Smart gun

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A smart gun, by popular usage, is a firearm that is smart but only in the sense that it can detect its authorized user(s) or something that is normally only possessed by its authorized user(s). It is also called a personalized gun.

Smart guns have one or more systems that allow them to fire only when activated by an authorized user. Those systems typically employ RFID chips or other proximity tokens, fingerprint recognition, magnetic rings, or mechanical locks.[1] They can thereby prevent accidental shootings, gun thefts, and criminal usage by persons not authorized to use the guns.

Note that smart guns, per se, will allow their authorized users to commit many gun crimes such as armed robberies, drive-by shootings, assassinations, and massacres. However, as with other guns, adding locationized gun circuitry to smart guns will prevent their usage for those crimes.

Related to smart guns are other smart firearms safety devices such as biometric or RFID activated accessories and safes.


Biofire Technologies/Kai Kloepfer[edit]

Biofire Technologies is a Boston-based startup developing smart guns, started by young founder Kai Kloepfer, that aims to reduce the risk of accidental shootings and firearm suicides with technology. They have a working smart gun prototype that uses a fingerprint sensor to unlock the firearm for use. It can be programmed to register a range of fingerprints so that the gun would be able to be used, for example, by a spouse or trusted friend in addition to the owner. [2]

As of March 2018 they are working to develop their working smart gun prototype into a mass-manufacturable commercial product. [3]

Biofire's live-fire prototype was launched in a 2016 feature in the Wall Street Journal written by Geoffrey A. Fowler, "A 19-Year-Old Just Built the First Fingerprint-Reading Smart Gun" [2] and received special attention as a result of a video produced for Uproxx Tech, "Has This 18-Year-Old Created The World’s Safest Gun?"[4], which has received more than 20 million views across platforms. He was also featured in the New York Times in an article written by Nicholas Kristof, "Smart Guns Save Lives. So Where Are They?[5]"

iGun Technology Corp.[edit]

Led by Jonathan Mossberg, iGun Technology Corporation has developed 12-gauge shotgun that uses magnetic spectrum token technology, similar in function to RFID, to secure the gun. The shotgun is activated when in close proximity to a ring worn on the trigger hand of the user. A 2013 report by the National Institute of Justice stated that iGun's product "could be considered the first personalized firearm to go beyond a prototype to an actual commercializable or production-ready product."[6][7] Mossberg trademarked the term "SmartGun".[8]

Safe Gun Technology Co.[edit]

Safe Gun Technology Co., led by CEO Tom Lynch, is developing a variation on the traditional smart gun in the form of fingerprint retrofit kits for installation on home defense guns.[9] Their retrofit technology, once installed, required an authorized user's fingerprint to unlock the gun and make it ready to fire. Safe Gun Tech is currently field-testing their fingerprint retrofit kit on an AR-15 rifle.

New Jersey Institute of Technology[edit]

New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT)'s smart gun relies on biometric sensors in the grip and trigger that can track a gun owner’s hand size, strength, and Dynamic grip style, also known as (DGR) Dynamic Grip Recognition. The gun is programmed to recognize only the owner or anyone whom the owner wishes to authorize.[10]


TriggerSmart has developed a personalised childproof smart gun using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. Basically, only the authorised user can fire the weapon and the gun is safe in the hands of a child or an intruder in the home. Triggersmart is an Irish company that patented and achieved a working prototype of a smart gun, or "personalized gun", that uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.[11] TriggerSmart has also patented and developed Wide Area Control ( WAC) where weapons can be remotely enabled and disabled using various wireless protocols. Safe zones can be created around schools and airports so that only authorised guns can operate in the designated area. Alternatively, when authorised guns leave the authorised area they can be tracked and disabled outside the safe zone. GPS and GSM capability can be added so data regarding, where and when, fired can be recorded and electronic notifications be sent to authorised partners. WAC can also be employed to help prevent Green on Blue fire or so called 'Friendly fire'.


A German company, Armatix, has developed the Armatix iP1 pistol, which comes with a special wrist watch which uses radio frequencies to identify the user.[7][12]

Metal Storm[edit]

Australian defense company Metal Storm made a prototype electronic smart gun called the O'Dwyer VLe. It utilized biometric authorizing technology and was the world's first 100% electronic handgun. It also incorporated Metal Storm's patented 'stacked projectile' technology, which, in cohesion with the nature of the weapon system itself, meant that there was no moving parts, no separate magazine, no ammunition feed, and it outstripped conventional firing systems.[13]

Smart Tech Challenges Foundation[edit]

In 2013, the nonprofit Smart Tech Challenges Foundation was founded with the mission to foster innovation in firearm safety by Ron Conway. The Foundation awarded development grants to innovators including Jonathan Mossberg, Tom Lynch, Robert McNamara, Omer Kiyani, and Kai Kloepfer, who are building smart guns, smart safety accessories, and other smart firearms safety technologies.


The Magna-Trigger system was developed by Joe Davis in 1975 for J-, K-, L-, & N-frame Smith & Wesson revolvers prevents the trigger from returning far enough to fire. It has proven reliable. This system will work ambidextrously, provided the magnetic rings used are worn on both hands.[14]


The Magloc conversion kit for 1911A1 pistols works by preventing the handgun from firing unless a magnetic ring worn by the user repels the magnetic blocking device installed inside the grip.[15] Once the system is activated using the matching magnetic ring, the owner can switch the over-ride switch to the on position and allow anyone to fire the pistol.[16]

Ignis Kinetics[edit]

Ignis Kinetics is a Reno-based startup developing user-authorized firearm technology for the enterprise. The company was founded by Andy Shallcross and Travis Nicks with the mission of igniting a technological revolution in the firearms industry.


Smart guns have been criticized by the NRA,[17] while being supported by an anti-gun-violence campaign connected to the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, which says "it has 80 law enforcement agencies interested in the technology."[18]

The NRA and its membership boycotted Smith & Wesson after it was revealed in 1999 that the company was developing a smart gun for the U.S. government.[19][20] The official policy of the NRA-ILA, the lobbying arm of the NRA, with regards to smart guns, is as follows: "The NRA doesn’t oppose the development of “smart” guns, nor the ability of Americans to voluntarily acquire them. However, NRA opposes any law prohibiting Americans from acquiring or possessing firearms that don’t possess “smart” gun technology."[21]

Views within Law Enforcement[edit]

Some smart gun proponents have called for federal, state, and local police organizations to take the lead on adopting smart gun technology, either voluntarily or via purchasing mandate.[22] There has been scattered support for voluntary test programs from some law enforcement leaders, including San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, who has said, “Officer safety is huge, so you wouldn’t want to compel that upon officers. But we have so many officers who are so into technology, I am all but certain there are officers that would be willing to do such a pilot.”.[23]

Richard Beary, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said there would be "plenty of agencies interested in beta testing the technology" and that "[a smart gun] can’t be 99 percent accurate, it has to be 100 percent accurate. It has to work every single time.”[18] James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 325,000 officers nationwide, has stated, “Police officers in general, federal officers in particular, shouldn’t be asked to be the guinea pigs in evaluating a firearm that nobody’s even seen yet. We have some very, very serious questions.”[24]

New Jersey mandate[edit]

In the United States, New Jersey passed the Childproof Handgun Bill into state law on December 23, 2002, which will eventually require that all guns sold in the state of New Jersey have a mechanism to prevent unauthorized users from firing it, taking effect three years after such a smart gun is approved by the state.[25] Weapons used by law enforcement officers would be exempt from the smart gun requirement.[19][20][26] In May 2014, New Jersey State Senate Majority leader, Loretta Weinberg, who had originally sponsored the New Jersey bill while serving in the State Assembly, stated that she would consider repealing the law if, after doing so, the National Rifle Association would agree not to impede the development of better smart guns.[27]

The potential effects of New Jersey's smart gun law has also influenced opposition to the technology in the United States; two attempts to sell the Armatix iP1 smart gun in California and Maryland were met with opposition from gun rights groups, who argued that allowing the gun to be sold in the United States would trigger the law.[19] In December 2014, the Attorney General of New Jersey determined that the Armatix iP1 would not meet the legal criteria sufficient to trigger the mandate.[28]

Reliability Concerns[edit]

