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Future Optics: a Look ahead

Future Optics: a Look ahead

What would you say if I told you that instead of having to dial in your optics you are looking at you could push a button and zoom in. Well with the push of a button, the Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles optic (RAZAR) from Sandia National Laboratories can do just that.


The RAZAR has the ability to toggle between high and low magnifications, enabling target acquisition without having to remove eyes from targets or hands from their rifles.

The RAZAR changes the focal length of the optic like the muscles of the human eye by moving the membrane of the optic surface itself rather than traditional optics moving positions on an axis.

The idea behind a push-button zoom is you can acquire what you’re interested in at low magnification and, without getting lost, zoom in for more clarity.

The idea started to take fruition in 2006 when an Army Special Forces officer-turned engineer, Brett Bagwell, began designing a military riflescope, for the Department of Defense with the soldiers in mind, with the consideration; ease of use, to be extremely accurate, light-weight and has long-lasting battery power.

We Like Shooting recently had a chance to ask the brain power behind the RAZAR a few questions in regard to their new product.
WLS. You said the RAZAR can be toggled between magnifications, how fast can they switch?
Brett. The RAZAR transitions between magnification states in about 1/5 of a second (200 milliseconds).

WLS. How did you come up with this?
Brett. RAZAR was designed as a response to a request from the Department of Defense to provide a compact, zoom riflescope, capable of rapidly toggling between magnifications at the push of a button. The guiding principle was to create an optical design that switches between low and high magnifications without the lenses changing positions relative to one another.

WLS. What is the expected battery life of the RAZAR?
Brett. More than 10,000 actuations on the equivalent of two AA batteries.

WLS. AA batteries? why AA vs CR123 battery?
Brett. RAZAR runs off three CR123 batteries.

WLS.How accurate is your optic, is it sub MOA?
Brett. Currently the accuracy is 1.5 MOA, but we continue to improve. We believe we will be sub-MOA next year (2015).

WLS.What is the life span of the scope with considerations to mechanical parts?
Brett. We have only tested this to 10,000 actuations, but believe that the ultimate lifetime is many multiples of this.

WLS. Have you tested the clarity of glass (light transmission) and if so, where are you at?
Brett. Currently the transmission is approximately 92%. The main reason is that each of the polymer lenses is “uncoated,”meaning that it does not have an anti-reflection (AR) coating. Flexible AR coatings do not currently exist, but we are investigating them.

WLS.What reticule options do you offer?
Brett. The current RAZAR is an afocal, in-line, variable magnifier. What that means is that it multiplies the magnification of whatever (fixed or variable) power rifle scope it sits in front of. The benefit of this is that it works with a variety of rifle scopes. We primarily targeted the ACOG (or similar fixed 4X scopes). So the answer is that you bring your own reticle with you. The down-side is that this variable magnification is “second focal” in nature. It magnifies the down-range scene, but not your reticle.

WLS. What is the actual weight of the RAZAR?
Brett. The most recent RAZAR prototypes (3rd generation) weighed approximately 1 lb. (with no batteries). We built this first and foremost for ruggedness and reliability…weight was of secondary concern. There remain a lot of opportunities for weight reduction in the commercialization of this technology.

WLS. Knowing that your initial design was for the Department of Defense, will it be available to the general public?
Brett. The RAZAR technology is available for a qualified manufacturer, who could decide to make RAZAR available to the public.

WLS.If I wanted to purchase one, what can I expect the cost to be?
Brett. $3,500-$7,500, but it’s important to remember that RAZAR is still in the development phase and Sandia is confident the cost can be reduced significantly, particularly when manufactured in larger volumes, to be competitive in the commercial marketplace.

WLS. Because this is an additional piece that attaches to your current optic, how will someone be able to adjust for windage and elevation and will the reticle be illuminated?
Brett. The reticle and it’s adjustments are done on the base rifle scope.

WLS. What about eye relief distance?
Brett. The eye relief is approximately the same as the base rifle scope (there is some shift, about 1-2 mm).

WLS.Is the RAZAR water proof or water resistant?
Brett. It’s currently water resistant, but with a little bit of effort could easily be made submersible (1-2 meters).

WLS. How about shock proof and up to what caliber?
Brett. It has been qualified at .308 on an AR-10 and SCAR-H. The latter, in particular, set a pretty high bar.

WLS.Fog proof?
Brett. Yes.

WLS.How soon till thermal or NV versions come out?
Brett.Sandia is in the process of building NV systems. In particular we are focused on Near-Infrared (“I^2”) and cooled thermal (mid-wave infrared). These efforts are government only at this time.

WLS.If I go 10,000+ actuations and forget to change out the battery, (because I seem to always forget to change out the important stuff) and I lose power, can it be used at the last setting?
Brett. Yes, RAZAR remains useable as a fixed-power riflescope even if the batteries fail.

WLS.May I have one please.
Brett. Sandia’s prototypes are available only to RAZAR’s sponsors.

About The Author

aaron krieger

Aaron has worked in advertising and marketing for more than 15 years for such companies as Ford, The Sports Authority, the NHL and many others. He has also worked as a security consultant with national security firms and General Motors Police Vehicle Division and has written several books. Aaron lives in the Metro Detroit area with his wife and three children.


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