Tag: Smart guns

I’m quite sure that the idea of applying free market solutions to gun safety gives the typical gun hater the heebeegeebees. They’re usually the sort that want government to drive solutions to this, that , or the other societal concern. The thought of “the rabble” deciding what’s best is, well, unthinkable. When it comes to gun safety, their ideas are as a rule unworkable or impractical. Their solutions also come with laws that attempt to force you to use their “product”. One of their bright ideas is mandating the purchase of a “gun lock” with every new firearm. These usually end up locking everything but a firearm. (The last one I was forced to buy is a nice lock, but it’s better suited to securing the dressing room door on our horse trailer than a handgun.)

So why is this the case? It’s simple: You cannot market a product that no one wants. There’s a reason why there’s no such thing as celery flavored beer, sweet-and-sour birthday cake, or Carolina Reaper flavored bubble gum. This also explains the wild success of smart guns in the retail market. Nobody wants them.

At first blush, they may sound like an interesting idea. But, as you dig in a little bit, you realize that this is a product being marketed to gun muggles, not gun owners. It’s just not practical to put a hackable computer between you and your self defense firearm. Strike 1.

And they’re expensive. Strike 2.

And they have yet to prove themselves capable of withstanding common gun cleaning chemicals or harsh environmental conditions. Strike 3.

Gun haters bemoan the lack of these gizmos on gun store shelves. They blame the NRA, of course. Their stock solution to this “problem” is, no surprise here, to demand laws mandating their sale. The real reason they’re not flying off the shelves is that there’s no demand for them. The free market has spoken, and its answer is a resounding “NO!”. Does this mean that there is no market whatsoever for gun safety products? Of course not.

Gun users design some handy and thus marketable tools for increasing gun safety. For example, the ZØRE gun lock from Israel was designed with defensive use in mind. Once it’s unlocked, racking the slide on your pistol disengages it, throws it clear, and leaves you with a ready-to-go handgun. It comes with an app for monitoring the lock for tampering as well as a feature for timing yourself to see how quickly you can disengage it. The app can even be set up to “surprise” you as a practice drill. Hornady offers its Rapid Rack empty chamber indicator for AR platform rifles and some shotguns. It does more than indicate an empty chamber, it’s designed to act as a charging handle. Pull on its big, red handle and it strips itself away from your firearm to make it instantly available for use. The market already has products like retention holsters and gun safes to prevent unauthorized access. All of these are gun safety products offered to gun owners who actually want to spend money on them. In other words, these are free market solutions.

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Most people can delude themselves into believing they’re safe from a multitude of unfamiliar dangers. This is probably because we want to be safe from these things, but do not really know how to actually achieve that goal. Call it whistling past the graveyard, but we accept what someone else calls safety when it comes to a subject where we lack experience. Firearms safety is a case in point. Many a gun muggle will accept without question what someone with a teleprompter and a nice suit tells them.

No one, unless they’re utterly devoid of decency, wants unsafe firearms in our society. As gun owners, we drill the basic rules of gun safety into the heads of new shooters: Do not load a gun until you’re ready to use it, do not put your finger, or anything else, on the trigger until you’re about to shoot, and never, ever let the gun point at something you’re unwilling to see destroyed. We know guns and we know what they can do if mishandled. No one is more interested in gun safety than a gun owner. So when a gun owner balks at using a “safety” device, you should wonder about the device and not the gun owner.

The latest “safety” device to fail to earn the trust of gun owners is the “smart” gun. President Obama has ordered the DOD, DOJ, and Homeland Security to investigate use of these devices by government personnel. But Ars Technica founder Jon Stokes questions the efficacy of this technology. He wrote in the L.A. Times:

Gun owners are terrified of anything that might make their guns less reliable. And when they consider the frequency with which their $700 smart phone’s fingerprint scanner fails when presented with a clean, dry, perfectly-positioned thumb, they rightly conclude that putting any type of electronic lock on their Glock will likely make them less secure, not more.

Stokes also notes that “smart” guns that communicate with some sort of external device, like a big, ugly watch that only the authorized user is supposed to wear, could be detected by the same hardware credit card thieves use to sniff out RFID equipped cards. This either makes the gun owner a target for theft or it marks them as something to avoid; which then puts you, the unarmed one in the crowd, into the thief’s crosshairs.

