Beamshot “Insider” – Multi-Function Laser Light System and NATO Powered Rail

beamshot

Background: You may remember NATO’s “Powered Rail Team”, consisting of 10 nations with the common goal of bringing forward a STANAG (NATO standardization document) for a Powered Accessory Rail for small firearms? Think a Picatinny rail, but with power inside for your lamp, laser, sights etc.

Many of our wanted accessories contain batteries of different types, accounting for up to 50% of the mass and volume of the item,  Most are also mounted around the hand guard, affecting then handling of the weapon to the worse as the balance is moved forward.

A powered accessory rail built on STANAG 4694 would give the possibility to move the center of gravity and reduce weight. It would possibly also increase battery life.  The path forward for NATO’s team was to create a Powered Rail based on the Accessory Rail STANAG 4694.

This may sound like a dream come true, but I’m not so sure. I can buy some of the advantages, but what if your main (and only) batter source runs out of power? Your sight goes dead?

I’m sure most can live without a weapon light or a laser, but if your red dot goes dead it is far more serious. Especially since a lot of the red dots consume minimum power already. An Aimpoint dot almost lives forever on a small battery.

So I am quite skeptical of the idea of NATO’s “Power Rail”, and I have heard few news from the group, if it even exists?

One clue I have found is “The Intelligent Rail” from T Worx Ventures. See link for more information, but also some TFB articles like this one. If you know more, please let us know in the comments below.

 

Below: Schematics over a concept Swedish Ak5C, with battery centrally placed inside the pistol grip to power the sight and any other accessories.

Power was supposed to be transferred via galvanic (contact) or induction (magnet field). I guess NATO are still investigating this, or waiting for a miracle. It’s not an easy task.

ak5c

 

 

In wait for that Miracle NATO Power Rail, it was therefore interesting to see Beamshot‘s solution at IWA 2016 in Germany. I understand they have shown this concept at SHOT Show 2016 as well, but haven’t read about it before.

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Beamshot’s “Insider” consists of multiple, plug-and-play components which can be quickly configured. The battery power supply is contained in the pistol grip, just like NATO planned. The “wires” can be seen on the side of the weapon, and the pistol grip has a built-in switch for on/off.This means that only one hand is required to operate the rifle, laser and light.

They system is waterproof according to IP67.

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Part of the wiring

 

The “Insider” incorporates 2 and up to 4 different aiming and illumination combinations, like a visible laser sight (Red or Green) with either an IR or White LED or even an IR laser sight or laser illuminator. Multifunction light modes give you the flexibility for momentary, constant on, strobe and dimmer operation ambidextrously. The base model offers an infrared or 500 Lumen LED light. Upgrades include a red or green visible laser sight, an IR laser sight, a laser illuminator as well as a camera module or thermal camera module.

 

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Features of the “Insider” according to Beamshot:

  1. One-of-kind, patent-pending technology for both AR15/M4 rifles and AK47
  1. This modular system allows for customized distinct targeting configurations. You can choose from the base model with an infrared or 500 Lumen LED light, or upgrade to include a red or green visible laser sight, an IR laser sight, a laser illuminator, or even a camera module or thermal camera module!
  1. Hidden/enclosed wiring combined with a series of internal contacts, eliminating the potential for a snag-free & seamless design.
  1. Built-in grip switch allows for easy and intuitive activation, allowing one hand to operate rifle, laser and light to free another hand for another task such as opening a door or dropping a flash-bang.
  1. The battery pack is conveniently engineered into a custom grip, just push button to “fast reload” battery.
  1. Multifunction light modes gives you the flexibility for momentary, constant on, strobe and dimmer operation.
  1. Ambidextrous operation in an IP67 Certified dust & water proof rugged system.
  1. Break down the rifle without having to remove your Insider

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“Insider” mounted on an AR-15, from IWA Germany 2016.

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Close-up of the system.

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Beamshot’s homepage doesn’t mention a lot about the system. I guess it is still in R&D and I look forward to see more about it.



Eric B

Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with an European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatic firearms, optics and sound suppressors.


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  • Christopher Wallace

    interdasting

  • I wonder what the net weight savings of a powered rail offers? A CR123 battery is specced at 0.6 oz.

