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Bullseye from 1,000 yards: Shooting the $17,000 Linux-powered rifle:
April 2, 2013 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Seems like someone has invented the aim-assist. "Steve has just delivered a .338 Lapua Magnum round directly onto a target about the size of a big dinner plate at a range of 1,008 yards.that's ten football fields, or a tick over 0.91 kilometers. It's his very first try. He has never fired a rifle before today."
posted by aleph (158 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Waiting for the IRL wallhack.

Kind of bothers me, though, as a Linux enthusiast, that this could be some seriously bad PR for the old penguin.
posted by Samizdata at 10:54 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't like that the gun doesn't fire when you pull the trigger.

Also: "Thanks for calling tech support. have you tried unloading and then loading it again?"
posted by mrbill at 11:26 AM on April 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


Also: "Thanks for calling tech support. have you tried unloading and then loading it again?"

That's for MS software. This is a Linux rifle, which means it's impossible to install fonts onto.
posted by DU at 11:28 AM on April 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


Why bother with the human? A 1'x1'x3' weatherproof case containing a small video camera with a long telephoto lens, a robotic aiming mechanism attached to a premium rifle (no stock required), and a Rapberry Pi running face recognition software and the mechanism. You'd have your very own assassination box... set up a few of them on lamp-posts and rooftops a quarter-mile from the venue where you know your target will be, and disguise them as security/traffic cams or wireless provider antennas. They could even talk to each other, to improve aim on the box best situated.

More evidence we're all living in a William Gibson novel.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:29 AM on April 2, 2013 [32 favorites]


So these guns do, in fact, kill people
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:30 AM on April 2, 2013 [85 favorites]


this could be some seriously bad PR for the old penguin.

Why?
posted by kmz at 11:30 AM on April 2, 2013


Why?

Ask Casio
posted by edgeways at 11:33 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why bother with the human?

I believe it's legally required in the US -- in fact, that's why they have that funky trigger mechanism, allowing the computer to decide when to fire, while technically making it such that a human being pulls the trigger. The article has some interesting remarks about the trigger system, actually.
posted by aramaic at 11:33 AM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Samizdata: "Kind of bothers me, though, as a Linux enthusiast, that this could be some seriously bad PR for the old penguin."


You do know that the DOD uses Linux (and other open source software) for lots of weapon systems? I don't think that one gun will make a difference.
posted by octothorpe at 11:33 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


More than a little amused that the sponsor ad I got for the accompanying video was for Internet Explorer.
posted by hanov3r at 11:34 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The proliferation of modern day snipers has begun. You don't want this falling into consumer hands =/
posted by MobileDev at 11:35 AM on April 2, 2013


It would be interesting if, when the gun "heard" someone say "Linux" around it, the voice of Richard Stallman would emerge: "I’d just like to interject for a moment. What you’re refering to as Linux, is in fact, GNU/Linux, or as I’ve recently taken to calling it, GNU plus Linux. Linux is not an operating system unto itself, but rather another free component of a fully functioning GNU system made useful by the GNU corelibs, shell utilities and vital system components comprising a full OS as defined by POSIX.

Many computer users run a modified version of the GNU system every day, without realizing it. Through a peculiar turn of events, the version of GNU which is widely used today is often called 'Linux,' and many of its users are not aware that it is basically the GNU system, developed by the GNU Project."

If gun control advocates want to make this technology go away, all they have to do is slip in a teeeeensy rider into a bill mandating this effect.
posted by adipocere at 11:38 AM on April 2, 2013 [44 favorites]


I think the real issue will be creating a stock with a special adjustable cheek rest to accommodate neckbeards.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:40 AM on April 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


This sounds like something from the Laundry novels when SCORPION STARE is not enough.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:40 AM on April 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


You don't want this falling into consumer hands

Pretty much already too late, barring sudden total collapse of the company involved. It'll be interesting to see if the pricing gets reduced over time (I assume it would, but weaponry pricing is ... opaque ... to me so I dunno). There'll also be crappier knockoffs by enthusiasts, now that the concept is proven.

Gonna be a good time to be Beltway Sniper Mk.III.

Interesting that the article was more concerned with addressing typical mass-shooting situations (close range), rather than the more likely dedicated sniper situation (nobody buys a bolt-action rifle to charge into a mall, but they do buy them if they want to hide in the treeline to pop a jogger).
posted by aramaic at 11:41 AM on April 2, 2013


Smartlink on a display is pretty good, but in order to get the full effect, you need it hooked into your cybereye. Alphaware or better, please.
posted by demiurge at 11:41 AM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Linux-powered gun
Bullseye from one thousand yards
Aim-assist is here
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:43 AM on April 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


octothorpe: "Samizdata: "Kind of bothers me, though, as a Linux enthusiast, that this could be some seriously bad PR for the old penguin."


You do know that the DOD uses Linux (and other open source software) for lots of weapon systems? I don't think that one gun will make a difference.
"

Yeah, that's the DoD, not a consumer gun some idiot will inevitably use in a bad way.
posted by Samizdata at 11:43 AM on April 2, 2013


DU: "Also: "Thanks for calling tech support. have you tried unloading and then loading it again?"

That's for MS software. This is a Linux rifle, which means it's impossible to install fonts onto.
"

Not so much. Mind you, I have had some issues with the Font Viewer installing stuff, but there's always the CLI. /neckbeard
posted by Samizdata at 11:45 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


GUN/Linux: Because Ammunition Wants to be Free
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:46 AM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's the subtext behind a lot of the negative reaction to TrackingPoint's PGF technology: its potential use against people, either in the hands of a soldier, a policeman, or the proverbial crazy person. I'd argue that it's far more likely a mass shooting event would take place with conventional firearms than with a PGF; a bolt-action hunting rifle isn't exactly the quickest method of getting a lot of lead on a lot of different targets. The very nature of the PGF's "Tag-Track-Xact" scope encourages methodical target selection at range, and hauling even a hypothetical smaller PGF into a crowded place and letting loose would be enormously difficult. It's not a close-quarters weapon by any stretch of the imagination.
Fear-mongering aside, [...]
Dude, you have a weapon that lets a total newb score a bullseye from a mile away, and you're brushing aside criticism that this makes it trivial to murder people by calling it fear-mongering?

This tech is only going to get cheaper and more rugged. It's only a matter of time. These are not trivial concerns. I desperately wish people in tech journalism were capable of criticism instead of permanently acting as elaborate PR gigs.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by pmv at 11:46 AM on April 2, 2013 [56 favorites]


I like how the article makes haste to dismiss concerns about use in violence by pointing out that it's not very good in spree killings, as if there are no possible problems one could think of by giving any random crackpot with enough money to buy a used pickup truck the ability to hit a head-sized target a mile away.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:47 AM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think this is an incredibly cool tool, but for me the whole point of shooting is for it to be my skillful use of the tool that hits the mark, not a computer's. I'm sure I'd still have a good time with it though. Let me know when it gets down under 10K and and I'll be more interested...
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:48 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Weird coincidence: a recruiter is at this moment trying to get me to apply for a tech job with Tracking Point.
posted by tippiedog at 11:48 AM on April 2, 2013


The proliferation of modern day snipers has begun. You don't want this falling into consumer hands =/

Though the technology does raise that pretty reasonable point, I'm sure the NRA has lobbyists at the ready to defend the rights of Americans to get around pesky gun-free school zoning laws.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:49 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there's something about the whole "hold the trigger, wave the gun around, and let the firearm decide when to actually release the bullet" aspect that seems a little problematic.
posted by 256 at 11:51 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think this is an incredibly cool tool, but for me the whole point of shooting is for it to be my skillful use of the tool that hits the mark, not a computer's.

