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.

 

 

 

49 Responses to TTAG Exclusive: Chiappa President Ron Norton on RFID Controversy

  1. avatarRebecca says:

    That still leaves that snippy, snide PR release slapping Chiappa owners/potential owners in the face. He needs to address that as well.

    • avatarRalph says:

      Chiappa lost its distributor a while back. I don’t think the company wants to give its PR firm the boot just yet.

      • avatarRebecca says:

        I didn’t say anything about firing the PR company. I said he needed to address it. An open letter to everyone saying something to the effect that he apologizes for the rude language in the press release, and that he and his company love their customers, and please forgive us. Something to that effect. Maybe give the moron who okayed that press release a demerit or three. But fire someone? That’s a little extreme from my point of view.

        • avatarRalph says:

          Okay, you’re right. Firing the person would be extreme. How about just firing at the person? I mean, really, it’s not like they could actually hit anything with that ugly POS.

          See, I’m just an easy-going guy.

    • avatarBambiB says:

      I swear, you’re as thin-skinned as some of the liberal lefties. I read the text and took it as expressing the honest belief that the RIFD was not an issue – which of course it would not be if it were really only scannable from a distance of a few inches. In THAT light, it really would be a “tin-foil hat” concern. Sort of like worrying that serial numbers expressed as bar codes could be readable by lasers.

      That the belief was MISTAKEN pretty well explains the whole thing. If you’re going to pout and throw a tantrum over that, the problem is yours not theirs. There are far bigger fish to fry.

      Besides, it appears that the initial report that the RFID would be internal was in error. If that’s true, then this is YOUR mistake. Now – how, when and to whom will YOU be apologizing?

      I thought not.

  2. avatarRalph says:

    “Once it becomes my stuff, however, it’s my business and nobody else’s.”

    I couldn’t have said it better.

    If I don’t have to take the revolver apart to remove the RFID device, then I don’t care about it. If I have to take the gun apart to remove the chip, then I won’t buy the gun.

  3. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    Why would anyone want to track this ugly ass gun in the first place. If I were unlucky enough to own one of these ugly guns and it were stolen, I would never want it back.

    • avatarsdog says:

      +1 this thing looks terrible, my question is why did Norton not address the pr controversy, which is the biggest part of the story, after reading his comments, the chips seem reasonable, but it seems to me me that people are mad about the MKS statement.

      • avatarRyan Finn says:

        I believe Chris contacted Chiappa prior to the press release from MKS Distributing, so that explains why the PR wasn’t addressed. I would definitely be interested to know how they felt about the press release though.

    • avatarDave says:

      Ugly? Depends on how you look at it. Looks like something from Blade Runner; this is a gun for geeks. I’d buy one if I had room in my budget.

      • avatarGossven says:

        +1 I always picture myself going after Replicants with this thing.

      • avatarTotenglocke says:

        Yea, that’s part of why I want this gun. A friend of mine keeps saying “But you can buy a S&W .357 revolver for so much less money!” and I say “Well 1) this thing has drastically reduced recoil and 2) it looks totally badass”.

        Then again, I want the Rhino 60DS 6″ version ;)

    • avatarJoe Grine says:

      I could really care less how the gun looks, so long as it shoots well. I’ve fired every type of convenstional revolver- from Ruger Redhawks to Colt Pythons to Dan Wessons, S&Ws, etc etc. Then I fired the Rhino and I can honestly say that nothing else even comes close. The amount of recoil reduction you get when firing hot .357 defense loads is simply incredible. Once Obama is out of office and, hence, the economy gets better, I plan on buying one.

  4. avatarGus says:

    ” but the chips will be labeled and attached for easy removal at or before the point of sale”

    I’m back in.

    • avatarJC says:

      +1
      I was worried about the drama Chiappa was attracting with the RFID and subsequent PR move, since the Rhino is on my to get list.

  5. avatarTotenglocke says:

    See, this is the type of thing I said they should do when I first read about this on The Firearm blog – make it NOT part of the gun and easily removed when you open the box after purchasing it. The whole idea of making it a part of the gun was just idiotic.

    I’m glad to say that the Rhino 60DS is still on my wish list – right after a Sig Sauer 1911 Nitro Rail!

  6. avatarDave_H says:

    Anyone involved with a firearms manufacturer or distributor using humor that Helmke, Sugarmann et cetera would be comfortable with is not the sort of thing one would welcome or expect.
    The owner of MKS addressed the issue of their gigantic PR blunder.
    http://cursesfoiledagain2.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/response-from-mks-supply/
    As this blogger noted, Mr. Brown took a “the buck stops here” attitude and accepted full responsibility for that press release. I emailed him as well, and my impression of his responses inclines me to let it drop.

