SHOT Show Gear - The Smallest Pistol Laser Ever
by Kirk Lawson
About the size of a pack of cigarettes (people still smoke those things, right?) and weighing only "about" 10 ounces (how many ounces in a pound again?), the Mini Laser Designator (MLD) is the top of the line in miniaturization. It is, literally, the "smallest laser sighting device available today." When "today" was the 1986 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show.
Reported by Al Pickles in the Combat Handguns magazine just after the 1986 SHOT, premier of the Colt King Cobra in .357 Magnum, S&W M745, and the Goncz Firearms "handgun" family, the MLD was indeed a leap forward in technology. It boasted eight milliwatts power and a beam divergence of 7x0.2 milliradians. Most impressively, it was reported that it had "a laser operating time of one year continuous operation."
Industrial Technology & Machines AG of Solothurn, Switzerland, a licensed manufacturer of the CZ-75 which the tiny MLD laser is affixed to, paired the gun & sight with a special set of night vision goggles which was claimed to allow the shooter an increased 20 percent visibility increase of the beam. This would supposedly allow the user to see not only the "spot" at the beams termination but also the entire length of the beam.
What should amaze the modern reader, here in 2020, is not the good laugh we can have at the size-of-a-deck-of-cards laser sight compared to the ones we have now, some of which are the size of a button, but how much technology has changed. We should not, proverbially, break our arms patting ourselves on the collective backs. Instead we should wonder what sighting technology will be like 34 years from now. In three and a half decades will we, or our children and grandchildren, look back at the current crop of, for instance, 1x1x2" pistol micro-red dots, of which we are so proud, and have a hearty laugh at us? Of course they will. I don't know what the state of technology will be, but it will be fantastic. Maybe it will wirelessly transmit the point of impact directly onto our retinas where a dot or cross-hairs will magically float, even with our eyes closed.
We should also think about how little technology has changed. The size of the laser sight compared to the MLD has certainly dramatically shrunk, and doubtless the cost is far less, but it is still a laser sight. It still projects a coherent beam of light into a "spot" at the calibrated point of impact. And it's still hanging off of a <cough> "high capacity" handgun, the CZ-75, which rolls with a 16 round standard capacity magazine, designed in 1975. Take that Glock G19. When the most impressive changes to handgun technology is changing from a metal frame to polymer, particularly when light-weight aluminum frames were widely available, and <cough> improving the sweet DA/SA trigger with a spongy striker-fired trigger, I would venture that there have not been such dramatic evolutions as some might wish to believe.
Nevertheless it was fun and enlightening to take a trip down SHOT Show 1986's memory lane. Let's do it again in another 34 years.