Feds Release ‘Smart Gun’ Requirements Outline

armatix smart gun

The proof-of-concept Armatix “Smart System” pistol would not meet the NIJ requirements for government issue. (Photo: Armatix/Facebook)

Last January the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum instructing federal law enforcement agencies to take the lead developing “smart gun” technology. Smart guns are firearms equipped with a “security device” that locks out unauthorized users.

To-date there has been only a small amount of interest in developing smart gun technology. Many gun owners see it as a way to increase the costs of gun ownership and so far, the systems haven’t worked with the greatest reliability. The demand just wasn’t there and it remains a controversial issue. This memorandum changes things by putting the onus on the government.to develop workable, reliable smart gun technology.

Now the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has released a draft outlining the requirements. The draft is open to public input until September 13. If you want to see all the requirements and maybe provide feedback, the draft and comment instructions available on the NIJ website.

The requirements are detailed, and they don’t have a lot of wiggle room. Not only are there “security device” requirements, the draft includes specific size, weight and capacity requirements for the guns themselves.

The draft calls for two pistols, a compact service pistol and a full-size model. The outline calls for polymer pistols chambered for 9mm Luger or .40 S&W, though with the capacity requirements it’s leaning towards 9mm. The draft requires that any potential smart gun designs be striker-fired, equipped with 3-dot high-visibility night sights and use interchangeable grips or backstraps in three sizes, small, medium and large.

The NIJ doesn’t describe what type of technology the security device should be based on — that door they left open for designers. Smart gun tech is mostly based on two systems, radio or biometrics. With radio systems as long as the gun is within range of a key — typically a ring or bracelet — it unlocks. Biometric smart guns use sensors in the grip to scan for unique body patterns, like handprints or grip style and strength. Both systems face hurdles.

See Also: The President’s Renewed Push for ‘Smart Gun’ Initiative

Biometric systems typically don’t work with gloved hands, which mostly rules them out. The NIJ draft requires that the security system function with and without gloves.

Radio-based systems can be based on simple, low-power and lightweight systems, like RFID tags, or heavier but more secure keys like auto locks. RFID systems can be spoofed pretty easily and both can be jammed. Because of this, the NIJ requires that any security systems that can be electronically tampered with also include some kind of countermeasure detection system.

Most importantly, the NIJ requires that if something causes the security system to fail the guns still need to shoot. The NIJ is also looking for a security system with a manual override — a not-too-subtle acknowledgment that smart gun tech can be a liability if something goes wrong. And something can always go wrong.

They’ve also set a high bar for reliability. If a security system takes any time to disengage greater than the time it takes to draw and shoot, it’s disqualified. The NIJ also requires that the system perform 2,000 draws and fire 10,000 rounds with zero security system malfunctions.

Between the strict size and performance requirements, there’s a chance it may not be possible to develop a suitable “smart gun” to meet these standards. But as this kind of technology keeps shrinking and improving, at some point, it seems likely that someone’s going to bring something to the market — with or without political pressure.

Would you be interested in a “smart gun” if it’s carried by law enforcement? Do you see this as a kind of roundabout gun control? Let us know in the comments.

About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. His ambition is to follow Thomas Paine, as a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

{ 44 comments… add one }
  • Jack Billington December 23, 2017, 9:28 am

    On the one hand, convenience: in case of loss, theft or if someone takes your weapon in a fight, for example – at least this will give you a chance not to get a bullet wound from your own gun; on the other hand – privacy of your person. Around there are so many electronics with cameras, microphones, fingerprint scanners, face sensors, that the question will not be how to find you, but how to get to your gym faster because you go to workout every Wednesday at 4 pm.

  • loupgarous September 8, 2017, 11:41 am

    Considering that Trump basically is trading our cash for Democratic support now (debt ceiling gone away). it’s a matter of time till Pelosi wheedles him into making this mandatory for everyone. The kicker is that it’d be childishly easy to make a gun with an electronic lock part of the Internet of Things, which means Big Mother would be able to decide when you could use your own gun with no more effort than calling you up on your mobile phone. No thanks.

