Earlier I reviewed the DBAL-D2 and DBAL-A4. While the DBAL-D2 is a big bloated workhorse and the DBAL-A4 is Steiner’s flagship laser device, the DBAL-A3 is probably the most popular weapon laser out of their catalog. The DBAL-A3 comes in a variety of power options and finds its roots in an older model variant. Let’s take a deeper look at the DBAL-A3.
DBAL-A3: The People’s Choice
Looking at social media and various firearm/night vision groups the DBAL-A3 is a strong contender for a shooter looking for an aiming device to use with night vision. Most night vision shooters pick up a DBAL-A3 or a PEQ-15. The civilian rated versions have similar specs. The visible laser is 5mW and the IR laser pointer is 0.7mW. The IR illuminator is 4mW but in order to stay eye-safe, the laser illuminator can only be adjusted down to a certain size beam. 4mW is not that bright but decent in close range use and in extreme darkness like zero moonlight.
The DBAL-A3 is an updated version of their DBAL-A2. The A2 was made by Laser Devices who were bought out by Steiner Optics. The A3 shares a lot of design elements from the A2 but there are some significant differences.
The layout of the lasers is identical. You have an adjustable illuminator on the left side while the IR laser is slaved to the visible laser. That way you can zero the visible laser in the daylight and the IR laser will be zeroed as well.
The DBAL-A3 is a little bit longer than the DBAL-A2. The controls are different. The A2 has dual knobs. The left knob switches between low and high power laser output. The left knob selects between momentary and constant-on for both the low and high power modes. The right side knob selects between visible laser all the way to IR pointer and illuminator. Just to the right of that knob is the remote tape switch port.
One feature they changed from the DBAL-A2 is the windage and elevation knobs. The A2 is tool-less so it is fast and easy to rezero when you switch the A2 onto another gun.
The A3 upgraded those knurled knobs into slotted adjustments. You need a flat head screwdriver or a coin to adjust the elevation and windage.
The DBAL-A3 got rid of the second knob that the A2 had and replaced it with a second remote switch port. You can see on the housing it says VIS OVERRIDE. The DBAL-A4 has this feature as well and it is a feature competitor lasers do not have. When you plug in a tape switch into the VIS OVERRIDE port, that switch will allow you to immediately activate the visible laser regardless of the IR mode you are in.
Going clockwise the selector settings are:
- VIS Aim High
- VIS AIM Low
- IR AIM Low
- IR DUAL Low
- IR AIM High
- IR Illuminator High
- IR DUAL High
That’s Not Full Power, This Is Full Power
Moving away from the civilian rated power ratings, Steiner offers their DBAL-A3 in full power for law enforcement and military customers. Just to remind you the civilian regulated DBAL-A3 is 0.7/4/5. 0.7mW IR pointer, 4mW IR illuminator and 5mW visible laser. Their full power DBAL-A3 is 50/50/80. That is 50mW for the IR laser pointer and illuminator and a whopping 80mW for the red visible laser.
But did you know that there is a DBAL-A3 with even MORE POWER!!??? Yes. They make a DBAL-A3 to rival the L3 PEQ-15 LA5 UHP. There is an A3 that is 50/200/80. The IR illuminator is 200mW.
Here is a comparison between a 50/50/80 DBAL-A3 and a 50/200/80 DBAL-A3. Full power illuminator beams can be dialed down to a pointer or widened out like a flashlight.
I got to measure the output of the 50/200/80mW laser and the illuminator was putting out 176 mW. And below is the difference between an 80mW red laser and a 5mW red laser.
Final Thoughts On The DBAL-A3
It is unfortunate civilians cannot be trusted with full power lasers. Blame the FDA for that one. Full power IR lasers are dangerous as they can more easily damage a person’s eye because the beam is invisible to the naked eye. That is why the FDA regulates and restricts manufacturers from selling them to civilians. Aside from that, the full power DBAL-A3 is a great little laser. It is metal-bodied and rather compact. Whereas the PEQ-15 is plastic, even the full power versions are plastic.
For the most part, the DBAL-A3 is not that different from other MFAL (multi-function aiming laser) It has a visible laser that is slaved to the infrared laser pointer. It has an IR illuminator which does help in the right lighting conditions even for the civilian rated model.
I prefer the DBAL-A2 solely for the tool-less knob adjustments. This makes it much easier and more field expedient to re-zero the laser to whatever gun you mount it on. For long-range illumination, the A2’s hand-adjustable knobs make it faster and more efficient to move the illuminator onto the target.
The VIS OVERRIDE is certainly a feather in Steiner’s cap. No other laser has the ability to instantaneously switch from IR to VIS laser. The price is a bit steep at full retail price. MSRP for the civilian rated DBAL-A3 is $1570.99 however you can easily find it for less at various online retailers.
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