    • Sgt. Stedenko

      For a mall ninja with a sight, laser and light, that means a whole 1.8 ounces.
      The humanity

      • roguetechie

        No, it can actually be substantially more than that even just from red dot, a tactical light, and something like the peq multi laser designators it can be pretty major savings, because you eliminate the batteries the casing structure covering and containing the battery compartment all replaced by a coin cell in the mounting base for emergency power if rail power dies. So really more like 2-8 ounces saved per device

        PLUS

        Your single battery compartment is now in the buttstock for the Colt Canuckistan effort which helps to bring the heavy profile m4a1 barrel and all those damn accessories sitting forward of the guns balance point along with your double 30 round magazines and heavy coupler somewhat more into balance

    • Joshua

      It’s not so much about weight savings of the battery.

      It’s the weight saving from scaling down every ancillary item a rifle is equipped with.

      You can shrink everything down to super compact sizes if they don’t need battery’s built into them.

      Lights, lasers, etc will practically be just a bulb with a interface.

  • DetroitMan

    It’s an interesting idea. Some sights have a tritium lamp, so you wouldn’t necessarily have a dead optic if your battery goes dead. I would assume that the battery in the pistol grip is easy to change if it does die. Overall this could be a great way to reduce bulk and the number of things a soldier has to carry and keep track of.

    • noob

      The battery seems to have a heel button battery release, so you don’t accidentally drop it with the muscle memory for a pistol reload.

    • Ondřej Tůma

      It’s IP67, which means protection against dust and only brief exposure to water. Try to swim with it and it dies.
      Also, short-circuit ANYWHERE in the whole system anywhere between the rail and any of the devices, and all your devices die.
      Also, EMP or high-power jamming and the looong wires from handguard to rail act as way more efficient antennas, nullifying any EMP protection there was.

      Long story short: while the best military systems were designed with redundancy in mind, this whole thing tries it best to INTRODUCE “Single Point of Failure”.

  • Roy G Bunting

    This will be really important when we have modular, networked computers on the gun.

    A round counter and “smart gun safety” in the pistol grip that talks to the sight (where there is a round count display) which also gets info from the GPS to display a compass and objectives, PEQ (which functions as a rangefinder too). Add in text alerts from command or squad members and you could have a lit running on one rail.

    • Joshua

      The Marine Corps and Colt Canada are working on such a thing.

    • Anonymoose
    • Ondřej Tůma

      What do you mean by “smart gun safety”? Hope not that inherently extremely unreliable insanity with “fingerprint readers”, “grip style readers” and other fallible electronic sensors which only work in lab conditions, could take seconds to work due to CPU load when you only have fractions of second, would fail when you’re hurt, would render the rifle useless when out of batteries or in post-EMP environment, etc.

      • Roy G Bunting

        A takeaway sensor that automatically actuates a safety plunger in the event of dropping, or losing your firearm. In an AR15 style weapon, I’d place such a safety device in the grip for easy access to the safety lever and to make it easy to remove. This could also be part of a Tracking Point style targeting trigger actuator.

        Clearly such a device would have to have a fail open or manual disable capacity for a combat firearm. I don’t think EMP is as big a worry as others, and while networking would be a significant improvement, I don’t see any reason to make the safety actuate via a networked command.

        • Ondřej Tůma

          Russians have some of the best hackers in the world – several times in the past few years, they managed to runa virus undetected by any security company for several _years_! – and anything networked is at risk of being attacked. Hence, networked functions shoud be kept strictly, if possible physically, separated from critical functionality.

          Also, even in Ukraine, russian EW has deployed units capable of tracking ukraine transmitters and guiding arty fires on any transmitting units. While a lot could be done (spread spctrum, frequency hopping), even according to US EW specialists, the Russians do have one of the finest EW capabilities in the world (if not _the_ finest) and ground networked systems could find themselves very vulnerable. Which means you do want to be able to go EMCON and still function.

          (Btw, same goes for DPRK. Recently, JSOC run an excersise on moving operators behind DPRK lines if the armstice goes hot, and the operators remarked that they got used to the luxury of everpresent MEDEVAC, CAS and comms, but in high-intensity conflict, none of these would be available because of the contested battlefield and demasking effects of comms.)

          As for the EMP, both US and RF are working on fielding conventional (non-nuclear) battlefield EMP generators as a part of their EW capability. Hence, I certainly wouldn’t dismiss it.

    • LilWolfy

      We had those capabilities and more with Land Warrior.

      HMD
      Combat Camera
      Drop-menu based communications with mag well mouse pad
      LRF
      GPS
      Computer
      The GPS/Computer/Radio was the size of a ruggedized iphone on the vest. Many of us who were raised on caveman technology were extremely skeptical and negatively-biased towards Land Warrior, until we used it and saw what it did. It’s a game-changer. Our biggest concern was higher echelons micro-managing Squads and Teams from the confines of their TOCs miles away.

      • Roy G Bunting

        We are within sight of having Land Warrior on the gun alone without a significant weight penalty. Perhaps it’ll be adopted now…

        • LilWolfy

          We can have more capability with less weight, just by getting rid of RAS and replacing with a streamlined, lightweight handguard, and going to redundant unitized power system for PEQ, LRF, white light, camera, and digi compass.

          Battery technology is on the verge of generational change when you look at graphene. The physical structures of the rifle itself can be power distribution and computing with graphene.

  • Rnasser Rnasser

    Interesting idea, but no good executions of it, in such a looong time…
    Now the “new thing” (not new anymore) is the idea of harvesting recoil forces to charge internal batteries and power the built-in rail. I would not expect results soon, either…

  • RSG

    The light is too far back on the rail for my tastes, for several reasons.

    • noob

      Yeah – turn it on and your barrel looks like a lightsaber, and there’s a huge shadow on the bottom half of your target

  • Mystick

    I dunno… Maybe not mount ten powered accessories to your rifle? K.I.S.S. is still as real as it was 50 years ago.

    • PK

      Powered optics are the presently used tech on rifles, modern military forces use them extensively. The Aimpoint is a good example of an extremely widely used optic needing a battery. Powered optics with computer assistance are likely the future, as well. Laser units, flashlights, those have both been in use and will likely remain in use for a long while yet.

      Planning around needing to power things is a fair bet, and I’d rather it be thought of before things get further out of hand. At the very least, a NATO-standard battery would be a wise idea.

    • LilWolfy

      I would normally carry the following items in my duty positions:

      M4/M4A1 with SOPMOD accessories, to include RDS and Tac Light
      Individual Radio
      Laser Range Finder
      GCP
      GPS

      These were all separate components with their own spare batteries, the RDS having the smallest, longest-lasting battery.

      With Land Warrior, they took the GPS and radio and combined them into a ruggedized iphone that weighed less than half of the previous individual GPS or radio, while adding a computer and Helmet-Mounted Display and a magazine well mouse pad, which was also ruggedized.

      They placed a new LRF on the M4, as well as a combat camera and digital compass, which gave me the capability to laze a target, have an immediate polar plot mission for artillery or indirect fire assets, and send that data packet quickly on the radio without ever talking, in secure burst transmission, with a picture or video of the target.

      Battery-powered systems have been critical to military units around the world since man-portable radios were fielded. Radios are your most critical weapons and connectivity devices, otherwise you become a liability because you are now an unknown, out there flapping.

      With the addition of modern capabilities, having separate battery-boxed components mounted to weapons via 1913 rails is no longer a viable option. Integrated systems is the only way to go.

  • Vitsaus

    Looks like something that might have had a bit of traction 10 years ago.

  • Bierstadt54

    Powered rails will be a work in progress until one is developed that is convenient, reliable, lightweight, and smoothly integrated into the weapon (which rules out the Insider). I think the obvious answer to the reliability question in the article is that something as critical as a red dot sight would have a back-up battery. Even so, there would be substantial savings in weight and bulk from eliminating the primary battery. This was an interesting article because I too have been wondering what has been going on with developing powered rails, but if the Insider is the best we have it is clear the answer is not much.

    • roguetechie

      So, personally I strongly believe that the picatinny system is a major barrier to this ever working. Now something like a modified PCAP system from the XM8 would be much easier to make powered slots a reality with. I say that because there are several ways you could cheaply and simply make inserting a PCAP compatible powered connection then hitting the throw lever or other locking device would cause contacts to be exposed on both the device and inside the PCAP slot. Hell design your PCAP powered furniture and the mounts for your device with silicon gaskets on each and your connection is now double sealed from water etc.

      Heck a really smart designer might even take advantage of modern manufacturing technology to complete embed the conductive paths between slots and to the battery pack in a way that left no exposed wiring anywhere…

      If our designer were really smart he’d even integrate some method for eliminating tape switches too that allows you to place controls for your devices where you want them and be able to “associate” a switch pack also inserted in a PCAP with the device he wants it to control!

      Really, if the DOD would OK it and if a gun product maker would think to produce the items… What is possible even on the cheap would amaze people!

  • DanGoodShot

    Personally, I think a handguard with a power source for lights, lasers and such isnt a bad idea at all. However, your main red dot/optic should always have a power source of its own. So anything that uses power and mounts forward of the upper receiver would use points on the handguard. Anything mounted aft(on the upper receiver) of the handguard(red dots/optics) would use its own separate power source.

