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Gun Safety Technology Challenge

Thank you for your interest in the NIJ Gun Safety Technology Challenge. No winners will be selected for this Challenge. No stage 2 and stage 3 testing will take place. We encourage to continue checking NIJ.gov for future opportunities.

On this page find:

  1. Overview
  2. Contestant Eligibility
  3. How To Enter
  4. Product or Technology Requirements
  5. Testing and Evaluation
  6. Ammunition
  7. Important Dates
  8. Publication of Results
  9. Costs to Participants
  10. Optional Informational Workshop
  11. Other Rules and Conditions
  12. Prize

1. Overview

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) seeks an objective demonstration through testing and evaluation of the reliability of firearms and firearms accessories available today that are typically known by various terms such as smart guns, user-authorized handguns, childproof guns, and personalized firearms. These firearms or firearms accessories can be understood to utilize integrated components that exclusively permit an authorized user or set of users to operate or fire the gun and automatically deactivate it under a set of specific circumstances, reducing the chances of accidental or purposeful use by an unauthorized user.

This Challenge will proceed in an escalated manner in three stages, including an informational and safety review, light duty single product testing, and more heavy duty expanded product testing. The test procedures used in the Challenge will be selected or designed to better understand the impact of smart gun technology on the reliability of the firearm, which may include different authentication technologies like radio frequency identification and fingerprint sensors. To assess the reliability of smart gun technology, the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) plans to perform firearm testing and evaluation.

Stage 1: Information and Safety Review, Stage 2: Light Duty Single Product Testing, Stage 3: Heavy Duty Expanded Product Testing

NIJ was tasked with supporting the President’s Plan to Reduce Gun Violence,[1] specifically:

“The President is directing the Attorney General to work with technology experts to review existing and emerging gun safety technologies, and to issue a report on the availability and use of those technologies. In addition, the Administration will issue a challenge to the private sector to develop innovative and cost-effective gun safety technology and provide prizes for those technologies that are proven to be reliable and effective.”

In support of this Executive action, NIJ has conducted a technology assessment and market survey of existing and emerging gun safety technologies that would be of interest to the law enforcement and criminal justice communities and others with an interest in gun safety and advanced firearm technology. A report published in June 2013 by NIJ entitled A Review of Gun Safety Technologies (pdf, 96 pages) examined existing and emerging gun safety technologies, and their availability and use, to provide a comprehensive perspective on firearms with integrated advanced safety technologies. Following the report, NIJ published a Federal Register Notice to receive information regarding which firearms and firearms accessories, that incorporate advanced safety technologies, could be made available by industry for testing and evaluation in the Challenge.

NIJ now seeks an objective demonstration of the reliability of firearms available today with advanced gun safety technology integrated into the firearm. The reliability of firearms with integrated advanced safety technologies has been cited as a concern regarding the potential performance and user acceptance of products that may incorporate such technologies, as discussed in the 2013 NIJ report. It is anticipated that the results of the Challenge will provide a basis to improve the general understanding of whether the addition of a smart gun technology does or does not significantly reduce the reliability of the firearm system compared to existing firearms. It is believed that this is the first effort to apply a methodology to provide a rigorous and scientific assessment of the technical performance characteristics of these types of firearms.

With this Challenge, manufacturers and developers of (1) firearms that incorporate advanced safety technologies or (2) firearms accessories utilizing advanced safety technologies that are intended to modify firearms are invited to submit their products for testing and evaluation by ATC personnel. NIJ hopes to better understand the effect of smart gun technology on the reliability of the firearm versus the same or similar firearms without the added safety technology. This Challenge seeks “apples to apples” comparisons to the greatest extent possible, such that firearms with and without advanced gun safety technology that are similar with respect to type, form factor, caliber, and other physical characteristics are tested and evaluated using a common methodology and equivalent ammunition.

Statutory Authority: This Challenge is being conducted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 530C; 42 U.S.C. 3722; and 6 U.S.C. 161-163.

