The sale of Chiappa firearms in the USA is about to plummet. They have just made the worst gun industry PR move of the decade.
Earlier this week gun bloggers and forum readers noticed that Chiappa Firearms, Italy, had issued a press release saying that they were going to embed RFID chips into their firearms.
RFID units are circuits that can wirelessly report whatever identifying information was programmed into them. They are embedded everywhere, in consumer electronics, credit cards, trees, animals, humans and even some very dubious prototype electronic firearms.
Generally they as passive devices (without an internal power source) and are powered by the radio waves emitted by the RFID reader (much like how a crystal radio set need no battery). Because they are low powered, their range is limited, Chiappa claim that the reader can’t be more than a few inches from the gun to read it.
Here is the problem: RFID units can be detected at long ranges with the right equipment, even if the signal is to low to be accuracy read. Hacking RFID systems is always popular at the big hacker conventions. Last year a hacker at DEFCON was able to detect if an individual standing on the ground floor parking lot of the Las Vegas Riviera Hotel was carrying a certain brand of RFID chip from as far away as the 29th floor of the hotel.
Potentially a high powered reader could be developed to detect if anyone passing by was carrying a concealed Chiappa firearm, even though they would not be able to read the serial number. Most gun owners are probably a lot less concerned about people reading the serial number, as they are about people covertly identifying that they are carrying. This will worry many consumers.
Personally, if I bought a Chiappa, the first thing I would be is remove the grip and use my pocket knife to pry out the RFID chip.
If you were MKS Distributing, the importer of Chiappa Firearms in the United States, how would you handle RFID-gate? I would immediately talk to Chiappa Firearms in Italy and tell them that US consumers do NOT want RFID chips in their guns. Instead, MKS Distributing issued a press release that mocked gun bloggers and concerned consumers. In the condescending press release (reproduced below) they reference CIA satellites, Mel Gibson and suggests people who are concerned about RFID should “wrap the revolver and their head in aluminum foil”.
MKS Distributing press release …
RFID “Chip” in Chiappa Firearms-what’s up with that?
MKS Distributing, Dayton OH, July, 2011-Distributor for Chiappa Firearms
Recently there has been some blogger activity (credibility always guaranteed) concerning Chiappa Firearms putting a RFID (radio frequency identification) in Chiappa Firearms. Yes, but Chiappa will not be using the RFID system for at least a year.
RUMOR: (known as blogosphere food): The erroneous information about some sort of “chip” was put out by a blogger who translated Chiappa (Italian) technical information incorrectly. The incorrect translation and his interpretation came out as some sort of a GPS type tracking “chip” -which RFID isn’t as it cannot transmit anything-it has NO power source (unlike cell phones).
THE FACTS: Recently several Italian gun makers (not just Chiappa) decided to utilize RFID technology to improve manufacturing and provide more accurate inventory control. We guarantee this technology will proliferate to other gun makers world wide as it is so efficient for everything from production QC control to export/import varification. Other industries already use passive RFID technology such as on DVDs, sunglasses, clothes and even some food products for example.
Basically Chiappa RFID (again it is radio frequency identification) assists the manufacturing process, inventory control and shipping. The type of information on the RFID ties in the firearm and proof house verification; the latter is required by the Italian Government for all firearms made in Italy. Passive RFID is also a final check that verifies that what is inside the sealed box is the same thing as shown on the box exterior bar code during shipping. Now, it will no longer be necessary to open/inspect hundreds of boxes by hand prior to packing in export containers.
BOTTOM LINE: The Chiappa PASSIVE RFID can be read ONLY when passed within (2-3 inches) of an active (and powered) reader that is dialed in for the particular long antenna radio frequency of the RFID-this is not random. And it will NOT go into operation for a year or more.
SUMMARIZING: RFIDs have NO power source or GPS locator. Rest assured they are NOT transmitting your identification and location information to a Chiappa Firearm tasked CIA satellite.
RFID Removal: For those still concerned you can simply remove the grip and remove the hot glued RFID from the frame in the grip area when (over a year from now) these begin to appear. Others may prefer to wrap the revolver and their head in aluminum foil, curl in a ball and watch reruns of Mel Gibson’s 1997 film, Conspiracy Theory. Well, that’s a plan too!
This is one epic fail. Goodbye Chiappa, its game over on this side of the Atlantic.
UPDATE: My friend and fellow blogger Albert Rasch has also blogged about the above press release. He writes …
Having no small experience now with RFID, let me tell you that they can be read by the appropriate reader at 30 meters. Furthermore no RFID chip reader that is being used for logistical control will have its range limited to 3 inches. A carton, or even pallets of materials will need a reader set to several feet. ” Passive RFID is also a final check that verifies that what is inside the sealed box is the same thing as shown on the box exterior bar code during shipping. Now, it will no longer be necessary to open/inspect hundreds of boxes by hand prior to packing in export containers. ” 3 inches eh? How is it going to read a pallet of material at 3 inches? I can only assume that MKS Distributors thinks most people are idiots, and incapable of figuring things out on their own.