Modern laser sights for shotguns are small, accurate and affordable. Laser sights come in several sizes, types and colours, but they all perform the same service of placing a visible beam of light on the intended point of impact. Tactical shotguns are the most likely to carry laser sighting systems, as lasers work well in close-combat situations where fast target acquisition can be the difference between life and death.
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By far the most common type of shotgun laser sight is a red laser. These lasers project a small, red beam of light that is capable of being seen on a dark target up to 1,000 yards away. Red lasers come in a variety of sizes, include subcompact models that are no larger than one inch in size and weigh as much as four quarters. Lasermax, one of the largest manufacturers of weapon lights, produces the Uni-Max Micro light. The Uni-Max is a red laser that is smaller than a quarter and weighs less than a half ounce. As of 2011, the Uni-Max retails for £83.
An increasing segment of the shotgun-mounted laser sight are green lasers. Green lasers have the advantage of high visibility in daylight. Green is closer to the centre of the visible spectrum, so green is easier for the human eye to see than red. Viridian, one of the foremost manufacturers of green laser sights, claims that a green laser can appear as much as 50 times brighter than a red laser. Green lasers are generally more expensive than their red counterparts. Most models cost more than £97.
Laser sights require special mounts, especially when being used on a shotgun. Because of the robust recoil of most shotguns, laser sights require sturdy mounting surfaces that will retain the accuracy of a properly sighted laser. The most common mount for most shotgun lasers is a barrel clamp. Barrel clamps use a screw or a set of screws to hold two pieces of metal over the barrel or shell tube. Barrel clamps are typically mounted in front of the hand guard for easy access. Other mounts include Weaver mounts, which use a rail with interlocking teeth to attach removable lasers. The advantage of Weaver mounts is that accessories can be reattached with little loss of "zero," or sight picture. A third type of shotgun mount is a saddle mount, which attaches to the frame of the receiver using pins pushed through the frame. These are especially sturdy mounts because they become part of the shotgun's frame.
Most laser sights are activated by pressing a small switch mounted on the rear or side of the laser. However, some lasers utilise a pressure switch for faster activation. A pressure switch is usually a thin strip of metal that mounts to the hand guard or receiver and is connected to the power source on the laser using a small cable. When pressure is applied to the pad, the power source is connected and the laser is activated. Many tactical shotguns utilise this type of system, as the operator doesn't have to remove their hand from the hand guard or trigger to activate or deactivate the laser. This can improve response time, target acquisition and accuracy during movement.
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