More Thoughts on Retreat Vulnerability

This 7.62mm rifle will 'automatically' sight and shoot accurately out to 900 yards. No skill required.
This 7.62mm rifle will ‘automatically’ sight and shoot accurately out to 900 yards. No skill required.

We have written before about the problems we have protecting our retreats – see for example ‘How Many Acres Do You Need for Your Retreat – Defense Considerations‘ and our broader category of Retreat Defense in general.

A new development, announced at the Consumer Electronic Show in January this year, adds a new factor and concern to the mix.

Until now, it has been realistic to assume that in most cases, a ‘reasonable distance’ kept clear between your retreat and where attackers could shelter was sufficient as to give you reasonable protection.  We’ve always been a bit vague about how much that distance should be, because in truth, there’s no single magic answer and instead, it is more a case of having to make a compromise between what is practical and possible in the real world and what would be desirable in a perfect world.

We sort of suggested that you should try to achieve a 200 yard clear zone between where your retreat and farmed land would be and where attackers could shelter and attack you from.  That type of range would give you a little warning – note the emphasis on little – if attackers attempted to overrun your retreat, and you could buy yourself a bit more time by having some disruptive landscaping to prevent attackers from coming directly to you on a good surface well suited for vehicles, horses, or even just plain sprinting on foot.

But the really big problem is long-range sniping.  In skilled hands, even a .22LR rifle might remain reasonably accurate and definitely dangerous at 200 yards, and in a Level 2/3 situation, what should be simple survivable wounds become much more life-threatening than they do today when the local Emergency Room and state of the art medicine and antibiotics and painkillers is probably no more than 15 – 30 minutes drive away.

Being able to accurately get rounds on man-sized targets at ranges of 200+ yards starts to become a fairly demanding skill.  Hitting – well, let’s be polite and talk about, perhaps, 8″ or 12″ plates, at 100 yards is something that most adult shooters can readily master, particularly when firing from a supported/prone position.  But once ranges start to go the high side of 200 yards, you’re more into ‘precision shooting’ than regular shooting, and from our perspective as potential targets, our chances of suffering a first round hit/kill start to measurably decline.

Unfortunately, a new device looks to replace skill with technology, and promises (threatens!) to give even unskilled shooters an almost super-human ability to get rounds on target at long-range.

A weapons technology company, TrackingPoint, demonstrated two new sniper-type rifles at the Consumer Electronic Show.  It is very rare to see weapons technology at the CES – not only because of the slightly off-topic concept, but also because just a couple of weeks after CES is the annual SHOT Show which is the typical venue for new weapons technology.  But perhaps because the TrackingPoint product was more a technological solution than a weapon solution per se, they decided to release their products at CES.

They offer two new weapon systems with computerized targeting and fire control.  One is on a 5.56mm rifle platform, and claims to give accurate shots out to 0.3 miles (528 yards) and with the target moving at speeds of up to 10 mph.  The other is on a .338 Lapua Magnum rifle platform, and claims to give accurate shots out to 1.0 miles (1760 yards) and with the target moving at speeds of up to 20 mph.

To be fair, TrackingPoint define ‘effective’ differently for the two products.  For the 5.56 rifle, they say it means being able to consistently hit a 5″ target, and for the .338, they refer to an 18″ target.

So, their one mile range claim can be considered optimistic rather than realistic, and also the moving target concept requires the target’s movement to be consistent.  If you’re semi-randomly zigging and zagging, the computer fire-control would not be able to predict that, and with it taking two or more seconds for a round to travel from rifle to target, if you’re not staying still during that time period, you’re probably in fairly good shape.  (But, remember, it isn’t a case of hearing the shot and then ducking – the round, traveling at supersonic speed, will arrive on target before the sound of the shot does.)

The good news is that you’re not very likely to find yourself staring down one of their .338 caliber systems.  Why?  The price is $50,000 (and each round costs $8).  On the other hand, the 5.56 system is a more reasonable $7,500, and for sure, this price is likely to drop as other companies start to adapt similar technology to their rifles, too.

Here’s a rather terrifying review of how easy it is for a non-shooter to land rounds on target with the 5.56mm system, and here’s a review of the .338 system.

If we were looking at deploying the technology as a defensive measure for our retreat, we’d probably choose their $15,000 system, based on a 7.62mm rifle.  At longer ranges, we much prefer the extra stopping power of the 7.62 round compared to the light 5.56 round.  Oh yes – their claim that it is good for out to half a mile (with an 8″ target as the objective) is another point in its favor, too!

To come back to the actual point of this article, the ugly bottom line is that the long-range accuracy and capabilities of attackers is likely to improve over time.  We’d guess that within a decade, the cost of these super-sniper-rifles will reduce almost ten-fold.  Well, the $7500 5.56 system might drop to $1500 – $2500, the $15,000 7.62 system might go down to $2500 – $3500, and the .338 system might reduce to $7500 or so.  Or, to put it another way, ‘intelligent’ fire-control systems will replace ‘unintelligent’ telescopic sights and cost no more than today’s best telescopic sights.

There was a time when any type of telescopic sight was rare and exotic and expensive, and most people did most shooting with open iron sights.  Nowadays, telescopic sights are abundant and on just about every rifle that its owner plans to use at any sort of range at all; our prediction is that the expensive rarity of these fire control systems will evolve and we’ll see them as common on rifles in ten years time as telescopic sights are today.

What to do about this?  We suggest two things, because in selecting and developing your retreat, you need to have an eye to the future as well as the present.

It further reinforces the value/need to cluster together with other retreat owners, having a central core where you all live and farm, and then an extended safe zone outside your core – perhaps for cattle grazing, or perhaps not.

And, secondly, the topography around your retreat and its perimeter becomes more relevant.  If there are natural features that obscure/block your retreat or limit the longer range threats, whereas previously they might have also acted as cover for shorter range attacks, now they might be considered more desirable, particularly if you incorporate responses to such features into your defensive plan.  Remote monitoring of such locations and the ability to surreptitiously and/or safely move people around your retreat become helpful considerations.

6 Replies to “More Thoughts on Retreat Vulnerability”

  1. danrshaw

    On the new show Sara Palin is hosting I saw a shooter hit a target at 1200 and he was not a trained shooter at all. The system is truly amazing.

  2. Tom

    The system is “amazing” until you know how it works – then it becomes a “OMG Why didn’t I think of that?”

    And the system is NOT a “no skill needed” solution to long range sniping. The basis of the system is simple, first you line up the crosshairs exactly where you want them and activate the system. Then when you are ready to shoot the system prevents the weapon from firing until the image matches your chosen point of aim.

    The system works better on a range (where nothing about and around the target changes) than in complex sniping situations. It is still VERY good in most situations, but not absolutely perfect. It does not select your aiming point for you and it cannot compensate for any error you make in selecting the aiming point. It does not compensate for changes in the environment (such as crosswinds) between the time you choose the aiming point and when you fire. It can handle a moving target (assuming that you figured the lead correctly) but only if the movement remains constant.

    Basically all the skills of a sniper are still required EXCEPT the ability to squeeze the trigger only when the crosshairs are exactly on target. Range, wind, angle, shot placement, are all still the shooter’s job. Note carefully the claim made by the company’s marketing representative: “Every shot you take is going to land exactly where you send it,” That statement is 99% true, but you still have to decide where to send that round.

    • danrshaw

      I agree. Even with those limitations I would love to have one. LOL Of course the next step is to make a small arms laser guided system which would make the gun and the round super expensive. But they would probably outlaw it.

  3. Julia Morales

    The attached article ( ) makes a good point: most criminals (and thus hopefully, most would-be marauders in a SHTF situation?) prefer to hit “soft” targets — targets that do not appear to be well defended.

    SO, maybe it is kind of like the old trick of having a sticker from an alarm system company on your window, or a sign on your lawn, regardless of what you actually have: even if you can’t afford as many guns or as thorough of a defense system as you would like, if you can just get potential invaders to stop and wonder “how many weapons DO these people have?”, then maybe they will decide it’s not worth trying to find out, and move on to a “better” target! I wouldn’t mind buying a few “NOT a gun-free zone” signs myself!

    • David Spero

      Hi, Julia

      I agree that in normal times, there are credible arguments in favor of the alarm company sticker or a ‘not a gun free zone’ sign or whatever else, although you have to be a bit careful what you display on/outside your house, or else, in the case that you do end up needing to use lethal force to protect yourself against a home invader, prosecutors or a civil suit may suggest you’re a trigger happy extremist and were predisposed to ‘shoot to kill’ even with insufficient provocation.

      But, that’s all in the context of normal times, such as normal ever is. WTSHTF, there’s a new paradigm afoot, and I’m not at all sure the best way to try and reduce your ‘street appeal’ (as realtors like to say in a different context). Does hardening your structure and posting warning signs deter marauders? Or does it imply you have something special they should go after, and merely give them a warning that encourages them to ambush you?

      It is a bit like the arguments for and against open carry. Personally, I’d never open carry, because it removes the element of surprise. I want to be able to decide, on my terms, when and under what circumstances I reveal the presence of a firearm, rather than allow the bad guys to size me up and initiate an encounter on their terms. Plus, with the sidearm on public display, there’s always the danger that someone will grab it from you – are you going to be living in a fully paranoid state of hyper-awareness all the time? How do you maintain a safe personal zone around you in a crowd? Sure, some holsters have retention features, but some bad guys know how these retention features work.

      Ooops – going a bit off-topic there!

      I guess I’ve just typed a lengthy ‘reply’ which can be summarized as saying ‘I really don’t know, there are arguments both ways’!

      • Julia Morales

        Maybe I should have clarified: I wasn’t trying to say we should put ALL our eggs in one basket, so to speak, and count on a sign to deter all would-be invaders; just, that hopefully it couldn’t hurt. But you are right, for each person who would be deterred and decide to go look for an easier target, there might be another person who is specifically looking FOR guns, for whom a “not a gun-free zone” sign might be an attraction. Even then, you will have some who will want to wait until they are sure the homeowner or store owner is away; and maybe some others who are eager for confrontation, or figure there is a better chance of weapons being there when the owner is there; and some who just plain don’t care one way or the other, they are going to go after whatever they want to go after, shoot first & ask questions later.

        So, then we are back to the question of general location of one’s retreat in the first place…hopefully, if one is pretty well off the beaten track, then there will be fewer people to read any signs in the first place!

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