DARPA's New Sniper Rifle Offers a Perfect Shot Across 12 Football Fields

By Joseph Calamia | May 25, 2010 2:23 pm

sniper“Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes,” American revolutionaries supposedly yelled at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Legend has it that the rebels were trying to conserve ammunition, given the inaccuracy of their 18th century guns.

But things have come a long way since 1775. With DARPA‘s new “One Shot” sniper system [PDF], scheduled to be in soldier’s hands by the fall of 2011, the U.S. military will give snipers the ability to take out an enemy at a distance of .7 miles in winds around 10 to 20 miles per hour. Military brass hopes the system will give snipers a perfect shot at least six times out of ten.

The One Shot system still wouldn’t come close to matching the record for shooting accuracy: In November of last year, British Army sniper Corporal Craig Harrison made two shots at a distance of 1.53  miles in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. But Harrison modestly thanked perfect shooting conditions: no wind, great visibility, and mild weather. The DARPA program aims to give soldiers the technology to hit a target despite adverse conditions.

To meet that goal, engineers first had to figure out what to do about wind. The prototype gun can’t get rid of the wind, but it needs to correct for it. Otherwise, over long distances, the bullets will veer off course; DARPA notes that a 10 mph crosswind can produce a miss even at a distance of a quarter of a mile.

The One Shot sniper scope has a computer system that uses lasers to track not only distance, but also the wind turbulence in the path of the bullet. A set of crosshairs appears not in direct line with the gun’s barrel, but instead where the bullet will actually hit, and also displays the confidence of that shot.

US military trials have found that a laser beam shone on the target can do more than just determine the range: it can also be used to “measure the average down range crosswind profile”. The laser information can be combined with automatic readings of temperature, humidity etc and a “ballistic solution” computed. [The Register]

But there’s more work to be done on the One Shot system before it arrives in combat zones. These high-tech systems can’t require a lot of training or give off a lot of heat.

What the agency really wants is a battle-ready system that doesn’t require tricky in-field optical alignment and fiddling with lasers. Night and day accuracy also means that the laser, which is used to help calculate and subtract wind turbulence between the predator and his prey, can’t be infrared. Enemies with night-vision goggles would see that from a mile away. [Wired]

DARPA has just finished its first phases of the project, developing and testing the computer targeting system. Among other things, the next steps include making the system the right size and weight for battle, and completing some tweaks to the target crosshairs. With these improvements, according to a DARPA announcement this month, the Agency will ask for 15 “fully operational and field hardened systems” for field testing.

Related content:
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80beats: DARPA Loses Contact with Mach 20 “Hypersonic Glider” During Test Flight
80beats: MIT Team Uses 4,600 Informants to Win DARPA Scavenger Hunt
Science Not Fiction: District 9: Smart Guns That Read Your DNA

Image: flickr / The U.S. Army

  • sanud002

    I just saw that there was a relevant content article about so called “pain guns”. You should check out this video about the technology. If they could make it portable it would definitely serve as the great new weapon of the future!


  • megan

    Soon we’ll be having our very own phasers, lasers and impulse guns like SciFi

  • AlexB

    just another way to kill people…

  • Thomas

    Just what humanity needs: more ways to kill each other :-(

  • Rain

    Imagine what they could do, if the same money, time, resources and fervour was applied to other things and technologies, rather than ways to more effectively kill people. This is the history of humanity, the greatest advancements in medicine, engineering, technology, all rode on the back of war. Too bad, but at least something good came of it in the end.

  • allyssa aka future soldier

    yea its another way to kill someone, yet it will protect our soldiers even more!!!!!!!!! which it GREAT

  • Bob

    Get some.

  • jorge


    Wouldn’t it just be a more efficient way of killing someone, as opposed to an entirely new way?

  • nostradamus


    You forgot your sarcasm mark, I hope. Compelling someone (even masses of people) into compliance is trivial with an appropriately capable ‘pain gun’.

  • mjay

    Imagine a prison with a pain gun pointed at a restrained interrogation subject, set with the gain rising 10% every 15 minutes.

    Imagine a boot stomping on a face….forever.

  • Seabear70

    It’s kinda nice that DARPA is spending money to resolve hostage situations despite the pressure from the left to let innocent people die.

  • Winter (Go Protons, Cancer in remission, will soon be removed from “Dead Man Walking” video.

    when can I buy one? Must have this kind of toy.

