Aliens Meets Cobalt Kinetics | SHOT 2017

Who has watched Aliens (you know, the movie where Ripley shows up and “brings it” to the xenomorphs with the Colonial Marines) and wondered why no one has done a round counter like the one on the pulse rifles the good guys used? Well, wonder no more. Cobalt Kinetics has “done it” again, by engineering a solution that combines both functionality and amazing aesthetics.

That block on the side is, yes, a round counter.

That block on the side is, yes, a round counter.

It was teased at Range Day, and they had some transport issues with getting it here earlier. But, really, it doesn’t matter, because it is here now. It actually is even better in person than it was as described. And we have the first pictures and coverage of it here!

This the wired version. The unit provides the power, and feeds information via that black channel. Which does not interfere with breaking down the rifle.

It is actually a very simple concept that provides perfect accuracy that is not tied to assumptions (like the acoustic or impulse driven counters). This actually uses solid state components embedded in the magazines coupled with either a wired or wireless system (all the pics I have today are of the wired). What that means is that EACH magazine knows it’s current state. You can have a dump bag full of mags, pull one out and get a correct count.

Green is good!

Hey, you are getting low!

Oh noes!

Fix it! Fix it NOW!

Additionally the round count starts changing color based on the number of rounds, from green through red as you get closer to zero. When you hit last round you get a warning symbol. The system, since the tech is tied to the magazine, doesn’t know if there is a round in the chamber when the magazine is empty (so it will never display a “0”). The wireless version uses Bluetooth and has the ability to get total rounds counts (and has all kinds of applications for HUDs and management applications). The system also has a number of settings you can adjust like brightness and sleep timer.

Really this is just the tip of the iceberg with the system’s capabilities. If you are at SHOT, come by booth 2660 and see the system for your self–it is not vaporware!

Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner โ€œWarrior Hippieโ€ and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


  • Sam

    Unless it’s available to purchase within a reasonable amount of time… it’s still vaporware.

    Also, this article’s intro really led me to believe this was going to be the Motion Tracker from Aliens, which would be way more awesome than a round counter (especially since almost every magazine manufacturer these days has a model with round visibility that accomplishes exactly the same thing and doesn’t require batteries, wires, or a huge freaking computer hanging off the side of the gun).

    • kagami

      huge? You must think an EoTech XPS is a whale then

      • Sam

        and how many people do you see using an Eotech as an offset red dot? size is relative. An Eotech is a whale compared to an RMR, and this monstrosity is a blue whale compared to a transparent or window’ed magazine… absolutely.

        • Doc Rader

          Which requires you to go eyes off target. There is a reason we used to seed tracers at certain locations on belts and in boxes for the SAW. So you know when you are approaching the end.

          In the middle of a bad situation, it would be a rare individual that could devote the cognitive processing to determine magazine state (other than full/not full), rather than just looking at a read out.

        • kagami

          actually, no a magazine is still larger in length and height. It looks to be marginally thinner than say 2 magazines stacked on top of each other. Try again.

          • Sam

            Um… really, guy? lol. You’re either a troll or too stupid to follow a logical comparison, but either way, you aren’t worth my time. Good luck with your 2 stacked magazines sticking out of the side of your rail (?)

          • kagami

            – Not as tall as a magazine on the z-axis
            – Not as long as a fixed on the x-axis
            – Not even as wide on the y-axis as 2 magazines (Your reading AND your spatial comprehension skills seem to be lacking since I just said it is LESS than 2 magazines wide.)

            So something that is looks nominally to be 4″x2″x1.5″ based on the length of a MLOK slot it’s sitting next to suddenly equates to hanging 2 magazines that are 7″ tall just in one dimension? You must actually be a dog drinking wine lol.

            Also good job totally ignoring Doc Rader’s valid point as well.

          • Sam

            Hey, idiot. NO ONE was objectively comparing the size of the device to the size of a magazine. I was comparing the amount of size ADDED by the device to the weapon compared to a magazine. Since you lack logical reasoning and ability to understand ideas that are not explicitly spelled out for you, I’ll say it again in simpler terms:

            This device and its presence hanging off the side of your gun adds 100% more mass/weight/volume than a magazine that you ALREADY have in your gun. The point is, you are ALREADY using a magazine to shoot. There are magazines that tell you how many rounds you have left while adding no additional weight, mass or volume, so this does the same thing but in addition to having your magazine to shoot, you ALSO have this monstrosity hanging off the side of your gun. That is what was meant when I said that it is a blue whale compared to a magazine.

            And as for Doc’s point about “you have to take your eyes off the target”, this assumes a very specific combat scenario that is uncommon for the weapon platform in question.

            First of all, windowed magazines that tell you how many rounds you have left are NOT the same as 200 round SAW boxes. There is no way to visually tell how many rounds are left on the belt inside the box, so his point, which was specifically referring to SAWs, is apples to oranges when discussing M4/AR15 platforms which use these magazines. All the shooter has to do is turn the gun sideways and look at it. He does that to check the chamber when the gun is empty anyway, so its not a foreign movement and does not require the devotion of complicated “cognitive processes”. We’re not talking about knowing EXACTLY how many bullets he has left, but knowing whether he’s full, halfway, less than half, or close to empty – which is all he functionally needs to know in such a situation (and indeed identical to the SAW technique he described… “knowing when you are approaching the end”).

            Secondly, the idea that there is no time in combat to visually inspect the magazine’s window and take your eyes off the target is the same scenario that makes everyone think they need to train themselves to do split second magazine changes…because combat is apparently like COD. Truth is, most combat scenarios play out with the shooter behind cover, firing and getting back behind cover, or moving to another cover. There is plenty of time to change mags if needed, and DEFINITELY enough time to glance at the side of your magazine to maintain an idea of about how many rounds you have left.

