It seems like the verdict is in State Department’s attempt to do to DEFCAD what the DOJ is doing to the Associated (with terrorists!) Press and the IRS is doing to just about anybody who voices a word of criticism. And, while the East German judge gave the tactic an inexplicable 9, the Free World judges have some other things to say about USG’s attempt to stamp out 3D printing of gun parts.
Let’s start with a Liberator rendered on an older 3D Systems Cube, which is kind of like the Easy-Bake Oven of 3D printers.
Liberator printed on a 3D Systems Cube.
Liberator rendered on a Printrbot [stet]. Click any of the pictures to embiggen ‘em.
Then we’ll have a look at the way one comes out from a Printrbot. The Printrbot is even less expensive that the Cube, and doesn’t need high-$ proprietary feedstock, but it’s more complicated to set up. You can buy it as a complete printer or a kit, and there’s even a portable, battery-powered version. The smallest and simplest Printerbot kit (which you couldn’t build a Liberator on) sells for only $300.
Then, there’s the Lulzbot from Aleph Electronics. (Lulzbot? Who names these things, quasi-literate third graders?) The guy doing the Lib on the Lulzbot did his in a bright red plastic — perhaps for the Lulz. There are a number of different Lulzbots available, including some pretty high-end hardware for a hobby printer.
Liberator as rendered by a Lulzbot.
These “guns” were all in addition to the ones that Defense Distributed rendered on Stratays printers (over Stratasys’s objections and attempts to impeded and thwart their users), and in addition to the one rendered by some contractor for the chumps at the Daily Mail. (It’s a steady job, but they wanna be…). And these are only the ones already posted to the DEFCAD forums. There are more who are just making, and testing, but not boasting.
Before you do this thing, you need to familiarize yourself with the laws as well as the technology. (Technology, unlike the law, tends to get more user-friendly over time; so procrastination is your friend on the tech side. Law side, not so much).
Your gun needs to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act (which means it needs to have 3.7 oz. metal in it) and it needs to be a Title I firearm, not a Title II weapon. If there is no rifling in the barrel, a handgun is a Title II Any Other Weapon (zip gun) and is subject to the National Firearms Act of 1934 — which requires you to get a license and a tax stamp before hitting “print” on your WhateverBot. The license requires, among other things, your fingerprints and the papal blessing of your local chief of police or sheriff; the tax stamp sets you back $200.
Some taxes are not really about raising money. (Economists call them Pigovian taxes, from one of their drear cohort who described them long ago, one Pigou).
About the technology: there are limits to the stress-bearing ability of printed plastics, and it’s considerably less than the same plastics, injection-molded (at least 20% less, for ABS). This is because the plastic is deposited in layers and is not homogeneous like injection-molded ABS would be. See, for example, the Liberator receiver close-up on the right (you can click to embiggen). You can see the layers (if you’re an engineer, you can see the stress risers!)
By the way: don’t tell Chuck Schumer or Steve Israel, but you can bypass most of the problems with a printed gun by printing it to common PLA plastic and then using the PLA part as a pattern for a mold. Add a couple of wax sprues and risers and embed the whole megillah in a plaster-sand mixture. You then melt the PLA out, and cast metal in. (Same as a jeweler’s lost-wax process, but on a necessarily larger scale). One of the real applications for these printers is in printing casting patterns (indeed, some are optimized to print wax — for just this reason).
It’s done. And tested. The first publicly available 3D-printed firearm. The two parts not printed are the firing pin (a roofing nail) and the grip screw. (A standard AR part. You can also substitute an AR grip for the printable grip). Here are the pieces:
And here is the video of a successful test-firing with a single .380 ACP round.
Note the following:
There is risk here. ABS plastic in its various permutations is not an optimal gun barrel material. While the .380 version fired successfully in both tethered and human-fired (in the video) tests, there have been several breakages, and a 5.7×28 FN version blew itself up, with no injury reported. Build this, lanyard-test it. And we’d recommend lanyard-testing Job One to destruction, so that you can set a retire-by round count.
