Chiappa: Hidden RFID Chip IDs Gun Owner “Forever”. Or Not.

Would you want any of your guns to contain a ‘permanent record’ of your updated personal information on a tiny RFID chip concealed in the frame and designed to resist tampering or removal? I didn’t think so. Chiappa Firearms, the maker of the Klingon-esque Rhino revolver and other guns, angered many American shooters earlier this summer when it announced that its firearms would be equipped with an RFID chip.  Chiappa America president Ron Norton donned his best asbestos suit to (try to) put out the ensuing flame-fest. By now, he was probably hoping the whole affair had blown over. Not so fast, Mr. Bond . . .

In the August 23rd edition of industry mag Gun Trade World (link here), Chiappa spokeswoman Cinzia Pinzoni let slip a few details sure to scare the bejeesus out of American gun owners. To wit: Chiappa’s RFID chips will be reprogrammable, difficult to remove, and encoded with the owner’s personal information:

“The information on the microchip can be rewritten, several times over the years, if necessary. Also, the chip is very difficult to remove. Therefore it accompanies the weapon forever, providing all the information gathered regarding its production cycle, as well as sales information and the registration of the gun and the owner’s details.”

“So, it is easy to see how this constant monitoring of the weapon provides a powerful deterrent to the theft or improper use of the weapon.”

Which part of this scares us the most? I’m voting for “constant monitoring of the weapon” as perhaps the most chilling statement I’ve ever heard from any gun manufacturer, ever. And it doesn’t exactly jibe with the reassuring message Norton gave us back in early August, promising that the RFID chips would be conspicuous and easily removable by the retailer or end-user. So what gives?

We contacted Mr. Norton for comment. Here’s his reply:

Based on the date of August 23 and that the fact that it is an article from “Gun Trade World” that required time to go to press, this is information is most likely based on the original Press Release that Cinzia Pinzoni released in July…

As for the US market, I can assure you that we will not have a permanent RFID chip, but it will be along the guidelines that I provided you with the release in August. (See attached) Which post-dates the release that this article was based on.

The release Norton is referring to is an effort to ‘walk back’ the disastrous RFID comments made in July by Ms. Pinzoni and by Chiappa’s American PR firm, MKS Distributing. The August damage-control press release concludes with the following two paragraphs, carefully crafted to soothe the souls of alarmed American gun owners:

Since our project is still in a phase of development – our goal was to implement the RFID system in spring 2012 – we still have plenty of time to develop a similar system, but employing a removable label instead of a chip inlet inside the receiver. This label made of plastic material can be applied to the trigger guard of the weapon, follow throughout the production cycle and be removed prior to marketing or by the customer.

The US consumer can rest assured that Chiappa Firearms is placing the customer’s interest first and foremost, while developing the most efficient method of firearm manufacturing possible.

To sum it all up in the immortal words of a White House Press Secretary, Norton would have us believe that the previous information is “no longer operative,” and that any American RFID tags will be conspicuous and easily removed. I sure hope so.

But if Chiappa is building all their Eurozone guns with permanently installed RFID chips, not a single one of those guns or chips had better make its way here.

The first time a hacker or blogger finds a hidden chip in an American gun, it’s going to set off a real firestorm of suspicion and anger (making these recent kerfuffles look pretty mild by comparison). Whoever made that tagged gun will find themselves vilified and ostracized by the world’s largest civilian firearms market for decades to come.

Norton seems to get this; let’s hope the boys upstairs at the Italian headquarters get it too. [Click here to download the full Chiappa August press release.]

comments

  1. avatar Don Curton says:

    You’d think anyone in the gun biz would be just a little savvy to the American culture of distrust for the govt and not make this kind of mistake. And you’d be wrong. Hell, given the history of Europe, you’d think they would evolve a culture of distrust for govt, too. Apparently not.

  2. avatar Greg in Allston says:

    Don, you stated; “Hell, given the history of Europe, you’d think they would evolve a culture of distrust for govt, too. Apparently not.”. A rational person would think that, an American would certainly think that. But we’re talking Europeans here. They are seemingly genetically predisposed to being serfs and being lorded over and taken care of. Centuries, if not millennia, of being subjugated by anyone with a pot metal hat and a nice pair of britches, have conditioned far too many of them to bow and scrape and genuflect before their almighty betters, lest they be flogged or worse. That’s a pretty tough ditch to crawl out of and then emerge upright and dignified.