2. Contestant Eligibility

The Challenge is open to: (1) individual residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa (collectively “the United States) who are at least 21 years old at the time of entry; (2) teams of eligible individuals; and (3) corporations or other legal entities (e.g., partnerships or non-profit organizations). Employees of NIJ and individuals or entities listed on the Federal Excluded Parties list (https://www.sam.gov/) are not eligible to participate. Employees of the Federal Government should consult with the Ethics Officer at their place of employment prior to submitting an entry for this Challenge. The Challenge is subject to all applicable federal laws and regulations. Submission of an entry constitutes a contestant's full and unconditional agreement to all applicable rules and conditions set forth herein. Eligibility for the prize award is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.

Contestants domiciled in the United States, who manufacture a firearm for purposes of the Challenge, must have a Federal firearms license (FFL), and be in compliance with all federal firearms laws and regulations. Contestants not domiciled in the United States, who manufacture a firearm for purposes of the Challenge, must submit their entry through a legally appropriate United States business entity—e.g., an importer. All contestants, domestic or foreign, who manufacture an accessory to modify an existing firearm do not need an FFL or other legally appropriate business entity to submit an entry.

3. How to Enter

Stage 1 – Information review: Contestants must submit a white paper describing their product or technology and are encouraged to provide any existing test reports or data pertaining to its performance and/or reliability. Contestants must also provide a safety assessment report demonstrating that their products are safe for testing personnel to handle and operate with live ammunition. Regular maintenance instructions and cleaning schedules must also be submitted. There is no limit to the amount of written material or information that contestants may submit. No written materials will be returned.

The submitted material will be reviewed and evaluated by NIJ and ATC to determine whether the contestant will be invited to proceed to Stage 2 testing.

Materials may be submitted electronically to gunsafetytechnology@usdoj.gov. Materials must be received by 11:59 PM Eastern Time by January 5, 2016.

Materials may be sent by Overnight/Express delivery to:

National Institute of Justice
ATTN: Gun Safety Technology Challenge
810 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20531

Materials submitted by Overnight/Express delivery must be postmarked by January 5, 2016. Materials postmarked after this date will not be accepted. Potential participants sending materials by mail or carrier should send an email to gunsafetytechnology@usdoj.gov for notification purposes that materials are en route.

Electronic submission is strongly preferred.

Stage 2 Invitations

​The following submissions were invited to move forward to Stage 2 but not testing was completed:

  • Armatix
  • Protobench LLC

Stage 2 – Light-duty testing: Following Stage 1, selected contestants will be invited to participate in Stage 2, which will include light-duty single-product testing of the contestants’ products or technologies. Invited contestants must submit either two firearms or two firearms accessories along with two firearms that the accessories are designed to modify. One firearm will be tested and the second will be used as a backup. Testing will be limited to a thorough inspection and tests similar to light-duty real-world use to confirm that the product performs at a minimum performance level. Stage 2 will include tests to examine human factors and/or vulnerabilities that could defeat the technologies used.

Example Stage 2 testing: Inspection, non-destructive testing, firearm reliability testing (e.g., 500 rounds per sample firearm), human factors and/or technology vulnerability testing (e.g., 100 rounds per sample firearm).

Stage 2 submissions will be submitted in coordination with ATC in accordance with policy and practice at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Firearms, firearms accessories, and any ammunition shall be shipped according to all applicable laws and regulations governing the transportation of firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition. Additional information and a shipping address will be provided when Stage 2 begins.

Prior to testing firearms in Stage 2, a draft version of the test procedures for Stage 2 and Stage 3 shall be published on the Federal Register for public comment for a period of no less than 30 days and any comments that are found responsive will be given appropriate consideration. The test procedures selected or designed will incorporate elements to adequately measure firearm performance, and testing will be carried out to minimize variables to the extent practically possible, such as the personnel, range, and environmental conditions involved in the testing.

