Frickin’ Laser Beams…
For some it’s surplus to requirements, for others still it’s a useful aid and for a small few its a necessary addition to their rifle.
There’s not many things that’ll start a hotly contested debate like that regarding the use of lasers in Airsoft. Many sites having restrictions and some sites (Such as Spartan Airsoft) outright banning them due to either concerns for their players and staff or the simple fact that lasers at the end of an International Airport runway probably isn’t the best idea in the world.
Lasers do have their strengths though, From their benefit to NVG users to rapid target acquisition, A zeroed in laser literally on target is a simple and fast way to ensure your shots fall where they should.
I’ll leave the discussion about lasers and their benefits for another time but if you should be looking for a laser that provides its user with a capability generally reserved for units costing upwards of £500 but without the price tag, The G&P DBAL might be what your looking for.
I first saw a DBAL on ARMA 3 as their generic “IR Laser Pointer”, However I didn’t really care much for it as the AN/PEQ 2 AT/P/I/AL was a more suitable unit for carrying batteries in my Pre-NOD days and as with many things, Airsoft is about the look… DBALs being a lot less common than PEQs in Military service.
However upon having the chance to see a DBAL in action with NODs I decided I should probably invest in one. It just so happened that Mark from Team Diablo as selling off some bits, A Haley D3CR and a DBAL which prompted me to buy both…
So, what benefits does it offer and why do people seem to go nuts for them? Well… The G&P DBAL is pretty much your cheapest option when it comes to a true IR Laser/Illuminator. It’s not the only option but it’s significantly cheaper than both a real AN/PEQ 15 at £1500 for a real one (If you can find one and If it’s legitimately purchased… A highly unlikely prospect) or the Invisible Sight PEQ 15 (Again, pretty hard to find).
The other end of the scale are cheaper PEQs by Element/FMA or other Chinese manufacturers… The Element being a useable unit after certain modifications are made, However if your looking at purely function over form then the G&P DBAL is in that sweet spot of affordability (I’m assuming if your buying a DBAL your probably a night vision user and therefore not using a food bank… And if you are a night vision and food bank user then maybe adjust your priorities).
The DBAL is a metal cased unit, rectangular and about the size of a packet of cigarettes… in the front there are a single and double aperture, the larger single one housing an IR illuminator and the double housing the red and IR lasers, both slaved together (or apart as the case may be).
The controls for the unit are a pair of dials in the rear, the left dial controlling the intensity of the unit: Constant Low, Momentary Low, Off, Momentary High, Constant High and the right controlling the unit mode: Red Laser, IR Illuminator, IR Laser and Illuminator, IR Laser.
There is also a “Fire” button atop the unit for manual operation and a 2.5mm socket for the addition of a rat tail switch.
The lasers and Illuminator are both able to be zeroed without tools via the protected adjustment wheels on the top and sides of the DBAL, these are easily adjusted but are not easily caught by accident. Both units I’ve owned have not suffered from accidental knocks affecting zero, The knobs being protected in much the same way as the Vortex Crossfire or Aimpoint T2 with fairings fore and aft of all four wheels, making it protected yet easy to adjust in the dark whilst wearing night vision (something that can’t be said for the PEQ15/LA-5.
The controls are crisp and certainly don’t feel like an Airsoft replica, I’ve not had the pleasure of using a real Steiner DBAL but I’ve heard often that the G&P clone is exceptional even side by side with the Steiner unit… Some firearms enthusiasts have even used the G&P DBAL on their rifles with more success than you’d expect! If I had only one word to sum up how the DBAL feels, that word would be Solid.
the mount that’s supplied with the DBAL is a throw lever type with both a locking arm and adjustable tension (a massive benefit in a world of off spec rails).
The mount is solid and when the tension is set correctly it won’t budge. The bolt that is used to set the tension has a hexagonal head which fits into a corresponding recess, this allows the tension to be set in 1/8th of a turn increments.
The laser itself… Well if I’m honest it splashes a little… both the foresight and muzzle do catch a little of the light… Well, more than a little. With NODs on you’ll notice a massive difference between low and high… And bearing in mind how powerful the laser is, It’s a wise move to use low power only.
Speaking of power… I can’t talk for the Steiner unit it’s based on but the G&P unit uses a phased beam to substitute for a true low power mode, your able to see this best when moving the laser along a wall… The line being traced turning into dashes when on low power. I’m unsure of whether it’s actually a lower power or wether it’s just the illusion of lower power, But it does take the edge off the sheer power of the high power mode.
As you can see, Under night vision the IR laser is easily visible. The intensity of the visible line will be relative to the particulate in the air, when the air is heavy with moisture your going to see a stronger beam at the expense of range. It does however give you that 13 Hours experience that makes the whole NOD investment worthwhile.
With the rat tail, my first experience was a less than positive one… The 2.5mm plug fitted loosely in the jack, a small knock was enough to prevent the switch from working. It was a massive blow to its usability and unlike an LA-5 or PEQ15 the DBAL is an arse to manipulate as it sticks out a little further and is more angular than the more well known laser. My second one doesn’t suffer from the same issues, the rat tail clicks into the jack positively and doesn’t look fragile (although I’m treating it with a degree of kid gloves to prevent it becoming damaged).
The Illuminator works well and projects a cone of refracted laser light for a usable range of around 100m, it’s focusable and adjustable for windage and elevation so for snap shooting you’d get by with aiming for the centre of the circle or you can operate the Illuminator in tandem with the laser as below…
So, onto negatives… On the rear of the unit there is a small operation indicator light that glows green when the unit is on. A positive if your concerned that your radiating IR when you don’t have the ability to check (although it’s a rare occurrence with the switches being so simple. A small strip of black nasty can prevent this Spillage of light but it’s not really needed… if your DBAL is on, The massive white line stretching back to your weapon will give you away long before a tiny LED.
The main concern I have with this unit is it’s power and the potential safety issue it presents to the people you aim at. At a game at Caerwent last year I’m pretty sure my patrol was lit up with one of these and at the range we were lased from, the dot grew to about 6″ wide. That’s enough to cover a whole face and potentially cause damage to someone’s eyesight. A word of caution I have for anyone who wishes to use this (or indeed any laser) is that you must be aware of your lasers target and prevent it from hitting their face. We might play Airsoft to shoot our buddies but I doubt if anyone truly wishes to hurt someone… Especially in such a life changing manner.
Overall I’d have to say it’s a very good unit for what I use it for, powerful and accurate with an ability to hold zero and be accurately ranged in… I’d have liked a little less power on the low power mode but if used responsibly it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. A single CR123a cell will provide enough juice for a whole weekends game, I generally replace my essential batteries every weekender which provides usually enough life for the occasional evening game or training session (Fuck about in the garden) in between. The quality between the two units I’ve owned is good (with the exception of the first ones rat tail) but I have bought both of these second hand. They hold their price well too… As new they retail for up to £180 but if you buy one in good second hand condition your looking at £130 or so. But you’ll make most of your money back should you sell it on again.