Small Arms Lasers: Types, Techniques, and Tactics

Lasers are here to stay. They aren’t going anywhere, and they will only become more ubiquitous and powerful. I used lasers every single day in Baghdad and had no less than 2 types of lasers available. We used them in training as well to great effect. Most of the lessons I learned regarding lasers was learned on the streets of Baghdad. They can blind you and your equipment and the visible lasers and IR lasers have a very, very powerful psychological effect on your target.

Types of Small Arms Field Lasers: Laser Aiming and Ground Commander’s Pointers

Laser Aiming Devices: Used in conjunction with NODs, the IR or Infrared Laser Aiming Device allows the shooter to aim their weapon using an invisible laser(to the naked eye) without the use of their weapon mounted optic. These lasers are zeroed using a specific zero template similar to the zero targets you use for your weapon; However they are slightly different. The point of zero depends on where you mounted your Laser Aiming Device on your weapon. This will be specified and listed in your LAD‘s manual. Follow the directions and have faith in your equipment. It works; Make no mistake about that.

Be sure to zero your visible and IR laser device as, sometimes, they are not “slaved” to each other, and require the process be repeated for each laser. Sometimes, if the IR laser is on the left and the visible is on the right of the device, the point of aim is different. Pay attention, take your time, and take the time to observe the offset from your optic. It should, most likely, be slightly offset from your red dot or reticle. This is typical, especially if you purchased a military spec RDS or LOPV.


The Ancient PEQ-2 (Pictured Below)

The Old, But Reliable PEQ-4 (Pictured Below)

The Modern, and Excellent, PEQ-15 (Pictured Below)

A quality, but rather expensive, Steiner DBAL-A3 (Pictured Below)

Ground Commander’s Pointer: Used to mark targets on the ground, but not for guided aerial or ground munitions. This is a significantly more power laser so that drones, helicopters, observation blimps, and aircraft can actually see what the commander is pointing at. Remote observation systems, like a camera/thermal/NOD combination, have trouble picking up standard power, weapon mounted Laser Aiming Devices. This is a specialty item you will likely not encounter, but if you found one, I wanted you to know what it was. Think of this device as a powerful laser pointer used in classrooms, offices, PowerPoint and whiteboard presentations, and as cat toys. It’s just a more powerful version; Same Concept. It’s used to point to things.

The Old Model GCP or Ground Commander’s Pointer (Pictured Below)

The New Model GCP, Although Variations Exist (Pictured Below)

Another style of GCP.


The Uses Of Lasers 

Lasers are not just used to shoot targets with small arms or blow up targets with bombs and missiles.

Pointing: You can use your laser to point to things of interest, so that your men will observe it. Or you can point to targets you want you men to fire on. A visible laser gives your men without nods something obvious to aim at. So holding your visible laser on a target will suppress your target with the use of a visible laser, and also draw fire. You men simply aim at the laser light they would aim at a target. The visible lasers, if powerful enough, are essentially very long range flashlights.

Lassoing: You can make little circles on targets or points of interest. This could be a target house, hilltop, tree, or vehicle. The effect looks like you are “lassoing” a target with your laser.

Illumination: You can use your IR laser to illuminate under porches, down holes, into bunkers, or into vehicles from a surprising distance away. You can plainly see anything hiding and moving in these locations, especially if your NODs don’t have the ambient light to see. It has the effect of back lighting under a porch or inside a bunker and can even work on bushes and scrubs to see if there is anyone hiding in there. Pointing at a vehicle, you can see the occupants with greater detail; Even vehicles with dark tints. You can use your IR laser to light up nearly anything with greater detail. This works the same as an IR Illuminator, which is basically an IR flashlight, but from a much farther distance, and it will throw significantly more “light” into these high threat areas so that your NODs are more effective. The concentrated beam is easier to focus on specifics, instead of acting like a generalized search light like the IR illuminator does.

Drawing Shapes or Writing: You can use your laser to draw arrows, or write letters. The ‘Arrow” method is pretty self explanatory. You simple draw an arrow pointing left, right, up, or down to get your men to look in another direction. Follow this method up with a lasso on the new target or point of interest. You may need to give this visual command several times, so expect for it to take several moments to be observed, read, and understood. You can also write messages with your laser.

Example: An “S” for “Shift” followed by an “F” for “Fire”. The possibilities are endless, and you should plan and practice several different messages with with your team. Make sure they don’t interpret the message as “Stop-Fire” or some other nonsense. Another method to use an “R” and “P” and “2”. For “Rally-Point-2”. Or, again, a “P” and “L” and “2” for “Phase-Line-2”.  There are no shortage of messages.

When Writing, I suggest starting your letters from the top to the bottom, and then crossing the “t’s” and dotting the “i’s” (so to speak). Much like we were all taught in elementary school. Cursive letters are a big NO-NO; They are too complex and not everyone is taught cursive. USE CAPITAL LETTERS. Make them large, but not too large.

Distraction Device or Warning Signal: Flashing your visible laser into a vehicle causes the whole vehicle to light up like a strobe light. The effect is very obvious and can be used to warn vehicles that they are entering a zero tolerance zone. At which point they will be fired upon if they do not stop and turn around. This also works for window watches behind glass, or you can simply flash the visible laser on someones chest, reminding them that you are, in fact, prepared to kill them and a weapon is pointed at them.

Aiming:  You can use your laser to shoot stuff. Assuming you zeroed it properly and trained with it.

Frying: You can use your laser to fry optics like security cameras, NODs, and Thermals. However, this requires quite a powerful laser, but you would be surprised cause it doesn’t take much to permanently disable a camera or digital optical device. If your laser isn’t powerful enough, holding the laser on these targets will disable them temporarily.

Morse Code:   ….   ..-   .-.      -..   ..-   .-.      …  ..  .-.

Blinding: A powerful laser can permanently blind a person. A weak laser will temporarily blind them like a long range tac-light. The choice is situation dependent; Your call. A flash of laser light will ruin someone’s night vision for several minutes at which point they are out of the fight.

Shine Search: Use your IR emitting devices to search for reflective materials. You’ll find flashlight reflectors, bottles, aluminum cans, vehicles lights. Anything reflective will bounce some of that IR light back to you, and it highlights these objects.


Don’t use your laser to point to, or at, any of your men. They can’t see it, even if they have NODs they cannot understand you, and you are gonna get them shot in a friendly fire incident or they will shoot at you.


Thanks for reading and sound off in the comments if I missed anything.

-J. P.