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I don’t know who stumped-up the prize for the Brooklyn-based Smart Gun Design Competition, but they got rooked. The winner — Autonomous Ballistics — collected one million dollars for designing a “smart gun” holster. Not a gun. A holster. Which qualifies for the prize as an accessory, but still. Anyway, here’s a closer look at the winning design and a description of how it works from . .

The smart holster uses fingerprint ID, RFID and voice identification to keep out everyone but the legal owner (and up to 200 other users), Cohen and Raj Kumar said. A small fingerprint reader is embedded into the wall of the holster. The beauty of their design is that you “don’t have to change your gun at all. It’s just a holster similar to the one you have except this is maneuvered so that it’s almost inherent that you put your finger [on the fingerprint reader] when you pull it out,” Cohen said.

“The holster can be tailored for every gun available in the market,” Raj Kumar told the Brooklyn Eagle. “So that makes it easily feasible for all the guns that everyone is using.”

Are we to assume that the fingerprint reader works so well — even inside the owner’s clothing — that its inventors added two other electronically based releasing systems as backup? Or is it dealer’s choice? If it’s me, it’s “Alexa let me have my gun now!”

But it isn’t me. Nor will it be. But, as the NYPD had a rep on the judging panel (which included two prominent gun control advocates), I reckon it’s only a matter of time before New York City’s finest will be carrying their leaden-triggered GLOCKs in an Autonomous Ballistics smart holster. Or not.

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  1. Let’s hope NYC’s finest [sic] do start using this, posthaste. If it works for them, and is voluntarily adopted by police in my state too, then maybe I’ll consider getting one. Maybe. Probably not. I have cheaper, more reliable alternatives.

  2. How does a fingerprint ID work in jurisdictions that do not allow open carry? It will not work with an IWB holster, and I think the backups will be similarly disabled. Or maybe this is for police officers only….

  3. Looks like Blackhawk! made an e-Serpa.

    I personally like the Serpa holsters, but the fingerprint reader pad on this one looks liable to result in the same type of user-induced NDs.

    • How do you figure? The fingerprint reader is against the slide, not the frame/trigger guard, and, being a fingerprint reader will not require much, if any, pressure against it to actuate.

      There are myriad other problems with the basic concept of the system (for example, what happens when dust/grease/blood gets onto the fingerprint reader. Why should we entrust police officers’ lives to electronics when tying the holster to a bodycam hasn’t even worked reliably? etc.), but I can’t see it having the same issues as the serpa style holsters.

    • This was my thought as well – an updated Serpa with and even higher chance of not releasing the pistol when you really need it! Every major firearms trainer I know has seen multiple Serpas refuse to release the gun due to dirt etc fouling the release or having issues with the gun going bang unexpectedly. No thank you!

  4. Isn’t this just another retention holster design?

    Thirty seconds of Googling found a US patent from 2003 for a biometric retention holster, so this is hardly a new idea. We’ll see if this team can create a production-worthy version of the design that meets its objectives.

    Meanwhile, I’ll judge this and all other “Smart Gun” efforts the same way I judge any other new technology: Is it truly, demonstrably better than what’s available now?

  5. This is not intended to be better than something else, it is intended to be restrictive.

    I can see NYC and other administrations making this a required purchase for handgun owners.

    Not on my dollar.

    • The judges and event organizers intended it to be restrictive, yes. And if it works, they would certainly like to mandate it.
      The inventors/developers however, likely are folks hoping to build a better mousetrap and reap the benefits of such, I would wager that at least a few folks on their team are true blue People of the Gun or they would have had little interest in this idea.
      For their sake alone (the politicians there can go suck it) I hope they succeed.

    • What handgun owners? Have you ever tried getting a CC permit in NYC? What is the point of building something for which the local gov’t ensures you cannot find any customers?

  6. Let’s hope the holster wearer isn’t wearing gloves when The SHTF. He might be SOL.

    My guess is, anything that would delay a person’s draw for even a nanosecond would be summarily dismissed as a no-go.

    • Or just got out of the shower or pool or just did the dishes. My biometric safe will not recognize my prints if my fingerprints are distorted from being wet too long.

  7. “…there’s a mechanical override in case of an electronic malfunction.”

    So it’s a level II retention holster. Hope it was worth the million, Brooklyn. That’s one less absinthe bar for you.

  8. Boy, does that look comfy, or what? I may want to wear 2, it looks so pleasant. Or maybe not. They didn’t mention what we do with a dead battery, maybe it could be paired with a hat festooned with solar panels, with wires connecting it to your holster!? A million bucks? Why didn’t I think of that?

  9. There’s no way the NYPD would ever adopt this abortion of an idea. And there’s no way I’m buying any firearm products from Brooklyn.

  10. I say, if the NYPD starts using these it could save lives they wouldn’t be able to shoot civilians negligently as easily!

    That said, I don’t think this would stop any criminals or suicidal people from shooting themselves in the medium to long term. Expect a youtube video on how to disable if sold and released.

  11. Looking into it, this was organized by the City of Brooklyn and was only open to design teams from schools and colleges within Brooklyn itself. The funds look to be from the city (thanks taxpayers!!) and the judging panel comprised of some local flunkies, a gun grabber and a couple of random techies/engineers. Basically it’s a way to utilize public funds for gun grabbing purposes wrapped up in a ‘for the children’ wrapper.

    Interesting how it was meant to drive ‘smart gun technology’ but was won by a biometric safe with a belt hook!!

  12. Looking closely at the design drawings, it appears that the retention works by rotating a block of material into the trigger guard right next to the trigger. I though one of the primary purposes of a holster was to keep things out of the trigger guard! With this design you have moving parts right next to the trigger. Get some clothing caught in the holster and see what happens. Bonus question for the lawyers, who is responsible if the holster triggers the weapon and someone is injured?

    • I was coming in to say exactly this.

      Also, it’s actuated by a servo. Even as a proof of concept, by college students, this is really shoddy thinking all around.

      It mostly comes around to 3d printer + arduino makes you feel a lot smarter than you really are.

  13. Great idea,

    Introduce it and all the gang bangers will be wearing “light overcoats” in the summer as a fashion statement.

    Under the overcoat will be a semiautomatic rifle with a 30 round magazine and enough extra magazines to cover at least 90 more rounds.

    It’s called asymmetrical gang banging.

  14. The participants all failed at the task at hand: “Make Us a Smart Gun.” What they designed was an at best mediocre holster which duplicates the effects of a Level III security holster now available.

    That being said it is pretty clear that neither the designers nor their mentor have any real experience with firearms or holsters.

  15. Looking at that drawing, it looks like it’s a mechanically-fastened clamshell affair (like a Kel-Tec!). So it’ll deny access to anyone but the authorized user and a guy with a screwdriver.

    Pay attention, guys. This is how you make a million bucks for maybe a hundred hours of work.

    I just wonder how crappy the losing entries must have been…

  16. If all politicians (& their security detail) and cops were subject to the same laws that they force on us (no carve outs), this world would be a better place.

  17. Instead of Alexa, maybe do something like triggering (heh) on a keyword or keyphrase. Like “critical thinking.” No one ever thinks about that, let alone says it out loud.

  18. It’s perfect!! I have a heart rate monitor on my phone. Put finger on the light thingy and, heartbeat! Works every time. Well, almost every time, once I get my finger set just right after several tries. /sarc Wonder what is the assumed variance of not being able to draw the pistol first time. Well that’s OK also. Don’t want anybody getting hurt now do we .


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