I'm not a huge AR guy. I've shot a lot of them and appreciate them for what they are, but they're just not my thing. So when Crimson Trace invited me to its Wilsonville, Oregon, facility to see some hot new AR-centric product introduction, I can't say I was overly excited.
But I'm glad I went. The new product, the Linq ($649), is a first-of-its-kind, practical accessory for an AR. Basically, Crimson Trace's rocket scientists figured out how to take the product for which the company is most famous — the Lasergrip — and adapt it to rifles. But with a critical twist.
Light/laser units for ARs are nothing new, but the downside has been they typically require a cable running from the unit to an activation switch accessible to the shooter's firing hand. The Linq does away with this and offers tether-free operation.
Operation is via "instinctive activation," a Crimson Trace hallmark. It involves a pressure pad located in the gun's grip; when the hand is firmly in firing position, the light and/or laser comes on. The problem Crimson Trace had to solve was how to make this work without a tether, and it developed a wireless interface. Think Bluetooth, although this is a different technology.
Sounds simple enough, but the real challenge was to get this interface to work flawlessly. How many times has your Bluetooth headset, keyboard, TV, whatever, hiccuped? Of course it has — just a blip here or there, no big deal. However, that simply won't do if you're in a defensive situation.
That's why Crimson Trace spent about a decade developing this product — consulting with numerous Silicon Forest types to come up with a wireless interface that works 100 percent of the time and is invulnerable to interference from all the wireless signals bouncing around our planet.
My AR is strictly a defensive tool, and this new Linq — in conjunction with the 1.5-4X Leupold that lives on the rifle — makes it hugely more effective in more dicier situations. Like in the dark.
The Linq comes fairly ready to roll. Both the activation unit in the grip and the actual light/laser are "paired" at the factory. But you do have to make sure your AR is up to snuff. My Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport has a plain M4 fore-end and no capability of adding accessories. So I replaced it with Magpul's MOE SL handguard, which features the M-Lok attachment system. To that I added a five-slot M-Lok rail section at the six o'clock position for the light/laser unit.
Most people won't have to go through this because they already have railed or rail-capable guns. What you will have to do, though, is replace your stock pistol grip with the Crimson Trace grip because it has the pressure pad and communication technology necessary to make things go. It's an easy thing to do, and Crimson Trace even supplies the wrench you need to remove and replace it. (If you haven't done this before, be aware there's a tiny spring in the grip, the safety selector detent spring. Be careful not to lose it, and be sure to reinstall it correctly.)
As I mentioned, the grip and the laser unit have already been paired, so you don't have to do a darned thing except install the supplied batteries and make sure the master switch on the grip is in the On position before trying to operate it.
The setup is programmable either through the grip or the light/laser: light only, laser only, light/laser, strobe light/laser. The light is 300 lumens, and it's powerful enough to illuminate a target at any reasonable distance. The green laser is adjustable for windage and elevation via two tiny screws in the body of the unit. The dot is easy to pick up in low light, and while I couldn't see it in bright sunshine beyond a couple of feet, why would I care? At that point I'm shooting my primary optic.
I shot a Linq-equipped rifle at the Crimson Trace event and did a little war gaming around the house at night with my unloaded rig, and I have to say that if you haven't already gone the light/laser route — or want to upgrade what you alreay have — the Linq is definitely worth looking into.