23 thoughts on “Not So Smart Gun”

  1. And he never even mentioned the risk is a FTF in an emergency due to dead batteries or an electrical or electronic failure.

    Mechanical guns fail enough already, why add more things to fail?

    1. In the last year of the Obama administration, the DOJ put out a fantasy “spec” of a ‘smart gun’. The specifications represented what DOJ thought a law enforcement version of a model ‘smart gun’ would do. And it was hilarious, because somehow someone snuck in requirements that just utterly crippled the fantasy of the gun control nuts.

      An example: It failed to unlocked.

      1. The specifications were also mutually exclusive. It required both fail open and fail closed, depending on the circumstances surrounding the failure. Basically, if the ID portion of the fire control group failed, and you *really* need to use the gun, it was supposed to instantly fail open and let you fire. In pretty much every other situation, if the same component failed it was supposed to brick the gun until it could be fixed. Since these specs are what the DOJ would require to adopt a smart gun it guaranteed that no smart gun would be adopted ever, since there is no way to meet both specs simultaneously.

        I’m not sure if the specs were intended as a subtle middle finger to the administration, but that’s what it wound up looking like to me.

  2. With regard to the comment about electronic primers, I suspect they’d make it even easier to circumvent.

    Where as with these mechanical interrupts, you have to at a minimum figure out where and how the interrupt occurs (ex. Do I have to glue the stopper in the slide in the up or down position?), with the electronic primers, the trigger just becomes a contact switch and you can simply bypass the entire smarts.

  3. So-called “smart guns” are just another form of disarmament, and infringe on the Second Amendment. Only a fool would want one.

  4. I would consider one after the Presidential Protection Detail starts carrying them. There would have to be a strong verification protocol, however. And it would have to be all they carry.

  5. Electronic ignition is not the answer either, as it could be bypassed with a simple battery. Remove the guts of the smart gun, insert battery with contact switch in trigger, done. This could be a first project for someone learning to solder from youtube.

    If you want something more “secure” you need a primer that will not fire unless it receives a specific signal from the fire control circuit (say a very narrow frequency of AC, or a very specifically shaped voltage wave). This needs to be a mechanical or chemical property of the primer itself, not something bolted onto a dumb primer at the cartridge level.

    This primer also needs to permanently fail should the wrong signal be sent, to prevent someone from just spamming the primer with a random hodgepodge of signals until it fires.

    Basically you need to invent some kind of physics based cryptography that is an inherent property of the primer itself.

    Now you need to invent a few variations of that cryptography If you want to avoid someone simply soldering up a circuit that sends the one signal every time it is triggered (something that should be trivial for anyone who has spent only a minimal amount of time learning to solder properly).

    You will also need a way for each cartridge to tell the fire control computer which version or primer it is. If you want to avoid people simply sorting cartridges, this query must either only work once and then go inert a very short time period after questioning, or the cartridge needs to be able to change its answer on each query.

    This system needs to be damn near 100% reliable to match the current standards set by dumb primers.

    Ok, so you managed to figure all that out have you? Congratulations, all you have managed to do is lock average consumers into buying batteries for their guns. Enthusiasts and criminals will be able to get around the problem by soldering up their own (slightly more complicated than “trivial”) circuit to read, identify and signal primers. I expect these schematics to be available for all cartridge models within the first few days of release. OH, what is this you say? The cartridge communicates with the gun using some kind of physics based TLS? Great, that means each gun/cartridge combo has some equivalent of communication certificates! But what is this, each gun needs its own local copy of the private keys to communicate? That means those pesky criminals/enthusiasts have physical access! Expect a copy of the key to be available within hours of release.

    All you have accomplished with this massive investment in “security” is to make it mildly harder to jailbreak a firearm. Nothing more. Anyone who wants a jail-broken firearms will have one, and there is nothing anyone can do to prevent it.

    The only thing that “smart” firearms would be even remotely good at is preventing someone from having their gun taken and immediately used against them, and even that is assuming the gun is smart enough to relies who is holding it, not just “am I close enough to my dongle to fire?”.

    This goal can actually be met much more reliably with simple training and proper equipment, no unnecessarily complicated “smart” guns necessary.

    “Smart guns” cannot prevent stolen guns from being used for crime. They cannot be a universal control switch for government. They cannot be a usage gatekeeper. They are not a solution to anything that currently needs solving. They are nothing more than a burden to be foisted upon the gun owning community.

    Of course that is also the real reason they are being pushed.

    1. You’re always going to be able to find ways to hack a device. So I was not meaning to suggest that electronic ignition would fix the problem. It would also make ammunition prohibitively expensive.

      But…. at least it would be as hard to hack as a phone. Based on what I saw with the Armatix, a little crazy glue would turn it from a smart gun to a conventional firearm.

      1. Considering how easy phones are to hack that is not a high bar to set. Granted the people who first figure out how to do it require quite a bit of brains and quite a bit of very specific knowledge, but once that bit is cracked then its usually as simple as “follow this 10 step process.” For people not mechanically inclined this may actually be easier to do than applying some glue to some spot inside the gun. And if we are looking at a total guts replacement of the electronics, it will not be any harder than ordering the parts from the darkweb amazon and detail stripping the gun. And that is assuming you don’t want to try your hand at soldering up your own circuit (which is actually not all that hard if all you are doing is gluing parts together from a template).

        I know you know this, but you talking about raising the bar from “not even noticeable” to “might be a tripping hazard if you are a klutz.” There is no way that is worth the huge investment it would take to get there.

