Obama Orders Pentagon to Test Smart-Gun Tech

Safe Gun Technology’s fingerprint-access retrofit kit on an AR-15 rifle. Photo: Smart Tech Challenges Foundation.Safe Gun Technology’s fingerprint-access retrofit kit on an AR-15 rifle. Photo: Smart Tech Challenges Foundation.

The White House has tasked the Pentagon to test smart-gun technology as part of President Obama’s executive action on gun control.

The executive action contains instructions for the Defense Department to “conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology that would reduce the frequency of accidental discharge or unauthorized use of firearms.”

We don’t know all the implications of this yet, but my sources are telling me that it most likely will not mean any type of mandate for the Pentagon to require the services to start buying smart-gun tech.

The details of this are pretty thin right now, but what it likely means is that the administration is turning to the military for its expertise in guns and gun testing.

The U.S. Army, for example, is responsible for small arms for all of the services. It has testing facilities and procedures in place and routinely evaluates all kinds of gun technologies.

One of the technologies that might be looked at is the Safe Gun Technology fingerprint access retrofit kit.

The Columbus-based firm is showing off an AR-15 Bushmaster rifle equipped with a fingerprint-activated sensor on the pistol grip, according to the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation’s website.

“The sensor is part of SGTi’s unique retrofit kit which allows a firearm to fire only when activated by an authorized user’s fingerprint and renders the firearm inoperable for anyone else. The company has fully integrated a biometric sensor onto the live firearm and is inviting feedback from the firearms community to refine and improve their Alpha prototype.”

Based in San Francisco, the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation was formed in 2013 to foster innovation in firearm safety, according to its website. The Smart Tech for Firearms Challenge granted $1 million to innovators from around the globe developing user-authentication features for firearms.

Obama’s directive to DoD sounds very proactive, but it’s unlikely that anything significant will come of it.

It would be difficult to make these types of safety features mandatory and nearly impossible to enforce since there are more than 300 million guns in the United States.

About the Author

Matthew Cox
Matthew Cox is a reporter at Military.com. He can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.
  • Scott Miller

    Dumb. Not smart.

    Here’s a scenario:
    So our guys and gals are in a firefight. Growler swoops in and accidentally discharges in the area deeming all electronics useless. Those biometrics are fried and now rendering their M4’s/M16’s,etc useless, and inevitably killing our people.

    Get back to the drawing board. Don’t try and fix something that is not broken.

    • JP2267

      Just one of many issues to be solved. The electronics in the weapon would need to be hardened, and possibly they’d need to broadcast some kind of IFF signal so the good guys could recognize them.

      Maybe users could wear some kind of token that communicates an IFF to each weapon? The token could be activated by each troop beforehand via biometrics or some other (more or less) secure means. Then any weapon that recognizes the IFF signal would be useable by that person. Any signals transmitted or received would have to be jam-proof and unhackable, though. Plus, both the token and the weapon would need power sources. Lots of problematic issues. I just can’t see any practical technological solution coming in the near term, utopic wet dreams of politicians notwithstanding.

    • shooter

      Or, the battery dies.

    • Leon Suchorski

      What does he care if a few of the troops get killed or injured?

    • James B.

      Here’s another scenario:
      Pvt Whoever is wearing gloves. Most troops in the field do.

  • Webley Vickers

    Democrats have been trying to fiest off this foolishness on us since Bill Clinton was in the White House. It didn’t work then and it wont work now. The whole idea is nothing but gun control lobby’s wishful thinking.

    • JCitizen

      Smart gun–stupid idea!

      • Leon Suchorski

        Agreed. What good is your peashooter in an extended fire fight, when your buddy is down, and you can not use the ammo in his peashooter? This will kill more troops, or the troops will learn how to by-pass these features as we did on the M-16, to go to automatic.

        • Enchilada

          Two words… Group permissions. The entire squad, company, battalion, whatever you want, could be authorised to use each other’s weapons.

  • Paul

    The white house first, all federal agents protecting the POTUS, His Staff, and Congress to include the WH guards all should use this technology first before it go to the military. If we have to put our life in this stuff working the President should “lead by example”.

    • Bobcattf5


    • Thomas_67

      This. 100% absolutely this.

  • Bobcattf5

    The Man is nothing more than an idiot! What would happen in a fire fight if your weapon goes to NMC status and you pick up your dead buddies pea shooter and you can’t make it go bang because your ID doesn’t match? Wait cut your buddies hand off and your hot again!!

    • Joe

      My thought, too.

  • Larry

    Wow, our dear commander in chief is really trying to cram as much as he can into his last months in office, isn’t he.

    Another unfunded mandate for a government agency to do something…I thought we were getting away from those.

    From the article, it looks like they are just asking the Army to do the research, not to adopt the technology.

    • JP2267

      I don’t have a problem with DoD doing the research. Hell, I’m surprised that DARPA hasn’t been working on this before now. As with many technologies that have trickled into civillian use from the military, this *could* be a benefit. But only if they could make it work reliably under combat conditions in such a way that any person who should be able to use the weapon can pick it up and use it more or less instantly. Oh yeah, and it has to be hack/jam-proof.

      I’ll check back in 20 years or so, but I’ll bet we still won’t have a practical solution by then.

      • Larry


        What everyone posting doesn’t seem to understand is that this isn’t something for the military to use. Our dear POTUS wants the research to support proposing this for all guns sold to CIVILIANS in the future as another means of limiting second amendment (2A) rights.


        • JP2267

          Well we all know that idea isn’t going anywhere. Obama’s out of here in a year or so. DoD won’t have even gotten around to forming an exploratory group by that time, I’ll bet. And the next POTUS can just direct them to stop. In any event I don’t see the harm in research. I also don’t think it’ll lead to any kind of practical solution in the near future– maybe not for decades.

  • Caleb

    I’m prior military and most of the time we wear gloves so i don’t see this working

    • allwet

      Thats exactly what you will find out.It ain’t workin’
      Kinda like chicks in Infantry.

  • Leon Suchorski

    When I got off of active duty in the Marines, I went back to my civilian job. The company went 24 hours, and I ran the night shift. I was lucky that my back-up, was a door gunner in an Army chopper, and he saw the reasons why I did the things that I did for safety. I caught a lot of thieves, and even one with an 8 inch blade switch blade, that he did not pull on me. And oh yes, we were not armed. One time on days, in another store, I took one purse snatcher down so fast, that people did not have time to snap their fingers. So why do the police have to shoot first, and answer questions later? To me, it seems that they should be as well trained as we in the active military were, and fewer civilians would be shot by the police. So let the police test out all of this new technology before they try to stick it with some guy in combat. The police seem to be shooting more often than the military anyway. How many times do we see that the police have shot some mentally unbalanced person, instead of safely subduing them. I am not trying to disarm the police, just get them to stop shooting first when there are other choices for them to make, as we were trained to do. After all, how many of us were recruited by the police after we got out of the military? They knew that we were trained already.

    • JCitizen

      From what I see in the news, is poor police leadership, bad or non existent SOP, poor training, and bad tactics probably caused from all the the above. Then to compound the problem, bad PR and public trust issues because of lack of community policing, and other obvious policies to assure transparency and community communications and relations.

      I’ve seen some scary videos on how fast a perp can take out a patrolman, so if they are focusing on that, the paranoia can be overwhelming – some of these police may even have PTS caused by their civilian job, or leftovers from the GWOT, or even both.

    • TextopCat

      If the shooting is justified then there is no problem. If a violent criminal is shot because of his behavior then that is a case of doing stupid things.

      • Leon Suchorski

        And who is it, always, who decides if the shooting is justified? For years, I acted without a firearm, or baton, or taser, and did very well. there was only one time that I had to put someone on the deck, and I did that faster than you can snap your fingers. The police are under trained, and going to the gun too often. And then their bosses justify it.

  • JP2267

    As a rudimentary proof of concept I applaud SGTi’s effort. It is clear to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that this retrofit kit would be essentially useless in many real-world scenarios. But I take it for what it is– an exploration of what is possible. Until someone can come up with technology that cannot be jammed or hacked, possesses the intelligence to know when a discharge is intended, and knows who is pulling the trigger under any conceivable combat condtion, this is all a pipe dream.

    • TexTopCat

      I can agree, however, this idea was already tested back in the 1980’s by Smith and Wesson and Colt. Both companies produced “smart guns” (used a special ring) that functioned exactly as designed and had virtually no Mal-functions. However, the police that used them found that the unintended results greatly out weighed the advantages and caused them to be in much more danger. So, they were all recalled. We should not have to learn this lesson again.

  • Grynch

    What Stupidity. I can’t even comment further

  • textanker
    • JCitizen

      It is amazing the reduction in fatal auto accidents each year – the murder rate is going down about at the same rate. However people don’t even think about the rate of death at the hands of incompetent doctors every year, which is simply staggering. Then their are the other leading causes of death.
      1. Alcohol – 100,000 all related in 2005
      2. Tobacco – around 450,000 each year.
      3. Obesity – about 400,000 annually
      4. In the 20th century world governments were directly responsible for over 250,000.000 of their own people – but we are supposed to get excited about 30,000 deaths by firearm, more than half of which are suicides – and give up our God given 2nd Amendment over people’s stupidity. Plenty of stupid people abuse their freedom as seen by this list – but still no reason to dump the Constitution. Just helping the mental health issues may greatly reduce the suicide rate, at which even if a firearm were not available, would easily be accomplished with many other means.

  • Larry

    Guys, read the second and third paragraphs again. The POTUS is asking the Army to do the research, not implement the technology.

    • JohnD

      The president is a dunce! Why not the FBI or the BATF? You must never had been in the military! I was in a MASH unit were we had 90 rifles,for,200 troops.you must qualify twice a year! How is that technology to work hen?

    • Yellow Devil

      A bad idea, funded by the Army, is still a bad idea. And don’t think this technology is for the military, it’s for us serfs down the road.

      • JCitizen

        Serfs is right if they actually get away with it.

  • Juanito

    Does a career military officer exist with the ability to report, “Sir, your ‘smart gun’ idea is ridiculous.?” NO! They’ll make it work & left wing politicians will require “smart gun technology’ for the American People; leaving them defenseless.

    • Or worse they’ll F35 it, say it’s great and put our troops in more danger.

  • JohnD

    So how do you adjust this underfire when weapons are damaged or lost and a trooper has to use another soldiers weapon? The Squad machine gun? Once again idiots making combat decisions when they have no clue on what happens! And the generals sit by and nod in total subservience to their careers! What an idiotic idea!

    • John D

      I do understand that this is a military testing. What part of the military budget will cover this? Funding is scarce and limited? Is the military doing the research and not getting paid for it? Sounds like a gun industry issue. This project will not work in military environments! Many units do not have enough small arms for everyone and the weapons are shared. This may work for civilians or cops but not for the military so why should the military be part of the POTUS’s pet anti gun project?

  • SweetOlBob

    Wow ! What a farce ! Obama is using y;our meney, out of the defense budget, to test something that has been proven not to work on the commercial market. If it tests even marginal, he will demand it on all firearms for the military and also those to be sold in the retail market.

    Hint: He doesn’t give a damn if it cause loss of military life. if it will agree with any of his warped agendas, he’ll go for it.

  • LIAM

    EMP’s can disable eletronics!! If we have it you can sure bet the enemy will!! BAD idea!! VERY BAD!!

  • Navyjag907

    I have no doubt that Obama would like to disarm every private citizen tomorrow and would willingly accept the casualties as some of us fought the agents trying to disarm us. The problem for him and his ilk is there are too many weapons and it’s too easy to hide them. I suspect Hilary will try some of these things, too, although I’d be surprised if she makes it through one term. Her health is just too bad.//If this technology is ever worked out, I hope it’s not used in the military. It’s a death sentence if you can’t use another’s weapon when your’s jams.

  • This issue has been beaten to death about a 1000 times before the Anointed One ever even heard of safe guns. There numerous reasons why this has not been done before and the US military does not need the Anointed One to direct them to “study the issue” for the 1001 time. But this is reason 1001 why this administration is hopelessly out to sea on national security.

  • matt

    I wonder how well it works with gloves ??????

    • John D

      Good point! No one leaves the compound with out nomex or Kevlar gloves on anymore! Another down side! How will cops fire them in the winter?” Wait Halt let me take off my glove or I’ll shoot”?

  • jerry

    Yeah, sure that will work in this scenario…


  • Bill

    Vote for TRUMP

  • Guest

    This is absurd! This should be funded by private companies. The Pentagon should NOT spend a single dime on this. A Marine or Army soldier should not have to worry about whether his/her weapon will function in the field. And if your weapon breaks then what. Really stupid idea. The DoD budget can’t handle this crap! And the military does NOT need smart guns that are biometrically connected to a person. A soldier will end up getting killed because his/her weapon didn’t work in the field. DUMB, DUMB, DUMB, idea!

  • SeeetOlBob

    The best thing about Obama’s orders considering “smart gun” testing is that it is one of the stupidest thing in the world. The worst thing is that the cost will come out of the military budget which is far too low now.
    I think it’ one more waste of money, just like Obama’s many failed Green Power investments that went bankrupt with OUR money lost.

  • I have read your post. It’s obviously informative. If you do keep a gun in the home, it’s vital to keep it from sight and out associated with reach of kids. The gun ought to be kept locked and unloaded, and also the ammunition should be saved separately.

    • Guest

      I agree Neal. Many of these accidental shooting, especially young children, are because of the lack proper gun safety in the home.

      I have no children but keep mine the same way.

  • Dale Jennings

    My solution to the gun situation is: Every able bodied citizen should carry a gun. There was a town in Missouri that passed a law that all able bodied citizens must carry a gun.

    Vietnam had a high crime rate against tourists. Vietnam was starving at the time and needed tourist dollars. They gave street cops summary execution orders. Anyone robbing a tourist was executed there on the street and left there for all to see. Crime stopped over night.

  • smithanderson78

    This is very interesting news, which you shared here with us about Obama Orders Pentagon to Test Smart-Gun Tech. I think they are using new technology in weapons and they start to test these weapons.
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