    • avatarRobert Farago says:

      Any chance you could share that email with us? guntruth@me.com

      • avatarJake says:

        What I’ve seen at other blogs gives me the impression that everyone got the same email response from MKS. What I posted (thanks for the link Dave_H!) is a direct copy and paste of the email I got from Charles Brown, except where I omitted or redacted my personal information.

        • avatarRaph84 says:

          “I am handling each one of the few responses we received individually”

          I still don’t like the way he minimized the situation right off the bat in the letter. Also to say he handled each response individually by auto-response with a form letter…that seems a little disingenuous.

          Also the hey it was a joke…no biggie attitude about his comment…nope not gonna work for me

          I’d say his appology has a long way to go before all is forgiven.

  7. avatarBob H says:

    “I don’t want anyone to have even the theoretical technical ability to point a Tricorder or an RF scanner ”
    They have scanners which can detect RFs? No wonder TTAG’s maximum leader is against this!

    • avatarM. Smith says:

      I use RFID’s for my research with fish. It is actually fairly simple to create the EM emitter to read RFID chips. I build them in my home shop for work, with PVC pipe and automotive wire in an EM loop for use underwater. A retail store could EASILY put a reader in their doorway, or modify their EXISTING RFID (loss prevention) READER to pull in the firearms’ signal. The first company to put these chips internal in a firearm will go down in flames!!! No-one should even think about purchasing one!!!

  8. avatarMagoo says:

    I wonder how the Chiappa CEO is handling the info that some portion of his customer base is comprised of tinfoil hat people.

    • avatarRobert Farago says:

      Not as well as he might have. Or should have.

    • avatarJames Felix says:

      I can’t help but wonder… if you were capable of presenting a coherent counter-argument to anything would you still feel this compulsion to insult and belittle everyone?

      • avatarMagoo says:

        Sorry if this offends you, but if you think RFID tags on handguns represent a threat to your security or privacy, you have a screw loose. That is an irrational and ridiculous fear. Blue jeans have RFID tags. DVD cases have RFID tags. Your fears are rooted in a) ignorance of radio engineering and b) paranoia about government conspiracies. Not in reality.

        • avatarMagoo says:

          It’s not a matter of either/or. They complement each other. With some ideas, simple refutation isn’t enough. Open ridicule is in order.

        • avatarRaph84 says:

          Magoo,

          This whole argument may not even connect with someone as far gone as you, but I’ll throw it out there for the record.

          People can disagree amicably. Disagreement does not make the person on the other side of the argument stupid, foolish, or worthy of ridicule. I know that you regularly complain about the level discourse here claiming that “we” have always been much more inflammatory and ridiculing of you than you are of us. The issue is, there is no “we” or “us.”
          Each person here has a unique attitude and opinion informed by their life experiences and situation. To treat “us” like some sort of cohesive whole who has wronged you only makes more people sink to your level of tit for tat and insults. It leads to the bottom of the barrel

          That is the real issue there is never and argument worth having that is worthy of ridicule. Ridicule will not change anyone’s opinion it only serves to strengthen their resolve. If an argument is worthy of ridicule then it is not an argument worth having. At that point it is time to say, “you and I can never agree or even rationally argue this topic because our fundamental attributions (aka belief about what the facts are) are just too different.”

          I have ended plenty of arguments like that very amicably.

          I don’t think you really believe most of what you say though. I think that you are incredibly narcissistic and simply enjoy grandstanding in some misguided belief that it makes you seem superior. I don’t know if you are trying to prove something to us or to yourself, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

          If you want to have a discussion great lets have a discussion, but whether you started this way or not you have become a troll. Make the decision to be a part of this community by being a part of some real discourse, don’t stand apart screaming the end is neigh…it just isn’t working

        • avatarMagoo says:

          Raph84 says: “Magoo, This whole argument may not even connect with someone as far gone as you…”

          Some ideas are worthy of criticism; some are worthy of disparagement; some are worthy of ridicule. If you are going to tell me the moon landings were staged, don’t ask me to keep a straight face.

          This is simple, really: You are free to identify with my remarks however you wish. When I am speaking to gun loons, maybe I’m not referring to you. That’s for you to decide depending upon your own beliefs. I’m a lifelong gun enthusiast and a staunch 2A defender but I’m not a gun loon. I know lots of gun people who aren’t gun loons. Maybe you’re not either. In summation, if the shoe fits, wear it.

        • avatarJames Felix says:

          Can you please clarify the term “staunch 2A defender”? Because I’ve been reading your comments for months now and I can’t recall a single instance of you defending it.

          “Some ideas are worthy of criticism; some are worthy of disparagement; some are worthy of ridicule.”

          That’s a reasonable theory, but with you it’s all ridicule, all the time. I have never seen you provide a fact-based premise for any of your arguments, and whenever one of us provides facts that’s when you stop responding to the thread.

        • avatarRaph84 says:

          James you scared him away…to many facts in your post I guess

        • avatarRaph84 says:

          Magoo,

          You and I can never agree or even rationally argue this topic because our fundamental attributions are just too different.

