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5mW laser, 'maximum allowable by law'; is it REALLY?

Discussion in 'Legal' started by cpileri, Jul 12, 2007.

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  1. cpileri

    cpileri Member

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    Experts and RKI's,
    What is the truth about the maximum power of a laser legally?
    Is 5mW the maximum power (work, technically) allowed to BE SOLD to the public?
    Allowed to BE USED AS A POINTER or weaponsight?
    Allowed to be OWNED at all?
    For example, i found this website:
    http://www.dealextreme.com/products.dx/category.134
    which offers anywhere from 5 to 200 mW green lasers!
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.1997

    and OK I am not shelling out over 100 bucks for a pointer, but i could be tempted to spend 20 bucks on a 10 just to see what its like?
    Is it legal for me to order it?
    a 20 is even available on Amazon.com?
    http://www.amazon.com/20mW-Green-Laser-Pointer-EL20/dp/B000I0YIX2

    Thanks in advance for your time and expertise,
    C-
     
  2. Regolith

    Regolith Member

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    I don't think amazon.com is in the habit of selling illegal items.


    That being said, it could depend on which state you live in. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to hear that some nanny state has restricted the power of what laser pointer you can own, because they were worried about it being used to blind people or some such nonsense.
     
  3. MrRezister

    MrRezister Member

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    It might be best to check your local laws regarding this. Look for one in a 20-megawatt range....
     
  4. FeebMaster

    FeebMaster Member

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  5. alucard0822

    alucard0822 Member

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    I think it was Bill Ruger who said "no honest man needs a laser with more than 10mW" or something like that:neener:
     
  6. brerrabbit

    brerrabbit Member

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    Not sure if it counts but they sell 200 watt cutting lasers to the public.

    figuring cooling equipment, power supply etc. It might be a bit bulky but could be used as a laser sight with the right mounts if you aimed it far away and did not leave it in one place too long.
     
  7. Shipwreck

    Shipwreck Member

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    Do some research and be prepared - as you get higher than 5, U can hurt yourself. More powerful lasers can hurt your eye just looking at the "point" unless you have special glasses, and you can get some that can actually burn your skin.
     
  8. CypherNinja

    CypherNinja Member

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    Wicked Lasers is awesome, but holy crap, you better be wearing the goggles if your fooling around with one powerful enough to light a cigarette. :eek:
     
  9. Joe Demko

    Joe Demko Member

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    No, what he said was "no honest man needs a phased plasma rifle in a greater than 40 watt range."
     
  10. shooter503

    shooter503 Member

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    Don't have time to check the regs. right now but a 5mW laser is the max power certified for general use in pointing devices. A higher power laser needs different protection procedures and labels.

    Flash a higher power laser around and hurt someone, you WILL end up working the rest of your life to pay your legal bills. Just because you can buy something does not mean you can use it without following the rules.

    A green laser is less effective for firearms use than a red laser. The beam of a green laser can be seen in the air which allows your opponent to find your position in the dark.

    A red laser will project a dot further than you can see it. Why would you want more power?
     
  11. Justin

    Justin Moderator Emeritus

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    Best cross-cultural mashup [strike] EVAR! [/strike] This week. :)
     
  12. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

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    5 mW is the maximum power for a Class III (unrestricted) laser. Go over 5 mW, and there are a lot more legal restrictions about what you can do with it, safety precautions you must take when working around it, etc.

    For perspective, the energy density in the spot on your retina produced by looking up the beam of a 5mW laser is roughly the same as the energy density caused by staring at the sun. A 10 mW laser would produce twice the power density as the sun, etc.

    Here's the rundown on the laser classes:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_safety

    Most gun lasers are Class IIIA under the old system.
     
  13. ScottsGT

    ScottsGT Member

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    I've read this elsewhere too, but I was at a concert last month and green lasers were used for setting up the spot lights before they were lit. I could not see the green beam thru the air. Just on the set where it was pointed at.
     
  14. Sistema1927

    Sistema1927 Member

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    That explains it. Green lasers cannot be seen in clouds of marijuana smoke. :evil:
     
  15. HiroProX

    HiroProX Member

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    You're wondering about milliwatts?

    For a science project in middle school I built a 10 watt CO2 laser.

    Though I'm sure in the modern fear culture I'd have been branded a terrorist or something.
     
  16. gunsmith

    gunsmith member

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    I remember reading

    several years ago some guy pointing one at a plane and getting arrested for it.
     
  17. kcmarine

    kcmarine Member

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    Yeah... that was considered a terrorist plot because you can blind a pilot with a laser... and blind pilots can't fly that well, at least in theory.
     
