The next generation rifle scope targeting technology will make real life shooting resemble a video game and cause a revolutionary re-tooling of the industry. The size of a rifle scope, the optimal location on the gun, the way users position it for targeting in front of their eye, and its visual sensory field of view capabilities are all ready to leap frog ahead at affordable consumer prices.
As a technologist, sports shooter, and hunter I look at how the traditional rifle scope and its user interface has not changed in design to incorporate any of today’s readily available technologies. Most shooters I know look at a scope the same way we looked at a camera in the 80’s. Why should the body style change and why add an LCD display? An LCD is certainly not as sharp as looking directly through quality lenses from vendors like Nikon or Canon. In the sun you can hardly see what you are pointing at on a LCD screen. But today, every camera has one, even the most expensive ones used by professional videographers. In this writer’s opinion, one day soon every rifle scope will also.
You may ask, “what consumer technologies do we have today that could enhance a rifle scope”? The first technologies that come to mind in automating are LCD displays, SD card storage, and wireless video transmission. Others include micro circuit board camera IR night vision and starlight night vision. These simply integrate technology with the scope’s visual field. The manipulation of the image data for decision making is also possible. I am sure the military has this today, but why not Bass Pro Shop and Walmart at consumer prices?
Technology has added a visual monitor to just about everything over the last 20 years. Who would have thought in the 1980’s that the telephone, camera, and even automobiles would have built in LCD screens for user operation interfaces. Everything from a plumber scope that examine the insides of your pipes to microscopes now come with video capture and LCD display monitors as a standard or optional interfaces. This year Google even released HUD eye glasses which project visual information on the glasses lens for viewing.
Digital cameras were a destructive technology for the traditional camera industry. Digital storage revolutionized the film industry, changed the fabricated shapes of cameras, and blurred the difference in a video camera and still camera. The same is close to happening for the old fashion rifle scope. Changes to the way a scope is used for targeting could even change the fabricated shapes of guns. Circuit board cameras can provide high definition video, IR night vision, starlight vision, and thermal imaging. Targeting with a traditional scope has a human error opportunity called parallax which takes skill to overcome. This is a targeting problem caused when the eye is not positioned optimally in the scope’s line of sight. Products like Digital Crosshairs NL scope attachment for day/night shooting eliminates this when attached properly to the scope. With this new device the human eye is no longer required to even be positioned behind the scope’s eye piece for targeting, the crosshairs are displayed on a picatinny rail mounted LCD. A newly announced add-on to this product will enable the shooter to also transmit the scope’s field of view up to 600 meters wirelessly to a remote viewer. This brought a lot of excitement when displayed at the Gastonia North Carolina 2013 Sniper’s Conference in October. A frequent comment from SWAT team members was that this device showed the commanders what the shooter was viewing so the final decision to shoot could be made by the command based on live visual information using wireless video transmission, not a verbal description of what the shooter was viewing. Digital Crosshairs NL makes it easily to enhance an existing scope to include an LCD display and IR night vision.
Other new technology enabled rifle scopes include the DigieScope DV-Scope which has a built in 2 inch LCD display for targeting and the Pulsar Digisight N750 that features a OLED Screen for viewing and a built in variable power laser IR illuminator. It has a 4.5x magnification and a push button digital zoom which magnifies what you see by 1.5 times.
The scope industry like the camera industry will resist changing and a lot of die-hard shooters will insist that their traditional scope is better. Early resistances to destructive technologies that change a norm usually meet resistance. Would a serious shooter even want a scope that resembled a Gameboy? Would a serious photographer consider a digital camera ten years ago? Everything changes and the rifle scope will also. Low cost electronic components from China like IR circuit board cameras, small LCDs, and new polymer battery technologies will make these inovations cheap to implement and provide a quality competitive with the multi thousand dollar high end scopes technology of today.