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Very occasionally, a product comes along that doesn’t merely improve the way people use something, but entirely re-invents it. The iPod, for example, put digital media in everyone’s pocket, and has turned music into an ever-present entity carried around billions of pockets as opposed to something enjoyed on a home HiFi. Remington’s 2020 system, developed in collaboration with Tracking Point, is similar. That why, even though it isn’t yet available in Canada, we’ve chosen to extend our usual one page Optic Overview to two pages in the hope that we might just scratch the surface of this game changing system.

Trading various glass lenses and a set of crosshairs for a high resolution camera and LCD screen, the 2020 system isn’t an optic in the conventional sense, but rather an aiming computer of sorts that combines a laser rangefinder and a high-resolution video camera with a ballistic computer to provide instantly accurate shooting solutions for ranges up to 750 yards. Simply press the “tag” button on the top of the 2020 unit to laser your target, and a red dot pops up on the LCD targeting screen (which is viewed through the rear aperture just as you would look through a traditional scope) to indicate the area being tagged. At the exact same instant, the 2020 computes the distance and shifts the entire image downward (or upward) underneath the virtual crosshairs to compensate for range, as well as the following environmental effects: rifle inclination, rifle cant, wind drift, air density, spin drift, Magnus effect, and Coriolis effect. And it does it all automatically and over the course of a few milliseconds. Then, all one needs to do is simply place the blue crosshair (indicating the rifle’s point of aim) atop the red dot (indicating the tagged and ranged target), and squeeze when the crosshair turns red to indicate that you’re on target. And from the moment you tag a target to the moment the scope feels a recoil impulse, it also records the shot on video.

But while that may be quite a feat, it’s only the beginning of the 2020s capabilities. It can also track the tagged object even if it moves; meaning if you tag the front shoulder of an elk, the red dot indicating your targeted area will remain on the front shoulder of that animal even as the animal moves about. Obviously, this being a first-generation product, it has some limitations such as target speed (it can’t track anything moving faster than 10 miles per hour), but regardless it’s still pretty incredible.

And even when you’re not actually using any of its impressive targeting capabilities, the 2020 still records a lot of those variables, and displays them on the heads-up-display inside the scope. Things like compass heading, barometric pressure, temperature, time, and rifle inclination and cant are all displayed, fighter jet-like, for your viewing enjoyment around the perimeter of the viewable area. Perhaps more crucial though is the battery life indicator in the top right, along with the target alignment setting in the top centre, which displays the MOA of error allowable between the tagged target point and the crosshairs. For example, if it’s set to 0.5 MOA, the blue crosshairs will not turn red in acknowledgement of a firing solution until they are within 0.5 MOA of the tagged point.

The other major feature unique to the 2020 system is it’s built in WiFi connectivity. That means that it can be connected to either Android or Apple smartphones via WiFi. Once connected, the phone or tablet can be used as a viewfinder; displaying all the same information precisely as it’s displayed on the scope HUD. Remington says this makes it an excellent tool for professional hunters, as it allows guides or instructors to give feedback on the animal and shot from the shooter’s perspective, and it undoubtedly does. But we have a bit of a different idea about it, but more on that later.

So, the million dollar question: does it work? Yes. We flew down to Florida to test the system on all three of the three rifles it’s available on (the ballistic solutions require a known muzzle velocity and bullet weight, meaning it’s not quite so much an optic as it is a system that incorporates the digital scope, the rifle, and some prescribed kinds of ammunition), and quite simply couldn’t miss on any of them. In fact, we got so bored shooting the lights out of man-sized target at 379 or so yards that Remington was kind enough to oblige by putting up some clay pigeons on the berm at 410 yards to make it at least moderately challenging. And even then, with the clay pigeons sitting flat and presenting only their edge, we could still pick them apart with some .223 out of the Bushmaster AR-15 we were using.

Now, while it’s undeniably effective, and makes it as easy to shoot accurately at 700 yards as it is to shoot at 100, it’s not without its issues. As you can see, it’s quite a large contraption, and not a terribly attractive one at that. And then there’s the rifle compatibility. In a world that’s grown used to viewing optics and rifles as two distinct products to be mixed and matched as required or desired by the end user, the notion of an optic system that only works with a single rifle and a handful of ammunition types is disconcerting. And given it’s only currently available atop a Bushmaster AR-15 and a couple Remington 700s (the Long Range in .30-06 and the SPS Tactical AAC in .308), if you want to use it atop something else like a .338 Lapua Magnum or a .300 Win Mag, you’re out of luck. And although we can say that it works quite reliably from atop a shaded shooting bench in Florida, we did encounter some ranging errors on lighter-coloured, high-reflectivity surfaces such as white metal targets, which makes us wonder about its reliability in the mixed and variable light conditions you’re liable to encounter afield.

We think these issues will be quite short-lived for a couple reasons. The first of which is simply that this is a first-generation tech product and as such should see some very serious development over the next few years. The second reason why we expect to see the 2020’s technology go through some very real advancements in the coming future relates back to what we mentioned about its WiFi capability, and the potential it has in military applications. Imagine a much smaller optic with all the same capabilities, affixed to a soldier’s rifle, and communicating with the rifles of his comrades. Marking positions of enemy fire to an entire unit could be as easy as simply pointing a single rifle at it and pressing the tag button, then pushing that tagged location to all the other optics in the unit via WiFi. Conversely, commanders could view the battlefield in real time through any of their soldiers’ scopes, and identify targets from a secured position, calling in support as needed. And should anything questionable happen, the ability to have each shot recorded on video would be invaluable as evidence. Hell, once combined with the much-touted smart helmet/eyewear the military has been bandying about for some time, soldiers may be able to eventually link their optic with their eyewear, allowing them to shoot accurately at a moving target 700 yards away without ever shouldering their weapon! And given the pace at which technology marches forward we might not be all that far away from just such a reality… in fact, it might just be here, in 2020.