There is another kind of risk here, too. Cody Wilson’s prototype at Defense Distributed was made by a licensed manufacturer, and incorporated a metallic block for compliance with the Undetectable Firearms Act. As a smoothbore weapon in pistol size, this design risks classification as an Any Other Weapon (a legal term of art) under the National Firearms Act. Every NFA violation is a 10-year felony, and the BATFE prefers to pursue backyard tinkerers than organized criminal syndicates… when they’re not actually arming the criminals.
The process of 3D printing (just like any other kind of manufacturing) has a learning curve. You can expect to have teething problems, issues, and yes, print failures.
Expect the usual suspects to panic (they were already panicking over youth rifles; this should send them right over the top). But it’s pure information they’re trying to fight here. They can’t stop the signal. They’ll still try, but it’s a forlorn hope.
Here’s the download link (it will redirect to MEGA formerly MEGAupload — another thumb in the establishment’s eye).
Here’s the link that will let you download the whole collection of DEFCAD data. (Important note: at this writing, the current version, 4.2 “Saito,” has everything but the Liberator pistol files). It will go to MEGA and may only work with Chrome browser.
We recommend you take this freely available data and distribute it widely.
Late last week, in anticipation of the NRA Annual Convention, Tracking Point released new video. This one shows two features: the way the precision-guided firearm can compensate for motion of target or shooter, and the precision cold-bore first shot capability.
Right now, precision guided firearms are very expensive, and are only the province of extreme shooters and early adopters. We predict that that will change, and this kind of precision technology will be increasingly common — and much less expensive, as economies of scale kick in — going forward.
Remington has this teaser video out. It’s been in all the usual places, and hints that they’re announcing something big on May 3 at the NRA Annual Meeting. They call it “Venture X.”
We assess that Venture X is some kind of partnership with, and possibly even acquisition of, Tracking Point. Why? Here are the indicators:
Hints that the venture involves a technology company.
Resemblance of the Venture X “X logo” to Tracking Point’s Network Tracking Scope reticle, which, to our recollection, was formerly used as a Tracking Point logo.
Boy, them’s some similar-lookin’ X’es.
Reuse of video we’ve already seen from Tracking Point in the Remington teaser. Some of that video shows Tracking Point’s mag-fed rifle.
The redaction, in the teaser video, of the scope, not always the rifle, and the size of that redaction, big enough to conceal Tracking Point’s sophisticated, active scope.
Images in the video (of both guns and of CAD imagery) showing a bolt-action rifle with a pronounced forged Picatinny rail, as would be needed to accept such a scope.
If you join the “Venture X” email list, your list membership is processed by Tracking Point associated nodes: http://tracking-point.us5.list-manage.com/subscribe/post?u=f84a5a0a235e5b02766356bdf&id=1970e29d4d
Now, there are indicators that don’t point to Tracking Point. For example, there doesn’t seem to be any way for the trigger of the CAD-file rifle to interface with the Network Tracking Scope in the way that Tracking Point’s own hardware does. And at one point, the drawing on the page and the part a man is handling both represent a polymer shotgun stock.
But we assess those as distractors, just as we assess the many hints of “top security” (dogs, locks, access control, the word “Confidential” on an iPad, etc) as just part of the fun of the video tease. Ergo, Remington and Tracking Point are sittin’ in a tree… and the child of this miscegenation will be unveiled to all of us at the NRA meeting.
We’ve heard that two separate XM25 Counter Defilade systems (25mm semiauto “smart” grenade launcher have blow’d theyselfs up lately in live fires, one in the USA and one in Afghanistan in February, and that the weapon’s been taken out of service while engineers try to walk back the failure tree. Ishikawa diagram, ho.
Both operators were lightly injured; both weapons were destroyed. The design of the weapon is pretty fail-safe in the way it directs energy away from the gunner (which is good, because as a bullpup its breech is just about under his cheekbone, as you can see from these file photos).
XM25 at a technology display. Note size of weapon, and location of breech.
A second round field test with a batch of improved prototypes only just started in January. The new batch have not fired a shot in combat yet (the one that blow’d up in Afghanistan did it on the range).
ATK, the manufacturer, is trying to figure out what went wrong. There were no such kinetic malfunctions with the first batch of prototypes, which had a generally successful combat deployment. (The problem was not the weapons themselves it was the lack of just-right targets to show off its unique capabilities. Instead, they were mostly used for suppressive fire).
