by Lee Williams
You can reserve a $1,499 Biofire 9mm Smart Gun today for a refundable deposit of $149. You’ll get to pick the color of the frame, the trigger and the magazine release. You can choose a right or left hand model and add a custom serial number at no extra charge. Additional magazines are $49 each, and for $99 you can purchase a year of concierge white-glove service, known as “Biofire Care.”
“Your Smart Gun will ship in the order it was reserved. Order now to secure your spot in line,” the company promises on its website.
But what you can’t do is shoot the thing before you plunk down your money, nor can nearly anyone else. Biofire is not allowing independent reviews of its new smart gun, at least not anytime soon.
“In the short term, we’re not doing that kind of thing yet. We’re trying to phase in our engagement with the public on this stuff,” Amy Jasper, Biofire’s communication director said Tuesday. “We’re hosting product demos on Zoom, interviews with the CEO, and then the next thing we’ll host are some onsite range days for folks in the firearm media – allowing folks to put a few rounds through it. After that, we’ll be able to send firearms out to do whatever you want with it. It’s a phased approach.”
Jasper said the company lacks the “capacity” to allow traditional firearm reviews, even though they’re already accepting downpayments for the pistol, which she said should start shipping during Q1 or Q2 of 2024.
For now, you have to take Biofire’s word that the smart gun’s “integrated fingerprint and 3D facial recognition systems” will work as advertised and unlock the pistol when it’s needed, especially in what Mas Ayoob called “the gravest extreme.”
There is much more at stake with the release of any new smart gun than the release of a next generation Glock or a new Sig-Sauer. Even though New Jersey lawmakers toned down the state’s infamous smart-gun mandate, which would have required Garden State gun dealers to only sell firearms with user-recognition technology the minute a viable smart gun hit the market, the gun-ban industry will still demand all new firearms contain fingerprint scanners or facial-recognition software. In other words, anti-gunners will use the release of a new smart-gun as a cudgel to leverage more infringements of our Second Amendment rights, if it works, that is.
Therefore, when a new smart gun is unveiled, it’s vital to see if it actually works, and that’s where independent testing comes in – not a demo on Zoom or a dog-and-pony show at the company’s range. If you’re becoming suspicious, it’s because we’ve seen these hands-off tactics from manufacturers before with the Hudson 9mm, Remington’s ill-fated R51 and the very first version of the Glock 42, and they all proved to be junk.
‘Similar to a Glock 19’
In an interview Thursday with the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project, when asked if his smart gun is reliable, Kai Kloepfer, Biofire CEO and founder, said, “I would say the short answer is yes.”
“The long answer, as a gunowner, the fundamental thing that no one has ever done is build a smart gun that delivers on its key promise of only working for you. Most importantly to your question, it needs to be a good gun,” Kloepfer said. “What I would say is the pre-production unit we have now – by the point where we’re asking customers to put full payments down – the expectation is yes; it will be similar to a Glock 19 in reliability. If we had final production units we would be shipping to customers.”
Some pre-production models can fire hundreds of rounds without a malfunction, Kloepfer said, while others experience one malfunction per magazine.
“We’ve run a pretty rigorous test parameter for over two years now,” he said. “Our intent here is, we are first and foremost building a home-defense handgun, not a battle rifle, so we are focusing on it being very reliable in that environment, so I would say it’s not the ideal firearm to take to the desert in Afghanistan.”
Kloepfer’s current model comes with iron sights and an integral red laser, but he said future models will include a red-dot, which “will be fully integrated into the power source of the gun – no extra batteries and no need to turn it off and on.”
Biofire has raised more than $30 million to develop its smart gun, an effort led by the Founders Fund. While the majority of his investors are anonymous, Kloepfer said he has not taken money from Bloomberg, Giffords, Brady or other anti-gun groups.
“We are backed by a very broad range of people,” he said. “Our goal here is to build firearms. We’ve never supported any mandates or restrictions of firearms.”
Biofire posted a well-produced video on its website of retired Navy SEALs shooting and reloading the clunky looking gun.
“The Biofire Smart Gun was designed specifically for real gun owners who want a quality home defense firearm that cannot be used by children or criminals,” Mike Corbett, Biofire advisor and former member of SEAL Team 6 is quoted as saying in a press release. “In a few years, I believe that the head of every household in America who wants a home defense firearm is going to choose this Smart Gun.”
Biofire did not follow through on a request to make Corbett available for an interview to discuss his comments.
Ian McCollum, host of Forgotten Weapons on the YouTube channel, was allowed to examine Biofire’s weapon at length, and shoot two 10-round magazines at the company’s indoor range for an episode of his program.
“This is the challenge of developing your whole new firearms platform and biotech sensor platform at the same time,” McCollum said during the episode after experiencing a failure-to-feed malfunction. “So, that’s why this is still pre-production. They’re going to get these bugs worked out in the next couple of months.”
In Biofire’s press release, McCollum’s quotes are much more laudatory: “The Biofire Smart Gun shoots like a gun – there’s no delay. If it weren’t for the futuristic look, you wouldn’t know that it isn’t just a regular mechanical pistol. That’s very appealing to people interested in a home defense firearm, which is a significant market segment. I’ve come away from the opportunity to fire the gun myself pretty excited and impressed by the system – so far, Biofire has done it right.”
Kloepfer would not say whether he’s paying McCollum.
“I can’t talk exact details,” he said. “You’re welcome to ask him, but I’m not allowed to disclose that under an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement).
Neither would Kloepfer say if he’s compensating the SEALs.
“I still can’t disclose that,” he said.