Biofire: The First Worthwhile “Smart Gun”?

Note: The New Jersey law that would ban sale of regular guns once “smart guns” were deemed commercially viable is no longer on the books.

0:00 – Introduction
4:12 – Electronic elements
6:50 – User “presence” system
8:30 – Mechanical gun elements
11:11 – User enrollment/setup
15:29 – On the Range
18:14 – Security standards
20:59 – Conclusions

Biofire is a Colorado company that has spent the last 5 years or so developing a biometrically authenticated pistol, using both fingerprint and facial recognition systems. The gun is currently in the prototype/pre-production phase, and they are planning to have production models available around the end of the year.

Obviously, there is a wide skepticism about this sort of technology in firearms, and I shared this skepticism when I first spoke with Biofire. The situations in which biometric ID systems could become a liability seem too numerous to count. What convinced me to give the pistol a closer look was Biofire’s explicit focus on a particular target market where the technology fills a very real gap in current options: home defense for those with children or other people regularly in the household. For that situation, one must choose between an array of flawed options – trigger locks, rapid access (hopefully) safes, or keeping a gun separated from its ammunition. The idea of having a gun which can be left loaded and immediately accessible but only usable by a few specific individuals is an appealing one.


  1. Such a weapon already exists a Smith and Wesson K frame with a Magna Trigger Safety.I had my M66 and M49 carry guns fitted with them when my daughter was a small child and had friends over all the time.Works fine and excellant safety device.One of my best friends used a Magna Trigger Safety on his duty M65 Smith for years as a uniform patrol officer with great sucess.

    • The Magna Trigger Safety relies on a magnetic “ring”, not biometrics, and isn’t really similar to the Biofire pistol. Anyone with the “ring” can activate the corresponding firearm whether they are “authorized” to do so or not. A further limitation is that all of the “rings” are identical and will allow activation of any other Magna Trigger Safety equipped firearm. Potentially, any kind of magnet might activate the Magna Trigger Safety as well (unfortunately, there is not enough information on the Magna Trigger Safety website to deduce whether there is anything special about the magnet in the activation “ring”).

      The Biofire is designed to allow ONLY authorized persons to use it. Persons authorized to use a particular Biofire firearm are not automatically authorized to use any other Biofire firearm.

      I’m not saying that I would buy a Biofire (I probably wouldn’t), just that a magnetic “ring” activated lock is a “dumb gun” by comparison.

      • This is a side issue, but my understanding is that the developer of the Magna Trigger Safety was motivated by accounts of the number of US police officers who were shot by their own guns during struggles with suspects. The last time I heard, this circumstance causes one-sixth of all police deaths in the US every year. (Indeed, within my memory, the Chicago Police suffered two incidents wherein an officer AND his partner were both killed with the officer’s gun.) For the short-term purpose of keeping a carry gun from going off in the wrong hands, Magna wasn’t just the best mechanical choice out there, it was the only choice. It shouldn’t be belittled.

          • That’s actually probably about right. About 100 cops are killed on the job in the US every year.

            About half of those are from car accidents (and far too frequently, the cop wasn’t wearing a seat belt.)

            A majority of the other half are by pistol fire — 35 or 40 in an average year. Of those — a significant minority involve a cop getting killed with their own weapon. So 1/6th may not be the exact percentage in any given year, but it’s pretty close and not a bad rule of thumb.

            The FBI keeps good stats on this and publishes them every year in ‘Law enforcement officer killed and assaulted.’ And because cop’s deaths tend to be well documented and deaths are relatively few, those numbers are much more accurate than other stats collated by the FBI.

            (Out of 850,000 sworn police, not counting feds, being a cop is not a particularly dangerous job — much more dangerous to be a 7/11 clerk.)

          • Apparently you all need to check the numbers.
            For the last five years at the FBI site…
            2015 LEO Killed – 41 – With own weapon – 4
            2016 LEO Killed – 66 – With own weapon – 0
            2017 LEO Killed – 46 – With own weapon – 1
            2018 LEO Killed – 56 – With own weapon – 4
            2019 LEO Killed – 48 – With own weapon – 0

            That is 9 out of 257 or about 3.5% so nowhere near one out of six (16.7% )

            Numbers directly from FBI site

    • Wow, first time to hear about this divise, and cant believe this can also used to other semi-auto pistol when I search some pic. Interesting and funny.

