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[How-To] AR-15 Lights & Lasers Mounting + Cable Management

Wrangle those cables! We go through how to mount lights, lasers, and pressure pads with the best cable management tips.
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    Chances are, when you start adding highspeed gadgets to the front end of your gun, things can get a little… unruly.

    *internal screaming*

    Need a quick reference guide for a few different ways to route cables for your lights and lasers?

    Follow along below as we show off several different solutions to keeping your accessory leads tidy and out of the way!

    11. Steiner DBAL with Unity TAPS
    This one sparks joy.

    Or take a look at our totally awesome video on it, and if you like that kind of thing — subscribe to the Pew Pew Tactical YouTube Channel!

    Table of Contents

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    Night Vision And You

    One of the projects we’ve been working on recently is getting into the night vision game, and one of the fun parts of shooting in the dark is the fact that… the money pit doesn’t end there.

    To truly take advantage of a night vision setup, you’re also going to need an IR laser and an IR illuminator for target acquisition and positive target identification, respectively.

    Alternatively, just skip the entire shooting part altogether and focus on NIGHTBIKING.

    Current Night Vision Setup

    On this particular setup, we opted to go with Steiner’s DBAL-A3, which offers both a visible laser, an IR laser, and IR illumination to boot.

    Pretty much everything you’d want for laser-blasting in one relatively small package.

    5. Steiner DBAL A3 with Surefire Scout
    Steiner DBAL A3 with Surefire Scout

    However, figuring out a system that allows you to have access to all of the features that the DBAL offers while still keeping the front end of your gun relatively clean is where things start to get tricky.

    In our case, we chose a Unity Tactical / TNVC TAPS Sync, Unity Tactical Hot Button, and Surefire Scout light to tie the entire system together, and it’s working out pretty well!

    1434
    at EuroOptic

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    The TAPS Sync gives you two pressure pads, and although it comes with a picatinny mount, can be mounted directly to an MLOK interface as well.

    13. Unity TAPS Sync MLOK Mount 2
    Unity TAPS Sync MLOK Mount

    We’ve got the forward most pressure pad tied into the DBAL’s visible laser, with the rear pad activating both the Surefire Scout and the visible laser simultaneously.

    11. Steiner DBAL with Unity TAPS
    The entire setup with everything routed.

    I’ve also got the Unity Hot Button set up to control the IR laser and illumination controls, and it’s sitting at an ~11 o’clock position on my rail for easy access.

    10. Unity Tactical Hot Button MLOK
    Unity Tactical Hot Button

    Considering the fact that the leads here are quite long, we’ve got a good amount of cable to lock down and secure.

    I essentially started by routing the excess Hot Button cable around the unit itself, anchoring the lead at both the front and rear with zip ties to ensure that it’s not flopping around.

    Like so.

    I made sure I had enough slack to reach the DBAL’s connector ports and then tucked the excess underneath the DBAL itself.

    There’s just enough excess leading into the unit so as to ensure that the system isn’t straining against itself.

    From there, I let the TAPS lead cables to wrap around the pressure pad unit itself, towards the muzzle.

    You might need to play around with it a bit, but this is what I found worked out pretty well for me.

    Adding a few anchor points to make sure those cables can’t flop around, I then tucked them underneath the small ledge of overhang that the pressure pad itself provides.

    With some initial points anchored, I returned to the rear of the pressure pad, which for whatever reason doesn’t like to sync up QUITE well enough with my STNGR handguard so as to affirmatively grab the rear portion super securely.

    Zip tie time!

    It also secures the cables to the rear as well.

    With everything in place, I repeated the same process of running the remaining excess underneath the DBAL before snaking out just enough to make the final connection to the laser port and the Surefire itself.

    Gotta trim those ties too, obviously.

    I’ll note here that this is just an initial run at a sensible setup – as I start putting the entire thing through its paces, it’s entirely possible that I might want to revisit the methods and revise them as is fit.

    But for right now, it feels okay!

    Yeehaw.

    You’re also going to want to rotate the ‘heads’ of the zip ties to the inside of your rail once you’ve got them trimmed, as they can be quite sharp.

    Other Setups

    The setup below features an Olight Odin with a Picatinny pressure pad mounted directly to the top rail and secured with a zip tie.

    127
    at Olight

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons
    Behold.

