In our continuing series of interviews with the top ladies in the firearms industry we’ve been privileged to chat with some pretty amazing women. We’re proud to add Susan Houde-Walter to that list. As CEO of LaserMax she has seen technology evolve significantly in the firearms industry during her tenure and she’s got plenty of interesting insight to share. Check it out!

Susan shows the guys how it’s done. Photo by David Jenkins.

1. How did you become involved with the world of firearms?

My husband grew up with firearms, but didn’t tell me about that until two years into our marriage, at which point he insisted on taking me to the range.  I have to tell you that I was just terrible at shooting (I was afraid of the recoil and I’d close my eyes when I squeezed the trigger).  Once I got a laser on the gun I could see what I was doing wrong and I could easily fix it.  At that point shooting became really fun.

2. Tell me about the history of your company.

I was a professor in optical science and engineering at a major research university (and a new mom) and my husband was an entrepreneur.  Both of us had backgrounds in laser science.  Back then, the Department of Corrections in Utah was having problems with prison riots.  The guards had submachine guns, but prisoners were non-compliant.  Lasers were big and fragile back then, but someone mounted one onto one of the guns, and suddenly the prisoners became compliant — they understood the meaning of the laser beam.  Another company started making lasers for law enforcement firearms and they had a similar psychological effect, but they were also very big and klunky (and fragile).  My husband and I were curious, so we visited NYPD and asked why they didn’t use lasers.  The officers complained that they needed lasers that were “rugged as the gun”.  We took that as a challenge and came out with the guide rod laser (which is indeed as rugged as the gun).  They are very popular.  Now we make all kinds of lasers for military, law enforcement and civilians for personal protection.

3. Tell me a bit about your products and what makes them different from other laser sights on the market.

We are all about Precision and Protection.  Our guide rod lasers for semi-auto pistols are the top of the line.  They are easy to install – it takes just a few minutes.  Since the laser is internal, the laser is compatible with holsters, and most people wouldn’t know it’s there at all — until you turn it on.  These guide rod lasers are extremely rugged, and the “cool” factor is unbeatable.  They are used by elite forces and ordinary civilians alike.  They were the first practical laser aiming device, and are still very popular today.

We also have an extensive line of external lasers for revolvers, rifles and shotguns.  We make them with green beams for daylight use, red beams for night and indoors, and infrared for law enforcement and military.  If you own a firearm, chances are that LaserMax makes a laser for it.

In general, we make sure that our lasers are easy to use.  They are designed with all the law-enforcement approved safety features, and you never have to align your laser when you change batteries.

4. I think laser sights are fantastic, but one argument I’ve heard against them is that you don’t want a would-be assailant to see you coming. Laser sights might clue them in to the fact that you’re around the corner when you would rather stay hidden. What do you say to that? Is there a way to prevent such an occurrence?

Yes, of course.  We agree whole-heartedly.  Our lasers have a deliberate on/off activation button so you can control the beam.

5. Do you have any tips or tricks for the proper use of a LaserMax laser sight?

First, they’re great for training.  You can get immediate feedback on your shooting form and correct any deficiencies very quickly.  They’re also great for dry-fire practice when you can’t get to the range.

Second, practice both conventional shooting stance, and non-conventional (like weak hand shooting or shooting from a sitting position).

Third, consider what type of laser best fits your needs.  Most folks who keep a firearm for personal safety at home expect to use it indoors and/or at night.  A red laser works great in those conditions.  If you work outside in the daytime a lot and need to have your firearm, you’re better off with a green laser like our Uni-Green or our Genesis because the green laser beam shows up better in those conditions.

6. What percentage of LaserMax employees is female?

About 50%

7. I can imagine being around guys all the time can wear on your femininity a bit. What do you do to keep things girly?

I go shopping with my daughter!  (Actually, we go shooting together, too.)  Also I am an NRA Instructor and  I teach with a great group of ladies.  We run ladies-only Basic Pistol classes.  It’s a lot of fun.

That’s Susan at far right.

Susan at back far left

8. What advice do you have for women who are interested in the shooting sports but have yet to try it out?

Start with a firearms safety class.  Decide what you want to shoot and why (pistol or rifle, sporting  or personal protection) and then take an introductory class for that, like basic pistol, then a personal protection inside the home.  The NRA has an excellent selection of courses taught by certified instructors. Some ladies find it less intimidating to take a ladies-only class, if you can find one.  Once you start shooting, though, the fun takes over and it doesn’t really matter who’s teaching as long as they’re safe and knowledgeable.  Then practice.  Finding a shooting buddy or a regular event like IDPA ups the fun.  I particularly like the moving drills.

Thanks, Susan! Your leadership among ladies in the firearms industry is greatly appreciated. Thanks for paving the way. We look forward to chatting again in the very near future! – nf

Check back soon for a review of some LaserMax products!