We’re All Sons of the Patriots Now

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.

Colt on the Verge of Bankruptcy, Again

It appears, once again, Colt is on the verge of bankruptcy. Nobody appears to be shocked by this. Colt has a long history of making decisions that could be generously called questionable. In fact BusinessWeek has put together a nice summarized history of Colt. The article is focused mostly on Colt’s bad decisions because, frankly, there aren’t a lot of good decisions to look at. For me the dumbest decision the company made was all but abandoning the civilian market in favor of focusing on the military market after it had lost the contract to produce the sidearm and rifle for the United States military:

In the 1970s, Colt and other American gunmakers, following the bad example of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, grew smug and lazy. Like Japanese and German car companies, more nimble foreign gunmakers grabbed market share. By the 1980s, Smith & Wesson had lost the U.S. police to Austria’s Glock, while Colt saw Italy’s Beretta snatch its main U.S. Army sidearm contract. In 1985, Colt plant employees who belonged to the United Auto Workers launched a protracted strike for higher pay. Replacement employees weren’t up to the task, and “quality suffered badly,” says Feldman, then an organizer for the National Rifle Association. In 1988 the Pentagon gave Colt’s M16 contract to FN Herstal of Belgium. Four years later, Colt filed for bankruptcy court protection from its creditors. “With the end of the Cold War,” says Hopkins, the firearms marketer, “it seemed like the company might never recover.”


In 1999, Zilkha named a new CEO, William Keys, a retired three-star Marine Corps general. The company announced it would end production of all but a handful of civilian handguns and focus on military production. As a reporter at the Wall Street Journal during this period, I interviewed a memorably glum Zilkha. He complained that on top of his other problems, he felt unfairly targeted by gun rights activists who criticized his past contributions to Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer, a vocal proponent of stricter gun control. When I suggested to Zilkha that he seemed to regret ever having entered the gun business, he didn’t argue.

Admittedly Colt has backed away from the decision over time. Now if you want an authentic Colt firearm you can get one but it will cost you your first born child. I know a few people who still herald the Colt 1911 as the end all be all in 1911s but I could never figured out what Colt 1911s do that other 1911s manufactured by reputable manufacturers for less don’t. Maybe the stamped on mustang makes the slide move faster, I don’t know.

That’s the other thing. Releasing 1911s is fine and all but there are approximately eleventy bajillion 1911 manufacturers out there. Name alone is seldom enough to keep one relevant in a market for very long. Smart manufacturers try to provide some kind of innovation be in new models of firearms or firearms designed to service niche markets. As far as I can tell Colt does neither.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colt name is bought up by a foreign manufacturer at a fire sale price. While the name alone isn’t enough to keep one in the market it certainly would offer quick credibility to a new manufacturer looking to enter the market (since a lot of people will mistake the new Colt for the old Colt just as many people mistake Springfield Armory, Inc. for the Springfield Armory of lore).

I’m Sure They’ll Listen to Reason

A little under one year ago Solid Concepts brought us a 3D printed 1911. What made Solid Concept’s 3D printed handgun different from previous 3D printed handguns was that it was made of metal instead of plastic. The 3D printed 1911 fired 5,000 shots without a problem and was retired. Now Solid Concepts is upping the ante with a 3D printed 10mm handgun that they’re calling Reason:

Here we are, almost one year later, and Eric Mutchler, Project Engineer at Solid Concepts, who was the developer of the first 1911 pistol, has produced a new 1911, this time a bit fancier. Although the gun likely will not appeal to everyone, the detail and lettering on the firearm show just how incredibly accurate the direct metal laser sintering machine used to create it must have been. Using a high powered laser to directly melt metal powder, layer-by-layer, this weapon was produced.

The gun, with the word ‘Reason” printed onto its barrel, is chambered in 10mm auto. This new firearm is much more stylish than its predecessor, with a wave-like design printed into the grip, and a gradient of parallel lines throughout the barrel. What will make this 1911 pistol stand out the most, however, is the preamble of the Declaration of Independence printed onto the front of the grip, making a statement obvious to anyone who sees the weapon.

