The good, the bad and the unknown of the Biofire Smart Gun.
Owning a firearm is a right, spelled out clearly in our country’s Constitution. That right (and others), however, comes with a level of personal responsibility. While a firearm can save the lives of you and your loved ones, a firearm in the wrong hands can be deadly. That, and some folks simply don’t feel comfortable having a defensive handgun in their home as they raise a family.
If you feel that need for an alternative option to defend your home, Biofire has presented a viable option with their new “Smart Gun.”
Colorado’s Biofire has recently introduced a modern, and arguably controversial, solution to the issue of owning a handgun. I had the opportunity to have a one-on-one video tour of the new Biofire Smart Gun with the company’s CEO, so he could demonstrate the gun’s features. Being completely transparent, I have not personally had my hands on the gun—yet. I have scheduled a date for later this summer, and when that happens, there will be a sequel to this piece.
That said, I got to see the gun put through its paces, via video chat, and was intrigued.
How The Biofire Smart Gun Works
Using biometric technology, the Biofire Smart Gun is a semi-automatic that uses what I consider to be the safest platform yet to reach the market; this is primarily because no other biometric handgun has made it all the way to the market yet (to be fair, the Biofire Smart Gun has not yet been brought to market, either).
With a combination of fingerprint recognition and 3D infrared facial recognition technology, the Biofire Smart Gun allows only authorized users to fire the handgun: As reported, the Smart Gun absolutely will not go off without satisfying those biometric barriers. Also, although there are two biometric systems, only one is needed to unlock the firearm … again, only by an authorized user. Whichever first verifies (fingerprint or facial recognition) the data stored in the gun against the input from the person handling it unlocks the Smart Gun. And in that manner, each serves as a backup to the other.
Let’s get this out of the way: Biofire does not support any sort of mandate pushing this type of technology into law (nor does the author), but they do believe in the need for a product like the Smart Gun in a family environment. And, honestly, with its current outline and dimensions, this first Biofire Smart Gun probably won’t be a common choice for a concealed carry handgun: It’s going to be too bulky in most instances, but it makes perfect sense for the home.
Ergonomics Of The Smart Gun
Looking at the handgun, you’ll notice a profile that’s much larger at the front than your eyes are used to seeing on a “conventional” pistol. Cramming reliable fingerprint and facial recognition technology into an autoloader with a 10- or 15-round capacity is no easy feat, and the Smart Gun’s profile shows that. The area under the muzzle, and rearward to the trigger guard, is quite large. Still, despite the technology onboard, the Biofire Smart Gun tipped the scale at 2.2 pounds.
The gun is available in both left- and right-hand configurations, with the fingerprint sensor being located where the middle finger of the shooter’s dominant hand rests naturally. At the rear of the gun is a small screen that serves as both a status indicator and housing for the facial recognition system. Once you’ve enrolled your personal biometrics via the Smart Dock, the Smart Gun’s sensors will begin looking for your fingerprint and face immediately.
A flashing white light indicates that the tech is looking for the biometrics (though it takes only milliseconds), and the default setting flashes a green light once the firearm is unlocked. The display color is also customizable. The Biofire Smart Gun is not limited to one user; up to five additional sets of biometrics can be uploaded through the Smart Dock, and each user may customize the colors on the display and configure other parameters of the gun to their individual preferences.
There are non-adjustable iron sights on the gun, with the front sight being illuminated with an LED. There is a visible red laser sight—which may be configured to stay off if the user so chooses—on the right side of the gun, and with toggle on/off activation switches on both sides for another sighting option.
The gun is striker-fired, though in a conformation which is completely innovative. Again, to make all that technology fit in the smallest footprint, Biofire has changed the mechanics of the Smart Gun in a few different places, including using a barrel-concentric recoil spring, and a trigger that’s not mechanically connected to the sear. Biofire uses a “Fire by Wire” system for the trigger, which electronically fires the handgun. In test after test by the Biofire team, this system has performed flawlessly.
The trigger has a flat shoe, with a small safety blade in the center, similar to the Savage AccuTrigger design. This design has proven to not only enhance accuracy, but to provide yet another measure of safety.
The gun and magazine can be loaded and unloaded without the gun being unlocked via the biometrics, but the Smart Gun will not fire without being unlocked via one of the biometrics. You can drop the gun, and in the time it takes the gun to hit the ground, it’s locked. Pick it back up, and by the time you’re back on target, the gun will be unlocked via fingerprint or facial recognition; either will satisfy.
The Biofire Smart Dock
The Smart Dock serves only as the connection between user and the gun, allowing user enrollment and setting customization, in addition to charging the lithium-ion battery, which under a normal use—including going to the range multiple times—will last for months. The Smart Dock stores no biometric or user data, maintaining the privacy of the purchaser; Biofire is committed to preserving the integrity of the user’s private data, and this includes negating the ability of any other party, than the user, to switch off the Smart Gun.
Between left and right-handed combinations, and the varying grip contours available, Biofire offers up to 64 varying color combinations of grip, magazine release and trigger colors. In addition to an all-black firearm, customers can choose options including Tactical Black, Orbital White, Dark Terra, Grey, Burnt Copper, and others.
With a serrated slide, a familiar grip angle and a trigger pull common to so many popular handguns, the Biofire Smart Gun combines the features of a familiar handgun with the security of a system designed to keep your family safe.
Shooting With Biometrics
Is the addition of these electronic safety measures off-putting? Well, for traditionalists, the added weight, size and bulk might not be worth the safety factor—though I’d bet the weight will mitigate muzzle jump—and there are certainly going to be those who will resist any sort of electronic control system.
