Thursday, June 21, 2018

Putting RFID Into Guns - an Inside Look

RFID - Radio Frequency IDentification - is a well established technology that uses radio frequency technology to retrieve information from something without being close enough to touch it.  Ordinarily, the part of the RFID system in the object (the tag) is passive; it gets the power to respond to the interrogation transmitter from the radio signal being used to talk to the tag.  Common uses for RFID include electronic toll collection systems used on pay roads, shoplifting control tags in the retail world, and those ID tags implanted subdermally in millions of pets.

One of the trade magazines for the Radio Frequency industry, Microwaves and RF, prints a story from a company in the RFID business called The RF in RFID about their work to develop RFID for tracking guns.  The emphasis of the story is on an AR-15 with a metal lower receiver, because running radio transmitters in metal boxes is usually not successful.
Since each RFID tag incorporates an integrated circuit (IC) with an unalterable unique identification number (UID), it provides tracking by association with the federally regulated serial number of the component. The unalterable functionality is a requirement of currently proposed new legislation (NJ Bill A1016, which also mentions the use of RFID).

By means of RFID, the receiver is well-suited to act as the “custodian” of a firearm’s history by recording within an RFIC tag’s IC any pertinent information of any components that are part of the assembly. Information can be stored within any RFID IC that also contains programmable memory in addition to its UID. The storage of information occurs within the RFID tag, whose IC also has a programmable memory in addition to its UID.

Furthermore, the UID has the functionality to track/identify the original serial number of the receiver, making it possible to identify firearms when the serial numbers are removed. The RFID IC’s programmable functionality can also be locked, making it unalterable if required.
Without a power source in the tag, the tag is only going to have minuscule amounts of power and the range is going to be limited.  These things are not going to be read from tens of feet away, and not through the metal walls of a safe.  These tags are designed to be “vicinity devices” and have a read range of a few feet, perhaps a yard, depending on their size and the size and power output from the interrogator antenna (IA).

A 4-mm-diameter hole [in the lower receiver] is required to seat the RFID tag. The addition of a 0.8-mm slot provides an improvement in read range, but the RFID tag will also function adequately without it. Further testing is being undertaken to determine if the addition of a 4-mm-diameter hole will degrade the mechanical integrity of the mechanism when subjected to shock, vibration, and variations in temperature.

The tags used with these AR-15 receivers conform to the ISO15693/ISO18000-3 (mode 1) standard for operation in the 13.56-MHz frequency band. The standard specifies passive tags that may only become active if placed in an RF field.

The author's modification to an AR Lower Receiver to accommodate the RFID tag, where the pistol grip is attached. 

From this starting point, the company dives into the old New Jersey law demanding smart guns.
In the United States, New Jersey passed the Childproof Handgun Bill into state law on December 23, 2002. This proposed legislation will eventually require that all firearms sold in New Jersey will have some form of mechanism to prevent unauthorized use of a firearm. The law will take effect three years after this type of smart gun is approved by the state.
From this point through the end of the article, the author writes almost exclusively on what appear to be marketing ideas that clearly don't exist.   For example, he talks of adding sensors to the RFID that would react to shock with the intent of keeping track of how many rounds the gun has fired.  Without power, obtained from the interrogator, the RFID chip isn't doing anything, so this immediately adds the requirement for batteries.
As discussed earlier, the receiver is commonly the only federally regulated component of the firearm and will remain with the assembly throughout its life span. Since other components can be replaced, it’s logical for the receiver to store the history of the firearm. Records such as rounds fired, disassembly, cleaning, and inspection criteria are most common data that would be stored in such a location. The bore, firing pin, bolt face, gas ring, and gas key must routinely be inspected and data from reports could be recorded into the tag.

For those law-enforcement officers who are handed an anonymous firearm from storage, it’s prudent to know its most recent history or to update its usage prior to returning the firearm to storage. Performing a 10-second scan of the weapon’s history prior to engagement into an emergency situation could possibly screen out defective or questionable weapons. Cellphone applications with a simple checklist and red-flag indicator are currently being developed that provide a government officer with practical real-time feedback and a reporting mechanism that’s designed to require less than one minute to complete.
Keeping track of the number of rounds fired,  how often the guns is disassembled, cleaned and inspected, without a battery?  Perhaps that's possible in a true armory, perhaps a police department,  otherwise, he's asking for gun owners to want to buy the interrogator.  Archiving inspection reports on the bore, bolt, firing pin and all the rest, also with no power source?  Pure fantasy. 

Of course, anyone who knows where the RFID parts are can just as easily pull them out of the gun.  People take their guns apart to do the maintenance he wants to log, and while he proudly talks about the tag being "sealed into the receiver using black epoxy. Such attachment makes it difficult to locate on the firearm, and would require the use of tools to destroy the RFID tag."  I don't think he knows quite who he's dealing with.  

I recommend reading the piece to see where the tech industry is on this subject.  They see these things as a challenge to respond to.  Some of the things he talks about aren't that offensive to me and could offer convenience; others are more offensive.  It should be obvious that when the governments talk like they're talking, some people see the gravy train; this is one opinion from one such system architect. 


  1. You can count on this becoming mandatory as soon as politically possible. You can also count on the same law to make it a felony with mandatory prison time for anyone who disables, removes or tampers in any way with these RFID devices.