  • Bob November 25, 2016, 12:42 pm

    I don’t agree and wouldn’t buy one. Anyway by the time the complete document or list of requirements is interpreted and met they will probably, hopefully(?) will forget what they were trying to accomplish. Certainly like any other gun control measures, the bad guys won’t have one.

  • d v y August 9, 2016, 11:45 am

    Retired L.E.

    The last smart gun promoter was lift speechless at his presentation when I set out two requirement. They must work with gloves, and in less then the 1.1 sec. I could draw and fire (hitting my target) my gun.

  • Eric Hermle July 31, 2016, 3:50 am

    The problem with “smart guns”(I shake my head every time I even think of that phrase), is that much like the rest of the computer/electronics industry… it’s driven by constantly having to come up with new measures to defeat those trying to hack/access the products. I’m sure the government espouses “but just think, the bad guys won’t be able to use your firearm against you!” While in my mind, “I” think the government is saying… “we’ll just electronically jam any firearm we want… or all of them!”
    Which is ironic considering one of the main reasons the “Right to Keep and Bear Arms” as written in the Bill of Rights was to fend of any future growing intrusion of the Government. Now I don’t “want” a fully automatic Firearm. To difficult to control for anyone but full time Military Infantrymen. But auto loading Hand Guns & Rifles are just the modern day Musket in my opinion. I think when the Founding Fathers of the United States of America wrote the Second Amendment, in terms of Firearms they were thinking “whatever gets the job done/whatever gets the battle won!” If they would of had an M&P 15T and the ammo(enter your particular favorite rifle and ammo in this place), they would have gladly accepted it.
    So again, I’ll take regular mechanically operated Firearms. Leave the space guns for the Government folks. I’ll bet they’ll make nifty paper weights!

  • Jim Koehn July 26, 2016, 9:09 pm

    Another stupid idea from a government that will get the wrong people killed.

  • Andy July 26, 2016, 3:32 pm

    What this Country needs is smart kids, smart voters not smart guns!

  • Carlos July 26, 2016, 2:10 pm

    As someone who works with computers all day – screw that noise!! I carry and use Glock pistols, even when I still wore a badge, because they were as simple as any semi-auto pistol came. Only revolvers and Derringers are simpler. The addition of any new layers of security to anything man made and you automatically increase its failure rate and affect its performance. There is nothing you can do to counter this.

  • Lee July 25, 2016, 3:19 pm

    Smart gun technology should be outright banned… The concept is flawed from the foundation, and its implementation will only cost good guys their lives… Take something and not only overcomplicate it, but add weakness to its functional capability.

    Smart gun technology conceptually is suppose to not let anyone but the user shoot the gun. Its concept is weak and not practicable, or well thought thru. It will be hacked and figured out in more ways than one. Not only that but it also paves the way for big brother type control over the operation of firearms.

    Imagine a platoon of soldiers, hugging cover, waiting for some politician’s approval for a little light to turn green on their guns so they can shoot back… Or imagine the enemy figuring out the encrypted frequency, all of the sudden completely making a whole groups of soldiers on the battlefields weapons inoperable.

    How about police… Officer pulls his gun, oh it doesn’t go bang for whatever failure from the technology, but the bad guy, he doesn’t have a complaint device… Another good guy dies…

    Not that far fetched…

    The concept needs to be dumped like many other bad ideas of times past…

    • Thomas Meyers July 26, 2016, 1:40 pm

      So if we all have “smart guns” and the Government comes after them will we be able to resist? or will they just neutralize them so we can’t resist? From my viewpoint, the smart gun doesn’t sound like a very smart idea!

  • Texan July 23, 2016, 8:25 pm


  • Ted July 22, 2016, 8:54 pm

    If it worked it could give them the power over “shutting them down”. Not acceptable!

  • Michael J. July 22, 2016, 7:27 pm

    Let the US secret service try it first, then let me know.

    • Matt Bracken July 23, 2016, 11:18 am

      Yes, let the Secret Service test them exclusively for ten years, then get back to us peasants.
      I say go the other way, “Orlando Carry.” After Orlando and many other terror attacks we know the police will not be there for us. We have to defend ourselves, by the best means possible. How many bled to death in three hours in Orlando, in a gun-free killing zone, after the off-duty but in-uniform paid policeman exchanged shots and hastily departed? It’s up to us, folks. It’s a joke for the feds to even suggest we be limited to firearms that they can turn off remotely. They should instead ponder the number of scoped bolt action rifles currently in circulation that are capable of taking a deer at 400 yards. Remotely controlled “smart guns,” and the feds are going to mandate them and enforce it? Good luck with that!