I commend you on deciding to put your trust in the Force instead of clunky targeting computers.

But what about the people for whom the whole point of shooting is seeing how many consecutive headshots they can get?
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:00 PM on April 2, 2013


It sounds functionally similar to the equipment used in laser-eye surgery; the computer simply waits to fire until the target and site exactly align, even briefly.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:01 PM on April 2, 2013


That's for MS software. This is a Linux rifle, which means it's impossible to install fonts onto.

Huh? For years now you've just copied them to ~/.fonts and Fontconfig picked them up automatically. It's trivial.

The real issue will be atrocious community themes for the rifle interface.
posted by zjacreman at 12:02 PM on April 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


Homeboy Trouble's point is also a very good one. A kilometer is a pretty long way and a quick glance at maps like this one suggests that current security perimeters around presidential appearances do not necessarily extend even half that far.

I find it somewhat amazing that this could be brought to the consumer market without the Secret Service getting involved (or do they not have the authority to even make recommendations to ATF?). If it does end up in gun shops, I can only assume that buying one would get you on a list or two.
posted by 256 at 12:05 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]



The important thing is that the NRA* has successfully blocked universal background checks from becoming reality, meaning that criminals like Ted Nugent can obtain this weapon to hunt illegally**.

* like nambla, but for guns
** seriously. Ted is barred from hunting in like 3 states because of his repeated violations.

posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:05 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


But what about the people for whom the whole point of shooting is seeing how many consecutive headshots they can get?
posted by Strange Interlude


I guess this would be quite a useful tool then - if they weren't already extremely skilled at shots of that distance.
posted by blaneyphoto at 12:06 PM on April 2, 2013


If I have to figure out which freakin' repo I need to dl this software, I'M NOT INTERESTED
posted by gorbichov at 12:09 PM on April 2, 2013


Eh. It's a lot easier to hand a new recruit a rifle which lets him pull a headshot at 1000 yards than it is to train him to be able to do it himself. That's exactly one of the reasons why early firearms replaced longbows, after all. Training and practice is a lot more expensive in time and money than a new rifle.
posted by Justinian at 12:10 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see if the pricing gets reduced over time (I assume it would, but weaponry pricing is ... opaque ... to me so I dunno).

A lot of the price is in the precise weapon needed to ensure consistency; those gunsmithing costs aren't going to go down much.
posted by Mitheral at 12:11 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


This changes the cost of sniping more than it changes the possibility of it. Almost certainly, anyone willing to spend a million dollars could hire/train someone to hit a target at that huge range. But now the cost may be down to little more than the cost of this rifle.

That doesn't mean it can't have very a very large social impact over time.
posted by jclarkin at 12:14 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The hefty Surgeon rifle feels like a quality firearm should—it's solid and its bolt operates with a reassuring ka-chunk-ka-chunk. Like most firearms, it works best when operated authoritatively—you firmly seat the magazine and firmly close the bolt to put the weapon in battery.
This is a hell of a tangent, but I remember reading an article years ago by a car designer, who said that the car door is one of the most important and most difficult areas in designing the user experience of cars. You need to tune the weight and hinge resistance to make it feel comfortable to use but strong and solid, design the latches to make a deep, satisfying "ka-chunk" as it opens or closes, block the sound of the window motors while transmitting the noise made by the locks, and, of course, decide what sort of noticeable and reassuringly secure noise the locks should make when triggered. Making a door that's secure and safe is not terribly hard to do, but making it feel that way is much more involved.

From this guy's description, I wonder to what extent similar considerations play into gun design?
posted by metaBugs at 12:15 PM on April 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


This sounds like something from the Laundry novels when SCORPION STARE is not enough.

What it REALLY is is homo habilis to Moh Kohn's AK in The Star Fraction.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:19 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that's the DoD, not a consumer gun some idiot will inevitably use in a bad way.

Hamburger? Or do I need to send my detector in for calibration?
posted by rtha at 12:20 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


decide what sort of noticeable and reassuringly secure noise the locks should make when triggered. Making a door that's secure and safe is not terribly hard to do, but making it feel that way is much more involved.

These work just as well as these. Guess which one people want on their trucks nowadays? It's not because the latter is easy to fix or is less likely to break, I'll tell you that.

Nothing earth shattering when the same principle is applied to doors or firearms or *insert mechanism here* really.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:23 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Ask Casio"

That 88-trigger gun really was a mistake, wasn't it?
posted by klangklangston at 12:24 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this is pretty intense as far as VIP security goes. All you now need is a small window somewhere within a kilometre of a public appearance, and someone with an agenda that can be advanced by killing. No skill required, just a satchel of money. There's basically no risk at all for the shooter. Take the shot and walk away.

[shudder]
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:28 PM on April 2, 2013


This is a Linux rifle, which means it's impossible to install fonts onto.

On the plus side, sound suppression is flawless.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:28 PM on April 2, 2013 [24 favorites]


I dunno. I mean, the tech is cool, but it'd feel like cheating. I can punch plates at 1,000 meters with my .308, but that took years of practice and discipline. I had to learn to control my breathing, I had to memorize ballistics charts for the rounds I was using, how to adjust my scope for the proper amount of hold-over at that range, how to read and dial-in windage... There is so much to it that makes it oh-so satisfying when you do line up, take up the slack in the trigger, touch it off, and then still have time to let your sight picture settle back onto the target in time to watch the last moment of the bullet's kilometer-long journey as it sails into the plate. It's an incredible feeling of accomplishment and discipline that I just don't think you'd get with this system.
posted by xedrik at 12:28 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


rtha: "Yeah, that's the DoD, not a consumer gun some idiot will inevitably use in a bad way.

Hamburger? Or do I need to send my detector in for calibration?
"

All I was saying is people generally expect things like the DoD to use tech to kill people. As soon as someone non-military uses one of these guns in a "bad" way (which I expect to become a certainty in the future), people will be all "Linux? Isn't that what they said about that gun that sniper killed people with??" since people are so good at remembering buzzwords.

So, possibly a small retune.
posted by Samizdata at 12:30 PM on April 2, 2013


That 88-trigger gun really was a mistake, wasn't it?

I don't know- the muzzle blast tended to be a bit tinny, but it had a really good bottom end.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:32 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this is pretty intense as far as VIP security goes. All you now need is a small window somewhere within a kilometre of a public appearance, and someone with an agenda that can be advanced by killing. No skill required, just a satchel of money. There's basically no risk at all for the shooter. Take the shot and walk away.

VIP security is too narrow. If I was an abortion clinic doctor, this is the kind of news that would run a chill down my spine.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:34 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The proliferation of modern day snipers has begun. You don't want this falling into consumer hands =/

OTOH, this would be good for one shot against a stationary target. Hitting anything moving would still be kind of difficult, as you'd have to line up little dots while moving the rifle itself before the targets got to cover.

But for cases like the Washington sniper-type psychopaths, yeah, this is sort of terrifying. I'm not really sure there's a sufficiently pressing need to kill deer at long range to justify this being legal for anyone other than the military.
posted by Dasein at 12:35 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


xedrik: "I dunno. I mean, the tech is cool, but it'd feel like cheating. I can punch plates at 1,000 meters with my .308, but that took years of practice and discipline. I had to learn to control my breathing, I had to memorize ballistics charts for the rounds I was using, how to adjust my scope for the proper amount of hold-over at that range, how to read and dial-in windage... There is so much to it that makes it oh-so satisfying when you do line up, take up the slack in the trigger, touch it off, and then still have time to let your sight picture settle back onto the target in time to watch the last moment of the bullet's kilometer-long journey as it sails into the plate. It's an incredible feeling of accomplishment and discipline that I just don't think you'd get with this system."

