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Smart ars: trackingpoint technology finds its way to america's rifle.

THE TRACKINGPOINT STORY began in 2011 when the company's founder wanted to apply technologies with which he was familiar to the firearms industry A missed opportunity on a small-game animal was all the incentive he needed to start on the path that would lead to the birth of TrackingPoint.

TrackingPoint's first three precision-guided firearms were bolt-action rifles chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum. When we look at the chamberings, rifle layout (stocks and chassis systems chosen) and barrel lengths, it's obvious that these first guns are intended to milk all the distance the two magnum cartridges can deliver.

The company's newest offerings are three AR-pattern rifles chambered in .300 Win. Mag., .308 Win. and 5.56x45mm. Marrying TrackingPoint technology with an AR gives the consumer the ability to enjoy the carbine's great ergonomics while putting the latest cutting-edge technology to use.

The Concept The idea behind the TrackingPoint Precision Guided Firearm (PGF) is to enable even a novice shooter to get first-round hits on moving targets out to 400 yards with the 5.56 NATO and out to 800 yards with the .308 Win. and .300 Win. Mag. This is no small undertaking.

TrackingPoint achieves these results by pairing its Networked Tracking Scope (NTS) with its guided trigger. The scope is a sophisticated piece of equipment that incorporates traditional optic functions with a laser rangefinder, a ballistic calculator, a tracking engine to help hit moving targets, a compass, a Wi-Fi server, a pressure sensor and a temperature sensor. The TrackingPoint NTS is also much more advanced than any traditional scope, even when we disregard the myriad other functions incorporated into it.

The NTS is the heart of the TrackingPoint system. It sits where a traditional optic would on a rifle, but it puts much more usable technology at the shooter's fingertips (literally) than a regular scope. When a shooter sits behind the NTS and looks through it, he sees a high-definition Heads-Up Display (HUD) instead of the normal magnified image.

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The HUD shows the same field of view as any other scope, but it places key information around the periphery that the shooter can reference. Things such as the crosshairs, distance and angle to the target, time, battery life, etc., are all clearly and logically displayed.

The NTS has a 3-21X zoom capability for the .308 Win. and .300 Win. Mag. and a 2-14X zoom for the 5.56 AR. The zoom function is entirely digital. The magnification ranges are well matched to each rifle/cartridge combination. The shooter can manipulate the optical zoom by using a small toggle switch located at the base of the triggerguard. The location is ideal, as the switch sits right next to our trigger finger, yet it is still tucked out of the way. I wish traditional scopes could adjust magnification the same way.

Once the shooter is behind the rifle and ready to fire at the target, he presses a red button that sits right underneath the trigger that places a small electronic tag or dot on whatever is currently underneath the reticle's crosshairs. If the target or the shooter moves, the tag stays in place.

The advantage of being able to place a tag prior to firing is that it allows the shooter to verify the location of where he'd like the shot to go. Unlike firing a bullet, the shooter gets as many do-overs as he wants prior to touching off a round. Once the shooter is content with the tag's location, he depresses the trigger and holds it down while lining the crosshairs back up with the tag. Once the system knows it is going to hit its designated target, the rifle fires.

While the shooter designates the target and picks the exact location he wants the shot to impact, the rifle fires only when it knows it will hit. The TrackingPoint system achieves this by seamlessly incorporating a number of technologies (laser rangefinder, atmospheric sensors, ballistic calculator, etc.) into one package. Historically, these have been separate items that the shooter must carry and with which he must be proficient. Tracking-Point has incorporated all of them into the NTS, automating the use of each one.

TrackingPoint then adds a tracking engine and an inertial measurement unit to the scope to ensure hits on targets moving at speeds up to 17 miles per hour. These components compensate for both shooter and target movement, a process that takes what was once an educated guess, and transforms it into a quickly solved mathematical equation.

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This advanced optics and sensor package activates once the shooter places the electronic tag. Once the dot is in place, the optic calculates the firing solution using input from the sensors and rangefinder, runs it all through the ballistic calculator and tracking engine, then waits for the shooter to depress the trigger and put the crosshairs onto the dot/tag. Once the crosshairs move back onto the tag, the rifle fires. The entire process occurs in just a few seconds with incredible precision.

