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Sniper upgrade: Accuracy-boosting scope kit to be delivered this month

Feb. 2, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
The XactSystem combines a rifle with a networked tracking scope, guided trigger, tag button and precision ammunition in a closed-loop system.
The XactSystem combines a rifle with a networked tracking scope, guided trigger, tag button and precision ammunition in a closed-loop system. (TrackingPoint)
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How it works

The closed-loop system includes a Networked Tracking Scope and semi-electronic guided trigger. Here’s how it works:
■ The shooter lases the target with the push of a button located at his trigger finger. He doesn’t have to dial in all of the dope.
■ A computer calculates 16 variables to include spin drift of the bullet, barometric pressure, temperature and magnus effect. It immediately generates a ballistic solution and places a targeting dot on the screen.
■ The shooter does not look directly at the target. He instead looks at a small display screen in the scope, which is hard-wired into a semi-electronic trigger.
■ The shooter squeezes that trigger as he aligns the aiming dot with the targeting dot. A solenoid keeps the weapon from firing until the aiming dot hits the designated target point. But once they touch … BAM! Shot out.
This takes human-induced errors such as trigger jerk and jitters out of the equation.
■ After shooting a few rounds for familiarity, the whole cycle can be done in a matter of two seconds.
■ Windage is the one thing the scope doesn’t calculate. Predominant wind speed and direction is shown on the display and adjustments are easily made with the push of a button — one press compensates for one-half mph.
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The Army is testing a fire control system that turns an average shooter into a deadly sniper in a matter of minutes.

The Army is testing a fire control system that turns an average shooter into a deadly sniper in a matter of minutes.

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The Army is testing a fire control system that turns an average shooter into a deadly sniper in a matter of minutes.

The service recently bought six XactSystem precision-guided firearm kits. Each will be calibrated to the XM-2010 sniper rifle and the M248 Mod 1 rounds, which are standard-issue .300 Winchester Magnum.

Rifles will be delivered by month’s end, said John Lupher, CEO of TrackingPoint.

School-trained snipers at various locations will spend up to four weeks testing functionality and effectiveness. The goal is to determine whether fire control systems enhance individual capabilities, said Lt. Col. Shawn Lucas, program manager for individual weapons at PEO Soldier.

“I can only squeeze so much more performance out of a rifle,” Lucas said. “Only so much more performance out of a bullet. I can only train a soldier so much. I have finite resources and time.

“However, for a relatively small investment, I can make a significant increase in probability of hit and overall effectiveness by making an investment in advanced fire control.”

Don’t expect the technology to remain exclusive to snipers if all goes well. Lucas said the Army is looking at advanced fire control for machine guns, carbines and the M320 grenade launcher.

TrackingPoint’s technology is well ahead of the field, Lucas said. Company officials put first-round hit probability in excess of 80 percent at 1,200 meters and upward of 98 percent at 800 meters. They call a 500-yard shot “easy” and consider 300 yards to be point-blank.

And variants can be mounted on weapons to include the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and the individual carbine. This gives soldiers first-shot probability at the weapon’s maximum effective range, substantially increasing lethality and standoff distances down to the squad level.

And shots are not confined to point targets. A processor inside the scope can track moving targets up to 10 mph. The computer calculates offset and lead and, like the point target, the shooter simply places the aiming dot on the targeting dot and squeezes the trigger.

The digital scope makes the difference. It has a 110mm telephoto lens and a 14-megapixel image sensor streaming at 54 frames per second. It ranges from 6x to 35x. Unlike most scopes, the capture begins at the longer length to keep the picture clear no matter the distance.

The tracking scope also offers a number of features that come in handy downrange. It can:

■ Hard-line secure communications

■ Live-stream secure video to Android and iOS smart phones and tablets.

■ Tie in to integrated dismounted soldier situational awareness systems such as Nett Warrior.

■ Designate or identify blue and red forces.

■ Conduct target handoff from a drone.

■ Provide 10-digit grid of a target.

The scope also can be used as a laser designator.

The purchase was part of the Army’s Soldier Enhancement Program, in which soldiers, units and industry submit ideas on ways to increase effectiveness. The program uses the “buy, try, decide” method. If purchased, program managers have up to 18 months to test and evaluate.

TrackingPoint’s fire control system was one of 26 items approved in the most recent SEP session. Several types of optics, a low-velocity 40mm round and the “throw-bot” also made the cut.

The civilian XactSystem costs $22,500 to $27,000, depending on version, but that cost includes the custom Surgeon rifle the Army doesn’t need. The final cost is not yet known, and no one likes to talk dollars before a deal is made.

A civilian version of the XM-2010 runs about $17,000.

“It is exciting and certainly gratifying to see that we can help these guys out, and help provide added capability to the average soldier,” Lupher said. “The Army has a lot of highly trained snipers, but this allows designated marksmen and lesser trained troops to be able to shoot long distances accurately. That’s huge.”

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