Although this is a far cry from the Reason weapon system from Snow Crash it’s still a pretty sweet technology demonstration. Combine this design, which looks very functional, with the fact that 3D printers capable of working with metal are going to become cheaper you can see how gun control will soon be as irrelevant as laws against pirating music, movies, and e-books.

We are entering the era where technology makes the state’s authority meaningless. When individuals are capable of manufacturing regulated goods in their home regulations have no teeth.

Company Testing Installable Sensor Package for Firearms

Electronics and firearms. Spoken in the same sentence it can turn an otherwise reasonable gun owner into a very upset individual. The reason for this is because many gun owners see the marriage of electronics and firearms as the gun controllers’ wet dream. I think this is mostly due to the fact that electronics and firearms generally only get mentioned in the same sentence when access control technologies are being discussed. But there are so many more possibilities made possible by loading firearms with electronics. One company has developed an sensor package that inserts into the grip of a firearm that enables several interesting capabilities:

A Silicon Valley startup said Friday that police agencies were field testing its new product: a wireless sensor that transforms officers’ weapons into smart guns with real-time telemetry.

Yardarm Technologies’ sensor is a small device that goes inside gun handles and provides dispatchers with real-time geo-location tracking information on the weapon. The Yardarm Sensor also sends alerts when a weapon is unholstered or fired, and it can “record the direction of aim, providing real-time tactical value for commanders and providing crime scene investigators valuable data for prosecution,” the company said.

What I’m about to say is considered heresy by many gun owners but I really like the idea of this sensor package. First, it’s an optional accessory that doesn’t interface with any of the firearm’s mechanisms so if the package fails it doesn’t render the firearm useless. Second, this technology is being aimed at police officers and I believe it’s time to start tracking the actions of on-duty police officers are thoroughly as they track us. Police departments have invested in license plate scanners, cell phone interceptors, and other technologies meant to track us so it’s only fair that the police submit to the same scrutiny and be made to wear body cameras and have firearms that record valuable information when they’re unholstered and discharged.

This sensor package could potentially be a valuable tool for armed civilians as well. Many drivers have started using mounted dashboard cameras in their vehicles to record evidence if they are involved in an accident. Those of us who carry firearms could benefit from our firearms collecting data on any defensive shootings we are involved in as it could help us prove the shooting was defensive in nature.

Although the term smart gun is a dirty word amongst gun owners it shouldn’t be. A smart gun merely implies a firearm that has electronics on board, not that it has some kind of access control mechanism. The obvious trend of our species is to collect more and more data. That’s because we find data incredibly valuable. So smart guns will become prevalent in the future and firearms without electronics will likely be seen similarly to muzzle loaders today. That isn’t a bad thing. More data can lead to further improvements in firearm technology as well as shooting abilities. What is important is ensuring the data collected can be controlled by the owner. This is no different than currently pervasive technologies. Our smartphone are the most obvious example. They’re data collection devices. The major debates surrounding smartphones isn’t really whether or not the devices should collect data but who should have access to the collected data. This is because a lot of people find the collected data valuable but they want to control who can access it. Smart guns will be the same. Gun owners will find the collected data useful but will want control over who can access it.

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun

With a double barrel pump action shotgun:

The DP-12 goes down a completely different, and decidedly unconventional, path. It has 2 7-round tube, but it also has 2 barrels! That’s right…a double barrel pump gun. Two rounds are chambered with each pump; the trigger is then pulled 2 times, the first to fire the right barrel, the second to fire the left barrel. Pump, and you’ve got 2 more rounds.

Every since I was mowing down Strogg with Quake 2’s super shotgun I’ve wanted a double barrel pump action shotgun. Now somebody is finally producing one and I’m afraid I may not be able to resist buying it when it’s released.

