So, in last week’s debate, former Vice-President Joe Biden made it clear he thinks the only firearms  we should have are “smart guns,” which only fire in the hand of the legitimate owner,  and he insisted that the technology exists.

I hope he was more honest about his position on civil rights and busing than he was about that.

The fact is, there is no electronic, DNA, or similar technology which actually works in this regard. The only example now being offered is a ridiculously expensive .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol, which according to reviews is simply not reliable and is under-powered in any case.

Some of the prohibitionists may actually believe Biden’s false narrative, simply because there are so many other illogical and unfounded things they believe in their culture war.  The most dangerous, though – the ones who actually make the proposals – know or should know that the technology is not yet mature enough to work.  Their real goal? To legislate “smart guns only,” with a view toward following up by banning possession of the now comparably dangerous “dumb guns.”  And then saying, “Oh, your smart ones didn’t work? Too bad…your old dumb ones are already gone. We won the culture war.”

There actually is a smart gun that works. It’s the Magna-Trigger revolver conversion, invented circa 1976 by the late Joe Smith, and now owned and installed exclusively by Tarnhelm Supply,  Tarnhelm is run by an old shooting and teaching buddy of mine, master armorer Rick Devoid.  He converts the gun to fire only in a hand wearing a proprietary magnetic ring. It sounded like BS to me when it came out, so I got one from Smith in 1980 and tested the hell out of it…and discovered that it actually worked.  I carried mine for years, taught with it, and used it as a house gun when my youngest wasn’t yet old enough to absorb gun safety. I shot matches with it, even the Bianchi Cup one year, and took at least three criminals suspects at gunpoint with it that I recall, and it never failed me.  I have it still, in semi-retirement in case my youngest grandchildren or my great-grandkids come to visit.

Magna-Trigger’s only downside is what killed its popularity: it only works on a K-frame or larger Smith & Wesson revolver.  Info is at  Rick has lots of other goodies handgunners will find of interest, and does great action tunes on S&W and Ruger revolvers and most makes of semiautomatic pistols.

And, if you’re one of my graduates from either Lethal Force Institute or Massad Ayoob Group (, include a scan or photocopy of your certificate from me with your order — he’ll give you a ten percent discount!


  1. I spent well over a decade working where biometric hand scanners were used for access control. The average time to scan your hand and grant access was around 5 seconds and could be longer. OK, without having to sort through a substantial library of possible authorized users, the time might be slightly shorter if only 1-3 persons were authorized for use. This is assuming that the firearm would recognize both of your hands and/or other authorized users-which might not be in the design envelope. However, at a Tactical Police Competition, I reacted, drew, fired and scored the required hit from a security type holster in right at 2 seconds. This seems to create an obvious problem.

    Secondly, a bandaid on your finger, not having your hand in exactly the right position on the scanner, grease, oil, water or liquid on your hand would cause a failure to grant access. Gloves cannot be worn. These issues create other problems.

    Finally, back when the initial concept was being studied, an instructional group journal published the number of the project director at White Sands Proving Ground, they’d requested input. I called and while I expected a brief yes/no discussion, I ended up talking to the gent for about 45 minutes. We discussed the various complexities and needs that had never been considered and stopped only because I had to go to work.

    Definitely not ready for prime time.

  2. The Firearms Prohibitionists don’t give a rat’s behind about Smart Gun Technology. It is a mistake to take their push for Smart Gun Technology at face value.

    Question: How do you know when a Leftist is lying? Answer: His or her lips are moving.

    The push for Smart Gun Technology is yet another disingenuous move on the part of the Firearm Prohibitionists. They are only interested in it because it can be used to create yet another roadblock to Firearms Ownership for the American People. Anything that can be turned into such a roadblock is of interest to the Leftist Gun-grabbers. The fact that the technology does not work is a feature, not a bug, for them.

    So, with respect to Mas, pointing out that the technology is flawed, while accurate, does little good. Perhaps you might persuade some folks in the middle that it is true. However, the propaganda tools available to the Leftists, with their near total control of mass media around the world, means we are “out-gunned” in any such education effort. While we point out, to a handful of people, that the technology does not work, “Shotgun Joe” Biden and the rest of the the Leftists will be flooding the airwaves with false claims that make Smart Gun Technology sound like the greatest thing since the invention of fire.

