The image displayed on the scope isn’t a direct visual, but rather a video image taken through the scope’s objective lens. The Linux-powered scope produces a display that looks something like the heads-up display you’d see sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet, showing the weapon’s compass orientation, cant, and incline. To shoot at something, you first “mark” it using a button near the trigger. Marking a target illuminates it with the tracking scope’s built-in laser, and the target gains a pip in the scope’s display. When a target is marked, the tracking scope takes into account the range of the target, the ambient temperature and humidity, the age of the barrel, and a whole boatload of other parameters. It quickly reorients the display so the crosshairs in the center accurately show where the round will go.
Image recognition routines keep the pip stuck to the marked target in the scope’s field of view, and at that point, you squeeze the trigger. This doesn’t fire the weapon; rather, the reticle goes from blue to red, and while keeping the trigger held down, you position the reticle over the marked target’s pip. As soon as they coincide, the rifle fires.
TrackingPoint is quick to emphasize the rifle doesn’t fire “by itself,” but rather the trigger’s pull force is dynamically raised to be very high until the reticle and pip coincide, at which point the pull force is reset to its default. In this way, the shooter is still in control of the rifle’s firing, and at any point prior to firing you can release the trigger. In the mockups the company had on display for the press to experiment with, the action appeared to be the same—I pulled the trigger and lined up the dots and the blue plastic toy gun went click.
Having the round fire when the shot is lined up rather than in immediate response to a trigger pull eliminates a tremendous amount of uncertainty from the shot. Even the most experienced shooters can upset a weapon’s aim when pulling the trigger, and overcoming the reflex to twitch or preemptively move against a weapon’s recoil is very, very difficult. By allowing the computer to choose the precise moment to take the shot, accuracy is greatly enhanced.
Putting lead accurately on targets is only part of what TrackingPoint’s PGF system does. The computerized tracking scope contains some amount of nonvolatile storage, and like an airplane’s “black box,” it’s constantly recording the visual feed from the optics. It also contains a small Wi-Fi server, and TrackingPoint offers an iOS app that connects to the scope via an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network and streams the scope’s display to the app, allowing someone with an iPad or iPhone to act as a spotter. TrackingPoint notes that for novice hunters, having the ability to duplicate the scope’s picture onto an external display makes it a lot easier for an experienced spotter to give advice on how and when to shoot.