Austin’s Tracking Point Uses Wi-Fi, Video Tech to Build Smarter Gun

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watch worn by the shooter. The gun disables itself if it’s more than 10 inches away from the watch.

(Tracking Point does offer an option to install a password-protected code on the company’s scopes, similar to that used to unlock an iPhone.)

Like Tracking Point, other companies have zeroed in on advancing the technology in video-recording scopes or ballistics computation, to provide a more accurate shot. “But they have a long way to go to be a comprehensive firearms solution,” Lupher says. “You don’t approach what precision-guided firearms can do until you have total integration.”

To expand its sales and marketing efforts, Tracking Point raised $29 million in venture capital last month from investors such as Austin Ventures, McHale Labs, and Genesis Inventions. (The company had previously raised $35 million last year.) While the use of guns and debate over restrictions is a divisive issue on the political stage, Lupher says it has not hurt the growth of the company, which is based in Pflugerville, TX. “We see very strong advocates in our investor base,” he says. “A lot of our employees are enthusiasts in the market.”

To order a firearm, customers must first fill out an application form. Tracking Point contacts each applicant personally in addition to taking a deposit for the purchase. “We speak to all of our customers directly and make sure they are a good fit for our community,” says Oren Schauble, the company’s director of marketing. “The firearm then ships to a dealer, who performs the [required] background check when the customer picks it up.”

The inspiration behind Tracking Point’s technology comes because founder John McHale missed a shot taken on a Thomson’s gazelle during a hunting safari in Tanzania in 2009. “He was convinced that technology should be able to help him shoot longer distances more effectively,” Lupher says.

McHale, a tech entrepreneur himself who sold companies to Cisco, among others, called on Lupher, a software engineer who had worked for Motorola and American Airlines, to help develop a prototype. By July 2010, they had developed a firearm that could hit targets as far away as 1,000 yards. Tracking Point was founded the next February.

The company now has 86 employees, a large portion of whom are engineers. Tracking Point began offering its firearms last year, selling about 500 units with a plan to have sales “in the thousands” this year, Schauble says. The company manufactures the firearms systems at a 48,000-square-foot facility at its headquarters and sells them at prices that start at $9,950 and can go into the $20,000 range.

Hunters are Tracking Point’s primary customer base at the moment. “It’s a traditional, slow-to-adopt market,” Lupher says. “As we persist in the market and build a reputation for quality, we see that momentum building.”

In the meantime, the company is making inroads with military customers, including a pilot program with the U.S. Army, which purchased six units to installed in their XM2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle.

“In the long term, we see the military as a significant portion of our market,” Lupher says.

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