Soldier Systems ran a post on the TrackingPoint 500 series AR. Similar to the larger bolt action variety, it is a fully enclosed system that lets the user range a target, mark it, and allow the internal computer to calculate a firing solution. I remember when they first came out with this system, and it was much much larger and more involved. Several of my friends said it looked stupid, and wondered aloud why anyone would ever buy such a gizmo.
I reminded them that the provided example was first generation technology, and it would most assuredly be miniaturized over time for incorporation into a variety of weapons. Just like first generation “night vision” that was employed in WWII compared to what is in common use today.
What does this mean for marksmanship? Using history as a guide, I believe that TrackingPoint type tech will continue to evolve and become more ruggedized. Once it passes a threshold, the DoD will look to incorporate it into their weapons and training. Once that happens, the bean counters will be thrilled at all the money they can save on training because they can just slap the new wonder optic onto all infantry weapons and not worry about teaching marksmanship skills at all.
Do I still think there will be a place for true marksmanship skills? Absolutely. I don’t think this system does anything that a well practiced marksman can’t do already with regards to ranging, judging offset, and firing. But it would save an extraordinary amount of time. The major downside is what happens when, inevitably, the system fails and the shooter then has to rely on their basic skill set?
Would we then be potentially outclassed by other countries who have not invested in such a crutch? The possibilities are very interesting.