A marketer’s boardroom fantasy is about to explode into real life with an audience cheering and $1 million in the balance. It’s billed the “American Sniper Shootout,” and all the money raised goes to the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation (CKFF) to help our returning soldiers.
TrackingPoint, the Austin, Texas, based company that brought “fighter-jet technology” to rifles, is trying to rise from the ashes of near-total dissolution in spectacular trigger-pulling fashion. The plan: have Taya Kyle, the wife of the late U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who was profiled in the movie “American Sniper,” to agree to compete in a rifle competition that will pit her against a real sniper.
Taya is a novice shooter, but she’ll have TrackingPoint’s rifles to shoot, whereas her opponent—reigning NRA World Shooting Champion Bruce Piatt—will have current U.S. Army sniper gear. If Piatt beats Kyle and the TrackingPoint system, he will take home the $1 million prize.
“Finding a worthy opponent wasn’t as easy as we thought,” said TrackingPoint’s CEO John McHale. “We found a lot of candidates, but a lot of accomplished snipers declined when they learned they’d be going against our technology.”
The shootout will take place Saturday December 5 in Mason, Texas, and the public is welcome. It’ll be 90 minutes long and made to be watched. There will be explosions, simulated gunfire, and moving targets as Taya and her opponent shoot and move. TrackingPoint is still considering live-streaming the event, but there will be a video crew filming.
To make it really cool, they’re trying to recreate scenes from the war zones Chris Kyle fought in as a Navy SEAL. If you saw the movie, no doubt you remember the scene when Chris decided to take a 2,100-yard shot to take out Mustafa, a Syrian sniper and former Olympic rifle competitor, who was fighting for the insurgency in Iraq.
Kyle’s sniper team was positioned on a rooftop inside enemy territory when Kyle spotted Mustafa from more than a mile away—Mustafa was at 2,100 yards (a mile is 1,760 yards). Kyle took the long shot and killed the Syrian sniper who’d killed a lot of Americans, but his rifle shot alerted nearby enemy forces. Kyle and the U.S. soldiers with him found themselves outnumbered and in an intense firefight. Luckily, a sandstorm provided cover for a chaotic escape in which Kyle was injured and almost left behind.
Taya Kyle is going to try to make the same shot with a TrackingPoint-equipped rifle. Her competitor will have to make the shot as Chris did, with conventional gear.
TrackingPoint’s product is a video-screen scope (you don’t look through its scope, instead you see a video image of what’s downrange). It uses a laser rangefinder to measure the distance to the target and other instruments to measure temperature, barometric pressure, incline/decline, cant, air density, Magnus effect drift (spin drift), target movement, and Coriolis effect drift from the spinning of the Earth. The riflescope’s computer then takes all that data and uses stored ballistic and firearm information including lock time, ignition time, rate and direction of barrel-rifling twist, muzzle velocity, and ballistic coefficient to calculate a shooting solution. Basically, the scope figures out where the rifle needs to be held for the bullet to hit the target.
To put all that in motion the shooter places a “tag” on a target by centering a crosshair on the target and pushing a red button located on top of the scope. The tag then starts the calculation, which is automatically updated 52 times per second. The scope uses all this data to calculate the ballistic solution and adjusts the image on the video screen with a digital zoom to compensate for yardage so the shooter can see the target clearly.
Now here’s the cool-scary part. The system TrackingPoint sells marries a rifle’s trigger with the digital scope, so that when someone pulls the trigger, the rifle won’t fire until the crosshair is precisely in line with the tag. This theoretically takes shooter error out of the equation. With a traditional rifle and scope, a marksman has to learn to breath properly and to apply pressure to a trigger perfectly so that gun goes off at precisely the right moment—even your heart beat can make the rifle shake noticeably at extreme long range—but with TrackingPoint’s system, none of that matters. A novice can theoretically use this shooting system to hit targets placed 10 football fields away with very little training.
All that is why TrackingPoint is willing to bet $1 million and perhaps the company’s future on Taya Kyle beating a champion rifleman.
When we asked Kyle if she is nervous, she said, “Umm, yes. There is a million dollars on the line. I have to perform, and I’ve only practiced with TrackPoint’s guns for like an hour.”
Of course, there is more than one million dollars at stake for TrackingPoint. As we told you here last spring, TrackingPoint went dark. Since then they fell from about 130 employees to 24. McHale says they’d overextended themselves. Now they are back with the same technology—and some product announcements to come—and a leaner company focused on proving itself before growing again.
Of course, Taya Kyle’s reasons for doing this don’t just have to do with a PR stunt designed to get a company back on its feet—if, that is, it succeeds. All the proceeds from the competition are going to the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, a nonprofit that serves “those who serve us by providing meaningful, interactive experiences that enrich family relationships.”
Kyle says, “Through personal experience I found that alone time is critical, so we provide childcare, travel costs, and more to help families reconnect with our soldiers.”
Kyle also said this competition is important “because our soldiers need the very best equipment. I think Chris would have applauded TrackingPoint’s push to advance rifle technology; in fact, I think more of our soldiers will come home if they are protected by technology like this.”
TrackingPoint’s McHale also says that Chris Kyle had an early influence on the development of TrackingPoint’s technology. In a chance encounter in 2009, McHale spoke to Chris Kyle about the possibility of building a gun that would change the face of war. “Chris and I went back and-forth on how to make everyone an extraordinary shot,” said McHale. “We were both excited, realizing it was entirely possible to give our troops insurmountable squad-overmatch capability. We knew we were on to a world-changing idea. That was the day TrackingPoint was born.”
Still, McHale says he expects a fierce battle, but he is confident Taya and her TrackingPoint rifles will prevail. “The TrackingPoint system enables even inexperienced shooters to make incredible shots that most would think impossible, rivaling the best marksmen in the world,” he said. “The champion who steps up to take this challenge may have met their match. Taya and TrackingPoint are a powerful combination.”
Go to Americansnipershootout.events for more information about the competition, and see a promotional video out it below: