TechReturn of century-old technology: Ukraine revives periscope sights to counter risks in conflict

Return of century-old technology: Ukraine revives periscope sights to counter risks in conflict

A Ukrainian soldier testing a periscopic sight paired with an AK rifle.
A Ukrainian soldier testing a periscopic sight paired with an AK rifle.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | Sytheruk (Ben)
4:22 AM EST, February 8, 2024

An intriguing video has been making rounds online, illustrating the testing of a periscope sight outfitted onto a rifle from the AK family. This sight allows the shooter to aim accurately without exposing their head, an innovation eagerly embraced by snipers and skillful marksmen equipped with thermal scopes, who often struggle to remain hidden.

This is yet another innovation aimed at minimizing the risk to Ukrainian soldiers following the introduction of remote-controlled turrets. These developments have also contributed to the significant losses experienced by the attacking Russian forces.

The history and operation of periscope sights

Australian soldiers first realized the concept of integrating a periscope into firearms during the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915. The periscopic rifle's invention is credited to Lance Corporal William Beech, who, dismayed by the number of headshot casualties, took it upon himself to create a solution that allowed shooting from a covered position.

He modified a Lee-Enfield rifle using a wooden tripod, a pair of mirrors, and a cord to do this. The mirrors were arranged to allow sight through the firearm's mechanical sighting apparatus using the bottom mirror. A shot was achieved by tugging a cord attached to the rifle's trigger. This idea was continually improved over the subsequent decades, notable examples being the Krummlauf and unique sights for the MG34 and MG42 universal machine guns.

In the case of the Ukrainian design, the basic principle remains the same. Still, it utilizes a contemporary metallic tripod with height adjustment, and the firearm used can fire continuously, deviating from the original repeating design.

This method is a simple, analog approach to minimizing risk compared to more modern solutions that feature cameras mounted onto weapons and display units attached to helmets. Familiar examples of this technology include the CornerShot system, which facilitates accurate shooting from behind cover with pistols, or the Famas rifle enhanced with additional components of the French Future Soldier Program, FÉLIN.

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