    Know this. A working Smart Gun would be as hateful to the gun-grabbers as the most tricked out “Assault Weapon”. The Leftists WANT the technology to be defective. The end game for these Left-wing, Marxist tyrants is the disarmament of the American People. Firearms prohibition, for everyone except their body-guards and security forces, is their goal. Just the same as with every tyrant who has ever lived in the History of the World.

    The clearest proof of the above is that, whatever Smart Gun legislation is passed, it will only be applied to the American People. The body-guards of the Leftist elites and their security forces will be granted exceptions to the law and they will be equipped with the old-fashioned “dumb” weapons. Depend upon it.

  3. Obviously the first people who really need this technology are uniformed police officers, who carry openly and regularly engage in close-quarter situations with potential criminals.

    When they’re happy with smart guns, I’ll consider them. Carrying concealed, and avoiding contact with unsavory types, I have much less need.

    As for Mr. Biden, if he likes this idea so much, then his Secret Service detail should be equipped with them. Lead by example, right?

    • Well now, a few years back, an ultra liberal who was a client of mine insisted on everyone to get the “smart car”, you know, to save the environment. I agreed the environment should be guarded at all cost, but didn’t agree we should all have “smart cars” as I didn’t find the technology up-to-par and driving from Maryland to Idaho, would be a futile endeavor. He disagreed. Then I asked him how would a cop chasing a criminal in a high speed pursuit go. Blank stare.

      I will comply to using “smart” technology when our local and federal agencies do. That includes all air travel, ground travel, navigational travel to include space exploration, oceanic exploration and beyond. NO FOSSIL FUELS!

      Until then, I will rely on my analog machines to complete any task that it is designed to do, thank you.

  4. Make it a law where all police and private bodyguards, including the U.S. Capitol Police and U.S. Secret Service can only carry smart guns while on duty and see how politicians advocating for these firearms will vote.

    Only dumb people carry smart guns.

  5. If it ever was made acceptably reliable, it would only be another form of electronic key with all of the problems: Lost, stolen, missing, only works for a certain distance, unique so you couldn’t quickly hand the weapon to another, etc. I do expect a moderately successful implementation someday, but not a perfect one until we all are required to have a surgically implanted ID tag. Hopefully I will be long gone by then…

  6. FWIW, Mas, I went to the Tarnhelm web site and they now also can apply their Magna-trigger gun safety to S&W J Frames, as well as the Ruger Security Six. However, the cost to due so is about twice the cost of the S&W K, L, and N frames. Their site said nothing about X frames. I guess there is little chance that a bear will take and use your X frame on you. 🙂

  7. Mas, I have a daughter with two small children and she should have a house gun for security when her husband is out of town. Her primary concern is for her children’s safety. This may be a solution for her in this situation. She could keep a model 66 or 686 readily available as a house gun while keeping the Glock locked up. My question to you is have you ever heard of the Magna-trigger gun safety failing for anyone else? Thanks.

  8. I became so tired trying to explain to my friends why this unicorn gun doesn’t exist and most likely won’t exist that I wrote out an 8-page essay explaining everything point by point. Obviously, that’s too long to post here. But if Mr.Ayoob would like to see it then I would gladly email the file to him if he would only give me an email address to send it to. He could then either laugh at me or cry with me and post or not post to see sees fit.

  9. My Samsung Note 8 has arguably some of the most modern bio-metric scanners on the market. Both fingerprint and Iris scanners.
    At best, it opens on the first try about 70% of the time.
    I damn sure don’t want that on my firearm.

  10. Even if the “Smart” gun worked, the EP or anyone else, would not be able to use your gun for defense if you were out of the game. I know she carries her own, but I wouldn’t be willing to take the risk. Yes, there are many more reasons to reject them, but you and others have stated them well.

  11. For the anti-gunners, failure to fire when a bad guy is trying to harm you is a feature, not a bug. What they object to is the use of force (any kind, not just guns) by private citizens in self defense.

  12. “There are two kinds of people…”

    The dividing question here is, “what is the failure mode?”

    As in, the magic gubbins quit working, the battery goes dead, whatever. Does the gun:

    A) fire?
    B) not fire?

    For most gun owners, the answer would be A), because if the gun doesn’t fire you just have an inconvenient club. However, all the “smart gun” proposals I’ve seen fail to B).