I will be the first to agree that this system isn’t something that I’m going to carry daily, and that for many, an electronic safety mechanism is going to go against the grain of the concept of a personal defensive weapon. That said, I have seen the efficiency of the Biofire system, and if I were a couple decades younger—where I had very young children in the house, even though I had explained the pitfalls of touching a firearm without supervision—I could completely see the wisdom in making this Smart Gun the home defense system of my choosing.
All this said, the Biofire Smart Gun is still a handgun, and no matter how safe the technology may be, it will not excuse poor firearm handling, so it will still need to be treated with respect and caution. But when I examine the myriad possibilities of things that could go wrong with a firearm in the home, the Smart Gun potentially takes just about all the worries out of the equation.
The apparent goal here is to best balance the need for an immediately accessible firearm with the need for safety in the home, and Biofire has seemingly met that goal in their own way. Upon sitting down for a virtual chat with Biofire’s CEO and founder Kai Kloepfer, he demonstrated the features of the firearm, including the rapidity with which it locks and unlocks, and I came away thoroughly impressed.
“Phil, this has been in the works for over a decade, and there have been many different iterations. I feel we’ve got it perfected now,” Kloepfer related.
Just as I’m certain that shooters of yesteryear who grew up shooting muzzleloading rifles were skeptical of those “new-fangled cartridge guns,” and those who relied on a Colt Single Action Army or even a cap-and-ball revolver looked sidelong at the early autoloading pistol designs—including our revered 1911—folks will cock an eyebrow at the Biofire Smart Gun. I know I did, but I’m equally impressed with the demonstrated features.
While the Biofire may be a full-figured gal, it isn’t all that far removed from a sidearm with a light hung on a rail, or with a red-dot on top. Like I said earlier, it might not be the first choice for everyday carry—unless you are into wearing flowing robes to conceal its 8-inch over length—but at home it could make some sense. It is, in the end, a full-size handgun with 5-inch barrel and a good aiming system, chambered in a cartridge long-proven worthy for self defense, and fully customizable for feel and looks. But, you’re going to have to trade off the bulk for the features of the biometrics; there’s no free lunch here.
Uncertainties For The Biofire Smart Gun
There are certainly going to be questions, and I’m aware that the general attitude toward any gun with biometrics is usually not positive.
- What if my strong hand is injured, or bloodied to the point where my fingerprint can’t be read? Only one of the biometric safeties needs to be satisfied to unlock the gun. So, even if your strong hand were to be completely unusable, the facial recognition would still allow you to use your gun.
- What if the sensors get soaking wet? Will water ruin the sensor’s functioning capabilities? I can’t answer that yet, but I fully intend to test that in a few months.
- What if I’m wearing gloves? Well, again, the facial recognition will take over.
- Does the facial recognition function if the shooter is wearing glasses? In the video segments I’ve seen, yes. Again, I want to test that myself. But, despite any concerns, all the demonstrations I’ve seen indicate that the Biofire Smart Gun is a solid unit.
I have heard concerns over the fact that there are electronics on board, and that is a logical concern. I asked Kloepfer if he’d had any issues with solvent or other cleaning agents seeping into the wiring and electronics, and he indicated that it has yet to pose any issue.
I immediately saw the potential benefits of the Biofire, in a number of different circumstances. A house filled with children came immediately to mind, but there are also situations where an elderly person might try to defend themselves with a handgun and actually have it taken away and used against them. With the Biofire, an attacker might take it away, but they certainly aren’t going to be able to use it against the owner. Again, the Biofire is an option for those who feel they’d prefer additional levels of security.
I can hear the multitudes of Karens, wailing in the distance, demanding that all guns, long and short, be outfitted with such technology. To them I reply with an emphatic no. I might even go so far as to say f**k, no. Mr. Kloepfer feels the same, and we agreed that the Biofire technology is a choice, but that neither of us will give up the 1911, S&W J Frame or Glock anytime soon.
Here is Biofire’s statement on mandates:
Until now, smart guns have been closely associated with the New Jersey ‘Childproof Handgun Law’ enacted in 2002. The stated intent of that law was to incentivize innovation in the firearm safety space as a means to saving children’s lives, but it included language that mandated all handguns sold in the state be smart or personalized firearms after one was brought to market.
The New Jersey Childproof Handgun Law was repealed in 2019, and no other legislation of its kind has been proposed by other states. Biofire wholly agrees with the consensus among firearm owners that the New Jersey mandate was counterproductive to any goals related to the safety of children, and that it directly infringed on the Second Amendment rights of New Jersey gun owners.
Notably, one of the state legislators who helped pass the original mandate, Loretta Weinburg, openly admitted the law that she had previously argued for had backfired, stifling advances in firearm safety instead of bringing them to life, and she actively advocated for the law’s repeal.
Biofire’s focus is on building better, faster, safer firearms that solve the issue of safe storage versus instant access. We believe our Smart Gun should always be a choice, not a requirement, not a mandate, not a must. Though we’re not aware of any current political conversations about smart gun mandates, Biofire will be the first in line to fight against any future mandate. The New Jersey mandate, while it was in place, was enormously detrimental to innovation in nearly every imaginable way. It compromised investment in our technology, antagonized our customers, and distracted the public from any meaningful conversation about innovating in the firearm safety sector.
Indeed, we may have been able to offer our Smart Gun to American consumers years ago had that mandate never been in place. The idea of mandating smart gun technology is completely antithetical to Biofire’s fundamental values as a company of firearm owners. To us, the notion that any entity would force gun owners to purchase a specific type of firearm flies in the face of private ownership and freedom of choice.
I look forward to having one in my hands soon, to properly put it through its paces to truly see how the Biofire Smart Gun works … and shoots.
To find out more, visit smartgun.com.
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