A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Guns and Gear’ Category

AR Hacking

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When you think about starting points for hackers what comes to mind? For many people images of Arduinos and Raspberry Pis connected to strange looking robotic parts are the first things they think of. But there’s no reason you have to start there. Deviant did a good presentation about hacking the AR-15. If you’re into firearms and want to get into hacking it’s a good video to watch since it explains how the two intersect very well:

Written by Christopher Burg

March 17th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Glocktendo

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Admittedly, I’m not big on customized guns. I don’t care if other people spent a great deal of time and money customizing their guns but it’s not something I would do. With that said, this customized Glock by Black Sheep Arms is fucking awesome.

glocktendo

I would totally operate with that.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 15th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Smith And Wesson Don’t Believe You Own Your Gun

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Update: Smith and Wesson has apologized for being legal cunts. I guess they didn’t have their lawyers on a short enough leash, which is a problem common to most companies. Glad to see they backed off.

My original article is below for preservation purposes.


For years now I’ve been contemplating buying a Smith and Wesson M&P. They’re wonderfully designed pistols. The only thing I don’t like about them is the trigger doesn’t have a tactile reset. Fortunately Apex triggers add that functionality so I need only buy one and drop it in, right? Wrong. According to Smith and Wesson making such modifications violates their precious intellectual property rights:

That’s one of Brownells’ series of ‘Dream Guns‘ (above), highly customized, one-off project guns Brownells gins up as examples of what’s possible if you want to put some money, time and love into your stock pistol. They use these as come-ons for trade shows and such, as attractions to get passers by to stop and check out their wares. Their latest effort, a Smith & Wesson M&P, wasn’t well received by the venerable Springfield gun maker…

They had their IP attorneys send a love letter to Brownells and the other aftermarket companies who collaborated on the M&P Dream gun.

There is a picture of the legal threat Smith and Wesson mailed to Apex, Brownells, DP Custom Works, Blowndeadline Custom, and SSVi. Although I find this entire situation ridiculous I do appreciate Smith and Wesson going out of its way to save me the money I would have otherwise dropped on one of their pistols.

I believe it’s perfectly valid to void the warranty if a customer makes a modification to a product. But threatening a lawsuit over imaginary property being violated is absurd. But this is becoming more common. John Deere already claims farmers don’t own the tractors they purchase because those tractors contain software and that software implies the entire piece of machinery is being licensed. Automotive manufacturers are also using intellectual property laws to justify preventing customers from making certain modifications to their vehicles.

What’s interesting about Smith and Wesson’s case is that it doesn’t involve software, which is the goto excuse used to claim owners don’t actually own the products they buy. Instead it’s claiming that displaying its logo on one of its own guns violates the company’s trademark. I guess anybody who modifies a Smith and Wesson firearm is supposed to file off any logos.

While I fully admit I haven’t purchased a Smith and Wesson firearm in years, the last time I did I didn’t sign any contractual agreement to remove all of the company’s logos if I modified the firearm (if such an agreement were demanded I wouldn’t have bought the gun). Since there is no cause for Smith and Wesson to claim I don’t own the pistol and I didn’t sign a contract making me responsible for removing its logos I’m curious on what grounds they plan to enforce this newfound legal power trip. Granted, I won’t have to worry about it because this kind of nonsense will ensure I take my money elsewhere.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 23rd, 2015 at 11:30 am

The Dumb Smart Gun

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Remember the Armatix iP1? It was a supposed smart gun that utilized a wrist-mounted authenticator to allow the gun to fire. The gun, as far as I know, never mad it to market. While the inability to bring the gun to market causes anti-self-defense advocates to blame the National Rifle Association (NRA) it turns out the real problem was likely technical. As it turns out the NRA actually had the chance to perform range tests on the iP1 and were left wanting. Here is a list of technical failures exhibited during the NRA’s testing:

Does the Armatix operate perfectly? Well, no; we found it to be troubling at best. NRA’s tests, conducted with staffers trained by Armatix, found a number of very serious problems:

  • The Armatix pistol initially required a full 20 minutes to pair with the watch, even with the aid of an IT pro trained in its use. Without pairing, the Armatix functions like any other handgun, capable of being fired by anyone.
  • Once paired, a “cold start” still requires a minimum of seven push-button commands and a duration of 12 seconds before the gun can be fired.
  • While the gun holds a maximum of 11 rounds (10+1), the best our experts could manage was nine consecutive rounds without a failure to fire (and that only once). Three or four misfires per magazine were common, despite using various brands of ammunition.
  • […]

  • The pistol must be within 10 inches of the watch during “start up.” This slows and complicates the use of the pistol if one hand is injured or otherwise unavailable.