    But to the article above, Chiappa can still “Póg mo Thóin”. The fact that they’d even cook up something like this tells me that they don’t get it. I’d have no problem at all with them using RFID solely in their factories, it’s when they allow those chips to get out into the wild where the problem arises. I find the proliferation of tracking technology, for even the most mundane and trivial things, to be very disturbing. Remember always that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

    1. avatar TTACer says:

      +1 At this point I am no longer considering the Rhino, and it was on a very short list of potential CCW for me. That they would leave the tags on in any market tells me that they do not get it.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      Europe still loves its monarchies, while we think they’re stupid at best and dangerous at worst. That’s the only thing we had in common with the Soviets.

    3. avatar matt says:

      A neo-luddite if I ever heard one.

      1. avatar Greg in Allston says:

        In many ways, I’m a pretty old fashioned Luddite, and rightly proud of it.

      2. avatar HSR47 says:

        There’s nothing wrong with being a Luddite, at least as long as you don’t take it to the extreme.

  3. avatar GS650G says:

    Great. Onstar for guns. New jersey will probably require all guns sold in the state to have this feature, just like the future smart gun mandate.

    1. avatar Adam says:

      I know your being sarcastic but…

      OnStar uses GPS adn cell phone networks. RFID tags are (typically) passive devices that need to be within inches of a reader to work. On their own they are completely begin and do not transmit anything.

      1. avatar GS650G says:

        Yes, sarcastic. Let’s hope they don’t come up with an app for guns.

  4. avatar Aharon says:

    Based on what little I know of this case it appears that the initial tag tale was originally stated as intended: a permanent internal chip. Now, it appears they have changed to an external tag that can be removed. Personally, I would want a removable tag clipped-off before it is even shipped out to the distributors. Why give growing fascist governments in Europe or America an extra easy hand in tracking down firearms for possible confiscation?

  5. avatar matt says:

    Can you explain to me how a permanently installed chip would be readable via RF? Or how it couldn’t be easily destroyed with electric, RF or kinetic energy?

    Just a FYI, but guns are all ready tracked via physical serial number as much as they would via RFID. My FNP-45 has a serial number barcode on it, but where is the up roar about the mark of the beast? The only difference is that this is wireless, and if your really worried about tracking, read up on E-911 and CALEA and then check your cell phone bill, you pay a couple bucks a month for the privilege of being tracked and monitored by the government without a warrant or due process.

    1. avatar matt says:

      Wow, you guys actually bothered to censor me, and didnt even have the balls to mark my post as edited by a moderator, let alone respond to my criticisms.

      So whats dangerous about me stating that Brad Kozak made idle threats at me over email, and that he implied that a couple TTAG contributors are techies for the CIA? Why didnt you bother to forward this article to them for editorial review? You have enough time on your hands to act as a editor for my posts, but not enough time to review your own? Really?

      1. avatar Totenglocke says:

        I am intrigued by these assertions and wish to know more.

  6. avatar Chaz says:

    “The information on the microchip can be rewritten…”
    Or presumably ‘unwritten’. Would accidentally leaving the gun in the microwave zap that chip? ;->

    1. avatar Aharon says:

      A microwave might zap the chip and it might also zap other materials in a gun.

      1. avatar matt says:

        And how is that going to negatively effect the steel/aluminum frame? What other electronics are in the frame that could be zapped?

        1. avatar Aharon says:

          No exact idea since I’m not a materials engineer or a gun expert. I’ve never tried it yet I’ve always heard never to put anything metal into a microwave. Certain types of plastic can also be damaged by a microwave.

        2. avatar matt says:

          The reason you dont put metal in a microwave is because it will damage the magnetron. Generally, a metal object will be unaffected.

    2. avatar Pete says:

      Wonder what the effect on the RFID would be of runninig a 200-lb-pull magnet over the exterior surface of the gun?

      1. avatar Adam says:

        Likely noting since RFID tags do not rely on magnetic encoding and are passive, that is not powered. An EM field would have no effect.

        1. avatar Greg in Allston says:

          When I was a kid, I used to have a small, hand held Tesla coil that was used for lighting up gas discharge tubes, among other interesting and playful tasks. It was about a foot long, had a pointed metal tip where the discharge occurred, ran off of 120VAC and plugged into a standard wall outlet. I’m pretty sure that it would do the job of frying any chip on the market today.

