The bullets might be aiming themselves soon.
Sandia National Laboratories developed a saboted small-caliber guided projectile for smoothbores that is supposed to be able to hit it a target 2km (1.2 miles) away.
The projectile is laser-guided. An optical sensor in the nose detects laser light reflecting off of a target, and steers the projectile at it using tiny fins.
That seems to indicate that a separate laser designator must paint the target in order to hit it. Then again, the launcher and laser designator might be attached and bore-sighted. Fine adjustments would be unnecessary, unlike the way that iron sights or a scope must be dialed-in. A laser has the advantage of long range with completely flat trajectory, theoretically making it easier to hit moving targets at long distances due to the elimination of “Kentucky windage” and bullet drop from the shooter’s calculations. If you can keep the red dot on it, you can hit it.
The prototype was tested to 2400fps with commercial gunpowders as a proof of concept, and should exceed that speed with careful testing. The tested prototype had an LED at the back of the projectile to function like a tracer:
This really isn’t a surprise. The military developed laser-guided bombs (big & heavy) for Viet-Nam, to address the accuracy problems of using dumb bombs to hit precise targets. Then they developed (but rarely fielded) laser-guided shells for land-based & naval artillery (smaller than aerial bombs), and then mortar shells (smaller still). GPS guidance replaced lasers for the land-based systems, to eliminate the need for a target designator. Land-based artillery is generally aimed at coordinates on a map (which don’t move), so GPS guidance would be practical.
No doubt this guided bullet will be a platinum BB. But for reaching out and touching someone at long range, it would probably make sense to look at this guided projectile. It probably eliminates all of the expensive, time-consuming training that a long-range marksman has to go through to hit targets at great distances with a “dumb” bullet.