The US Army is doing everything they can to ensure future soldiers are the most accurate shots! Not only are they in the very advanced stages of creating self-guided “smart bullets”, they are now developing an exoskeleton that automatically steadies the firing arm of a soldier.
The new Mobile Arm Exoskeleton for Firearm Aim Stabilisation (MAXFAS) seeks to bring about an element of stability that is not found in low tech devices, such as gun rests. The technology senses and cancels out the slightest arm movement or tremble, whilst ensuring the shooter’s arm is free to point at different targets.
Currently, US Army soldiers have to be able to hit a target 300 yards away, which is more than 5 Olympic sized swimming pools lined up end to end. Until basic training, many soldiers haven’t even attempted to hit a target at that distance. It is hoped that the MAXFAS system will help them be able to get up to speed a lot more quickly than before.
It works by essentially treating the shooter as if they were a puppet, and pulling strings to get the arm into the correct position. Braces which are fitted with accelerometers and gyroscopes are attached to the forearm and upper arm of the shooter. These sensors pick up on the smallest of movements in the arm of the shooter, which then transfer data to a number of microchips, where a series of computer algorithms identify both voluntary and involuntary movements.
Once the computer has found the frequency at which the shooters arm is moving, the motors in the exoskeleton will adjust six cables, which hold the arm in place, resulting in a more accurate shot.
Currently the exoskeleton is a stationary prototype, with the motors attached to a large wall-mounted frame. Future versions of the MAXFAS will incorporate lightweight motors into a backpack, which makes the exoskeleton more mobile.
The creators of MAXFAS said they were inspired by current technology that exists to help train stroke victims to use their arms again, and the technology that aids those who live with Parkinson’s disease.
When it came to testing, 15 volunteers who were mostly inexperienced when it came to shooting wore the MAXFAS system and shot using Airsoft pistols that were similar in weight to the standard US Army issue Beretta M9. It was found that 14 of the 15 shooters shot better when wearing the MAXFAS system, and shooting accuracy improved by an average of 27 per cent across the group.
When the MAXFAS system was removed, the 15 individuals were asked to shoot again five minutes later. It was found that 12 of them shot better than before they wore the exoskeleton, with shooting accuracy improving by an average of 15 per cent across the group. In contrast, those who never wore the exoskeleton saw a decrease in accuracy, due to their arms being tired.
Even though this is a small test, it shows great promise to improving shooting accuracy, even after it has been taken off. In the short term, the MAXFAS system will more than likely be used during shooting in basic training to increase accuracy. In the long term, it could well be making its way onto the battlefield as a complete exoskeleton. It may well even be used in other adaptations, such as helping golf and tennis swings!
It doesn’t look like you’ll be able to get a hold of one of these exoskeletons anytime soon, so if you would like to improve your shooting accuracy, why not take a look at our range of air rifles and targets, and practice the old fashioned way!