Tracking Point – Is This The Future of Long Range Shooting?
Crystal ball gazing has been a popular pastime in the firearms industry, as the technology is for the most part unchanged for about a hundred years. It’s pretty easy to conjecture about what’s going to hit the market in the short term, (Another plastic 9mm, sir? Don’t mind if I do…) but as far as longer term prognostications go the real developments are not going to come from mature technologies that involve steel and brass, but rather from consumer and military electronics.
The guys at Tracking Point have take some proven, existing hardware, thrown it in a bowl with a bunch of ballistics algorithms, sprinkled in some phenomenally accurate ammo and stirred it with a boom stick. The result is impressive. How impressive? Well, without any familiarization, we used it to make first round hits on steel targets at 700 yards. In a 15mph crosswind. From kneeling.
Longer Range, Bigger Problems
In order to hit targets at distance, the shooter must control three sets of variables. There’s the firearm system itself (rifle, scope, ammo), the shooter (probably the biggest obstacle to making the hit) and environmental factors (temp, elevation, humidity, gravity, and of course the big one, wind).
The Tracking Point system successfully addresses the first two sets of variables and partially corrects for the third. Until someone comes up with a means of reading wind along the bullet’s trajectory from the muzzle all the way to the target, then wind calls will continue to be a black art. But the other things that cause you to miss? Your list of excuses just got a lot shorter.
Here’s how the system works from the shooter’s perspective. As you look through the scope, you’re actually viewing a small TV screen that is tied to the optics package and allows you to zoom up to 35x. In order to make the shot, you identify the target in the viewfinder, lay the crosshairs onto the target and press the ‘Tag’ button, which fires the laser rangefinder and feeds all of the target and environmental data to the ballistic computer. Tagging the target is the critical step, as the rifle will attempt to hit whatever you tag, so it’s as important as good sight alignment and trigger control in a conventional firearm.
Once the target is tagged, the crosshairs will reposition themselves off of the target, according to whatever ballistic solution the computer has developed. The shooter then places the crosshairs back on the target and holds the trigger to the rear. When the gun decides you’ve made a good enough job of wobbling the reticle back into position to make the shot, the rifle fires.
One of the advantages of having an electronics suite on top of the gun is the ability to record video of your success in the field. Although the system is marketed to hunters and target shooters, it doesn’t take the brains of a rocket surgeon to imagine how appealing this might be from a LE perspective when it comes to gathering evidence following an officer involved shooting. This video is a good example of it in action.
Note the reticle re laying once the target is tagged, then the shooter moving the newly-positioned circle-within-an-X back onto the target.
When someone signs up to purchase the rig, the not inconsiderable cost of admission (cough, 20 grand, cough) includes factory ammo loaded to some fairly exacting accuracy standards. Barnes guarantees a maximum variation in MV to +- 10fps, and I’m not sure my handloads could match that. The ballistic computer counts the number of recoil impulses it receives and factors this into its calculations to compensate for barrel wear. Other factors take into consideration include the direction of the target relative to the Earth’s axis (affects bullet flight due to Coriolis effect), spin drift, cant, muzzle elevation and target speed which is detected by image processing in the scope. Wind values are input manually and when we shot it, getting the wind wrong was about the only reason for a miss.