Smart gun is a dirty word in gun rights circles. This is because the term is used by gun control advocates in their crusade to restrict gun owners. But smart gun technology doesn’t have to be a dirty thing. There are a lot of neat features you could enable by including on-board electronics in firearms as Beretta is planning to show us with its new PX4i Storm series:
Beretta’s newest Law Enforcement pistol, unveiled at DSA ’14, is the Beretta PX4i Storm. This pistol is a standard PX4 Storm that been wired with electronic sensors which can track when rounds are fired, how many rounds are in the magazine, the status of the safety and even if a round is in the chamber or if the hammer is cocked.
If a police officer removes his PX4i from its holster the iProtect system could, for example, automatically notify the police dispatch as well as other officers nearby and route them to assist the officer in trouble. This can all be done without the officer having to make a radio call. It can even detect if an officer is injured or killed and issue an appropriate alert.
This is neat. I would love to have some of this technology in my competition pistol. Being able to automatically track the number of rounds fired would help me know when to replace wearable parts. It would also be interesting if the gun could record my draw time (which is possible since there is an accelerometer), the amount of time is takes me to go from drawing the pistol to firing the first round, and how long it takes me to perform a reload. If the technology was done correctly you could event eliminate the need for a shot timer in single-gun competitions by having the gun record the span of time between the first draw and the last round fired. Heck, if the guns were setup to communicate with one another you could even eliminate shot timers from multi-gun competitions.
Combining this technology with Bluetooth would open up a realm of possibilities. Imagine tying a firearm with something like Google Glass. At any time you could look up and know exactly how many rounds remain in your weapons magazine, whether or not a round is currently chambered, if there is a malfunction, how warm the barrel is (it would be helpful to receive an indicator if the barrel has reached a temperature where accuracy begins to deteriorate), how much charge remains in the optic’s battery, and so on.
I’m sure this technology will be pooh-poohed by a lot of gun owners. Many gun owners seem to dislike radical changes in firearm technology because they believe it will decrease reliability. But if there’s something electronic optics have taught us it’s that reliable electronics can be built and they can benefit our shooting. It won’t surprise me if the PXi4 has initial reliability issues but those issues will get resolved in time. Additionally there’s also the fact that electronics can be included in a firearm in such a way that an electronic failure won’t hamper the operation of the firearm itself, which I assume is how Beretta has designed the PXi4.