The New Kids The three new ABs all come from top-tier manufacturers prior to arriving at TrackingPoint. While each of the new rifles is unique to TrackingPoint, they all come from noble heritage.

The 5.56mm rifle starts out as a Daniel Defense product, and the .308 Win. rifle originates at Lewis Machine & Tool (LMT). Both manufacturers are recognized for their quality products, so it makes sense that TrackingPoint would use them as a starting point. The .300 Win. Mag. AR begins at Nemo, a newer manufacturer of unique high-end rifles. It was the first to produce a viable .300 Win. Mag. AR that is both light and easy on the shoulder.

Prior experience with each of these rifles has taught me that they all hover right around 1 minute-of-angle (for five shots at 100 yards). While there is no way to make a rifle more accurate through advanced optical packages and matched factory ammunition, the TrackingPoint rifles completely eliminate user error. They all shoot to the maximum precision that each rifle is capable of.

The biggest contributing factor in the pertormance the TrackingPoint rifles otter is the opncai system, or NTS. Its advanced computing abilities account for factors that humans cannot even detect.

The next biggest factor is the rifle itself, and each of these new products starts out as a worthy apprentice from known and reputable manufacturers. Finally, the ammunition is a key component to the overall performance of the system.

For each of these rifles to hit precisely at any distance, the TrackingPoint system has to know the exact velocity for each projectile and its ballistic coefficient. Variations in bullet velocity will yield vertical stringing that increases with the distance to the target. Even if two different bullets start out at the same velocity, if the ballistic coefficients are different, their trajectories will diverge.

The NTS for each rifle has a menu from which the shooter can select the load he intends to fire. If the load is not listed in the NTS and it doesn't match what's fired in the rifle, there is no guarantee that the bullet will go where we want it. Each of these new TrackingPoint ARs accepts and is programmed for two loads, both from Barnes Bullets.

Barnes Bullets loads some of the most consistent ammunition available today. It is best known for its all-copper bullets, which have dominated the hunting world for several decades. It also has a premium ammunition line that pairs match and hunting bullets with some of the lowest extreme spreads and standard deviations (velocity-wise) on the market.

Each rifle will accept either an Open Tip Match (OTM) or Long Range X-bullet (LRX) load from Barnes. This gives the owner the option of tailoring bullet performance to his needs. The OTM load is perfect for steel and paper, and the LRX is one of the best long-range hunting bullets available anywhere.

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Harbinger or Heretic? While the TrackingPoint system is fairly new, critics believe that the technology "cheats" or removes the sport from hunting. The idea is that, by using the TrackingPoint rifle, we somehow cross an arbitrary threshold of reasonable skill and move into an area where technology now does what a man should be able to do for himself.

Performance is the ultimate definition of success. If we hit what we're aiming at, we succeed. If we miss, we fail. Tracking-Point rifles greatly increase the probability of a hit in the hands of someone who knows and understands the technology and how to apply it, just like any other new innovation. They do require the shooter to get from the couch to within range of his prey. Depending on the game, this still leaves plenty of room for "sport."

Hesitation to embrace and understand new technology is not a recent development. Great-granddad probably had a few contemporaries who thought magnified optics were a crutch and that any sporting fellow wouldn't be caught dead using them. I'm glad smokeless powder, magnified optics and jacketed bullets all survived the inevitable critics, because these products have made us all much more effective marksmen.

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Without innovation and the application of new technology we condemn the shooting community to self-imposed limits based on archaic points of view, which remain simply because we sometimes fear the things with which we are unfamiliar. This attitude destroys progress if it takes hold anywhere along the evolutionary chain. Even if we don't have a burning desire to understand and use the latest and greatest stuff, we should be very deliberate in choosing what advancements we oppose and be able to clearly articulate why we oppose them.

The Next Step Tracking-Point's next step is to integrate its technology into smaller and more portable formats. While the ability to stream the video feed to an iPad or phone isn't new, TrackingPoint is now streaming the video to shooting glasses. Its new item is called Shotglass.

