The AR-15 platform has always been about advancement. Thanks to its modular design and incorporation of polymer parts, this rifle platform has managed to stay cutting-edge since its public debut in 1963. Nearly every part of the weapon is completely customizable, and the ease with which parts can be swapped has helped to spur the sales of some of the latest and greatest accessories. Even the Picatinny rail system itself owes its success, at least in part, to the fact that AR-15 owners wanted to be able to customize their weapons. As the years have passed we’ve seen huge advancements in optics, all the way from iron sights to ACOG, and the trend is continuing thanks to the modular design of this fantastic firearm.
The ease with which accessories are swapped in and out of an AR-15 makes it the perfect test-bed for manufacturers, and some of the latest and greatest breakthroughs are being demoed using the rifle. This is great news for AR owners, since they’ll be able to stay ahead of the curve and mount the newest advanced optics before they’re available on other platforms. Lately there have been a number of high-tech breakthroughs that look promising for AR-15 enthusiasts in America.
A little chip with a dull name, the TMP006 by Texas Instruments, has the potential to revolutionize night-vision scopes for the consumer market. Currently most night-vision equipment uses active infrared, which works using built-in infrared LEDs, along with ambient light from the stars and other sources, to create a picture at night. The TMP006 chip, however, uses passive infrared, and builds a picture of your surrounding in pitch-black conditions using only heat signatures.
This technology is already on the market for branches of the military and police departments, but it’s bulky and expensive. The new chip from Texas Instruments is set to bring passive infrared to the consumer market, and cut the price significantly in the process. Passive infrared is much more detailed, not susceptible to blinding by light sources, and can’t be detected using an infrared receiver like active infrared can. The TMP006 chipset is also more durable, smaller, and lightweight than all existing equipment, making it an excellent candidate for more compact and thinner optics packages. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine cars and eyeglasses incorporating this technology in order to provide a clear view in the dark, but it’s coming to AR-15 optics too.
Although it sounds like sci-fi, an app for Google Glass is being developed that lets you see the view through your scope without looking. This incredible technology has obvious military applications, working with the already-deployed digital IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) system in order to tag the target in real time, helping to eliminate friendly fire. It has amazing civilian uses as well, allowing the shooter to peer around corners or through windows via the scope-mounted camera system, zeroing in on a target while keeping themselves out of harm’s way.
If it weren’t for the latest video by TrackingPoint it would be easy to dismiss this system as being a decade away. However, there’s new video evidence proving its feasibility in the field and promising a release date much sooner than anyone expected. All of the technology to make this system happen, including Google Glass and the Wifi-enabled scope-mounted camera, is currently on the market. Only the software itself is still being fine-tuned.
While range-finding scopes are nothing new, a recent breakthrough by laser development lab Coherent promises faster, more accurate, and much cheaper range-finding. Currently the price for a premium range-finding scope can top $700, but with this new Coherent technology we could see plummeting prices in the years to come. It’s easy to imagine an advanced optics system which finds the range of a target and instantly adjusts itself to the optimum magnification. It’s possible that one day every scope on the market will keep you updated on the distance to the target, automatically correcting for windage and elevation.