"I don't recommend the laser at all. If you fire, clear, put in laser, pull out laser, load, fire again- what is that going to tell you with all the moving around that has been done? Lasers seldom are of any value to a useful distance and in my opinion are only meant to get the shooter on paper for final dial-in.
The only useful suggestion I have is to spend some benchtime with a known value scope. If your AR does no better with a scope that you know to be good (maybe one that came off of a friends rifle?) then you should be fairly sure the scope is off. As a note, I don't know of too many instances of a bad scope only allowing (up to) a 1" wander. If your rifle was shooting a 1/2" group before, then your scope is only wandering 1/2". So, if you have a 1/2" to 1" deviation, maybe we could look at other issues? Changed lots of bullets, powder, primers, weights of bullets or powders, changed brass?"
Hard to argue with good advice.
I learn as i go. I have a Laserlyte system and it has allowed me to get on paper pretty well but as you stated, r&r the laser would introduce un-necessary variables.