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We noted Ron Conway’s desire to find the “Mark Zuckerberg of guns” a couple of years ago. His Smart Tech Challenges Foundation had just given young Kai Kloepfer a hefty check to get his fingerprint-enabled ‘smart gun’ off the drawing board. Well as the Wall Street Journal reports today, the kid and Conway think they’ve got something that works.

Kloepfer has spent the past four years designing a handgun with a fingerprint reader built into the grip, and he deferred his acceptance to MIT after winning a grant from the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation in 2014. His startup, Biofire, is just a few months from a live-firing prototype, which, assuming it works, will be the first gun to unlock like an iPhone.

Conway is nothing if not confident.

“Congratulations,” Conway says to Kloepfer. “You are going to save America. You are going to save lives. The gun companies won’t tell you, but the tech industry will.”

Kai Kloepfer courtesy

Mind-blowing hyperbole aside, good for the kid. He’s obviously invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears — not to mention cash from an IndieGoGo campaign — into his meisterwerk. As opposed to a variety of earlier failed ‘smart gun’ ventures, who knows? Cribbing iPhone fingerprint technology and adding it to a GLOCK may be enough to interest some of today’s consumers who otherwise wouldn’t want a gun in the house.

Compared with past smart-gun designs, what Biofire gets right is technology that’s almost invisible to the user; anyone who knows how to fire a handgun and unlock an iPhone needs no special instruction. When you pick up the Biofire gun, it wakes up from a low-power mode and activates the microprocessor and sensor. Processing your print requires roughly a second and a half; Kloepfer says he can get the delay down to less than half a second with more work on the software. Assuming your fingerprint is a match, the circuitry releases an internal trigger lock. As long as your middle finger remains in place, the pistol is ready to fire.

Forget for now the gun’s electronics, its reliability, its battery life, and the delay in activation. All of those, uh, features are important (frequently disqualifying) considerations to most gun owners. But for now, they’re still beside the point. There’s still one gigantic elephant stomping around the room that Kloepfer can’t design around and that Conway conveniently doesn’t seem to mention (although the WSJ does). That’s New Jersey’s ‘smart gun’ mandate law.

These false starts have complicated smart-gun politics. In 2002, New Jersey passed the Childproof Handgun Law, which mandated that all handguns sold in the state be smart guns—once the technology was approved by the state’s attorney general. Gun rights activists, fearing new designs would bring the law into effect, threatened boycotts to discourage research by gun manufacturers. Thus a law intended to promote smart guns became a boogeyman holding them back.

I don’t want a so-called smart gun. You may not want one either. As the WSJ notes, Top Shot champ and tech guy Chris Cheng turned his nose up at the idea, too. But most gun owners have no problem with ‘smart gun’ technology being sold along side the Smiths, FNs, GLOCKs and Springfields in our local gun stores. There will be some number of buyers who are attracted by a gun with that kind of safeguard, no matter the attendant complications and risks introduced. Where gun owners have a lot of trouble, though, is with the prospect of mandating the technology.

The Ron Conways of the world love to rap gun makers for their reluctance to invest in ‘smart gun’ tech. But no one has done more to inhibit its development and adoption that one obstinate woman from New Jersey…State Senator Loretta Weinberg.

She’s the force behind that state’s 2002 poison pill law that requires that all handguns sold in the Garden State have ‘smart gun’ technology once one model is available for sale anywhere else in the nation. The legislature passed a law designed to ease that mandate last year, but Governor Chris Christie refused to sign it. It’s this law — and gun owners’ resistance to triggering it — that’s made retailers shy away from earlier (flawed) ‘smart guns’ that their makers have tried to market.

So despite all of Kloepfer’s ingenuity and whiz-bang inventiveness, the underlying problem remains the same as it did two years ago when Conway first trumpeted his initial investment in the kid. Unless and until the New Jersey law is repealed, so-called smart guns have very little chance of getting to market in any meaningful way.



