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Point-and-Shoot: TrackingPoint's New Linux-Controlled AR-15s 219

Ars Technica takes a look at the next generation of TrackingPoint's automatically aimed rifles (not "automatic" in the usual sense), and visited the shooting range where they're tested out. Like the company's previous generation of gun (still in production, and increasingly being sold to government buyers), TrackingPoint's offerings integrate a Linux computer that makes acquiring and tracking a target far easier and more accurate than it would otherwise be. Unlike the older models, though, this year TrackingPoint is concentrating on AR-15s, rather than longer, heavier bolt-action rifles. A slice: The signature "Tag-Track-Xact" system has gained additional functionality on the AR models, too. With the bolt-action guns, there was only one way to put a round onto a target: first, you sighted in on the thing you wanted to hit and depressed the red tagging button just above the trigger. A red pip would appear in the scope’s crosshairs, and you’d place the pip onto the target and release the button. The scope’s rangefinding laser would then illuminate the target to measure its distance, and the image processor would fix on the object; if you moved, or if the target moved, the red pip would remain atop the target. Then, to fire, you squeezed the trigger and lined the crosshairs up with the target’s pip. When the two coincided, the weapon fired. This method works fine for a bolt-action rifle where every round has to be manually chambered, but it’s less than ideal for a carbine, which one might want to fire off-hand (i.e., standing up and aiming) or from the hip. With this in mind, the AR PGFs have a new "free fire mode," in which you can tag a target once and then shoot at it as many times as you want by pulling the trigger directly, with all the shots using the ballistic data from the first shot’s tag. That means, says writer Lee Hutchinson, a rifle "with essentially 100 percent accuracy at 250 yards."
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Point-and-Shoot: TrackingPoint's New Linux-Controlled AR-15s

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  • Because being able to do that with a fully-automatic heavy weapon will be the new level of warfare.

    • I don't think there will ever be such a thing as a 100% accurate shotgun.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by roman_mir ( 125474 )

      Aaah, a true killer application, the year of GNU/Linux on your favourite weapon of choice :)

    • by Sqr(twg) ( 2126054 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @02:44AM (#47645321)

      will be the new level of warfare.

      Yes, and not in a good way.

      It used to be the case that you needed experienced, diciplined soldiers to make snipers. If you tried to fight a proxy war by arming insurgents the way the U.S. armed the Mujahideen (al Quaeda), or the way Russia is arming Ukranian separatists, then you got a pretty inefficient force that could only win by war of attrition.

      These new weapons will make it much easier for anyone with money (like the IS) to recruit people out of the slums and quickly turn them into effective fighting units.

      Also it will increase the efficiency of child soliders, and therfore lead to more recruitment.

      • You mean give some insurgents a Buk and they'll shoot down a civilian plane?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11, 2014 @10:11AM (#47646927)


        I'm a recreational shooter and have at least a passing familiarity with small arms doctrine. This has very little military application.



        If you are running a crew serviced weapon, what is traditionally thought of as a 'machine gun', you aren't trying to match every bullet to some knucklehead's torso. That isn't your job. Your weapon isn't accurate enough for that sort of milarky. What you can do is drop 600+ rounds a minute in a sustainable way. You end up with what's referred to as a 'beaten' area. Say a machine gun has an accuracy of around 6 MOA.. which they don't. An MOA means minute of angle.. roughly 1" at 100 yards, 2" at 200 yards, and doubles every time you double the distance.

        Say you have that super-accurate MG. It's dropping 600 rounds a minute into 6" at 100, a foot at 200, two feet at 400 and etc. Say you've got a guy prone hiding behind a stump at 200 yards. You aren't concerned with trying to one-shot his brain pan. It's far more efficent on your time to drop a 2-3 second burst (20-30 rounds) than take the 5 seconds it'd take to setup a perfect shot with a better weapon. It's about hit probabilities. If you can fill a space with enough bullets fast enough you'll overcome inaccuracy. Accuracy is difficult to achieve in the field. More bullets in a given space is relatively easy.

