Sandia National Laboratories optical engineer Brett Bagwell led the development of the Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles (RAZAR) prototype.
At the push of a button, RAZAR
can toggle between high and low magnifications, enabling soldiers to zoom in without having to remove their eyes from their targets or their hands from their rifles.
"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," Bagwell
began work on RAZAR
in 2006 responding to Department of Defense interest in a compact zoom riflescope that could rapidly toggle between magnifications.
Early work had been funded by Sandia's Laboratory
Directed Research and Development program.
found no commercial products or components that would enable the riflescope to meet military requirements, so he
had to design and build the first RAZAR
from scratch and develop a manufacturing process.
The invention, Bagwell
said, means "this is the first time in a long time that there has been a new technology that a direct-view optical designer can take advantage of."
When the polymer is sealed, no air bubbles or specks of dust could remain in the lenses or on the surrounding rings, Bagwell
While many of the technologies and designs that make up the riflescope came from mechanical engineers, robotics experts, chemists and other Sandia experts, Bagwell
went outside the labs for the actuator to flex the lenses, seeking help from Dynamic Structures and Materials, LLC
, a small business in Franklin, Tennessee.
The feature allows users to complete 10,000 actuations on two AA batteries, Bagwell
Meeting the power usage, speed and accuracy specifications required by the military took years.
"As an engineer, I was impressed with our progress," Bagwell
From 2010-2012, the team also ensured the riflescope would be reliable in the field by conducting shock, vibration and temperature testing, Bagwell
By 2010, Bagwell
began demonstrating it to the military and, in late 2012, tested it with representatives from U.S. Special Operations Command at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center
near Edinburgh, Indiana.
handed the rifles to military personnel to let them test them, he
realized that Sandia had developed a concept that would benefit the military.
"The guys picked it up and when they pushed the button and it zoomed, and then instantly it zoomed back out, they were like kids at Christmas.
There was this look of astonishment and pleasure," he
"That's very gratifying.
Feedback from ex-military personnel and soldiers who have tried RAZAR
has motivated Bagwell
is now working to develop night vision systems and recently demonstrated adaptive zoom in thermal infrared.
"It's an opportunity for me to take my technical expertise and give back to people I really care about," he