This is uncommon for a version one release although the fact the authentication system doesn’t prevent the gun from firing until it has been paired makes the entire system rather pointless. I would have thought such an obvious mistake wouldn’t have made it to a range test. The fact it did makes one wonder what other obvious mistakes were made.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 25th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Sometimes You Just Have To Have Fun

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I’m an oddity in that I don’t really enjoy playing most of the Metal Gear games. They’re great titles but stealth has never been my thing. Of the series Metal Gear Rising is the only one I’ve played through multiple times, which I’m pretty sure qualifies as heresy amongst the Metal Gear community. But I really enjoy the characters from the games and I’m not alone. Most fans of the series are happy simply dressing up as the characters for cons but one guy decided to replicate some of the gun slinging shenanigans of Revolver Ocelot and it’s goddamn impressive.

That guy obviously invested a lot of time into learning how to do that so it was inevitable that somebody would come along and shit all over his accomplishment. Of the people I shared this video with most thought it was amusing but a couple had to comment about his violation of the four rules of gun safety and the fact that those skills aren’t practical.

I think we all need to take a moment to reflect on the fact that sometimes it’s OK to have a little fun. Firearm safety isn’t something I take lightly but I’m not even sure if those revolvers are real. If they are they are single-action revolvers so the chances of something bad happening, even if they’re loaded, is pretty minimal so long as the hammers aren’t cocked. While I won’t go so far as to say it’s totally cool to fling real guns around like toys I’m also not going to get too worked up over it.

And what he’s demonstrating certainly isn’t practical but who gives a flying fuck? I don’t know about everybody who shoots but I certainly spend time doing things with firearms that have no practical value. Sometimes you just need to have some fun. Yeah, I get it, time spent learning impractical fun tricks could be better invested in practicing practical skills. But sometimes you just need to enjoy yourself, which is why there are impractical things like televisions and movie theaters.

Some people seems to have a propensity for shitting on anybody they’re jealous of. If you’re on of them and feeling jealous of somebody why not spend the time you would normally take to bitch about them to learn how to do what they do? It would be a lot more productive and far less annoying. Who knows, you might even have a bit of fun.

The moral of the story: there’s no need to be so serious all the time.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 11th, 2015 at 10:00 am

The Somewhat Incompetent Fallacy

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I was participating in one of those threads discussing an instance where a person incompetently reholsting their firearm lead to a negligent discharge. In this case the person in question was using a leather holster and a flimsy part of it bent in under the trigger. The discussion started off well with everybody pointing out that there are no medals for being the fastest person to reholster. But then somebody had to saying, “That’s why I carry a gun with a manual safety.”

That mindset is incredibly stupid. First, it’s an admission that the person views themselves as too incompetent to look at what they’re doing when they reholster their firearm. Second, they assume that they are only going to be incompetent in a very specific way and not incompetent in other ways.

I’ve come to label this mindset as the somewhat incompetent fallacy. It’s the idea that somebody who expresses themselves as being incompetent believes that their incompetence only happens under very specific circumstances. In the case above the somewhat incompetent fallacy applies because the person admits that they’re too careless to watch what they’re doing when reholstering a firearm but not so careless as to ever forget to engage the manual safety. They believe their incompetence only happens when they’re going through the motions of reholstering.

From extensive observations I’ve come to the conclusion that people who act careless with weapons tend to act careless in general. Therefore the belief that a manual safety will protect against a negligent discharge is, in my opinion, stupid because somebody who is so careless that they won’t watch what they’re doing when reholstering is almost certainly too careless to ensure they reengage the manual safety every time they reholster their weapon.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 28th, 2015 at 10:00 am

For $549 You Can’t Own A Gun Detection System That Can’t Detect Guns

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I’m not sure what to think about this one. GunDetect is being marketed as a camera that can detect when somebody is carrying a gun. Based on what has been published so far I’m not sure if this is meant to be a legitimate product or a really clever troll.

