions, but note, there will normally be a cost increase associated with the green lasers over the red.
The Best laser for AR 15 rifles and carbines will be more about what the quality of manufacturer is, and what features are built-in, more than it will be about red vs. green; of course, unless you are very defined by the type of light in your personal use case.
When looking for a laser for AR 15 rifles, it can be very important to understand the legitimate use case you have. Many times, judgment can be clouded by trying to get too good of a deal on one, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, by trying to get something you cannot reasonably expect to be able to use and then spending far too much on a laser device.
The general rule of thumb is that you will get what you pay for and that is absolutely true – to an extent. There are excellent offerings on the market that can be purchased for very low prices, and they are durable, and relatively accurate, and plenty bright enough. But in the long term, it depends on how much you need to rely on that unit.
The best units will be made by companies that have a history of producing top quality lasers and other products (if they manufacture more than just lasers), and reputation can go a long way in this market segment.
The best lasers will be a combination of durability, usefulness, accuracy, and price, but the most important determinant of value is the precision and long-term capability of the item. Little things like battery life and shock proofing make a huge difference and for some, can mean the difference between budgeting $100 dollars for a laser device and $1100.
Check out all the other AR-15 articles put together by our expert team here at Guns & Safety Reviews;
Best AR 15 Laser
Using a laser with an AR 15 is the fastest way to significantly improve your shooting accuracy. Be sure to read through the detailed reviews before making your purchase.
- Rail Mounted Laser (Green)
- Firefield Charge
- Viridian Universal X5L-FDE
- Crimson Trace CMR-204
- Steiner eOptics
- Streamlight TLR-4 Tac
- Streamlight 69265 TLR-2
- TRUGLO MICRO-TAC
- Sightmark LoPro