  2. Interesting firearm, although I’m still skeptical of the “smart gun” concept. I think the most interesting questions regarding a “smart gun” revolve around what happens when the “smart” part fails. For example, I’m sure injury attorneys are salivating at the prospect of litigating the first case where the Biofire pistol fails to authenticate a registered user and the registered user is harmed in some way.

    Biofire better have top-notch attorneys on retainer as well as a substantial fund dedicated to pay out liability judgements. I suspect that if they sell any significant number of firearms, they’re going to need both.

    • To quote William Shakespeare “first we kill the lawyers.” Biofire looks like it will defeat the first excuse for launching a lawsuit because it fails to “not fire” aka. “fail-safe.”
      That eliminates the bulk of accidental deaths by stolen firearms.
      If a lawyer tries to challenge the notion that a Biofire failed to activate – during a home invasion – he is arguing against design principles. A Biofire failing to activate will probably include an element of user error … a paniced gun-owner trying to skip a step in the authentication process. As soon as you include human error, the legal process gets ridiculously complicated. Lawyers will only pursue a complicated plea if there is hope of winning significant amounts of money.
      To that end, the best thing Biofire can do is declare bankruptsy (aka. Chapter 11) the week after they hit the market. That will increase the number of steps that ambulance-chasing lawyers will have to pursue/sue ….
      Bottom line, as long as Biofire looks like a deeply indebted start-up company, few lawyers will bother trying to sue them.

      • If it might fail to fire when I pull the trigger, in addition to the normal reasons a gun might, it is a no-go. I need to fail to “any user,” not “user not recognized.”

        And that is the end of the concept.

        Then, I can’t tune the mechanism.
        How does the facial recognition work in complete darkness, or when someone is wearing makeup?
        How does that massive bulk work for a small shooter or female?
        I have an expensive USB charged flashlight that is starting to have issues. It can’t be repaired. Can this be repaired?

        I can keep a safe gun in the nightstand the way my father did–a single action locking drawer. When he unlocked it at night, the key couldn’t be removed. To remove the key before going to his car, he had to lock the drawer. That cost a lot less than $1500, and the gun was 100% reliable.

        They’ll avoid a lot more accidental deaths by endorsing actual gun safety training in schools.

  3. You said –
    “It’s not intended to replace everything. It’s not going to and no one would ever try to suggest that it is.”
    How can you be so wrong? You already spoke about the New Jersey law that did just that. I think it is easy to predict other laws that would do exactly that. Just because that would be unreasonable and stupid means nothing. It would happen and you should be thinking of that instead of denying it.

    • Laws reflect Pharaoh’s “So let it be written, so let it be done” which is not reality. New Jersey’s law was as unenforceable as the Indiana bill which would have mandated pi’s value.

  4. In the design use-case, I’d prefer the same systems applied to a safe. Would a safecracker be able to beat it eventually? Sure, but how many burglars are expert safecrackers?

    A burglar may not be able to shoot you with this, but you probably wouldn’t have the gun in the first place if you believe intruders have no other means to harm you. He may never beat the safeties, but he still has your means of self-defense, and you’ve lost more than if he’d stolen your Glock (and a lot more than if he hadn’t been able to beat the safe the Glock is in). The same system applied to a safe (where it wouldn’t need to be nearly as micro-miniaturized / deconflicted with other parts, all the extra protections against changing hands, much less a new gun design) would also be vastly less expensive while still offering more options.

    I don’t know how anyone can think opposition based on potential regulation is shortsighted when:
    A. At least one such law that already exist[ed], and
    B. Skepticism about those laws often depends on presumed unfeasibility, which would be reduced if this really works.