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  1. “As long as your middle finger remains in place, the pistol is ready to fire. …” I can see a variety of scenarios where the middle finger isn’t going to be continuously in place as one maneuvers.

    Anyway, I don’t have a problem with the technology being available and sold in the marketplace, as long as it isn’t mandated.

    But in places like CA, once it is available – it will be mandated. And other firearms outlawed…

    (Curious about their move to ban standard capacity magazines without any reimbursement to owners.)

    • I am left handed. Unless it can read a very specific part of my palm, this thing is a paperweight to me. I cannot think of a way, other than making right and left hand only models, that would fix this problem. Also, how long does the gun stay unlocked once the print is read? If I pick up the gun and am disarmed, does the gun immediately lock once the middle finger is removed? Or is it like a smartphone and it stays unlocked for a period of time? If it is the latter then it does very little to stop a successful gun grab. If it is the former, then any momentary break of the firing grip (such as from recoil or reloading) will reset the gun and possibly get the owner killed. This is all aside from the fact that my current cutting edge galaxy S7 can’t read my print the first time about half the time, and has almost infinitely more power and processing speed, not to mention tons more money and research behind it.

      • My situation, and first thought, as well. Honestly, it’s like they’re not even trying to get feedback from actual firearms users.

        • They don’t need or want gun owner’s input, save shallow lip service. (Cue their ‘I’m a gun owner’ spokesperson)

          They know better than you what you ‘need’, or, what you will be ‘allowed’ to have…

          (From their perspective.)

    • I could see fingerprint smartguns being used as nightstand guns, where little Johnny might open the drawer and shoot himself or his friend with a regular Glock and a super-quick draw is not necessary (sort of like miniaturizing a RapidSafe or Gunbox), but there should be an easy reversible way to turn the fingerprint reader off, so that you can let little Johnny shoot it in a supervised setting or you use it for CCW (where a quick draw is necessary). Also, the mechanism needs to hold up to 10mm and .460 Rowland abuse.

      • Why “miniaturize” a biometric safe when the safe is available now? If you have small kids, you should have a safe, which works with any kind of gun. Not only can you change the gun as your needs change, once your kids age and you train them, you can ditch the safe. A smart gun will always have the lock.

  2. Four years and still doesn’t have a firing prototype. It took less time to make the first plane.

    • Gotta keep those suckers giving that cash to his cause. Vaporware still gets the top dogs paid till they outwear their welcome.

    • More like the Elon Musk of guns. Ideas that can never make any economic sense (Solar City, Tesla), can never actually make money (Solar City, Tesla), or are just the shortcuts to save money that NASA/JPL guys have talked about in bars for decades(SpaceX). Hyperloop has soooo many unsolvable inherent flaws, that anyone who believes it can work should be committed or be required to pass 5th grade science. It’s just that stupid. (Half of those flaws could be eliminated by switching to a pressurized tube, but I guess the fantasy of vacuum tubes is what keeps the scientifically illiterate writing the checks.)

      This is the wrong Truth About… to go off on it more, but this kid Kloepfer does have a lot in common with that combination conman/carnival barker -he seldom delivers what he promises, and the one thing he can build well is a cash furnace.

      • Hmmm. You’re thinking too small in the scale of fraud here. If we’re going to kill this idea, we need to make the fraud hurt guys like Bloomie and Soros.

        If we really want to encourage the kid, let’s tell him to look at Elizabeth Holmes’ techniques. Granted, the kid needs to start wearing black turtlenecks and to study up on Steve Jobs’ “reality distortion field” techniques, but I’m sure with a little histrionics and social-justice verbiage, he can shake down the Sand Hill Road Mob for at least few hundred mil.

        • Dennis Ritchie’s ghost approves of the revenge technique, but does wish to remind you the guys on Sand Hill have to lose a few hundred million several times in a row to even take notice.

          Regardless, I like the idea…

  3. As I keep saying, this is useless. I’ve gone over the Armatix patents before, to “dumb” a gun up takes only minimal time after field stripping.

    • They don’t care about whether or not criminals will be able to use the guns.

