Two thousandths of an inch

As I reported last weekend I put all my polymer coated lead bullets through a max case gauge and still had problems with my new STI. I had saved one of those cartridges to diagnose the problem.

The cartridge still failed to chamber when stripped off the magazine by the slide when I tried it again at home. The bullet in that cartridge was seated too deep by about 0.040”. None of the others were too deep so I suspect it happened during the chambering of the cartridge. I pulled the bullet and reseated it at the proper depth and it chambered just fine. Hmmm… maybe the crimp just isn’t tight enough, the bullet gets driven deeper into the case, then the cartridge fails to nose down into the chamber as it comes off the magazine.

I shot in another steel match yesterday to get more samples.* On the first stage the first few strings went fine then a round failed to chamber the entire depth. I couldn’t pull the slide back. The gun was essentially locked up. I dropped the magazine, held tight to the slide then pounded the grip forward with the web and palm of my hand. The extractor pulled the round out and it was ejected. I put in a fresh magazine and completed the string in 17.xx seconds. I switched to my Montana Gold JHP handloads for the rest of the match and had no more problems.

I brought home the problem round and put in the case gauge. It fit just fine. I put it in a magazine and tried to to chamber it. It failed to chamber all the way. I tried dropping it directly into the chamber and dropping the slide. It chambered but again I couldn’t extract it without slamming my hand into the grip.

But the round fits just fine in the case gauge!

I measured the round. At the largest point it is 0.425”. The specification for .40 S&W is 0.423. So, it is oversized by 0.002”. But CASE GAUGE!

Hmmm… Maybe I have another case gauge around here… I did. I had lost one for a while and purchased another. I pulled out the other case gauge and the cartridge failed, big time.

These pictures are of the same cartridge in two different case gauges:


In the picture on the left I applied a couple ounces of pressure to get it to seat all the way. In the second picture I put the maximum amount of pressure I could comfortably apply with my thumb to get it in that far.

So why is just the ammo with the polymer coated lead bullets giving me problems?

I measured a few bullets. Depending upon which axis I measure the bullets they have a diameter of 0.400” to 0.403”. The specification is 0.401”. The Montana Gold JHPs I measured have a diameter of 0.399.

Here is the cartridge:


You can’t really see it but you can feel a bulge where the base of the bullet is in the cartridge.

Five conclusions:

  1. With a slightly over spec bullet and probably max thickness brass** I end up with an oversized cartridge.
  2. The Midway case gauge, on the left, is slightly oversized.
  3. My gun has a minimum sized chamber.
  4. Two thousands of an inch can make a huge difference in the reliability of a gun.
  5. I must use the L.E. Wilson case gauge (on the right above) for this gun.

I might be able to use the Midway gauge for some other gun(s).

Scary thought… Can you imagine needing your gun in a life or death situation and losing the fight because of two thousands of an inch?

* I can’t use this ammo at indoor ranges and I don’t have easy access to any outdoor ranges except when I shoot at matches.

** Not all cartridges with polymer coated lead bullets fail the tighter case gauge. Only some of them fail.

Barrel analysis

After my gun barrel split open I had a reader request that I send the barrel to him for analysis. This is what I know so far:

May 21, 2015:

I cut the end off the barrel to expose the fracture surfaces.  I see no evidence of fatigue at the macroscopic level, the barrel will have to go under the microscope.  I took the intact muzzle section and put it under the hardness tester.  KKM advertises their barrels as being heat treated to 45 HRC.  I measured an average value of 42 HRC with a minimum value of 40.9 HRC.  Heat treatments on small parts are generally +/- 3 HRC meaning a barrel in spec will range between 42 and 48 HRC.  I would state at this point that this barrel was in spec for heat treatment, but just barely and on the low end.  Of course I will send the data out to my senior engineer for review.  He was the chief metallurgist for Remington and I’ll get his opinion on the heat treat spec.

June 4, 2015:

I put the fracture surfaces of your barrel under the microscope today, as well as having the chemistry done.  The chemistry was within specifications, but the manganese to sulfur ratio was low.  What I saw the was most interesting was a crack at a 45deg angle coming down from the front of the first locking lug into the barrel, almost 1/4 of the way through the thickness of the barrel.  This crack looks to have been formed during the repeated firing/cycling of the gun and caused the barrel to rupture in front of the chamber and at the 12 o’clock position.  As the top surface of the barrel came free, this imparted a bending moment on the opposite side of the barrel and caused it to split at the 6 o’clock position.  

I am frankly amazed at this failure.  I have never seen shear fatigue in a gun barrel before.  I’m going to send this off to my firearms expert, he’ll find this interesting. 

June 8, 2015:

LHS is “left hand side” and RHS is right hand side (breach towards you, muzzle away, in the as-assembled orientation), the barrel having been split in half along the major fracture surfaces.  As you can see there is a crack at about 45 deg from the front of the first locking lug going in the muzzle to chamber direction.  It goes about a quarter of the way though the thickness of the barrel.  I am having the barrel cut by our machinist to expose that crack fracture surface to look for evidence of fatigue.

