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Tech by VICE

The World's First Precision-Guided Rifle Has Gone Semi-Automatic

It's a giant leap forward in the complicated, rapidly-evolving future of smart weapons.

by Brian Anderson
Jan 8 2014, 8:05pm
Teaser for TrackingPoint Solution's new 500 Series assault rifles

There is nothing quite like shooting a long-range, laser-guided robo rifle off the top of a mountain in Texas. For someone who had never fired a gun in his life until that point, firing TrackingPoint Solution's PGF and missing a quarter-sized target at 1,000 yards by only a few inches (it was the wind) was about as close to any life changing experience I've ever had

Was it a gun? A computer? Both? I'm still not entirely sure. All I know is I could quite literally feel the complicated and rapidly-evolving future of smart weaponry in my trembling hands. But one of the bigger technological hangups—if you'd like to call it that—facing the PGF, or precision-guided firearm, was that it wasn't yet semi-automatic. I had to reload the $25,000 rifle after each shot, which took time. It was slow. In other words, the PGF wasn't an assault rifle.

Well, not any more. TrackingPoint just unveiled it's new AR smart rifle series at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Austin-based startup says its much-anticipated 500 Series, which features three new precision-guided firearms with stabilized target selection capabilites for target tracking and guided firing, turns even novice shots into "expert marksmen out to the 500 yard effective range of the firearm, even from difficult firing positions, such as kneeling, standing or even lying beneath an automobile."

“TrackingPoint is excited to be able to expand and adapt its TTX [Tag Track Xact] technology for the AR semi-automatic market. For the first time, AR enthusiasts will be able to make fast and accurate shots on moving targets out to five football fields away,” said John Lupher, TrackingPoint CEO. “We expect not only strong demand for the 500 Series AR products, but also a growing demand for our technology across the industry.”

It's a giant leap forward not just for smart weaponry, but also for the sort of coordinated, man-packable war tech that TrackingPoint has been building for so-called "smart soliders" engaged in an increasingly networked battlefield. But marketing their long-range firearms has thus far proved to be a tricky shot for TrackingPoint, to the point that in late 2013 the company underwent some serious internal changes. It's not yet clear whether enough customers will take to the new ARs, which go for about 1/3 the cost of their flagship PGF rifles, to see TrackingPoint become a true force in weapons R&D and sales. 

In the meantime, check out Long Shot, our doc on the future of smart weaponry:

@thebanderson