  6. How vulnerable would “smart” guns be to EMP? (Electro-Magnetic Pulse)

    It would seem to me that directed EMP could be used to disable all such guns in a limited area, if they were vulnerable. Or, anything that could generate a sufficient EMP in a room, etc.

    1. They’d be as vulnerable as any electronics, but it is possible to harden against EMP, but it’s not cheap, and anything that used wireless is by nature going to be jammable.

    2. A Faraday cage can protect from EMP and one can imagine a biometric based “smart gun” which could operate within a Faraday cage built into a gun (the exposed sensors would be optical or other non electrical devices). This could be done fairly cheaply. This would also be immune to RF jamming.

      But someone with the proper skills and domain knowledge who has prolonged physical access will be able to defeat it.

      It still might be susceptible to jamming by a strobe light or other, non electrical, means.

    3. An anecdote that guides my thinking: About 30 years ago I collaborated in building a device that involved a bank of huge electrolytic capacitors discharging almost instantly through a coil. (I won’t define it closer, but it was for an SDI program.) We learned the hard way not to have any small electronics in the room when it was triggered.

  7. And the libidiots still go after the gun, not the criminal. We don’t need smart guns, we need smart law enforcement and judges who put the bad guys away instead of letting them out to keep on committing crime after crime.

    1. “smart law enforcement and judges who put the bad guys away instead of letting them out.”

      Given the embarrassing statistic that the Land of the Free already has a greater percentage of its citizens in prison than any other country in the world, we can see that Law and Order is really working, can’t we?

      But more to your point, maybe if we didn’t put away so many good guys, we’d have more room for the bad guys; but then we wouldn’t be feeding the private prison industry, and they’d become cross with us.

  8. And for all the discussion of the perils and merits of smart guns (usually many more perils than merits, to be sure), I can’t help but think:

    (1) One of the most popular pistol designs today was designed over 100 years ago.

    (2) With $5,000 and a bit of determination, it’s not all that difficult to put together a CNC shop that can churn out copies of that pistol, as well as pretty much any other pistols that one might decide to make.

    Gun technology doesn’t go away just because something new comes out. Indeed, people to this day fire muskets and black powder pistols, and while they typically aren’t used in crimes (heck, *rifles* aren’t typically used in crime), there’s really nothing to stop a criminal from doing so…

  9. “Gun technology doesn’t go away just because something new comes out.

    Given enough time, perhaps it will.

    I’m not saying it’s a good analogy, but the thought crossed my mind that “smart guns” are somewhat like my “smart car,” which won’t run unless I have its unique fob present, along with the bladed key.

    When I’m headed for the boonies I always live in fear of losing or drowning that fob, should I fall in the river. I may come back to a car that I can get into, but won’t drive me anywhere. But, it will cost me almost several hundred dollars if I want a “spare key” made. So I lock the fob in the car, and carry a door (only) key around my neck. I get the security angle, but damn, what a pain.

    I suppose it would be theoretically possible to retrofit a car to pre-smart technology, but it would probably be an expensive gimmick, and conceivably could be illegal!

    I have at least one friend who drives “antique” cars as his everyday cars, just because he doesn’t want to deal with “smart” technologies that mean machines doing his thinking for him. But, that is becoming increasingly impractical.

    Here would be my future-fiction scenario for a novel: Guns become “smart,” but such a pain-in-the-ass that the average person doesn’t want to get into them; while old technology guns have disappeared, and newly-manufactured, old technology guns are extreme contraband.

    1. When I was in college in the ’60s, one MIT engineering prof required that his students read a short sci-fi story about a world where computers had done everything for generations. So the protagonist kid figures out how to do math with a pencil and paper, and he is instantly snapped up and held incommunicado as a military secret.

    2. I don’t foresee guns going down the same route that cars did in terms of technological complexity, at least not willingly.

      Guns are inherently binary; 0 – do nothing, 1 – strike the primer. That’s what makes circumventing these smart gun technologies so trivial. And I see nothing on the horizon that will change that.

      Cars on the other hand were always complex, we just didn’t know it; Spark timing, fuel timing, and fuel quantity have always been dependent on a number of complex and dynamically changing variables. Carburetors and distributor caps simplified the problem at the expense of efficiency and reliability.

      This is where modern day cars differ from guns, in that what we perceive as added complexity is solving a pre-existing complex problem. By adding smarts it’s able to efficiently and reliably handle that large number of complex and constantly changing variables.

      As far as I can see, there’s no similar analogy to this problem cars have/had, in regard to guns.

      1. Come to think of it, there’s another major difference between gun technology and car technology: guns are easy to hide.

        Indeed, this is why pistols are used in so many murders, and this, despite the murderers typically being felons banned from gun use. It’s easy to carry a pistol in your pocket or your jacket.

        Rifles are a bit harder, but it’s not going to be hard to keep a rifle or two or a few in your home squirreled away in all sorts of potential hiding places.

        And both are still simple enough that one can make them in a machine shop; as much as I’ve been interested in making my own car, it’s not nearly as easy to do…

    3. Old technology guns won’t just “disappear”. Guns have extremely long service lives (at least quality guns do). I myself have fired original Civil War era guns. It’s a relatively common thing for someone to own and shoot a WWI or WWII era military firearm. The oldest gun I ever personally owned was manufactured more than 50 years before I was born, and I’m willing to bet that it’s still in serviceable condition now that it’s 101 years old.

      Those “old guns” won’t disappear. Not unless they are forcibly seized. I would expect that a quality gun made today will still be serviceable, with just normal maintenance, 100 years from now.

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