The Industry


A new rifle went on sale today, and it's unlike any other. The gun uses lasers and powerful computers to make shooters much more accurate. A startup company in Texas developed the rifle, but it's so effective some in the industry say it should not be sold to the public. Mark Dewey reports.

MARK DEWEY, BYLINE: On a firing range just outside Austin in the city of Liberty Hill, a novice shooter holds the TrackingPoint rifle and takes aim at a target 500 yards away.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You've got a live gun.

DEWEY: Normally, it takes years of practice to hit something at that distance. But this shooter nails it on the first try.



DEWEY: The shooter is looking at a sophisticated color graphics display inside the rifle's scope. He locks a laser on the target by pushing a small button by the trigger. It's like a video game. But here's where it's different. You pull the trigger, but the gun decides when to shoot. It only fires when the weapon's been pointed in exactly the right place, taking into account dozens of variables.



DEWEY: The rifle has a built-in laser rangefinder, a ballistics computer and a Wi-Fi transmitter to stream live video and audio to a nearby iPad. Every shot is recorded so it can be replayed or posted to YouTube or Facebook.

JASON SCHAUBLE: Think of it like a smart rifle. You have a smart car, you got a smartphone, well now, we have smart rifle.

DEWEY: That's company president Jason Schauble. He says the TrackingPoint system was built for hunters and target shooters, especially a younger generation that embraces social media.

SCHAUBLE: They like to post videos, they like to be in constant communication with groups or networks. This kind of technology, in addition to making shooting more fun for them, also allows shooting to be something that they can share with others.

DEWEY: A team of 70 people spent three years creating the technology. Schauble says there's nothing else like it, even in the military. For civilians, TrackingPoint sells its high-end, long-range guns directly. They're not cheap - up to $22,000 each. One hunter who doesn't want one is Chris Wilbratte. He says the TrackingPoint system undermines what he calls hunting's fair chase.

CHRIS WILBRATTE: It's the traditional, like, shooting fish in a barrel or the sitting duck. I mean, there's no skill in it, right? It's just you point, you let the weapons system do its thing, and you pull the trigger, and you - now you've killed a deer. You know, there's no skill.

DEWEY: This new rifle is released as the gun control debate continues to simmer in Washington. One person who worries about this new gun is Chris Frandsen, a West Point graduate who fought in Vietnam. Frandsen doesn't believe the TrackingPoint technology should be allowed in the civilian world because the gun makes it too easy for a criminal or a terrorist to shoot people from a distance without being detected.

CHRIS FRANDSEN: Where we have mental health issues, where we have children that are disassociated from society early on, when we have terrorists who have political cards to play, we have to restrict weapons that make them more efficient in terrorizing the population.

DEWEY: TrackingPoint's Schauble says because the company sells directly - instead of going through gun dealers - it knows who its customers are and will vet them. And he says there's a key feature that prevents anyone other than the registered owner from utilizing the gun's capabilities.

SCHAUBLE: It has a password protection on the scope. So the gun will still operate as a firearm itself, but you cannot do the tag, track, exact, the long range, the technology-driven, precision-guided firearm piece without entering that pass code.

DEWEY: Schauble says demand has been overwhelming. TrackingPoint now has a waiting list. Others are interested too. The rifle maker Remington Arms wants to use the technology for rifles it wants to sell for around $5,000. For NPR News, I'm Mark Dewey in Austin, Texas.


CORNISH: ALL THINGS CONSIDERED continues right after this.

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