The first problem regarding GunDetect is technical. Namely what the device isn’t capable of doing:

There’s a question as to how effective this will be as a first line of defense, though. The makers say that their system is accurate “90% of the time” in instances where a gun is clearly visible. That sounds good, but that leaves a lot of room for misses. What happens if nogoodniks are smart enough to conceal their weapons? Also, night vision support isn’t in these existing models — for now, you can forget about spotting thieves in the middle of the night. The technology could easily be useful as an extra layer of gun safety or security, but it won’t replace a good home security system or vigilant parenting.

There’s only 90% chance that the device will successfully detect and gun and then only if the gun is being carried openly and there’s enough light. In other words this device is pretty much worthless at determining whether the person who broke into your home at oh dark thirty is armed or not. But the problems with this product don’t stop there. If you want access to this remarkably limited device you’ll have to spend some major dough. Since it’s 2015 this product has a Kickstarter page. On it you’ll notice two models being offered:

GunDetect comes in two versions, both of which are based on the latest computer-vision algorithms and optical sensing hardware. The difference is the location for the massive amount of number-crunching required to reliably detect a gun in an image.

GunDetect Premium is our main product and does all its vision processing locally using a powerful computing system that does not need to send any video data to the Internet – giving you the peace of mind knowing your private video never leaves the premises.

GunDetect Cloud has less local processing and uses our Internet servers to help crunch encrypted video data – potentially taking longer to detect a gun than GunDetect Premium.

Getting a GunDetect Premium requires throwing $549.00 at the Kickstarter. GunDetect Cloud starts at $349.00 but that only includes a one-year subscription to the service. What a bunch of stingy bastards! The Premium line seems like the only sane way to go since it doesn’t require working Internet service to function, doesn’t upload a constant video feed of your home to a third-party server, and doesn’t involve a yearly $100.00 (I shit you not, the reward tier for an additional year is $100.00) subscription. But for that price you could invest in an actual gun that would at least give you a means of defending yourself against an armed invader.

I don’t think technology able to detect whether is somebody armed is necessarily a bad thing. It could serve as an additional layer of defense for a home or office. However such a device can only be considered effective if it can detect both open and concealed weapons as well as function independently of an external server and not be dependent on environmental factors such as light availability. A weapon detection system that can’t detect conceal weapons is pretty worthless. If somebody is carrying a weapon I can see that already, I don’t need an expensive camera to confirm what my eyes are showing me. Any system that depends on an external server is rendered worthless if the Internet goes out, which can happy for any number of reasons including a burglar cutting your Internet line or the power going out. And what good is a weapon detection system that is unable to detect whether the person who kicked in my door in the middle of the night is armed? That’s the situation where I would most want to know whether somebody is armed or not.

Nothing about this product impresses me. It has technical weaknesses that make it ineffective at detecting weapons, the subscription service for the Cloud model is expensive, the price of the standalone Premium model is very expensive, and the Cloud model creates some serious privacy concerns. Judging by the number of backers so far I’m not the only one who sees this product as a nonstarter. If this is meant to be a legitimate product it would behoove the developers to return to the drawing board and sort these problems out before begging the Internet for money. If this is meant to be a clever troll I must tip my hat to them.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 16th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Does Anybody Do This

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I’ve seen a few gun blogs posting about the Glock “Gadget” this week. Most of the posts read more like paid advertising (nothing wrong with that) than genuine reviews but they all make a claim that I’m curious about. According to the post on The Firearm Blog:

I agree with ToddG from Pistol Forum that holstering a hammered firearm is indeed safer than holstering a common striker-fired handgun. This is principally because a shooter can “ride the hammer” to ensure it cannot fall during the holstering movement.

Striker-fired guns like Glock, M&P’s, and others on the other hand can easily discharge when they are holstered improperly, either with something catching the trigger or a booger-picker not quite out of the way.

The “Gadget” adds the “hammer-riding” capability to a striker-fired pistol to make it easy for the shooter to holster the weapon and physically tell the striker is being pulled prior to a discharge. (That said, it is much easier to pull a trigger in a downward motion than it is for one to hold the striker in. It may be possible to have the gun go off and a shooter injure their thumb during the discharge).

Does anybody actually “ride their hammer?” I’ve been shooting for a long time and I have never seen anybody “ride their hammer” when holstering a hammer-fired pistol. I certainly haven’t done this. As far as I can tell this is a marketing myth created to sell a device that most people would otherwise find entirely unnecessary.

So I ask you, the greater Internet, do any of you actually “rides your hammer” when holstering a hammer-fired pistol?

Written by Christopher Burg

July 10th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Posted in Guns and Gear

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Apparently Selling the Same Thing for More isn’t a Viable Business Strategy

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I have a fairly sizable firearm collection. In addition to a plethora of other firearm models my collection includes a few AR-15s and 1911s. None of those AR-15s or 1911s are Colts though. With so many manufacturers building AR-15s and 1911s I never understood paying such a premium for a Colt. As it turns out I wasn’t the only one. Apparently charging twice as much for the same thing isn’t a viable business strategy:

Gun maker Colt Defense LLC plans to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection by Monday, according to people familiar with the matter, amid business-execution issues and a heavy debt burden.

The company has secured financing from its existing senior lenders to continue operating while in bankruptcy and expects to remain in business after the restructuring, the people said.

Colt fell into the same rut as many other well-known manufacturers. Instead of continuing to innovate Colt tried to skate by on its name. The last new firearm Colt announced, the 901, was still little more than an AR-15 that could be converted from 5.56x45mm to 7.62x51mm. Colt’s strategy wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t felt that its name justified such a hefty price tag.

It’ll be interesting to see whether or not it came claw its way out of this mess.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 15th, 2015 at 10:30 am

We’re All Sons of the Patriots Now

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Obligatory reference.

TrackingPoint is a company known for developing a $17,000 Linux powered scope. Now they’re moving into Internet enabled optics:

The company, which is here at CES Showstoppers, has just announced ShotView, an iOS and Google Play app that lets a hunter stream video from his or her gun to anyone in the world. And the press release is very clear about its place in the tech world:

“Hunting and shooting sports are now part of the Web fabric. With this new technology, friends and family are virtually transported and immersed in exotic and exciting hunts,” says Danielle Hambleton, TrackingPoint’s vice president of marketing. “Hunters can now share the thrill of the stalk and the excitement of victory in real-time.”

According to Cisco, more than 99 percent of things in the physical world are still not connected to the Internet. But, this new technology represents a giant leap forward for the firearms industry. “We wholeheartedly embrace Cisco’s vision for the Internet of Everything,” says Hambleton. “Our exceptional long-range hunting technology combined with Cisco’s foresight will vastly enrich the world of hunting and shooting sports.”

“Now that the firearm is networked, the sky is the limit,” says Vann Hasty, TrackingPoint’s vice president of engineering.

This is an interesting take on so-called smart guns. While the technology being discussed into integrated into the firearm itself it’s not hard to see that happening a few years down the line. After all, humans crave data. Why not include mechanisms to measure trigger pull, chamber pressure, barrel harmonics, etc.? That would give a far better experience to people watching your hunt via your optic. But then we get into the strange realm of security.

While I’m a fan of integrating technology and firearms my enthusiasm is curbed but the lackluster history of computer security we’ve experienced as a species. Internet enabling a firearm opens the door for potential remote attacks. Give the right electronics in a firearm it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that a firearm could be rendered disabled via remote Internet exploit. On a wide enough scale, such as the scale seen when exploits are used to create botnets, you could even render large percentages of weapons inert.

For you gamers out there this could eventually lead to system similar to Metal Gear Solid 4’s Sons of the Patriots (SoP). In the series, because of the magic of nanomachines, anybody who is able to gain control of SoP can disable most military hardware including small arms. It’s a pretty stupid premise as it is based on technomagic but as more military hardware becomes network enabled it isn’t unforeseeable that large chunks of a military could be disabled through remote hacks.

We live in an interesting world and it’s getting more interesting every day.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 8th, 2015 at 10:00 am