Results of Stage 2 testing will be reviewed and evaluated to determine whether the participant will proceed to Stage 3 (see Section 5).

Stage 3 – Heavy-duty testing: Following Stage 2, selected contestants will be invited to participate in Stage 3, which will test mature products that have performed at a minimum performance level, and will include expanded, heavy-duty testing of multiple products. Invited contestants must submit either six firearms or six firearms accessories along with six firearms that the accessories are designed to modify. Each unit will fire more rounds and undergo additional environmental tests to test functionality and durability under different conditions. Stage 3 will include tests to examine human factors and/or vulnerabilities that could defeat the technologies used.

Example Stage 3 testing: Inspection, non-destructive testing, firearm reliability testing (e.g., 5,000 rounds per sample firearm), high-temperature testing (e.g., 1,500 rounds per sample firearm), low-temperature testing (e.g., 1,500 rounds per sample firearm) human factors and/or technology vulnerability testing (e.g., 500 rounds per sample firearm), electromagnetic inference testing, rough handling testing.

Stage 3 submissions will be submitted in coordination with ATC in accordance with policy and practice at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Firearms, firearms accessories, and any ammunition shall be shipped according to applicable laws and regulations governing the transportation of firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition. Additional information and a shipping address will be provided when Stage 3 begins.

4. Product or Technology Requirements

Firearms such as pistols, revolvers, rifles, and shotguns as defined at 27 CFR 478.11 are eligible for this Challenge. Accessories that modify eligible firearms for the purpose of augmenting safety are also eligible for this Challenge. Machine guns as also defined at 27 CFR 478.11 are not eligible for this Challenge. Imported firearms may be reviewed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to ensure that appropriate firearms statutory requirements are met, such as those found at 18 USC 925(d).

Eligible firearms or firearms accessories entered in this Challenge must contain “smart gun” safety technology that is generally understood to be a firearm with an integrated authorization system composed of an authentication mechanism that controls a blocking mechanism. Eligible “smart guns” entered in this Challenge should be at a commercial or pre-commercial level of maturity. Stage 2 and Stage 3 testing will be performed with live ammunition, and therefore any firearm submitted must be capable of safely firing live ammunition, and contestants must provide a safety assessment report demonstrating that their products are safe for testing personnel to handle and operate with live ammunition. Firearms that ATC deems a hazard to testing personnel are not eligible and will not be returned.

Any external accessories integrated with a firearm’s internal components should augment the safety aspects of the firearm and be essential to the proper functioning of the firearm. External accessories that are not integrated with a firearm’s internal components but which augment the safety aspects of the firearm should be mountable onto a firearm capable of firing live ammunition. External accessories that do not augment the safety aspects of a firearm or that ATC deems a hazard to testing personnel are not eligible and will not be returned.

Firearms or firearms accessories that do not meet these criteria, or are prohibited by Federal statute or regulation, are not eligible for this Challenge. Firearm-related products such as gun safes, gun racks, and muzzle locks that are generally considered static objects are not eligible.

5. Testing and Evaluation

Draft Technical Documents

Draft Test Procedure

NIJ posted and received feedback on the following draft documents:

The test procedures will be based on the U.S. Army Test Operating Procedures (TOP) for small and light arms[2] and other tests that may be appropriate.[3] For example, NIJ has developed standards for revolvers, pistols, and shotguns for law enforcement applications which contain test methods for the respective firearms.[4]

For a comparative measure of reliability, establishing a clear understanding of the reliability of existing firearms is critical. For example, NIJ has previously funded the testing of revolvers, pistols, and shotguns used by law enforcement.[5] Existing test data already available on widely used firearm makes and models will be sought to provide information on what level of reliability can be expected from firearms without advanced gun safety technology, although testing these models will be included if it will provide better measurements than extant data. If the submitted article is an accessory, then firearms with and without the technology may be tested and the results compared. If the submitted article is a complete firearm, then similar existing firearms that fire the same type of ammunition may be tested for comparison. Testing and evaluation will be designed to prioritize the collection and use of data that can substantiate conclusions about the performance of participating firearms.