  7. avatar KC585 says:

    I have to ask myself, why is this still popping up? We have saying in Mo besides “Show Me” and that’s “quit beating a dead horse, he ain’t getting up!”

    I have several Chiappa products, and have had them for over 10 years, last couple years they have always taken care of any issues I’ve had. This RFID thing is old news, looks like the folks at Chiappa answered already, if it’s gonna be tag that can be taken off easy, what’s the beef. If it can’t don’t buy it if your worried about it. At least they are telling us what they are doing, how many companies do it and say nothing?

  8. avatar KC585 says:

    OMG, I just realized that my 1842 Smoothbore may have a rfid chip, does that mean the yanks at Wilson Creek will be able to track my units movements? ? Those Damn Yankees!!!!

    1. avatar Todd S says:

      It’s how we won the Civil War (MUHAHAHAHAH!!!!)

  9. avatar Keith says:

    I don’t know the backstory explaining the why of RFID chips in Chiappa products. I’m guessing the EU is beginning to require it, but in my opinion Chiappa should be strongly censured by the US firearms consumer for having chips in the guns bound for the US market. It matters little if they are easily removed or not.

    The underlying scariness is that for RFID to work, there must be sensors in fairly close proximity to “query” the chip. To have any real chance of affecting criminal investigation, the sensors would have to be fairly widespread. If this ever becomes the case, any RFID chips would be tracked, and by extension the bearer of the chipped items–cardkeys, carpool lane transponders, etc. Britons have the dubious distinction of being the most surveilled people, and this is largely by video. RFID would bring much more comprehensive and sophisticated tracking than video ever could.

    1. avatar matt says:

      You have absolutely no idea what kind of infrastructure which would be required to ubiquitously track these outside the factory. Please bother reading the article/backstory before posting asinine comments, this has nothing to do with criminal investigations or tracking where they are out there in the world. This is nothing but yellow journalism by a TTAG contributor who has nothing better to write about.

    2. avatar Adam says:

      @Keith

      I’m making an educated guess that these RFID chips are passive – they do not transmit anything unless they are in close proximity to a reader. Were talking less than 12 inches.

      Yes, under controlled conditions using specialized equipment people have been able to get readings off passive RFID chips from a distance. Again, this was under controlled conditions using specialized equipment.

      Your also confusing technologies – carpool lane, or toll lane transponders are just that – transponders. They are powered devices that actively transmitting.

      I agree that a permanent RFID chip is not cool. But I also understand that we can’t expect gun manufactures to operate in the stone age. Mark my words, US manufactures will adopt this technology. Let’s just hope they are a little smarter about it.

  10. avatar Adam says:

    This system – the RFID tags being written with the owners information would rely on the gun dealer having the hardware, and desire to program the chips. I’m dubious as to how Chiappa was going to get dealers to follow this protocol. Even if they mandated that dealers participate if they want to sell Chiappa guns, it’s not a law, so there would be noting preventing the dealer from writing bogus info to the chip.

    As I said in the previous post – if the tag is embedded in the gun, and not removable, not ok. If it’s easily removable by the end user then I don’t have an issue with it. We can’t expect gun manufactures to remain in the stone ages.

    1. avatar matt says:

      Will you or anyone else here differentiate these from a serial number?

      I doubt they are re-writable, it would be cost prohibitive and offer no benefit with a great deal of risks. They most likely are general run of the mill low cost RFID chips, which only contain a serial number. If they want to associate that number to a owner they can via warranty registration, promotional registration, etc. Nothing new is happening here, all the tracking everyone is so worried about is all ready done by the ATF with form 4473.

      1. avatar Adam says:

        @matt

        If you read my comments on the previous post you’ll see that I have no issue with the RFID tags if they are removable.

        My comment here was related to the quoted statement by Cinzia Pinzoni describing a scenario where the chips would be programmed with owner information. I think that plan has logistical issues beyond the PR ones.

  11. avatar KC585 says:

    Just read Chiappa’s response again, how much smarter do they need to be? I can see how the gun companies would want this, thinking back to supply room days in the Army! Besides, they haven’t even done it yet? Let’s see what they end up doing.

  12. avatar Levi B says:

    I was somewhat interested in a Rhino, until I picked one up at the NRA National Convention in Pittsburgh. What an awful trigger pull, and that’s the one they chose to bring to the convention!