We’re trying to get our hands on the safety-of-use message and of any incident photographs.
As gadget-minded gun guys, we’ve followed the development of TrackingPoint’s precision-guided firearms with great interest. We received an email from TP today with some of their latest, including a video with a little bit about their testing procedures, and a slight tease about their development process. They don’t appear to use published or ammo-manufacturer ballistic data, but develop their own experimentally by measuring actual achieved trajectories with pulse-doppler radar. Good stuff, but one implication is that their computer will be optimized for a particular load or a finite set of loads in each gun.
One expects that a well-trained and experienced long-distance shot, using a weapon and load data he’s personally worked up, would outperform the Tracking Point system in most circumstances. Where TrackingPoint offers real advantages, it’s in the case where the shooter does not have that level of experience and familiarity with the weapon and load; in climactic extremes; and in non-level shots, where the computer can compensate for an angled trajectory in ways that a human cannot, at least not in real time.
And, let’s face it, it’s really cool.
In addition, Tracking Point tells us:
They’re going on the road in February and March. Purpose of this road show? To get prospective customers behind the gun, ideally in hunting situations, to show them in real applications what’s much harder to tell them convincingly at a trade show or in an indoor presentation.
They are not sold out yet for 2013, but they would like to be. Here’s what they say:
We are still on track to ship our first PGFs this Spring. Our final refinement and testing of ballistic lead for engaging moving targets, our testing of the auto-zeroing capability over time, and an extensive field stress test are all necessary to ensure field proven reliability of the first Precision Guided Firearms prior to shipment.
If you are still deciding on which PGF is right for you, understand that if you purchase right now, we will be shipping your PGF in the Summer. We will have a limited supply in the hundreds of units for 2013 and operate on a first come, first served basis.
Finally, they’re looking for people as they’re planning to grow. TrackingPoint is based in Austin, Texas (so it’s a good fit both for Texans and for out-of-staters).
In our view this is a historic, even radical development that right now gives the shooter an advantage, and one day will be an NRA Museum level heirloom, as significant as an early AR10 or a 1905 Colt .45 ACP. We believe this because we think that one day, “smart” scopes will be extremely common, even standard.
Scopes themselves have been a slow, hard sell over the last 50 years, but now the superiority of optical to iron sights is universally accepted. We think a computing scope will be a revolution on a similar scale, although as technical revolutions tend to do, it will likely take place faster than its predecessor. We might be wrong — as Yogi Berra said, “prediction is hard, especially about the future” — but we’re pretty confident about this. It provides a capability that was lacking before.
The Israelis tend to play their cards close to the vest. Why? Well, imagine yourself being surrounded by tens of millions of people who are crushed by oppressive rulers and inhumane shamans… people who have been miserable since birth, and taught systematically that all of their problems are your fault.
You might have some security problems.
So do the Israelis, and consequently information about their weapons tends to be either fanboy propaganda, misleading (sometimes because sources are deliberately poisoned), or simply hard to come by.
So when we got flagged by a longtime reader to this photopost, and asked (more politely, to be sure) “WTF were the optics in images X and Y (which you see here) attached to Israelis’ 21st-Century Tavor bullpup rifle?”, our first reaction was whaaa?
We figured it had to be some kind of target-designation rig, and to some degree that is true. It is an interesting multipurpose optronic device called the Viper, and it is an ambitious attempt to provide some of the capabilities of the ill-fated OICW that we’ve been discussing here for a while, and even those of the much more experimental Land Warrior project, as a retrofit attachable to extant small arms.
We said it was ambitious.
The project came from one called REFAIM, presumably a Hebrew acronym for something (but wait, we have a vague recollection that vowels are not written in that ancient script, so isn’t everything an acronym? Or are we wrong?) that is described in part in this 2006 article at Military Update. Essentially, it’s an attempt to use the smart-ammo concept of the XM29 20mm component, XM25 grenade launcher, or Daewoo K-11 into an ordinary 40mm grenade, and provide the sensors and programmabilty as a modular add-on for any M1913-std rail-equipped firearm.
By the time that article was written, Israeli defense exporters were already promoting an early version of the Viper. As well as providing the interface for REFAIM and similar smart munitions, which have included a short-range imagery ISR grenade and a non-lethal CS grenade as well as lethal variable-time-fuzed airburst options, the Viper provides a built-in laser rangefinder, an integrated digital inclinometer, and a ballistic-compensating reticle. It can provide digital overlays on the sight (for example, a Land Warrior-like image of where other Viper-equipped networked friendlies are).
ITL Viper on M4 from the 2005 Israeli optronics brochure.
The VIper is made by ITL (International Technologies Lasers) Optronics, an Israeli optics and laser device defense contractor. It is probably still being developed and extended, as photos show it has evolved a great deal. For example, the posed Tavor photos are more recent (2009 or newer, we’d estimate) but the posed picture with the M16 carbine or M4 shows the Viper as of 2005. One of several online Viper writeups says:
Viper is a versatile low-weight electro-optical Fire Control System Sight.The Viper Fire Control System enables accurate firing of standard small-arms rounds and smart munitions, e.g., high trajectory, low-velocity munitions, explosive projectiles and munitions that VIPER programs for delayed detonation on target. Whether mounted on light or medium weapons, this Viper greatly improves the first-hit probability.
The sight is a bit awkward. Without the optional laser pointer, RF Interfaces, or eyepiece display, it weighs 1 kg (2.2 lb). Further, it may be a bit delicate. If anyone understands the importance of ruggedized equipment, it’s a nation with near-universal conscription (Arabs and some ultra-Orthodox Jews are excepted) that has to operate in de facto combat conditions around the clock.
We love weapons of all vintages, their technology, their rich history, the stories they could tell if they could talk. While we certainly share the love that Ian and his gang at Forgotten Weapons have for the orphans and ugly ducklings of days gone by, we also have one beady eye on the weapons of days yet to come. Of course, while some of these technological developments might be the next Stokes mortar or MP44, and revolutionize the battlefield, others are certainly going to be the orphans. We’re going to talk a little bit about a new technology about to be shown at the SHOT Show, and about its evolutionary niche. First, a video (which may have an annoying ad. If so, sorry ’bout that).
What did you just see? Tracking Point (teaser website — the actual website goes live at midnight EDT tonight) is a combination of technologies that, taken together, make longer-range shots more likely to succeed. This technology has been bruited about for some time, but it involves a combination of laser sensors, target sensors, accelerometers, and environmental sensors communicating with a central computer, to take as much human error as possible out of the system.
The system was originally developed under the code name Project Gazelle. This is an early prototype on a Remington XM2010 popping grapefruit and similar size targets at 225 and 232M, and a hog at 330m. Note that the field range calculation of the laser rangefinder might be one of the most useful capabilities of the system. This video’s early version has a much cruder data display, and different crosshairs, from those on the production weapon.
“Essentially, what we’ve done is put a jet fighter’s ‘lock-and-launch’ technology into a firing system,” Tracking Point President Jason Schauvel (phon.) says.
The Tracking Point weapon — it is only delivered as a complete weapon with integrated scope, the parts of the technology are inseparable — is presently a bolt-action magazine-fed complete system with a bulky scope with what looks like three objective lenses on it. The sensors include video-optical, laser, acceleration, and environmental. Tracking Point refers to the components of its system as the Heads-Up Display, Networked Tracking Scope, Tag Button, Integral Laser Rangefinder, Ballistic Calculator, Tracking Engine, and Guided Trigger. Tactical versions will be available in .300 Win Mag and .338 Lapua Mag calibers, and a hunting model in .300.
In a display modeled on a pilot’s heads-up or integrated data display, the shooter sees, superimposed on his optically and digitally magnified view of the target, two vertical “tape” displays which apparently can show incline (relative to the x-axis), range and ballistic information, an arc that provides a digital inclinometer (z-axis), and a horizontal tape display of compass heading flanked by climactic information (temperature and ambient air pressure) . With Tracking Point, though, the shooter does not need to integrate that information in his skull. The computer does it.
The shooter places the crosshair on the target point and presses the Tag Button, a small red button resembling a cross-bolt safety in the front of the trigger guard, to lock on to the target. Then he presses the rifle trigger to commit the shot, but the Tracking Point weapon does not fire the shot mechanically. Instead, it monitors the micro-motions of the rifle and the macro-motions of the target, adjusting as necessary, and then fires the weapon when the shot is sure to be made. This can happen instantaneously if the shooter is solidly locked on to the target and using good marksmanship basics, or there can be a delay until the gun and target are in proper alignment. (We’d guess the system times out the shot at some point if the target is lost, even if the shooter holds the trigger back). Tracking Point’s term for this is a “Guided Trigger.”
This will sound familiar to anyone who’s been trained on the Javelin ATGM; the advance of this technology from bulky missiles for killing T-72s to a bulky rifle for killing antelope or elk (or such people as need killing) was an inevitable result of miniaturization and research.
Think of it as like the Constantinesco or Fokker mechanical interrupter gear of World War I, which wouldn’t let a machine gun discharge when an airplane’s vulnerable wooden propeller was in front of the muzzle (or, technically, going to be where the bullet was going to be at that point in space and time). The Guided Trigger won’t let the rifle discharge unless the gun-target line is correct for the round, range and conditions.
This has particular applications where the gun and/or target are in motion. Tracking Point has demonstrated busting feral hogs from an R44 helicopter.
The weapon most seen in early Tracking Point video was a .338 Lapua Magnum and they claim an inexperienced shooter with a few minutes’ training has what that call a Tag, Track, Xact range of up to 1,200 yards.
The Tracking Point weapon can also stream its video output so that another person can watch the heads-up display in real time. They demonstrate this on iPhone and iPad. The video can also be recorded — staff judge advocates will love that.
We’ve focused a little on intelligent weapons here before, but earlier military weapons have been problematical and have never achieved truly widespread fielding. Intelligent weapons factor in range, elevation, exterior ballistic, and atmospheric conditions to increase hit probability. The first such weapon was the SPIW, or the first attempt at such a weapon, and the analog solid-state technology of the time (early 1960s) was pathetically insufficient to the needs of the users. The technology continued maturing, and led to the fielding of the XM25 in Afghanistan. Parallel developments in Korea and Israel have tried to do something similar.
The Korean and American weapons have been subject to combat testing, and testing of both has been fairly inconclusive. Both systems are predictably complex and difficult to employ within their envelope, and the Korean weapon is reported to have been very unreliable. These weapons and the Israeli equivalent have also borne many of the markers of immature technology: bulk, weight, complexity, unreliability, and poor human user interface, although the American XM25 gunners have expressed great satisfaction with their weapon.
What DARPA hath wrought
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been working for some years on improved fire control for sniper systems. PEO Soldier, which is waiting for the handoff of these technologies, sees them presently in transition from Research phase to Developmental phase.
Fire control systems allow snipers to quickly and accurately acquire targets and calculate a near-instantaneous ballistic solution, allowing the sniper to place the system using an electronically displaced reticle on target and confidently send the round.
Two such systems include the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) “One Shot” and “EXACTO” systems. The One Shot program will provide snipers with a technically advanced spotting scope capable of calculating cumulative wind effects to target and providing an accurate, adjusted ballistic aimpoint to the shooter. The EXACTO program is focused on developing a spotting scope-based target acquisition and guidance system that would steer maneuverable .50 caliber sniper bullets directly to a target. These DARPA programs seek to push cutting-edge technologies to increase operational range and hit probability of sniper systems. Maturity of these technologies and transition to the field is scheduled to occur over the next several years.
Note that the DARPA programs seem to focus on a sniper-spotter team, not the singleton operation that Tracking Point makes possible. (Of course, TP also enhances the power of a sniper-spotter pair).
A similar, sophisticated computerized sight made an appearance in a bestselling fiction work within the last couple of years, also. In his 2010 novel I, Sniper, Stephen Hunter had his fictional snipers go up against a bad guy armed with a system that had some commonalities with Tracking Point. While Hunter is a shooter and has a keen understanding of gun technology, his knowledge of military operations, including scout/sniper operations, is weak. But his books are fun to read, and you can’t argue with his success in that field. His conclusion — that at the state of the art a smart, experienced sniper with a “dumb” rifle can beat a hack with a “smart” rifle, is true at this time.
It might not be true in five more years of development. The bottle’s open, and the genie’s still materializing.
Why the technology?