  • Derek Tiller July 22, 2016, 7:05 pm

    Someone in the Whitehouse has been watching to many James Bond films.

  • McPig July 22, 2016, 5:52 pm

    I have been an LEO for some 40 years and a Vietnam vet. I have no interest in an electronic dependent firearm that just might fail exactly when I might need that firearm the most. I pray the military also rejects this as individually coded weapons would mean battlefield pickups, once available in a firefight from wounded or killed troops, would no longer be available. This is a stupid concept, and it always has been.

  • Sixguner July 22, 2016, 4:53 pm

    I will keep my dumb guns with a smart operator the possablilitys are endless where a gun needs to work in other hands how about officer down passerby is trained/off duty without his gun I know a lot of POS who don’t carry 24/7 they stop to render aid grab said smart gun to find out no bang bang two DOAs because of smart vrs working when needed gun

  • JOHN T. FOX July 22, 2016, 2:16 pm


  • H Norman Angell July 22, 2016, 1:20 pm

    The requirement for a one in twelve inch twist (or faster) is incorrect. 9mm and 10mm (.40) are 1/18″ in 9mm and the 10mm 1/16″. 1/12″ is WAY TOO FAST. This is typical of incompetent federal clowns trying to force their stupidity on the public and local govt agencies.

  • Boris July 22, 2016, 1:10 pm

    Make a theoretical gun legal and ban the rest. NY was kicking around the idea. How about when they do develop a “Smart Gun”, you can issue it to law enforcement. My police firearms instructor friend had a discussion with a forward thinker that was trying to market a smart gun that was officer specific. He said it would prevent an officer from being disarmed and shot with his own firearm. My friend asked him, what if the officers partner needed to use his partners gun in an emergency? There was no definitive answer. The salesman also went a step further and stated that if an officer had his gun stolen, or if an officer went rouge, the officers gun could be deactivated remotely. My friend replied, that he was impressed. He also stated that there is no place for that in modern policing. He further stated, in the age of hackers and cyber criminals, it would be a real problem if an entire metropolitan police department had its entire inventory of firearms disabled at the stroke of a computer key.

    • Chris Bolton July 22, 2016, 4:42 pm

      Even worse, what would happen if the government, with a stroke of a key, could deactivate every firearm in civilian hands? What would the Founding Fathers think about giving the feds the ability to disarm the populace thereby defeating the justification of the 2A?

  • Robert Black July 22, 2016, 12:55 pm

    I am sure the feds would love us all to have firearms they would have the ability to turn off when the need arises. They already jam mobile phones; flipping a switch remotely to disarm you will be easy.

  • Roger Horton July 22, 2016, 12:41 pm

    If we don’t get a Supreme Court that will defend and support the Constitution we will all be using Black Powder guns. Then
    the gun control nuts will be aiming their ignorance at the Black Powder Weapon.

  • Chris Bolton July 22, 2016, 12:38 pm

    Let’s hope some 2A supporters in Congress put a requirement in any such legislation requiring the Secret Service and those guarding the capital and legislators’ offices use such weapons exclusively for 5 years to iron out any kinks in the technology before any such requirement for the public to have them be implemented. I wonder if POTUS and Congress would sign off on such a requirement.

  • Larry July 22, 2016, 11:58 am

    It’s just a matter of time before the leftist government tries to make this POS gun the only legal choice for the consumer.

  • John E July 22, 2016, 11:18 am

    I think the president should take the lead. All White House security, the Secret service, everyone who protects him and his family should be the first to adopt this “new technology”. Obama should show us that he trusts it enough to put his life and those he loves under its protection. Once that is done the Military, FBI and all Law enforcement should adopt it. Of course that would bankrupt the country which as we all know is Obama’s number one goal.

