BROOMFIELD, Colorado, April 21 (Reuters) – Colorado-based Biofire Tech is taking orders for a smart gun enabled by facial-recognition technology, the latest development in personalized weapons that can only be fired by verified users.
But in a sign of the long, challenging road that smart guns have faced, a prototype twice failed to fire when demonstrated for Reuters this week. Company founder and Chief Executive Kai Kloepfer said the software and electronics have been fully tested, and the failure was related to the mechanical gun which was made from pre-production and prototype parts.
At other times during the demonstration the weapon fired successfully and the facial-recognition technology appeared to function.
Biofire’s gun can also be enabled by a fingerprint reader, one of several smart gun features designed to avoid accidental shootings by children, reduce suicides, protect police from gun grabs, or render lost and stolen guns useless.
The first consumer-ready versions of the 9mm handgun could be shipped to customers who pre-ordered as soon as the fourth quarter of this year, with the standard $1,499 model possibly available by the second quarter of 2024, Biofire said.
[1/3] A prototype of the Biofire Smart Gun is seen at Biofire Technologies headquarters in Broomfield, Colorado, U.S., April 18, 2022. REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight
That could make it the first commercially available smart gun in the U.S. since the Armatix briefly went on sale in 2014. At least two other American companies, LodeStar Works and Free State Firearms, are also attempting to get a smart gun to market.
In a demonstration at Biofire headquarters in Broomfield, Colorado, Kloepfer initially fired a round without issue and set the gun down. Then another man, an unauthorized user, tried to shoot but was unable to because the gun did not recognize his face nor his fingerprint, as the safety feature intended.
Kloepfer then came back to fire it again. It was at that point the gun unexpectedly went click on two occasions, though it did fire on subsequent trigger pulls. Then another prototype was brought in and that weapon functioned as planned.
Many gun enthusiasts have become skeptical of smart gun technology, concerned it will fail when a weapon is needed for self-defense at a moment’s notice.
“I’ve not just built a product, but an entire company around: How do we build an extremely reliable product that will always unlock for you anytime that you pick it up, and will never unlock when your kid finds it,” Kloepfer said.
Reporting by Matt McKnight in Broomfield, Colorado, and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, California. Editing by Donna Bryson and Jonathan Oatis
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Matt McKnight is a staff visual journalist who is based in Seattle and covers the Pacific Northwest, as well as stories across the greater American West. Beyond daily and breaking news coverage, his work focuses on the environment and political issues in the United States. He has been a journalist covering stories in the American West since 2010, and previously was on staff at Crosscut a non-profit newsroom associated with Seattle’s PBS station. McKnight is a longtime member of the National Press Photographer’s Association, and served two terms with the Western Washington chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, when he helped steward a Passion Projects grant for independent visual journalists to complete projects that might not have otherwise been funded by news organizations.
Daniel Trotta is a U.S. National Affairs correspondent, covering water/fire/drought, race, guns, LGBTQ+ issues and breaking news in America. Previously based in New York, and now in California, Trotta has covered major U.S. news stories such as the killing of Trayvon Martin, the mass shooting of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and natural disasters including Superstorm Sandy. In 2017 he was awarded the NLGJA award for excellence in transgender coverage. He was previously posted in Cuba, Spain, Mexico and Nicaragua, covering top world stories such as the normalization of Cuban-U.S. relations and the Madrid train bombing by Islamist radicals.