  18. AJ Dual

    AJ Dual member

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    Go to www.candlepowerforums.com and check out the sticky FAQ's on lasers in the laser sub-forum for details.

    - Can an American own and use a laser over 5mW? Yes.

    - Can a company market or sell a laser "pointer" or gun sight over 5mW in America? No.

    - Can a company market or sell a laser over 5mW for other purposes? Yes.

    - Can an overseas company import a laser over 5mw that is not registered design with the FDA, and has no additional safety featues? (Like a time-delay on, status light, key-lock, aperature shutter, and dead-man switch?) No.

    - Do overseas companies (and eBay'ers) import and sell lasers over 5mW without such safety features anyway? Yes.

    - Do some of them get confiscated by U.S. Customs? Yes.

    - Do even more get through? Yes.

    Honestly, if you're just messing around, you'll be AMAZED at how bright even a 5mW 532nm GREEN laser pointer is over a red one of comparable wattage. The human eye is approximately 20x as sensitve to green as it is red, so a 5mW green pointer "looks" as bright as a 200mW red laser. You can even see the beam in mid-air from the side like a thin little light saber with just the ambient moisture and dust in the air, smoke makes it look amazing.

    However, because the human eye's pupil contracts to visible light, a 100mW green laser does not look like it's 20x as bright as a 5mW green laser. It's noticably much brighter, but there is a diminishing rate of return. The high powered green pointers/lasers look the best with the beam in mid-air, as the bright spot terminating on a wall will have lots of glare and wash everything else out to some degree.

    Green lasers are more expensive than red, as the green laser takes a IR laser diode, runs it through a crystal that absorbs and re-lases the light in even lower IR, which then runs into a crystal that absorbs and re-lases in visible green. Then there's an IR filter (in a properly made pointer anyway, so watch out!) that cleans out any residual IR.

    The greens can be turned up so powerful because the pump diode might be as powerful as 250mW. To get even a measly 5mW, the IR pump diode has to be many times more powerful to "punch through" the conversion crystals, and overcome all the parasitic losses and natural inneficiency in the convesion process. And each crystal is a little different. In the early days of green pointers, enterprising people found that if they got lucky and had a pointer with particularily efficient crystals, the IR pump diode was adjusted way beneath it's maximum output and could be cranked way up for even more green light.

    That's when the demand for purpose built high-powered green pointers got going. And the high visibility green, combined with the extra milliwattage got them pointed at aircraft by jerks, noticed by pilots, and reported to the FAA. Like many things in life the actual danger is overstated. Even at very low altitudes the beam spreads out to several inches, if not feet in diameter. It just looks like a bright green light on the ground, perhaps with a visible beam back to the source. It would take a very powerful laser to really blind a pilot. But it IS noticable, and irritating to have someone on the ground willfully interfering with aircraft, so I don't blame the fed.gov going for maximum smackdown.
     
  19. Technosavant

    Technosavant Member

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    But what I REALLY want to know is:

    How large a laser can legally be mounted to the head of a shark?
     
  20. AJ Dual

    AJ Dual member

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    Would ill-mannered sea bass do?
     
  21. Alphazulu6

    Alphazulu6 member

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    1.1 Gigawatts!!?!!?!

    haha Most of the lasers you will find to mount under your pistols will be in the lower power. I am not talking about the cheapo $50 ones but the nicer ones ($100+) that provide power just under the type that cause serious eye damage.

    Manufacturers are limited in the power of the laser more than just some arbitrary law or possible safety feature (though there are some types that are limited to the Military such as the PEQ-2A combat laser power.

    The biggest reason manufacturers use the lower power useage, but still bright as needed lasers, is that the high power ones use ALOT of power that smaller batteries need to provide. More importantly the the laser device burns out quickly in constant-on due to the heat they generate (I am purely speaking of ruby lasers and not green as ANY green lasers on the market currently have heat problems). So warranty and customer satisfaction of laser life is difficult to achieve in the manner we use them as a gun sight (which is most always in the constant on position for minutes at a time, and the laser can be readily seen for 25 yards in normal light and 100 yards in darkness).

    Hope this helps!
     
  22. ziadel

    ziadel Member

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    They will sell you coca tea, which contains leaves from the coca plant, which are illegal.... grey area definately, but I'm just pointing out, Amazon is not as innocent as it may apear.
     
  23. PTK

    PTK Member

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    Ziadel I think that if one were to purchase tea such as that the DEA wouldn't be too far behind the shipment.
     
  24. .cheese.

    .cheese. Member

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    add that A in the first mention of Class III and bingo - you nailed the answer. :) (in other words, don't forget there's also a Class IIIb)
     
  25. turdfergason

    turdfergason member

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