    I’ll stick with superior American-made designs that are also less expensive. Either my S&W 640 or 642 should be just the thing.

  13. avatar Ordine Nuovo says:

    Europeans predisposed to servitude? Apparently you missed one thousand years of history and numerous uprisings.

    Mocking Europe is trendy here in the states. But such sneering contempt ignores the fact that we are culturally and biologically European (minus the non-Whites, and Semites).

    What did we Americans do during the recession? We certainly didn’t protest and torch banks like the Greeks. We just sat on our asses and got kicked out of our homes while Big Brotha’ told us everything would be okay.

    Obama was right about us clinging to guns. When faced with racial, cultural, and economic displacement we just hold them. No bankers were executed and no corrupt officials faced any real justice.

    Talk a big game about “freedom” and “patriotism” and how your AR15 will actualize them. Keep talking because you won’t do anything. Meanwhile, the power players will swindle your nation and import more Mexicans.

    At least the Europeans are beginning to wake up and vote for Nationalists! Maybe we can do the same? Instead of voting left or right; let’s vote White! Let’s fight for White!

    1. avatar Aharon says:

      Us Semites or Jews probably didn’t arrive in Europe until the early years of the Roman Empire to trade goods (@2200+ years ago). By contrast some of the ‘real’ Europeans arrived there thousands of years earlier having migrated out of Africa up through Asia Minor and into Europe while doing a bit of sex play and interbreeding with the now-extinct Neanderthals and other early homosapien races. Some other real white Europeans migrated into Europe during the waves of barbaric invasions coming out of Central Asia and other areas.

      I did like your comments how Americans just sat there on their guns not taking action, and not demanding real transformation and results from government while the unarmed Europeans did protest in the streets.

      1. avatar Greg in Allston says:

        As Claire Wolfe once said; “It’s too late to work within the system, but it’s still a little too early to start shooting the bastards.” We “bitter clingers”, despite opinions to the contrary, are, for the most part, not insane. Civil war and revolution are messy business and one would be wise not to engage in them for light and transient reasons. Hope springs eternal. One of the main reasons for the 2A was to act as a deterrent to those who might take their excesses a little too far. Sure, we’ve given the knuckleheads that we’ve elected and the bastards on Wall Street a pass this time. And we’ll probably give them a pass the next time they screw us and again the time after that. After a point, all of those passes and all of those straws add up. We are largely a patient, peaceful and tolerant people. Largely, but not completely. We sincerely hope that the day will never come when our hand is forced, but if they do keep it up and insist on screwing us at every turn, the bullies and the crooks and the petty tyrants may one day wake up in a nightmarish world of their own making, while staring into the muzzle of a gun.

    2. avatar Totenglocke says:

      Because you know, it was bankers faults that large numbers of Americans lacked the commons sense not to rack up tons of debt….

      No one forced you (general “you”, not you in particular) to buy a house twice the size you need. No one forced you to rack up $30,000 in credit card debt. No one forced you to buy two luxury SUV’s that you didn’t need.

      Don’t blame the banks because you did something stupid and ran out of money.

  14. avatar Ordine Nuovo says:

    @Aharon

    Whites are a distinct bio-cultural entity. We are memers of the Indo-European cultural-linguistic-biological family. We are related to the pale Berbers of North Africa and the Indo-Europeans of Iran. It’s a mistake (I’m hoping not intentional on your part) to conflate past and present populations based solely on geographic names. For example, Sub-Saharan Africans of today have little in common with the much older San Bushmen.

  15. avatar Greg in Allston says:

    The thing with RFID and similar technologies is that they are pretty much still in their infancy. Going forward, I can well see where newer devices will be able to hold vastly more data and be capable of being read from much greater distances. As we’ve all seen over the last 50 or so years, the power and capabilities of micro-electronics have advanced at a staggering pace. Expect that pace to continue.

    I fully expect the hew and cry for “smart guns” will be answered and implemented in the next few years, perhaps a decade at the outside. The UN, Europe and other countries more prone to progressivism/tyranny will be driving the technology and the subsequent market. This will gain little or no traction here in America in my remaining lifetime, I’m much more worried where it will go in my daughter’s lifetime.

    Personally, I want my firearms reliable, simple, accurate and completely dumb; batteries not included.

  16. Well this is a bummer. We all know that Europe is more into monarchy. But great job coming up the idea of gun plus RFID.

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