    I can’t imagine having to tell the person attacking me “Can you wait while my gun reboots?”. Circuits and power requirements for a gun just lead to another point of failure but in this case when they fail your dead.

  • Larry Koehn July 22, 2016, 11:18 am

    Smart guns are a dumb idea meant to drive the price of guns out of range of average people. The only thing that needs to be smart about a gun is the person squeezing the trigger

  • lonesome Wolf July 22, 2016, 11:00 am

    Will the criminals be required to carry ‘smart guns’ only? Will it be enforced?

  • Robert July 22, 2016, 10:36 am

    Just think, if they had restrictions like this at the time of the Revolutionary War we would still be British subjects because they, the British army, would not be constrained by them. Now, are these going to be requirements for military weapons also? I personally would NOT go into the military with those type of weapons. In the end that would be a disaster for the civilian owners because in the process the government would develop a chip that would allow them to turn off the our systems so we could not get them to operate for us. No guns, no defense against against tyranny. Sounds like a great Communist plan to me. Only people like Obama and Clinton would dream up something like this because they are afraid of our ability to resist tyranny which they are bound to force on us. Vote for Trump and insist that all these tyrannical schemes be reversed and thrown on the pile of history ashes.

  • Tommy Oliver July 22, 2016, 9:49 am

    Oh just imagine it, we will be so safe when ever someone decides your a threat they can just send a signal and “turn off your gun” and promise no one will use it irresponsibly.

    • Robert Robertson July 22, 2016, 2:46 pm

      Taken another step.
      On at least two occasions one of these governmental morons tried to pass bills that will require every newborn baby to have a chip installed. The stated purpose was to help prevent kidnapping because the chip could be tracked by satellite.
      The chip was also to be uploaded with the individuals medical records so that as an adult or child ended up in the hospital it was simply scan the chip and have all medical records.
      It’s not a big jump to imagine that a small explosive charge can also be incorporated into the chip and could be detonated any time the government chose. This is the mentality that we have to deal with in the American government.
      It’s our fault we elected these idiots and without term limits in many cases there is no way to get rid of them.

      • Bbend July 22, 2016, 4:23 pm

        Hmmm… Mark of the beast.

  • Dennis July 22, 2016, 9:01 am

    It’s a great way to make poor people buy a cheap low tech gun on the street I think. It will also be defeated by techies like every other technological device. Ex; Directv access cards, SNAP, cell phones, computer passwords, government websites, (OPM, USPS), commercial credit card info on Target, Home Depot……..The list is massive. Why doesn’t anyone use common sense? Duh! Obviously another motive.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • Infidel7.62 July 22, 2016, 8:32 am

    If you read the specs these would be “assault” pistols in NJ, NY, CA, CO, and all other states with the pointless 7 and 10 round magazine restrictions making them unavailable for anyone other than government agencies (as if anyone else would want one).

  • Jay July 22, 2016, 8:02 am

    Let me just say this, if you buy into this crappy technology, a locally made EMP will disable all of them! Lol! Designed by government, so government can control, simple fact!

  • High Plains Drifter July 22, 2016, 7:28 am

    Of course its gun control. For instance if I had s home protection gun that recognized my palm print, what would happen if we had a break in and i was on a business trip? My wife could not use the firearm to ward off an intruder.

    Lets face it. The administration is not pushing this kind of technology to support the 2nd amendment.

  • Doug July 22, 2016, 7:18 am

    Simply another BS “rube Goldberg” scam to raise the cost of buying a gun and getting gun owners killed, by the arch-criminal Obama/Clinton cartel who themselves have many thousands of innocent deaths on their hands already.
    Unwanted deaths by lawful, legal gun-owners rarely ever happen, this “criminal” cartel would do justice by concentrating on “enforcing” existing laws and actually arresting “illegal shooters” and incarcerate them instead of “looking” for ways to put them back on the streets and ostracizing “legal, responsible” gunowners trying to defend themselves and their families.
    TRUMP 2016 & 2020
    already on the books to stop

    • Terry Schutz July 22, 2016, 11:18 am

      You couldn’t have said it any better! Those half wits are always coming up for something to better our lives. They couldn’t manage a dog fight. I don’t trust that mob in there now any farther than I could throw them. Would they LIE to us HELL Yes!!!!

