China’s New Hand-Held Laser Rifle: Less Lethal or Less Believable?

(Photo: SCMP)

Chinese outlets are reporting that researchers have built a “laser AK-47,” a light and man-portable “less-lethal” weapon. The weapon, called the “ZKZM-500 laser assault rifle,” is allegedly effective out to 800 meters.

That’s very impressive for a package that weighs just over 6.5 pounds. On top of that, the ZKZM-500 carries a charge capable of firing 1,000 two-second shots. The rifle is powered by a common lithium-ion battery pack.

According to a researcher, the laser weapon causes intense pain and “instant carbonisation” of skin and other tissue. It’s supposed to be able to burn through clothes in a split second and ignite flammable materials, even through light cover.

Researchers at the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences say their prototype is ready for mass production. Production rifles will cost about $15,000 each.

The team says the guns will only be offered to Chinese military and police users. Because international law prohibits certain laser weapon systems, these have to be classified and used as less-lethal weapons.

Uses for these guns includes crowd control, hostage rescue and covert military operations. The researcher, who asked not to be named, said that the laser is powerful enough set gas tanks and even fuel storage facilities ablaze.

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On top of everything else, the laser makes no noise and the light beam is invisible. If used for covert warfare, “Nobody will know where the attack came from. It will look like an accident,” said the researcher.

The ZKZM-500 is the second such recently announced laser weapon. The Chengdu Hengan Police Equipment Manufacturing just developed a laser rifle with a 500-meter range and significant charge.

If all this sounds like science fiction, it’s because it might just be. Laser safety officer Phil Broughton says that these guns stretch the limits of laser device capabilities.

“To make this work, you need a serious battery pack, some even more serious capacitors, optics that can take all this without turning back into sand at these energy densities, and rugged enough that you can treat this like military hardware,” Broughton told C4ISR. “This is a ‘best case scenario operation only’ weapon if there ever was one.”

He also said running a system at this level presents a serious risk to the user. “If the battery pack, caps, or the optical train catastrophically fails during a shot, you have a gravely injured soldier who is holding a small wrecked Tesla,” he said.

The U.S. military, the Navy in particular, has been busy on their own directed energy weapon systems. These weapons are typically vehicle- or ship-mounted due to their power requirements.

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About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. His ambition is to follow Thomas Paine, as a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Lenny F July 6, 2018, 3:19 pm

    The USA is still experimenting with this sort of technology. We have, in theory, a way to shoot down missiles with microwave technology. The problem is that the power needed means it is not transportable. Scaled down, it is possible, but this is easily rectified by wearing reflective clothing.

  • Brent July 6, 2018, 11:27 am

    We want to think if we can’t do it, no one can. But folks, those days are over. There are very bright people in China and we better not underestimate them like many of our leaders do

    • Johnny Raygun July 6, 2018, 1:20 pm

      We have laser technology and China most likely stole our tech. That is how the Chinese work.

  • Zupglick July 6, 2018, 11:11 am

    Shoot me with your laser, I shoot you with a bullet. We’ll see who survives.

    • Leighton Cavendish July 13, 2018, 9:17 am

      Laser travels at 186,000MILES/s…bullets measured in FEET/s…
      No wind or drop with laser…line of sight and you got it…that would be the awesome part…no need to compenate
      I just can’t see that much power at a reasonable range without a HUGE power supply, though.

  • pjw July 6, 2018, 10:11 am

    With 15 grand you will get an egg roll.

    • PJ July 6, 2018, 11:02 am

      It looks a lot like my 40 watt phase-plasma rifle…

  • Robert July 6, 2018, 9:37 am

    Someone commented how the Chinese don’t invent but steal or buy the latest tech. that is very true on several points. Having worked in an Asian run factory I noticed they are very good at imitating current technology but they still struggle at creating new and advanced tech. If the Chinese have this weapon then they probably stole it from our own still weak security computers. We get hack by them(and others) all the time whether you hear about it or not. We have developed many high tech weapons but the cost of mass producing them doesn’t make them viable. $15,000 for a gun, not very economically viable. Chinese – good luck!

  • triggerpull July 6, 2018, 9:15 am

    Don’t laugh–I’ve tested one myself–I was able to knock one of Pluto’s moons out of it’s orbit! Plus Pez candies come out the end.

    • Joe July 7, 2018, 1:53 pm

      You’re killing me! BTW: What flavor?

    • Leighton Cavendish July 13, 2018, 9:18 am

      Is your name Marvin? From Mars?
      I remember YOU…..

      • ej harb August 10, 2018, 7:49 pm

        Careful! We don’t to make him very angry😂😂😂😂
        Are we dating ourselves or what?

  • Jerry Jones July 6, 2018, 8:24 am

    I CALL B S …..NO WAY a Lithium battery provides enough power for a laser capable of that range……6.5 pounds….more B S

  • Scott July 6, 2018, 7:51 am

    This is laughable! The lens on that mock rifle is from a theatrical stage light known in the entertainment industry as a leko. What’s even funnier is that it is a flood lens.

    • Darren Meacham July 6, 2018, 9:17 am

      Yeah, but the way he has his eye jammed up against the scope makes it look real. Haha.

      • Henry July 6, 2018, 11:12 am

        It’s not as if he’s expecting any recoil. 🙂

  • MagnumOpUS July 6, 2018, 6:52 am

    If this weapon is real, then the US Military already has it.

    China develops no technology of it’s own. It either steals it or buys it from Demokrat Presidents.

  • ot July 6, 2018, 6:14 am

    old news and easy to make.

  • SuperG July 5, 2018, 10:38 am

    I wonder if we allowed a Chinese spy to steal fake laser weapon technology just so they would waste time and resources? We do that kind of thing. I would think a hand-held rail gun would be easier, but then I’m not in the business of killing people.

  • Grigori Rasputin July 4, 2018, 9:26 am

    I want one!

    • Joe July 7, 2018, 1:55 pm

      Great handle!

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