    • mig1nc

      If you go back to the article titled “US Marine Corps Working with Colt Canada?” they mention their optic also has an etched reticle so even if the system completely fails you can still aim and shoot.

  • noob

    Hmm shouldn’t “Hidden/enclosed wiring combined with a series of internal contacts, eliminating the potential for a snag-free & seamless design.”

    Be “enclosed wiring *allowing* the potential for a snag free and seamless design”?

    • DIR911911 .

      proofreading is a dead art

      • RP

        The author states that English is not his first language in his short bio. Some allowance should be given, I think.

  • MindMelder

    Fugly

  • PK

    I like your thinking on this! I bet we’ll be there, eventually.

  • Cal S.

    I’m slightly disappointed it’s not activated by pressure on the trigger…like that ‘other’ awesome laser light was.

  • John

    The one good thing about HK winning the French rifle contract, is that STANAG is becoming a real thing in fact, if not in name. Everything WILL be compatible with each other in some fashion, even if you have to force it together or secure it with duct tape. So, yeah. Everybody gets a powered rifle.

  • mig1nc

    I’d like to see a powered M-Lok solution rather than going with 90’s pic rail. M-Lok where maybe the front of each slot is positive and the rear negative or something like that. Actually, you could even have a power lead run across the side of the receiver to a pistol grip just like Beamshot.

    • Ondřej Tůma

      Aaand when you short circuit that awesome solution by accidentally putting ANYTHING conductive between the slot sides or even slots? Then what?

      • mig1nc

        That’s easy, just have a control circuit. I mean, it would be more elaborate than just a simple passive and negative terminal. Or it could be recessed so that it wouldn’t make contact until your accessory was locked into the slot. Or you could move into a more complex connector that was waterproof that you would plug into it as you slotted your device.

        C’mon man, think outside the box.

        • Ondřej Tůma

          “Think outside the box”? Sorry, I’m tester in IT and I know damn well how it ends when the Devs or Mgmt says this 😀 Two words: “unmitigated disaster”.

          Let’s elaborate on the downsides of your ideas.

          Central control circuit would be the same as letting the whole thing short-circuit as a whole: it would shutdown the whole deal. That in turn means that you’d have to have a control circuit for each terminal pair (=more complexity) and either have a bus (=more complexity) or isolate all terminal pairs “downstream” from the short-circuited pair.

          Mechanical waterproofing on tiny terminals is unreliable and you couldn’t make it your Single Point of Failure – especially when the probability of waterproofing going awry grows exponentially with number of waterproofed terminals -, ergo you’d still have to go for the aforementioned control circuitry.

          In the end, you’d have either a Single Point of Failure system (=the field grunts would opt for back-up powered devices anyway), or insanely complex “digital bus rifle” (=maintenance nightmare).

          • mig1nc

            Fair enough. The more I thought about it the more I came back to the bus as well. But from a more putative aspect in that you could have runtime tracking, possibly different autonegotiated voltages, etc… From an interface perspective you really have the same problems with the pic rail concept. Plus the negatives that cone along with it.

            If you want it fool proof you would need to just decide what every soldier needs and built it into the hand guard.

          • Ondřej Tůma

            The bus has simple problem: on a full-length STANAG rail, you have some 40 indents. Since J=I/S, maximal electrical current density reccomended for uncooled buses is 2A/mm2 and since you need ability to mount things like Cree XM-L U2 which is rated 3A at 3,75V, each bus wire would have to be 1,5mm2 thick. Multiply that by 40 and “where the heck do you put that beast?

            So you’d either have to only have powered slots say 1:5, or just a single powered slot of the rail would be “flaslight-certified” and the rest would be only able to feed low-powered optoelectronic devices.

          • mig1nc

            There would really only need to be the first, say, two slots at the end of the rail to be powered. And at that only the 1/3/6/9/11 o’clock. Nobody mounts lights or lasers at the bottom 45^ sides. But If this were a purpose built system as it would need to be, the wires could be embedded into the rail to protect them.

          • All the Raindrops

            agree, this system seems terrible.

            An optic, a peq/dbal and a light is all you need on the rifle and it’s better to have them be independent. those 3 things can be less than a pound (t2, peq, scout).

            HUD and comms dont need to be integrated into every system of the rifle. can use the ir designator on peq and sensor on the helmet or UAV or whatever to laze targets, you dont need a cord running all that stuff together.