  5. Interesting. This is the first smart gun design I’m not going to dismiss out of hand. I still have some questions, which I’ve sent to Biofire (keeping fingers crossed for a reply). My budget won’t support dropping $1500 on a gun strictly for home defense. For that money, I need something I can carry and keep by my bed at night.

    But they are on to something good. Finally.

  6. I cannot get my brand new Smartphone to consistently authenticate with fingerprint or camera, so I derfinitely have my concerns about that aspect of any “smartgun”.

  7. something tells me that as soon as this gun hits the market, somebody will release a 3D printing files for a kit that replaces the electronic trigger group with a traditional trigger &sear assembly…

    • Or maybe hack the software to make it go full auto. I can see criminals selling thumb drives with some ‘glock switch’ software.

      But it looks interesting.

      • Better use for it, also; it might work quite well in a “Hinged stock adapter” with a camera, to shoot round corners. A modified stock, that allows you to clip it to objects and fire it off a smartphone app maybe in full auto good suggestion. Seems more (Smart to me) I mean I just object to the size of it, a purely utilitarian objection admitedly… But, like… Look at the size of it, and you have to charge it; and it doesn’t shoot round corners or anything? Meh.

        Ok the only you can shoot it lark, concept… Seems a bit “George orwell” what if you need to steal the guns to use as the onwners are ze Gestapo. Doubtless you could cut them up and use the parts for normal guns, but I have ethical concerns with the notions of smart guns; something that someone else could not use what if said someone had a good reason to use it? Denying folk the chance to shoot ze Gestapo with their own guns, American war of independence; I as a Redcoat could have prevented you as a colonial peasant from shooting me with my own gun with this system. Which seems somewhat unfair, I am slashing at you with a big sabre.

        • Pay your tea tax! Swipe, swipe! “Sabre there” see New Jersey less keen now aren’t you. We Redcoats take taxes on tea very seriously.

      • I can see criminals selling thumb drives with some ‘glock switch’ software.

        The files themselves wouldn’t be illegal.

  8. We’ve spent the last 400 or so years designing and refining “failure” out of firearms, and are now likely to spend at least as long trying to design “failure” out of the electronic safety systems we’re seemingly hell-bent on implementing.

    Color me in as “highly dubious” about the entire proposition. I’ve observed some very smart people try and deal with the relatively simple safety systems built into the M9 pistol, and they managed to completely ass-up the entire process of “draw and fire in defense of life”. The more crap you put in between “Identify Threat” and “Shoot Threat”, the more there is to go wrong. Now, adding in the electronics and so forth? Yeah; I think there will be a bunch of liability lawsuits for “murdered while trying to defend self and others with Biofire product…”

    There really isn’t any means of rendering a firearm “safe”, such that you can still use the damn thing effectively in a come-as-you-are surprise engagement like having someone in your bedroom with you when you wake up. With the condition that the average person would be in under those circumstances? I am not at all sanguine that all this facial recognition and fingerprint recognition is going to work worth crap. What do you do if your hand is covered in lotion or other bodily secretions? Does “bed face” create issues for the facial recognition software?

    Also, do you want to put your faith in any of those companies backing it? How stupid do you have to be to fall for any of those assholes? Anyone remember Nest? Who wants their self-defense firearm at the mercy of some techbro finance type who decides to shut down their servers because “old model; not profitable” or “bought out and abandoned”? “Defense-grade Data Security” my ass. Not to mention, I see nothing here about any explanation of the networking requirements; surely there will have to be some means of software updating, yes? Will they be capable of turning off your pistol remotely with those updates? Monitoring it? Using it against you in a court of law? Will the “black box” data it no doubt records be something they can subpoena and use in your prosecution?

    As well, I don’t see any of the features that might make me willing to overlook these issues; as a part of an entire holistic security system that started reliable and utterly bullet-proof for legal processes surveillance monitoring such that you could reasonably establish legal grounds for self-defense, plus a “gun camera” like they had in WWII fighter aircraft? I don’t see the compelling sales point, here. If you’re going to “go digital” with this crap, I want to see rock-solid open-source company agnostic software and firmware such that I know that my 1500.00 pistol won’t be bricked like any of the various and sundry other “home automation” products that have been abandoned by companies like Google… Seeing their name on Bioware’s homepage is quite enough to confirm I’ll never be buying one of these weapons, for any reason. Google’s track record of product support over the long term is abysmal. How long until the electronics aren’t supported, or the proprietary batteries aren’t available (I’d almost guarantee you that those will be a part of the design…) for replacement when they inevitably go bad? Who is to guarantee the quality of the electronic components? Anyone remember the capacitor and resistor failures in computers of a few short years ago? I’ve got a very expensive motherboard that crapped out well before it should have, because the poorly-made components on the motherboard crapped out and leaked corrosives all over it.

    No, I don’t think anyone who buys one of these things is making a wise investment. At. All. The fact that Google has their name on the homepage? Oh, HELL NO.

      • Pretty much spot-on. I know software engineers; most of them live like luddites with zero “internet-enabled smart” things in their homes. It’s all analog and mechanical.

        I won’t say that mechanical firearms are one-hundred percent, but… I at least can work out what is supposed to be doing what, and get reasonably decent performance out of them. The idea that there’s gonna be code I don’t have the ability to read or understand as a part of the system? Oh, hell no…

    • Here’s some advice for people not wanting their guns stolen: If you’re not planning to shoot anything anytime soon, put your “not meant to defend the house” guns in a safe. Other good hint: don’t put an Armalite with a loaded double-drum magazine next to your bed unless you expect an entire platoon of North Korean Commandos to smash through your roof. And no, you should NEVER put a pistol under your pillow. Many people accidentally shot their own brains out because they left loaded pistols (with the safety catch turned off and a round in the chamber) under their pillows.

      Stupid tangent: The Biofire sure wouldn’t save you from a laughing lunatic throwing dynamite at you from the bucket of a hijacked steam shovel (yes, I said steam shovel). I could be wrong.

      • I’ve never actually heard of anyone doing that with a pistol, TBH. I’ve slept with one holstered for many years, never had an issue. Also, slept many a night with an M16 in my sleeping bag, on occasion, even loaded. Never had a problem.

        I don’t think I ever saw a case where any of my guys in the service had problems, either. If someone is likely to wake up shooting, it is possible that they’re someone who shouldn’t have a gun in the first damn place.

        On the other hand, I am someone who is habituated to always going armed, and I don’t treat my weapons casually. Maybe that makes a difference? Dunno… Everyone’s life experience is different.

        As to the laughing lunatic in the steam shovel? Yeah, that’s an outlier, but… Never forget that the cops dealing with Marvin Heemeyer found themselves wanting something in the light anti-tank range, not just the usual police pistols and carbines… Ya never know. You just… Don’t. Someone, possibly nearby your location, is going through some sh*t right now, and considering going out in a flare of epic violence. Like as not, they’ll calm down before actually executing their plan, but… The chance always remains that they might carry things through.

        I think there’s likely a percentage of the folks who do things like that idiot in Kentucky who’re sort of unaware that they’re living their thoughts and ideations out in the real world when they go to shoot things up. Friend of mine who was a cop described someone just like that, who was horribly surprised to realize that he was in real life, not his usual dream-world. Said idiot was laying there, bleeding out, and saying things that led my friend to conclude that the idiot had thought he was having a hallucination when he was actually trying to rob the check-cashing place. Apparently, he’d gotten so used to living in a fantasy that he’d ceased to distinguish between the two… Armchair psychologists that the two of us were, my friend and I have sort of concluded that this syndrome is distressingly prevalent. I’ve seen some things like that which make me wonder just how many people out there are acting out like they’re in a simulation or something, and fail to realize that they’re out in the “real world” where there are consequences to their acts. You see the looks of surprise on their faces, when consequence comes home, and… You just have to wonder what was going on in their heads. I know one woman who lost her sh*t at me in a customer service situation and got fired immediately seemed to have had a bit of a shock to realize that she’d actually been saying and doing what she did. It was like some sort of fugue state, or something…

      • We would brush the dynamite through a fire prior to “throwing” in order to ignite the fuses? Am I wrong. Might work, should try it in Ukraine.