  • D. K. July 22, 2016, 7:10 am

    I already have several “Smart Guns” They work by processing an electrical impulse or, signal if you will, from my brain down to my hands then to my index finger. Once the gun is on target and the signal received, the index finger will slowly engage the release lever and send the projectile down range toward said target. This safety feature is in my opinion, is one of the best available. And the good thing is, is that it works with virtually any firearm you may own.

    • jeff July 22, 2016, 10:12 am

      You are totally on target with your smart gun! I guess I have one too.

  • Dave Pedreira July 22, 2016, 4:04 am

    How much infringement are we going to allow before we say enough?

  • Jeff Knox July 22, 2016, 3:47 am

    I have no problem with government seeking this type pf technology for law enforcement. That’s where the idea originated. Research I did back in the ’80s – going back to the ’60s – showed that about 41% of LE shooting deaths each year involved LE weapons, either the officer shot was shot or a partner or other officer’s gun. Sometimes in a takeaway, but also stolen at one time, then used against police some other time, often years later. I recall efforts to “personalize” duty weapons using a ring with a magnet that would release a lock in the gun, but officers quickly realized the downside of over-complicating duty weapons. The inability to shoot with the weak hand unless you had two of the special rings and wore them both at all times, the inability of one officer being able to use the gun of a downed partner, or to borrow a gun if he ran out of ammo or lost his primary, etc. Complicated retention holsters were looked at somewhat more favorably, but they often slow an officer’s ability to respond as quickly as needed.
    The smartest system I think I ever saw was a modification to a S&W model 19 by Richard Aldus, a police sergeant and gun smith. It effectively created a simple thumb safety for the revolver. All he did was carve a small step in the slot that the cylinder release runs in. By pushing the cylinder release forward slightly and up, toward the hammer, the mechanism would hang in the step and be retained there by spring pressure. This took advantage of the existing disconnector system that is engaged any time the cylineder release is pushed forward, locking the hammer and disabling the trigger. A touch of the thumb would disengage the mechanism from the step, and the gun would be fully functional. The idea was just to buy that moment of delay if a bad guy happened to get the gun. Many officers on the local PD had this modification done, and all knew about it, making it a very low liability issue.
    I think the NIJ specs are as strict as they are because there is still a lot of resistance to these schemes among LEO’s. Once someone eventually develops a system that meets these specs, then we will move into Round 2 of officer stipulations, addressing issues of other officers being able to use another officer’s gun in an emergency, strong hand – weak hand issues, and things like blood interference.
    If they eventually come up with a system that is as widely accepted and appreciated by LEO’s as the Glock 19, then some of us might consider adopting it. It’s possible that a small market will develop before that for occasional plinkers and bedside table guns, but not enough to justify broad production or bring prices down to a reasonable level.
    And of course any suggestion that the technology be mandated for all firearms – even if it is wildly successful among police – must be strongly rejected by the rights community. The idiotic law in NJ mandating only “smart-guns” once one hits the market, is an outrage and must not only be repealed, but some protection put into place to keep it from ever coming back anywhere.
    If we had a right-thinking Supreme Court, that protection could come from a constitutional challenge. Just one more reason for gun owners to do everything in their power to ensure that Hillary Clinton is not the next President of the United States.
    Jeff Knox — http://www.FirearmsCoalition.org

  • Lauren July 21, 2016, 6:17 pm

    My issue with this is that the government is taking the lead on the technology. Let the consumer decide if they want it. Like the article says, there isn’t much interest from gun owners, so all I can think of is that unelected government agencies will be developing products and companies that ultimately fail. Reminds me of the green initiatives. Haha.

  • Will Drider July 21, 2016, 12:04 am

    The specification at the above Link has a list of a few dozen Agencies that provided their “Duty Experts” to develop it.
    They call the smart parts the Security Device. They don’t say anything like the Security Device shall not be affected adversely by common firearm cleaning solvents, lubricants or gun powder residue or heat generated from extended firing cycles.
    There are several more bad things in the spec. and several more omissions of ignorance but I’m not going to to do their work which I don’t support. Just another example of Government trying to do something they are collectively unqualified for.

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