November 18th, 2009

FN Herstal Develops 'Black Box' Round Counter for Firearms

This story may seem like science fiction, but we assure you the details are real. FN Herstal has created a new electronic device, appropriately named the “Black Box”, which can record and store a rifle’s round count and firing sequences. In addition, the FN Black Box contains digital identifiers for the weapon. This means that, when coupled to a GPS, the FN Black Box can transmit the gun’s ID and location to a military command or other monitoring authority.

Black Box Technology Limited to Military… For Now
The technology is exciting, though the ramifications for gun control are chilling to say the least. At present, FN Herstal envisions its Black Box as an add-on for military or law enforcement weapons. No one has yet suggested that black boxes be fitted to civilian arms.

FN Herstal black box

The FN Black Box can record multiple types of firing data: round count, burst rates, burst lengths, and firing sequences. The digital sensors can even detect stoppages due to failures to cycle. FN evisions that this information can alert armorers when weapons require maintenance. In addition, by tracking the numbers of rounds fired, military commanders can determine when ammunition resupply is required or when barrels need replacement.

The Say Uncle Blog notes that while this kind of digital recorder may seem novel for weapons, “the same concept is often applied to industrial machines”, allowing factory owners to optimize maintenance schedules.

It there a black box in your future? We don’t see much application for Benchrest or High Power events, but this kind of round counter might prove useful in speed shooting disciplines. We do worry about the potential application of “black box” technology to defensive firearms. The digital records of shots fired as well as the sequence of those shots could be used as evidence in trials of gun owners. Imagine being on trial and having your testimony “impeached” by a digital chip removed from your gun.

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