Besides, these aren't guns for the shootist, these are guns for the killist. You don't buy a gun like this for the shooting experience, you buy a gun like this if you like putting bullets in things.
posted by Samizdata at 12:35 PM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


The gun doesn't literally fire itself; rather, it actively prevents you from firing the weapon until the shot is close enough to perfect, by making the trigger pull too high for you to reasonably overcome. When the shot is right, it relaxes the pressure, and your finger then pulls the trigger. If you aren't actively pulling, pretty hard, nothing will happen.

This reminds me of Vernor Vinge's 'smart bullets'. The delay is particularly interesting, because that was the way his smart bullets worked. Dumbo non-military guy stuck the rifle over a log, and held down the trigger. The gun paused for a bit, and then started shooting in a ragged, irregular pattern, but every bullet hit a target. That's surprisingly close to what these guys are doing.

Vinge's guns had some additional smarts in the actual bullets; the gun knew about when to throw the lead downrange, but then the bullets steered themselves after firing, resulting in near-perfect accuracy.

That was wild science fiction, twenty years ago. In 2013, it's halfway there, and the other half seems merely difficult.
posted by Malor at 12:35 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Besides, these aren't guns for the shootist, these are guns for the killist. You don't buy a gun like this for the shooting experience, you buy a gun like this if you like putting bullets in things.


Cold blooded, clean, methodical and thorough. Now a real killer, when he picked up the ZF-1, would've immediately asked about the little red button on the bottom of the gun.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:38 PM on April 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


Vinge's guns had some additional smarts in the actual bullets; the gun knew about when to throw the lead downrange, but then the bullets steered themselves after firing, resulting in near-perfect accuracy.

That was wild science fiction, twenty years ago. In 2013, it's halfway there, and the other half seems merely difficult.


Auburn University has been doing this very thing for a while already. I saw it in a documentary years ago. Which means it must been in the works already for a while at that point in time.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:39 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


All I was saying is people generally expect things like the DoD to use tech to kill people

This tech is very cheap and very easy to copy, and combined with our lax gun laws and "gun culture" will result in never-fail assassination machines put together on the cheap. Some enthusiast will reverse engineer it and post detailed how-to plans and software on the internet, as they are part of the "gun community" and see this as "giving back" - and it's all off the shelf tech, easily obtained.

Especially the semi-auto .50BMG sniper rifle, and the armor-piercing bullets to feed it. Or a .308 Winchester semi-auto modified to take a box-feed, on a rotating base, set up to kill whoever wanders into its sights, one shot a piece.

Walk away, and use a cell phone call to turn it on.

Of course they'd never use it! They're all law-abiding enthusiasts. They just don't care about the people who would, not their problem, you see.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:41 PM on April 2, 2013


The gun doesn't literally fire itself; rather, it actively prevents you from firing the weapon until the shot is close enough to perfect, by making the trigger pull too high for you to reasonably overcome. When the shot is right, it relaxes the pressure, and your finger then pulls the trigger. If you aren't actively pulling, pretty hard, nothing will happen.

That can be defeated by something as easy as a 5-cent rubber band, or any device that can simulate pressure available from your local big-name hardware store for a couple dollars.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:42 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Besides, these aren't guns for the shootist, these are guns for the killist. You don't buy a gun like this for the shooting experience, you buy a gun like this if you like putting bullets in things.

...or because you think the technology is impressive. I think it's hyperbole to start talking like every, most, or many of the people who are going to buy this gun are buying it to murder people.

For a long time I was seriously thinking of buying one of these, not because I'd actually use it for anything, but because I just thought it was neat.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:46 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can get rubber bands for free when you buy asparagus.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:46 PM on April 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


I think it's hyperbole to start talking like every, most, or many of the people who are going to buy this gun are buying it to murder people.

I'm just worried about one or two, to be honest. You should be, too.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:55 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


That can be defeated by something as easy as a 5-cent rubber band, or any device that can simulate pressure available from your local big-name hardware store for a couple dollars.

Well, of course. I mean, duh. You can also just modify the gun and software to actively pull the trigger instead. It's already 99% of the way there.

If someone wants to make an autonomous gun platform, they can now do that. At home. And there is fuck-all you can do about it. They will be able to do this whether or not you approve, and no matter what laws you pass.

Technology, it advances. Be as scared or not scared as you want, this genie is permanently out of the bottle.
posted by Malor at 1:00 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Given the disconnect between the person pulling the trigger and the computer firing the bullet, I wonder if this has already been made illegal by the laws which prohibit Internet hunting. The statute in Massachusetts has this definition:
Section 65A. (a) For the purposes of this section, "online shooting or spearing" means the use of a computer or any other device, equipment, software or technology, to remotely control the aiming and discharge of any weapon including, but not limited to, any firearm, bow and arrow, spear, slingshot, harpoon or any other projectile device or any other weapon capable of killing or capable of inflicting injury capable of killing any bird, mammal, reptile or fish.
The argument could probably be made that the person holding the gun isn't exactly "remotely" controlling it, but a computer is definitely controlling the aiming and discharge of the weapon here.

In any event, I see no purpose for this device and I really wish its developers would refocus their efforts elsewhere.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:00 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


So elected officials will get Popemobile worthy plastic assasination shields..or never make actual in-person appearances outside...and the rest of us just hope we're not targets for some violent dumbass.

Fabulous!
posted by emjaybee at 1:01 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just worried about one or two, to be honest. You should be, too.

No, actually, he or she really shouldn't. There are tremendously more pressing issues, like getting people to wear seatbelts, or maybe programs to check people's tire inflation pressures.
posted by Malor at 1:01 PM on April 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


Actually Slap*Happy had a good idea with the face recognition software, just in the wrong direction. How hard would it be for the company to cause the targeting software to refuse to lock onto anything it identified as a human?

They wouldn't even need to publicize that fact (which I'm sure would displease potential purchasers, though I don't know why), because no one would ever try it to find out, right?

That way, you'd have to be crazy but also able to hack or install new controlling software before you could reasonable become Beltway Sniper 2.0. That plus the price is probably enough of a hurdle.

(Also, seriously? A computer runs the damn thing. Just tell your clients it needs to be brought in every 6 months for patching and updates, at which point download the record of conditions and location every single time it's been fired since last check-in. Put a GPS and 3G phone in it and have it call home every time it shoots. Send the freaking targeting video in real time whenever the trigger is depressed, with remote disable capability. Anyone buying this is doing it to show off anyway, why would they mind? Rank their shots against all other shots ever on some leaderboard on your website, they'd probably love it.)
posted by jermsplan at 1:02 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Given the disconnect between the person pulling the trigger and the computer firing the bullet

There is no disconnect; the physical action of the shooter fires the weapon. The computer prevents this from happening until the shot is lined up. It does not pull the trigger itself, nor does it move the gun. Nor does it pick a target by itself.
posted by Malor at 1:03 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


[not] many of the people who are going to buy this gun are buying it to murder people.

It seems to me that the point of the concern is not what will happen to a $17,000 gun, because in some states with enough money you can already buy some terrifying weaponry, but rather what is going to happen when similar technology goes downmarket, combined with the completely asinine state of weapons control in the US (cf., the crippled ATF).

...but I could be wrong. Nevertheless, I'm just waiting for an asshole to release a patch that does things like automatically recognize and shoot minorities. Just as a joke, you understand. Naturally, it wasn't serious. Oh no, certainly not.

Mark my words, it'll happen. The technologies involved, as Malor points out, are unavoidable at this point.
posted by aramaic at 1:03 PM on April 2, 2013


You should be, too.

