Conventional sniper scopes may allow for superlatively long shots but they are far from perfect, requiring a time-consuming refocusing of the sights should the target (or shooter) have to move position. But with the new RAZAR scope from Sandia National Labs, that refocus is handled almost instantly with the push of a button.

Conventional long-range rifle scopes adjust the focal point by sliding one or more lenses back and forth within the scope assembly—like a telescope. The RAZAR (Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles), on the other hand, works more like the human eye. Its optics can deform—that is, change the degree of curvature—growing flatter or rounder depending on the need, much as ocular muscles press and pull on the eye's lens to focus our vision to various distances.

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"The impetus behind the idea of push-button zoom is you can acquire what you're interested in at low magnification and, without getting lost, zoom in for more clarity," Sandia National Laboratories optical engineer Brett Bagwell said in a press statement.

According to Sandia Labs:

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The U.S. Military requested a compact zoom riflescope, capable of rapidly toggling between magnification at the push of a button without changing the grip on the weapon or losing sight picture. The Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles (RAZAR) filled this request. RAZAR can zoom in milliseconds and perform 10,000 actuations on two AA batteries. The weight, power, and speed requirements for mechanical zoom make them prohibitive. RAZAR allows target engagement at diverse ranges and provides several distinct advantages including speed and high resolution at varying distances.

This offers a faster and easier function compared to traditional mechanical scopes and higher clarity than digital zooms. The only real drawback is that the scope will lock into a single focal point if the batteries die, though that can be quickly rectified by swapping in a fresh pair.

Sandia hopes that this technology will find its way not just to the battlefield but to a variety of civilian uses as well from consumer-grade adaptive optic binoculars to long-range sports photography. [Sandia 1, 2 via PopSci]