New Executive Order Places Sanctions On All Kalashnikov Concern Products

I’m sure you’ve already heard the news but in case some of you haven’t a new executive order was issued that effects gun owners. Obama, as part of his pissing match with Putin, has placed further sanctions on Russia included all Kalashnikov Concern products:

374. If I own a Kalashnikov product, is that product blocked by sanctions? Am I able to resell a Kalashnikov product at a gun show or other secondary market?

If a U.S. person is in possession of a Kalashnikov Concern product that was bought and fully paid for prior to the date of designation (i.e., no payment remains due to Kalashnikov Concern), then that product is not blocked and OFAC sanctions would not prohibit the U.S. person from keeping or selling the product in the secondary market, so long as Kalashnikov Concern has no interest in the transaction. New transactions by U.S. persons with Kalashnikov Concern are prohibited, however, and any property in which Kalashnikov Concern has an interest is blocked pursuant to OFAC’s designation of Kalashnikov Concern on July 16, 2014. If a U.S. person has an inventory of Kalashnikov Concern products in which Kalashnikov Concern has an interest (for example, the products are not fully paid for or are being sold on consignment), we advise that U.S. person to contact OFAC for further guidance on handling of the inventory. [7-16-2014]

There goes Saiga rifles and shotguns as well as Vepr rifles. This prohibition isn’t retroactive, most likely because enforcing such a thing would be impossible, so if you already own a Saiga shotgun or rifle you can keep it (unlike your health insurance). But importing new ones is strictly verboten so supplies will go down and prices will go up.

All of this because our government feels as though it absolutely must get into another conflict with Russia.

Beretta Shows Us the Potential of True Smart Guns

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.

Smith and Wesson Pulled Out

Of California that is:

Smith & Wesson announced late Wednesday that they will no longer market new semi-automatic pistols in California due to the state’s microstamping law.

California currently requires that all handguns sold in the state be approved to meet all current laws and added to a roster. Once approved, the manufacturer has to pay $200 per model, per year to remain on the list. However, if the laws change, such as the state’s recent implementation of microstamping, the guns on the list would have to be reexamined.

There are currently 1,152 approved models in the state’s database. In an alert sent out by the Calguns foundation last week, this is expected to nosedive dramatically in the coming years.

In a statement released from Smith yesterday, “Smith & Wesson does not and will not include microstamping in its firearms. A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes.

I think California’s microstamping law is going to raise some interesting questions regarding gun bans. Although outright gun bans are supposed to be illegal, unless the state is basing its decision on aesthetically offensive characteristics, it may be legal for a state to require nonexistent technology before a firearm will be approved for sale. That is effectively what California has done with its microstamping law.

SHOT Show 2014

We’re getting close to the end of this year’s SHOT Show. While I used to get excited about this show because I’m always interested in learning about new firearms that will be hitting the market I’ve found myself caring less and less each year. At this point I think it’s safe to rename SHOT Show to the New AR Pattern Rifles and 1911s Show. Granted, there have been a few unveilings that haven’t been based on the popular black rifle or the 100 year old handgun but not many.

New news regarding the Beretta ARX100 has probably been the most exciting thing that I’ve read about from this year’s SHOT Show. While the ARX100 isn’t too evolutionary it is at least something different.

One of the downsides of being interested in firearms development is that the technology, in a large part, is mature. But I would love to see somebody unveil a prototype Guass or laser rifle. It doesn’t have to be practical, affordable, or ready for market. Just seeing something so different would make me excited for the show again.

Anyways, that’s my rant for the day.

Rest in Peace Mikhail Kalashnikov


Today is a sad day. Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47, is now in Valhala forging weapons for the einherjar:

The inventor of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, Mikhail Kalashnikov, has died aged 94, Russian TV reports.

The BBC has posted an obituary. I really don’t have much else. I plan to remember him by taking shot of vodka in his honor tonight and taking my AK pattern rifle to the range this weekend.