The color pics are optical microscopy, the black and white are scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

He sent me 18 pictures. I’m posting the more interesting ones:

LHS 003

LHS 01
LHS 02

LHS 08

RHS 01

RHS 002

RHS 04

Finding bugs

I’ve sometimes searched for a week or more trying to find a bug. But nothing like this:

After more than a month of tireless research and testing, we have finally gotten to the bottom of our ZooKeeper mystery. Corruption during AES encryption in Xen v4.1 or v3.4 paravirtual guests running a Linux 3.0+ kernel, combined with the lack of TCP checksum validation in IPSec Transport mode, leads to the admission of corrupted TCP data on a ZooKeeper node, resulting in an unhandled exception from which ZooKeeper is unable to recover. Jeez. Talk about a needle in a haystack…

Another guy at work says we will probably be using ZooKeeper in the project we are working on. I’m glad these guys found it before we ran into it.

The problem occurred when the system received a single corrupted network packet.

Effectiveness of linear-feedback shift registers in testing digital circuits

In 1984 I wrote a paper for the company I was working for at the time. It was in support of a new test instrument the company was about to release. The paper was published in the IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Technology Conference Proceedings. I was scheduled to go to Long Beach California and present the paper during the conference January 17-18, 1984. But the company cancelled the release of the product and I did not attend the conference.

Before there was the World Wide Web there were online services you could subscribe to, dial up with a modem (1200 baud rocked!) and do searches of periodicals, journals, papers, etc. This is what one of those services, Dialog, had in their records in July of 1984:


A scan of the paper is here (click on each to get a readable version):

EffectivenessOfLinearFeedbackShiftRegistersInTesting01 EffectivenessOfLinearFeedbackShiftRegistersInTesting02 EffectivenessOfLinearFeedbackShiftRegistersInTesting03
EffectivenessOfLinearFeedbackShiftRegistersInTesting04 EffectivenessOfLinearFeedbackShiftRegistersInTesting05

Today, over 30 years later, there is probably very little of the paper which is applicable to modern test equipment. But something I learned while writing the paper is something I still occasionally “put people in their place” with.

Unless you know the something about the error statistics of whatever digital system you are trying to test then it almost doesn’t matter which checksum, hash, or CRC you use for error detection. In fact, surprising to nearly everyone, if you assume that all errors are equally likely, then you can just pick the last (or first, whatever) 256 bits of a digital message and have just as good error detection as any other 256-bit hash. Or if you are using a 16-bit checksum then you might as well use the last (or first, whatever) 16 bits of the message.

It all boils down to the assumptions about the types of errors in the message. You, whether you realize it or not, make lots of assumptions about the types of errors in a digital message. For example you assume it is very unlikely, compared to other types of errors, that every 17th bit will be inverted. Or that every DWORD will be XORed with 0xBAADF00D. But the assumption, “every error is equally likely” means the math for detecting those errors will arrive at an interesting conclusion:

For a message N bits long there are 2N-1 possible errors. Any hash, checksum, etc., M bits long can only have 2M different states. One of those states represents a valid hash/checksum/etc. The other 2M – 1 represent detected errors.

If all errors are equally likely then those 2N-1 possible errors are equally mapped into each of the 2M possible states of the hash. It will only detect a fraction of those errors. The fraction will be (2M-1)/(2M). Or stated differently the fraction of errors which map into the valid hash is 1/2M. For a N bit message (2N-1)/2M errors are missed. For 2N >> 1 (all real world cases) this is essentially equal to 2N/2M or 2(N – M).

If you use the last M bits of the message it will detect all 2M-1 errors in the last M bits and miss 2(N-M) errors in the previous part of the message.

Hence it does not matter if you use a M bit hash of the entire message or the last M bits of the message. The same number of errors will be escape detection.

In “real life”, not all errors are equally likely. This is particularly true when you are trying to detect messages which have been altered by an attacker. But there are many situations where people spend way too much effort trying to determine the “best” hash to use when just using the first/last/whatever M bits or a simple checksum of M bits will work just as well as the latest NSA blessed crypto hash and consume far less computational resources.

I find this counter intuitive and very interesting. I suspect it says more about our intuition than anything.

Quote of the day—John Lott

3-D printers mean an end to any gun control. The government is not going to be able to ban magazines for guns, or ban guns themselves, and the notions of background checks would be even more impossible to do. Anyone with access to a 3-D printer can make guns functionally and indistinguishable from a gun that can be bought in a store. I don’t know how the government will stop people from obtaining a printer.

Just look at the illegal download of television shows and movies. Millions of copies have been downloaded and the government has been unable to stop it. Why would the government be successful in stopping other information like these files from being downloaded?

John Lott
May 7, 2015
Why Gun Control is Ultimately Doomed to Fail
[Well… the government can ban magazines and guns but they can’t effectively enforce the ban. It will be incredibly obvious it is like banning alcohol in the 1920s. Or even banning sex outside of marriage. It will be trivial to supply the black market and people will mock those who attempt to support it.—Joe]

Case prep

I thought mine was getting complicated and expensive. Actually it’s complete ammunition manufacturing.

The guy giving us the tour obviously isn’t a hand loader, is he?

So anyway; you want a complete home loading facility, it would look something like that. The QA alone is quite an impressive operation.

I’d need a rather larger spare bedroom than the one I currently use for reloading.

Hat tip; Sipsey

Stuffing gas!

I’ve warned people in the past of the potential dangers of stuffing gas, but it’s never been taken seriously. Last thanksgiving while we were putting away leftovers, I gave out the warning again.

“DON’T use aluminum foil over the stuffing!”
(Der…)”Why not.”
“It dissolves the aluminum in short order, and I don’t want to eat stuffing with that much metal dissolved into it.”
(Derp) “Heh. Don’t be silly.”
“I’m telling you, I’ve seen it many times.”
(Rolls eyes, like I’M the idiot) “OK fine, we’ll put some turkey over the stuffing. That way no stuffing will be in contact with the tin foil.” (still thinks foil is made of tin – go ahead and try to find actual tin foil at the grocery store)

Less than two hours later I opened the fridge and this was the result. The stuffing gas had wafted up past the slices of turkey and eaten dozens of little holes in the aluminum.

Stuffing gas!

Stuffing gas!

If stuffing gas were to be weaponized, no aluminum structure would be safe. Keep an eye on Mrs. Cubbison!

There is some truth in this

Study reveals average tech worker’s wardrobe is 85% free tech t-shirts:

A team of UC Berkeley researchers has discovered that the 85% of the average tech worker’s clothes are free tech t-shirts, hoodies, and other assorted clothing.

The study of this prevalent free clothing, known by tech workers as “swag,” has come at the same time as a massive tech boom that has swept the Bay Area. On a normal weekday in San Francisco, you’re liable to see dozens of young hipsters walking down the street wearing t-shirts, jackets, hats, and even socks emblazoned with the names and logos of companies ranging from tech titans to ten-person startups. Tech companies hand out free logo-festooned paraphernalia at career fairs, company events, and almost any opportunity available.

It’s a joke article but there is a lot of truth in it.

Most of my casual shirts and some of the shirts I wear to work have some gun reference to them. But probably 10% of my shirts are Microsoft branded. MS gave out a lot of shirts, hats, coats, sweatshirts, etc. and I still have most of them. There are other tech companies represented as well but it’s far from 85%.

Smart bombs and stupid people

How Dumb Cluster Bombs Are Becoming Heinously Smart is a fascinating post on smart cluster bombs. For example:

Once these 64 pound, 31 inch long submunitions are released, each will deploy a parachute, slowing their forward movement and orientating them vertically in relation to the ground. Then, a rocket motor fires and forces these cylinders into a slight climb, although at a distance it would look like the BLU-108s are hanging in mid-air. This rocket also causes the BLU-108s to spin rapidly.

As the submunition spins while almost hovering in mid-air above the target area, each BLU-108 cylinder will throw four individual sub-submuntions, known as ‘Skeets,’ from its body. Each Skeet is slung in a different direction at a 90 degree vector from the now empty BLU-108 cylinder. As these hockey puck-like Skeets fly through the air while rapidly spinning, a small infrared imager and laser ranging system activates on each one. The infrared seeker rapidly scans the ground below for an enemy vehicle or weapons fixture that it can recognize, while the laser ranger provides a ground contour map.

the Skeet fires off its 2lb explosively formed penetrator along with a fragmentation ring, sending a molten spear into the target along with a handful of dense shrapnel covering the area around it. The idea is that the penetrator kills the vehicle from top, where even main battle tanks are vulnerable, while the shrapnel kills who is inside (if it is a lightly armored target) and anyone in the targeted vehicle’s immediate vicinity.

the Sensor Fuzed Weapon’s unique discriminating abilities, and its WCMD delivery system, will most likely morph into even more dynamic submunition capabilities. Ones where taking out individual soldiers via large-insect sized flying explosives, capable of loitering above the target area for long periods of time, could become a reality. Or even a future where small nano-robotic mites are dropped using a WCMD-like dispensers over a convoy of enemy armor, their mission to destroy vehicles’ electronics from the inside out without causing so much as a single explosion, may also become a real capability one day.

In many ways conventional warfare is obsolete because equipment on the ground is so vulnerable. Unless a force can successfully challenge the air superiority of their opponent wars will (and are) be fought using Fourth and Fifth-Generation Warfare.

The most naïve and stupid comment I found on the post is the following:

Why can’t we use this technology to deliver food to hungry people? Smart fruit, laser guided bananas. Something positive, and far cheaper.

Nevermind, answered my own question. There’s no profit in peace or help, only in violence and destruction.

I would try to explain it to them but I don’t think we have enough in common to form a means of communication such that they could understand what I was saying.

Machine generated twitter accounts

This image came from this tweet via a tweet from Linoge:


It’s a good example of Markley’s Law but what I found far more interesting was that the Twitter account it came from appears to be fake. I’m pretty sure this account is machine generated and the three tweets from that account are copied at random from the Twitter universe.

See also the followers of this account. I suspect they are all machine generated as well.

If I had the time and the interest I see what Twitter accounts they follow which are in common. I suspect it is a means of generating fake followers for some real account.


The entire Seattle Smart Gun Symposium video is on YouTube. But they have the video “unlisted”. It is embedded on the Washington Technology web page however.

Also, I had one person on a Smart Gun Symposium panel request I remove their name from my blog. It was very polite and they indicated they wished that we remain in contact in regards to technical issues with the technology so I complied with their request.

I find this all very interesting.

My previous posts on the Symposium are:

Making power factor

The January/February 2015 issue of Front Sight magazine has an interesting article on the statistics of making “power factor*”.

While I certainly had the background in statistics it never occurred to me to apply them to the chronograph data from my hand loaded ammunition to determine the chances of me failing to “make major” at a match. This is despite very nearly failing to make major in the 1998 Area One USPSA match.

Looking at my log files for the ammunition I made for that match I found the following data:

Mean velocity: 992.6 fps
Standard Deviation: 11.3 fps
Bullet Mass: 180 grains
Power Factor: 178.67

Back then you had to have a power factor of 175 to make major and for some reason I thought I had plenty of margin.

At the 1998 Area One match staff pulled eight cartridges at random from the magazines on my belt and tested them as per USPSA regulations. They pulled the bullet from a cartridge and weighed it. They fired three rounds and found I failed to make major. They, as per procedure, fired another three rounds, used the highest three velocities from the six rounds fired and found I was closer but still failed. They had one round left and, as per procedure, asked me what to do with it, “Fire it or weight the bullet?” I had them fire it and using the highest three velocities from the seven rounds fired I just barely made major power factor.

It wasn’t until I read the title of the article in Front Sight article, “The Power of Statistics How to Meet Power Factor with Confidence” that I felt stupid for my experience at Area One.

The bottom line is that your chance of failing the test procedure depends on how many standard deviations you are away from the velocity threshold for the power factor you want to meet.

Using my example from the Area One match the velocity threshold is 972.22 fps (175,000 / 180). My mean velocity was 992.6 fps or 20.378 fps above the threshold. With a standard deviation of 11.3 fps the ammo was 20.378 / 11.3 or 1.8 standard deviations (commonly called ‘Z’) from the threshold. Using a normal distribution table or the article you will discover my chances of failing were about 13%.


Using this table from the article you will discover my chances of failing were about 13%:

Z Chance of Failing Power Factor (per USPSA rules)
2.5 5%
2.0 10%
1.9 11%
1.8 13%
1.7 15%
1.5 21%
1.4 26%
1.2 36%
1.1 40%
1.0 44%
0 50%

This table is not a standard distribution table. It is a mapping from Z (number of standard deviations away from the mean) to the chances of failing the PF test under USPSA rules. This was obtained using a t-distribution because of the small sample size used by the USPSA regulations. It is assumed the shooter obtained the mean velocity and standard deviation with a sample size of eight.

End update.

I’m going to range today to measure the velocities of a new load I plan to use for competition. I’m going to make sure I’m about 2.5 standard deviations away from the threshold which would put my odds of failing to make major at about 5%.

* Power Factor is defined as the mass of the bullet in grains multiplied by the velocity in feet per second divided by 1000. Or:

Power Factor = bullet weight (grains) x average velocity (feet per second) / 1000

In many competitions your targets are scored differently depending on the power factor of the ammunition you are shooting. For example if you are shooting Limited Class USPSA you “make major” with a power factor of 165 or greater and “make minor with a power factor of 125. For major power factor ‘B’ and ‘C’ zones hit are scored as 4 points and ‘D’ zone hits are scored as two points. If you “make minor ‘B’ and ‘C’ zones hit are scored as three points and ‘D’ zone hits are scored as one point. If you don’t have ammunition which gives you a power factor of 125 or greater all zones are scored as zero. I.E. you aren’t participating in the competition.

Quote of the day—Marc Lane

This needs to be enforced and standard on all guns. Not only does it make sure we don’t have unintentional shootings with children, but also completely eliminates gun resales. Standardizing this technology and reinforcing background checks is part of the way to cure American’s gun problem.

Marc Lane
Comment on this video:

[The stupid is strong with this one. Every single thing he said is wrong.

  • As long as there exist functional guns and children it will be possible and probable there will be unintentional shootings with children involved.
  • How can it possibly eliminate gun resale any more than it would original sales? Apparently he is of the belief there is some sort of pairing between the original owner and the gun such that the bond can never be broken.
  • It appears he equates “standardization” with mandating. These are two completely different things.
  • I have no idea what he means by “reinforcing background checks”. I know how to reinforce a physical structure or even an argument or theory.
  • His last statement assumes facts not in evidence as well as being nonsensical. He must first demonstrate American has a “gun problem” then he must articulate the problem in a manner in which there exists the possibility of multiple solutions.

But what do you expect from an anti-gun person? Ignorance and stupidity is their currency.—Joe]

The future of dynamic grip recognition for “smart guns”

I have completed my report on the Seattle Smart Gun Symposium:

I’m going to now review the technologies and give you my semi-expert opinion on the technological future of smart guns.

Keep in mind there are two primary numbers associated with biometrics. False acceptance of an authorized user and false denial of an authorized use. The device can almost always be adjusted such that as one type of failure is decreased the other increases. Usually a single number is given such that these two failure rates are equal. But this might not be the appropriate thing to do for a gun. You might be comfortable with a one attempt out of 1000 failing to fire when a second attempt can be made a tenth of a second later when you use your gun primarily for four legged pest control. But you want the rate to be one out of 100000 when little Johnny found the gun while you were in the back yard working in the garden.

The first technology I want to discuss is the one from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). I have corresponded with a representative from NJIT who has been working on a “smart gun” for 14 years. They call it “Dynamic Grip Recognition”. The grip of the gun contains pressure sensors which authenticate the grip for every shot. Here is what I believe is their latest video describing the current status of their project:

In 2013 NJIT was invited to the White House for the “discussions on curbing gun violence”. They probably have the highest visibility in the technology space of “smart guns”.

After 14 years they still don’t have something would be accepted by the police for self-defense. They emphasis the potential to reduce children shooting a gun without authorization. They do not claim the existing technology will prevent a smart gun from being fired by someone who has just taken your gun away from you in a struggle. They do not claim the technology cannot be defeated by a thief with tools from your local hardware store.

They do not claim the technology is ready for commercialization. They want to build the next generation with more and better sensors in the grip.

From reading about their technology, my discussion with Allied Biometrix and the representative from NJIT it is clear they haven’t done the testing really needed. I’ll get into that in a moment, but first let me cover the testing which that probably have done a decent job on.

They have done testing of shooters under stress. It’s not real world with real bullets being fired at the person with the smart gun but with what knowledge I have of their algorithm and their test results I believe has a good chance of not being an issue.

They have done testing with shooters wearing “police issue needle stick gloves”. There was no difference in the results.

They have done testing with children versus police officers. Children, due to their smaller hands, are extremely unlikely to be able to fire gun that has been authorized for use someone with significantly larger hands.

What I do not believe they have done is compare the failure rate for children attempting to fire a gun which has been authenticated for adults with small hands. I remember that I was wearing the same size shoes as my mom when I was in the sixth grade. I expect my hands were just as large as hers too. And Mom was only slightly below average size for a Caucasian woman. What would be the crossover point for hand size of an above average male child and a small Asian woman? I’m guessing it could be 10 years old or younger.

The biometric data they have collected is from a very small number of adults. I asked about but did not receive a direct answer as to whether this data included a gun authenticate for the shooter firing in four different manners:

  1. Right handed.
  2. Left handed.
  3. Right handed with left hand supporting.
  4. Left handed with right hand supporting.

I did not receive any data on the failure rates as the number of authenticated shooters for a given gun is increased. I suspect these tests have not been done. As the number of authenticated shooters in increased and the number of grips is increased the failure rate for falsely authenticating someone to fire the gun may not a simple factor of the number of authenticated grips. It may much greater than that. This will be catastrophic for the acceptance of this technology.

For example, suppose the false authorization rate for gun programmed to accept one grip for one person is that one out of 10,000 random people*. If two people are authenticated, each with four different grips as noted above then it is reasonable to expect that failure rate will be at least eight times worse. This would be one out of 1,250 for each of these random shooters just attempting one natural grip. If they tried each of the four different grip styles it would be reduced by another factor of four bring the total factor to 32. Which yields odds on the order of one out of 312. This is the best that can be expected. My experience with biometrics leads me to believe that it won’t be a simple factor. It is more likely to be more likely to be something approaching an exponential. If it were an exponent of 2.5 raised to the 32nd power, instead of 1 raised to the 32nd power, then we have over a 50% failure rate.

In conventional use of biometrics this dramatic increase in failure rate with many people authorized for access to a given resource (building, computer, gun, etc.) is handled in a different way than is possible for a defensive gun. Biometrics in a many user environment are conventionally used for identity verification, not identification. That is, I claim I am Joe Huffman and my voice is used to confirm this. How would you do this with a gun in a way that couldn’t easily be defeated by a child? A switch for “shooter one, two, or three” followed up by gripping the gun doesn’t really work. The child will try all the switch settings.

It is a fair to point out that fingerprints are used to uniquely identify people. But “dynamic grip recognition” is far, far different than a fingerprint. Fingerprints are constant with time, contain a lot more information than grip patterns, and are not nearly as subject to deliberate attempts to defeat the technology as grip patterns are.

I have another email to NJIT about how fast their technology does the authentication. Will it limit the rate of fire to something below the mechanics of the gun? If so then this is a problem. I know people that out shoot their gun. Adding any delay beyond that of the gun is not acceptable.

My expectation is that dynamic grip recognition will never meet their goal of one error in 10,000 for false acceptance when you have someone deliberately attempting to defeat it. A random person using their natural grip is far different case from this and they can’t even achieve that goal now. As multiple users, multiple grips, and people deliberately trying to defeat it I will be surprised if they can do better than a combined false acceptance and false rejection rate better than one out of ten. Even one out of 100 is probably insufficient for it to be acceptable in the marketplace and I think this is unachievable.

I think that it can work for certain cases such as prevention of child accidents. If the gun is authorized for people with large hands then small hands will be very unlikely to defeat it. But if the adult has very small hands then the protection from child use will become minimal.

With such limited use cases any attempt to legally mandate this technology will be met with significant resistance in both the legislature and the courts.

* They do not currently claim such rates. They hope to achieving this with the next generation version so this is being quite conservative.

Seattle Smart Gun Symposium part 4

See also Seattle Smart Gun Symposium part 1, Seattle Smart Gun Symposium part 2, Seattle Smart Gun Symposium part 3, and Smart Gun Symposium in the news.

Margot Hirsch
President, Smart Tech Challenges Foundation

Hirsch didn’t really say a lot but what she did say demonstrated she was generally knowledgeable about the technology. The only thing I thought she was off base on was she thought smart guns would protect against thieves. The other thing of note which she said was that the market for this technology were families.

The following information is from the bio given to participants:

Margot Hirsch is the President of the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation (STCF) a non-profit focused on reducing gun violence through the technology and innovation. The STCF was formed in 2013 with the mission of bypassing the political gridlock and polarizing debate around gun control versus person freedoms, by spurring innovation in technologies that serve to reduce firearm-related injuries and death. By awarding grants directly to innovators through the first-of-its-kind Smart Tech for Firearms Challenge, Margot is on the leading edge of inventive challenge philanthropy, finding market-based, entrepreneurial solutions to a social problem that claims over 30,000 American lives annually. She is responsible for the overall strategic direction of the foundation, running operations, board development and fundraising.

Prior to joining STCF, Margot was Regional Vice President of Blackboard, Inc. where she led international sales for the Connect division of Blackboard, a leading provider of learning solutions to the education market. With over 25 years of sales and business development in the technology industry, Margo has held business development and sales management roles at Smartforce/Skilsoft, eProsper, Angel Investors, Global Village and American Express.

More information about the organization and some of the people and technology they have given grants to can be found on their web site.

Mark Burles
Vice President, Penn Schoen Berland

Burles presented polling data from a recent survey they had done for Washington CeaseFire. One should be careful using their data. From their website:

What We Do

How We
Do It



We measure a brand’s strength in context with its competitors to identify its assets, liabilities, & unique niche in the marketplace relative to the competition.



Our model not only identifies a brand’s loyal customer base, but also uncovers persuadable consumer segments who can be taken from competitors to grow the brand.



PSB’s proprietary message development process delivers a clear roadmap of what to say, how to say it, and to whom to say it.




In this instance their customer is Washington CeaseFire.

That said this is the data Burles presented to the audience:



Online poll of 800 respondents, representative of the US General Population. Margin of error is +/- 3.46 overall and larger for subgroups.


  1. Is there currently a gun in your house (either owned by you or by someone else who lives with you)?
    Definition: Smart guns are guns that can only be operated/fired by the owner or per designated individual due to technology or other constraints.
  2. Would you consider swapping the guns currently in your home for new, safer “smart guns” when they come on the market?
  3. How strongly do you agree or disagree that guns dealers should be allowed to sell “smart guns”?
  4. How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Once the technology is commercially available, there should be a law saying that all firearms sold must be so-called “smart guns.”

How do they do an online poll without a self-selection bias?


31% of the people polled answered “Yes” to the question, “Is there currently a gun in your house (either owned by you or by someone else who lives with you)?”


40% of the gun owners said they would swap their current gun for a smart gun. But these numbers decreased with the age of the gun owner. If the gun owner was 55+ years old only 23% would swap their current gun for a smart gun.


66% of the public agreed that gun dealers should be allowed to sell smart guns.

Of those that agree 87% are gun owners, 75% are women, and 59% are women.

I don’t get this. Of those that agree, how can there be 75% men and 59% women? Surely they meant 75% the men agree and 59% the women agree. Right?


Over all 51% think there should be a mandate for “smart guns” if the technology is commercially available. But only 38% of gun owners agree while 62% of the general public agrees with a mandate.


Seattle Smart Gun Symposium part 3

See also Seattle Smart Gun Symposium part 1, Seattle Smart Gun Symposium part 2, and Smart Gun Symposium in the news.

Robert McNamara
Trigger Smart

McNamara and Trigger Smart are based in Ireland. This, as he admitted, biased his views on “smart guns” in the U.S.

His technology is RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) based and he told us it would add about $300 to the price of a gun.

He saw them as being used for prevention of children having an accident and used for recreational firearms. He didn’t seem to have a sense for what it would mean to have his technology on a self-defense gun.

As King County Sheriff John Urquhart pointed out police officers who lose control of their gun are almost for certain going to be close enough for the gun to be authorized to shoot when the bad guy pulls the trigger. If the bad guy were to run some distance away before shooting then it would be useful but in the immediate struggle it wouldn’t help. Hence an RFID based authorization system is of limited value in a struggle for self-defense situation.

He seemed to think there were some people that wanted them banned. It could be that he was just misunderstanding the situation with the New Jersey mandate and how that would essentially ban other types of gun. Hence many gun owners are hostile to the introduction of “smart guns”.

Since it is dependent upon radio communication someone in the audience asked about how it would deal with an attempt at being jammed. He didn’t seem to think it was possible. Looking at his bio I can excuse this error. His background is in property development, construction, and real estate. As an electrical engineer I can assure you it is possible to jam the communication between the gun and the RFID tag worn by the shooter.

Loretta Weinberg
New Jersey State Senator Majority Leader

Weinberg takes credit for the introduction and passage of the New Jersey “smart gun” mandate law.

She told many stories of children accidently shooting people. Her keynote speech was emotion packed and got the expected response from the CeaseFire people in the audience. I was annoyed with this because the number of people accidently killed in this manner is much less than the number of small children drowned. But we don’t have symposiums on or laws mandating “smart bathtubs” or “smart swimming pools”.

But what really irritated me was when she said it might have prevented the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting or the terrorist shooting in France at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. To believe things like that requires a special kind of crazy. I doubt Weinberg actually believes such a thing. I suspect she is just exhibiting her credentials that enabled her to be a New Jersey politician for such a long time. She can lie convincingly when telling people what they want to hear. She was speaking to the CeaseFire audience and not to people with technical competence.

She said there was a lot of talk among gun control people about the “smart gun” mandate law. The law had the unintended consequence of stopping the research. And you find that CeaseFire is opposed to the mandate and the Brady Campaign tried to sue and get New Jersey to enforce the mandate.

She wrote a letter to the NRA saying that she would work to repeal the law if the NRA would stop the opposition to “smart guns”. They didn’t respond. This got groans from the CeaseFire people in the audience. I thought this was probably the smartest thing they could have done with the letter. Anti-gun people can’t be trusted. What sort of guarantee could we have in place that would prevent them from pushing for a mandate again as soon as there is a gun on the market that sort of works but makes self-defense more risky than it already is? There isn’t any.

Judith Leftwich
Legal Director, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

When asked by moderator Dave Ross, “Is there anything wrong with letting the market decide?” Leftwich made it clear she supports mandates. When asked about the legality of mandates in light of the Heller decision which said the D.C. safe storage law was unconstitutional she told the audience that Heller only required that guns be functional. A safe storage law, in general, was not unconstitutional. D.C. had required the guns be disassembled. A “smart gun” should pass constitutional muster. Her questioner (someone from, I think it was Max Slowik, their report is here) followed up by pointing out that Heller said that firearms “in common use” could not be banned. Leftwich drew parallel to seat belts and air bags in cars and said you can still drive old cars without airbags or seat belts. Guns shouldn’t be any different.

Leftwich also said “smart guns” would prevent gun theft. I so wanted to ask the other panelists who actually had technical knowledge what their opinion was. But there were other people asking questions ahead of me and the answers rambled on for so long that they put a halt to the questions before I got my turn. I told her directly after the symposium that the technology couldn’t possibly stop someone with a little mechanical or electrical smarts from defeating it. She responded that thieves generally aren’t very smart. I pointed out that they could still sell the guns to someone who had the smarts. She insisted that it would still help some. I told her that the mandate will get extremely strong resistance because of the self-defense issues of reduced reliability. I don’t know if I was just starting to annoy her or if it was that particular question but her attitude changed and she didn’t seem at all interested in talking to me any more. I let it drop.

In part four I will cover the “smart gun” poll results presented by Mark Burles, Vice President Penn Schoen, Berland.

I received fairly detailed information on the testing of the Dynamic Grip Recognition technology. I don’t yet have permission to publish it here. I hope to get at least permission to say which of my concerns have been addressed to my satisfaction and which I think need more work. That permission probably will not be granted until Monday, if ever.

Seattle Smart Gun Symposium part 2

I’m arranging my post by the people who spoke in no particular order. The chronology and the topic of the panel in which they talked isn’t particularly important. I suspect there will be video available at some time but in most cases there was a lot of rambling and the information could have been presented much more concisely. Because of this you won’t see many exact quotes but my attempt to rephrase what I think is their position. I may get something wrong or miss something they believe to be important to understand their position and if they wish to contact me I’ll be glad to discuss and correct such errors.

Ralph Fascitelli
President Washington CeaseFire

I was annoyed with Fascitelli and tweeted about him a few times during the event:

9:59 AM:

Amazing number of lies and distortions in Washington Ceasefire Ralph Fascitelli’s opening statement.

11:20 AM:

Washington Ceasefire’s Ralph Fascitelli says guns are a “public health plague”.

Fascitelli said smart guns are similar to e-cigarettes. By this he meant, in part, the established industries are opposed to them and although they are safer some anti-smoking (and anti-gun) people are concerned that because they are safer they will lead to greater use/acceptance of conventional cigarettes/guns. He is opposed to smart gun mandates and realizes that has hindered development of the technology. He hopes that people on all sides of the issue can find common ground and reduce gun violence. He recognizes that gun owners and gun rights groups do care about innocent lives.

