U.S. Special Forces snipers are among the deadliest and most efficient killers on the planet. They have a job—to execute a mission (pun intended)—and they do it exceedingly well. And they do that job, by and large, while relying on a piece of equipment that has essentially been around since the days of Galileo, with little technological advancement since the 1960s.
Traditional sniper scopes are, essentially, telescopes, with the operator zooming in and refocusing on the intended target by the sliding the lenses within the body back and forth. It’s a clunky and somewhat inefficient targeting method, especially when taking into account the small window of time often afforded for taking a shot—not to mention everything else that comes with being in a firefight. Taking one’s eye off of a target to refocus could ultimately result in a missed shot, or worse—the death of yourself or a fellow operator. Enter Sandia National Laboratories’ Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles (RAZAR), a compact scope that is “capable of rapidly toggling between magnification at the push of a button without changing the grip on the weapon or losing sight picture.”
Sandia’s new scope—which is on display in the video above and was designed following a 2006 Department of Defense request for a scope that could “rapidly toggle between magnifications”—runs on, believe it or not, two AA batteries, and borrows the inspiration for its technology from the human eye. Rather than changing the distances between the lenses, like in a traditional scope, the adaptive optical zoom changes the curvature of the lens. Per Popular Science, “this is similar to how human eyeballs switch focus. In humans, muscles in the eye pull the lens to flatten it for far-away vision, and contract to thicken the lens for objects up close.”
And all of that is accomplished by simply pressing a button on the side of the scope. Pretty cool stuff, right? Even if the seemingly-never-ending march of military technology makes you slightly uneasy (and I wouldn’t blame you), then you can still take heart in knowing that other practical applications for the adaptive zoom include a birdwatcher’s binoculars, medical imaging, and cell phone cameras. Making it a pretty huge day for both Special Forces operators and birders alike, if you ask me.
You can take a deep dive on the RAZAR by reading Sandia’s full press release, or by watching the video above.