One of the problems with handguns is that it's very difficult to keep them both available for immediate use, yet secure against falling into the wrong hands. San Diego-based startup Safety First Arms is looking to solve that problem with its self-locking Smart 2 pistol, which is unlocked using a built-in PIN pad and incorporates an anti-theft alarm to prevent theft, tampering, and unauthorized use.

Smart guns are often proposed as a way to prevent gun thefts or tragic accidents while allowing firearms to remain readily available. Some of these use fingerprints or other biometrics to activate guns, while others rely on RFID rings, watches, or wristbands that need to be in the vicinity of the gun to allow it to be fired. But while these have their advantages, they also have some practical difficulties.

"The problem with these other designs is that they just aren't practical," says Brian Weinberg, co-founder and engineer of Safety First Arms. "Fingerprint readers have unacceptable reliability issues in the real world where people wear gloves or their hands are wet, moisturized or dirty. And, RFID rings and watches are not practical for most people and do nothing to protect against tampering and theft."

Currently in the prototype phase, Smart 2 consists of a 9mm pistol or a AR-15 type rifle. According to the company, they're designed to be tamper-proof and can be left loaded and ready on a bedside table without the danger of theft or mishandling.

Smart 2 works by means of a light-up integrated PIN pad similar to the ones on hotel room safes or ATMs. A three to five-digit PIN unlocks the gun in under a second, while a second safety on the back of the grip relocks the gun automatically in a third of a second if released, so if it's mislaid or wrested from the owner, it's rendered harmless.

In addition, Smart 2 has a Theft Guard feature, which is a motion detector and keypad monitor. If the gun is tampered with or moved, after a preset number of seconds, it sounds a loud, piercing alarm if the PIN isn't entered. There's also a 12-hour unlock mode to turn the Smart 2 into a conventional firearm for a limited time. For added protection, the gun can't be accessed wirelessly and has a long-life battery that warns when it's time for replacement and sounds an alarm if ignored.

Safety First says that the Smart 2 will be available in about two years, and although the company has only produced a single functional 3D-printed prototype, it has already secured US$1 million in orders from two gun shops. The estimated price is US$1,295.

The video below introduces the Smart 2.

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