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South African Smart Gun

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by powerstrk, Mar 16, 2003.

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  1. powerstrk

    powerstrk Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    Meet the 'gun with brains'

    March 14 2003 at 10:26AM

    By Stuart Johnston

    Pretoria inventor Nic van Zyl has developed what may be the world’s first "intelligent firearm", a handgun that can be operated only by its rightful owner. It could make criminal abuse of firearms a thing of the past

    It looks like a cross between a sci-fi raygun and an industrial high-pressure cleaning device. Bulky and block-like, it displays none of the black-metal menace inherent in most civilian firearms, and frankly, it is not a thing of beauty.

    Then again, there’s no rule that says a firearm has to be pretty. Some people might find the smoothly formed wooden hand grip and machined aluminium body downright compelling, especially if they’re at the wrong end of the muzzle.

    The IFA uses a biometric sensor located just above the handgrip to activate its firing capability
    Say hello to the Intelligent Fire Arm, a unique and thoroughly South African device that could change the way we think about guns – and the people who wield them. Although still in prototype form, it will soon enter manufacture.
    Inventor Nic van Zyl, 65, is an ardent believer in firearms with brains.

    “Until now, firearms have been dumb. They lie in your safe at home, or in your holster, and tell no stories. Naturally, this opens the door for all sorts of abuse. The Intelligent Fire Arm, also known as the ‘smart gun’, changes all that.â€

    Van Zyl is managing director of Bansha Investments, the company that has produced the prototype of the IFA. Work began on the device in 1994, when the first of many patents was taken out. Now, eight years later, an international firearms company is poised to acquire the production rights to what may well be the world’s first foolproof firearm – at least in terms of criminal abuse.

    The IFA, as it’s known, uses a biometric sensor located just above the handgrip to activate its firing capability. The sensor is encoded with the thumbprint of an authorised user (or users): unless it recognises the imprint, it remains inoperative. As Van Zyl says, an unauthorised person could use it to clobber someone over the head, but that’s about it.

    “This is the first firearm to enter the electronics age in terms of authorised use. It could be used for personal protection, or in a responsible peacekeeping role. There is a real need for a gun like this.â€
    Almost impossible for ordinary users to make or reload the uniquely coded, caseless ammunition

    In conjunction with the biometric sensor, the electronic chip located in the gun’s pistol grip will be encoded with a range of additional information regarding the user’s personal details, including fingerprints, identity number, and licence status (that is, whether the firearm is for personal protection, hunting, police or military use).

    The device is designed to empower a country’s authorities with absolute control over the gun’s life history, says Van Zyl. When the firearm is issued, it can be “loaded†with one or more authorised users’ details. This data is stored in a fixed memory that cannot be changed. And it records each and every shot fired by the IFA.

    “In addition to this record, we have added a tiny camera – similar to the devices used in mini-cam recorders – which takes a photograph every time the gun is fired. This information is downloadable by the authorities for use in a court case, if necessary, to document the circumstances in which the shot was fired.â€

    Banshee intends to develop a smart card recognition system for the gun as a further safety measure. The smart card will be carried by the owner, and the proximity of the gun to his card activates the device to “ready†status. Again, it will not fire unless the biometric sensor above the grip recognises the authorised user’s thumbprint.

    The IFA dispenses with the conventional percussive firing action, instead employing laser technology to ignite the charge in the bullet. This has required the production of special bullets with a built-in “windowâ€, allowing a laser beam to ignite the (conventional) charge. To prevent gas from fogging the laser beam, the inventor has installed a small plastic lens on the back of the bullet and an O-ring on each bullet.

    Because there is no percussive or hammer device in the gun, it has been possible to incorporate the magazine and the barrel in one unit. The prototype uses a 10-barrel configuration, with two vertical rows of five bullets arranged side-by-side.

    When all 10 shots have been fired, the magazine/barrel is simply ejected and a new, loaded barrel is installed, using a quick-release lever. The empty barrel (held in place by a clip that permits rapid removal and replacement) is returned to the dealer for reloading. It’s virtually impossible for ordinary users to make or reload the uniquely coded, caseless ammunition.

