The Future of Optics: TrackingPoint Xact

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Cutting-edge optics manufacturer TrackingPoint turned heads this year at SHOT Show, debuting their Xact system. Xact is a mishmash of technology that guarantees a hit on your target, every time you pull the trigger, out to 1,200 yards. In large part the system has deserved the positive attention, since it seems to work well out of the box, turning novice shooters into deadeye snipers making extremely long range shots.

The Xact system consists of a few different core parts, all packaged together into one oversized scope. There is a digital screen that shows the shooter an adjusted view of the target, a laser beam for painting the target, a handful of microchips that adjust for weather conditions, and even a trigger interrupt that won’t let you fire until you’re exactly on target.

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How Do They Do It?

The heart of this TrackingPoint system is a collimated laser and optical sensor. The scope fires a beam downrange when you touch a button, receives information reflected back from the target, and feeds it into a proprietary system that TrackingPoint calls Tag Track Exact (TTX). The TTX system adjusts your shot automatically to adjust for everything from wind speed and distance, all the way to barometric pressure and even temperature. In short, it accounts for all of the conditions that affect a bullet’s trajectory in tiny ways and instantly corrects for them.

What Are The Limitations?

If this all sounds too good to be true, then you’re at least partially right. The system isn’t perfect, although there are fewer flaws than some people might think. For one, the scope doesn’t perform well in conditions where the laser beam is obscured, either by fog or smoke. TrackingPoint is essentially a line-of-sight system. If you can see it, you can shoot it.

Rain also presents a problem, although a manageable one. If you’re firing your weapon on a story day, reports say that the range decreases by quite a bit. In fact, depending on the weather conditions the TrackingPoint system may only work out to a few hundred yards. In bad weather, the laser targeting system might present more problems than it fixes.

Finally, right now the basic Xact system only works with stationary targets. If you can’t keep the laser on your target long enough to get a fix, or if the target moves excessively after you paint it with the laser, then you might just miss your shot. TrackingPoint does provide an upgraded package which can handle moving targets, and for a lot of shooters it’s going to be worth the extra money. That is, of course, assuming that you have over $10,000 to spend in your optics budget.

Civilian vs Military

TrackingPoint has established themselves as a manufacturer for the civilian marketplace, with technology that will let just about any backyard plinker reliably pick off targets out to 1,200 yards. That raises the question, if this is what the civilian market is getting, then what can the military expect?

The answer is, unsurprisingly, a whole lot more. The technology behind TrackingPoint optics has already been incorporated into some military weapons, although there are a few key differences. The most noticeable change is the integration of the Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) system, which was designed to reduce friendly fire by tagging allied forces electronically.

What’s Next?

TrackingPoint is already hard at work on an app for Google Glass which puts the view from your scope right in front of your eyes. In the video below, you can see a shooter taking aim and putting down the target from behind heavy cover. Systems like this are going to be an important difference going forward, and they represent one clear advantage that smart weapons have over current firearms.

All of the new changes might not necessarily be positive depending on your viewpoint, though. There’s nothing stopping a TrackingPoint optics package from taking a photo of the image in your scope, tagging it with GPS data and a timestamp, and storing it for later use. This might be a double edged sword for some shooters, although it would make the case for self defense an open and shut one. Still, there’s no guarantees that this information won’t be abused by the authorities in our increasingly wireless world.

Coming to a Gun Shop Near You

If nothing else, TrackingPoint deserves credit for keeping the consumer market in mind. It seems like most of these so-called smart weapons systems are aimed squarely at militaries and police forces, but TrackingPoint has always built their system for a wide civilian release. While it suffers from a few early problems, there is a lot to look forward to if you’re a long distance shooter. Right now the system is for sale through gun shops and their online store, pre-mounted on a custom weapon.
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