Fate recently decided that I’d get the chance to shoot the gun that makes experienced shooters obsolete. Allegedly. I was at The Best of the West Range during off-hours helping lay the groundwork for the 2014 Texas International Firearms Festival. The TrackingPoint technical team rolled-up in their blacked-out SUV. RF made contact. The next thing I knew I was behind the trigger of the TrackingPoint’s Precision Guided Firearm, the .300 Win Mag XS-2. [Click here to read Nick Leghorn’s review.] Well it works as well as they say it works . . .

You adjust for wind, locate the target and “tag” it. Once the target’s tagged, the crosshairs dip down automatically. You hold down the trigger and bring the crosshairs back up to the tagged point. Once the crosshairs and the tag point intersect the gun fires itself. It truly is a surprise break. But there’s a trick to it . . .

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Once you tag the target and the crosshairs drop, you have to move the rifle up smoothly. You’re trying to get the reticle to the tag point within a specified time—before the reticle settles for too long in the bottom of your sight picture. If you don’t “dance” with the system smoothly and quickly, it “de-tags.” You have to start the process all over again. If you adjust the rifle—for example to get a better shoulder position—you may move the reticle too far out of the kill zone (their words not mine). Again, you have to start over.

The TrackingPoint system feels awkward for the experienced marksman; with a standard rifle, you never fully squeeze the trigger before the reticle’s exactly where you want it to be. Also, when you line up the reticle with the tag point, you expect the TrackingPoint gun to fire. It doesn’t. It fires when it’s ready. You kind of have to jiggle it around and let it go off when it darn well pleases. That’s completely counter to traditional rifle skills where you want to be as still as humanly possible.

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This is not a gun for a newbie looking to learn how to fire a rifle without a TrackingPoint system. By the same token, a more experienced marksman could pick-up bad habits from using the XS-2. That said, a mission-critical human element remains: judging the wind. If you input the wrong wind speed or direction into the system the bullet isn’t going to go where you want it to. As they used to say back in the day, garbage in, garbage out.

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The TrackingPoint system is excellent for people who can’t stand ballistic calculations, prefer to play videogames and aren’t that interested in mastering traditional rifle skills. I’m impressed with the technological achievement but there’s no substitute for the fun, challenge and joy of old school marksmanship.

Kirsten Joy Weiss was the 2012 National Rifle Association Women’s National Champion.

Click here to visit her website.

75 Responses to Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up Shooting TrackingPoint Rifles

  1. Back in the day? I still say GIGO. Of course, I’m a coder, so I have to deal with it often enough…

    It seems like it takes an experienced shooter to judge the wind anyway, so what real advantage does this offer?

  2. Just like all the other useless electronic gadgets constantly being pushed. Just like I prefer my “stupid phone” to the latest cyber-abomination, I’ll stick with guns that are under MY control.

  3. William Gibson had a lot to say about “smart-guns”. In his books properly equipped folks had guns where you just held the trigger and when the muzzle was pointed at a designated target the gun would fire. I guess we’ve moved a large step towards making “Cyberpunk” technology a reality.

  4. I’m still a skeptic on this as well. What’s wrong with going out and learning how to shoot long distance the old fashion way? It’s fun and it’s a great way to challenge your mind and body. I think gadgets like this are more for people with more money than patience or for the techno geek crowd.

  5. Interesting. I don’t think I’d like that.
    I guess I’m used to doping my shots. This rifle would take time getting used to. Especially the de-tagging thing.

    • Exactly Tom. I prefer doping or shading to clicking for wind. I adore shooting in the wind, for the challenge it is. It’s less finesse, but you could tag the shot in a different place (where you’d aim the dope) and let it shoot at the wind velocity you want. I guess what I’m saying is….you can MAKE this system work for you. If that’s what you want to work with…

      • Kirsten? _THE_ Kirsten? Seeing your response here makes me feel the same way I felt when Julie Borowski answered my tweet about being on the John Stossel show. (“Wow! She’s a Real Person! 8<O”)

        Or, in adult-speak, I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. 🙂

    • The thing that would bug me the most is the part where even when the crosshairs are on the spot, it takes its own sweet time to actually fire the thing.