  4. This concept is pointless. The technology wakes up from a low-power state when you pick it up …
    Does that mean an internal accelerometer is always watching for movement? If so, it will be awake all the time if it is moving around on your hip or in a car. That means battery life will suck. And if the technology is only sensible for a firearm that is lying around all the time, you might as well put it in a quick-access safe and not have to worry about the battery in the handgun being dead, or the fingerprint technology failing, or a whole host of other problems.

    I am never able to understand how people get funding for stuff like this.

    • It’s utter folly for a carry gun anyway.

      It could be somewhat useful for a range toy, utility pistol, or, if the technology matures, a nightstand gun.

      Never going to work for carry though.

    • No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig it’s still a pig. Any gun that requires batteries is a bad idea.

      Any time someone comes up with an idea to make guns “safer” I run it through a test: Would such a device make sense on a fire extinguisher from the “Holy shit I need it to work and work right now” point of view. If the answer is “no” then the new device doesn’t pass the test. So far, none have.

  5. My guns are already pretty smart. They don’t fire unless I put my finger on the trigger. It’s weird how they know.

  6. Unlock like an iPhone?

    So you have to swipe 4 or 5 times and have perfectly clean, dry fingers before you’ll get a good read.

    • This last iPhone software upgrade is enough for me to switch platforms. Mandated 6 characters for security, and thumb print. Now it take up to 5x the amount of time to open my own fu@king smart phone.

      • Same here… I don’t run my iPhone, it runs me and I despise that… We’ve all become slaves to our electronic slave goods to some degree… Many would happily march to the ovens under the glow of these damn things…

        Keep that crap off of my Firearms….

  7. If it works anything like my APPLE IPhone 6+ which I have to reboot every couple days and keep on a charger to last a single day, I do not want one. I’ll stick with an old fashion S&W .38 Special, or anyone of my other reliable weapons.

    TRUMP 2016

  8. Some of my issues with this so called “smart” gun idea. Battery life, water, emp, and Murphy’s Law. (Everything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment!)

  9. Man I need to figure out a concept to get some deeppocketed daddy warbucks to pony up the dough…this new wonder weapon is screaming for a hacker.

  10. He hopes that he can get the activation time down to 0.5 seconds. In other words, your dead.

  11. so-called smart guns have very little chance of getting to market in any meaningful way

    that is so wrong. once these are proved reliable, they are going to sell like hotcakes. because it will be a new gadget for people to show off. the funny thing is i think we will see a RISE in accidental/negligent shootings. i think it will give people the impression it won’t shoot someone they don’t want it to. and since its a new gadget, they will HAVE to show it off, otherwise whats the point in owning one. LOL

    • But the problem is that they WON’T be proved reliable. Nothing these losers are doing is in any way reliable. If I get even a little bit of crud on my finger, my $800 iPhone doesn’t work. These losers are using the same tech. Plus, if they can ‘hack’ a Glock to put the stupid interrupter gadget in, somebody can take it right back out again.

  12. No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig it’s still a pig. Any gun that requires batteries is a bad idea.

    Any time someone comes up with an idea to make guns “safer” I run it through a test: Would such a device make sense on a fire extinguisher from the “Holy shit I need it to work and work right now” point of view. If the answer is “no” then the new device doesn’t pass the test. So far, none have.

    • Don’t say that, pretty soon they’ll stick a pin on your gun you have to pull before shooting.

  13. “As long as your middle finger remains in place, the pistol is ready to fire.”

    Okay, then. Here’s my middle finger.

  14. I don’t know why you’re saying New Jersey’s Smart Gun Law is the biggest problem here. NJ doesn’t have any gun rights to speak of anyway. I can’t see why anyone who cared about guns would live in that state, or about a half dozen other states anyway.

    To me, the unreliability and the activation delay are much bigger issues. And I would not say, “good for this kid.” He’s obviously another millennial with more tech savvy than sense.

    • “I can’t see why anyone who cared about guns would live in that state, or about a half dozen other states anyway.”

