TechCrunch on TrackingPoint

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

Techcrunch tries out the TrackingPoint rifle:

It was a location that was straight out of the opening scene of Iron Man. Sitting there was an AR-15 overlooking the endless desert expanse.

The targets sat 300 and 500 yards away and I was supposed to be able to hit them with the TrackingPoint Precision-guided Semi-Auto 5.56.

The company’s spokesperson, Anson Gordon, gave me the run-down, highlighting the basics of the system. It seemed easy enough. Designate the target with the red button, pull the trigger and find that dot again to fire the gun.

TrackingPoint Precision-guided Semi-Auto 5.56

It was that easy. I hit my mark on the first try. The system works as advertised.

Gordon explained the system that consists of four parts. Housed inside the scoop are the brains of the operation. It features a laser rangefinder, gyroscopes, an accelerometer, and a magnetometer. The shooter targets on an LCD screen. This system is linked to a custom trigger system, which also consists of the target designation button and zoom buttons housed on the trigger guard. Everything is powered from batteries housed in the stock and TrackingPoint encourages its shooters to use ammo loaded specifically for their guns.

The technology works like this: A shooter designates a target using a small button on the rifle’s trigger guide. This target can be moving up to 30 mph. Once the target is mapped, a Linux-based system housed in the optics casing calculates all the variables needed to hit that mark. When the shooter is ready to fire, they pull the trigger all the way back, yet the gun fires only when they line the crosshairs up with designated mark one more time. The system assesses the effects of gravity and Coriolis force. When the bullet leaves the barrel it always hits its mark. The shooter cannot miss.

Everything seen by the optics can be streamed live to a smartphone, tablet or even online. Either for coaching or sharing the hunting experience, TrackingPoint built a social shooting system.

This wasn’t cobbled together by hobbyists:

Founder John McHale sold his first company to Compaq in 1995 for $372 million. The deal netted McHale $24 million. In the following years McHale went on to found and sell companies to Cisco and 3Com. TrackingPoint is familiar ground for the serial entrepreneur.

Backed by $33 million in financing in part from McHale himself, the young Texas-based company released its first product in 2013. It cost $22,000 to $27,000. This model didn’t hit its mark. Early testers reported inconstant performance, yet videos demonstrating the smart gun went viral. While not perfect, this first model put the company on the board.

McHale recruited impressive talent to build the products. He stole engineers and executives from Remington, Amazon and enlisted the help of a design firm that had built software for Siemens and Motorola. Yet after the early unreliable reports, the CEO, Jason Schauble, previously a Remington vice president, was replaced by John Lupher who had led the development of the first gun.

The first product was clearly priced too high for average hunter or gun enthusiast. The company demonstrated the system to the US Military and later the Canadian military. Gordon told me that the U.S. Military has ordered six units and the Canadians five.

Yet the company kept developing the system and driving down the price. The system I tried, a modified AR-15, only cost $7500. This model has a range of a third of a mile and can track an object moving up to 10 miles an hour. Spend more money to net additional range, stopping power and the ability to hit faster moving targets.

TrackingPoint is about to introduce a .338TP called the Mile Maker, and as the name suggests, it can hit a target a mile away. Think about that. A person, with very little skill or training, will soon be able to accurately hit a target a mile away.


  1. Handle says:

    I’ve seen a tracking point rifle shot, and I was salivating to get a change to try it myself, but I didn’t get my shot. A great regret of mine. No one that got to shoot it did anything but curse excitedly and in amazement. “Holy s**t! This is F***ing Awesome!” I wonder if you can combine it with DARPA’s OneShot for Snipers.

    Thing is, you don’t really need the human to be there, just to positively identify the target and reload. But you could do that with a camera and an auto-loader, so it shouldn’t be too hard to air-drop remote-operated versions of these or load them on drones. Or just to have them sit in hibernation in some robot-version of a spider-hole or overwatch embrasure (or ‘arrow slit’).

    Remotely-piloted robot war is coming.

  2. Isegoria says:

    The odd thing about the TrackingPoint is that it’s awesome, but in a way that’s no fun as a hobby. It’s like the opposite of practical-pistol competition.

    Humans are still pretty good at infiltration, so we’ll use live snipers for a while, but once the autonomous drone-versus-drone thing kicks in, watch out!

    Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.

  3. Handling the one they had on display in a local gun-shop, I was surprised by its lightness. That may just be because I’m used to carrying either a 1903 Springfield or a Mauser K98k and don’t get to play with modern light rifles much, but even just from its bulk I thought it’d be heavier.

  4. Isegoria says:

    Those old-school battle rifles are long and heavy. I can’t imagine too many conscripts shot them well off-hand.

    Once you switch to an optic, you don’t need a long sight radius, and once you switch to a small caliber with an automatic action, you don’t need the weight to absorb the recoil.

    I wouldn’t want to storm a position with a long, heavy, bolt-action rifle.

  5. Having carried them around the dense woods of upstate New York a fair bit, neither would I.

Leave a Reply