Lasers make aiming easier with night vision however there is more to lasers than a fancy cat toy. Multi-Function Aiming Lasers (MFAL) have an illuminator. Most civilian rated MFALs have anemic illuminators for the sake of them being eye-safe. Only the MAWL-C1+ and DBAL-D2 have a decent enough illuminator to light up the darkness. But today we will take a look at the forbidden end of the spectrum with this full power laser showdown.
This all started with a request from a friend. He wanted to see a MAWL-DA against an L3 PEQ-15 LA5. Thanks to some friends of mine we got our full power lasers together for the ultimate showdown. The contenders are (L-R):
- Wilcox RAID-X
- L3 NGAL (Next Generation Aiming Laser)
- L3 PEQ-15 LA5 UHP
- PERST 2
Looking at the photo above, the RAID-X and NGAL are the smallest of the full power lasers. The PERST2 is the biggest but it does have an integrated white light. It is like a Russian version of a DBAL-A4.
The MAWL-DA is arguably the most ergonomic out of the full power lasers. It is an offset design by BE Meyers. In fact, the MAWL-C1+ is the same laser just restricted power wise to eye-safe levels.
Just like the MAWL-C1+, the MAWL-DA has a simpler user interface. There are two activation buttons, A & B. Then there is a three-position slider to change between close range, medium range and long range illuminators. At the front, you have the selector propeller cap to switch from vis to IR or turn the MAWL-DA off. Due to the offset design, the activation buttons do not increase your grip all that much.
The RAID-X is one of the smallest full power lasers on the market. It is similar to the L3 NGAL in size but it positions all the lasers and illuminators in the center, directly over the barrel.
Somewhat similar to the MAWL-DA, the RAID-X has multiple illuminators and uses VCSEL laser technology as well. RAID-X retails for around $3,500+.
The RAID-X is somewhat similar to the RAPTAR LITE ES. It has a lot of settings that you can configure and adjust the laser to your preferences. You can adjust the power levels of both the illuminator and pointer.
L3 NGAL (Next Generation Aiming Laser)
The NGAL is next up in this full power laser showdown. It goes for around $4,000 and is the smallest MFAL here.
Similar to L3’s PEQ-15, the NGAL has an illuminator on the left and slaved IR/VIS aiming lasers on the right side. The VIS laser is 80mW, the IR pointer is 35mW and the IR illuminator is 90mW.
“Can I copy your homework? Yeah just change it so it doesn’t look like you copied it”
The NGAL illuminator is adjustable but it cannot be tightened to a point like the PEQ-15. But neither does the RAID-X.
L3 PEQ-15 LA5 UHP
The LA5 UHP is the highest power laser of the ATPIAL family. UHP stands for Ultra High Power. The IR laser pointer is 50mW, the visible laser is 35mW and the IR illuminator is 165mW. The form factor is similar to the Regular PEQ-15 and ATPIAL-C. There are small changes like the tool-less adjustments for the illuminator and the higher power.
I borrowed this PERST-2 from my friend Kevin. Back in 2019 I reviewed a PERST-3 and found its performance to be overrated. However, the PERST is a full power laser and a popular choice given the price. At least that is the case for the PERST-3 and PERST-4. The PERST-2 costs over $2,000 and is listed as having a ridiculously high output for the illuminator: Websites list it at 1200mW whereas the PERST-3 is listed as having a 500mW illuminator. This is not the case. I found them to be much lower power and similar to 40mW IR illuminators in terms of brightness at the same size. Maybe if it was an LED then I could believe it. Like the Steiner DBAL0D2 or SPIR, they both have a decent IR illuminator that is 600mW but that is because it is an LED. The Modlite 850 IR head cranks out 1100mW of IR light. But again the Zenith PERST-2 is laser-based and nowhere near 1200mW.
The PERST-2 has an integrated white light similar to the DBAL-A4. It has both a visible illuminator/pointer and an infrared illuminator/pointer. Probably the most interesting thing about the PERST-2 is that it is powered by an 18650.
But what about the Full Power Laser Illuminator?
For the most part, there’s not much different with these lasers with regards to the aiming laser. They all have eye-safe modes and full power light saber looking beams. What really matters is the infrared illuminator. They are basically high powered laser flashlights and that is one characteristic to compare them side by side.
Here is the MAWL-DA put up against the NGAL and LA5 UHP.
Thanks to my friend Joe at Goonin gear, he lent me the RAID-X that you saw above. So I went back out and tested all the other lasers against the RAID-X.
Here is the PERST-2 against the MAWL-C1+
On paper, the PERST-2 has a 1200mW IR illuminator. That is far from the truth. It is closer to 40-50mW. And while it can go toe to toe with the full power lasers for less money, that is like saying an AK is just as good as an AR. Sure they both work and one is cheaper than the other. But not the PERST-2, it costs over $2,000. Yes, it has a white light but that is not necessary. The other full-power lasers are not cheap either. The MAWL-DA is probably the cheapest since it is sold for the same price as a C1+ if you are LE or Military. The NGAL is around $4,000 and the RAID-X is a little bit less at around $3,500.
If I were to choose one of these, it would be the MAWL-DA for use on a carbine. It has the fastest method of switching illuminators from close, medium to far and the easiest mode selection. The properller cap only has three positions: OFF, VIS, IR. Also, the illuminator on the MAWL-DA is the best looking out of all of them. While the illuminator cannot adjust for windage or elevation, you don’t need it to. It is wide enough for use with a clip-on and narrow enough to be surgical in applying that light where you need it.
The RAID-X and NGAL are brothers from another mother. Their form factor and user interface are too similar to be a coincidence. While the RAID-X has a whole host of adjustability, I do not see most people using that feature. The NGAL has a hidden feature that is in the factory but proprietary tape switch. It has a VIS override button. The PEQ-15 LA5 UHP was the worst performer in the full power laser showdown. The beam has so many voids and artifacts that it is almost unusable at distance. Maybe if you wasted time tightening the beam like a Maglite, you might get lucky and create the right vortices of light that isn’t like looking through a Petri dish. While my MAWL-C1+ illuminator was smaller looking, performance-wise it held its own against in the full power laser showdown. It could illuminate 500+ yards with very little effort.
The biggest takeaway is that people tend to want things they cannot have. Full power lasers are sadly restricted. They are expensive and while fun to play with, are not entirely practical. Even if you can illuminate past 500 yards, would you take the shot wearing only 1x night vision goggles? No. That is what scopes are for combined with clip-ons. If you want a MFAL that can keep up will the full power laser boys, look into the MAWL-C1+ or DBAL D2.
Huge thanks to Eric, Vic, Joe and Kevin for bringing your lasers together for this full power laser showdown.