On target: The $25,000 smart rifle (pictures)

A new kind of high-tech firearm has hit the scene. It's a long-distance rifle wired with a small computer that lets novices hit moving targets with the same acumen as a life-long pro.

Dara Kerr
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
1 of 13 Tracking Point

Long-range shot

Tracking Point, a startup based in Austin, Texas, just began selling some of the world's most high-tech long-range shooting rifles available. These guns come wired with a small computer that provides a "guided trigger," tag and lock technology, and a Wi-Fi antenna, which lets users gather ballistics data in real time and live-stream their shots to share on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or e-mail.

The key to Tracking Point's firearms is that anyone -- even someone who's never picked up a rifle -- can hit a target at distances of up to 1,200 yards, or 12 football fields, with near 100 percent accuracy.

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Rifle case

There are three different kinds of Tracking Point "XactSystem" rifles -- XS1, XS2, and XS3. The XS1 is the top-of-the-line model, can hit targets at 1,200 yards, and costs $27,500. The XS2 has a range of 1,000 yards and costs $25,000, and the XS3 has a range of 750 yards and costs $22,500. For comparison, an exceptional conventional rifle costs roughly $10,000 to $15,000.

All of Tracking Point's rifles come with a case of precision ammunition and an Apple iPad. The rifle pictured here is an XS2.

3 of 13 Dara Kerr/CNET

Optics on whiteboard

For the last three-and-a-half years, Tracking Point's team has labored in a nondescript office park with the mission to create a "smart rifle" that takes into account ballistics data in long-range shooting and then feeds that information to the shooter.

Long-range shooting is highly mathematical. As soon as a bullet blasts out of a gun's barrel, it's falling. Besides gravity, other factors also shape how a bullet behaves in flight, such as wind, elevation, cant, inclination, and more.

Pictured here is a whiteboard where Tracking Point engineers worked on the high-tech optics within the XS line of rifles.

4 of 13 Dara Kerr/CNET

Circuit board

Everything at Tracking Point is produced in-house. The company has an engineering lab, machine shop, and circuit room where it designs the small computers to be embedded within its rifles.

Pictured here is a circuit board that is the brains behind Tracking Point's rifles.

5 of 13 Dara Kerr/CNET

Smarts in the scope

The circuit boards are rolled up into the rifle's scope, which Tracking Point dubbed the "Networked Tracking Scope." The scope is wired to both the optics and the rifle's "guided trigger." The company's engineers have spent a lot of time figuring out how to fit the computer, optics, batteries, and other components into such a small space.

6 of 13 Dara Kerr/CNET

Ergonomics research

Tracking Point puts a lot of research into the ergonomics and design of its XS line of rifles.

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Digital scope

One major difference between Tracking Point's rifles and conventional rifles is the optical scope. The majority of long-range scopes are manual, like binoculars. But Tracking Point came up a digital scope with a 35-power lens that minimizes shaking and heat refraction, letting users zoom in at extreme distances without losing focus. With these optics, shooters can hit objects the naked eye can barely see.

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Tag and lock

Tracking Point's rifles use tag and lock technology. When shooting the gun, a user will see a digital white dot through the scope. This is the tag. The dot then needs to be lined up with the target and a little red button next to the trigger (pictured here) has to be pushed. Once that is done, the tag stays on the target.

Next, crosshairs will appear through the scope and the shooter has to pull the trigger and keep it depressed as they line the crosshairs up with the tag. As soon as those crosshairs land on the tag, the trigger releases and the gun fires its round.

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Shooting info on an iPad

The Networked Tracking Scope shows a head-up display overlaid on the shooter's field of view. HUDs are typically used in military fighter jet shooting systems; they display all of the information a shooter needs to know to make an accurate shot, such as distance-to-target, shot angle, zoom setting, ballistics data, and more.

The scope also comes with its own Wi-Fi signal, which beams all of the information gathered by the computer to an iPad, so a friend or scout can help with the shot. The scope also records everything seen through the optics for up to two hours. These videos can then be shared, e-mailed, or posted on social media.

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Taking aim

The goal for Tracking Point is to make average shooters, who don't have the time to practice long-distance hunting, into excellent shots. Most novices would have trouble hitting a target with a conventional rifle at just a dozen yards, but with an XS rifle they could easily hit a target hundreds of yards away.

11 of 13 Tracking Point

African impala

While testing their rifles, Tracking Point employees were able to shoot and kill this African impala at a distance of 980 yards -- that's more than half a mile.

British soldier Craig Harrison holds the world record shot with a conventional rifle; he killed two Taliban insurgents at 2,707 yards, or 1.54 miles, in 2009. The bullets took nearly three seconds to hit their targets, according to Guinness World Records.

12 of 13 Dara Kerr/CNET

Stink bug shot

During another XS rifle test, Tracking Point engineer Hillman Bailey shot a dime-sized stinkbug at 98 yards, which is nearly a full football field in distance.

Tracking Point tacked a photo of Bailey's shot onto the wall of its offices.

13 of 13 Dara Kerr/CNET

Rifle rack

Tracking Point isn't stopping with just its XS line of rifles. It's also going after the world-record long-distance shot. The company is developing a new weapon called the "Super Gun" that should be able to hit a target 1.75 miles away. It also recently entered into a joint venture with gun maker Remington to create a computer-enabled semiautomatic rifle that shoots up to 500 yards.

Pictured here is the company's armory, these guns could soon be wired to Tracking Point's Networked Tracking Scope.

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