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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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  • 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: []
  • 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.
  • by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @12:34AM (#47645059)
    250 yards is not particularly far away with a fast/flat cartridge like 5.56 NATO.
    My ballistic calculator says that given the torso is, on average, 18" across, this system could aim dead center/upper chest (zeroed for 100 yds) and with no correction at all, hit its target correcting for elevation and windage for +/- 17mph wind with M855.

    I am actually fairly unimpressed by this. Any dope can make a 300 yard shot with an AR on a head sized target and telescopic sights. If this was able to make those shots at 500+ yds, that would really be something.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Question (Score:4, Informative)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Monday August 11, 2014 @04:45AM (#47645495)

    'Australia banned guns: Sure, there are no school massacres but the murder rate hasn't decreased.'

    You're reading the wrong newspaper, the Washington Post says otherwise. []

    "So what have the Australian laws actually done for homicide and suicide rates? Howard cites a study (pdf) by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University finding that the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides. That provides strong circumstantial evidence for the law's effectiveness."

  • by pehrs ( 690959 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @06:24AM (#47645727)

    You would be surprised how bad people shoot in the real world... I hunt. I fire about 50 shots on big game (mostly boar, deer and moose) a year, and well over thousand if you count small game. I compete, primarily in sporting and skeet but also 300 meter rifle.

    In my experience the wast majority of shooters have a hard time hitting a deer sized targets with a rifle at 300 meters without special training. Add any sort of complication, like a little bit of stress, moving target, bad light or the like, and most people won't hit a deer sized target consistently (that is, 10 out of 10 in the heart-lung area) at 100 meters. The performance of the cartridge barely matters. Most people simply need a lot of training to aim and fire a rifle well, especially under stress.

    I spend a considerable amount of my spare time tracking down deer which were wounded by people with the "Any dope can make a 300 yard shot" attitude. They are typically not quite so tough at 4 am in the morning when we have spent a few hours tracking down the deer they wounded. While it is good training for the dogs, and it is very rewarding work, it would be better if people learned how hard it is to shoot well on distances over 100 meters.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @09:33AM (#47646549)
    It fires fin-stabilized sub-caliber darts with an extremely high ballistic coefficient. Of course it's going to be highly accurate even at long distances. I'm just not sure that this scales down to small arms.
  • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @03:12PM (#47649811)

    yes, slugs are *extremely* accurate and are designed to be fired through smoothbore barrel *with a choke*, look it up how they work. I get 3" groups at 100 yards out of my Remington 870 with 3" rounds

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray