I grew up in rural West Virginia, and I don't remember learning how to shoot. All I know is I was certainly shooting well before the time I was 8. I grew up in a gun culture, with many relatives in the military, and I went to school at West Virginia University, which won its 16th NCAA Rifle Championship in 2014. In short, I know guns and I know just how hard it is to shoot accurately at extreme ranges such as 1,000 yards. Even at my best, I was never able to do it reliably.
Or rather, it used to be extraordinarily hard to hit a target consistently at 1,000 yards or more. Now, thanks to Linux, TrackingPoint, an Austin, Texas business, will allow almost anyone to hit not just 1,000-yard targets, but also ones that are up to 1 mile, 1,760 yards, away.
This isn't science fiction or a stunt done that only works under indoor rifle range conditions. TrackingPoint Precision-Guided Firearms have been enabling shooters to hit targets beyond any range they could hit on their own for several years now.
This newest model, the 338TP, nicknamed the Mile Maker, which was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January, just extends this rifle line's range up to a mile. It works by using a combination of technologies.
First, the 338TP uses the .338 Lapua Magnum long-range rifle for its base. This rifle started as a design for a US Marine sniper rifle. Then, to acquire the target, the rifle uses a laser to enable you to "tag" your target. More than just a laser-targeting system, its sensors also track wind speed, direction, temperature, and barometric pressure. As serious shooters know, all of these factors must be taken into account for an accurate shot at great ranges.
This data is then passed on to the built-in Linux computer. Once you've tagged the target, the rifle will automatically track it. You then bring your reticule, the optical target-aiming point, to match the rifle's computed impact point. Once you've matched it up and you decide to take the shot, you pull the trigger and the TriggerLink computer works out all the details needed to hit the target. Thus, and this is surprising until you get used to it, there may be up to a second of delay between the time you pull the trigger and when the shot goes off.
So is it really that accurate? It works well enough that the US Army is testing it. In one review, it was found that users of an older model were getting 70 percent first hit accuracy at 1,000 yards. A trained military rifleman, not a sniper, would hit about 5 percent of the time.
In a word, that's impressive.
Of course, for that kind of accuracy, you're going to pay a real premium. While final pricing hasn't been set yet, the 338TP won't go on sale until the second quarter of 2015, and it's expected to price out at over $40,000. Even the entry-level TrackingPoint rifle, the Precision-Guided Semi-Auto 5.56, starts at $7,495.
Oh, and the ammo: You get 200 rounds with the rifle, which runs at about $8 a round. When you're shooting at a distance, everything, and I mean everything, counts for accuracy, including the ammo.
You can also get smartglasses, the Shotglass, and Heads Up Display software, which can be used with smartphones and tablets, to let you shoot at targets without actually sighting from the rifle itself.
The 338TP certainly isn't normally what you think of when you think of a Linux-powered device. It just goes to show how Linux can be used to make almost any device better.