      I don’t live in New Jersey. That being said, life is a lot more complicated than simply leaving home and family so you can live in a state with (for now) better gun laws. What has a person gained if they’ve left a place they love to live and al the people they care about simply so they can have better firearms options? Places and people are irreplaceable, and some people would rather fight to get their rights back than forsake their home.

      “So how’s the new place?” “Great! I have a handgun and standard capacity mags for my AR. I also don’t know anyone and miss all of you terribly.”

    • The problem with the NJ law is the old slippery slope. Under that law, once ANY smart gun is available for commercial sale ANYWHERE in the country, then ALL handguns sold in NJ MUST be smart guns. (There are any number of practical stupidities surrounding this law, including giving the first to market a virtual monopoly and suddenly rendering the entire handgun inventory of every gun store in the state illegal to sell.) The slippery slope is that if it works for NJ, then NY, California, Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts are sure to follow. IN short, an overnight handgun ban on future sales, as inimical, f not more so, than the AR bans in California (about to go into effect at years end), NY etc.So it is not just NJ residents whose heads are on the proverbial chopping block.

      • Won’t that also have the consequence that currently registered guns in NJ will now be more valuable on the secondary market?

        • No, flooding the market with “newly-illegal” guns will lower their valu …OH, you meant the illegal gun market, which run by criminals, doesn’t always follow normal logical patterns. Then Yes, probably, unless you have them registered and must show how they were “legally” disposed.

      • My thought is that we should actually try to trigger the NJ smartgun mandate. Let the people fully experience the consequences of their poor choices at the voting booth. And while I expect that there are carve outs for the police, gun makers should refuse to sell anything to them that the general public cannot buy. You know, so that they can also get the full ‘benefit’ of smartgun technology.

        • But the NY unSAFE act had NO carve-outs for Police with 7 round limit, in <10 round magazine, when it was first passed [making the Police some of the first "we will not comply" protesters, until legislators were able to "correct" dumb-a$$-coumo's well-thought-out-plan]. THIS also shows the value that should be placed on NULLIFICATION.

        • The insanity and OBVIOUS gun ban goal of the NJ law is in its oft unknown proposal history: when it was originally conceived back in 2001, the bill was not in any way a bill mandated for civilians-the bill was a mandate that every NJ LEO would be required to carry “smart guns”-particularly given that NJ LEOs are for the most part (aside from the .002%, that’s right, 2/1000th of a percent of NJ population) the only ones “trusted” enough to carry firearms for self defense-therefore at a far greater risk than anyone else in the state to have their firearms used against them.
          The NJ FOP, as well as every LE Union in the state staged immediate and voiciferous backlash against being mandated “smart guns”-so NJ in its wisdom-withdrew the LEO mandate, and Loretta Whineberg rewrote it to only apply to citizen handguns, and specifically exempted police.
          The entirety of NJ’s firearms laws are designed to “delay, deny, & discourage”-so a removal of standard handguns from the NJ market while mandating these “smart guns” would almost assuredly kill all demand NJ residents would have for handguns altogether.

  15. Well if nothing else people need to start working on counter measures to this tech. If these guys want to talk about making tech that ‘the gun industry won’t’ then I’ll start making technology to break it.

    It’s time to stop playing nice with these anti rights ideologues pretending to be safety advocates.

    • If all this tech does is deactivate an internal mechanical trigger, there’s no way five minutes won’t be able to render it useless.

      So, the ‘fix’ will come in later to mandate by law that you can’t disable the ‘smart’ tech. There will have to be some tamper-resistant sticker in place that says something like “It is against Federal Law to tamper with this device.”

      Cuz that will work, too.

      The folks that get all teary eyed over stuff like this just don’t live in the real world. The ONLY thing it will do is make firearms more expensive than they are now (a feature, not a bug) and create additional layers of freaking bureaucracy.

      What it WON’T do is lower crime, lessen “gun violence” or anything it is purported to do. And…since suicide by firearm is one of their ‘gun safety’ arguments, this doesn’t help with that at all.