There are other safety concerns…

  • If the “smart” part of the gun fails, does it let the gun fire for anyone or no one? Either can lead to disaster if gun is in the hands of someone who can’t answer the question.
  • If they’re having a really, really bad day on the job, can Officer Smith pick up Officer Jones’ “smart” gun and use it? Or does he have to get Officer Jones’ big, ugly watch first?
  • Stokes notes the potential for hacking. How many police officers or soldiers would want a service weapon that the bad guys could shut off with a smartphone app?
  • How many gun owners would want that same gun with its hidden remote kill switch?
  • When it comes to water or gun cleaning chemicals, can the “smart” part of the gun take a joke? Most electronics don’t play well with moisture or oil.

It’s these unknowns and others that make “smart” guns so unappealing to gun owners. We realize that they make our guns less safe for us and our loved ones. This is why there’s no market for them, not some nefarious plot by the dreaded gun lobby.

So why is the President pushing the technology?

I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that, like all decent people, he wants guns to be safer. But bless his little heart, he has no idea what he’s talking about. He doesn’t understand firearms, let alone ones with untested features. He doesn’t understand how safe guns are. The number of gun related accidents has been falling in the US for decades. But rather than seek advice from the nation’s premier gun safety organization, the NRA, he sought out the opinions of other, equally ignorant, gun muggles.

And he’s going to bitterly cling to their bad advice.

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From America’s 1st Freedom:

Exclusive: We Test The Armatix iP1, The Not-So-Smart Gun

Exclusive: We Test The Armatix iP1, The Not-So-Smart Gun

Photo credit: Features via AP Images

In May 2014, NRA staffers secretly tested the Armatix iP1, the so-called “smart gun” that at the time was causing a furor among both media and gun owners nationwide. What we found was disappointing at best, and alarming at worst.

NRA sent a team of firearm experts to an undisclosed range (at the request of our hosts) to do real-world tests of the iP1. To our knowledge, NRA is the only organization that has actually conducted real-world tests of the iP1 under range conditions.

Guns & Gear Editor and team member Frank Winn penned a review of the iP1 for America’s 1st Freedom. However, A1F withheld publication of the test results for fear that an honest review of the poorly functioning Armatix might be misconstrued as opposition to the technology itself. NRA was already being falsely accused of blocking smart gun development, and the expensive, small-caliber Armatix was failing on its own due to fears that sale of the gun would trigger New Jersey’s infamous mandate requiring similar technology in all guns.

In truth, NRA has never opposed smart guns, believing the marketplace should decide their future. Rather, NRA opposes government mandates of expensive, unproven technology, and smart guns are a prime example of that.

However, smart guns have been making a comeback in the news lately. On Oct. 22, theWashington Post reported on the recent activity of the iP1’s designer, German Ernst Mauch, as he attempted to rehabilitate the iP1’s reputation, as well as his own: “It’s operating perfectly.”To our knowledge, NRA is the only organization that has actually conducted real-world tests of the iP1 under range conditions. 

The Nov. 1 edition of CBS’ “60 Minutes” ran a smart gun segment that featured the oft-cited clip from the James Bond movie “Skyfall,” showing a bad guy foiled by Bond’s smart gun. Host Leslie Stahl interviewed Ron Conway, a Silicon Valley investor who funds 15 separate companies working on smart gun tech, who said: “This is going to happen outside the gun industry. Why they aren’t doing research and investing in this baffles me.”

Then on Nov. 3, Mother Jones magazine called smart guns, “The Guns the NRA Doesn’t Want Americans to Get.” In the article, Mauch is quoted as saying, “I still want people to understand that there is a huge potential for this technology. The technology was never in question.”

Of course Conway and Mauch want us to believe in smart gun tech: Conway would love to see his investments pay off, and Mauch is looking for a job after Armatix—having lost millions of euros trying to launch his iP1—fired him as CEO and banned him from the premises under the threat of criminal penalties. Mauch told the Post he resigned because he didn’t want to sue or attack the gun industry, but an Armatix attorney confirmed he was released “for internal reasons.”