  • scribbler

    We hillbillies have been making half mile shots for centuries…

    There are many effective means to inflict pain. And not to put too fine a point on it but aren’t all guns, pain guns?

    War makes things, literally, life and death. Strong motivation to succeed…

  • Jon

    Doesn’t the CheyTac Intervention already have an augmented reality display, computer-aided targeting system like this? How is this different?

  • Marc

    @Jon, the difference between the two seems to be that the new DARPA weapon won’t require the sniper to do all those adjustments and computer manipulation. Chey Tac M200 requires someone to enter data into their portable balistic computer and then the shooter manually adjusts the scope. The new weapon seems to do all that for the shooter. Requiring less prep time, and less training time.

    @Scribble, the “Pain gun” is a non-lethal, non damaging system of denial, not a gun at all.

  • Dan C

    Well, as long as the computer knows where the barrel is, I guess it could work sometimes.
    I don’t think we can call it a ‘more efficient’ way of killing, since the cost of oil to make enough economy to afford DARPA taxes comes out to a certain number of bodies per month.
    How about DARPA starts working on ways to not need oil and then we would not find so much justification for remote control murder. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think killing is such a bad thing, I just think we’re not questioning all of this high tech gear because it makes a nice Spectacle to watch.
    It’s hard to sell the public on staying home and not using oil so the troops can come home and clean up the Gulf coast and guard against nannies coming from Mexico…..

  • Mike S

    Where are the clean energy jobs Obama promised us? Oh, here they are, at Darpa !

  • frank

    For all the liberal bleeding hearts complaining that this is just another way to kill people. This is just another high tech weapon that gives our brave men and women a big edge over our enemies. This weapon is not going to be sold at Walmart or gun shows. What you people don’t understand is that even though we do not want war, sometimes war comes to us. It came to us in the form of Islam. These people hate us and our way of life and would not hesitate to wipe us from the face of the earth.
    If their words and actions have not yet convinced you, then go back to your fantasy land.

  • frank

    Mike S. You keep believing in Obama.

  • Ghost

    Am I the only one who sees the disgusting absurdity of all this “leftist” and “liberal” bullcrap? Since when is being pro-peace a political “leftist” and “liberal” thing? Why is the want to end war a “bleeding heart” complaint?

    Should we then also assume that all war is a “conservative” thing? Should we assume that all military spending at the expense of our own well-being is a “right” thing?

    Thank you for taking the tour bus into Reality. If you look to your right, we’d like to give you a dose of abuse, murder, neglect, corruption, and famine. If you look to your left, you’ll watch us use inordinate portion of our gross domestic product telling you how absolutely horrid your life is and then researching ways to make it even worse for others in comparison — just to make you feel better.

    Unfortunately, we’ve taken a wrong turn into the Future. If you look to your right, you’ll see that people who actually give a crap about anyone other than themselves have taken the liberty to make an attempt at *fixing* the problems of abuse, murder, neglect, corruption, and famine. If you look to your left, you’ll watch us use an inordinate portion of our gross domestic into telling you how good your life could be if you’d stop bitching about people who want to make your life better and then researching ways to actually make the lives of all humans more enjoyable.

    In reality, you ARE permitted to stop being so self-centered and stop verbally abusing people who would rather make life better for everyone. Just because they want to be proactive instead of combative doesn’t mean that they’re “left” or “liberal” or a “bleeding heart.” It just means that they can see past the slant of their own upward-turned noses into the possibility of a better world. If you’re so hell-bent on continuing this nonsense, though, you’re more than welcome to fund and fight the damn thing yourself.

  • the sane Frank.

    Frank, you had me til just after the ‘sometimes war comes to us’ line. The U.S. has helped to create and foster much of the hate that’s come back to bite us. Whether it’s propping up despots in our own hemisphere, or funding the Islamists abroad with our unslaking thirst for oil, wev’e got plenty to atone for.

    BTW, seeing as this is a science site, go Obama! He did more for science in 200 days than Dubya did in 8 years.

  • Dakota Sunshine

    Maybe they will be used by the 250,000 uniformed security run by Homeland Security or the Youth Corp that we are not hearing anything about that Obama has formed.

    It is a good deal for our military it is just that who can trust this administration. Even our military is going to have a hard time trusting it….except for those appointed by Obama.

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