Microstamp casing
(AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)
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New Jersey is trying its hardest to become the California of the East Coast – without the good weather, Hollywood and vineyards. When it comes to gun control, though, New Jersey’s got just about everything California has to offer – even down to the microstamping requirements.

That is, of course, until a federal judge ordered that California couldn’t enforce microstamping mandates earlier this year. Turns out, it violates the Second Amendment. New Jersey might want to take note.

New Jersey’s Attorney General Matt Platkin announced that his office established standards and an application process for handguns to be included on New Jersey’s microstamping-enabled handgun roster. Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law in 2022 that the state would follow in California’s footsteps to require that handguns be certified that they are equipped with microstamping technology that can regularly impart a code to a cartridge.

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin
New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin (courtesy New Jersey Spotlight News)

There’s just one problem. Every independent study of this nascent “technology” concludes that it does not reliably, consistently produce a legible mark on the primer. Put simply, it doesn’t work as advertised. That might be why New York has yet to certify its own microstamping requirement. They’ve been investigating and so far – nothing. New Jersey will look at the same independent, peer-reviewed studies. And, if they are honest about it, must conclude it is not feasible.

Small Letters, Big Issue

Microstamping is a patented process in which a laser engraves a unique alphanumeric code to the tip of a firing pin. The notion is that when the firing pin strikes a primer, it leaves not just the dimple that results from the impact, but inside that dimple is an exact replica of that unique alphanumeric code.

In theory, this would make it easier for police at a crime scene to match spent cartridges with a particular gun that may have been criminally-misused in a crime. That theory, though, falls apart when it is tested under real-word conditions.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) commissioned a study into microstamping and the results were disappointing for gun controllers that pitch this as panacea. It isn’t.

This peer-reviewed study was conducted by a team of experts who published their findings in a firearms forensics scientific journal. Even the microstamping patent-holder, Todd Lizotte, got involved in the research that ultimately concluded that “…legitimate questions exist related to both the technical aspects, production costs, and database management associated with microstamping that should be addressed before wide scale implementation is legislatively mandated.”

In other words, it’s not ready for prime time.

That’s because smashing a few letters and numbers from a firing pin onto a cartridge and having work repeatedly isn’t reality. First, not all firing pins are the same. Firing pins vary greatly across types and manufacturers. The second issue is the alphanumeric codes are not reliably, legibly imparted on the primer. Lizotte conceded that even under the best and most controlled circumstances in a laboratory, and using Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM) to read the codes, it didn’t happen.

The study concluded that even with advanced technology, “a full gear code appears to be rare and dependent on the weapon that made the impression.” The study’s authors said that at least 10 spent cartridges would need to be collected to piece together a complete code, but that supposes that a criminal is going to expend 10 rounds and that a crime scene wouldn’t have multiple criminals.

It also assumes that the firing pin wouldn’t deform over time and no longer impart a legible code. It further assumes that criminals won’t tamper with the firing pins or replace them altogether. The laser-engraved codes can be defeated by dragging a nail file over the tip of the firing pin. Criminals are already known to scratch off or obliterate serial numbers from a firearm’s frame.

The National Academy of Science Study said of microstamping, “Further studies are needed on the durability of microstamping marks under various firing conditions and their susceptibility to tampering, as well as on their cost impact for manufacturers and consumers.”

Professor George Krivosta told the professional scholarly journal for forensic firearms examiners of microstamping, “Implementing this technology will be much more complicated than burning a serial number on a few parts and dropping them into firearms being manufactured.”

Responsibility for Failure

It raises serious concerns for firearm manufacturers. The cost of producing firearms that bear microstamping technology would increase by roughly $200. That’s a lot of money for a microscopic change. The cost is high, though, because of the requirement that each unique identifier on every firearm pin must be matched to the firearm. It also raises significant legal concerns. Who would be held responsible if the technology doesn’t work like California, New Jersey and New York gun control politicians say it will? If a criminal scratches the code off the firing pin or swaps it out with an unmarked pin, who will the state hold responsible?

That’s a legitimate question in California, New Jersey and New York, states that all passed laws to allow state authorities and citizens to bring frivolous lawsuits against firearm manufacturers for the harm caused by criminals misusing firearms. The firearm industry has been telling these states for years the technology doesn’t work. The experts agree. The criminals already ignore the law to commit crimes and with little consequence because of soft-on-crime politicians in these states. That would seem to implicate the state for selling false promises to the public for technology that doesn’t deliver.

