The Viridian C5L

I realized that the more I trained with other reputable trainers, I learned that shit can hit the fan anywhere and any time; in particular, when you are most vulnerable. The majority of most encounters I’ve read about or discussed in class with various trainers usually seem to have a common factor of a low light no light scenario; but that’s not to say that there aren’t any other contributing factors to why certain people were victimized differently from others.

So how would someone set themselves up for success? Is carrying a flashlight good enough? What about a weapon mounted light? Is there a purpose as to why I need a laser?

“As a good guy, we never choose the time or place. We can only react to someone else’s bullshit.” – Mike Lamb

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The Viridian C5L

For a while now, I’ve been running the Viridian C5L Light/Laser on my carry gun for two years. First off, why did I choose this particular light combo system? Well, lets just say that there weren’t many compatible subcompact lights that fit nicely with my gun. Also, the price I bought it for on Amazon was reasonable, at least I think. It’s not like I shop for lasers and lights everyday. But for $250, I guess that was equivalent to me buying ammo.

At the time of this writing, I price checked it on Amazon and saw that it dropped to around the $200 mark.

What’s interesting to note are the reviews on Amazon. Like I said, I’m not an expert on the lights and laser show, so what would I know what to look for anyway? However I did have a set of criteria that I needed the light package to meet.

  • Is it accessible for a left handed shooter?
  • Is it bright?
  • Does it come in green (laser)?
  • Does it fit my carry gun nicely? As in, does it sit flushed to the muzzle? I personally didn’t want one that extrudes out past the barrel. I had no reason or logic for this, other than that it looked stupid if the light was bigger than the gun. But hey, what do I know anyway?

Putting It Through The Paces

First thing first! When I got the laser, I had to decide how I wanted it zeroed. I kept hearing people tell me 10 yards. 15 yards. 7 yards. 25 yards. Ok, so what is it really? It came to the point that I had to ask myself where would I be using this mostly? Am I going to be inside a building? Outside? Dark, dusk, or daytime? Honestly, I just don’t know. But I decided to go back to the FBI statistics of 3 yards, 3 rounds, and 3 seconds. However, somewhere along that thought, I managed to zeroed it based on my home defense scenario, using the full length of my house as a reference point.

Zeroing the laser was a matter of using just the provided allen key to change the elevation and windage of the laser. But the pain the ass part was shooting the laser on paper and seeing if you hit the target. Well, after a box of ammo and trying to keep the pistol steady, I called it quits only because it proved to be rather a difficult task to do with no bench rest tools. In the end, I zeroed it in using a bore sight laser and matched the laser to it at the distance I want it. And that worked out really great!

When I first got the laser setup, it ran really well for the first 100-200 rounds. But like most people, it just sat on my carry gun for almost a full year before I actually did some real low light no light training with it. And let me say, I was quite surprise to see how it performed. But more on that later.

The 100 lumen lights on the unit was awesome for an indoor use. Outdoors it sucked ass. I just don’t see how a 100 lumen light can cut it past a 7 yards distance. Personally, I would have preferred if the light was at least 250 lumens. Also the light spill was quite large as well. It wasn’t as focused as I would have liked it to be. Instead of a circular light shape, it was more like a horizontal spread of light.

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One Shot Laser Beam

The green laser itself definitely loss it’s sharpness just after logging over 500 rounds and several cleaning sessions. Afterwards, I managed to logged close to about 2500 rounds ever since I mounted the C5L. And no matter how thorough I cleaned it using small picks and wipes, it can never seem to return to the factory shape it had out of the box. While I understand that this isn’t a precision laser, I guess it will do for that “combat effectiveness”.

However, another thing that the unit seem to wore out quickly was the zero of the laser. I spent over an hour trying to figure out if it was me or the gun or the laser itself.

I’ll be honest here as well, I rarely ever used the laser so I really don’t know when it started losing zero, but I’m going to say probably after 500 rounds of JHP ammo is when I started noticing accuracy issue with the laser. But other factors could attribute to that as well, like running this setup in competition; but who knows really. The point is that the laser was losing zero. So here I am, rezeroing it again.

But that didn’t fix it as the laser now will lose zero whenever the gun is fired once. So as soon as I zeroed the laser, there was a noticeably shift every time I fired a round. The green laser would lose it’s elevation and somehow begin to drop somewhere between one to two inches below the bore sight. I initially figure that I can manage this but I was wrong.

I ran this through my low light no light class and sure enough, the first round hit and the second one was a complete miss. Everyone saw my laser pointed dead nuts on the target but the round completely missed it on a 10×12 target. I know I suck at shooting, but I doubt that I sucked that badly!

