For some time now I have been seeing and hearing people rave about the ZenitCo Perst lasers. Online retailers claim the Zenitco lasers have some rather high numbers for laser power. I put a Perst-3 to the test to see what makes these lasers so popular.
Don’t Let First Impressions Deter You
A few months ago a guy in a Facebook group lent me his Perst-4. The Perst-4 is ZenitCo’s VIS/IR laser. It does not have an IR illuminator. I was underwhelmed when I played with it. Yeah the IR laser is bright but I don’t really care about having a bright IR designator/pointer. This one is a Gen1 and while the laser was brighter than a 0.7mW civilian laser I did not find it that useful. I can use a red dot or one of my full power lasers if I really had to.
What truly sets good IR laser systems apart from the rest is the IR laser illuminator. The IR illuminator is basically the best IR flashlight you can have on your gun. That is why the MAWL-C1+ is the king of civilian rated lasers. The MAWL-C1+ has a 40mW IR laser illuminator and will be the benchmark for what I will test the ZenitCo Perst-3 against.
ZenitCo Perst-3 Close up
This Perst-3 has an IR laser illuminator, IR laser designator and VIS green laser designator.
The laser illuminator has a diffuser cap for widening the beam for close-range use.
The front lens of the illuminator is adjustable and removable.
On either side of the illuminator are two small holes. Ignore the countersunk screws. See the slotted knurled knob below the IR illuminator array? That is actually an adjustment tool. Remove it and use it to adjust the windage and elevation of the IR illuminator. I found the adjustment screws to be very stiff so I had to use a flat head screwdriver to make the adjustments.
At the top of the laser, the settings knob determines what mode you are in. Starting at 3 and going clockwise to NK+0: Green VIS Laser, OFF, IR Designator, IR Illuminator, and IR designator + illuminator.
Off to the side of the selector knob is the main activation button. Moving forward a bit is the single CR123 battery compartment.
Along the left side of the Perst-3 housing are two buttons to control the brightness of the lasers. If you are in IR designator or IR illuminator mode the brightness can be changed. But if you are in IR Designator/Illuminator mode then only the illuminator will be dimmed.
The right-hand side of the Perst-3 just says “Perst-3” in Russian along with their logo and serial number. The laser designator has a typical set of turrets but you need to remove the caps and use a flat head screwdriver to adjust the knobs.
At the rear of the Perst-3 housing is a secondary activation button and a remote pressure pad port.
If you look at the way the Perst-3 is set up, it is not exactly set up for left-handed shooters. You could position the laser on the right-hand side of your handguard and use your right hand to push the secondary activation button to activate the laser. But placing the Perst-3 on top of a rail and trying to reach over the selector knob to press the large activation button will be a challenge.
For lefty shooters, the tape switch could alleviate having to use the main body switch with your right hand. The Perst-3 comes with this cool remote tape switch. Unfortunately, I did not get to borrow it when I borrowed the Perst-3. The dial on the switch allows you to control the brightness of the Perst-3 lasers. Not sure why you would need to control brightness on the fly like that but it is interesting. The sliding switch just off to the side is a lock out button for the tap switch. This shuts the tape switch off. You can still turn on the laser by pressing the buttons on the laser body.
Is The Perst-3 Really As Powerful As They Claim?
Online the Perst-3 is supposed to have a 500mW max IR illuminator. Really? 500mW? That is pretty high but is it really that high? As I said before the MAWL-C1+ is the best IR illuminator on the market. It puts some full power lasers to shame like the DBAL and PEQ-15. I am not comparing the MAWL to civilian versions like the ATPIAL or DBAL-A3 or DBAL-I2. Those illuminators are worse than a Maglite for illuminating night vision.
Well thanks to my friends at Illumn, I was able to measure the power of the Perst-3 against some other lasers. Craig at Illumn made a thermal sensor to measure lasers up to 5W (5,000mW). Since the Perst-3 is supposed to have a 500mW laser this measuring device will be able to test that. As a control, we tested a number of my IR lasers. My Flir T50 only rated at 24mW on the laser hockey puck measuring thingy.
The laser below peaked at just over 800mW on high.
When we tested the ZenitCo Perst-3 IR desginator, it measured just over 10mW. Not exactly the reported 20mW that website’s say it is. This matches what I saw when looking through night vision. My DBAL-A2 is supposed to be something like 40mW or 50mW but it measured only 20mW and the Perst-3 designator appeared to half the brightness.
I was more interested in the IR Illuminator. Testing it the night before, the intensity of the laser appeared to only be on par with the MAWL-C1+. Sure enough, the laser meter measured to just about 44mW. Nowhere close to 500mW. Maybe this unit is defective? However, I have a hard time believing that the Perst-3 housing can contain a 500mW IR laser illuminator. The housing would have to be much bigger. Could it be possible that ZenitCo made a mistake and added an additional 0 so instead of 50mW it was mistyped as 500mW? If the illuminator really was 500mW then it would look like my 300mW/800mW laser when turned on and it does not come close.
Could the laser be restricted? I suppose but 500 down to 44 is a significant difference. For due diligence, I removed the adjustable lens and measured the illuminator without anything in its path. The laser becomes a huge circle and a lot of it is not concentrated on the sensor of the laser meter. The illuminator only measured at 35mW with no lens.
Here is a video I made comparing the Perst-3 against other lasers.
The ZenitCo Perst-3 is certainly more powerful than your run of the mill civilian rated Steiner DBAL-A3 or Insight ATPIAL PEQ-15. However, there is a bigger issue. Any visible laser greater than 5mW or an IR laser more than 0.7mW is restricted.
Now everything I have read and found only restricts the sale of said lasers to non LE/MIL customers. I have yet to see where it is illegal to possess said lasers. Stolen govt property is a different animal altogether. But owning a high powered laser does not seem to be illegal from a possession standpoint. If you have read otherwise please share. I do not want to misinterpret anything and willing to be wrong here.
Legality aside, the Perst-3 is priced similar to civilian lasers like the ATPIAL and DBAL-A3. The Perst-3 can be found for around $1100-$1400 depending on who you buy it from. With regards to the laser itself, I would prefer if you did not have to use tools like my DBAL-A2. But even the MAWL-C1+ requires tools to adjust windage and elevation. It is nice to have adjustments for the illuminator for longer range illumination. When you tighten the beam for longer range shooting, sometimes the beam can be outside the field of view of your scope and clip-on night vision device.
I am curious if the power rating for the illuminator is incorrect or did my friend get a defective laser? I reached out to Ivan Tactical as they are one of the main sites selling the Zentico Perst-3. They will confer with ZentiCo to see what the discrepancy in illuminator power could be. I think it could simply be a matter of what the laser diode manufacturer claims the laser can produce versus what ZenitCo actually does when they build them and drives them in the Perst-3. Sort of like LUX ratings on flashlights. Some companies use math to determine the range of their lights. However often they are far from reality. When a light says it has a throw of 2000 meters? Yeah, that is not realistic and when tested it is more like 1000 meters. Anyway, huge thanks to my friend Kaven for letting me check out his Perst-3. Thanks to Hrachya for helping me translate the markings on the laser. I will update this article if Ivan Tactical or ZenitCo solves the problem.