        • avatarRobert Farago says:

          Good luck convincing a Jew (me) whose father was tortured and grandparents slaughtered by Nazi fiat that he’s paranoid about government conspiracies. Never again. Erring on the side of caution.

        • avatarMagoo says:

          If you believe Nazi Germany 1936 = United States of America 2011, that degree of fear of government makes perfect sense.

          My great grandmother had inserts installed on her wall outlets so the electricity wouldn’t leak out and make her arthritis flare up. That’s the quality of engineering knowledge at work.

        • avatarRobert Farago says:

          If you believe that the government isn’t the greatest threat to personal liberty you haven’t been paying attention.

        • avatarDerek says:

          I am so using that one. Do you mind if I quote you?

        • avatarRaph84 says:

          He Magoo, food for thought http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjALf12PAWc

          I guess it’s not just the right wing gun loons ehh

        • avatarMike the Limey says:

          Blue jeans & DVD’s aren’t contentious items feared by an overbearing government, so your analogy fails at the first hurdle.
          Carrying a concealed firearm means just that & NOT “except it is visible to any LEO or criminal with an RFID reader”.
          I happen to own a business that uses tags for theft control & a little experimentation with the system showed they are readable out past 20′ with little effort.

  9. avatar06AL says:

    Mr. Norton says this RFID chip won’t be inside the grips, but “believes” it will be in the form of a tag that can be cut off. He believes? Sounds like he’s not sure. And what’s to keep the Italian government from requiring a permanent RFID chip? It would be a simple matter of upgrading technology so Chiappa firearms can be scanned from a great distance. Wouldn’t our arch-enemy Chuck Schumer like that! We can be assured he knows about this.

    Why an RFID tag on every frame if they are in a sealed box when shipping to subcontractors? European nations are anti-gun and had rather ban manufacture of most. Chiappa should revisit Smith & Wesson problems created during the Clinton Administration when they caved in to strict gun control. They lost much business and had to sell out. Now they operate as other gun manufactures do and are operating in the black.

    I’m suspect of any tracking devise in firearms and won’t buy one with such.

  10. avatarAD says:

    The Rhino is not the only style of firearm that Chiappa produces.

    The problem is that if one manufacturer does this successfully, how long before the ATF requires all manufacturers to install RFID chips in a manner where they cannot be removed, and/or disabled?

  11. avatarChris Dumm says:

    I think that remote RFID tracking is a very legitimate privacy concern, and I no longer subscribe to the “That Can Never Happen In America” school of thought. Many things that were once unthinkable here, including indefinite detention without trial, torture, and routine warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, are now commonplace.

    If RFID tags become mandatory for firearms, I’ll stop buying new ones. Fortunately, I’ll have plenty old ones to fall back on.

    • avatarMagoo says:

      It might be helpful to step away from thinking based on personal fears and think more like a hypothetical govt official assigned to assemble this alleged surveillance system. You would never choose an RFID tag system because it would be absolutely useless and worthless for that purpose.

      First, the tags are incapable of writing to themselves, so with the exception of location via proximity, it can’t ever tell the govt anything the govt. doesn’t already know. As for location, the range is not 200 ft but closer to inches — or a few meters in specially controlled cases with a clear space and an auxiliary antenna. In any case the govt. would need to install hundreds of thousands of RFID readers, and an intelligent network linking them, to obtain even the most basic geographic coverage. Third but not last, an RFID tag is dead simple to remove or defeat. Anyone can disable one in seconds with small pulse of EMP, UV, or a hammer and punch. It’s a glorified electronic sticker, an automated UPC label. That’s all it is. There are already tens of millions of existing firearms in circulation with no tags, while the tags on new weapons could be neutralized in a matter of seconds. The hypothetical RFID network is also absurdly vulnerable to counterintel: It tracks the RFID tags, not the weapons themselves.

      So this alleged surveillance system would take many years and billions of dollars to implement — and it wouldn’t accomplish a thing. You have constructed a huge, costly, complex system that any 10 year-old can defeat with a rock and a nail.

  12. avatarDogman says:

    I really think the RFID issue is a diversion from the criticism of the Rhino as the most fugly POS most humans have ever seen since the formation of the earth.

  13. avatarChris Dumm says:

    @Dogman: I only own a handful of truly ‘beautiful’ firearms, and they’re all designs from the 19th century. Next to them the Rhino *is* ugly. So was the AK-47, and so was the first Armalite. And so is any Glock. Ugly or not, these modern guns just shoot better than older designs. In a functional firearm, beauty is as beauty does.

  14. yoh guys, this probably is not where to ask questions. your rhino dealer in rochester,new york 14606 ?? price ? see one in person ? this baby looks sweet ! i’ve spent a good hr lookin where i could contact up address keeps comin up as WRONG ONE . WELL THANKS FOR YOUR VALABLE TIME. gary

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