When it was over, I examined it again and for sure this time, the zero on the laser was completely useless. In the end, I decided to turn off the laser and just run the 100 lumen light. But I’m quite disappointed and bummed out that I can’t run both.

The Good

The good thing about this unit is that it’s a nicely designed package that fits my carry gun well. It definitely does give it that CDI factor as well as being able to activate the unit with either hands. The battery compartment is located in the front, which makes it really accessible for changing out the battery. I also liked that it has multiple light/laser functions (light strobe, laser/light, laser only, light only, laser strobe) and setting it up for the configuration that you like is really simple.

But what I really love about this unit is that it uses an “ECR” (ENHANCED COMBAT READINESS) auto on feature when you draw your gun. But like I said, I’m not expert an lights and lasers, so I don’t know if there other manufacturers out there that offers the same feature or not.

The unit does come with a few rail mounts that you can use to switch out to make it fit your gun more “snug” to the trigger guard.

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The Bad

The bad side of this unit is that the battery is indeed located in the front. So that means you’re going to have to muzzle yourself when switching out the battery. My advice, as it seems extreme, and for you safety trolls out there, is to unload your pistol and remove the slide before you change out the battery or clean the lenses on the unit.

Cleaning this thing is a real pain in the ass. You really can’t just wipe it off and be done with it. You actually have to wipe, clean, wipe, and verify. When I say verify, you need to make sure that your light does come on and that your laser is as sharp as possible. Any trace of chemical or dirt or gunk will distort the shape and output brightness. But getting it back to that factory clean look is nearly impossible.

One tip that I learned from a Frogman was to apply a thin coat of Chapstick onto the weapon light lens; so whenever it get excess carbon fouling on the lens, you can easily wipe it off quickly.

The suck part is that the unit uses a CR2 battery and not the CR123A battery. Why is that a suck? Well, all of my flashlights uses a CR123A battery. And having the ability to buy one type of battery for all is much more convenient and cost effective. The other suck part on this unit is that if you don’t screw back the battery cap correctly, you’ll strip the thin threading on the cap and unit.

Also the rails on this unit is made of polymer; and to see it bend out when I tighten the screw on it, kinda makes me nervous about it. As, in any second, the unit will just pop off the rail and fall onto the floor. Yet, so far, it seems to hold very well. Believe it or not, I ran my carry gun and the C5L for almost a year in 3 Gun matches. (Yes it does seem very weird that I was the only one that runs a subcompact pistol. But hey, train like you fight!)

The Ugly

The real suck part was really trying to find a few holster manufacturers that will make a holster for my pistol, left handed, and with the Viridian C5L using the ECR. While the company did list a slew of manufacturers, the majority of them did not make a holster for my gun. They all seem to be catering to the Glock, M&P, and mass marketing name brand. I did however find two companies.

The first one was Raven Concealment. But because this was considered a custom request for their OWB holster, I had to wait for almost 10 weeks before I got it. But they didn’t make it with the ECR feature; which was a disappointment really. I also ended up going to Concealment Solutions and ordering their IWB holsters. This time I got the holster in under 5 weeks and it came with the ECR feature built it. (All it was is a magnet that turns on and off the light when you slide over it. Kinda makes me want to make my own really. But then again, I’m too lazy to invest my time into making it.)

Overall, both holsters work really well. But ordering custom holsters was a pain in the ass, only because it didn’t allow me to immediately carry my gun with the C5L.

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The Takeaway

Overall, it’s not a bad unit. I like it for what it’s worth. Right now, as I’m sitting here, I’ve been debating if I want to get something to replace the laser and light combo, but honestly, I just really don’t want to invest in another set of holsters. In reality, you’re not just buying the light/laser. You’re buying a whole new setup. So while the C5L might cost me $250 initially, the two added holsters cost (roughly) $300, and 15 weeks of waiting. So I’m not so sure if I want to spend that kind of money again and honestly, I really don’t.

Sure I can get another C5L and see if it’s any better, but honestly, why? Who’s to say that I won’t run into the same problem again with the zeroing issue? I can only hope that Viridian will put out a GEN 3 model that will fix the zeroing issue and increase the lumen output. Also, my needs for that particular unit is a lot different nowadays. I would rather just have a 350 plus lumen light and no laser.

Don’t get me wrong, having a laser light mount on your self-defense pistol is a huge advantage. But having reliable gear is more important. If anything, I might just go back to just carrying my gun with no lights/laser mounted to it and rely on my handheld flashlight like I continually do.