        Rifles work the same way. 3-4 MOA is typical on modern combat rifles. within 200 yards, wind drift and bullet drop is less than your accuracy threshold. At 3 MOA that maybe true all the way to 400 yards. Forcing me to slow down and achieve a 'perfect' aim point doesn't buy me anything -- name of the game is me + 2 or 3 supporting fellows filling the same space with bullets till probability gives us a center punching of the target. IE, 6 rounds into 8 MOA in 5 seconds is more likely to hit center than 2 rounds at 3 MOA in the same time. That's a major part of the point of burst fire. You can't overcome inherit inaccuracy in the system with better aim. Only by recovering from the shot and pulling the trigger faster.

        The gizmo can't do that. The combat revolution you envision was achieved decades ago by semi and fully automatic weaponry.

      • the US did not create Al Quaeda, stop repeating that lie.

        I do not think you realize how difficult it is to train third world people to use state of the art military equipment.

        been there done that. not even something worth doing. i give you the current state of Iraq as an example of 10 years of training flushed down the drain.

        besides these weapons should be fairly easy to neutralize by any reasonably modern military.


    • AA-12? [] Sort of an overkill for a personal weapon, I'd say...
  • Zorg? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @11:19PM (#47644881)

    With this in mind, the AR PGFs have a new "free fire mode," in which you can tag a target once and then shoot at it as many times as you want by pulling the trigger directly, with all the shots using the ballistic data from the first shot’s tag.

    With the replay button, another Zorg invention, it's even easier. One shot...and replay sends every following shot to the same location.

    Although I guess in this case you actually want to push the little red button.

    • by Chas ( 5144 )

      Reading the OP last night, I could hear Gary Oldman in my head.

      Nice to know I'm not the only one.

  • Robot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @11:26PM (#47644909) Homepage
    At this point, the main problem seems to be putting the human into the mix. I could see putting a laser distance gauge, and some rudimentary calculator to automatically adjust for distance; I am sort of thinking, highlighting the correct location in the scope instead of actually adjusting it. But if you you are going to design complete tracking tech, put the gun on a tripod with a few motors. Hell, you could probably even mount it on a guys backpack.
    • Re:Robot (Score:5, Informative)

      by baKanale ( 830108 ) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @11:50PM (#47644969)
      The summary doesn't explain well, but TrackingPoint isn't a robotic gun or anything like that. It is a system that uses rangefinders and other sensors built into a scope that allow a user to designate a target, and then, when the trigger is pulled, only allows the weapon to fire when it's aligned with an optimal firing solution. This lets novices shoot on target at extended ranges. They've previously done this with bolt action rifles, but apparently they've developed it for use in AR-15s, as per the article. Here's a link to their page about the original system: []
      • So it's basically aimhack for real life.
        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          So it's basically aimhack for real life.

          That's pretty much the summary.

          Except instead of the bot finding the target, you designate the target, then pull the trigger. The gun won't fire until it's positioned in such a way that the designated target will be hit.

          The thing is, the basic skills still need to be there. For their rifle, well, you still need to calm yourself down enough to be able to find the target, designate it, then squeeze and wait for it to fire. Sure it means you don't need to discipline your

  • First, you need to perfectly accurately sight the target, with no help. Then after you have done that, the computer will track for you. And if you screwed up the first step, and tagged a plant instead, you are screwed.
    • Yeah, that seems to be the case.

      It's just a regular gun that waits to fire until you've lined up with where you tried to shoot initially.

      Nothing too new on the image processing front... but it runs Linux and pisses off the peaceniks, so Slashdot runs the story.

    • by aXis100 ( 690904 )

      It's easier to aim a laser tag with a small switch - and correct it if you've got it wrong - than to aim and fire using the trigger perfectly the first time.

      It's all about repercussions and sensitivity - the target probably wont get alerted by the tagging beam, and you can correct it as many times as you like whilst maintaining stealth. Once you have it right, the first real bullet will hit it's mark and the show is over.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by BirdBrained ( 661622 )

      ...And if you screwed up the first step, and tagged a plant instead, you are screwed.

      For that you need a Salad Shooter.

  • How does it know what the target is after it has moved? Does it have to stay within the sights at all times, you cannot even lose sight of it in that tiny reticule? Or is it like marked at long distance with some sort of tracer?
    • [] The target is not marked by anything physical. The distance to target is measured with a laser range finder, but they don't go into any details as to how the subsequent tracking is performed (and understandably so, that's where they make their money). It could be an active system, where the scope continuously bounces laser off the target and corrects for movement within reasonable limits. It could be visual, where the system guesses the target's ou
  • by aybiss ( 876862 ) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @11:46PM (#47644957) Homepage

    Now to ensure that every high-school age child in America gets one!

  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @12:04AM (#47644987) Journal

    Are you sure you want to shoot this target?

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @12:08AM (#47645001) Homepage Journal

    Could this be Linux's killer app that would blow the competition out of the water?

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @12:14AM (#47645009) Homepage

    It's an aimbot for real rifles. Now, any rifleman can be a sniper.

    Yes, it's too big, too complicated, and too expensive. That's a temporary problem. Ever see the first laser sight, from the 1980s? It used a helium-neon laser tube and required a power cord. There's been some progress since then. This aimbot technology should be down to smartphone size, if not cost, soon enough.

    • Makes me think more of the 'Smart Gun' from 'Aliens' more than anything. But then again make mostly because I'd rather have the smart gun more than an TrackingPoint.
    • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @01:39AM (#47645175) Journal

      It's an aimbot for real rifles. Now, any rifleman can be a sniper.

      The majority of sniper training is about field craft, not shooting.

      And 100% accuracy at 250 yards is not as useful as you'd think.
      The engagement ranges in Iraq/Afghanistan were mostly 300 to 500 meters (328 to 546 yards) .

      Unfortunately, the M4 + 5.56 is intended for ranges less than 300 yards.
      This leaves a big gaping hole in the infantry's ability to effectively kill past 300 yards.
      The Iraqis and Afghans have no such range problems with their AK-47s and 7.62 ammo.

      TLDR: The military needs to reclaim 300-500 yards with a suitable infantry weapon.
      FYI - A trained sniper is expected to have 90% accuracy at 600 yards.

      • The cynic in me would say, considering the accuracy of an average AK, range only minimally influences its chance to hit...

      • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

        Does this set of statistics have any bearing on that 2011 soundbyte that "an estimated 250,000 bullets fired for every [Iraqi] insurgent killed"?

      • Im not seeing where you're getting your info; everything Ive ever heard indicates that the only issues reported with the M4 are reliability, due to its tighter tolerances, but that its also more accurate. Thats backed up by this: []

        Which indicates the M16 /5.56 is accurate to 500m, whereas the AK47 with 7.76 ammo is only effective to 380m. If those are accurate, the M4 is lighter, uses 50% lighter ammo, and is accurate 25% further

        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @02:59AM (#47645345)

          It is amazing how much misinformation flies around about guns. One of the common ones is "OMG the M4/16 is such crap, the AK is so much bettar!"

          You are quite correct about the range. The AR-15 platform weapons are much more accurate. Anyone who has ever fired both can easily tell that.

          The issue that people like the grandparent conflate is the lethality of the 5.56x45mm round at longer ranges. Though the M16 can easily hit a target at long range (with a skilled marksman operating it), because of the small size and low mass of the round, it is often not as effective as you would want. If the bullet does not fragment or tumble, it can go right through someone and the small hole does little damage.

          That is the issue it has at range, not accuracy or ability to reach that range.

          Also this isn't like it is some completely unknown, or unsolvable, thing. The military also has weapons that use 7.62x51mm rounds which are larger rifle bullets and have much greater range, mass, and kinetic energy. For longer engagements still things like 8.58Ã--70mm and 12.7Ã--99mm are used.

          Of course as you move up in caliber and amount of propellant, weapons become bigger and heavier, and have larger amounts of recoil to deal with, it is always a tradeoff and is one reason why the standard personal weapons use 5.56.

          In terms of 5.56x45mm vs 7.62Ã--39mm (which is what the AK uses, is is not the same as the larger NATO round) the real issues come up at medium range (100-300m) and with barrier penetration. The light, high velocity 5.56 round tends to be fantastically lethal below 100m because the high velocity results in fragmentation when it hits the target. However since military rounds may not be specifically designed to fragment or expand (the Geneva convention prohibits it, civilian and police rounds are available that do), as it slows down at greater ranges they lose that ability and are not as damaging. Also, because of their low mass and tendency to fragment they are poor performers when shooting through barriers like windshields, doors, and so on.

