Survival Lasers 300mW red kit — Tool or Toy?

At 2011 Defcon, it was literally a case of “oooh, shiny, me waaaant!” Several of my geek friends, including Meredith, had nifty blue and violet lasers that seemed much brighter than usual. Especially in smoky casinos, they left trails that rivaled any Star Wars blaster trails.

Turned out that these were all lasers built from Survival Laser parts bundles. FDA-regulated lasers top out at 5mW, while these range from 300mW to about 2W in a variety of colors. The other interesting feature was the adjustable lens, so the laser could be focused into a tight dot a mile away or a 12ft “flashlight” circle at a hundred meters.

I ended up with the basic red kit because it had no limits on runtime. Some of the more powerful lasers overheat after a few minutes and have to be cooled. My original plan was to use it in a slightly de-focused form on a shotgun, but I am still unsure about the recoil resistance of it nor have I been able to improvise an adjustable mount. In the meantime, I’ve used it to point out features on a landscape to friends. These lasers are much more powerful than the typical consumer model, so they actually have visible trails provided even a little moisture or dust int he air. They also seem to run a very long time on a single rechargeable battery, so they might be useful for signaling. More scientifically minded folks might find more uses for it.

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30 Responses to Survival Lasers 300mW red kit — Tool or Toy?

  1. BFD says:


    the flashlight-lasers from Ringworld are almost reality

  2. Sean says:

    “oooh, shiny, me waaaant!”

    Uhmmm..yeah. put me in that category.:)

  3. Vlad G. says:

    The lasers are actually regulated by FDA not OSHA. I have some lasers that have left a mark on metal filling cabinets…

  4. Lanius says:

    Well.. those are dangerous. Just 50 mW lasers from CD & DVD burners can blind people…

    Something to lock up as tightly as a gun, IMO.

    • perspicuity says:

      more tightly actually, as you can damage someone (or yourself) instantly, and without any sound or trace… and let’s say on the green ones, the crystal leaks IR? well, you can’t TELL! ouch. “hey, it doesn’t appear to be working”…

      do not look into laser with remaining eye 🙂

      • Lanius says:

        Has it ever happened that someone partially and possibly temporarily blinded themselves with a laser designator or a laser sight that they accidentally reflected into their eyes?

        I’ve heard about a guy losing an eye to a T-72 laser rangefinder.. or maybe sight? The kicker was that he was the gunner.. some very poor maintenance must have been the cause..

        • perspicuity says:

          there have been reported cases of a PILOT in a typical commercial airplane saying they were blinded by a [green] laser, and had continued eye issues after.

          the powers that be are really cranky about these things. they’ve arrested a number of people for pointing them at police. in my state, it’s illegal generally to point them at anyone or use them for anything but lectures/demonstrations (the listed affirmative defense) but anything over 5 mW would be take badly.

          20 mW is stupid bright. 2 Watts? ouch. anyone downrange for several miles is in danger. at that power, it should be easy to pop balooon, burn black trashbags, kill insects, and other general mayhem. fun in the lab, but mundane world? lawsuits…

          (btw, not seeing emailed replies? is that an issue?)

          • Lanius says:

            Same here. Police now have an actual units (two guys probably) to find a put the fear of god into idiots who like to have fun shining laser on aircraft.

            It’s a felony now. Dunno, but I think it’s pretty serious… on landing approach, blinding a pilot is like attempted murder.

          • Sean says:

            I had some guy lase my windshield when I was driving home down the main drag in my neighborhood the other night. I gave very brief consideration to stopping, but decided defending myself on the grounds of justifiable homicide, wasn’t worth the very real sense satisfaction/gratification I’d have gotten from beating him to death.
            It was a green laser BTW.. one of the keychain pointers…

    • Vlad says:

      You make that sound like a BAD thing. When I build lower power burning lasers I often start with a DVD or blueray drive. I can write my name with a working unit on a filing cabinet from across my office.

      Yes lasers can be dangerous, and extreme care should be taken when energizing them. The full auto, always firing weapon with unlimited magazine capacity is not that inacurate when describing lasers. Its important to note that whats important is not only the power of the laser, but also its frequency. Even my lower powered IR lasers scare the shit out of my, never mind the higher powered units.

      • Lanius says:

        I’m thinking that purpose built DIY laser blinding units could be a viable weapon against government air forces in various countries where people are being oppressed and have access to small arms, but no serious anti-air capability.

        If a laser can burn out a camera, no reason a designed battery of such lasers cannot disable the optical systems of unmanned drones, or the crew of an attack helicopter or a low-flying plane..

        Of course, UN treaties ban that, but UN is a farce. It hasn’t lifted a finger for people who’re being oppressed by their own governments because UN is by and for governments..

  5. Shad says:

    It happens with laboratory lasers all the time. That’s why the FDA limits consumer lasers to 5 MW because they are eye safe. In a laser laboratory you wear stupid expensive goggles and there are interlocks on the room.

    be very very very careful with a 2W CW laser… treat it with the same respect you would treat shooting a slingshot in your house.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      It came with a pair of green glasses. In any case, I don’t use it indoor or a point at anything shiny (like street signs or water).

  6. Dantheserene says:

    Just be sure nothing in the lanscape is looking back at you, or you might be the last thing it sees.

  7. John E Davies says:

    I think these are way cool, but I also think that they should be restricted to lab or military use. They are just too dangerous for civilians to play with, especially young guys with too much testosterone and too little sense.

    If you fry your cat’s retinas, it is sad but not a disaster. If you accidentally bounce the focused beam off a bit of trash like a soda can or piece of broken glass, or even a puddle of water, and blind your neighbor …. you are in SERIOUS trouble. Not only will you face criminal charges, but you will probably lose everything you own in a civil suit. How in the world could you defend yourself in court? These lasers are really illegal to sell, and the company is simply using a loophole by selling parts kits.

    By the time you say “Oops!” the damage is done. I just don’t get these, and I sure hope a neighbor kid doesn’t shine one my way ;(

  8. John E Davies says:

    I forgot to include these links: Please read ALL of this Laser Safety FAQ, especially the accidents/ oops stories near the bottom:

    And here is a cartoon – “Peer pressure in the laser lab”:

  9. Will says:

    Even the 5mw lasers can cause temporary eye problems that can last for weeks. You make your living using your eyes for photography. You may want to reconsider playing with these things.

    I use to work on laser systems, and it is surprising how many everyday objects can reflect a significant amount of energy. Highest power I dealt with was a surgical laser that would generate 160+W from the cavity.
    However, the worst burn I got, (of two), was from a diode pumped NdYAG communications laser. Output was in the 200mw range, split in two beams, and was a diverging beam. Caught me in the side of my face, and inflicted a corneal burn. Very fortunate it didn’t appear to enter the eye, probably due to the extreme angle. Turns out all of our safety glasses were defective, and the frame and side shields would pass various percentages of the energy. Mine were measured at 88% transmission, IIRC.

    The wavelength of the laser determines what the beam will be capable of doing, along with the power (energy density).

    For safety reasons, you might consider your laser to be a recoiless, unlimited magazine (infinite repeater), full auto gun that shoots bullets that can bounce without loosing much energy, with line of sight range.

    • John E Davies says:

      “For safety reasons, you might consider your laser to be a recoiless, unlimited magazine (infinite repeater), full auto gun that shoots bullets that can bounce without loosing much energy, with line of sight range.”

      I agree, and this is what bothers me SO much, especially when I see YouTube videos of clueless guys waving their high powered lasers around in their back yards. “Duh … it looks like a light saber! Cool!”

      Inevitably someone is going to bring down an airliner or helicopter with one of these by dazzling the flight crew. Is anyone here familiar with “Debt of Honor” by Tom Clancy? We are at war with Japan, again, and US special forces bring down all of Japan’s AWACS planes on approach to their home airfield, over and over again, by using an intense strobe to disorient the crew.

  10. Darrell says:

    Holographic laser collimators were the big thing in amateur astronomy maybe 15 or so years ago. The first generation ones, at least, produced a sort of crosshair reticle w/concentric circles pattern. Lasermax made them, I own one. It produces a very impressive target pattern when projected against a wall or such. It’s relatively low powered as well (read: safe). I always thought it would put the fear into any bad guy it was projected upon. The downside, at least for the one I have, is that it is large and heavy, meant to fit in a telescope’s 2″ focuser tube. I don’t know that it would stand up to recoil, either. Maybe if you contacted Lasermax they could fix you up with something. Email me if interested, I could send you a pic of the holo image.

  11. Tom says:

    -If a laser can burn out a camera

    Oops, I pointed it at a red light “it’s for revenue” camera

  12. Pingback: Frikkin’ Lasers | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  13. Grenadier1 says:

    I would not have expected the complete roll over and cry mommy attitude some of you hard core gun guys have. Someone points out a very cool device with multiple applications and all of you start wringing your hands and gnashing your teeth about how its dangerous and it needs to be locked away and you might get sued if you even look at its hidious countenance. Man the F up. This is big boy rules. Its a tool that can put out someones sight………so can a MIG or TIG welder. You dont hear anyone wetting their panties about those. Be aware of its power and act accordingly.

  14. TPaine says:

    I would say that these lasers would be a great complement to anyone trying to “dissuade” a drone A/C from an attack. And yes, these things can blind someone in a micro-second, but so can a gun kill someone in the same time frame. I have worked with lasers for a long time, when I worked with my last company. And not the little laser pointers, but those which can cut steel.

    What is nice right now is that there are no real laws against owning them, so now is the time to stock up. Ain’t gonna be no “2nd Amendment” fight here. That is, until Holder and the BATFE figures out how to make them into firearms.

  15. Lanius says:

    IMO, I’d use one of these things with a shutter over both eyes that’d close when the beam is operational.

  16. Steve says:

    I have thought for sometime a potent laser would make a good rescue beacon. In preference to a strobe they have the ability to send a beam several miles / kilometers away. Are easily seen & detected ask any pilot that has had some idiot flash one at him at 20,000 ft they also point back exactly to where you are not a vague area reference like at torch.

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