Biofire “Smart Gun”

The Biofire Smart Gun, scheduled for first customer shipments later in 2023, is designed for one specific market: home defense for those concerned with preventing use by unauthorised persons (for example, children in the home) while providing immediate access to a loaded weapon without the need to fiddle with a gun safe or lock box. The weapon is a semi-automatic 9×19 mm Parabellum striker-fired pistol with a magazine capacity of 10 or 15 rounds equipped with two independent biometric sensors: a capacitive fingerprint sensor and an infrared camera (with illuminator) used for facial recognition. The sensors are logically OR-ed to enable firing: either is sufficient. The fingerprint sensor is usually sufficiently fast so the weapon is enabled before it can be raised to firing position, and the face recognition (the camera is in the back of the gun) provides a slightly slower back-up if the shooter is wearing gloves, has a finger covered with mud, etc. The gun can be trained to recognise multiple authorised shooters. The infrared camera and invisible illuminator allows facial recognition in total darkness.

Once the gun is gripped and recognition is accomplished, two laser time-of-flight “presence” sensors detect the shooter’s hand on the grip. If this contact is broken, the gun is de-authorised, but can be re-authorised the moment the sensors detect a valid user again in control. This protects against the gun being used by an assailant who wrests it from the shooter’s hand.

The electronic and mechanical components of the gun are completely new and proprietary. There is no mechanical link between the trigger and the striker that fires the cartridge. Only a valid authorisation will permit the firing signal to be sent. This is intended to avoid the problems with proposed smart guns based upon an existing mechanical platform where the biometric interruption of firing can be easily disabled. We’ll have to see what Lock Picking Lawyer and the computer security crowd make of the security of this implementation once they get their hands on the final product. For example, are solenoids which may be used in the firing mechanism vulnerable to being operated by an external magnet? How difficult is it to “hot wire” the last actuator in the firing chain? What happens if the blackguard who grabs the gun points its butt at the owner’s face?

This is a large, chunky weapon: it weighs a tad more than 1 kg unloaded (by comparison, the Glock 17 Gen 3 with an unloaded magazine weighs 705 grams), and there is a compartment that hangs down at the front that holds the battery and electronics. The lithium-ion battery is intended to be kept constantly charged when the gun is kept in its dock, which also includes the smartphone-like station used to program the gun and authorise shooters. The dock changes and communicates with the gun via a USB-C connector: there is no wireless communication in either the gun or dock, and neither is connected in any way to the Internet.

Whatever your opinion of the concept of a “smart gun” and the possibility that it may serve as a wedge to impose this technology on all firearms owners, the fact that this particular weapon has an entirely novel mechanical operating cycle and proprietary magazines gives one pause: it often takes years and millions of rounds for top of the line handgun manufacturers to perfect their designs so they cycle and feed reliably with the myriad varieties of 9 mm ammunition and in all environmental conditions. Even if the bioimetrics work absolutely perfectly, the gun may be useless if it experiences frequent stoppages in real world conditions. Again, this can only be evaluated once experienced shooters get their hands on the delivered product. One hopes the ease of use of the weapon is better than that of the company’s Web site.

Here are specifications for the Biofire gun, frequently-asked questions, and a price list.

Here is an interview with the chief designer of the Biofire gun, discussing the market segment it was developed to address, the design choices made, and the development and testing process. There is something “off” about the sound in this video—it sounds to me like the audio from the designer’s microphone was not used and his voice was, instead, picked up by the interviewer’s microphone.