What started out as an insane bet quickly gained significance as its true goals became clear. At first glance, TrackingPoint founder and CEO John McHale bet Bruce Piatt, 2015 NRA World Shooting Champion, $1 million that he couldn’t beat Taya Kyle, widow of legendary sniper Chris Kyle and author of American Wife, in a shooting competition if she utilized TrackingPoint technology. Everyone thought they knew the outcome, but still some 2,500 people came to watch.
Hosted at the TrackingPoint testing facility in Mason, Texas, the competition featured targets set at five different yardages. Each contestant was to shoot prone, sitting, offhand, canted, moving and even from inside a structure.
As the competition began, Master of Ceremonies Hunter Ellis eagerly set the stage, detailing the rules of the competition. Bruce was to be given only the tools or technology available to our sheriffs, S.W.A.T. teams and military. Bruce and Taya would then take the same shots, with neither competitor allowed to watch the other shoot. Additionally, neither would know which of the 40-plus targets on the field would be their mark until just before their shot.
It soon became clear that this was a competition between the technology our first responders use today and the technology TrackingPoint offers. Bruce, with his law-enforcement background and world title, was conventional equipment’s best chance at beating TrackingPoint’s precision-guided firearms.
Hunter explained that the competition would consist of three rounds. The first would feature the M4 service rifle using an ACOG against the TrackingPoint M600 SR 5.56. The second would pit the M110 with an SR25 against the TrackingPoint M800 7.62. Finally, the third round would be the M2010 .300WM facing off against the TrackingPoint .338.
Bruce shot first in each round. The first round was the M4 and steel targets, which Bruce guessed to be about 450 yards out. With the ACOG, Bruce couldn’t confirm a hit on the target and relied on the spotter to determine hit or miss. Round one included shooting prone, offhand and canted. As Bruce prepared for his first shot, explosions down range and automatic gunfire went off. To his and spectators’ surprise, this competition would also simulate active battlefield conditions!
Bruce did great shooting prone and offhand. He managed to hit both targets at the 450-yard mark offhand. He hit his first target on the third shot and his second target on the first—an impressive show of marksmanship and skill.
Taya, however, hit each target on her first shot, including both canted shots. She had simply calculated and input the wind values, marked her target and aligned the crosshair with the mark: The M600 SR 5.56 took the shot with all the calculations. It quickly became clear that this was a competition between the technology our first responders use today and the advanced technology TrackingPoint offers.
For his part, Bruce explained that the crosshairs in the scope is meant to be aligned with the mark horizontally and vertically, but there are times when first responders aren’t in the perfect conditions and canted shots need to be taken. When the crosshairs are at a 45-degree angle to the target, he can’t use mil dots to calculate elevation and has to position the center of the scope off-target to get the correct positioning for bullet path.
With a change in firepower, we were on to round two. Bruce was now shooting the M110 7.62 with the SR25 while Taya shot the M800 7.62, with target groups set at 600 to 700 yards.
This round included shooting prone, sitting, offhand, canted and from inside a structure. Bruce did a great job, but not having good technology on yardage caused him to miss all of his first shots. Using that shot to recalibrate, then relying on his skill and marksmanship gave him his best chance at hitting his target and gaining the points. Again all simulated explosions and automatic gunfire were still active. And again, Taya hit each of her targets on her first shot!
The last stage of round two is where we experienced the most incredible challenge. Providing background on when this situation would be relevant, Hunter and Bruce both talked about why a first responder would take shots from inside a building with their rifle outside of the building—most likely providing cover fire.
In this stage, only the shooters’ arms were allowed to pass through two holes in the wall, and the rifle was placed in their hands—so they could not see through their scope or their target! The target was placed after both shooters had entered the structure, so neither knew where the target was. Both shooters were given two attempts of three shots each at the same target. After firing his six shots and missing them all, Bruce exclaimed, “What a waste of good ammunition!”
Taya hit both targets on the first shot, and even hit the same spot with her second shot! You see, the TrackingPoint M800 7.62 and the .338 models are both compatible with ShotGlass. This provides the shooter with glasses that have a small heads-up display just outside the normal field of view. The display provides all the critical data normally seen inside the scope. Using that data and normal marking and firing strategies, the shooter is still effective even when he or she cannot look through the scope.
With a final change in firepower, round three began—Bruce with the M2010 .300 WM, and Taya with the TrackingPoint .338. As Bruce was now simulating the role of a sniper, he was permitted to utilize digital rangefinder technology for this round. Accurately gauging distance is key, but not the only environmental factor in play. Round three involved shooting prone, moving, canted and inside a building. Bruce reported his first prone and stationary target was 942 yards. He hit it mid-mass, and the crowd was surprised, not anticipating a huge explosion! Next was a simulated sentry on patrol. Again, a 900-plus yard shot, only this target was moving.
Bruce had three shots and was very close each time. Taya, once again, hit all of her targets with her first shot.
This “bet” quickly became an educational presentation to the estimated 2,500 in attendance. There were several key personnel from S.W.A.T. and other law-enforcement divisions who were able to see the demonstration firsthand and gain greater appreciation of this advanced technology.
The event concluded with TrackingPoint CEO McHale, Taya and Bruce on the berm. After thanking Bruce for participating, McHale emphasized that the competition was not trying to challenge Bruce’s title of NRA World Shooting Champion. Rather, organizers wanted to use Bruce’s skill to give the technology and equipment first responders use in real-world situations the best chance against the technology TrackingPoint offers.
McHale then presented a $500,000 check—funds raised by the American Sniper Shootout—to Taya Kyle on behalf of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. It was heartening to learn about how Chris Kyle and TrackingPoint had worked together in developing this technology prior to Kyle’s passing. And it’s admirable to see TrackingPoint supporting his legacy both with fundraising events and technology that helps increase the safety and effectiveness of fellow Navy SEALS and first responders.
Steven Morris is Vice President of Manufacturing for F-1 Firearms LLC, with responsibilities that also extend to product development. Previously he served for eight years as a machinist and welder for the C-5 Galaxy at Lackland Air Force Base, where he is still enlisted as a reservist, and owned a machine shop for seven years servicing research organizations and motion control companies.