Most shooters, and many who loathe shooters with pathological zeal, will already be aware of the Tracking Point smart scope. This scope pretty much turns a novice into a competent long range shooter with the push of a few buttons. The Austin, TX manufacturer of Tracking Point (http://tracking-point.com/) states that while their gunsights have potential for military use, they are primarily a civilian design.
And they're right. The system, as it currently exists, has major drawbacks for anyone intending to use it in a combat environment against a modern military. It is heavily reliant on laser range-finding and the current design appears to be lightly constructed.
Why is laser range finding a liability? Simply because it is a bit like shining a spotlight. If you take a technology like that and try to use it against a modern military, sooner or later (and probably sooner), your intended target will identify you by the very laser you are using to adjust fire on them. And they'll nail you. Why? Because their ranks include actual trained and professionally equipped snipers, with an entire developed nation backing them. This is, in fact, why infra-red night vision sights became largely obsolete. And what replaced that once-fearsome tool of war? The "starlight" scope, which amplifies weak light. Starlight technology remains high tech largely because it is passive in nature, and therefore difficult to design counter-measures against.
But back to the Tracking Point system. It's a very cool technology. I would love to have one in budget to mess around with. You identify your target (something that requires skill), paint the target with a laser designator, pull the trigger, and then align an estimated impact marker in the gunsight on the target. The instant you get the weapon properly aligned for the designated target, the intermediary trigger system actually fires the weapon. It's an awesome technology that truly democratizes long range rifle accuracy. But this technology should not be over-estimated by shooters, or arms prohibitionists.
Tracking Point is not going to put professional military snipers out of a job. This system is not designed to compensate for moving targets, and while it produces impressive results on static targets, it does sometimes miss even then. More importantly, a sniper's ability to shoot accurately at extended range is, believe it or not, one of the easier among a great many skills necessary to be a true world class military sniper. If you doubt this, it's simple enough to prove. In a US sniper team the more-experienced shooter is not the actual shooter. The more experienced shooter is the spotter. The spotter performs tasks more demanding than actually taking the shot. And even those tasks that are ballistic in nature, such as range estimation, are not always better accomplished by a machine.
Now, what I would like to see is a system similar to Tracking Point, using passive data collection and built to take years of heavy service. Build that tool, and you've got a real game changer for modern militaries. And someone probably will. But it it will be very expensive.
A couple of years ago my twelve year-old son happily announced that he'd figured out how to make a real Death Star, using a nano cloud mirror, electromagnetic lensing -- and a real star. Antares, actually -- which would in fact make one hell of a death ray if it could be harnessed. Well, you don't have to be Darth Vader to appreciate a plan like that. So, we sat around munching on pizza and hashing out the science. With any luck, he'll remain passionate about technology and enjoy a rewarding career. His chances of actually building a death star are even more remote than his chances of really wanting to -- so I sleep easy.