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Armatix iP1: The Infamous German “Smart Gun”

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The Armatix iP1 is a pistol created by former H&K designer Ernst Mauch that was released – or almost released – in the US in late 2013 and early 2014. It is a .22LR caliber semiauto pistol that incorporates an RFID-connected authentication link between a watch and this pistol, so that the pistol can only be fired (in theory) when the authorized user is wearing the watch. Hence, it is a “smart gun”.

Mechanically, it is a simple blowback pistol that uses an electromagnet to deactivate a firing pin block type of safety. When the watch has properly activated the pistol, the electromagnet is energized and the pistol will fire. If it is not so authorized, the firing pin block remains in place and the pistol will simply go “click” ineffectually. There are, of course, several caveats, loopholes, and exploitable vulnerabilities in this system.

When the pistol came on the market, it caused a significant reaction among gun rights proponents, as a law on the books in New Jersey mandates that 30 months after a “smart gun” is determined to be commercially available anywhere in the US, all non-“smart” pistols become illegal to sell in that state. The Armatix was expected to trigger this law, and by extension effectively ban all handguns in New Jersey. As it turned out, the state Attorney General determined in late 2014 that the iP1 did not meet the technical requirements of the law, but by this time the pistol was well and truly sunk. Dealers who considered stocking it were bullied out of that decision, sometimes to the point of receiving threats on their lives. As a result, the pistol never saw significant commercial sale, and the only ones in the US appear to be those initially brought in for marketing and demonstration.

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