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Tech Crunch on Smart Guns

I was very happy to see this article about smart guns in Tech Crunch, where the reporter in question seems to have actually taken the time to understand this issue from our perspective.

It’s bad that the general public — including the majority of casual gun owners — are so confused about guns that they don’t know how much they don’t know. But what’s worse, at least if you’re a gun person, is that lawmakers and activists who know less than nothing about guns often find themselves in a position to confidently enshrine their technological ignorance into law.

This, then, is what the NRA is terrified of: that lawmakers who don’t even know how to begin to evaluate the impact of the smallest, most random-seeming feature of a given firearm on that firearm’s effectiveness and functionality for different types of users with different training backgrounds under different circumstances will get into the business of gun design.

This! The author goes on to give examples of existing follies of lawmakers getting into the business of gun design. I encourage you to read the whole thing. This is especially timely because the media is going nuts over the Friday release of Obama’s Smart Gun Report, which is 17 pages of meaningless platitudes (i.e. par for the court with this Administration).

Miguel notes that NPR has been reporting on this as well. They are focusing on the entirely wrong problem. If they put money into making better safes, it would be far more likely to be a) accepted by the gun community, and b) actually make a difference.

RFID techniques are useless, because they depend on radio transmission which is easily jammed. Anyone who has a smart phone with fingerprint recognition can tell you it’s not nearly reliable enough for life and death situations. For instance, my iPhone won’t unlock if my hands are wet, and it doesn’t work at all if I’m wearing gloves.

Despite the fact that the Administration listed “Limiting misuse of lost and stolen law enforcement firearms” as one of the three primary benefits, anyone who knows anything about how a smart gun would work knows this is bunk. The obvious design technique would be a disconnector attached to a solenoid that when activated would cause the trigger to engage the mechanism. This is not terribly different from magazine disconnect “safeties,” which are pretty easy to circumvent. The only way to make something truly difficult to circumvent would be to seal the mechanism, which means it will never be cleaned and thus will become unreliable, or alternatively, develop electronic triggers. There was one firearm introduced to market with such a trigger and it was not a commercial success, and had numerous problems.

If you look at the report, you’ll notice the prizes the Obama Administration is offering in his three stage competition are a pittance. Stage 1 is the proposal. You get nothing for that, despite needing a design. They note a dozen manufacturers submitted proposals (I’d love to know who. Someone should FOIA that.) and only Armatix and Protobench, LLC advanced to Stage Two.

Stage Two is basic testing at Aberdeen Proving grounds. If you pass Stage Two and advance on to Stage 3 you get $5000 bucks. That wouldn’t even pay an inexperienced intern’s salary for a summer, let alone cover the cost of the prototype that has to be submitted for testing.

If you advance to and pass Stage Three, which is heavy-duty and expanded product testing, which requires multiple guns to be submitted, you get $10,000 dollars. That would likely not even be enough to cover the cost of the guns.

By my reading of the report, they’ve only just begun to give this any real thought, and there’s nothing in this report that’s even 1/4 baked, let alone half baked. Fools like Obama, who have never developed any kind of product in their lives, seriously underestimate how difficult this problem is. It’s probably not that hard to make an unreliable piece of shit, but it’s going to be very difficult to develop a smart gun that would we reliable enough and fool proof enough to see wide adoption by the police, who are probably the group who would most benefit from the technology if it actually worked well.

This whole smart gun thing is pretty much blowing smoke. It’s not a serious effort. Nonetheless, I expect the fools in the gun control movement to sing his praises over this pile of dog shit just like they did over his executive orders.

10 Responses to “Tech Crunch on Smart Guns”

  1. The Jack says:

    “”
    The only way to make something truly difficult to circumvent would be to seal the mechanism, which means it will never be cleaned and thus will become unreliable, or alternatively, develop electronic triggers.
    “”

    Also doesn’t the ATF get froggy about electronic triggers on self-loading firearms?

    Due to their fear that an electronic trigger could be changed to turn a semi into a full auto, or at least slam fire….

    • Zermoid says:

      It isn’t hard to pulse an electric current…..

    • Matt says:

      My understanding of ATF interpretation is any gun with an electronically controlled trigger under software control lacking mechanical and approved stops to prevent full-auto fire is, by default, a machine gun.

      If the mere possibility of a software update being applied to a control mechanism to allow more than one shot to be fired is even possible, even if never created or used, you have built a machine gun.

      And you cannot build that without the FFL07+SOT license to do so in advance. No clever tinkerers here. This is why the few tinkerers (like the 18 year old kid trying to win that gun control prize for a smart gun you don’t hear about anymore) are using plastic replicas. The leap from benchtop idea and circuit boards to actual steel is fraught with serious, no excuses legal peril that anyone with a half-baked idea better know and have dealt with in advance. Or they will learn quickly why gun owners are really engaged on this issue. Alas, likely from the wrong side of a jail cell.

      The ATF doesn’t take into account intentions. If it doubled due to wear, it’s an illegal machine gun. If it slamfired due to soft primers, it’s an illegal machine gun. If some clever anti-gun zealot with an electrical engineering degree and good intentions puts a firing circuit into a Glock that uses a solenoid, some Arduino firmware and shows it off, the Everytown and Brady Campaign press event will wind up sending them to prison for having built an illegal machine gun. And will leave them high-and-dry legally despite whatever promises they have made.

      Even experienced gun makers deal carefully with the ATF Technical Branch. The idealistic and sloppy need not apply.

    • Sebastian says:

      I don’t mean electromechanical triggers, in this instance. I mean using electric ignition of the primer. If you really wanted to be fancy, the primer would have microelectronics in it that would authenticate with the firearm before it would ignite.

      • The Jack says:

        And that’s a rabbit whole with even more expensive and unproven technology.

        And it has the ammunition itself getting thrown in the mix.

      • HSR47 says:

        The primers used in modern ammunition are statistically one of the most reliable products ever made by man. They are so reliable and consistent that virtually any major design change would have a negative impact on reliability.

  2. Skinnedknuckles says:

    Another measure of the difficulty and cost of developing a new firearm might be the Army’s Modular Handgun System procurement. And this is a program based on existing designs! It would be an interesting comparison, by someone who knows much more about the details than I.

    • Ian Argent says:

      The MHS boondoggle’s problems are entirely due to the broken procurement system; which is a product itself of “This is why we can’t have nice things” being forbidden by federal law; despite changing times.

  3. TS says:

    For instance, my iPhone won’t unlock if my hands are wet, and it doesn’t work at all if I’m wearing gloves.

    Not just wet, but moist even. When I wash my hands, and thoroughly towel dry them, the success rate of the biometrics on my phone drops under 10%. At least Obama is pushing the police angle. We know it will never fly with law enforcement or secret service. That will help expose it as a farce.

    • Archer says:

      At least Obama is pushing the police angle. We know it will never fly with law enforcement or secret service. That will help expose it as a farce.

      Yeah, with that and the stupidly small “prizes” for coming up with workable designs, I’m pretty convinced this was a token effort. A bone thrown to the anti-gun groups, if you will.

      Obama wants to be seen “doing something” in his lame-duck year, but doesn’t want to actually “do something”. Not if his Secret Service agents could be forced to use something unreliable to protect him.

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