By Joseph D’Ambrosia
My first experience with LaserMax came in 2006, in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. I was a mere teenager and had freshly arrived in country, boots-on-the-ground the very same year I graduated high school. I was handed a Beretta M9 while serving as a machine gunner on the M240B. Having arrived late in country to an already deployed platoon,* the M9 had already belonged to a few hands before mine. I noticed a sticker that read, “Warning: Laser Radiation…” on the side of the frame, and having only known the Infrared AN/PAQ-4C on our M4s I thought to myself, "where the hell is the laser?"
As a young gun enthusiast, I had far too much pride to admit my ignorance and ask for help; instead I cleared the M9 and started poking away to discover for myself. I soon located a small metal “nipple” on the take down lever. After pushing it, I was delighted to see a laser beam emit from inside the handgun. I remember thinking, “Whoa, a laser inside the gun?”
I immediately began practicing on the range with the handgun and the red Guide Rod Laser on the range. I had always been a decent shot, and proudly had no issue knocking out expert qualifications. I had shot handguns with my father since I was 6, revolvers from rimfires up to .357s, and the Smith and Wesson 59 my father had. The M9 was a natural fit, being more than accustomed to the DA trigger pull.
The laser quickly proved itself a great asset. With a laser, I saw just how every movement I made in the gun affected my accuracy. I identified my one major problem with handgun shooting – trigger control – in very short order. Seeing my shot groups push inches to the left had always drove me nuts. I always assumed the sights simply “needed adjustment” when I shot, but seeing the laser hold on target until mid-trigger press, then drift dramatically left was a real eye opener.
Aside from ironing out the deficiencies in my own shooting proficiency, I soon found that the laser had other serious advantages. When I headed outside FOB Bermel along route Trans Am into bad guy territory, I always had complete confidence in my accuracy and proficiency behind any weapon. Then I was caught in my first close ambush.
I swear that I’ll remember that first firefight until the day I die: The vivid muzzle flash of enemy combatants firing rounds directly at me and PFC Perez. The swarm of cracking rounds tearing through the air around me. The colored “man-jams” of the bad guys as they came out from behind trees and ran from cover to cover. The feel of the trigger breaking to the rear as I fired back on the enemy. I remember all of these details so vividly. But something I don’t remember at all is having my eye firmly focused on my front sight post.
Thankfully, I was a very analytical thinker early on. That first firefight taught me that no matter how confident I was in my range training, my instinctual tendency was to focus on the threat – not my front sight. As a result, I hit the range harder and harder. SGT Stalter (R.I.P) and SGT Wheat would shoot with me regularly; many of the other soldiers were too burnt out from heavy combat to want to keep shooting at the range. Together we practiced the use of our laser sights, which allowed a natural focus towards the threat while maintaining lethal accuracy. This training and proficiency became engrained in me throughout the remainder of that first tour and into my next deployment as an NCO. Throughout several violent deployments in Afghanistan, the use of my laser sight helped me and the many others of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, acquire an enviable combat record.
*As a bit of trivia, mine was the Outlaw Platoon featured in Sean Parnell’s 2013 book.Joseph D’Ambrosia is a retired US Army Infantry Staff Sergeant, Purple Heart recipient, and combat veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan where he served multiple tours with the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). Following a long recovery from combat injuries, he has served as a security contractor, weapons industry consultant, and firearms instructor for military personnel, police officers, and responsible armed citizens.