Really? I think it's a far more logical argument for advocates of gun restrictions/licensing/what have you is that you should be worried about the .38 Saturday night special purchased from an shady dealer around the corner.

Outside of long range assignation attempts, which can and have been done with a much more down to earth device, I don't think the average commenter on Metafilter has much to worry about, so yea, I can see the validity of the claim that saying so is indeed hyperbole.

Sure, scary thing may indeed be scary to some but, much like the Cement Block throwing big dog, it's really not something to be worried about. Not even for gun control advocates, not if they're really concerned with preservation of life/prevention of gun related deaths or violence.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:04 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


In similar news that comes across as scary and threatening but really shouldn't be high on the priority list for the average person... at least for the last few years, there has been technology out there that can reverse engineer your keys from 200+ feet away.

Since this news was revealed, along with the common sense connection that something as innocuous as a facebook picture and profile could indeed reveal everything someone needed to casually break into someone's home, countless people have been not harmed as a direct result of said technology.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:11 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


If only Dick Cheney had had one of these. Just tick two boxes on the configuration UI:

[√] Caged animals
[ ] Lawyers' faces
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:12 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hook it up to a 3-D printer and it could be self-replicating.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:20 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


cosmic.osmo: "Besides, these aren't guns for the shootist, these are guns for the killist. You don't buy a gun like this for the shooting experience, you buy a gun like this if you like putting bullets in things.

...or because you think the technology is impressive. I think it's hyperbole to start talking like every, most, or many of the people who are going to buy this gun are buying it to murder people.

For a long time I was seriously thinking of buying one of these, not because I'd actually use it for anything, but because I just thought it was neat.
"

Don't get me wrong, this gave me a techgasm when I first heard about it a while back. (And Curtas are way awesome, even if I have never seen one in person.) But, I suspect, more wannabe tactiLOL types will be buying these than the tech guys. The whole "It's a gun thing" can provide a selection filter.

(And this coming from a guy who loved his scope mod in UT2004...)
posted by Samizdata at 1:23 PM on April 2, 2013


Why bother with the human?

My buddy Skynet was saying the same thing the other day.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:24 PM on April 2, 2013


Since we're venturing into terrifying hypotheticals, consider the fact that this technology would work equally well at suppressing the effects of vibration and drift on the aim of a small autonomous drone in flight.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:25 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Malor:There is no disconnect; the physical action of the shooter fires the weapon.

Yes there is. It's clear that the mechanical action of pulling the trigger doesn't actually fire the bullet.

After the target has been tagged, the scope's reticle changes to a large blue "X," and the weapon can be fired. To actually send a round downrange to the target, you depress the weapon's trigger. This doesn't cause the weapon to immediately fire, though—the reticle turns red, and while keeping the trigger held down, you must align the reticle with the tagged pip. Once the pip and the reticle coincide, the weapon fires.

It's clear that the trigger only requests that the gun be fired and that there's some software agent which actually discharges the gun when the right conditions are met. In this case, those conditions are when the shooter has properly aimed the weapon, but it's still the gun's computer that actually shoots the weapon. The author even admits that he does not have complete control of it:

Every time the PGF fired, it was a surprise. Sometimes, my alignment would be great and it would send a round almost before I was ready (including on one instance where I was going to provide a countdown for my cameraman and managed to fire the rifle before I even got to "one"). Other times, especially at range, it would take two, three, four seconds of apparent dead-on coincidence between pip and reticle before the rifle would fire.

I think it can be successfully argued that this is a remotely operated weapon that would be illegal to operate under Massachusetts state law, and I hope someone does just that before these idiotic things proliferate.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:25 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


He laughed. "I'm really not trying to make a ton of money on ammo, but I want to control the outcome and I want people to have a good experience."

...

"From a business strategy perspective, we went very high-end long guns year one—building and explaining to people what a PGF is," he continued. "We intend to expand into other calibers and other action types next year.

...

"Google actually has some reasonably prohibitive policies around firearms," explained Boyd. "I don't really think they're going to be a good partner for us."

...

TrackingPoint includes an iPad with the app pre-loaded when you buy a PGF.


Bret Boyd is Steve Jobs.
posted by jhc at 1:28 PM on April 2, 2013


Especially the semi-auto .50BMG sniper rifle, and the armor-piercing bullets to feed it. Or a .308 Winchester semi-auto modified to take a box-feed, on a rotating base, set up to kill whoever wanders into its sights, one shot a piece.

Sorry for the potential nightmare fuel, no matter how undeserved I think it may be, but you realize, again, that roughly this is already out there and available in kit form for under a grand or so. I'd be willing to say that if it'd been responsible for deaths we'd have heard about it.

That's not to say that it couldn't or that it's not worth being careful with, even when used as intended with paintball/airsoft guns, but all I'm emphasizing is that it's not something A) that's caused a lot of actual pain/suffering outside of gnashing of teeth theoretical arguments or woe is us hypotheticals nor is it B) something 99.9999% of the population would ever have to even consider encountering and/or worrying about.

...unless, of course, you have really techie/handy friends that also play paintball, in which case can I come over?
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:30 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


RonButNotStupid, that's not how it works, as addressed in the second page of the article.

This sounds a little odd and might give the impression that the trigger actually moves under your finger as its weighting is varied. But this is incorrect: the trigger does not move on its own. You pull it and hold it to signal to the rifle that you want it to fire. Prior to lining up the reticle and tagged pip, the trigger's effective pull weight is set to higher than the force you're exerting on it. When the shot is lined up and the rifle's computer calculates it's the optimal moment for the weapon to be fired, the trigger's effective weight drops below the amount of force you're exerting and the weapon fires. TrackingPoint describes it as a "blocking" function, rather than a "self-firing" function. It's a somewhat thin line to walk, but it's compliant with the law. In practice, the differentiation is moot.

In other words, you pull the trigger, but it won't fire until the rifle is aimed correctly. You stop pulling the trigger, and it never fires.
posted by dragoon at 1:33 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The important thing is that the NRA* has successfully blocked universal background checks from becoming reality

NRA Concedes Background Checks Are Necessary (for armed school guards.)
posted by homunculus at 1:33 PM on April 2, 2013


Ted Nugent can obtain this weapon to hunt illegally

I'm guessing the Nuge would rather stick to his machine gun.
posted by homunculus at 1:35 PM on April 2, 2013


"Ask Casio"

That 88-trigger gun really was a mistake, wasn't it?


It's fine, just don't put it into demo mode.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:36 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


In other news: Syrian Rebel Jury-Rigs A Remote Controlled Rifle
posted by homunculus at 1:42 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The human is the supervisor, who is using the trigger as a continuous OK TO FIRE switch.

The computer is fire control, deciding when the human's command to fire can be actualized with the highest chance of success.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:43 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought people would welcome this with open arms.
posted by quarsan at 1:43 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw this yesterday on Ars, and was 100% sure it was an april fool's prank. Not so much?
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 1:44 PM on April 2, 2013


I think it's hyperbole to start talking like every, most, or many of the people who are going to buy this gun are buying it to murder people.
I'm just worried about one or two, to be honest. You should be, too.


I didn't say I wasn't; that's why I left out "any."

If someone wants to make an autonomous gun platform, they can now do that. At home. And there is fuck-all you can do about it. They will be able to do this whether or not you approve, and no matter what laws you pass.

A cute example. This one isn't autonomous, but it is remote and mobile.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 1:45 PM on April 2, 2013


dragoon: In other words, you pull the trigger, but it won't fire until the rifle is aimed correctly. You stop pulling the trigger, and it never fires.

There's still a computer sitting between the human and the weapon deciding when that trigger pull is actually going to discharge the weapon. The software could just as well never release the trigger, and the gun would never fire no matter how long the human keeps pulling it.

On preview, it's exactly as seanmpuckett put it: The human is merely a supervisor instructing the computer to fire when it's ready.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:46 PM on April 2, 2013


And honestly a large concern I'm not seeing addressed here, it is a bit on the functional side I suppose, is the potential for a misfire/accidental discharge based upon something malfunctioning in the trigger group/electronics.

I grok that you have to have trigger pressure AND boolean_fire_value = true for the firing pin to start traveling towards the primer but any sort of malfunction/accidental pressure while in the "bootup phase" that could lead to a discharge seems like something that I, as a responsible shooter, would have beef with.

If users begin to consider that a 'safety' in the normal firearm sense of the word I'm afraid they're badly mistaken.

It's like a car being in gear, with the throttle fully depressed, BUT the clutch in. Once, in the case of the rifle, the computer/linux/electronics decides to pop the clutch all bets are off.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:47 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes there is. It's clear that the mechanical action of pulling the trigger doesn't actually fire the bullet.

Yes it does. The gun will not fire without pressure on the trigger. The computer increases the trigger pull so high that you can't actually pull the trigger back. When and if it releases the pressure, your finger pulls the trigger, not the computer. Without constant finger pressure, the gun will not fire; the physical action of doing so is driven by calories you expend.

You simply cannot make that claim. It is wrong to do so, and you should retract it. Unless you're redefining the act of pulling a trigger as somehow not being the result of energy expenditure by a human muscle, it is just outright false.

It's clear that the trigger only requests that the gun be fired and that there's some software agent which actually discharges the gun when the right conditions are met.

This is just. flat. wrong. The computer mechanically allows your finger to pull the trigger at a particular time. It does not pull the trigger itself; it cannot do so, it can only stop you from firing at the wrong time.

Your finger's energy input drives the firing pin, exactly the same way that it does on other rifles.
posted by Malor at 1:53 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


In other words: you're constantly trying to fire, and you are doing all the aiming. The computer grants permission at the exact right time.
posted by Malor at 1:54 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


The human is merely a supervisor instructing the computer to fire when it's ready.

But this is how firearms work already... The human fires the gun via instructions issued from the brain. We're just worse at math and timing than the microchips mounted on this specific firearm are.

...except for accidental/malfunctioning discharges, which I attempted to address just now... But those are more or less present in any firearm, just less traditionally apparent in this device, and therefore potentially more insidious.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:56 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There may be two triggers being pulled in this particular case.
posted by forgetful snow at 1:58 PM on April 2, 2013


It's like a car being in gear, with the throttle fully depressed, BUT the clutch in. Once, in the case of the rifle, the computer/linux/electronics decides to pop the clutch all bets are off.

On the other hand, most modern cars have computer controlled brakes (ABS) which have the final say on braking decisions at all times when the ABS system is active. I'm not advocating combining guns and computers, but we have been doing this sort of stuff for quite a long time now. The computers are already everywhere.
posted by ikalliom at 1:58 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


screw them into drones gun mount.
add some A.I.
posted by clavdivs at 1:59 PM on April 2, 2013


Your finger's energy input drives the firing pin, exactly the same way that it does on other rifles.

Tiny nitpick: The finger's energy releases the firing pin which is powered by mechanical energy stored in the spring. Double action trigger pulls do perform both the storing and the releasing of this action but, in this usage, assuming the firing pin is already cocked, is likely a safe one.

That said, Malor is spot on, the electronics are not powering/releasing the pin, only acting as a logic gate. Nitpick on.

but we have been doing this sort of stuff for quite a long time now.

I completely agree.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:00 PM on April 2, 2013


The computer doesn't actually change the physical characteristics of the trigger pull. It doesn't release your finger or anything and allow you to fire.

It lowers the threshhold of pressure on the electronic sensor that will fire the rifle.

It's just a legal and engineering loophole to make a self-shooting gun.


Rather than being connected mechanically to the firing pin, the "guided trigger assembly" includes a solenoid which actuates the firing mechanism. The solenoid releases only when the trigger is pulled and when the tagging pip coincides with the scope's reticle. According to TrackingPoint, the rifle's computer "dynamically inflates and deflates" the trigger weighting required to trip the solenoid and cause the weapon to fire.
This sounds a little odd and might give the impression that the trigger actually moves under your finger as its weighting is varied. But this is incorrect: the trigger does not move on its own. You pull it and hold it to signal to the rifle that you want it to fire. Prior to lining up the reticle and tagged pip, the trigger's effective pull weight is set to higher than the force you're exerting on it. When the shot is lined up and the rifle's computer calculates it's the optimal moment for the weapon to be fired, the trigger's effective weight drops below the amount of force you're exerting and the weapon fires. TrackingPoint describes it as a "blocking" function, rather than a "self-firing" function. It's a somewhat thin line to walk, but it's compliant with the law. In practice, the differentiation is moot.

posted by yonega at 2:02 PM on April 2, 2013


The computer increases the trigger pull so high that you can't actually pull the trigger back. When and if it releases the pressure, your finger pulls the trigger, not the computer.

I think this is wrong. The picture I'm getting from the article is that the shooter pulls the trigger all the way back against some stop (with some high force), then when the computer decides the shot is good it trips something inside the action to release the firing pin. I'm basing this on these lines in the article:
To actually send a round downrange to the target, you depress the weapon's trigger.

TrackingPoint's rifles, though, remove overcompensation from the equation by totally segregating the act of pulling the trigger from the weapon's firing.

there's sometimes a multi-second period where you're squeezing the trigger and braced for the rifle's kick.

This sounds a little odd and might give the impression that the trigger actually moves under your finger as its weighting is varied. But this is incorrect: the trigger does not move on its own. You pull it and hold it to signal to the rifle that you want it to fire.

the "guided trigger assembly" includes a solenoid which actuates the firing mechanism. The solenoid releases only when the trigger is pulled and when the tagging pip coincides with the scope's reticle.
I could be wrong, but that's my impression.
posted by achrise at 2:10 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The solenoid releases only when the trigger is pulled and when the tagging pip coincides with the scope's reticle.

Right, this is exactly in line with how a trigger 'breaks' on a normal firearm. Just replace 'tagging pip coincides with the scope's reticle' with "human decision to fire based upon sight pattern" and you've got it.

In practice, the differentiation is moot.

I tend to agree, it's indeed a nitpick (that I'm going to step away from) but, unlike the turret I linked to above, the weapon is neither shooting nor aiming itself, it only times the release of the projectile based upon some previously set parameters and the trigger being placed and held by the user in the fire position.

Again, again, again, outside of safety concerns/mechanical-electrical failure/theory debate, the practical differentiation is indeed moot.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:13 PM on April 2, 2013


This addon helped me beat the 3rd boss in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, so I'm all for it.
posted by hellojed at 2:16 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, actually, he or she really shouldn't. There are tremendously more pressing issues

Yeah, because political assassinations never caused any trouble.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:26 PM on April 2, 2013


I would bet this doesn't violate the Mass. remote firing law, even if the computer is technically operating the firing pin instead of using a mechanical trigger. This is a weapon that a person holds and physically points at the target they want to hit, and that fires only if the same person is actively pulling a trigger on the weapon indicating they want it to fire. The statute refers to "online" and "remote" operation, and ambiguities in criminal statutes are strictly construed in favor of the defendant. It's pretty tough to argue that a statute criminalizing "remote" operation is unambiguously intended to refer to a thing you hold in your hands and mechanically operate, just because the signal from the trigger is electronically transmitted the few inches to the firing pin.

For a fun example of how this sort of case might go, check out this Massachusetts case holding that an expandable baton is not a blackjack.

It's like a car being in gear, with the throttle fully depressed ...

... by a driver who is holding the steering wheel and wishes the car to rapidly accelerate.
posted by jhc at 2:27 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


A real reporter would have asked why they don't have software that refuses to fire when it detects a human silhouette. If nothing else, just to see them argue that the safety benefits are not worth the loss of fun at not being able to shoot dummies and paper silhouettes.
posted by chortly at 2:30 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


...That way, you'd have to be crazy but also able to hack or install new controlling software before you could reasonable become Beltway Sniper 2.0. That plus the price is probably enough of a hurdle.

Digital restrictions management would only be justified in this instance to prevent folks from shooting at wildebeest.
posted by kengraham at 2:37 PM on April 2, 2013


Would they be liable if a target restriction management system false negatived or was hacked by the end user?
posted by zjacreman at 3:00 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some hacker will eventually install Doom on this thing, which will at least make for some funny cognitive dissonance on the part of "guns don't kill people but videogames cause violence," thinkers.
posted by Skwirl at 3:11 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


dragoon: In other words, you pull the trigger, but it won't fire until the rifle is aimed correctly. You stop pulling the trigger, and it never fires.

Take this hypothetical event:
1) Shooter lines up his target and squeezes the trigger.
2) Aim-assist blocks the trigger as programmed.
3) Shooter wanders the reticle around, looking for the computer to allow the shot, all the while squeezing the trigger.
4) Something happens (someone walks into the shot, shooter sneezes, computer triggers early etc) and the bullet is fired wide, killing someone downrange.

In some cases, the aim-assist merely created the circumstances favourable to an accident (you must maintain trigger pressure for an extended period). In other cases the aim-assist could be considered *liable* for the accident (firing early, at an unintended target). A thoughtful person could argue that once a computer sits itself between your finger and the firing pin, it's taking away control from the shooter, no matter whether the mechanism is "normally open" or "normally closed."

Similar arguments are being made over automotive technology. Cars now have actuators on the throttle, brakes and steering column. It's only software that keeps the vehicle following the driver's intention.
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:19 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cars now have actuators on the throttle, brakes and steering column. It's only software that keeps the vehicle following the driver's intention.

And cars with that kind of technology are much safer than cars without.

Computers don't get startled, and they react at insane speeds compared to humans. If someone walks into the shot, or the shooter sneezes, the gun will be able to react to that many times faster than any human can. If line of sight to the target is obscured, it will most likely know, and react, within a millisecond. Human reaction times are more in the 100 millisecond range, and that's a very, very quick human indeed.

While this technology makes it much easier to make shots that would formerly have required a great deal of skill, I would argue that it makes it tremendously less likely that the wrong target will be hit. And, whatever you happen to think, shooting at things that aren't people is going to be the dominant use of these weapons.

All else being equal, it's going to be a lot safer to throw lead downrange under computer guidance than using the Mark One Eyeball.
posted by Malor at 3:43 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, by the way, I myself should retract my earlier claims. I misunderstood the quoted paragraph above as indicating a physical impediment on the trigger pull. What appears to actually be happening, after close examination of the text, is that no matter how hard you pull on the trigger, the computer sets the sensor to require a pressure that's even higher. It doesn't stop the trigger from pulling, which is what I thought was happening. Instead, if you're pulling with 5 pounds of force, it sets the sensor to require 10 pounds. If you pull even harder, it will just raise the required pressure, so that the sensor will not indicate a fire condition. Then, when the shot is lined up, and the human has the aim exactly correct, the computer drops the pressure required to below the force that the human is exerting, causing that sensor to trigger the firing pin.

So, by that definition, the computer is firing the weapon, at least sort of. The physical trigger pull is required, but is not actually powering the mechanism as I thought. So I was the one making incorrect claims, and I proffer my apologies.

Maybe a better way to think of it is as an ACK/ACK system -- if either the computer or the human indicates NAK, the weapon does not fire. Only when both agree that the firing conditions are met, will the mechanism actually trigger.

However, if the sensor on the trigger can be set to indicate a firing condition, then the weapon could trigger without human intervention. I don't believe this is addressed in enough detail to know whether or not that's possible. The sensor may have a minimum required force that cannot be overridden, but it also may not.
posted by Malor at 3:54 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why a hunter would be interested in removing all of the difficulty from their sport.
posted by orme at 3:55 PM on April 2, 2013


However, if the sensor on the trigger can be set to indicate a firing condition, then the weapon could trigger without human intervention. I don't believe this is addressed in enough detail to know whether or not that's possible. The sensor may have a minimum required force that cannot be overridden, but it also may not.

Just duct tape the trigger.
posted by yonega at 3:56 PM on April 2, 2013


All else being equal, it's going to be a lot safer to throw lead downrange under computer guidance than using the Mark One Eyeball.

I don't disagree. But even if the end-goal is improved safety (which is clearly not the device's current goal), it's *very* hard to do safety qualified software right. The aim-assist folks (and their future imitators) are opening themselves up to a bunch of liability.
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:56 PM on April 2, 2013


Just duct tape the trigger.

Well, that takes a human to actively defeat the safety mechanism. Humans can flip the safety off on a regular gun, too -- basically all physical safety features can be overridden by a determined human.

What I'm wondering about is whether the sensor can be set to fire, by the computer, with no pressure from the trigger. We just don't have any info on that. A smart sensor design will set a minimum force that can't be overridden by the computer, but we don't know if that's how it's actually designed.

In other words: can the gun fire because of a software bug, with no finger on the trigger? I assume the answer is probably 'no', but I don't have any way to be certain.
posted by Malor at 4:01 PM on April 2, 2013


I don't understand why a hunter would be interested in removing all of the difficulty from their sport.

Well, if they hunt for meat, they'd probably rather not miss, because bullets are expensive. Anyone hunting for food is not going to be spending $17,000 on a weapon, but someday, when these things cost $500, that might really be worth it. No more wasted $5 bullets.
posted by Malor at 4:03 PM on April 2, 2013


I get that these rifles could make it a lot easier to train marksmen, but taking them off the range seems to me like the opposite of sport.

Sport is pushing your body and mind to the very limit of what they can do, to achieve some kind of amazing result. Using a computer assisted rifle to assassinate some poor deer from nearly a kilometer away is just cold efficiency.

Not that I think much of sport hunting in general, but it seems like the sport (honor, fun, or whatever hunters do it for) should increase inversely with the amount of technology the hunter uses. Taking on a wild pig with a spear... now that's epic sportsmanship.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:03 PM on April 2, 2013


Yeah, I always said that I'd support bear hunting if hunters were only carrying knives.
posted by klangklangston at 4:05 PM on April 2, 2013


This is similar to how the Fire control system on naval guns will only fire when gun is at the right angle, since the angle is constantly changing tanks to the waves.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:06 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Cars now have actuators on the throttle, brakes and steering column. It's only software
< that keeps the vehicle following the driver's intention.

Fuller puts up sticky note: look for seriously old Jeep that doesn't even have an ignition black box.
posted by jfuller at 4:09 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I don't think the GNUGUN is going to be that big of a deal — it's one of those disproportionate emotional reaction things as people contemplate this novel-seeming threat. If you're really worried about gun deaths or mass shooters or even assassins, there are so many other things that are bigger threats and more easily remedied without infringing as much. This is a hobbyist fantasy gun, rather than anything that's actually going to be used in any real numbers in America. (Now, whether some oil money will finance them for taking out a Pakistani PM or something? Still probably cheaper to car bomb it.)
posted by klangklangston at 4:09 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I don't think the GNUGUN is going to be that big of a deal ...

Well, it's a big deal if you are Lockheed-Martin and you've been given 6.9 mil to work this out... and are probably charging three times as much per rifle.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:25 PM on April 2, 2013


On a shooting range with minimal wind, consistent atmospheric conditions and clear illumination against a target that isn't moving and clearly distinguished from that background. In not saying the tech won't get there, but don't panic just yet. To defeat this technology we could use dazzle camouflage makeup and infrared strobe lights designed disrupt CCD sensors.
posted by humanfont at 4:38 PM on April 2, 2013


Taking on a wild pig with a spear... now that's epic sportsmanship.

Yeah, I always said that I'd support bear hunting if hunters were only carrying knives.

Is being slowly slashed or impaled to death really preferable for the pig or bear? The purpose of "sportsmanship" in hunting seems to be to assuage the guilt of hunters rather than actually increase the welfare of the hunted. If a computer controlled gun can make perfect, instantaneously lethal shots on deer every time, that's an improvement over the current state of affairs where a misplaced shot can leave a deer to run away and bleed out over the course of hours, or to sustain a crippling injury that will leave it in pain for the rest of its life.

Now, the assassination potential of these weapons is a different matter altogether.
posted by Pyry at 4:42 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Kind of bothers me, though, as a Linux enthusiast, that this could be some seriously bad PR for the old penguin.

Flexible Linux Admin/Java Developer in Cuba!!
Zapata Technology is looking to fill an upcoming flexible Systems Integrator/Administrator position in Guantanamo Cuba.
***Candidates must have an active TS/SCI clearance***


/derail
posted by dhartung at 4:45 PM on April 2, 2013


Is being slowly slashed or impaled to death really preferable for the pig or bear?

This has been covered extensively. The bear wins.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:46 PM on April 2, 2013


A hunting rifle doesn't need to be accurate to 1000 yards. What sort of animal spooks when you get within half a mile of it? You can just walk up a *lot* closer than that to your prey and shoot from there.

Unless your prey happens to be a person who knows what a sniper rifle looks like.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 4:51 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


dhartung: "Kind of bothers me, though, as a Linux enthusiast, that this could be some seriously bad PR for the old penguin.

Flexible Linux Admin/Java Developer in Cuba!!
Zapata Technology is looking to fill an upcoming flexible Systems Integrator/Administrator position in Guantanamo Cuba.
***Candidates must have an active TS/SCI clearance***


/derail
"

You think I am going to run Java on that? What happens if someone roots my scope due to a driveby attack?
posted by Samizdata at 4:51 PM on April 2, 2013


Wow, people are really over-reacting. The this technology doesn't target people, it targets specifically designed targets. The fact that similar (but far more complicated) software could be used to target humans doesn't mean that this particular device/software could do that effectively.

If a really smart person wanted to build a auto-killing death robot, they could do that. In fact, if they had metalworking equipment they wouldn't even need to buy a gun, they could machine it themselves.

But the software to auto-target a person isn't as simple as shooting a round plate or some other specific flat image. You need to recognize a person from every angle, regardless of what they're wearing. That's not going to be easy no matter what you do.

On the other hand, if you did write that software, you could use it to build a gun that can't shoot other humans, something that could only be used for target shooting or hunting.
Mark my words, it'll happen. The technologies involved, as Malor points out, are unavoidable at this point.
You think the software to detect "minorities" is going to be easy to write? You think a top research scientist or google engineer is going to put out software like that? Can you even tell the difference between, say, Hispanics and Asians under arbitrary lighting conditions and angles?
It's clear that the trigger only requests that the gun be fired and that there's some software agent which actually discharges the gun when the right conditions are met.
No, the software blocks the trigger when the conditions are incorrect, You hold down the trigger, and when the gun is ready to fire it allows the trigger to travel all the way down - but only if you're still holding it down.
I think it can be successfully argued that this is a remotely operated weapon that would be illegal to operate under Massachusetts state law, and I hope someone does just that before these idiotic things proliferate.
No it doesn't. "remote" means in another location. It's not a ban on electronic triggers. Even if it were electronically controlled, it wouldn't be 'remote'.
There's still a computer sitting between the human and the weapon deciding when that trigger pull is actually going to discharge the weapon.
The human isn't sitting between the human and the trigger, it's actually more of a consensus system, the human and the computer both have to 'agree' to fire at the same time. But either way, nothing in this system is "remote", even if it were electronic firing. It obviously has nothing to do with bans on internet hunting.
You think I am going to run Java on that? What happens if someone roots my scope due to a driveby attack?
Java is one of the most commonly used languages for server applications, Hadoop/HBase are written in it, IBM's Watson used java, And in fact Metafilter actually runs on a JVM. It's not insecure if you don't allow arbitrary code to run, which was one of the design goals of java, but isn't needed in a server environment.
posted by delmoi at 5:03 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


delmoi: " You think I am going to run Java on that? What happens if someone roots my scope due to a driveby attack?

Java is one of the most commonly used languages for server applications, Hadoop/HBase are written in it, IBM's Watson used java, And in fact Metafilter actually runs on a JVM. It's not insecure if you don't allow arbitrary code to run, which was one of the design goals of java, but isn't needed in a server environment.
"

Lordy Lou, I meant that as a giggle, truthfully.
posted by Samizdata at 5:10 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


> The fact that similar (but far more complicated) software could be used to target humans doesn't mean that this particular device/software could do that effectively.

What part of the description of how this software works leads you to believe that it can't be used to target humans?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:18 PM on April 2, 2013


This gun is to traditional guns what a CNC mill is to traditional wood/metal working tools. Some people really enjoy the art and craft of creating a chair out of wood. Other people want the tools that will let them produce 20 chairs in a day. What you get out of your tools is a very personal thing.
posted by hellphish at 5:28 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Through the tracking scope, you locate the thing you want to shoot, whether it's a metal plate like we were hitting on the range, a game animal, a tree, or whatever.

That is a very big whatever.

But for now private sales make up the majority of the orders. TrackingPoint isn't releasing detailed numbers yet, other than to say that they've taken preorders for "hundreds" of PGFs. They expect to begin delivering the weapons to customers in May of this year.

...and people wonder why I have agoraphobia and a drinking problem.
posted by sarastro at 5:36 PM on April 2, 2013


They tried it with Windows but a flag just shot out with "BANG!" in big letters
posted by hal9k at 5:45 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


What part of the description of how this software works leads you to believe that it can't be used to target humans?

I mean software that automatically target people specifically. If it just lets you specify a particular point in space to hit, I suppose that might be used to assassinate people, but it won't work very well against moving targets.
posted by delmoi at 5:55 PM on April 2, 2013


RolandOfEld: "These work just as well as these. Guess which one people want on their trucks nowadays? It's not because the latter is easy to fix or is less likely to break, I'll tell you that."

The single hand tail gate is a significant improvement over the dual latch style because it can be operated with one hand.

zombieflanders: "VIP security is too narrow. If I was an abortion clinic doctor, this is the kind of news that would run a chill down my spine."

Pretty well anyone can get profiecent in a rifle that will take out a human at 300m in fairly short order. 300m is going to allow a smart shooter to get away. This rifle is a change in degree only.

Slap*Happy: "Especially the semi-auto .50BMG sniper rifle, and the armor-piercing bullets to feed it. Or a .308 Winchester semi-auto modified to take a box-feed, on a rotating base, set up to kill whoever wanders into its sights, one shot a piece."

You need to use a bolt action for this tech because you need the repeatability of that action. Semi autos are going to have too much variability shot to shot.

jermsplan: "Actually Slap*Happy had a good idea with the face recognition software, just in the wrong direction. How hard would it be for the company to cause the targeting software to refuse to lock onto anything it identified as a human? They wouldn't even need to publicize that fact (which I'm sure would displease potential purchasers, though I don't know why), because no one would ever try it to find out, right?"

The software would need to be able to differentiate between humans and pictures of humans or people are going to notice right away.

chortly: "A real reporter would have asked why they don't have software that refuses to fire when it detects a human silhouette. "

People would use this misfeature as a safety and when it failed (probably not recognizing a child) it would be a nightmare.

Seriously if this was a trivial feature to implement you should be demanding that all new cars come with cameras that lock the breaks when ever a person is in danger of getting hit. You'd save thousands of lives annually.

orme: "I don't understand why a hunter would be interested in removing all of the difficulty from their sport."

Lots of people hunt for food or for culling/pest control.
posted by Mitheral at 6:33 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The prayer by Robert Reed is a rather good short story about a girl with a smart gun set in a dystopian future.
posted by Authorized User at 6:35 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


At least it isn't a Lazy Gun. Pretty awesome (ly terrifying) that we're taking baby steps towards Fifth Element territory though.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:17 PM on April 2, 2013


I'd like to see this tech deployed for invasive species control in Florida. Because finally Java could kill Python all day long. *rimshot*
posted by humanfont at 7:18 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


So, it's auto-tune for gun owners?
posted by roboton666 at 7:35 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Semi autos are going to have too much variability shot to shot.

Nowhere near as much as you'd think - there are plenty of match-grade and military-issue sniper autoloaders. Because an instant follow-up shot isn't desirable in sharpshooting situations, mostly due to factors involving the human bringing the weapon back into aim, a bolt-action is "good enough" and significantly cheaper and more reliable. With an aim-assist system, I don't see why the equipment can't be designed to compensate for recoil and return to aim near instantly.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:49 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is just a fancy scope; it's still up to the human to bring the gun back on target and resist recoil. And the system only works because of very consistent muzzle velocity; I'm not sure whether you can get that out of a semi auto. For sure it's easier with a bolt action.
posted by Mitheral at 7:57 PM on April 2, 2013


I can only imagine what will happen the first time tech like this is used in a US school shooting. I'm thinking a record all-time high score, and possibly even a whole month of discussing the impossibility of discussing sensible gun laws.
posted by pompomtom at 8:36 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Call me when the Zorg ZF-1 is available.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 9:44 PM on April 2, 2013


Lots of people hunt for food

I guess I am just a skeptic but I somehow doubt that someone who can afford this particular version of a child-killing toy needs to hunt for food. Just putting that thought out there.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:47 PM on April 2, 2013


I don't understand why a hunter would be interested in removing all of the difficulty from their sport.

Every Fish and Game agency in the country is going to make this weapon illegal immediately. Rifles are already restricted or illegal in a lot of highly populated areas and rifle season is more restricted than bow or black powder season just about every place in the US. In short: it's never going to be used for hunting, except maybe on some private game ranches in Texas.
posted by fshgrl at 12:19 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can only imagine what will happen the first time tech like this is used in a US school shooting. I'm thinking a record all-time high score, and possibly even a whole month of discussing the impossibility of discussing sensible gun laws.

While you are having your video game fantasies of high tech carnage, more people are killed in a month in the US than have been killed ever in every school massacre anywhere ever, most with guns that cost about as much as a 20 round box of ammo for this gun.

Look, it's quite obvious that this doesn't really fill any civilian need and the obvious dangerousness means that serious restrictions need to be in place for this and other tech-enhanced means of destruction. But can we cut the hysterical bullshit, please.
posted by Authorized User at 3:05 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everyone's jumping up and down, screaming "danger! danger!". I imagine there must be arm flailing as well.

But this thing is going to be safer than a normal weapon. It will only hit what it's been directly instructed to hit. A gun that only hits the specified target is an incredible safety win, even if the target can potentially be human.

Why? Because the vast majority of weapons in this country are fired at animals or at paper targets.
posted by Malor at 4:49 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess I am just a skeptic but I somehow doubt that someone who can afford this particular version of a child-killing toy needs to hunt for food.

If you think hunting for food is the exclusive province of poor people you don't know nearly as much as you think you do.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:09 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the scope which is the dangerous bit?
You people are insane.
posted by fullerine at 5:21 AM on April 3, 2013


Why? Because the vast majority of weapons in this country are fired at animals or at paper targets.

Yeah, which makes the minority not at all troubling.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:29 AM on April 3, 2013


So, basically, guns are being manufactured in Texas that will make it possible for practically anyone who is motivated enough to do so to bullseye a target from a distance, say, about 12-15x further than the distance Lee Harvey Oswald fired from.

Well, this can't possibly go wrong.
posted by markkraft at 11:22 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can only imagine what will happen the first time tech like this is used in a US school shooting. I'm thinking a record all-time high score, and possibly even a whole month of discussing the impossibility of discussing sensible gun laws.

If 'high score' means number of schoolchildren killed, there is no way someone with a PGF is going to match what Adam Lanza did with his AR-15:

Newtown school gunman fired 154 rounds in less than 5 minutes

The PGF is designed for patient, precise shots, not mass killings.
posted by homunculus at 12:09 PM on April 3, 2013


Silent on Assault Weapons Ban Defeat and NRA-Backed Dems, Has Obama Collapsed on Gun Control?

The guest in this segment is the author of this article: Why Gun Makers Fear the NRA
posted by homunculus at 12:12 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


From this guy's description, I wonder to what extent similar considerations play into gun design?

the feeling that is so desired for all this is precisely machined moving parts coming together. It is very hard to achieve in a car door-a heavy object over a wide range in motion and a very large air gap between open and closed.

Guns (manual operated anyway) don't really have these problems. The moving surfaces are never really out of contact with each other, are highly constrained and easy to machine precisely (with current machine tools). Guns kinda automatically have the nice ka chunk feel when closing the action. This is actually one of the reasons people like them so much as a mechanical object. It is also why i don't really like most semi autos (and the AR in particular) they don't have that same feeling, some is materials used and some are just the nature of the action. And this isn't really a new thing. learning to hit a target at 1000 yards with a 338 lapua is largely a matter of being taught correctly and practice. That round (and the guns designed to use it) is designed to do just that. And I doubt this will ever get to a low enough price point to be readily available to the average shooter. Most shooters won't spend the money one a good enough scope to even see the animal at 500 yards much less one that will control the weapon until the sights are lined up. In addition, should this become commercially available, i bet it will be classified as a destructive device and under the very strict regulation of the 1934 NFA.
posted by bartonlong at 2:26 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The PGF is designed for patient, precise shots, not mass killings.

Not until the firmware upgrade, no.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:31 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The PGF is no more a mass killing weapon than any other bolt action and a firmware upgrade isn't going to be able to change that.
posted by Mitheral at 5:23 PM on April 3, 2013


DIY cardboard rifle can fire paper pellets up to 25 yards
posted by homunculus at 10:53 AM on April 6, 2013


It's hard to imagine a gun farther from the one under discussion than a cardboard gun with plain iron paper sights.
posted by Mitheral at 11:17 AM on April 6, 2013


Gun control may have to wait
posted by homunculus at 12:40 PM on April 6, 2013


Gun rights advocates see Senate debate as an opportunity to weaken current law
posted by homunculus at 10:20 AM on April 13, 2013


Tracking gunfire with a smartphone
posted by homunculus at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2013


Smart gun company aims to begin production soon: Fingerprint technology could enable only one person -- or thousands -- to use same gun
posted by homunculus at 3:08 PM on April 29, 2013


Russia's Reinventing Its Most Iconic Weapon for the 21st Century
posted by homunculus at 5:03 PM on May 1, 2013


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