          THAT is the issue the rounds have in general use vs 7.62Ã--39mm rounds. Not long ranges. While they aren't super effective beyond 300m, they are reasonably accurate at least, which is not the case with the 7.62 rounds. At a long range engagement an M4 would be at a decided advantage to an AK-47.

          However neither was designed for long range use. They are carbines, made for medium range and below. They trade overall power and range for smaller size, lower weight, and better portability. As their widespread use in many conflicts around the world indicates, they do well in that arena.

          • There were also issues when firing the same cartridge from the original length barrel
            Vs the shortened barrel.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Geez, another limbaugh-type master of the half-truth. Am so very glad that 'gun stuff on the net' has enabled your brilliance.

            Former marine here - and the 5.56 NATO ball round does NOT fragment unless there is some intervening hard mass (concrete, rebar, etc). The boys in Afga were routinely taking 200m head shots and 400m body shots. And we qualify at 500m with both the M16 and M4 - whether you will be a cook or technician or infantry, you do not get out of boot camp until you can qualify. And you have to

        • m4 has a shorter barrel an the AK is an intermediate cartridge not full power rifle
        • Im not seeing where you're getting your info; everything Ive ever heard indicates that the only issues reported with the M4 are reliability, due to its tighter tolerances, but that its also more accurate.

          I guess people have short memories
          2006: []

          In a confidential report to Congress last year, active Marine commanders complained that: "5.56 was the most worthless round," "we were shooting them five times or so," and "torso shots were not lethal."

          That's just the first article google kicked up.
          Complaints about stopping power started showing up once the Iraqi insurgency picked up.

          The M4/M16 is very accurate, it just doesn't have the same stopping power past 300 meters as larger rounds.
          This is intentional, because the military did research and concluded that most engagements take place inside 300 meters.
          This is also a problem, because in Iraq/Afghanistan,

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        I assume this would be more useful in an urban warfare setting where most engagements are under 250 yds, and a missed shot will hit something unintended.
    • It will no doubt benefit from the same economies of scale as they build millions and millions of them...

    • Not really an aim bot. Aimbots typically give you one button to press that aims the weapon, and it might fire with the same keypress. It doesn't matter where you were already aiming or looking when you press that button the screen snaps to a target.

      This system requires actually sighting in on the target and tagging it with a laser range finding system. The system uses some fancy image recognition software to then keep track of the target within your sight picture. When you then pull and hold the trigger the

  • You Mean (Score:4, Informative)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @12:24AM (#47645039) Homepage Journal
    Like that scene from The Fifth Element? I'd post a link but I find it amusing that if you search youtube for "That scene from the 5th element", it's the second link.
  • Firing blind (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dohzer ( 867770 )

    Will the be a version that blind people can use too?

  • Linux? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sound+vision ( 884283 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @01:58AM (#47645219) Journal
    Does anyone know what benefit is actually provided by using Linux? This is precisely the type of embedded system with life-or-death consequences where I'd expect to see the entire thing done in heavily-audited assembly, or something close to it, interfacing directly with the hardware, with no OS to get in the way.
    Certainly I'd trust it more than a Windows CE-based weapon, and I suppose if you want to reduce your attack surface, open source is the way to go - you can cut out the components that aren't needed. But, even still - I see little reason for an operating system to be there, except for convenient/cheap/fast development.
  • ....Linux deathtop?

  • How does it tell the difference between an innocent bystander and a terrorist/infidel ?

  • This merely pushes engagement ranges out once again. WWI riflemen were trained to shoot at hundreds of yards, in fact the sight-system on the old WWI bolt-action rifles is often stepped out to crazy ranges like 1200 yards. (Not that they'd actually hit anything.) It's only with the advent of general-issue personal weapons with rapid fire capability that aimed-fire ranges have shrunk in the modern era. (Some would say that they shrunk to what typical engagement ranges were ANYWAY.)

    Now, the conventional wi

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington