Interview w/ Biofire’s Lead Designer: Features and Reliability

When I visited Biofire, I was able to spend several hours discussing the history of the gun with its creator, lead designer, and lead engineer. We also completely stripped one of the guns down to its component circuit boards and pins – but much of this information is still under NDA until the guns are available commercially. But I did take some time to speak on camera with Bryan Rogers, who is the lead designer (and the first employee hired by the company’s founder).

One of the things that I think really separates Biofire from the other smart guns that have been attempted is the amount of time they spent studying what would actually make a useful biometric pistol. For several years they did conceptual research and interviews, and hands-on testing with a wide variety of potential users, with an early proof of concept gun based on a SIG P320 FCU. Rather than make their own assumptions about what people would be interested in, they went out and found people who wanted a gun for self-defense but had not bought one. The configuration and features of the final Biofire pistol reflect this research, and I think it’s a really interesting story.


  1. Ian, quit promoting this. You of all people should understand how dangerous this is. Wait till the day you’re told, “Now we have these ‘safe’ smart guns, you WILL URN IN ALL YOUR OLD UNSAFE ONES!” Think it won’t happen? Think!

  2. A few thoughts on this.

    First: Basing this on the P320 platform seems problematic to me. Drop safety issues aside, I find the fire control group of the P320 to be overly and unnecessarily complex. It seems to me that the Glock 22 would have been a more reliable (and simple) platform to start with.

    Second: I have serious reservations about having to ask a piece of software to make my firearm operable, and I’m curious if there’s a way to upgrade the internal firmware. This has its own pros and cons: the pro being that the software can be improved without having to replace the hardware … and the con being that a firmware upgrade would give one more “in” to hack the software.

    Third: what does it share magazine compatibility with? Or is it its own proprietary magazine?

    Fourth: I imagine that this gun can be field stripped. What would stop someone from, say, using a Dremel to remove the “guts” and simply turn it into a “dumb” firearm? Thinking about it from a loss-prevention perspective (since I imagine part of the theory is that the gun would be inoperable to someone that stole it).

    Fifth: I’m a bit chagrined to say this, but I’ll say it: the styling just doesn’t work for me. I’m not “anti” plastic guns in the least … but there’s too much affectation here, and I don’t think it’ll age well. Yes, the gun is a tool, function over form, blah blah blah … but in a world of well styled pistols, I’d have a hard time ponying up my hard-earned for one of these.

  3. The problem with smart guns is that as soon as a practical one is available then anti-gun legislators will outlaw non-smart guns. There are already laws on the books in at least one state that anticipate this.

    • These “trigger laws” probably exist in a few states already, but they’ll almost certainly be challenged under the SCOTUS Bruin decision. And that won’t be that difficult of a challenge, especially if civilian law enforcement agencies are exempt from the requirement of using “smart guns.”

  4. Aside from sharing other commenters’ legal concerns, I think the interview was more of a “Leading questions to help this guy give his pitch” rather than “What would I (or other logical gun guys) want to know about this?” IMHO the most important question (in the interviewee’s wheelhouse) went unasked: Why not apply the technology (which seems pretty good) to a safe, where it would be easier and cheaper, and prevent theft period?

    Some commenters (here and elsewhere) tried to rationalize on the company’s behalf, noting that this pistol would help address the [statistically miniscule] issue of police being shot with their own weapons, but since their own focus was on home defenders the question remains relevant.

    • And I concur, smart tech should be applied to the gun safe, not to the gun itself. After all, gun safes are freaking heavy. What idiot attempts to steal a safe!?

      • Thanks, Cherndog!

        I believe the company argues that a [traditional / “banker”] safe is too slow, but a bolt-on lined steel holster with solenoid-retracted bolts for the trigger guard and thumb groove, with the sensors in comparable positions, could be just as fast.

        • It would also be much more flexible in the choice of pistol locked with this smart system. Instead of being bound to this exact pistol. An ugly one at that.

          But then a small gun safe would be also pretty quick whith an electronic lock and scanner I think. A safe would also keep people messing with the gun. I could also see a place for such “smart” technology in all manner of safe sizes and purposes for the lazy or forgetful people misplacing their keys.

          @cherndog:Well actually there are quite a few people stealing safes. Especially filled ATM machines for the cash money. They just drive into the bank and tow out the ATM. Producing lots of collateral damage. Well for a small pistol safe bolted under the bed to the ground or similar I doubt thieves would bother.

          • Part of the reason I view this with suspicion is that a safe is the much more logical choice for anyone in the target market. Other than niche collectors like Ian, who would choose a $1500 pistol that [only] prevents unauthorized firing over a ~$150 product that prevents all unauthorized access?

      • “(…)What idiot attempts to steal a safe!?(…)”
        According to
        …hapless burglar from Indiana, who broke into a man’s garage and tried to lift an antique, 900-pound safe suspended on a floor jack. When the homeowner returned to check his garage, he found the unlucky thief crushed to death.(…)stealing the safe would have been pointless because it was completely empty…

  5. They should re name it the HAL 9000. When you go to unlock it you’ll hear” I’m sorry Dave but I’m afraid i cant do that.”

  6. A gun existing with owner… No owner… No gun…

    In a home defense… Every member of family must have a gun… A really well thought marketing point…

    If only one gun in the house… God will mercy…

    • I disagree. Not everyone in the family should have a gun – especially pre-teen children. You also have to consider the emotional maturity of teenagers when faced with a violent criminal. Even a teenager trained gun use and experienced at hunting will suffer a massive adrenaline dump when faced with a burglar for the first time. That adrenaline dump will vastly reduce his/her emotional maturity and fine motor skills. So only well-trained adults can be trusted yo defend their homes with guns.

  7. Ian, why are you devoting any time to this? It really does seem like you’re promoting this “smart gun” concept. Nobody who truly understands guns should have anything to do with this Trojan horse gun control effort.

    • Yes, Trojan horse approach to take away the ability of self defence against violent crime is the most fitting description of that gadget.

  8. I’m wary but not completely averse to smart guns as an OPTION, not a requirement, when choosing a weapon. I realize this is in the hands of politicians, not Biofire.

    That said, Biofire did not get off to a good start when, as reported by the NRA, at a demonstration firing, it failed to accept and allow use to the 2nd shooter

  9. Haha. The idea that “smart gun” technology will be used to “outlaw “ good ol’ reggeler guns is laughable. Attempts at merely tightening background checks are readily shot down. Legislation banning the millions of legally owned firearms suddenly and easily being adopted by state and federal government is comic absurdity. Sorry. Biofire is not a back door into the insidious plot to seize your
    shootin’ irons.

    • Remember the old saying that the trouble with making things idiot-proof is that idiots are so ingenious?

      If you look at the history of legislative and etc. attempts to run roughshod over the Second Amendment (to say nothing of the Constitution in general), it’s rather obvious that one of the few things more ingenious than an idiot is a power-hungry politician and/or “social reformer”.

      One who is so mortally intent on “doing good” (at least for himself) that he really doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process.

      clear ether


      • C’mon Eon, don’t you realize that only a paranoid conspiracy theorist could possibly dream up the possibility of a law that actually already passed, not to mention the countless others that failed by slim margins only because the tech was deemed unfeasible? 😉

          • Regardless of my (or anyone’s) opinion about “Smart Guns”, arguing that they are impossible / nonexistent / wild speculation would be either ignorant or lying – because the Biofire exists. Even if the company only made one and then shut down tomorrow, once I’ve seen either video, the excuse of ignorance would be gone; any further argument that such a thing does not or could not exist could not be anything but a lie.

            The same is true about you and your “mildly dissenting” lies about the law. It was passed (and amended, not repealed); therefore, continuing to argue that such laws are impossible (or even slightly farfetched) just digs a deeper grave for your credibility.

  10. 1:00 – one does not approach products with a “scientific” bent. Are you shitting me?

    One approaches products with a “customer centric” approach.

    Geeze. This ain’t rocket science.

    I’m just sayin’…

    • 1. Figure out if there’s a market for the product.

      2. Figure out what it will cost to make the product in salable quantities.

      3. Figure out unit price based on that.

      4. Determine if customer is willing to pay that much.

      5. If “no”, scrap the plan and start over again.



  11. no tech that is reliable will be fast. Dredd movie probably has the most realistic weapon ID system and its not instant either, even in fiction.

    • in the lab, we had a placard on the wall.




      1. If you want it fast and accurate, it won’t be cheap.

      2. If you want it fast and cheap, it won’t be accurate.

      3. If you want it accurate and cheap, it won’t be fast.

      You’d be amazed how many DAs never got the point.



  12. Apparently mildly dissenting opinions are no longer tolerated on Forgotten Weapons. Yikes.

    • Let’s just say that in politics, you should never attribute to ineptitude what can be more simply explained by malice aforethought.




  13. Good for them and good for Forgotten Weapons.

    I’m not the target market but I won’t stand in the way of people making new things and pushing envelopes. Especially because of politicians. The gun sphere has been way too deferential to those bastards for way too long. Overwhelm’em with new ideas. Like Open Source Defense noted recently there are lots of them here to iterate on!

    This isn’t a zero sum game. I hope Biofire makes a zillion dollars and you don’t let the naysayers get you down Ian.

  14. A very good design, overall. I would say; for what it is, overall. Interesting video, physical design, manufacturing, technological points… But it is, what is. And to me “what that is” in the U.K seems like V.A.R in the Premier league; it is nonsense, in relation to the U.S gun “game” it is a non solution.

    But a viable, very niche product.

  15. Bringing any new handgun into successful sales is a towering challenge.
    Stepping into the political minefield of so-called “smart guns” is even more challenging. The business case of making a gun specialized for first time buyers, by adding digital technology, might just work.

    I think its telling that Biofire didn’t try to seek potential sales to police. Odds are the Biofire smart-gun will be a handgun too expensive for anyone except the rich, and with a modest service lifespan unsuited for firing lots of ammunition. How large might that market be? I wonder if the business model for Biofire will resemble more a car dealership/drivers ed business than a conventional gun manufacturer? With significant business just from training new shooters and servicing Biofire pistols?

    This was a worthwhile interview. It’s of interest, just from the point of view of new firearms technology, if nothing else. I wonder if Biofire also considered integrating a light or forward facing gun-camera into their system? The ability to record a dangerous encounter is a handgun feature that would appeal to me, even though I have no desire for any so-called “smart gun”.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the potential political implications of the Biofire. Bad faith gun control activists won’t get any more mileage out of the Biofire smart-gun than any of the other numerous bad faith schemes they’ve tried.

    For example, the California gun control law banning handgun sales of so-called “Saturday Night Specials”, looks likely to be struck down in Federal Court, in large part because the law exempted police. Giving up the lie that the law had anything at all to do with “safe handguns”, since it allows police to buy ‘unsafe’ guns!

    In theory, the Biofire seems intended for those people who otherwise would not buy a handgun. As such it’s hard to see what harm could come of it. And in fact, Biofire could have the potential for spreading gun ownership into areas of the world which normally prohibit personal firearms. Not that I believe it really would, but in theory the features of the Biofire could placate many typical objections to gun-ownership.

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