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Selecting An IR Laser And Illuminator

If you are stepping into the world of night vision then you will want to consider an IR Laser/Illuminator.

Selecting An IR Laser And Illuminator
If you are going to run a head mounted night vision monocular or binocular you are going to want to consider an IR Laser/Illuminator for your firearm. Photo by Richard King.

One of the mistakes many firearm owners make is they buy numerous firearms while lacking the important and truly useful supportive accessories for them. A dozen ARs…but only a couple are actually properly outfitted with optics and accessories. If you plan on being truly prepared two items which will make the biggest difference are night vision and sound suppressors. Being able to turn night into day is a huge advantage. So, I suggest selling off some of your excess for items which will multiply your capabilities, namely night vision. If you do enter the world of night vision you will want to consider acquiring an IR laser or IR laser/illuminator. So let’s take a look at why you should consider them.

Get To The Point

If you go the NV route one valuable and necessary piece of equipment is an infrared aiming device or IR laser. These emit a laser beam invisible to the human eye, but distinctly visible through a night vision device. These are available from several manufacturers and vary in their capabilities and power. Civilian legal versions are considered Class 1 and have a lower output and are safe for the eye. Military and LE versions are Class 3, more powerful, and can permanently blind someone if the laser is pointed in someone’s eye. IR aiming devices are typically teamed with a head mounted night vision monocular or binocular. The head mounted night vision unit provides hands free observation, but makes aiming through a conventional optic very difficult or impossible. An IR aiming device mounted onto the firearm solves this problem. An IR laser works just like a visible laser, allowing you to use the beam as an aiming point.

IR lasers are effectively used as target and locational designators by military and LE units, and the same can apply to the prepared civilian. In use you would locate and identify your target using your head-mounted observation device, bring the firearm up on target, activate the IR laser, spot the laser and place on your target, fire and shut the laser off. If your plan includes working with other individuals, then each having NV and IR units means broadening your communication capabilities, you can mark targets and signal your own location as well. Be warned, anyone equipped with night vision, both friend and foe will be able to see the IR beam. Use it sparingly.


Many IR lasers are paired with an IR Illuminator within the same unit. The IR illuminator is just what it sounds like. It emits an IR beam of light allowing you to see better with your NV unit when available ambient light is low to non-existent. NV units work by amplifying available light, so they need some light to allow you to see; a star-lit night for example. In situations where there is an insufficient amount of available light, such as inside a dark building, an IR illuminator will act as an invisible flashlight. They can be used to locate and identify targets while being invisible to the naked eye. However, like an IR laser they are visible to everyone with a night vision device. In addition to dedicated IR illuminators some companies offer tactical flashlights with IR capabilities. Also keep in mind, IR flashlights and illuminators have limited range just like any illumination tool.

Make no mistake; quality night vision products are not cheap, they are an investment. However, consider the amount of money you currently have tied up in guns. Perhaps you might be better off liquidating a few firearms and using the money to own the night. There are many Gen 2 and Gen 3 NV wares that are more reasonably priced and should be considered in place of a couple, if not several firearms for the very real advantages they provide in low to no light.

The following are but a few recommendations, each offer their own advantages.

IR Lasers

Triad C2 is a civilian legal combination unit featuring a visible green laser, IR laser and IR Illuminator making it a useful piece for a helmet mounted monocular.

Triad C2

The Triad C2 is a civilian legal combination unit featuring a visible green laser, IR laser and IR Illuminator. Its Class 1 status makes it easy to purchase and eye-safe in IR mode. It features a visible green laser for daylight use and zeroing. Windage dials allow you to zero the C2 and when you align the visible laser, the IR laser and illuminator automatically align as well. The Triad is a good unit and is priced at $995.00 from

Steiner’s OTAL-C is a simple IR laser that is affordably priced, early models were Burris branded as seen here.

Steiner/OTAL-C IR

The Steiner OTAL-C is an IR aiming device only. It does not feature a visible laser or IR illuminator. If you have a night vision unit, the OTAL-C will allow aiming without looking though an optic. It was designed for the M4/AR platform but can be used on any weapon with a 1913 Picatinny type rail. Although limited in its capabilities, it’s rather affordable at $459.99 retail.

The Insight/L3 ATPIAL-C features an IR illuminator, IR laser pointer and visible red laser. It is civilian legal and eye-safe.

L3/ Insight ATPIAL-C

This device features an IR illuminator, IR laser pointer and visible red laser. It is civilian legal and eye-safe. The ATPIAL-C is controlled by a dial on top, letting you switch between modes and like the others, can be activated via a pressure switch. It’s made of a high-strength polymer and is lightweight. The L3/ Insight ATPIAL-C can be had for $1369.00 from

IR Flashlights

Surefire offers a host of weapon lights with both white light and IR light capabilities. Their Legacy series of lights offer rapid transition from white to IR light. They also offer the V series which features white and IR light and units are available in hand held and weapon mounted options. Six versions are available and one, the X400 V IRc includes an IR laser. Prices of the V series range from $299 to $879.00 for the X400 V IRc. Find them at

Inforce offers their WML and WMXL series in white light/IR versions. A simple flip of a lever on the side of the Inforce lights allows the user to change modes. Gen 2 versions are noticeably improved and recommended over their original Gen 1 version.

Being prepared has many facets. While some are surely more important than others, you’ll need to figure out what’s most important to you. When it comes to firearms, I’m finding that less is more, while important supportive accessories will give you a serious advantage when things turn for the worse.


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