There are few things as ubiquitous in the GWOT as the PEQ-15. From Army to Navy, grunts to Special Mission Units, the PEQ-15 ATPIAL (Advanced Target Pointer/Illuminator Aiming Laser) has put more bad dudes in the dirt than any other laser out there. In the past few years it's become increasingly popular in the civilian market as well from cloners, and people seeking something battle tested.
What it lacks though, is reviews from a civilian perspective. Or really, any reviews at all, since the military isn't exactly in the habit of writing blogs for us to read. Also, it's important to note that we'll be talking about the L3 Harris PEQ-15 exclusively here. Not the Steiner PEQ-15A.
History of the PEQ-15
First, it's important to know a bit about where the PEQ-15 came from. It is the successor to the AN/PEQ-2a by Insight Technologies, developed in the early '90s and the first widely issued LAM (laser aiming module). And while the PEQ-2a did (and still does) a perfectly adequate job as a LAM, the GWOT quickly ballooned defense budgets and issued contracts for plenty of new technology, and a new LAM was high on that list.
So in 2003, the PEQ-15 was adopted and began being issued. As an interesting aside, PVS-7s were still fairly common in 2003, so keep that in mind next time you start cloning kit. While SOF (Special Operations Forces) have begun moving to the L3 Harris NGAL (Next Generation Aiming Laser), standard forces continue to use the PEQ-15 nearly 20 years later. At this point there are hundreds of thousands of PEQs in DOD (Department of Defense) inventory, and they have been adopted by Police units nationwide as well. The PEQ-15 is, without doubt, the most widely issued, battle tested, laser out there.
PEQ-15 Features & Use
Compared to lasers nowadays like the NGAL, MAWL, and RAID, the PEQ-15 is a pretty bare bones laser. Even compared to the PEQ-2A, the PEQ-15 didn't necessarily do anything new, it just did it better. Smaller and with a more powerful laser & illuminator, it gave you more room on your rifle and more reach to punch through photonic barriers.
For civilian use, it's more than potent enough. There's a lot of obsession with "full power" lasers in the night vision community, but the truth is a full power laser is over powered for any aiming purposes, and civilians aren't likely to be signaling helicopters. What matters most is the illuminator. And here is where we're split on the PEQ-15. While it has a full power illuminator that can punch out far further than you can shoot with a laser on even full moon nights, the PEQ-15 illuminators also have a tendency to be "dirty". Seen mostly on older units, but can be found on newer ones as well, you have an illumination circle that can appear like a petri dish or with faded out edges, leaving you with less than a circle.
That's one of the main benefits to VCSEL illuminators found in the NGAL and RAID. They provide a much cleaner illuminator throw. Other options like the MAWL or DBAL D2 provide a similarly clean illumination throw, but at the expense of a visible purple signature due to usage of different technologies. However, does the "dirty" illumination actually matter? Not in our experience. We find this is a lot like spots in a night vision tube. Annoying when looking for them, but they aren't noticeable in practical use.
With the slaved visible laser, zeroing your IR laser is a breeze, and the diffuser cap allows you to quickly switch between reach, and illumination fit for indoors. The ND filters allow you to choose between multiple different laser patterns, but we've always preferred just a simple clean dot. Adjustable illuminator divergence allows you to pick the best flood vs throw for what you happen to be doing. We typically leave this wide open for what we do, but may have to stop it down for brighter nights.
Ultimately, we've never been left feeling like we were incapable in our performance because of any limitation by the PEQ-15, and we would be very surprised to hear if anyone else was either. It is a wholly capable LAM, and plenty of dead guys would attest to the same.
Durability & Reliability
Again, we can't overstate how widely these have been issued, and how much combat they've seen. Almost 20 full years of being at war, and we haven't heard many complaints. In fact, a lot of the "grey market" PEQs people buy on Tacswap have manufacture dates in the Mid 2000s, and they're still going fine.
I'm not going to write this and tell you that any of us have beat up PEQs more than guys at war. While we're probably tougher on gear than most civilians, and it sees usage about every weekend, ultimately our rifles aren't spending a year in the elements at a combat outpost. What I can tell you is that I've seen PEQs perform in the freezing cold, blazing heat, rifles dropped or knocked over and they've retained zero, and one unfortunate circumstance of a rifle falling off a moving truck in the desert. I've never seen any of them break or lose zero.
Variations of the PEQ-15
There's quite a few variations of the PEQ-15 as well. They really tend to be the same (more or less), but with varying power levels for different uses.
The most commonly sought after variant, the LA-5 has a few distinctions from the standard PEQ-15. The first major distinction being that it has a second higher power visible laser at 20mW power. This includes an additional safety screw to lock you out of accidentally activating a visible lightsaber. The second distinction is that the high power IR mode is not 45mW, but 80mW. Because of the higher power, these fetch a premium on the civilian market of sometimes up to $1,000 more. In our experience, the extra power is not needed unless doing a lot of long range shooting with clip on optics.
There are some other changes to the zeroing knobs that make the LA-5 series visually distinct, but the performance difference lies in the power of it's output.
LA-5C UHP (Ultra High Power)
The ultimate in power, the visible laser reaches 35mW of power, and it's IR laser reaches 200mW. Again, unless you do a lot of very long range shooting, or you happen do shoot a lot of miniguns from helicopters, the extra power will likely only be a hindrance to you in every day use. These are very rare, and we have seen prices for anywhere from $5,500-$9,000 depending on condition and year made.
Ah, the short bus of the PEQ-15 world, the ATPIAL-C was released in 2017 to offer civilians an easily obtained version of the militaries full power version. Because of the endless cuckery at the FDA, civilians are only allowed lasers considered "eye safe". The interesting thing about the ATPIAL-C though, is that internally it's no different than a standard PEQ. The output is software limited. However, this information is interesting but useless without the hardware and firmware to update it, so don't go buying ATPIAL-Cs and cracking them open hoping to flip a switch.
Unfortunately, civilian power illuminators are awful. This is compounded by the civi ATPIAL having a fixed divergence so you can't focus it down, as that would make it more powerful than the FDA allows. On a dark night you illuminator is useful our to about 100 yards. However, as soon as you start getting decent moonlight, it's useless past 35-50. And you can forget about high light environments like cities.
Warranty & Support
This is the other downside to buying a full power PEQ. While they are very durable, if you break it, you're f*cked. There is no warranty support, because you're not even supposed to have it. So keep that in mind. Fortunately, recently TNVC has started selling PEQ-15 Spare Parts, so you may be able to repair the small things yourself. However, if you brick it, it's just game over for you. Your warranty plan is just spending another two grand.
The PEQ-15 is a more capable laser than you are a shooter. That's the facts, and if that hurts your feelings then go out and shoot some more. The new generational stuff is nice for size and weight, and offers a few cool features, but the truth is any job out there can get done with the PEQ-15 just fine. It remains the most used laser worldwide, and because of its prevalence, its durability, and its combat proven performance, it is hands down the best bang for your buck on the laser market. If you're reading this because you're thinking about picking one up, just do it. Plus, it's always a great way to flex on the poors.
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