Many firearm enthusiasts object to smart guns on a philosophical and regulatory basis. Gun ownership advocate Kenneth W. Royce, writing under the pen name of "Boston T. Party", wrote that "no defensive firearm should ever rely upon any technology more advanced than Newtonian physics. That includes batteries, radio links, encryption, scanning devices and microcomputers."[29]

TechCrunch technology and outdoors journalist Jon Stokes summarizes the reliability concerns with smart guns stating,[30]

"First, no electronic technology is 100% reliable, and very few people will trust a gun that can be turned into a brick by a failure of some on-board circuitry. Second, whenever you attach software to some new category of things — especially software that has any kind of connection to the outside world, whether via RFID or an actual network — then in addition to whatever problems that thing had before, you’ve introduced a whole host of brand new security and identity problems that are new to that thing and that must be discovered and patched, and then the patches will have problems that must be discovered and patched, and on it goes."

Potential advantages[edit]

Gun owners[edit]

Smart firearms safety technology is intended to prevent the accidental use and misuse of firearms by children and teens, as well as reducing accidental discharges or the use of a firearm against its owner if the firearm is stolen or taken away.[31] Smart guns may also reduce incidents of suicide by unauthorized users of a firearm.[32]

Law enforcement[edit]

Law enforcement applications also hold promise; San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr went on record supporting smart guns[33] for their potential to reduce the risk of having a law enforcement officer's gun used against him or her, and for rendering stolen guns unfirable. Richard Beary, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, was quoted in the Washington Post[34] as saying there would be "plenty of agencies interested in beta testing the [smart gun] technology."

In April 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder told a House appropriations subcommittee that his agency is exploring smart gun technology as a means for curbing gun violence. The Justice Department requested $382.1 million in increased spending for its fiscal year 2014 budget for "gun safety," a figure which includes $2 million for "Gun Safety Technology" grants, which would award prizes for technologies that are "proven to be reliable and effective."[35]

In October 2013 the European Commission published a document by commissioner Cecilia Malmström, stating that "the Commission will work with the firearms industry to explore technological solutions, such as biometric sensors where personal data is stored in the firearm, for ensuring that purchased firearms may only be used by their legal owner. It will carry out a detailed cost-benefit analysis on the question of making such 'smart gun' security features mandatory for firearms lawfully sold in the EU."[36]

Potential disadvantages[edit]

Joseph Steinberg writes that "biometrics take time to process and are often inaccurate – especially when a user is under duress – as is likely going to be the case in any situation in which he needs to brandish a gun.... it is not ideal to add a requirement for power to devices utilized in cases of emergency that did not need electricity previously. How many fire codes allow fire extinguishers that require a battery to operate?" Steinberg further writes that "smartguns might be hackable" or "susceptible to government tracking or jamming...Firearms must be able to be disassembled in order to be cleaned and maintained. One of the principles of information security is that someone who has physical access to a machine can undermine its security."[37] In a follow up piece published in January 2016, Steinberg noted that smartguns that utilize wireless communications to detect that the shooter is wearing a watch, bracelet, or other device may "allow criminals (and police) to identify who is carrying a weapon" undermining "one of the reasons that some states require people to carry their weapons concealed; if all civilian-carried guns are concealed criminals do not know who is carrying and who is not, so they have to fear mugging everyone, which protects the unarmed as well as the armed."[38]

According to an article on an NRA website, other concerns are that smart guns may make a firearm more likely to fail when needed for self-defense. "Batteries go dead, temperature or moisture can harm electronics and many 'smart gun' designs, such as Armatix's iP1, require that a person wear a watch, bracelet, or other device." Smart guns may also take considerable time to be ready for firing from a "cold start."[39]


