Insight is well known for making weapon lasers like the PEQ-15. They also made a weapon laser sight for grenade launchers. The PSQ-18 and PSQ-18/A are the laser sights for the M203 and M320 grenade launcher. They have a laser pointer but they also have an integrated IR laser illuminator that works very well.
While I was not in the military, I have been told by people who served that the PSQ-18 is a “giant piece of garbage”. It is bulky and pretty much useless when using a 40mm grenade launcher. No one used them and generally left them behind to save weight and space. However one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I was curious how good or bad the PSQ-18 was as an IR laser pointer and illuminator. Once I tested the PSQ-18 I strongly believe they are worth rescuing and repurposed as a budget IR laser pointer and illuminator.
Below are some images I found online of how the PSQ-18 was intended to be used.
For those of you who use NODs (night observation device) know that IR lasers and IR illuminators help a lot. Generally it is pay to play in the world of night vision. A DBAL or ATPIAL will set you back about $1000. And their IR illuminators leave much to be desired. So far the best I have seen is the BE Meyers MAWL-C1+ but that costs $2,500.
My friend Tim Yan is the one who told me about the PSQ-18. His friend Ben Winslet has one and paid around $150 for it! So I reached out to Ben and he told me all about the PSQ-18. I found two on ebay and bought them both. One for me and one for my friend.
These versions of the PSQ-18 are for the M320 grenade launcher. So rather than a u-shaped tube mount, it has a small picatinny mount.
- DAY MODE turns the PSQ-18 on but no IR laser or illuminator
- AIM LO is for IR laser pointer only.
- DUAL LO activates the laser pointer and illuminator on low power mode.
- DUAL HI is full power laser pointer and illuminator.
One problem is that the PSQ-18 laser does not activate without a tape switch. Turning the selector mode simply sets the weapon sight into that mode. You need a PEQ15/ATPIAL compatible pressure pad.
The PSQ-18 has an illuminated scale with a corresponding LCD display with a blue backlit screen
While this is pretty common place for a grenade launcher sight, it is the IR illuminator that I was really interested in. I have plenty of Surefire weapon lights with IR filters or IR LEDs and they still do not do a great job at illuminating a target past 100 yards. The Surefire Hellfighter is the only exception.
Mounting the PSQ-18 to the side of my rifle is not straight forward. The battery housing interferes so you need at least a 1/2″ riser to offset the laser housing.
You can see how bulky this makes the PSQ-18. It sticks out like a sore thumb.
Initially the PSQ-18 illuminator did not seem like much outside in a brightly lit neighborhood. I was borrowing my friend’s pressure pad for this initial test.
Here is a second test at my parents house once I got a compatible pressure pad. Again there is a considerable amount of ambient light which cause the autogating in my PVS-14 to dim a bit which makes the IR illuminator look dim.
I went out to a local range and got to truly test the PSQ-18. It rained so there were clouds blocking the sky. It is similar to a moonless night and the PSQ-18 IR illuminator far exceeded my expectations. I was able to positively identify targets at 200 and 300 yards. I could see the tree trunks at 350+ yards. The 400 yard steel target has a 3M reflector on it which made it easier to see and that is a cheat. But overall I am very pleased at how well this IR illuminator worked out at the range.
IR laser pointers are pretty standard across the board. Some are brighter than others but generally they get the job done even at further distances. IR illuminators are not equal. LED IR illuminators work well at close distances and help when you are indoors with no ambient light. But when you are outside and want to identify a target beyond 200 yards, LED IR illuminators don’t tend to help much. That is why many companies like BE Meyers, Insight and Wilcox use Laser IR illuminators. They project more light down range. The PSQ-18 works well for the range. However due to its size and alleged fragility it is not made for hard use. I am just playing on the range. I am not going to war with this setup and therefore it fits the role I need it to. They are inexpensive if you can find them second hand and worth a second look beyond a grenade launcher sight.