            The ONLY scenario where someone shooting an M4 wouldn’t have time to glance at his magazine is if he is exposed to enemy fire and shooting his entire magazine until it’s empty without taking any cover. If he is shooting on auto, then round count doesn’t matter because his mag is empty pretty quickly (ie. a few seconds) and since he are just shooting until it’s empty, he would do so and then change mags… no round count needed. The other scenarios, such as suppressing fire, etc, are not normally conducted with 30 round magazines, and we’ve already covered why belt-fed is a different story. If suppressing fire IS conducted with M4 or similar, then we’re back to the scenario I just described.

            So, if you didn’t follow any of that, the bottom line is… in virtually all realistic combat scenarios, the time needed to glance down at your magazine to see where you’re at with ammo is not going to be an issue. Most trigger-pullers are going to prefer NOT having a huge computer on the side of their gun (that they have to heft around) if they can just look at their magazine. With guns that would benefit since they don’t have magazines (ie. belt-fed), this device isn’t even currently applicable, so its a moot point.

            This is designed for competition, which is a completely different situation, and some competitors shooting for split second times might appreciate it. In terms of real world usability outside of matches, this device offers very little benefit, and a lot of unnecessary complications (electronics/batteries), weight, and mass to accomplish something that windowed/transparent magazines accomplish with exactly none of the above.

          • Doc Rader

            Fair enough on the points to my comments. SAW is different for sure.

            And yes, very much more applicable for going eye’s off target on certain types of competition targets that may only present for a half second (though most competitors gaming it that hard will likely have already memorized round counts at each place).

            But again the utility for command/control (more specifically on the wireless version) is not something to discount. It is also a very good start to data management on a weapon (and of a weapon’s care and feeding). Down the line, being able to track the total number of rounds through a barrel, maintenance schedules, etc. Many things can come from accurate round counts. Like an odometer for a car… ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Sam

            Hey man, I agree with you. There are some really awesome potentials for this kind of tech, especially if it can be applied in a less intrusive fashion. Someone further down in this comment section suggested red dot/scope mounts with a small screen on the back to display the round count so you don’t have to add any extra gadgets to guns that are arguably already too heavy (with all the lights/PEQs/grips/optics, etc). Something like that would be awesome… or future HUD integration, or accounting to squad leaders, etc what the status of his teams are (other than black/green/yellow) etc…Why not?

            My point was specific to the ratio of usefulness to size/weight/discomforty of this particular device for combat use. It is a rather large and heavy additional unit to mount to a rifle for what it does. I can’t imagine any units, especially special ones, actually WANTING such a device to hang off the side of their gun in addition to the other stuff, just to tell them how many rounds they have left. Guys who shoot for a living develop techniques and solutions (such as using strategically placed tracers ๐Ÿ˜‰ , or just plain muscle memory) to deal with this issue, which don’t involve another half-pound of kit hanging off the front of their rifle.

        • Ryfyle

          I dunno. The XPS could be bigger.

    • Doc Rader

      All depends on who they are initially going to make it available to. I would guess the John Q Public version will lag behind release to agency/unit types.

      Agreed, the motion tracker would be cool. But the one in the movie was huge and not all that helpful… ๐Ÿ™‚

      The applications for the technology are the really interesting part, especially when you think about the potential for military/small units. The utility of an ammunition feeding device that knows its own state and can communicate that is pretty neat.

      The wireless version is detachable, and their next effort is going to be around HUD.

  • Ira

    Just what we need, stuffing our magazines full of small electronics.

    • Doc Rader

      Solid state and potted… ๐Ÿ™‚

      They have thousands of rounds through their in house version.

    • wildcat03

      Yeah, that’s totally not working in optics.

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      It makes sense for what it is. Cobalt Kinetics is in the racegun business. In a competition setting something like this could be very useful, especially when combined with their magazine release system that drops the magazine as soon as it’s empty

    • BrandonAKsALot

      Electronics on guns are coming whether you like it or not. It’s simple to not buy it if you don’t like it.

  • Bierstadt54

    Display: work in progress. Magazine with embedded round counter? Good idea, if they are highly reliable, not too expensive, and the battery lasts a long time. That being said, this is not something the average ar-15 shooter is going to be buying.

    • Ryfyle

      I would be extra down for one or five. Bonus points if they can get it on quad stacked mags.

  • R

    It’d be cool if they could integrate the display with the base of an RDS, to resemble something like the Leupold Evo. Or link the wireless version to Google Glass.

  • gunsandrockets

    Aha! Now I know why a forend has so many mlock slots. Space for gizmos like this.

  • They need to team up with optics manufactures like Eotech or Aimpoint and have the round count projected next the reticle where it will do the shooter good instead off on a side screen. The size is too big for what’s it doing in my opinion, at least conform it to the rail and have a very small 2 digit display..

    • Blake

      I don’t think that’s really possible. There’s a reason this is an actual screen. Reticles are literally LEDs or lasers that are just reflected up to the optic glass. You might be able to reflect an extremely low resolution round count via a seven segment display type setup, but I don’t know how it would look.

  • Cool Lester Smooth

    It’s kind of ironic that the company working on a round counter is putting it on their rifle that also drops the magazine as soon as it’s empty. I really appreciate what Cobalt Kinetics is doing with the AR; it’s great to see people take an old design and still find new ways to improve on it. Now the price just has to come down…

  • iksnilol

    AK compatibility? Battery life?

  • Kyle

    I WANT THIS! I mean it’s Cobalt Kinetics so I probably can’t afford it but I still really want it.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    If they could wire this into the HUD of an Eotech that would be something.