This is happening because it’s technologically possible right now, and because the part of the sniper system that is most responsible for misses, and which most urgently needs upgrading, is the sniper himself. Most of us miss shots our weapons systems could have made. Using technology, intelligent-weapons designers are trying to take the human and his many causes of error out of the system, to the extent possible. Humans flinch, jerk the trigger, continue breathing while firing, misjudge range, miscalculate hold-over (-under) or lead, and misjudge their hold-over or lead. It takes discipline, training, and thousands of rounds of experience for a human sniper to drill these deficiencies out of his performance — and even then, he’s not 100% on 100 out of 100 days. A machine can be, which is why we’re going to see things like TrackingPoint and others that take some of the human potential for error out of the engagement loop.
It’s not just weapons that have this human-interface problem. Airline pilots will tell you that the basic difference between the philosophy designed into Airbus and Boeing cockpits is that the Airbus nannies the pilot more. It had more input by engineers, wanting to take away as much of the pilot’s ability to crash the plane as possible. Conversely, the Boeing had more input by pilots, and gives the pilot absolute authority, including to do things that in most circumstances would be somewhere between bad piloting and suicide, because in some situation it might be what a pilot needs to save his posterior. You might think that pilots like the Boeing more, but actually each craft has its partisans, and the pilots flying any particular piece of equipment tend to like it. You might think that one philosophy or the other had proven safer in line service, but that’s not the case (airline accidents are so rare that it’s hard finding significant statistical power in any comparison. Every one’s an outlier).
Limits of Tracking Point
It’s going to have several limitations, some of which inhere to all similar technologies and some of which are going to be unique to Tracking Point. Some of those limitations include:
It’s not fail-safe, and it’s irreducibly complex. If the whole system doesn’t work, the rifle doesn’t work. (There may be a “limp mode” that hasn’t yet been briefed).
Every component is a single point of failure.
Every component has only a single source.
It appears to be slower than a skilled shooter.
It’s the first generation, and so is likely to be quickly overcome by more new developments.
It’s a very likely target for the bansters.
The company is new (it’s an Austin, Texas startup) and an unknown quantity.
These limits noted, we’re going to see more of this.
So what’s going to happen next?
Going forward, we expect to see many more such technologies. Systems evolution has been converging in this direction for a while, considering the DARPA work quoted above and the PDAs used in Special Forces Sniper School and the iPod app Knight’s Armament Company developed some years ago. (But even in 2013, these technologies are still for early adopters).
Tracking Point videos
As we wrote this up on Sunday the 13th, Tracking Point was uploading more videos to their YouTube channel:
We have two kinds of gun stupid for you, one technical, and one political. (Yes, for the latter instance we’re just picking one of thousands of examples right now).
Twopid Number 1: Smart Guns
It’s hard to decide what’s a bigger blight, the politicians and pundits who take glee in a murder because they can use it to pus their pre-loaded policy preferences, or the marketeers who delight in the carnage because they can use it to underline a sales pitch. Maybe that’s because the one’s lust for power and influence, and the other’s lust for money are, at the core, the same thing. In a long opinion piece masked as a report, Reuters’ Jonathan Kaminski begins:
When Irish gun entrepreneur Robert McNamara learned of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, his immediate reaction, like that of most people, was one of horror, shock and sadness….
…but that quickly turned to delight and greed, when he realized how well-placed he was to profit from the massacre. There are problems with his technology, which Kamimski tries to gloss over: for one thing, he quotes a New Jersey Institute of Technology (what’s that? MIT for the Jersey Shore set? Carnegie-Mellon with short school buses?) project that is hoping to achieve… 99% reliability. That sounds good when you realize it means an FTF once every seven normal pistol magazines, or so.
Sure it works. Anybody else own a late-eighties or early-nineties GM car with the smart chip in the key? They worked about 99%, too. Anybody get stuck with a BMW with iDrive? (Fortunately, Chris Bangle’s styling reduced the impact of that botch, by turning people off before they learned how bad the car’s technology was).
What may be most amusing about the piece is the way that Kaminski gives the briefest of quotes to opponents of this idjit, unreliable crap, and then relies on anti-gun lefties from banster organisations to tell his readers what gun owners and manufacturers want:
“Law-abiding, responsible gun owners who choose to have a gun to protect their families would rather have a gun that was safer,” [Brady center lawyer Jonathan] Lowy said. (By “safer” he means, “that won’t shoot.”)
If smart guns were viable, [Josh Sugarmann of the VPS] says, gun makers would welcome the opportunity to expand their shrinking customer base.
Hey, Kaminski, call us, and we’ll tell you what liberals want. A good beginning is “a national socialist security state.”
There are a number of problems with MacNamara’s immature, untested technology, problems that Kaminski must have been unable to see, willing to ignore, or eager to conceal.
Overall reliability. If he had a system that was, perhaps, reliable to nine sigma he might have something. It would still detract from the reliability of a defensive weapon, but he’d be able to argue that it detracted a negligible amount because, for example, failure of quality commercial ammunition is also about a nine sigma incidence. But in fact he doesn’t say that, or anything like it. It may be that he has done reliability testing and dare not report what his results were — such testing would only be worthwhile if it were independent and double-blind — but it’s a lot more likely that he hasn’t done any formal reliability testing. Want to sell this thing to anybody, even the most anti-gun managers of large urban police forces? Show them an independent test with 10,000 rounds fired from each of 100 individual serial numbers by at least 300 shooters of a normal distribution in size, shape, and handedness, and zero type 1 or type 2 errors (failure of personalized weapon to fire, failure of non-personalized to not fire) in those million rounds, and then you can begin arguing your technology works. That should not just be the standard for initial adoption — it should be the standard for its rollout on any weapon.
Disables gun in weak hand. The technology relies on a mated pair of chips, one in the gun and one in or on the hand, and they need to be within 2.5 cm of one another to work. Exercise for the reader: you are wounded in your strong hand and arm and the arm is hanging limp. Three pounds of steel, polymer and ammo are hanging inertly in the dead hand.
Requires a ring or an implant. Both are bad ideas — a ring is something you should not be wearing if you’re in a job that requires some athleticism. Don’t take our word for it, go here for four case studies (and note that’s a peer-reviewed publication, something MacNamara’s technology is not now, and probably never will be, ready for). Army aviators have seen plenty of safety posters with finger avulsions; it’s a staple of the Safety Center’s hectoring. And an implant? Really. What happens when the cop union or an individual cop sues? What happens when someone has a reaction? Or, much more likely, gets infected?
Makes it impossible to lend gun, instruct with gun, etc. How do you introduce a new shooter to the sport if the gun has to be in your hand? You don’t. Of course, the Kaminskys, Sugarmanns and so forth may think this a feature rather than a bug.
Makes it impossible for a wounded or slain user or officer’s gun to be picked up and used by another, in an emergency. This alone kills this as a military technology. Kills it deader’n disco.
Has no means of self-test — the only time you’ll learn whether it’s working is when you need it to save your life. Given the care many cops, for example, give their guns, cleaning them once a year whether they need it or not, how many cops will be carrying dead iron around for months or years, completely unaware of it? This isn’t, like the others, a conceptual problem, but a failure of MacNamara’s specific implementation.
So perhaps it was a noble attempt at doing something with RFID and similar technologies that wasn’t overtly Orwellian. But it foundered on the originators’ lack of knowledge of guns — not surprising, in Ireland where guns are regulated to the nth degree, but terrorism and murder has been rampant regardless.
Twopid Number 2: Knife Control
Generally, the octogenarian or so Senator from Iowa, Charles Grassley, is good on gun policy. He’s been one of the few in Congress interested in the DOJ’s ATF’s curious policy of clearing weapons buys for Sinaloa Cartel support cells, and even, it turns out, ATF officials buying guns directly for the criminals. He’s even investigated, to the limits he can, the Gunwalker programs, and reported on them, to the extent the press will write something critical of a policy they approve. Some people are angry because Grassley does not go beyond what is practically and politically possible, but that’s not reasonable. He’s a dependable vote for the gun culture.
Which is why his latest pronouncements are, well, twopid. Sample:
But, the discussion should go beyond just guns to include other weapons like knives, Grassley said.
Twopid? Yeah. They’re stupid on their face — for all the reasons gun control is ineffective in fighting crime, knife control is even more so. (Like guns, knives have beneficial uses that far outweigh any criminal abuse of them. Like guns, there is no material difference between knives that can be abused criminally and knives that are useful tools). And they’re stupid politically, opening more doors for the power-drunk liberal fascists like Feinstein. (Liberals have suggested a ban on knives with 3″ or larger blades before, as a crime-fighting strategy they prefer to incarcerating or executing people who commit mayhem with knives).
In addition, Grassley seems to be generally willing to support a Feinstein-drafted assault weapons bill in this interview. (It’s hard to know what he actually said, because the reporter, Tim Rohwer, seems to much prefer his own voice to his interview subjects, and shies away from direct quotes. He’s a newspaper reporter, and that alone is enough to call his integrity into question). So how stupid is Grassley? Not quite as industrially stupid as MacNamara with his blinkered, grasping greed; instead it’s the routine, banal stupidity of the nonentities we send to Congress.
But hey, maybe MacNamara’s voodoo technology can be adapted to knives. Perhaps we should just trust Robert MacNamara. Now, it’s true it was a different individual, but last time we trusted Robert MacNamara and his press waterbearers, we got Vietnam with ROE that guaranteed an expensive loss.
UPDATE: Here’s another smart gun article, by rumored Journolist member Farhad Manjoo (Manjoo denies having been a member, but did seem to coordinate his stories with Ezra Klein, Dave Wiegel and the rest of the “Juicebox Mafia”). This new rash of articles seems to be coordinated among the left-wing press — expect more of them. All the same deficiencies in the technology overlooked by Kaminsky were overlooked by Manjoo, suggesting the same sources are feeding him. The writing’s on the wall, though, for many media publications. This is the reason and this is one of the results. Here’s another: 1,850 layoffs in the newspaper industry in 2012. So far.
Have Blue’s 3D-printed lower receiver as tested in live fire on a .22 pistol.
The website Thingiverse, a repository for all kinds of 3D-printable objects, declared itself a gun-free zone on December 18 and deleted all the various weapons projects that had been posted there, several of which were linked to from this site. ORYHARA’s 2-part AR-15 was nuked, as was Have Blue’s.
Thingiverse is owned by MakerBot. In a comment to cNet, MakerBot attorney Richard McCarthy took credit for Thingiverse’s new anti-gun position, and defined guns out of their desirable universe of things “positive” and “creative.” At least one of the AR-15 parts, Have Blue’s receiver, was posted before McCarthy added anti-gun language to Thingiverse terms and conditions; in that case, at least, McCarthy changed the conditions to suit his and the firm’s politics, and then booted the files for violating them. Several anti-gun tech journalists, including cNet’s Rich Brown and Business Insider’s Dylan Love crowed about this development, taking credit in turn for motivating McCarthy into pulling the plug.
As one of the nuked projects’ designers says, “their site, their rules.” He goes on to point out that a lot of the stuff they do host is empty files or crap that won’t print. Read The Whole Thing™, but start with the excerpt here:
I’ve never really liked the manner in which it was run. There was far too little quality control and far too much useless junk.
Thing 21574 … but the actual file (required when posting a ‘thing’) is an empty file. So what does this mean?
It means that a user made a thing, printed it, took a picture of it, and posted it as a ‘thing’ with a picture but did not include the file others would need to print it.
Thing 19294 is not a thing at all. It is a pile of scrap ABS from failed prints…. I could spend hours combing through thingiverse looking for all of the things i don’t like, but i have better things to do with my time.
Every time I see a thing posted with “I haven’t printed this. hope it works,” I sigh and shake my head. This user has now unloaded the testing of his or her model onto the other users of thingiverse. We have to spend our printer time and filament proving out this untested design. And if the model in question is not marked ‘work in progress’ then one should expect it to work out of the box.
There is a bit of “sour grapes” in that, perhaps, but the guy is just hosting his own file now, and he’s out of the reach of, dare we call it, McCarthyism. Information wants to be free… and you can’t kill the signal. 3D image files are pure digits, pure signal, they are dimensionless, weightless, spaceless things, things that can cross borders, mountains, oceans, political boundaries and internet blackouts with seeming ease, and be gone without a trace.
No wonder totalitarians, whether fully-realized or merely incipient, don’t like this technology. All the more reason for us to learn and adopt it.