Are green laser sights or red laser sights better for US Special Operations?

Updated onAug 18, 2022
3 minute read
Clandestine Media Group

Clandestine Media Group


The Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Family of Low Visibility and Concealable Pistols are a diverse array of pistol platforms that…

The Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Family of Low Visibility and Concealable Pistols are a diverse array of pistol platforms that were quietly procured by SOCOM for US Special Operations units. Once procured, they were on the hunt for laser sights to attach to these low-vis firearms.

Designed to provide operators the ability to protect themselves in situations where they're clothed in the local indigenous attire, street clothes or even a standard military uniform, but still needed a concealable weapon for personal defense. 

One of the low visibility platforms included in the procurement was the Glock 19. These pistols were bought in large numbers by various special operations units such as Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC), Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) and Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). 

These concealable pistols needed to be effective in both broad daylight and in low light conditions for operations conducted during the night. To do that, they needed to equip these pistols with laser sights, but do they choose red laser sights, green laser sights, IR or a combination of visible and non-visible?

According to Crimson Trace, there’s a widely held misconception that special operations units use green laser sights when engaging threats during nighttime operations, a myth that’s been perpetuated by television and movies. Those laser sights that are clearly visible at night with night vision goggles (NVGs) are actually infrared laser sights and are not visible to the naked eye.

In broad daylight, especially in very bright conditions, the human eye is able to see green light better since the wavelengths emitted by green light trigger both the M-and L-cone receptor cells within the eye. Essentially, green light triggers a higher number of those 6 million cones inside the eye to react. In very bright conditions such as at the range on a clear, sunny day, green laser sights will be more visible on target than a red laser sight.

Clandestine Media Group

A green laser sight, however, offers less of an advantage over a red laser sight in low light conditions. In low light conditions, the cones in the eye are able to pick up both red and green light almost equally well, so while green laser sights are significantly more visible than red light in bright sun, the two colors are both easily discernable in low light conditions. With that said, it almost makes sense for the military to go with green laser sights in order to cover both daytime and nighttime operations. 

There’s nothing wrong with mounting a red laser sight on firearms. They’re great if you want a laser on your pistol, shotgun or rifle. Red laser sights can be cheaper, their battery life lasts longer and they work great in low-light conditions and complete darkness. But they’re not green.

Clandestine Media Group
  1. Green lasers require more power and more power requires a higher electrical current to supply that power. Because of this, a green laser will drain your battery quicker than a red laser. 
  2. Our eyes perceive green laser sights to be brighter than red lasers because green is at the center of the wavelength spectrum of human eyesight. That being said, our eyes are just better at seeing a green laser over a red laser. Because of this, we are able to see a green laser sight in the sunlight much easier than a red laser sight. 

While the market for red laser sights has been a popular one for quite some time, the availability of green laser sights lights worthy of special operations units and the operations they undertake is a lot smaller of a market for the military. It really comes down to each mission set and what the requirements are. While many of these units operate primarily at night and use non-visible IR lasers, there are instances where they may need a laser sight for daytime operations. Mission dictates equipment.
Whether it’s red or green, having a laser sight for a pistol makes the firearm more versatile, accurate and deadly. Green laser sights will, however, enable the shooter to accurately engage threats in ALL light conditions. Shooters don’t have to align the iron sights with your eye to make an accurate shot, even at moderate ranges, enabling them to react quicker and more efficiently. No matter which color laser sight the military chooses, they really can’t go wrong with either in their inventory.