  6. I liked this post. I like that it’s not just another post telling me the same stuff. The “losing the tag” thing is interesting to note; that’s the first I’ve heard about how that works. I agree with the last sentence. This is a niche item, and it’s not the niche I live in.

    • I am sure that feature will change as feedback comes in.

      Like it or not, this is probably the wave of the future.

      Imagine if such a scope automatically detected wind speed and was build into a HUD.

      Now imagine the software would correct for the vector of a moving target.

      It’d be very difficult to miss. I think this is the future of war. Additionally, every soldier/vehicle’s HUD will function as a little black box so war crime trials will be a thing of the past. The evidence will be black and white.

      • War is obsolete, when you can call anybody in the whole world on the telephone. War is bad, m’kay? People who condone war are bad people. But people don’t make war – only governments and churches make war.

      • Being this tech will be banned on most or all hunting grounds and competitions I’m not sure how this tech is the wave of the future when related to civilian firearms.

  7. It’s gonna be like Wall-E soon, just a bunch of moronic, fat blobs with robots doing all the thinking and useful work.

  8. People also liked the interaction between horse and carriage-driver, the ritual of filling the fountain pen, the trick involved in making an elevator stop at precisely the right height and the skill of the blacksmith who could eyeball a heptagonal joint.

    All of these have joined the realm of Things That Were

    • And that’s kinda’ sad. On my first job I had to learn how to operate a nineteenth century freight elevator that started, stopped, and changed directions via a heavy cable operated gear set on the roof. It had no electrical controls whatsoever, strictly mechanical. It WAS a bit of a challenge.

      • I had one of those at an old job as well (a small assembly shop in a Civil War-era building) I thought it was pretty cool.

        Plus, when a lady got in there, you could be a gentleman and take her up to her floor.

    • True. But very few of those examples are the difference between life and death if technology fails in the field. Trackingpoint’s system has a default traditional rifle setting if things get glitchy. The feature’s great….if you know how to shoot a rifle.

  9. I look at this technology and can’t help but think of the sentry guns in Aliens. The tracking point “sights” on swivel mounted machine guns could be very useful in fixed emplacements with constant windage updates. As a marksmanship enhancement not so much.

  10. From a military perspective, the more I can take skill out of the equation, the happier I am. This is a lot like CCIP (continuously computed impact point) that aviators had decades ago. They stopped measuring hits at 100 to 150 yard and expected hits at 20 yards instead. With laser guided munitions they got more accurate.

    I look forward to more advancements and cheaper prices so that we can take even more of the need for training out of shooting.

    I admire those like Kristen who are so committed to shooting, but only in the same way I admire archers and horsemen. Amazing skills, but I hope we come to a time when such skills for shooting are similar relics.

    • I can definitely see your point. I also think this would be a great tool to get a huge amount of people to shoot quickly and fairly effectively on a mass scale. If you don’t care about the people individually. If the technology fails (and technology so far is fallible) the individual with the faulty equipment and no real shooting skills, is…well…out of luck.

    • That’s really the point of this system, isn’t it? They can talk a good game about sportsmen and hunters, but at the end of the day, this system was designed as a military weapon from day one. It’s not about some rich guy shooting an elk at 1000 yards. It’s about reducing the training necessary to produce military/police snipers.

      • The Tracking point is far far inferior to what the Military is already using. For example, the Trijicon CCAS takes into account movement, angle, lead, pressure, windage and of course range. You still control firing as well, but all you need to do is line up and pull the trigger.

        Having no control over the exact moment of discharge is a pretty big disadvantage in combat, as movement and cover are involved.

        I really don’t see much of a purpose for the Tracking Point. It won’t supplement what the military already has, while it’s significantly cheaper (I think the CCAS cost is $50,000) it is far less useful. In the civilian market, long range shooting is mostly for enjoyment. It’s the mastery of the skill that people enjoy, rather than just pulling the trigger.

        Even for hunting, the ranges at which someone is going to take game doesn’t lend itself to many people needing a Trackingpoint. I could see some guides have it for clients who lack skills, but how much of a market would that be?

        • You obviously don’t know much about current military tech. If we are talking drones and missiles that’s one thing but for small firearms, sniper and support rifles this is as good as it gets. The gov wouldn’t be after the trackingpoint system if they had anything close to it.

    • How about those self-driving cars? I sure wouldn’t want to be in one going 65 MPH when the controller has a random glitch. For engine control, yeah, OK. Steering, not so much.

    • And yet, what’s going to happen when we leave Afghanistan, the ultimate in a match-up of pre-civilization vs. technological/advanced civilizations and outlooks?

      Would distributing these geegaws to our troops or our Afghani clients have made the difference in outcomes there?

      Nope.

      Wars are won by those who are willing to kill. And societies that value high-tech geegaws over killing skills are not, so we don’t, and won’t.

  11. With an Accuracy International .300 Win. Magnum at 275 yards, I doubt that Ms. Weiss needs any help at all putting rounds on target. If that rifle will give me a sub-1″ group at that range from a bench, she can probably do it offhand.

    Using a computer to decide when to fire a gun just, well, makes me nervous. Shoot/no shoot decisions are *mine* to make, because I, and only I, am responsible for where that bullet ends up.

    With all due respect for the effort and intellect that went into its development, this is not a rifleman’s rifle, nor a sportsman’s.

  12. I still miss my slide rule, and log tables, but I use a calculator because it’s better. I finally got an Iphone because some of the apps are good. And I don’t play games on the Iphone, that what computers are for. In our world tech always moves forward. I’m not sure I like the idea of trackingpoint, but if I was hunting to stay alive I might learn to love it.

    • Remember those shooting galleries with the 100-shot pneumatic BB guns that could throw a 2″ group at four paces?

  13. I would miss the whole zen thing that attracted me to rifle shooting in the first place. When robotics, electronics or whatever replaces the human element, it’s time for us to switch to archery.

    • Agreed.

      I understand that sometimes there are “old fogies” who are just uptight about every new piece of technology that comes out (they probably said the same things about scopes when they were first invented) but let’s be honest: at some point, it’s going to take 100% of the challenge out of shooting.

      Why not just build a robotic turret that lines up the gun and fires it for you? All you do is put the gun in some clamps and push the start button…

      I’m not saying the Tracking Point shouldn’t exist. If people find use for it, great. I’m just saying that I have zero interest in ever owning one.

    • Agreed, with vehemence.

      This is to marksmanship what chainsaw-wielding is to swordsmanship: A technology that enables feeble and disturbed minds to become the stuff of horror movies and Hollywood mental masturbation.

  14. this is exactly what i was worried about. thank you for the review from a person with quite a bit of experience. i can definitely see the bad habits that could be formed. i will save my pennies for something else of equal value, like the entire state of vermont.

  15. Right now, we sit at a point were technology has answered every soldiers/commanders desire on the field of combat. Robotics were we don’t have to be there. Rifles to reach out and touch someone at ranges thought impossible. Eyes in the sky! But one day technology will fail us or turn against us. Those who know the primitive ways will survive far better than naught.

    • You are on the right track. There is something that most people do not realize. All electronic gizmos these days require rare Earth elements. There is a reason why we refer to these elements as “rare Earth”: because they are rare. More importantly, there are no known supplies in North America much less the United States.

      If something ever prevented us from acquiring those elements from overseas sources, we would not be able to manufacture modern electronic devices. That would be a disaster. Everything in our modern economy relies on three critical resources: cheap petroleum, cheap electricity, and electronic gizmos. We can get fairly cheap petroleum domestically for at least a few decades. And we can get fairly cheap electricity domestically forever via hydro, solar, wind, and nuclear. But we cannot get cheap rare Earth elements domestically because they don’t exist domestically.

      Thus, the real danger moving forward is inability to acquire and/or manufacture all the electronic gizmos that are the cornerstone of our communications, infrastructure, and commerce. And that is why a want all of my rifles to have iron sights. It takes a little more training and practice to be skilled with iron sights. But it is doable and completely within my control no matter happens within or without the United States.

      • What actual rare earths are needed for ordinary, even ultraminiature electronics, other than samarium for those supermagnets?

        And if nuclear research weren’t so tightly restricted by paranoids, it’s not entirely inconceivable that with some as-yet-undiscovered technology they could actually be manufactured by some kind of particle-beam transmutation or something. That’s why they’re so terrified of breeder reactors – they turn uranium into plutonium..

