TTAG Exclusive: Chiappa President Ron Norton on RFID Controversy

When the story recently broke that Chiappa Firearms was going to start installing RFID chips in all their guns,  I had deep misgivings.  When I read the PR broadside from their publicists at MKS, I cringed. Like most shooters, I don’t want anyone to have even the theoretical technical ability to point a Tricorder or an RF scanner at me and know exactly what I’m packing, where it was made, and how much I paid for it.

I didn’t think any gunmaker would be so foolish as to set me up like Will Smith’s character in Enemy Of The State, so I called Chiappa’s president Ron Norton for clarification.

Norton has always been a pretty stand-up guy with us here at TTAG.  He didn’t mind when we documented our trigger fatigue with the original Rhino, and he didn’t even get mad when we dissed its replacement for not hitting the primers hard enough. He’s even looking for a 5″ Rhino to send us for fun and games testing and evaluation.  (It looks like a Klingon battle axe, so bring it on!)

He called me his afternoon, and he wanted to clear a few things up about the RFID story.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Yes, Chiappa will be tagging all their firearms with RFID chips next year.  They’re doing this to help them keep track of their inventory, save time and money during the manufacturing process, and comply with onerous Italian and European firearms-transfer reporting regulations.
  • Chiappa has a very distributed manufacturing process, with lots of parts (frames, barrels, cylinders, etc.) being shipped to and from several off-site subcontractors during fabrication. Each time a frame goes from one factory to another, Italian law requires more paperwork than the ATFE wants for an FFL transfer here at home.
  • If you can inventory a whole crate of guns and components by waving a scanner at it, this speeds up the process by half an hour and lowers manufacturing costs.
  • No, the RFID chips won’t be hidden inside the frames. The final implementation is still undecided, but the chips will be labeled and attached for easy removal at or before the point of sale. Norton believes the RFID chips will be embedded in a  tamper-evident plastic tag (think: zip-tie) to be snipped off by the retailer or the end purchaser.

If this is how it gets implemented, this works for me.   don’t care what McDonalds, Honda, or Chiappa do to keep track of their stuff while they make it and move it around. Once it becomes my stuff, however, it’s my business and nobody else’s.