    A while back there was a military smart gun proposal, where each small arm would not only have some kind of biometric ID, but would only fire when permitted by a remote controller with a platoon leader or back at a forward base. Because it was important that there be no “incidents”, and they were only supposed to shoot after obtaining permission anyway, or something along those lines.

  13. Hmmmmm…Smartgun Technology…let me think…remember Clean Coal Technology touted under Obama/Biden?…how did that turn out for the U.S. Coal Industry?

  14. I find it fascinating that not only does Mas know all about one variation of the unicorn gun, but he even has extensive experience with one as well. Now that is the very definition of “expert.”

    Well, Charlton Heston still has the best reply to any suggestion from the ant-gunners. All together now, “You can have my gun, when you take it from my COLD, DEAD HANDS!!!”

  15. Mas – I have a question for you that is a bit off topic. It deals with the smart use of guns rather than “Smart Guns”. 🙂

    We have all seen advice to not put ourselves into situations that would look bad to a jury after a self-defense incident. Such things as (1) don’t use firearms that are too “tactical” looking, (2) don’t use handloaded ammo for self-defense, (2) don’t post comments on-line or have signs at our homes that could be taken out of context (Example: A sign that says “Trespassers will be shot – Survivors will be shot again”), (3) don’t put “Punisher” grips on our handguns or tune the gun to have a “hair” trigger, etc.

    Along these lines, what do you think about using NFA or border-line NFA firearms for self or home defense?

    I am thinking about such things as: (1) putting a suppressor on a home defense firearm, (2) using an AR style pistol (say with an arm brace and maybe the can too!), using one of these short-barrel shotguns that skirt the edge of being an NFA item (Example: Mossberg ShockWave).

    Should an individual try to stick with conventional and/or inoffensive looking firearms even though something like an AR-style pistol with brace and can might actually be a lot more efficient and effective than a plain, old .38 Special revolver for home defense?

    I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this subject. Or, perhaps, as a future blog topic?

    • Every case I know of where a civilian has used a legally-possessed NFA for self-defense weapon has gone to grand jury minimum, and one to trial, resulting in acquittal. You and I both know how many gun owners don’t realize they can be legally owned; no surprise that some prosecutors think they’re weapons of thugs, mafioso, and assassins. I know of one case where the SBS was the cornerstone of the case, and the defendant took a plea and did some jail time, but his gun was not ATF legal. I don’t know of any cases of SBR or suppressor use in self-defense by a citizen licensed to own same, so it’s really unexplored territory. What history we have, though, is that the citizen can expect extra scrutiny if using a legal NFA weapon. If I was on the defense team, I’d be advising the defense lawyer to hammer on the fact that the defendant was checked out for months by the Federal government and deemed a suitable person to be trusted with these items.

      • Mas – “…defendant was checked out for months by the Federal government and deemed a suitable person to be trusted…”

        Thank you, Mas, for the reply. What you say above would certainly be correct if a true NFA weapon (Suppressor, SBR, SBS, sub-machine gun, etc.) was legally registered with the BATFE and then subsequently used, by a civilian, for self-defense.

        However, that point could not be made for some of these “almost NFA” firearms that are currently being sold. Example: AR / AK pistols equipped with Arm-Brace, Mossberg ShcokWave, Remington TAC series, etc. These do not need the NFA background check and are generally sold like regular firearms using the instant background check system. The case for an extraordinary, in-depth background check cannot be made for these items although some States do restrict or ban them.

        Given how popular these “Near NFA” firearms are becoming, perhaps we will have some case law soon on their legal use for self-defense?

  16. A little late to the party on this, which may further stray from the original thread. Moderators/silencers/suppressors on defensive firearms. My last LE Patrol Rifle Instructor class had a contingent of US Marshalls attend. They had short (11 inch) barreled M4s as primary firearms and usually used them suppressed. They didn’t use the suppressors except for a brief show & tell for those of us green with envy.

    Short version of my take away: those who think that a “can” will allow them to use firearms indoors without hearing damage are generally mistaken. This is especially true with rifles/AR pistols. Something like the Peltor Tactical Pro active hearing protection is much cheaper, needs no paperwork and can compensate for ears that aren’t what they used to be and still protect against the damage from gunfire.

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