      • Actually, there are some substantial deposits of these minerals in California. But, surprise, surprise, it isn’t environmentally friendly to mine them, especially in the People’s Republic, so we are forced to obtain them from places like China.

    • And when I look at the critical thinking skills, not to mention the mathematical & computational skills, of the current generation, the critics were right.

      I say this as a guy who worked his way up through the computer industry and has programmed more makes of computers in more languages on more operating systems than most people you’d meet in the computer industry.

  16. TrackingPoint is the end of the shooting sports as we know it-and that’s not a good thing.

    Here’s the problem.It is safe to assume the civil disarmament movements not going anywhere in the years to come.As time marches on, this tech will go more mainstream until one day ,having a traditional scope will be a thing of history.

    After a future mass tragedy like Newtown,someone in government will get the bright idea to regulate the tech .With the TrackingPoint tech limited to law enforcement and ambitious criminals like the modern day Mexican Cartels , the Average Joe will be at a disadvantage in the future years to come.What chance will a Texas rancher in 2028 have against a group of sicarios with these weapons?

    • This thing is made for long-distance situations where you can take your time on the shot. If you’re in the crosshairs of a hidden shooter at 200 yards plus, you never had much of a chance anyway.

      Until the targeting technology gets a *lot* quicker and more flexible (and maybe even then), when the SHTF the guy who knows the terrain and knows how to use the gun he brought to the fight will have a pretty good chance.

    • If that rancher learns to move to the side, a huge chance.

      That’s the problem with this kind of technology, it’s easily fooled. Tracking Point isn’t doing lead or lag, plus, you still have time of flight.

      If a group of sicarios is going to attack some rancher with $15,000 rifles, why not just sneak up in the dark and wait till he comes outside and shot him, or just lob rounds in close to target from range? This technology doesn’t really change any equations in my opinion.

    • “…having a traditional scope will be a thing of history.”

      Just like how red dots and holographics completely replaced iron sights, right? Does anybody even remember those?

      • I only use irons, more of a challenge and they always work. Shooting something 200yd out from a 50 zero is impossible with an electronic robot doodad, but an iron sight is as simple as a click or personal adjustment. Long live irons!

    • Or spin your worry on the side like this:

      “We will require hunters to buy these geegaws to insure humane kills. Which will also mean that no one need buy or own more than 20 rounds of ammo at any one time, because marksmanship practice will be obsolete.”

      And then they can close down ranges, because “no one needs to practice any more…” and so on.

    • Being these systems can be tracked to within a 20×20 square foot area or whatever size the gps grids are, I think we are ok if these get in the hands of the criminals.
      And unless you are shooting in a specific shooting competition that allows this tech it won’t affect shooting sports at all. Hunting will be very limited and restricted with the tech so no change there. And so few will ever make it to civilian market it’s a non-issue. There will be those guys/gals that can actually shoot a rifle and those shooting the trackingpoint system.

    • Isn’t she practically on the TTAG staff? Naturally they’d associat then.

      William, are you ever going to grow out of your trolling phase?

  17. I would rather spend my money on a nice GAP Crusader, US Optics/S&B Scope, a Trimble w/ Software, , Kestrel 4500NV and Enough Ammo to shoot out the barrel a couple of times over. Not only would you save some money, but you would be a 100x shot than some computer fantasy toy. Not to mention you would not be screwed if the batteries died on your scope or if the trigger decided to malfunction……

      • That was assuming I had $25k to spend on long range shooting. Realistically I wouldn’t spend more than $5k because a 2k rifle w/ a 2k scope, and 1k of accessories will out shoot 99.99% of the people shooting it. I would rather spend the additional money on a new truck.

  18. You guys aren’t thinking far enough.imagine this system on a fully auto SAW that will only release rounds when you are within x inches of the designated target.or a rifle hooked up to a drone that inputs the drone’s info and fires on targets past the shooter’s visible range

    • There is already a system 20x better than the trackingpoint crap. It is mainly meant for vehicle mounted small arms and man portable machine guns.

      http://www.trijicon.com/na_en/products/product1.php?id=CCAS

      Drones are already are fire and forget if you have a something painted/targeted with fire control radar….