He strayed off topic some and said:

  • Guns are a “toxic plague” and in another instance a “public health plague”.
  • He wants limits on magazine sizes
  • He wants a ban on assault weapons

Some of the distortions and lies I found annoying included:

  • He conflated the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty by someone using a gun with those killed by someone using the officers gun. He said it was “500 over ten years”. The actual number was 511 but only 51 were shot with a department issued firearm. Fascitelli never mentioned the 51 number and expressed the “500” number in such a way that strongly implied “smart gun” technology could have saved some or all of those 500 officers.
  • During the press conference he said there were about 18,000 suicides per year using a gun and approximately 50% use a third party gun. I suspect he really meant a second parties gun but whatever. Then during the symposium he changed the numbers to 20,000 suicides per year and 10,000 people using a “third party” gun.
  • He said people under the age of 21 are not allowed to use handguns. This is false. They aren’t allowed to purchase handguns but they can own and use them.
  • He said about 10,000 U.S. children and teens have firearm injuries per year. I don’t recall if he did this or if it was only others but there were lots of stories of preteens killed and injured and then they used numbers which always included teens. The inclusion of teens of course brings in 19 year olds being shot while attempting to kill an innocent victim.

He and some others made a point that guns currently aren’t 100% reliable but “smart gun” critics demand the “smart gun” technology be 100% reliable. I suspect he is smart enough to know this is being disingenuous. We don’t want gun reliability to decrease to unacceptable levels. One failure out of 100,000 is probably acceptable in your self-defense hand gun. A 99% accurate smart gun means one failure out 100 and is not acceptable.

Depending on how you arrive at the numbers (see my email here) a gun that stops a kid from firing it 99.9% of the time may mean that if they try it 500 times they have a 60% chance of getting at least one shot off. 99% reliable may mean a 60% chance with just 50 attempts.

He hinted at a great divide in the anti-gun movement over smart guns. There is the obvious unintended consequence of mandated smart guns impeding development of them. But they also have concerns that if guns became safer to own guns would be more accepted in society.

This last point leads me to something else. I wonder if this contributes to their vehement opposition to armed school personal and sometimes even police being in schools. Are they concerned school shooting would decrease or stop and they would be less able to get traction on their anti-gun agenda? The same might be said of self-defense both inside and outside the home. Some, if not most, don’t really care that much about safety in general they just don’t want there to be guns and they even can admit this to themselves in some situations.

John Urquhart
Sheriff, King County

I really liked what Urquhart had to say and the way he said it. He was much more concise and to the point that the others and his points resonated with me. “Smart guns” aren’t ready for prime time. His deputies are very skeptical of them. You can see the mechanism of guns, you can take them apart, you can see parts are in need of maintenance, and you can clean and repair them. You can’t see into the electronics and software. You can’t know a failure is imminent with the electronics and software. A mechanical device is understandable.

This probably paraphrasing but instead of an exact quote, “A lock box isn’t going to save your life in an emergency but a gun may.”

CEO, Allied Biometrix

Allied Biometrix is licensing the commercial rights to a dynamic grip biometric device.

He thinks the phrase “smart gun” should be dropped. It should be a “user authorized gun” or something similar.

He sees potential for preventing accidents by children. He is adamant that thieves and terrorists (as suggested by one panelist) would be not be deterred.

While he is against legislation mandating the technology he would welcome legislation or at least some standards established before a gun could be put on the market. He doesn’t want a “bad-actor” to get into the market with a poor quality product that would trigger New Jersey type laws or sour the market for technology that might deliver on the promise of a high tech gun. “We can’t afford a 404 error code.”

He is also concerned about the liability issue. What if the technology fails and someone who is unauthorized to fire the gun successfully gets a shot off? Currently gun manufactures are shielded from such liability. But it seems unlikely a product that failed to do as it was advertised would be shielded. Even if it worked 99.9% of the time the liability from the 0.1% of the failures would be unacceptable. I suspect this is part of the desire for the standards body or legislation. If the tech passes some test criteria then they might claim it does it’s job good enough even though it is not perfect. I didn’t mention this to him but I think an argument could be made that it is similar to seat belts and air bags. They don’t work 100% of the time but they work well enough to save lives in many situations.

He says the technology isn’t quite ready yet. He also made the point, “Why would consumers accept the technology if law enforcement won’t?”

He claims his technology works about 99.9% of the time. I asked for details on how that was measured and he referred me to someone else. I called and sent an email yesterday but I have not heard back from them yet.

In one-on-one I asked about the price his technology would add to the gun. He dodged the question somewhat and said that survey’s showed “the sweet spot” was about $200 to $300 per gun. The parts would be considerably less than that but licensing, marketing, markup, etc. would bring it up to that range.

The CEO of Allied Biometrix wrote an article for USA Today last year which covers some of these points and more.

Tomorrow in part three I will cover what Robert McNamera had to say about “smart guns” and his product Trigger Smart which is based on RFID technology. Also Juliet A. Leftwich Legal Director, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and Senator Loretta Weinberg, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader.