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First Gear | Viridian Green Lasers

First Gear | Viridian Green Lasers

Photo credit: A1F Staff

As a general rule, we like to see folks work on the basics before the all-but-inevitable obsession with gear sets in. You know: Sight picture, trigger press, hitting what you aim at—that kind of stuff.

We’re mighty good at this ourselves, we may say. Or at least we are until somebody shows us a clever flashlight, or worse yet, a flashlight/laser combo. When this happens, mental age descends to about 13, and the urge to say “cool” about every third word simply takes over. It’s a burden. (Notice we make no mention of range-finding optics—these reduce us to quivering blobs.)

There’s that rotary gem—more combinations that can easily be counted. We used yellow wire ties so you could see our install; use black in the field as they’ll tolerate UV much better. Photo by A1F Staff

So with pills, injections and hypnotherapy, we think we can bring you a coherent look at two favorites from some nice folks in Maple Plain, Minn., aka Viridian.

First, a small preamble before we get to the Viridian gems themselves (that’s both hint and spoiler, we concede), and readers may well anticipate the content. Stripped of marketing blather, what’s the hoopla on very common red lasers vs. “newer” green?

For openers, there’s a misunderstanding about green lasers being “a lot more powerful” than red. The power of emitters for both colors are limited by regulation to 5 mW, and for naked-eye visible colors, even the military’s vaunted AN/PEQ-15 only uses a 4mW emitter (though IR emitters for use with night vision range up to 25 mW).

What makes green seem more powerful than red, however, is the fact that the wavelength of green light is much closer to the eye’s greatest sensitivity in terms of frequency. It’s a sort of “optical efficiency” offset that favors green, and makes green lasers seem as much as 30 to 50 times brighter—depending on the measurement technique—with emitters of the same power. Green also scatters more in air, making the beam itself more apparent. Red, in its turn, produces a brighter dot on whatever it illuminates because it scatters less.

By the way, neither will generally perform as they appear to in the movies and TV unless you reproduce the same conditions: Small amounts of smoke or dust (any particulates that float, actually) in the air create that cool (see, there we go) beam or “wand” effect. Note that in a real engagement, this would actually be comparatively undesirable, as the beam leads right back to the source of the laser, as well as to the target. Not such a good thing.

The Giant Killer: X5L-RS

If you’re fitting out a rail-equipped defensive rifle or shotgun and want the best, the X5L-RS belongs on (or at the top) of any list. Some 178 lumens of weapon light are tag-teamed with a green laser that easily defeats bright daylight. (Viridian says daylight visibility is 25 yards, but we found it useful well farther out). These are housed in a rugged aluminum body along with a widely available CR123A battery. Endurance is superb—60 minutes with light and laser in constant use, and up to 10 hours as an emergency strobe.

The back of the unit mounts a 10-position rotary switch which, in combination with the two-button remote switch (that’s where the “RS” comes from), gives the X5L an incredible variety of usage modes. Settings on the switch allow both buttons to work one light source (so it doesn’t matter which button you hit) in both momentary and constant “on,” both light and laser (again, both momentary and constant), or “on/off” of either independently. As if that weren’t enough, a programming mode allows strobing to be added to all settings of either or both illuminators. Your programming gets stored too, so it’s available as set for any subsequent use.

Installed switch nestles neatly in between the 9 and 12 o’clock rails. It’s handy, and keeping inadvertent activation risk tiny too. Photo by A1F Staff

The Viridian is very straightforward, yet versatile in terms of mounting. One cross bolt sits in a rail groove, while Torx screws tension a pair of rail jaws on both sides of the sight. We tested mounts at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock on a couple of different rifles, and found advantages to each: Most out-of-our-way for normal handling is 3 o’clock (for a right-hander); best light dispersion is a tie at 6 and 12 (though the blobby hump in our scope at 12 and competing usage with a bipod at 6 are downsides); while 9 is easiest for adjustment, though it interferes with our preferred hand position for unrested shooting. In every case, we appreciated the versatility of the switch positioning, and this is particularly a function of the length and flexibility of the switch cord—just about perfect.


If a handgun light/laser is in your future, Viridian’s C5L brings the same excellence to a very compact form factor. Light output is a very adequate, battery-sparing 100 lumens, and like the “big brother” above, it is teamed with a green laser.

The C5L has a couple of features that set it above most of the class, and the easy first is ultra-simple mode changing and activation. Fully ambidextrous buttons are doubly handy in our view: If your training was for trigger finger activation, you’re set; if for weak side thumb, you’re still 100 percent. Our favorite feature, however, is the mode changing that can be done on the fly by holding/clicking both buttons. Light-only, laser-only and several combo modes (including strobing and high output) are available through this mechanism. “Memory” is like the X5L: Whatever you last used is how the C5L “wakes up.”

Gen5 Glock and a Viridian C5L. That light/laser isn’t coming off any time soon; a perfect defensive combo. Photo by A1F Staff

Range work has given us a big appreciation for the power/compactness ratio of the C5L—we have more powerful lights, but find we don’t miss them or their “iffy” fit to our smaller guns. The Viridian tucks right up to the trigger guard in a way that makes actuation a no-brainer for any hand size, and doesn’t change handling by getting weight or bulk forward of the muzzle.

Lastly, you won’t sweat holster issues with a C5L. Viridian offers a series of TacLoc ECR (Enhanced Combat Readiness) OWB holsters for a wide variety of firearms (13 models/manufacturers at present). Using your preset, these holsters will turn on your Viridian sight/light as you draw, but allow you to change the settings “on the fly” as before.

Visit Viridian Weapon Technologies here; Viridian light, laser and light/laser systems are available with both red and green lasers, and range from $139 to $409.

Frank Winn has been studying arms and their relationship to tyranny, meaningful liberty and personal security all his adult life. He has been a firearms safety/shooting instructor for more than 20 years, and earned state, regional and national titles in several competitive disciplines.