Why it matters: A firearms startup released its take on biometric-based weapon safety, the Biofire Smart Gun. The weapon uses pre-programmed biometric data to recognize users, ensuring only those identified by the owner can operate it. The product prevents tragic scenarios and accidental discharges involving children, criminals, or other unintended users.

Colorado-based safety and technology firm Biofire claims its Smart Gun is always in a "locked" state, preventing unauthorized use once it leaves an identified user's hands while functioning identically to a regular 9mm Luger for authorized users. Once added to the weapon's user list, the gun's Guardian Biometric Engine instantly identifies users with integrated fingerprint and 3d facial recognition, preventing unauthorized use. The Guardian Biometric Engine can recognize up to five users.

Smart gun detractors have often pushed back against such safety technologies, claiming that the additional security measures can decrease the weapon's potential reliability when it counts. Those detractors may not necessarily be wrong despite Biofire's successful release. Biofire's prototype failed to fire twice during a live demonstration to Reuters, prompting reliability concerns. Founder Kai Kloepfer assured observers that designers had thoroughly tested the biometrics system and the failures were due to mechanical issues, not the biometric safety system.

The technology may seem like something from a sci-fi or spy movie. However, using biometrics and similar user-identification mechanisms to secure weapon functionality is anything but new.

The Armatix iP1, introduced in the mid-2010s, employed an RFID-based safety mechanism that would only allow the weapon to function for users wearing the system's accompanying RFID watch. The manufacturer advertised it as one of the most secure firearm systems available.

Unfortunately, hackers cracked the iP1's security, proving the system insecure shortly after launch. Several other companies have since entered the race to bring a secure, functional smart weapon system to the U.S. market, but none had been successful before Biofire's successful release.

Biofire began accepting orders, allowing potential owners to build and configure their Smart Gun package. Buyers can choose from one of three models: the $2,999 Founder's Edition, the $1,899 Launch Edition, or the $1,499 base Smart Gun. Each model offers unique customizations, including color choices for the primary polymer, trigger, and magazine release, the ability to configure for left- or right-handed shooters, and even the ability to create a custom serial number.

Biofire's build page says Founders Edition models are sold out and should ship by the 4th quarter of 2023. The other models are available and will begin shipping in early 2024.