  9. What if Raul Mendez had one of these? A gunman at his house shot him in the head which fractured his jaw and destroyed his left eye. He had so much blood all over and damage to his face his wife thought he was dead. However he was able to gain consciousness and use his concealed REAL gun to stop the gunman and save many lives at the 4th of July party. The facial recognition would have failed on his damaged and very bloody face and the blood on his fingers would have caused the fingerprint detection to fail. This gun would not have worked and he would have been killed along with his wife and children and everybody else there.
    “If it saves only one life” this gun should not ever be counted on.

  10. Give it to a Marine – those guys can break ANYTHING.

    Any guesstimate on what the MSRP will be?

    Gotta see Ian use this in a B.U.G. match.

    Given how often my smart phone fails to identify me, there’s a high degree of skepticism they’ll need to overcome.

    • All this is funded by anti gun groups. So they can say a smart gun now exists, so your old gun is now illegal, turn it in. Now the politicians can pay the company to shut down your new gun. I’ll carry my 1860 colt before I would trust this thing.

  11. If it might fail to fire when I pull the trigger, in addition to the normal reasons a gun might, it is a no-go. I need to fail to “any user,” not “user not recognized.”

    And that is the end of the concept.

    Then, I can’t tune the mechanism.
    How does the facial recognition work in complete darkness, or when someone is wearing makeup?
    How does that massive bulk work for a small shooter or female?
    I have an expensive USB charged flashlight that is starting to have issues. It can’t be repaired. Can this be repaired?

    I can keep a safe gun in the nightstand the way my father did–a single action locking drawer. When he unlocked it at night, the key couldn’t be removed. To remove the key before going to his car, he had to lock the drawer. That cost a lot less than $1500, and the gun was 100% reliable.

    They’ll avoid a lot more accidental deaths by endorsing actual gun safety training in schools.

    • Simple solutions are always the last ones to be tried…

      I would love to see someone build and sell an actual decent theft-resistant nightstand which could be secured to something. Nobody out there builds such a thing, that I’ve ever seen. Putting a lock on the average bedroom furniture product is pretty much a waste of your time, because they’re so fragile and not able to be bolted down to anything. I’m actually sort of surprised that there aren’t any gun safe manufacturers that build something like that, which would blend in with your average bedroom.

  12. I’m sure that facial recognition feature works great inside a dark house at night. And why is any company struggling to produce a product that nobody really wants? I prefer my guns like my girlfriends: dumb but totally reliable.

  13. I assume the ATF, FBI, Secret Service and Local Police are all in line to get these pistols. I certainly can wait until they have found all the flaws and I can get mine from their dumpsters.

  14. Can it be hacked? I.e. It can be used as evidence to say you shot Abraham lincoln @ 22:15 hrs on the 14th of April 1865, see the guns says it was you. When it wasn’t, it was John wilkes Booth for example.

  15. That said I do recognise there does seem to be an issue “With accidents” in the U.S… Which I attribute soley to Glock type “Safe action” designs; due to they have all been via said guns. So maybe a Ruger lcr (with an exposed hammer) and a snap cap used for the first round, may alleviate such issues. How hard is it to pull a trigger twice in double action to fire at close range, or once as a safety then cock to fire an aimed shot; not a cowboy quick draw match. These “Safe actions” are perhaps to easy to use.

    I don’t think electronic systems are required.

    • They’ve been having negligent discharges since forever, going back to long before the Glock was ever invented. It’s not just a problem unique to the US, but it’s probably more noticeable here because there is much greater ownership of pistols across the general population… Which includes the idiots. Thus, the apparent higher rate of such things here in the US.

      Glock and other similar such actions have little to do with it.

      It’s informal, but the number of Glock 19s that they procured for the Iraqi security forces and which wound up in the hands of US soldiers actually had lower negligent discharge rates than the then-issue M9. I got that from a guy who’d had several hundred of them issued to his embeds with the Iraqis, and what he said was that there was a lower incidence rate of “accidents” with the Glocks issued to junior and mid-rank enlisted than with the M9 pistols issued to his staff officers… Go figure.

      I had a harder time training high-ranking staff types on pistols when I worked at Corps headquarters than I’d ever experienced training my medics, all junior enlisted. Do not ask me why, because I’ve no earthly idea why that would be the case. I had issues with my medics, many of whom had never been exposed to the pistol, but those were all eventually trained around. Some of the staff officers, particularly the ones who’d spent little time “running troops” and who were extensively educated in various specialties? Yikes. I remember one guy who I knew had a damn Ph.D that simply couldn’t wrap his head around the whole safety system issue on the M9; he’d sit there pulling the trigger wondering why it wasn’t firing, with the safety on: “Sergeant? Sergeant… I think my pistol’s broken…”

      Dude was not stupid, either. I’d rate him as one of the more intelligent sorts that I ever encountered, but the poor bastard didn’t have the mechanical aptitude to work out much of anything at all. I remember finding him one afternoon, late in a Pacific Northwest winter, soaking wet and trying to figure out why he couldn’t get his car door open, standing there in the rain. He kept putting the key in, trying to turn it, not being able to do so, and then pulling the key out and trying it again and again. It wasn’t actually his car. Someone else on staff had the same one, same color, and had parked it near where he always tried parking. His car was actually in a different part of the lot, but he’d forgotten that he’d been unable to find a spot where he usually did, because he’d gotten into work later than normal that day.

      Which isn’t to make fun of him, but to point out that different people are good at different things, and you’ve got to design handguns that everyone can make work all the time, no matter how much mechanical “eptitude” they have. This is why I think the Glock is superior to the M9; you’ve got yours out of the holster? It’s ready to go, no switches or anything else in the way. For a basic defense weapon you’re going to issue to people who’re not going to have time to train extensively, the Glock is a superior design. The M9? Nope; I’ve watched too many people have too much trouble with that. Plus, add in the fact that there even is a “safety switch” on the damn thing, and that just breeds complacency. The Glock? You know it’s always dangerous; no such thing as a safety-switch crutch you can “rely on”. Which you should never do in the first damn place…

  16. I mean it is probably a decent design for what it is trying to do, so fair play.

    I just disagree with what they are trying to do; ok, maybe in specfic circumstances as outlined perhaps it is a type of solution amongst numerous ones; safes et al.

    I.e. You “If you could afford it” could nominate this as a bed side gun per se, for the reasons outlined. Target market U.S who’s potential purchasers probably keep a double barrel under the bed anyway. So bar law’s enforcing the use of this sort of gun; I will be surprised if they sell lots.

  17. Actually you know it reminds me of V.A.R; video assisted referee in the English Premier league… An introduction of technolgy into an area were it was clear “It was clear, to me” to be a detrimental non solution; to an issue that could not be so resolved without detrimental effects. This is one of those; like var it is in effect a waste of time. There is zero improvement, whatsover only negative side effects.

  18. I bet my annual income , that i can fire Ian’s gun if i pull his face from the youtube video and print it on a piece of paper ! Facial recognition still always fails there 🙂

    And the faceimage and fingerprint are stored in the gun – but the base can get softwareupdates from the net ? Who here doubts , that the biometric data from the gun can not be uploaded to the net this way ?

  19. Whenever you see someone working on a “smart gun”, take them hunting. And then a tragic accident happens. This is a “Pandor’s Box” that should never be opened. Shame on you Ian, you should know better.

    • Tin Foil Tri-Corn hats; have a better reverberation, of oscillating Government… Trails… Those plane exhausts, yeah right. Bad for the greenhouse gas, stuff “You know cow farts” in the news, yeah. 20 bux for a tin foil Tri-Corn (The dome creates a dish between the outers, to reflect the “Waves” incase you didn’t know; you know science…) and you look Stylish… In a Tri-Corn hat, defeating the pernicious and invidious… Type of brain waves. That say George the 3rd may have, sent… By Clouds… Could he have controlled them. Like Biden. Anyway 20 bux, you’ll find them in Ian’s shop in about… 20 mins.

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