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Shooting Reviews » Accessories, Optics, SHOT 2013 » TrackingPoint “precision guided firearms”

TrackingPoint “precision guided firearms”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATrackingPoint is offering an interesting concept at SHOT this year.  Here’s what the system offers:

  • You buy an integrated TrackingPoint platform.  This is not simply a scope you mount on your own rifle.
  • To use it, you find your target in the scope, press the red button shown in front of the trigger guard, and the scope will use the built-in laser to mark and range your target.  If you want to put in a wind call, you can do that with a button on the top of the scope.
  • When you’re ready to fire, you squeeze the trigger, the reticle lights up to let you know the system is armed, and when the reticle is back on the target the rifle will fire.  You only fire a round when the rifle is on target.
  • The system is wifi enabled, so you can use an iPad to show what the shooter is seeing.  It will capture an image when the target is marked and again when the rifle is fired, and there is the option to annotate shots as part of the process.

 

iPad display showing what the shooter was seeing through the scope.  Possibly a good training tool.

iPad display showing what the shooter was seeing through the scope. Possibly a good training tool.

 

Rifles are available in .308WIN, .300 WinMag, and .338 Lapua, and prices range from $17,000 up to $23,000 or so.

The big problem I have with the system is this: I don’t really see what it’s good for, unless you’re a law enforcement agency that can see liability reductions through some of the documentation abilities of the system.

In general, this looks like a hardware solution to a software problem.  That is, if one doesn’t have the skills to engage targets at long range, then this seems like a system designed for work around your skill gap.  Assuming you want to pay the price of a new car for it.

One of the systems available for purchase

One of the systems available for purchase

When I learned to shoot at long range, the process was pretty straightforward:

  • Find your target
  • Range your target using a handheld rangefinder
  • Look at your dope to figure out how to set your scope, and how much to adjust for your wind call
  • Adjust your scope for elevation
  • Put the reticle at the right spot and pull the trigger.

 

The TrackingPoint combines some of these steps, so it looks like:

  • Tell the scope how strong the wind is by using the buttons on the top
  • Find the target in your scope.
  • Press your red button to mark the target, and the range will be determined and the scope will adjust itself appropriately.
  • Squeeze the trigger, and when the system thinks you’re on target it will fire the weapon.

 

Rangefinder and optics

Rangefinder and optics

Maybe it’s a wonderful solution.  I could see this being a help when shooting from an improvised position where it’s hard to hold the rifle steady, but you still need to hold the reticle steady on target to range/mark the target even then.  I suppose you can press the button, be wrong, press the button, be wrong, and press the button again and finally get it right, then use the system to score a first round hit (because the first few markings didn’t count.)  But in the end the problem is easily solved by getting into a better firing position, carrying better shooting sticks, getting more practice, etc.

Worse, the additional features this system offers come at the cost of complexity.  If you’ve ranged an elk that was facing left to right, and the animal turns to give you a head-on shot, will the software recognize that or do you need to re-mark the target?  How well does the system deal with abuse — as well as a high-end tactical scope?  How quickly does it run through batteries?  Are there some color/contrast combinations that the software has problems with?  Maybe these aren’t issues, but the system certainly deserves quite a bit of testing before we can assume it’s tough and idiot-proof.

The other problem I see here is ammunition.  They sell ammunition to use with the system which is apparently high quality (I was told that the standard deviation in velocity would be < 10 fps which is exceptional for factory ammo – the Federal Gold Medal Match I tested was a touch over 30fps for comparison), but it costs between $3.50 per round for .308 and more than $6 per round for .338 Lapua.  I’d say something about the high cost here, but if you can afford a $23,000 .338 Lapua rifle, then you can probably afford $6 per round ammo.  Questions about hand loads weren’t really answered well.

Overall, though, this looks like a solution aimed for managers and bureaucrats that are concerned about liability, or who believe one can simply buy an expensive software-driven rifle and overcome insufficient training.

I just don’t get it.

 

Filed under: Accessories, Optics, SHOT 2013

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