      More smoke and mirrors covered snake oil. The liars just never stop lying.

  16. Has anyone thought that the Americans With Disabilities might sue? I have a friend who lost the tip of his middle finger, would he be able to use this gun?

    If “Smart Guns’ become the law, I can see a lot of bereaved families suing the Government, when the gun malfunctions in a self defense situation, due to injuries, ext.

  17. I only have two things to say about the picture of “young Kai Kloepfer”

    He might be some technical genius, but he apparently knows zip about using firearms.

  18. Honestly, I feel like the only way that people will realize how bad of an idea “smart guns” are is when someone trying to use one gets murdered. Anyone who buys a smart gun and expects to use it for self-defense is taking a gamble on probably ending up being a martyr for their cause.

    The ensuing high-profile lawsuit by the family of someone who got murdered because their gun took too long to activate, or had a dead/defective battery, or bad wiring/circuitry, or whatever else, may be the final nail in the coffin needed for smart guns to go back to the Bad Idea Bin in which they belong.

    Furthermore, guns are, by necessity, made to take a lot of abuse. You can drop them, drown them, run them over, and any guns worth their salt will still be able to operate. Anything with circuitry in it is, by its very nature, fragile. What if your “smart gun” gets submerged in water? Is the circuitry housing waterproof? What about if your hands are sweaty because, you know, there’s someone in your house trying to murder you? Will it be able to read your fingerprint? What about if you drop the gun in a panic? Will the fingerprint reader still work when you pick it up? Guns are drop-safe. Circuit boards, less so.

    • “Honestly, I feel like the only way that people will realize how bad of an idea “smart guns” are is when someone trying to use one gets murdered.”

      That’s why it must be mandatory that LE be required to use the ‘technology’ EXCLUSIVELY…

      • I know you realize that we are talking about “feelings” legislators, not rational, logical, thinking humans; and therefore we’ll see “carveouts” for those who protect politicians. This shows the innate stupidity and/or real intention of this “pogrom.”

    • Anything with circuitry in it is, by its very nature, fragile.

      Your point is valid, but I do have to point out a few noteworthy exceptions. From the early 50s and for about 10 years, the US, UK, and French military developed and in some cases actually deployed nuclear warhead artillery systems. The warheads did depend on circuitry, as do radar-based proximity fused anti-aircraft artillery shells. Nothing shot out of a cannon that still works can be called “fragile.”

      • Alan Esworthy: Comparing the “stone knives and bear-skins” fusion-based cannon shells, or even proximity-based AA from a military budget, with nm circuit-wired print recognition for private use (at “reasonable” prices) isn’t possible; although you might be right, that could be the intent to “market” it pretending as comparable to military-engineered.

    • There are ways to make PCB surpisingly shock-proof. These days, flexible PCBs are also an option. Plus, one can implement a failsafe that should release lock if electronics fry or battery runs out of juice. It is that failsafe that I will consider a weakest link, as everything rides on lock’s ability to perform.

  19. What up. I have no problem with the development of a smartgun… Or the allowing it to live or die as dictated by the free market. While I’m sure there will be a market for it, I don’t think he’ll ever find one big enough to ever recoup his losses. unless he sells at HiPoint prices and is willing to hemorrhage cash to achieve market penetration in an otherwise hostile consumer environment, this is going nowhere.

  20. The iPhone is in its fourth or fifth iteration of its fingerprint technology I believe.

    I’m what you would call a power user; I use the phone in my work literally several hours a day.

    The iPhone fingerprint reader works very well about 80% of the time.

    So…. No, I will not be using a firearm with a fingerprint reader anytime soon.

  21. When the FBI and NYPD adopt this sort of technology for their duty weapons, then it might be time to start looking at it.

    • Actually it should be mandatory for all of law enforcement to utilize this type of “technology” for their firearms, both on and off duty weapons and nothing else. Then and only then will we know the ‘Wonder Boy’s” gizmo will live up till the hype.