      IMO this trackingpoint stuff is for rich people who have money to throw away and want to impress their friends with their “shooting” abilities.

    • You are thinking military not civilian. Military has their bases covered, not to mention they will be buying most of these trackingpoint systems.

  19. Thanks for the write-up and the follow-up comments. Although I am not well-heeled enough to be in the market for something like this, I enjoyed reading about it and getting the perspective of a professional shooter.

  20. Best review of this weapons system yet. If you can actually afford it, avoid it. Not that civilian sales will even be happening on any level. I imagine anyone at a range with one of these will just be a spectacle and have others wanting to try iy. I tend to get that with my DE .50ae’s but I have to actually aim myself to hit the target and I get very few takers willing to shoot them.

    Garbage in garbage out.

  21. Nice review. I do have my doubts about this system. As Kirsten knows you can have cross winds in long range shooting such as 20 East west mph at 100 yards out and then 15 mph west east at 400 yards and your target is at 600. GIGO as was mentioned earlier. How about switchable winds. Many a time I have let off on the trigger just as I felt the wind switch from 15 easterly to 15 westerly in an instant. My cheek and a treelimb told me everything about the change. If you read the log books or recounts of the 1000 yard matches or 600 yard matches you find conditions could be quite challenging with many a competition shot in changeable conditions. So far what I have heard is simplistic that would untrain or create bad habits for shooters.

    • No one can accurately judge these varying winds by eye either. A digitized optical system that could use cues such as smoke drift , trees or brush movement , etc. like a person does would possibly solve the wind problem. Perhaps an infrared system that could read invisible ( to eye ) air movement would work too. Self guided munitions could also solve it.
      Why does anyone care that it waits to shoot until it’s going to hit the target ? So do you on your own whether you admit it or not. You wait until you think the sight picture is right while the rifle and barrel move continuously and when right, you squeeze the trigger. He only difference is the computer lags until it detects the right moment but..so do you. , only the shot happens sooner. The goal and result remain the same, if the data and position are right you hit, otherwise not. All other factors like ammo variation , malunctions , etc. remain the same.
      Put a system like this on a gyro stabilized , robotic , remotely controlled mount and you can turn it into a drone style weapon (loading issues remain of course but semiautos are pretty accurate now and multi round magazines certainly exist ). Wait , didn’t they do just that in Day of the Jackal with Bruce Willis and an auto cannon ? Poor Milo found out the hard way how well he had built it. Yes , it’s a movie.
      They already mount guns like this on robotic mobile platforms (AR’s , shotguns ,vgrenade launchers , MG’s ) , fighter jet cannons use automated tracking and firing , tank tubes use automated sighting and firing ,etc.
      So now they have one for an individual. Well great.
      Next thing you know they’ll make devices that let you change channels and the volume on your TV without having to get up from the couch. Wow , the future is ominous. Like TP’s former CEO said , ” It’s called progress.” .
      No new weapon or system was ever fully embraced ( or any other bew device ) until a battle was won with it ( or lost without it ) , someone made it dummy proof and the end user decided they “had to have it”. The M16 comes to mind. From hate , rejection , disparagement , improvement , field trials , battle proof , adoption , more improvement , acceptance , multiple levels of innovation and diversity ,mass approval , and finally ubiquity. Next.
      Will automated digaccuracy be the next new thing ? If it works and becomes affordable – maybe. If the guy on the other end of one is “tagging” you , do you want to Not have your own ? Sure , skills and battery free operation are nice to have for reliability. So is a first shot hit capability that everyone on the team can use. If you prefer no machinery carry a sword to the next gunfight and see who wins. For that matter ditch the vehicle and walk , can the comms and get some carrier pigeons and ground the air assets and climb a tree for surveillance.
      Like many homeowners after the turn of the (19th ) century who had both gas and electric lights in the same fixture you could carry both auto and manual weapons or one that does both.
      I personally want a fallback manual option for the same reasons we all do. So does that mean you should leave the nightsight , illuminated scope , GPS mapper , high tech ammunition , radio and flashlight to only the other guy ? I’ll take one of those sight-n-shoot gizmos too, thanks. The bow , sword , horse and musket will not be making the trip though. And I’ll be taking Asimov to read and leaving Kudd on the shelf. Happy shooting.

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