    1. You're kidding, right?

      Like you could tell who did what, when, or how.
      "It must've been defective."

      If mechanical means are visible at all (impossible without destructive testing, BTW) people will just start pouring caustic chemicals inside until they achieve success. I suspect it will take about 5 minutes, tops, to find something suitable that eats RFID chips, and leaves aluminum unscathed, at least for the amount of time it'll take to kill the chip. Any number of acids, solvents, and VOCs come to mind.

      And defendant's lawyer will claim, with justification, that the destruction to retrieve the RFID chip was what destroyed it. Good luck in court proving that negative. "Sorry, your Honor, we had to chop the defendant's receiver into pieces to prove the RFID chip was destroyed." With a miraculous 99.99999% failure rate, that's going to be a tough case.

      It may even turn out that Break Free CLP, Hoppes #9, or GunScrubber/brake cleaner application is enough to kill them. Then where are you?
      You're going to charge people with a crime for cleaning their weapons?

      Pull the other one, it's got bells on it.

      Game over.

      This idea is simply DOA, much like the chips will be.

      Oh, and they're programmable?


      Because no one would ever think to reprogram all their guns to have different serial numbers than what was stamped, or program every gun with the same number, and you can't trace that at all.

      Not to mention the people who'll be merrily printing up receivers with no serial number, and no chip, from castings all the live-long day, in their garage, 24/7/365.

      "You're gonna ban WHAT?!?"

  2. I wonder if the TPTB will require older rifle, pistol and shotguns to be retrofitted with such a tag?

  3. Or it could be ignored, just like gun registration in Connecticut in 2014.

    1. Except if you buy a new gun, it will have to have it.

  4. Your statement "These things are not going to be read from tens of feet away, and not through the metal walls of a safe." assumes the "Law Enforcement" with the readers are not corrupt putrid sewage who don't give a damn about anyone except their Masters and their Bruthas and Sistas in Blue. But then surely there are no Stingrays being used without appropriate warrants. And nobody in "Law Enforcement" would ever consider putting a spy into a political campaign to sabotage it.

    There are no good cops.

    1. No, it doesn't assume anything about people, it assumes the laws of physics. The iron law of electromagnetics is that field strength drops off as 1/(R^2) from a point source. If it can work at some distance, you can double the distance if you quadruple the power. Three times the distance, 9 times the power. To read this remotely requires insane amounts of power.

      Antenna gain doesn't work for you when you're talking about delivering raw power. It's a relative measurement that compares the strength in one direction.

      Now consider going through a metal safe's wall that requires an additional 60dB increase in power. That's a million times higher power and that ain't happening.

    2. I'll grant you that on the safes. However, the field does NOT need to be omnidirectional if you can make people pass through a specific area. And you know they are not allowed to openly carry. Seen any choke points where one can be made to go between two "walls", and where your navel would be slightly over three feet off the floor? Now try to tell me they can't design an antenna with a radiation pattern to work with that.

      Never underestimate how putridly foul and corrupt this country's "Law Enforcement" and its "Legal" system truly is. Although once in a great while they actually DO work honestly. As in today's Supreme Court ruling on cell phone tracking:
      But then that assumes that "Law Enforcement" and the "Legal" system will, you know, HONOR a Supreme Court ruling. I would note that Brady disclosure has been settled since 1963, yet persecutors still ROUTINELY refuse to disclose that information to defendants. And when they are caught, they are rarely held accountable for their crimes. Again, Whitey Bulger is merely one example.

    3. Well, if the local PoPo are trying to read data off the chip, there's all sorts of fun and games you can play with RFID data:

      Or you could just make a HERF gun and scramble the data or smoke the chip:

      The NJ Legislature is playing whack-a-mole here.

    4. I don't think you even have to go through the trouble of crafting a purpose-built RF emitter to smoke the chip - most of us already have one in our homes, ready to go:

      A microwave oven.

  5. Like the RFID tags briefly implanted into treasury currency, they will be removed/dewctivated by people in about 0.2 seconds. And you won't be able to prove why it failed, there'll just be a drilled cavity the same size as the implant hole, where it used to be.


    So, what's their next genius idea for tagging guns?
    This one is undone by a kid with a hand-powered drill and a cheap bit from Horror Freight, in less time than it took to type this response.

    I get the feeling these whizkids don't get out of their labs very much. The Rainman-esque descriptive phrase idiot savant comes to mind.

    1. I like the idea of blowing it up. A gun owner could argue how could he know his chip is bad if he can't check it?

      The magic frequency is 13.56 MHz. That's within spitting distance of the 20 meter ham band at 14.00 - certainly closer than they could filter out in something that small. 20 meter kilowatt amplifiers are everywhere. Wrap a few feet of wire around the lower and send a series of Morse code characters. Smoke might roll out, but it doesn't have to.

  6. That's because you're a tech guy, while I'm but a gifted knuckledragger.

    Personally, I don't think I'd worry about frequencies, I'd probably see how much power I could run into it (AC/DC, whatever; it's a blonde/brunette Tesla/Edison question) short of melting the receiver to suicide the chip. Worked for murderers, should work for RFID chips. I've seen what 24V and a stray wrench does to a military 5T truck battery box.

  7. 13.56mhz(ism band)same band as part 15 hifer beacons running at a half watt or less.
    ISO15693/ISO18000-3 (mode 1) DATA SHEET