Review: Crimson Trace CMR-301 Rail Master Pro


I have long been a fan of Crimson Trace products — starting all the way back with their Lasergrips — and have used them on my duty pistols for 22 of my 40 years of law enforcement work.

Police using green lasers mounted on rifles
While green lasers look cool in low-light shots like this one, they are quite visible in bright light. This makes them potentially more useful in more situations than red lasers. Image: Crimson Trace

I quickly realized not only the value of a laser sighting system mounted on a handgun or rifle, but I also recognized the quality, reliability and ingeniousness of the Crimson Trace designs. Currently, I have Crimson Trace Lasergrips or integral lasers mounted on 10 of my handguns of various types.

With this background, I wanted to evaluate the Crimson Trace CMR-301 to see if it would make sense for an AR-15 like the Springfield SAINT.

Mastering the Product?

Crimson Trace expanded beyond Lasergrips to include tactical lights, red dot sights and rifle scopes. One of these new expansions to the product line, the CMR-301 Rail Master Pro, recently found its way into my hands for a review.

Front of the Crimson Trace CMR-301
The front end of the CMR-301 shows the white light on one side of the unit with the laser on the other. Image: Crimson Trace

Designed to be mounted on tactical rifles via standard Picatinny Rail or M-Lok — both mounts are included — the forged aluminum CMR-301 Rail Master Pro is a flat, side-by-side combination green laser and tactical light unit. It is full of excellent features.

The first feature that struck me about the Rail Master Pro is that it runs from a single rechargeable CR123-sized battery. I was amazed that a single battery could provide enough power for the 1,000 maximum lumen light — which can be set for 500 and 150 lumens as well — and the green laser, which requires more power to run than a red laser.

The battery is charged via an included USB-C to USB cable that is plugged into a port near the positive pole of the battery. What’s really nice is that the CMR-301 Rail Master Pro does not need to be dismounted to charge the battery. Simply unscrew the flashlight head and drop the battery out. A tiny red/green LED is located on the battery to indicate charging status.

A unique glow-in-the-dark mode selection switch is located at the rear of the unit. The switching system allows the user to select between “Laser Only” for daylight outdoor use, “Light Only” and “Laser/Light Combo” to run both — which is where I leave similar units set on my personal guns.

Crimson Trace CMR-301 mounted the left side of an AR-15 rifle
You are not limited to mounting the CMR-301 to the top rail of a rifle. Here, it is mounted on the left side of a rifle. Image: Crimson Trace

The light can be operated by pushing the rubberized central switch. However, I think most of you will want to take advantage of the included remote pressure switch, which locks into a covered port also located at the rear of the unit.

Pairing Up

Springfield’s lineup of SAINT rifles and pistols is also impressive, especially considering that Springfield’s claim to fame for many years has been its legendary M1A. I recently had a chance to go hands-on with a SAINT Victor rifle in 5.56mm, and I think it is an excellent rendition of the AR platform. It is complete with the features most desired by today’s AR connoisseurs, and three features stood out in particular for me.

Crimson Trace laser and light mounted on a SAINT rifle
In this position, the white light from the CMR-301 can illuminate both targets and the front sight.

The first is the sleek M-LOK 15″ free-floated handguard, covering a 1:8 twist barrel that is 16″ long. The next is the precision nickel boron-coated flat trigger, which delivered a crisp 3 lb., 1.5 oz. trigger pull according to my Wheeler Engineering Trigger Pull gauge. Last but not least is the mid-length (rather than carbine-length) gas system, which eliminates the abruptness of the firing cycle. The difference between the two gas systems is quite noticeable in my experience.

The Victor has a short segment of Picatinny rail at the front end for mounting a folding front sight, and a standard receiver top rail to mount your choice of optics. The included steel BUIS are excellent.

Mounting

I ended up mounting the CMR-301 on the left side of the rail close to the receiver — instead of way out front beyond my easy reach. In this position, the controls and the on/off switch can be accessed by my left thumb. I also added the lock in remote switch and installed it on the top of the receiver rail which is also easy to reach. I left the BUIS in place.

Crimson Trace CMR-301 mounted on SAINT carbine
The author mounted the Crimson trace CMR-301 in the 9-o’clock position using the M-LOK attachment points on the SAINT Victor.

Note that, wherever you install the CMR-301, you will need to sight in the laser dot for horizontal and vertical alignment, due to the offset of the laser module. I sight laser sights on a rifle for dead center at 25 yards — I sight in handguns at 21 feet.

On the range, the CMR-301 functioned flawlessly (of course). With the mounting points I used, accessing the controls was easy. A full 1,000 lumens of light is ideal for a weaponlight, and it can be dialed back if you prefer. Even 500 lumens would be plenty bright for tactical use.

Remote switch for Crimson Trace CMR-301
You can use the remote switch for the CMR-301. A remote allows you to put the controls where they are easiest to manipulate. Image: Crimson Trace

Green is the only way to go on lasers these days in my opinion. Technology has made them smaller, eliminated early cold sensitivity issues, reduced battery requirements and has made them more affordable. Also, green is BRIGHT. It stands out much more than red — especially during daylight.

MSRP of the Standard CMR-301 is $314.99. A tan option is available for $339.99. The MSRP of the Springfield Armory SAINT Victor Rifle is $1,125.00.

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Author: Joey Webster

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