  22. If this little POS succeeds in marketing one of these gats, he will have an entire state hate him.
    Why would anyone want to be THAT guy? The guy who screwed an entire state.

    • The entire state will hate him? Are you kidding? All 7 proponents of gun rights in that shithole of a state will hate him, while the rest will probably bulls a gold statue of him and shower him with praise and awards for his “brave efforts to do the research the gun lobby won’t”, or some other bullshit.

  23. One of my small gun safes has a fingerprint reader. I traded with my daughter as she hated it.

    The safe allows you to record 20 fingerprints. I made sure to use fingers on both hands to have multiple ways in. It doesn’t work all the time. Any dirt, oil, powder will fill the finger and make the print unreadable. This safe has a plug for power and a battery backup.

    Looking at the prototype one can see issues. Unless the recorded finger is exactly on the sensor, the gun won’t shoot. This is like the Armiax. If the gun and the control sensor get a foot apart, the gun has to be paired again. Too complicated.

  24. Until Uncle Gaston shrinks the reader to fit in the trigger safety of the G19, and proves it functional and reliable enough to include it in military deliveries, this is nothing more than Circus Ignoramicus.

  25. I think it’s unfair to blame people trying to invent new guns for a completely idiotic and almost certainly unconstitutional law in New Jersey.

    Guns with authentication systems are a long way from being marketable. The applications where protection against abuse would be useful because it’s not possible simply to keep the gun in a safe when other might have access are exactly the applications with no tolerance for unreliability. Specifically, the most likely market for a system that really worked would be police departments that face the risk of having openly carried guns used against their carriers. Yet the technology isn’t there yet. Simply trying to use one’s cell phone’s fingerprint authentication, useful as it is, after swimming for half an hour or with dirty fingers will make the unsuitability of existing fingerprint readers abundantly clear. But that doesn’t mean that research in this direction shouldn’t be lauded. If someone wants to make a better gun, I support that. Second Amendment rights don’t end at the installation of electronics in a gun, and Kloepfer has every right to attempt to invent a better gun.

    Firearm owners should heap their abuse on the NJ law and demand its repeal, but they shouldn’t pour the sort of abuse over a firearm inventor that firearm inventors normally only get from gun grabbers.

    • Nowhere in the article do I blame Mr. Kloepfer for New Jersey’s ludicrous, ill-considered law. He had nothing to do with its passage. For that, Ms. Weinberg and her legislative colleagues get all the credit.

      If a dedicated tinkerer like Kloepfer wants to invent a better gun, I say have at it. And if he builds one that’s able to succeed in the marketplace – without state or local governments putting their fat fingers on the scale – I hope he reaps the rewards.

      If you got a different meaning from this article, you may want to read it again.

  26. >>fingerprint-enabled ‘smart gun’

    Uh, no. Just no, for reason well-discussed here.

    More than second delay is obviously BS (and kind of slow, with modern hardware). Batteries. Fixed sensor position. The whole rotten “finger remains in place” concept.

    Unless it is mandated Motherland-style, the kid and people who bought the whole fokking startup are likely to learn this cash cow will not give them a drop of milk.

  27. Lets remember one thing folks. There is nothing inherently wrong with smart guns. Its a feature like any other and should be left to succeed or fail in the marketplace like any other feature.

    As is almost always the case, the problem is the GOVERNMENT screwing with free markets.

    In this case its by justifying gun owners’ fears of smart guns by passing laws or threatening to pass laws that will require all guns to be smart guns once viable models are for sale. THAT is the problem.

    In fact, left to its own, smart gun tech might actually help our cause by getting new people into the world of shooting. Eventually they will figure out that the safety comes from your brain. But by then they could be hooked.

    This kid is a naive tool. But he is representative of the kind of innovative thinking that the gun industry should be able to harness.


  28. If this technology ever actually makes it to market and is required by law, I think all of the .gov should be required to use it including the Secret Service.

  29. Smart Gun Technology- When the battery dies, so do you!

    Smart Gun Technology- when the connection drops, so will you!

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