The idea behind Shotglass is to allow the shooter to engage accurately from behind cover or give a spectator the same view the shooter sees through the scope. Shotglass achieves this by streaming the NTS image to a small HUD located at the edge of a pair of ReconJet sunglasses.

If the shooter is wearing Shotglass, he no longer has to look through the NTS to see where the rifle is pointed. This allows the shooter to be anywhere within arm's reach of the trigger to shoot the rifle. If a spectator or coach is wearing Shotglass, he will see what the shooter is doing and can observe or provide direction to a different target.

TrackingPoint's approach to precision marksmanship is totally unique. No other company is integrating sensors and computers into firearms like it is. The results to date have been a line of rifles that vastly improve the probability of first-round hits at extreme distances by automating ballistic corrections. The company has even made it easy to share the experience through the judicious application of wireless technology

The TrackingPoint system is still expensive and bulky, but it is getting smaller and less expensive with each iteration, and the rifles are getting more diverse in both chambering and configuration. If you get a chance to see a demonstration or shoot one of these rifles, 1 recommend the experience. it offers a glimpse into the future of long-range marksmanship.

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Below: While the system sounds complicated, the controls are intuitive and easy to operate.

Bottom: The NTS sits atop the rifle and connects to the guided trigger system. Neither optic nor trigger alters fieldstripping procedures.

STICKER SHOCK?

TrackingPoint is offering a budget-friendly solution for those looking to acquire its Precision-Guided Firearms but who are unable to shell out the total cost at the time of purchase.

Here is how it works:

* 10% down

* 36 months

* 10% interest rate

By our math, one can obtain a Tracking-Point 5.56, for example, by putting $750 down and paying $217.64 per month for 36 months. That's a small price to pay to never miss again. Extended warranties and software maintenance programs are also available for purchase.

Top: The two batteries are stored in the stock and reduce the size and weight of the package that sits atop the rifle.

Above: The guided trigger is a key component of the system. When the trigger is held down, the rifle will only fire when it knows it will hit its designated target.
TrackingPoint 5.56

Type:            Direct impingement, semiautomatic
Caliber:         5.56 NATO
Capacity:        10, 20, 30 rds.
Barrel:          16 in., 1:7-in, twist
Overall Length:  32.25 in. (collapsed), 35.75 in. (extended)
Stock:           Collapsible
Grip:            A2
Length of Pull:  11.25 in. (collapsed), 14.75 in. (extended)
Finish:          Black anodized
Trigger:         Guided
Sights:          None
Safety:          Two-position selector
MSRP:            $7,495
Manufacturer:    TrackingPoint 512-22Z0500 tracking-point.com

TracldngPomt 762

Type:            Direct impingement, semiautomatic
Caliber:         .308 Win.
Capacity:        10, 20rds.
Barrel:          18 in., 1:1L25-in. twist
Overall Length:  35 in. (collapsed), 38.25 in. (extended)
Stock:           CoLlapsible
Grip:            Ergo
Length of Pull:  11.25 in. (collapsed), 14.25 in. (extended)
Finish:          Black anodized
Trigger:         Guided
Sights:          None
Safety:          Two-position selector
MSRP:            $14,995
Manufacturer:    TrackinPoint 51 2-22Z-0500 tracking-point.com

TrackingPoint .300 WM

Type:            Direct impingement, semiautomanc
Caliber:         .300 Win. Mag.
Capacity:        l4rds.
Barrel:          22 in., 1:8-in, twist
Overall Length:  41.5 in. (collapsed), 44.5 in. (extended)
Stock:           Collapsible
Grip:            Hogue
Length of Pull:  11 in. (collapsed), 14 in. (extended)
Finish:          Black anodized
Trigger:         Guided
Sights:          None
Safety:          Two-position selector
MSRP: $18,995
Manufacturer:    Tracki ngPoint 512-2220500 tracking-point.com
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Author:Beckstrilnd, Tom
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Dec 19, 2014
Words:2280
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