    You can also use a spare bit of bicycle tubing to secure any loose connectors you don’t want to be exposed!

    We’ve got a surefire dual pressure pad controlling a Streamlight RM-2 on another upper that sits awaiting its own LAM unit using a Midwest Industries mount, and in the meantime, the bike tubing keeps the spare connector protected from the elements.

    133
    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons
    40
    at OpticsPlanet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons
    TOOB

    Of course, you can also bypass the entire process entirely if you grab something like Cloud Defensive’s OWL!

    Also! Cloud Defensive has set up a very special 10% off coupon “pewpewtactical” just for our readers.

    379
    at Cloud Defensive

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    The light features a pressure pad integrated directly into the rail mount, meaning you’ve got zero exposed wires whatsoever.

    It’s pretty damn chungus, though.

    Conclusion

    Hopefully, you now have a thorough understanding of how to route and use zip ties 😉

    How do you set your rifle up? Got any hot zip tie tricks? Let us know in the comments! If you’re ready to give your rifle the ultimate make-over, check out the PPT guide on How To Paint Your AR-15! Don’t have a light yet…check out Best AR-15 Lights.

    Tested AR-15 Flashlights
    Tested AR-15 Flashlights

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    17 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Ted Schubert

      I have a IR/Laser/Light unit that I had mounted on the top rail. I noticed on lower powers, the unit was very far into the field of view. Would there be any reasons against mounting the unit on the rail below the barrel??

      July 17, 2022 12:34 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Mark

      What mount did you use to tuck the surefire up under there?

      March 22, 2022 1:55 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ed

      Arson Machine company, both M-LOK WireGuide™ and Picatinny WireGuide™ Systems.

      May 10, 2021 11:56 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Stuart Wismer

        The only way to go.

        August 24, 2021 6:42 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Mike

        I like the look of those clips, however they are on the pricey side. Ended getting a 10 pack of "Hand Guard Cable Clips" from Apex 3D for the price of one of the Arson Machine clips. This is an option for those on a budget and upgrading from bike tubes.

        December 29, 2021 10:48 am
        • Commenter Avatar
          Ed R

          I like the price. They are 3D printed I take it, not aluminum.

          December 29, 2021 9:27 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jim

      Any concern with heat when securing wiring tightly to the rail?

      January 23, 2021 3:43 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Noah

      Is there a concern with the mounting location on your Surefire in regard to the muzzle break side blast? How has your Surefire held up? Any damage?

      November 27, 2020 4:31 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        David, PPT Editor

        This generally isn't an issue, they are durable enough that side blast won't damage them. They might build up dust/grim on the lens though, but a wipe off every now and then solves that.

        November 27, 2020 5:57 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Steve

      How about a discussion on more affordable night vision options if there is such a thing.
      Thanks

      August 14, 2020 5:22 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Kertys

        Probably the cheapest weapon-mounted way is to pick up a hunting or other civilian-style monocular and mount it forward of your optic, assuming you can figure out a mounting solution. With many different sizes of scope mounts available it shouldn't be impossible. Helmet-mounted might be possible too but I doubt there are many such mounts on the market.

        November 20, 2020 7:05 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Ted Schubert

        There are several digital scope manufactures with scope that have an IR night vision feature. Sightmark and ATN both have digital scopes with IR night vision. Keep in mind, these units are not light and can take up rail space on the uppre receiver.

        July 17, 2022 12:40 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Dan Rosenau

      Hey bud, as a Union Wireman, I can tell you that if you use some pliers and clamp next to the zip-tie ratchetlock, you can then rotate while holding the tail with your pliers. Apply light pressure pulling away and boom, sharp part is gone. If that doesn't suit your fancy just use a razor and cut away the tail flush using firm, consistent, controlled pressure.

      Great video, you are far and away my favorite gunland presenter. I check in every day to see if you've made new content and I hope you find continued success.

      August 13, 2020 7:28 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        David, PPT Editor

        Nice tips! Thanks much for the support!

        August 13, 2020 7:31 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Dexter winslett

      Policed 25 years with my light in my weak hand, would not change now.

      August 13, 2020 7:11 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      GUNFUN

      I literally just finished setting up my flashlight a few days ago. You guys are too late.

      August 13, 2020 2:44 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        David, PPT Editor

        ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        August 13, 2020 3:12 pm
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