Hardware, Software Programs, Technology Security

TrackingPoint Shows Off Auto-Aiming Rifle

An amazing showing at this year’s CES (as well as the SHOT show in a few days), TrackingPoint, the manufacturer of the PGF (Precision Guided Firearm), had a sample and virtual demonstration of their flagship firearms system on display. The weapons system itself is being marketed as simple as ‘Tag, Track, Xact’. While this may seem scary to the average non-gun consumer and possibly the best thing since centerfire primers to the military, upon further analysis this weapons system is a great step forward for long range shooters but does not live up to the fear-based hype any of the general media may attribute to it.

To note, the PGF will continue to be referred to as a ‘Weapons System’ because it is an ecosystem unto itself. Explained by Jason Schauble, President of TrackingPoint, the rifle, scope, ammunition, and software are all required and co-dependent in making the PGF what it is.

The unit on display was the XS-2, where the rifle is of a custom, high-end manufacture from Surgeon Rifles using an Accuracy International stock. That alone just makes it a high end precision shooting rifle, but it will only do as well as the shooter can make it.

The ammunition, probably the most expensive aftermarket investment, are all individually custom loaded by Barnes Bullets using either Sierra Match King projectiles or Barnes projectiles depending on caliber and model purchased from TrackingPoint. This ammunition must be purchased or custom hand loaded by the end user to achieve the sub-MOA accuracy advertised.

The scope is an entirely proprietary build from TrackingPoint, loaded with a Wind rocker, Zoom rocker, manual focus knob, 6-30x or 6-35x zoom, low light cut filter, temperature sensor, pressure sensor, integral laser rangefinder, tracking engine, a USB port, Microphone, ballistic calculator, compass, inertial measurement unit, a Heads Up Display, and Wifi server, and an automatic zeroing system which will keep the scope itself zeroed in case of any shifts in the gun from user interaction or heat shifts from the environment or usage of the rifle. This interacts with the tracking button as well as the digital trigger. That alone, however, will not have the features listed without interaction with the software.

The software is where the magic happens. With a wide variety of external factors which could contribute to an operator missing that key shot, the software in the Xact System software accounts for Range, drop, Magnus effect, Spin drift, Coriolis, Direction, Cant, Inclination, Wind (with manual input), Pressure, Temperature, Relative Humidity, Adaptive lifecycle ballistics, muzzle velocity, barrel length and twist, lock time, ballistic coefficient, and drag coefficient. All of those calculations are built into the software that comes as firmware on the scope and the spotting program as well as the mobile apps meant to be loaded on a tablet for spotter use.

The way the user will interact with the TTS is as simple as the advertisements make it to be: while in charge of the rifle, find the target and tag it (Game or paper), this will mark the target with a red dot, changing the reticle from a dot to a large blue X, and then lock the trigger. The trigger will remain locked until the user centers the dot within the X, wherein the gun can be fired at ranges up to  1200 yard away depending on model and ammunition.

Overall, this is an amazing development in both firearms as well as general technology. However it is built upon a very closed ecosystem that currently renders it not very useful for military applications or against anything fast moving. The gun, scope, and accessories must be purchased through TrackingPoint and additional ammunition must also be purchased through them otherwise the accuracy will suffer (especially using generally loaded practice and milsurp ammunition). This currently makes the entire PGF a prohibitively expensive rifle to consider ownership of. Not to mention the starting price for the lowest end rifle starter kit is in the ballpark of $22,000. The rifle makes its official debut at SHOT show on Monday the 14th, 2013 and presumably will be available for purchase soon after.