Next Steps

AG Platkin’s announcement of establishing criteria and an application process is just the first step in the state trying to pull a gun control pipe dream out of thin air. Next up will be the law’s requirement to investigate the viability. They might want to get together with New York and ask them what’s holding up their investigation into the same technology and requirements. It might be because they’re finding the same data NSSF found – it just doesn’t work.

Or AG Platkin can take a page from Vice President Kamala Harris’ playbook. In 2013, then California Attorney General Kamala Harris certified that microstamping was unencumbered by patent restrictions. She did not certify it actually works. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, she set in motion a slow-motion handgun ban that decreased the available models of handguns for sale in California from nearly 1,000 in 2013 to less than half of that today.

If AG Platkin follows along with California’s wishful gun control thinking, each New Jersey retailer would be required to carry at least one model in their inventory for sale. AG Platkin said forcing this not-ready-for-primetime technology “will have a profound impact on public safety across the state.” Yet, there’s no evidence of that. Like microstamping, his words are little and mean even less when there’s no proof it will do what you say.


Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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  1. Cal and Jersey are limiting what gunms you can have just about down to a six shuuter. Most six shuuters will be a revolving.
    What good is a microwave going to do?

    • Ain’t that how you warm up your switched on Glock before ya jump in that Hyundai ya boosted ta settle some turf issues.

  2. I have an idea that needs Government funding, about 5 mil should do it. I want a firearm to microstamp the criminal who commits a crime and no one who uses the firearm lawfully. And if the firearm senses it is being used unlawfully it will stop operating. I need this money so I can spend years studying the issue already knowing it doesn’t work. Maybe Ca and NJ could fund me?

  3. At this point it’s clear, the idea is to burn the resources for the pro-2A groups and harass pro-2A citizens. This kind of law doesn’t make anyone safer.

  4. All of the time and effort spent on a technology that doesn’t work and not a word about the root cause of the crimes committed with firearms and other objects. CA, NJ and NY are the real 3 stooges.

    • History confirms it. Just like the Jews. The people in the United States that allow Tyrants to push their Tyranny on them. Without resistance. Simply because they don’t believe it can get ‘That Bad’. Just like the Jews.

      • But in this case it’s a Jew, “Platkin”, who is introducing this madness.

        • Not much different than NY but good way to get cancelled/labeled all sorts of things if pointed out. Have a few that push the other way but way more Schumers than Zeldans.

  5. In my state, they don’t collect the expended cartridge that comes with a new firearm. The idea is that the gun leaves a unique “fingerprint” on the primer not only from the firing pin (and I didn’t know this), but also the bolt face. My gunsmith worked in ballistics in the forensic lab and he said that 50 rounds through any firearm will alter the “fingerprint” to the point it won’t match anything. He said there is nothing to stop you from ordering a new firing pin as well. I guess they would have to make it illegal to replace your firing pin? What if you shot the gun a lot and the stamp wore off? Crime? These morons don’t think things through at all.

    By all means, let’s pass laws that don’t affect criminals one whit though.

  6. Even if this became a reliable and solid technology that could easily be put into place immediately, it does absolutely nothing for all the firearms already out there. Few people would buy these. Guns are not iPhones that get replaced every year or two.

      • Box or two of steel cased with hard primers would be more fun with less constructive intent.

    • From the sound of a bill pending in the Legislature, California wants to enact a retrofitting mandate for all existing guns by 2027. I can’t say though as the bill is going to pass, not after the Atty Gen Bonta abandoned microstamping on an appeal of a TRO in the Ninth Circus.

      • yeah, I can certainly see the criminals lined up to bring their stolen pistols in for the refit.

  7. Kmala certified that microstamping tech was available and unencumbered by patent, and therefore the microstamping law signed by the Governator could go into effect. She lied. the technology she “certified” stamped the required number in only one place (on the primer), not two as then required by the statute. (The Legislature finally conceded that two marks was impossible and changed the law. However, this new law also mandated criminal sanctions for changing the firing pin to one without a microstamp, or intentionally altering the pin.)

    In good news though, a federal trial court issued an injunction against the California Roster requirements (including the microstamp requirement). The State, unsurprisingly, appealed, but DID NOT appeal the injunction as to the microstamping requirement. Oral argument was heard last week, so we should have an opinion on the TRO within a year or so. (sarc)

  8. All a criminal has to do is collect some of your spent “microstamped” casings off the ground at the shooting range, and use them to salt a crime scene. The criminal uses a .38 Special revolver, for example, to commit a capital crime, tosses some of your similar-diameter 9mm casings on the ground, and walks away. Kaboom…now detectives are knocking on *your* door.

  9. Why do we say “the technology doesn’t work”? If we had the technology, it might work – but we don’t have the technology. Meaning, the entire scheme is just a pipe dream. Libruls need to stop smoking that crack pipe when they’re dreaming up meaningless laws.

  10. First , would wear on the firing pin be treated as “Removing a Serian Number” and a felony
    Second – In the best case the police now know who’s stolen gun was used, since this is where most criminals get their firearms.

    • At some point in the lifespan of such a pin, it will need to be replaced through normal wear and tear. What would THAT process look like?

      • “What would THAT process look like?”


        Meaning, that’s the point… 🙁

        • The California proposed law calls for it to be replaced by a state certified gun smith, with tracking of the new microstamp code.

    • Cloudbuster:
      I was thinking the same thing but didn’t take the time to check it out. Probably more states have Vinyards than not.

  11. Changing the firing pin on most firearms is not a difficult project. Swap the pin, shoot whomever you want to, then change back to the stamped pin. Same thing with most autoloader pistols that don’t have the barrel fixed to the frame. Takes what, 2 minutes to change the barrel out in a Glock or 1911? A quick rub with a little emery cloth changes the tool marks enough to be close but not a match.
    As an old detective once told me, “We don’t catch the smart ones.”

    • Esier than that. Just use a “cold” gunh, one from a gunshow purchase a decade or two ago when background checks were not mandated. Use that one for your “equaliser”, then stash that one and go back tto carrying your newer one with SN recoreded as yours for everyday carry.
      So they come calling, you show then the newer nine they examie and test that, not a match. NOW where are they? Same nowhere they’d be before the microstamp charade.

  12. A few weeks go I came across an article about the gun situation in Chicago. There was a case where a handgun of nown caliber had been used in a slaying, they had recovered bullets and spent casings from the scene. No trace could be found. Over the next couple years, further incidents were examined and turned out to involve rounds fired from that same handgun, a semiauto they knew. Over a couple years that same gun, identified from case prints on shells recovered at crime scenes across Chicago, turned up repeatedly. They KNEW it was the same handgun, and could trace its “wanderings” around the city based on where matching casings had been recovered. But the one piece they did NOT have was.. who OWNED or originally purchased THAT handgun? , Finally the break came. They recovered THAT handgun at a murder crime scene. Proven by casing prints and barrel markings from recovered projectiles. NOW we’ve got our men.. right? Nope. The serial number of that gun raced to a gun store heist about three years prior, They had the gun, but no perpetrator.

    Would microstamping do any better? Nope. For any trace system to work the chain of custody would HAVE to be complete. This handgun had been passed round Chicago for a year and a half and had been used in close to a hundred shootings…. but could never be connected with the one necessary piece to the puzzle… WHO was holding that gun when it was used to kill here, there, and everywhere else?

    Microstamping would change nothing. Any criminal wanting to use a gun to kill would simply obtain a gun that does not trace back to him.

    The microstampng COULD solve only ome aspect of the solution to any given crime… identifying the weapon used in that crime. ot its make, model, colour, etc, but only that it is THIS one. It can never definitively solve WHO HELD THAT GUN when it was used to kill. . Might even turn up the name/ID of the last known purchaser of that gun. But it can never prove that named ownere IS the one that used THA GUN in the crime in question.

  13. End all State and Law Enforcement Sales and discounts…No more blue label or high caps will be sold to departments or individual cops..Take a stand firearm companies!

  14. Question for Larry Keane…When are the NSSF, and the firearms manufacturers as a whole, going to stand up to these states and tell them no more law enforcement sales if they continue to infringe on the people’s Second Amendment rights???

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