Does the Armatix operate perfectly? Well, no; we found it to be troubling at best. NRA’s tests, conducted with staffers trained by Armatix, found a number of very serious problems:

  • The Armatix pistol initially required a full 20 minutes to pair with the watch, even with the aid of an IT pro trained in its use. Without pairing, the Armatix functions like any other handgun, capable of being fired by anyone.
  • Once paired, a “cold start” still requires a minimum of seven push-button commands and a duration of 12 seconds before the gun can be fired.
  • While the gun holds a maximum of 11 rounds (10+1), the best our experts could manage was nine consecutive rounds without a failure to fire (and that only once). Three or four misfires per magazine were common, despite using various brands of ammunition.
  • Although the Armatix has a decent single-action trigger, it has the worst double-action trigger we’ve ever tested, requiring more force than any other pistol we’ve fired.
  • The pistol must be within 10 inches of the watch during “start up.” This slows and complicates the use of the pistol if one hand is injured or otherwise unavailable.
  • The design of the Armatix’s hammer prevents it from being safely thumbed forward.
  • All this malfunction comes at a high price: At $1,798 ($1,399 for the base pistol and another $399 for the enabling watch), the Armatix is a more than five times the cost of other common .22s, like Walther’s excellent P22 ($319) or Browning’s tried-and-true Buckmark ($349), and four and a half times that of Smith & Wesson’s M&P22 polymer semi-auto ($379) or Ruger’s SR22 ($379). It’s also more than three times the cost of pistols like Glocks and Smith & Wesson M&Ps made in true self-defense calibers

Although the Armatix has a decent single-action trigger, it has the worst double-action trigger we’ve ever tested, requiring more force than any other pistol we’ve fired.Unfortunately, the team was unable to test the durability of the electronics that supposedly make the Armatix “smart,” leaving several questions unanswered:

  • What happens when pistol/watch batteries fail?
  • Will the pistol’s poorly sealed battery compartment perform when rain-soaked?
  • What happens if you lose the watch or it breaks? Or when it goes (even more) out of style?
  • Will the gun/watch still function if dropped?
  • How many firing cycles will the electronics tolerate before failure?
  • How easy is it to hack the RFID connection to the pistol?

The biggest unanswered question, however, comes from the Armatix’s patent application:

  • Why does the Armatix contain “kill switch” functionality, allowing it to be disabled by third parties … a fact confirmed by such functionality at the test range?

The Post article claims the Armatix “passed rigorous testing and certification in the United States.” We’d sure like to talk to whomever conducted those tests, because we have tested the Armatix—and found it greatly wanting. Again, NRA only opposes the imposition of technologies via government force, and is happy for the marketplace to pass its own judgment. But if this is the technology upon which smart-gun proponents want the marketplace to base its decision, their rejection will be both swift and brutal.

Read Frank Winn’s unpublished, exclusive 2014 A1F review here.

Definitely click the link to Frank Winn’s full review. This gun is an $1800 stinker. The one and only thing that will save it in the market is a government mandate that it be stocked on gun store shelves; which is what one New Jersey lawmaker now proposes. It’s being marketed as a “defensive” handgun, but it’s chambered in only .22LR; not any defensive pistol calibers. The “safety” technology is, at best, not-ready-for-prime-time. At worst, it’s a technology that allows your very expensive handgun to be switched off remotely. Whether or not this can be done by an adversary or just a bored script-kiddie has yet to be determined. Furthermore, it may be possible to nullify the tech by simply submerging the pistol is a bucket of water. Go read the review for more details.

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We’ve talked about “smart” guns before. One of the primary weaknesses of the idea is that the failure modes of such a system aren’t known. Put simply, the gun would pose a danger in a failed condition whether it defaulted to “on” or “off”. If it defaults to “on”, then the expected safety mechanism would be silently disabled. If it defaults to “off”, then it becomes nothing more than an expensive paperweight. Another possible danger exists: A hacker.