    Van Zyl says it would be possible to develop many barrel/magazine combinations – accommodating different calibres and types of bullet – and considerably improve firepower, perhaps for military applications. With a large-capacity magazine, the IFA could be programmed to fire 50 or more rounds in single shots, bursts, or fully automatic.

    For a street-legal weapon that complies with civilian laws, it would have a 10-round magazine and fire single shots only, requiring the trigger to be pressed each time. The IFA has been designed to fire at the rate of three rounds per second – fast enough to make even a Wyatt Earp happy.

    “Sure, the prototype is bulky, but when we go into production it will be much smaller,†he says. The prototype was built by Kentron, a subsidiary of South African armaments group Denel.

    Says Van Zyl: “A lot of the electronics contained in the handle or grip have yet to be miniaturised; the typical personal-use weapon can be made much smaller - the size of a conventional handgun, in fact.â€

    Bansha Investments has acquired patents for the weapon in a number of countries, including Japan, China and Russia, but it is likely that the IFA will be produced by a European company, as yet unnamed. It’s known that other major firearm manufacturers have “owner recognition†guns under development, but Van Zyl is confident that none of these offers the simplicity or user-friendliness of his invention.

    Cost? About 50 per cent more than a conventional, or “dumb†firearm.

    “There are additional shot-recording features that are likely to be incorporated into the IFA, such as a GPS recorder, which will pinpoint the exact location where each bullet is fired.
    “The prototype already has a clock installed that records each shot, and by using flame spectrometry techniques, the bullet’s DNA, so to speak, can be recorded. Even a fragment could be traced back to its origin, together with details on the person issued with that particular bullet.

    “Using special bullets will obviously complicate the infrastructure needed to get the IFA into production, but it should be remembered that this device could change our whole approach to firearms.

    “I’m only a scientist… I can’t change people’s minds. But I can make it very difficult for people to abuse a firearm.â€

    The IFA has been tested by the SA Bureau of Standards in prototype form, says Van Zyl, and the test results show that it operates well within the spec of a conventional firearm in terms of accuracy and firepower. The 9 mm, 100-gram bullet speed was measured at between 370 and 400 metres per second – as good as a typical 9 mm pistol.

    “Accuracy is no problem, despite the short barrel used on the prototype. By eliminating the percussion firing action, which necessitates locating the barrel and the trigger device at the top of the gun, we have managed to balance the IFA, so there’s negligible barrel kick in an upwards direction.â€

    Van Zyl says when the IFA goes into production it may well be for military applications, which saddens him a little. He’s always viewed the IFA in terms of safety, specifically in cases of theft and shooting accidents involving children.

    “However, the United Nations has been moving more and more towards transforming military forces from aggressors to peacekeepers, and has made it clear that soldiers could be held liable for their actions under civilian law. In this respect the IFA could provide the necessary checks and balances to ensure that soldiers don’t abuse the power vested in them.

    “It will even be possible, via the electronics, to establish a live link with headquarters whenever a soldier or policeman is deployed on an assignment. In effect, the curtains will always be open. When your neighbours can see in, you tend to be a lot more careful about the way you conduct yourself.â€

    In the final analysis, a firearm serves the purpose of launching a missile – in this case, the bullet that comes out of the barrel. “It stands to reason that these bullets should be controlled and accounted for… that’s why we developed our system. Bullets are coded at the point of manufacture and recorded against the name of the purchaser, who is held accountable for their use.

    “This is the weapon for the soldier of the future – a specialist peacekeeper firearm.â€

    This article originally appears in the March issue of Popular Mechanics

    Oh brother-Im sure a few will pick this up in this country:barf:
  2. Yohan

    Yohan Member

    Dec 27, 2002
    Been posted before
  3. pax

    pax Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Washington state
    Already under discussion at http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=13529


    I mean, the question actors most often get asked is how they can bear saying the same things over and over again, night after night, but God knows the answer to that is, don't we all anyway; might as well get paid for it. -- Elaine Dundy
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