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TrackingPoint: Does Technology Take the Sport Out of Shooting?

A "can't miss" long-range consumer rifle system hits the market. But why?

by
Bob Owens

Bio

June 9, 2013 - 12:00 am
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I’m an early adopter of new technologies, an avid — if not terribly good — FPS (first-person shooter) gamer, and a middling rifleman. Given a precision, dialed-in, scoped rifle, I’ve hit a grapefruit-sized target repeatedly at 460 yards. I just missed, a foot low, when engaging a man-sized target at 833 yards because I anticipated the shot.

So I should be TrackingPoint’s biggest fan. I’m not.

TrackingPoint promises to eliminate the little errors that separate recreational shooters from true marksmen. It is the first integrated long-range shooting system (firearm, optic, ammunition, networked computing), and it has technology news outlets as curious as shooting sports media. (Ars Technica, TechCrunch, and other tech sites have examined the product.) NPR gagged over the company’s claim of being the first “precision guided firearm” (PGF); Defense Review loved it. ABC7 in Denver sums up how it works:

The shooter presses one button to lock on the target and squeezes and holds the trigger to arm the system. When the weapon is optimally aligned, the Networked Tracking Scope releases the guided trigger.

“Using the PGF, you can be an elite, long-range marksman in minutes,” the website promises.

However, due to “overwhelming demand,” the only way to purchase a PGR is to reserve a spot on the waiting list.

There are several PGR models differentiated by caliber, barrel length, chassis system, application, and ammunition. They range in price from $17,000 to $22,000.

Summed up: you look through the scope to identify your target, and press a button located on the front of the trigger guard to mark it. Once marked, an interrupter mechanism kicks in as you squeeze the trigger. It only allows the shot to fire once the crosshairs intersect a second time with the spot you marked.

The rifle itself is built using parts from a “who’s who” in the world of manufacturing precision long-range rifle parts, including a Surgeon action, Krieger barrel, and an Accuracy International AX chassis. The ammunition — .338 Lapua in one version, .300 Winchester Magnum for the two smaller rifles — is custom-loaded for the gun.

The part of the system that makes the headlines isn’t the rifle itself, but how the rifle interfaces with software and a sensor package straight out of Predator to come as close as possible to creating a “can’t miss” scenario at long range for even the least-experienced shooters.

Amazing. And I find myself hating it.

Well, hate might be a strong word. The intersection of software engineering, hardware, and ballistic programming that went into the “brains” of the system is incredibly cool, and I’d love to be able to review the nuts and bolts of the system to see how they put it all together. I’d be fascinated to hear how they integrated a heads-up display (HUD) — similar to what our military pilots use — with the sensors and software that make the system work. I want to understand the mechanical engineering and software interface that controls when the system fires.

I’m very interested to see how it functions under a wide range of environmental variables. Will it work in cloudy conditions, in the fog, or at night? I want to know how durable it is. Will the $17,000 system short out in a sudden downburst? Will it go belly-up from one of the X-class solar flares the sun seems to be firing out in all directions lately?

Can it get a virus? Can it be hacked?

These are the questions I should be pursuing, but I just don’t care enough, and that may be the core problem with the entire concept. Specifically: the kind of people who have both the funding and the passion for long-range precision rifles seem left out of the equation. Who is the buyer here?

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Long bow shooters gripe about compound bow shooters. Both complain about folks who would use a crossbow. Black powder hunters look down on those that shoot cartridge guns. Folks using iron sights disparage the scope users.
Does this new technology remove some of the human factor? Sure it does, just like every other advancement in weapon development. Folks looking for sport and challenge most likely won't use this sort of aid. Folks looking to fill the freezer with meat probably won't be able to afford it, at least not for now. And it's not at all likely to be allowed in serious competition as it does eliminate much of the human factor which after all is the whole point of competition.
At the present time this is pretty much a non issue. As the systems become more affordable a few folks will pay the price to be able to place every shot in the same hole at extreme range, but I doubt it will ever see common use any more than your average hunter carries a several thousand dollar gun and scope rig into the field to be scratched and beaten up.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (22)
All Comments   (22)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
The word "sport" is bandied about far too much.

A shooting competition is a sport. Hunting is an activity.

Football is a sport. Golf is an activity.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Seems to me that this could be of significant military value. Something to give the grunts to make them nearly as effective as snipers.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
This technology appears to take marksmanship to a new level, but all its practitioners won't be equal. It would be interesting to see an extreme range shooting contest between several PGF contestants. Such a contest would show just how good PGF is, or is not, and would sort out some of the variables involved.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I know this is not the point the author is actually trying to make but I'd really like someone to tell me how it is "sport" to shoot large animals from helicopters with AK-pattern weapons.

Years ago, I saw scenes of "sportsmen" in helicopters shooting at caribou in Alaska from helicopters with AKs. I have to say it didn't seem very sporting when the caribou can't run nearly as fast as a helicopter and have no defense aside from running. While the shooter could certainly miss, that was about the only chance the caribou had, unless perhaps the helicopter crashed or the shooter ran out of ammo.

Doesn't a sport require that the competitors have roughly equal chances of winning?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bob, if you don't like this tech take up the longbow.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Naw, that's not a can't-miss system. When you laser-designate a target and the rifle fires itself, THAT'S a can't-miss system. And I don't see why it can't be built for virtually the same price. We have auto-stabilization systems now in $99 digital cameras.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bob,

I respect the time and effort you put into making yourself an excellent marksman. I have friends who do not have the time, talent, or ability to match your skills. My own ability to hold point of aim has decreased with time and illness.

Suck it up. The folks who you want to hate for breezing in and pretending they are real riflemen will always be around and getting angry won't change them or make you a better person. Those of us who can't any more or never could, welcome the opportunity to have a weapon that will let us hit what we're aiming for a little longer.

It was my privilege and honor to meet Carlos Hathcock on a couple occasions. It bothers me more than a little that you would take a technology like this out of the hands of a man like that.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bob, you need to get out more friend. Have you seen the auto aiming sentry that comes in a suit case size package? You tube search it. Yes, it is for paintball but it can be modified to suit your needs and does not need to be NFA.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Long bow shooters gripe about compound bow shooters. Both complain about folks who would use a crossbow. Black powder hunters look down on those that shoot cartridge guns. Folks using iron sights disparage the scope users.
Does this new technology remove some of the human factor? Sure it does, just like every other advancement in weapon development. Folks looking for sport and challenge most likely won't use this sort of aid. Folks looking to fill the freezer with meat probably won't be able to afford it, at least not for now. And it's not at all likely to be allowed in serious competition as it does eliminate much of the human factor which after all is the whole point of competition.
At the present time this is pretty much a non issue. As the systems become more affordable a few folks will pay the price to be able to place every shot in the same hole at extreme range, but I doubt it will ever see common use any more than your average hunter carries a several thousand dollar gun and scope rig into the field to be scratched and beaten up.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
You beat me to it. I personally still enjoy hunting rabbit with my sling shot and my dog.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
In Bob's favor, there are still a lot of bow hunters around, though the bows have undergone significant updates since Agincourt.

https://www.google.com/search?q=agincourt&rlz=1C1ARAB_enUS440US448&oq=againcourt&aqs=chrome.1.57j0l3.14947j0&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8


45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not to mention black powder shooters and hunters
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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