1) Good aiming technique has you looking at the front sight superimposed over the target. A laser, by comparison, has you looking at the target (for the dot) while ignoring the front sight. This means that a laser encourages you to completely ignore (or never learn) how to properly aim. By itself, this is bad, but because solid shooting skills entail depreciable training and muscle memory, it means that if you get used to using the laser/crutch, you'll lose good aiming technique over time (assuming you once had it) … because you don't use it enough to reinforce it … thus, it depreciates/declines.
I'm no expert (wait...doesn't posting stuff on the Internet make me an expert?!
) but I do know a few! And I've heard/read discussions about this topic argued passionately by people who are each excellent shooters. It's enough for me to see that there's more than just technical differences between them -- there's a good deal of "how it should be" mixed in. I think I'd come at this another way, and say that good aiming technique has you hitting what you aim at (and no I'm not saying that to be snarky). Traditional aiming technique has you focus on the front sight and press the trigger without disturbing that sight picture. But this isn't really about not moving the sight, is it? It's about keeping the gun steady while you press the trigger. The laser (or red dot) equivalent here is to keep the dot from leaving the target area while pressing the trigger -- that's the "dot equivalent" of not disturbing the sight picture. I can say that my trigger control has improved since starting to use electronic sights, especially since during dry fire I see exactly what the effect is of my trigger press.
Now to your point about skills degrading, yes, if you lose the skill of iron sight alignment you can become sloppy. But if you become an expert with an electronic sight, then your technique will still be solid -- unless/until the sight fails. So I don't mean to advocate for the abandonment of iron sights. But I also don't see electronic sights as crutches. They are not replacements for iron sights, they're different from iron sights, and they are sighting systems in their own right.
And, for whatever drawbacks they have, they do have the distinct advantage of allowing you to focus on the threat, with both eyes open. Plenty of trainers cite this as an advantage during stressful self-defense incidents because the defender can be more situationally aware.
Again, I'm not saying that iron sights should be abandoned or anything of the sort. I train with them regularly. It's especially critical with lasers, because lasers can so easily be compromised by the environment (haze, fog, bright light, foreground barriers and the like). I'd see the utility of lasers being at fairly close range, direct shots at targets when the time advantage over traditional sight alignment is what makes them so effective.
2) How can you practice good firearm safety if you don't know exactly where the gun is pointing until you see the dot on the target (as you look at the target)? Answer: You can't. This is yet another reason lasers are craptastic for Plan A.
Not sure I follow this. With any sighting system you don't know *exactly* where the gun is pointing until sights are aligned, and with irons this is basically at full extension. Until that point, I have a general idea of roughly where it's pointing. I don't think I know anyone who waves loaded guns around with lasers to see where they might be pointing
But your point is well taken -- know at all times where your gun is pointing. I just don't see where a laser would compromise that.
3) In addition to the above, if you rely on a carry gun with a laser as your Plan A for target acquisition, when (not if, but when) its battery fails or it comes out of alignment it may cost the life of you or another. Iron sights, training without glasses, and training to point shoot all avoid this issue. Hence, lasers tend to be relegated to Plan B or training aids (so that an instructor can visibly see/prove when someone's jerking the trigger or anticipating recoil and correct it, for example).
Certainly all good points.
4) The vast bulk of lasers are not grip-activated. This means the vast bulk of lasers require an extra step (read: extra time) to activate ... or it means they use quasi-reliable (e.g. magnet or holster-based) activation … or they tie the firearm to a particular holster and/or form of carry. In the case of an extra step (i.e. extra time), the fractions of seconds (or complete seconds) it takes you to activate the laser on which you rely as a Plan A for target acquisition … could cost the life of you or another. In the case of holster or other quasi-reliable activation approaches (some of which can lead to activation at the wrong time [like in the holster] and, thus a dead battery -- see above) … the lack of activation … or the dead battery resulting from activation within the holster … could cost the life of you or another. In the case of tying the user to a particular holster or form of carry, it limits one's ability to carry appropriately based on situation -- since the same carry mode/style rarely works effectively for say, a bathing suit/T-shirt/flip-flops get-up and say blue jeans/shirt
/shoes/jacket. Iron sights, training without glasses, and training to point shoot all avoid these issues, too.
All reasons why I specifically went with a model that was instinctively activated. But yes, I would never trust myself to remember to switch on a device under extreme stress and without time to react. Again, that's why I've never advocated for not training with iron sights and point shooting -- I just see lasers as having intrinsic value that's more than just "Plan B," so long as people are aware of limitations and train for many scenarios.
5) In low-light situations where you may wish to remain unseen as you maneuver for a defensive shot (i.e. in defense of others), lasers give away or strongly hint at your position. Iron sights, training without glasses, and training to point shoot all avoid this issue, too.
As I'm unable to predict where I may be when I need to defend myself, this one is hard to argue with. I'd think the scenarios in which this would be an actual problem would be very rare for civilians (heck, needing a firearm at all is very rare), but yes I could certainly see some cases in which a laser would compromise your safety.
I think you get the point: there are a number of reasons. Really, the most egregious of them is the first one, as lasers encourage you to get into a habit that just doesn't work unless the laser is working … and it leads to #2 on the list which, of course, entails piss-poor firearm safety. Note that once you get into the habit of depending on a laser, it's a hard habit to break. (Read: You may not be able to break it if/when your life depends on it and your laser is misaligned, not working, etc. … or breaking it may cost you precious time, missed shots, and the like … since you haven't aimed using proper technique in a while).
Yes, definitely. I don't think we actually disagree here -- although having agreed with most of what you've said, I would not conclude therefore that a laser (if properly trained with) is only a Plan B or only a training aid. I believe they have intrinsic value that in some situations can be invaluable. I've shot with irons for years. In timing myself with irons vs. red dots vs. instinctive lasers, at a range inside of 7-10 yards, I can land a first accurate hit faster with the laser than anything else. And I can get back on target faster. Again, this is at a static range, so perhaps it's not indicative of real performance.
P.S. You lumped red dots and lasers together. You shouldn't, as red dots only have -some- of the issues that lasers do (most notably battery failure and mis-alignment). Like use of iron sights, red dots entail focusing on the sight (the dot) and not the target, which reinforces basic shooting technique rather than abandoning it like lasers do. Red dots also can (and should) be configured for co-witness such that when you line the dot up on the target it sits exactly where the front sight does in your view (this is called absolute co-witness). There's also lower-1/3rd co-witness for clutter reduction in the red dot's glass. Some people prefer that … but it relegates iron sights to a readily-accessible backup that takes fractions of a second more than absolute co-witness to switch to in the event of an optic failure. I'll leave absolute vs. lower-1/3rd co-witness to another thread, as that's akin to mouse gun vs. service caliber debate.
I think red dots are vastly superior to lasers for all the reasons you've listed. I'd disagree with "Like irons...focusing on the dot and not the target." I have never been told to focus on the dot and not the target -- certainly not by instructors who specifically teach the use of red dot sights. I aim with both eyes open and focused on the target, and the dot appears on the POI almost like a laser, but without all the disadvantages lasers have with environmental conditions (and without jumping all over the place if you move with them). To the best of my knowledge, red dots sights are designed specifically for target focusing while shooting. If you focus on the dot, you still gain the advantage of having to align only one thing with a target and hence they are still quicker to acquire, but this loses the advantage of aiming naturally -- i.e. if under attack, you're able to look at the thing attacking you and not at a dot or an iron post.
My 2 cents anyway, worth exactly what you paid to read them