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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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  • 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.
  • Firing blind (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @12:27AM (#47645053) Homepage

    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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11, 2014 @10:58AM (#47647355)

    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 re-qual at least once per annum.

    The AK is designed for reliability and for use by idiots - assuming that only simple ball round used. The M16 is designed for reliability for use by disciplined well-trained personnel, and not necessarily limited to just ball rounds. The AKs tend to start having accuracy problems past 200m, while the M4 is just fine at 500m.

    The only reason American police have 'problems' with M16-type weapons is because of ignorance and attitude - poor training and total lack of disciplined fire control.

    Larger caliber, and much heavier, rifles are typically for use by the unit's designated marksmen, or the actual sniper dudes. Snipers generally do not have to hump 45kg of gear 10-20km every day. So mass for a battle rifle is very important for how relevant infantry (army rangers and marines) typically operate.

In English, every word can be verbed. Would that it were so in our programming languages.