TrackingPoint just tweeted out a picture of a record-breaking long range kill.

They’re obviously quite proud of the fact that their technology was capable of taking this wildebeest at 3,600 feet (0.68 miles) and that their shooter/spotter got the wind call (the only manually-entered data point) correct on this more than a half-mile shot.

The rifle used for the shot appears to be a prototype, and not one of the company’s current production offerings. Only their .338 Lupua Magnum-chambered XS1 boasts 1,200 yard capability, yet the stock used is the McMillian A5 found on the much shorter-ranged XS3.

TrackingPoint XS3 Precision Guided Firearm (PGF)

As a big game hunter, I don’t have any problem at all with another hunter taking a game animal.

I do have serious concerns when it comes to extreme long-range hunting, from both technical and ethical perspectives. We’ll tackle the technical side of the equation first.

Regardless of the cartridge used, the  flight time for the bullet at that distance is just under two seconds—one Mississippi, two Mississip—and the bullet drop is measured in dozens of feet. The primary concern is that game species rarely stay in the exact same position for long, and at these extreme distance the animal can turn or take several steps, resulting in a clear miss, or worse, a crippled animal.

The secondary concern is that bullets fired at such extreme distances—even those with near-perfect construction—can become destabilized due to environmental factors, and yaw or tumble while in flight, again resulting in either a miss, or a sub-optimal strike resulting in a gut-shot, crippled animal.

As important, of course, are the ethical considerations.

Every hunting organization believes in the concept of fair chase, “the balance between the hunter and the hunted. It is a balance that allows hunters to occasionally succeed while animals generally avoid being taken.”

Boone & Crockett’s statement on fair chase (at the link above) directs hunters to shoot only when they can “make the kill as certain and quick as possible.” This is simply not possible when the flight time of the bullet is two seconds long, and the complex relationship between multiple variables are factored in. A simple rule of thumb should be that if you have to take the spin of the Earth (the coriolis effect) into your calculations, then you are much too far away for an ethical shot. notes:

Hunting is an intensely personal experience fraught with personal choices. Consider the contrast between what is legal and what is ethical. It is difficult to conceive of a situation in hunting where the commission of an illegal act could be considered ethical. But, the inverse is not only possible, but also common. In short, legality describes the outside boundaries within which ethical choices are made.

For example, some hunters take shots at deer in excess of 300 yards. They have rifles and ammunition capable of accuracy at such ranges. They practice at those ranges and are capable and confident of almost certain clean kills. Other hunters would never think of taking a shot at this distance. It’s legal. There is nothing in the game regulations about maximum allowable distances yet many will not take that shot. Why? Some do not have experience with this type of shooting. Others feel the risk is too high for wounding and therefore the practice is unethical. Others might consider that shooting at such ranges, even with a high probability of success, is simply too great an advantage over the prey and would choose to stalk in closer.

TrackingPoint is doing some very interesting things when it comes to technology integration. I understand their desire to prove that their hardware works.

I wish they gave as much thought to its ethical use.