The simplest, and perhaps earliest, “smart” gun idea was a magnetic ring worn by the shooter. The ring’s magnetic field deactivated an internal safety in the gun and allowed it to fire. One failure mode that prevented this from being practical is that sometimes a shooter is required to shoot “offhand”. That means that a right handed shooter might have to shoot left handed. In that situation, the ring would be on the wrong hand and the gun would be locked out. Another flaw is that the locking mechanism could be broken; either accidentally or deliberately by someone seeking to use the gun without the One Ring.

Since then, more sophisticated ideas have been proposed. Fingerprint scanners have been suggested. But what happens if the shooter is wearing gloves? Or their hands are dirty? RFID chips are another idea, but most people are uncomfortable with the idea of being “chipped”. You could carry it on your person, but that required keeping some item of clothing, jewelry, or similar item on you at all times. Also, the RFID code could be duplicated or the chip could be damaged. In the Sci-Fi world, speech and voice recognition have been the secret sauce that makes a “smart” gun smart. It would also allow for multiple authorized users. But until recently, speech recognition has been nothing but Sci-Fi.

Well, OK… Some of that is still Sci-Fi. But you get the picture. Speech recognition is now a possibility, but some of the old problems still remain. It’s still possible, for example, to just open up the gun and physically disable the lockout mechanism.

A fix might be to make the entire firing mechanism electromechanical. This electric lock could then be computer controlled to allow for the speech recognition system. But now we get to the problems that speech recognition would bring to the party. It’s processor intensive. It takes a lot of computing power to make it work quickly, which is essential for a self-defense tool. Smartphones beat this limitation by using their always-on Internet connections. The software guts that make Siri run aren’t in your iPhone; they’re “in the cloud”. This means that some of the computations necessary to make speech recognition work, such as database queries, are done by Internet servers that your smartphone contacts. A “smart” gun has far less space available inside of it than a smartphone for the memory and microprocessors it would need to run speech recognition. A solution would be to do what a smartphone does; process in the cloud. But something that is connected to the Internet is something that can be hacked over the Internet.

What would happen if your Internet connected “smart” gun got hacked? Could the hacker turn the safety on or off? Think about that for a moment. You could be disarmed by the push of a button; either by a criminal or by the Government. It gets better. Suppose that the hacker got into the fire control system. Could he actually discharge the weapon? Imagine Al Qaeda or the Norks hacking into American “smart” guns and setting them all off at once. This sounds like tinfoil nuttery until you consider what Stuxnet did to Iran’s Uranium centrifuges. Another more mundane threat comes from hackers out to make a buck, or a ruble, as the case may be. Many hackers simply use other people’s computers for their own purposes. Spammers don’t send spam from their own computers; they use networks of hacked computers to do the work. A new trend is to earn money on Bitcoin networks by doing the encryption calculations that are necessary for the online currency to work. Hackers use hijacked computers to do the calculations, called Bitcoin mining, and they get paid for the work. Now imagine that it’s 2 in the morning, someone is breaking into your home, you need your “smart” gun to work right now, but its processor is too busy sending spam emails. Or it’s being used by some dude in a laundromat in Minsk to mine Bitcoins.

How smart would you feel at that moment?

General Self-defense

It’s time to re-visit the “smart” gun thing again; a dumb idea that just won’t go away.

A “smart” gun is one that supposedly limits access so that someone who isn’t an authorized user can’t use it. The gun automagically determines whether or not the person holding it is allowed to use it. Sounds great, right? And I suppose that it is, except for the part where it won’t work. The latest call for this bad idea in California is SB293.

This law, and the proposals before it, are essentially requirements to add a gizmo to a gun to make it safe. Again, that sounds great; except that like all other mechanical devices, the gizmo can fail. No matter what its guts are made of, or what its operating principle is, the “smart” gun can fail and this is dangerous. There are two different types of failure: The gun discharges when it shouldn’t, or the gun fails to discharge when it should.

