Is China's New "Laser Rifle" Actually a Joke?

Sebastien Roblin

Key point: Despite Beijing's claims, it is likely still a ways away from building a really good laser rifle.

Stephen Chen caused a minor media sensation on July 1 when he wrote about a new Chinese laser rifle for the South China Morning Post.

Since the 1990s, China has developed a slew of fantastical looking laser small arms. Benefiting from over $300 million in funding from Beijing in 2015, Chinese companies recently developed a new sleeker generation of weapons, most of which are designed to temporarily blind human beings and damage sensitive electronic sensors.

However, according to Chen, the ZKZM-500, developed by the Xi’an Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics is far more powerful than earlier weapons and supposedly can inflict painful burns on exposed skin (instant carbonization) which leaves “permanent” and “horrid” scars.

This laser “assault rifle”—which resembles a bulky sci-fi blaster with a giant camera lens—reportedly weighs 6.6 pounds, fires a fifteen millimeter diameter laser, and has a lithium-ion battery capable of firing one thousand two-second shots. Furthermore, the laser supposedly has a range of eight hundred meters, which is on the upper end for man-portable laser weapons.

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