  1. ^ "No Chip in Arm, No Shot From Gun". Retrieved 2012-08-04. 
  2. ^ a b Fowler, Geoffrey A. (28 October 2016). "A 19-Year-Old Just Built the First Fingerprint-Reading Smart Gun". Wall Street Journal. 
  3. ^ Wallace, Mark (23 March 2018). "How Young Entrepreneurs Are Devising Tech Solutions To Gun Violence". Fast Company. 
  4. ^ UPROXX. "Has This 18-Year-Old Created The World's Safest Gun?". UPROXX. Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  5. ^ Kristof, Nicholas (2015-01-17). "Smart Guns Save Lives. So Where Are They?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  6. ^ Greene, Mark (June 2013). "A Review of Gun Safety Technologies". National Institute of Justice.
  7. ^ a b Bienaimé, Pierre (December 14, 2014). "Military & Defense More: Guns Arms Arms Industry Gun ControlA Look At The 'Smart Guns' That Could Prevent Future Tragedies". Business Insider.
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  10. ^ Carter, Gregg Lee (2006). Gun Control in the United States: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. pp. 373–374. ISBN 978-1-85109-760-9. 
  11. ^ TriggerSmart Childproof RFID Smart Gun on YouTube
  12. ^ Jones, Ashby (November 20, 2013). "New iP1 Pistol May Trigger Old Gun Law in New Jersey". The Wall Street Journal. 
  13. ^ Hanlon, Mike. "Personalised, electronic handgun headed for commercialisation". Gizmag. Retrieved April 17, 2015.
  14. ^ "The Magna-Trigger Conversion". Retrieved 2016-05-07. 
  15. ^ "Selling Safety Priority #1". Shooting Industry. 2000. 
  16. ^ "Magloc Smart Gun Conversion System from SMART LOCK TECHNOLOGY INC". 2007-08-20. Retrieved 2012-08-04. 
  17. ^ Steve Friess (April 14, 2014). "No Chip in Arm, No Shot From Gun". Wired. 
  18. ^ a b Michael S. Rosenwald. "Renewed push for smart guns could trigger a new furor over the technology". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  19. ^ a b c "Gun control: the NRA wants to take America's smart guns away". The Verge. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  20. ^ a b Nix, Naomi (October 14, 2013). "Could 'smart-guns' finally hit New Jersey stores?". 
  21. ^ NRA-ILA Issues. ""Smart" Guns/Personalized Firearms". NRA-ILA. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  22. ^ 5 NBC Chicago. "Demonstrations Continue Outside Police Chiefs Conference in Chicago". 5 NBC News Chicago. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  23. ^ BENNY EVANGELISTA. "San Francisco Police Chief Offers to Pilot Smart Gun Tech". GT: Government Technology. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  24. ^ RICH SCHAPIRO. "President Obama’s smart gun enthusiasm has some police officials recoiling". The Daily News. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
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  27. ^ "N.J. Democrat: We will reverse smart gun law if NRA plays ball". 
  28. ^ "NOT SO SMART: New Jersey AG Rejects Brady Attempt to Trigger "Smart Gun" Law - Bearing Arms - new jersey, Smart Guns". Bearing Arms. Retrieved 2015-10-25. 
  29. ^ Party, Boston T. (2000). Boston's Gun Bible. Javelin Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-888766-06-6. 
  30. ^ Jon Stokes. "Why Obama’s Smart Gun Push Will Misfire". TechCrunch. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  31. ^ "'Smart' Guns Backgrounder" (PDF). Violence Policy Center. Retrieved April 17, 2015. 
  32. ^ "Smart Firearms Safety Technology Can Prevent Suicides". Smart Tech Challenges Foundation. Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  33. ^ "Can tech innovation curb gun violence? Smart Tech poses 4 million-dollar challenges to find out". VentureBeat. Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  34. ^ Rosenwald, Michael S. (2015-10-21). "Renewed push for smart guns could trigger a new furor over the technology". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-10-25. 
  35. ^ Elizabeth Harrington (April 7, 2014). "Holder: We Want to Explore Gun Tracking Bracelets". Washington Free Beaconaccessdate=April 11, 2014. 
  36. ^ European Commission: Firearms and the internal security of the EU: protecting citizens and disrupting illegal trafficking, published October 10, 2013
  37. ^ Steinberg Joseph (May 4, 2014). "Forbes: Why You Should Be Concerned About The New 'Smart Guns' (Whether You Love Or Hate Guns)". Forbes.
  38. ^ Joseph Steinberg (January 11, 2016). "Smartguns: Why Police Don't Want Them and Neither Should You". Inc. Retrieved January 11, 2016. 
  39. ^ Miniter, Frank. Smoking Gun. America's First Freedom, December 2015.

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