The consequences of the first failure mode should be obvious. A gun owner comes to rely in the gun’s brains more than his own and leaves the gun unsecured. A child, for example, picks up the gun also thinking that it’s safe. The child pulls the trigger. The smart gun either fails to recognize an unauthorized user, or the safety fails to engage, and the gun discharges. If the gun owner is blessed by God at that moment, the only damage is to the drywall. However, should He decide that the gun owner is failing to heed the lesson of Deuteronomy 6:16…

The consequences of the second failure mode may be less obvious. The gun owner needs the gun for self defense right now and the “smart” part of the gun has just turned the thing into a paperweight. Or, the owner of the gun has been disabled and a family member needs to pick up the gun and use it for self defense. The gun’s owner would probably want the gun to work at the moment, but it won’t. The problem, you see, is that the gun isn’t really smart. It cannot comprehend such a situation and cannot rewrite its own rules of operation at that critical moment.

There have been many “safety innovations” in the past that have cost lives. Users often do not possess the technical education necessary to understand the device or how it works. When airbags were introduced in motor vehicles, there was an increase in injuries to drivers and their passengers. The problem was that many of these users didn’t understand that the airbag was intended to work with the seat belts. They were injured because they believed that the airbags replaced the seat belts. Likewise some gun owners, especially new ones, might come to think that a “safe” gun doesn’t require safe storage. Or these “newbies” might think that the normal rules of safe gun handling don’t apply to their shiny, new “smart” gun. And the result will be deaths and injuries that shouldn’t have happened; far more than the “smart” gun could possibly prevent.

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California: Anti-Gun Bills to be Heard in Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday

Posted on April 25, 2013

On Monday, April 29, the state Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to hear several anti-gun bills.  Please call AND e-mail members of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to OPPOSE these anti-gun bills that will have no effect on reducing crime.  Contact information for members of this committee is provided below.

Anti-gun bills to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, April 29:

Senate Bill 108 (Yee) requires mandatory locked storage of firearms within a locked house regardless of whether anyone is present.

Senate Bill 293 (DeSaulnier) BANS the sale of conventional handguns, if the state Department of Justice approves the sale of “Owner Authorized – Smart” handgun technology.

Senate Bill 299 (DeSaulnier) turns victims of firearm theft into criminals for failing to report the loss of their firearm within 48 hours.

Senate Bill 475 (Leno) requires the prior approval of the board of supervisors of both the County of San Mateo and the City and County of San Francisco to allow a gun show at the Cow Palace.

Don’t forget to forward this alert to your family, friends and fellow gun owners throughout California and urge them to do the same.  We need all of California gun owners and Second Amendment supporters to continually call AND e-mail state legislators opposing all anti-gun legislation. The California Legislature needs to know that these egregious attacks against law-abiding citizens must stop.

Senate Appropriations Committee:

Senator Kevin de León (D-22) Chairman

(916) 651-4022

E-mail here


Senator Mimi Walters (R-37) Vice Chairman

(916) 651-4037

E-mail here


Senator Ted Gaines (R-1)

(916) 651-4001

E-mail here


Senate Jerry Hill (D-13)

(916) 651-4013

E-mail here


Senator Ricardo Lara (D-33)

(916) 651-4033

E-mail here


Senator Alex Padilla (D-20)

(916) 651-4020

E-mail here


Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-6)

(916) 651-4006

E-mail here

You can write your representative here urging them to OPPOSE the anti-gun bills listed above.  Please feel free to also copy and paste all the bill information to ensure your state legislators know which bills to OPPOSE.

You can also send a letter to all elected officials in California here.  Please feel free to copy and paste all the bill information above to ensure the elected officials of California know which bills to OPPOSE.

You can also find information about anti-gun and pro-gun legislation in California at www.calnra.com.


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The NRA recognizes that California is one of the most active Second Amendment “battleground states,” so for decades NRA has devoted substantial resources to fighting for the right to keep and bear arms for Californians. The NRA has full-time legislative advocates in its Sacramento office fighting ill-conceived gun ban proposals. NRA coordinates a statewide campaign to fight ill-conceived local gun bans and regulations. And NRA has been litigating cases in California courts to promote the right to self-defense and the Second Amendment for many years. NRA’s California legal team continues to work pro-actively to strike down ill-conceived gun control laws and ordinances, and to protect the Second Amendment rights of California firearms owners. For information about NRA’s litigation efforts, see www.nraila.org/legal/litigation.aspx

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