If technology-specific testing is required, test procedures that address the specific type of technology will be prioritized over test procedures specifically tailored to a single product. For example, if two entries incorporate similar types of sensors into the firearms, every effort will be made to test the firearms the same way to the extent practically possible.

Stage 1: Submissions will be assessed to determine testability of the firearms or firearms accessories. This includes technological maturity, previously documented demonstrations of performance or reliability, safety for the test operator, and other factors that may determine whether an item can be tested safely. All materials submitted will be treated confidentially and discreetly, but may be shared with U.S. Government staff or U.S. Government contractors for evaluation purposes.

Stage 2 and Stage 3: Evaluation of the test data will employ failure definitions and scoring criteria (FDSC) to draw conclusions regarding the performance of the submitted firearms or firearms accessories. The FDSC will be developed according to established guidelines already in use for reliability applications in U.S. Army and Joint Service systems. A review panel of subject matter experts will inspect the test results and assess the performance of the entries based on the FDSC used to characterize failures.

Prior to physical testing of firearms, a draft version of the FDSC shall be published on the Federal Register for public comment for a period of no less than 30 days and any comments that are found responsive will be given appropriate consideration.

ATC will not machine or modify any submitted firearm or firearm accessory submitted for Stage 2 and/or Stage 3 testing. Upon entry to the Challenge, all firearms and accessories submitted for testing will become the property of the United States Government. As stated in Section 11(c), entering the Challenge does not convey intellectual property rights to the United States Government. All legal intellectual property rights in any materials or products submitted in entering the Challenge are retained by the contestant and/or the legal holder of those rights.
Eligible entries may be returned in As-Is condition upon the contestant’s written request received by ATC within 90 days of the publication of the Challenge test results. Contestants requesting return of their eligible submissions must provide ATC with pre-paid self-addressed packaging for return shipping. Due to the nature of the testing, the United States Government cannot guarantee the condition of returned entries. Submissions deemed by ATC personnel to be hazardous or unsafe for any reason will not be returned.

6. Ammunition

Testing will be performed with live ammunition. Ammunition will be sourced based on need and availability in the following order:

Option 1: US Government ammunition that has been lot tested to meet relevant U.S. military standards will be used, subject to availability.

Option 2: Commercial ammunition from an established manufacturer that meets relevant standards will be used, subject to availability.

Option 3: Participants will supply their own ammunition that meets relevant standards. Documentation must be provided to demonstrate that the ammunition meets the standards.

Relevant standards may include ANSI/SAAMI standards, U.S. military standards, or other recognized technical standards. Proprietary, nonstandard, prototype, or experimental ammunition will not be acceptable for the Challenge unless it is an essential component to the gun safety technology and can be demonstrated that it is safe to use. Testing personnel may refuse any ammunition that ATC deems unsafe to use.

7. Important Dates

Stage 1: Submission materials will be accepted until January 5, 2016. Late materials will not be accepted.

Stage 2: Materials for submission will be requested by invitation approximately 3-6 months after the close of Stage 1, depending on the Stage 1 materials received. The start date of Stage 2 testing will depend in part on the inspection of the physical devices submitted.

Stage 3: Materials for submission will be requested by invitation approximately 3-6 months after the close of Stage 2, depending on the Stage 2 results. The start date of Stage 3 testing will depend in part on the inspection of the physical devices submitted.

Conclusion: NIJ will publish a comprehensive report describing the results of the testing and evaluation of firearms or firearms accessories approximately 6-9 months after the close of testing and evaluation.

8. Publication of Results

At the conclusion of the Challenge, a comprehensive report describing the results of the testing and evaluation of firearms or firearms accessories will be published, including a reliability assessment of each device tested.

9. Costs to Participants

Contestants will be responsible for all shipping costs associated with the Challenge.

10. Optional Informational Workshop

Contestants invited to submit materials to Stage 2 will be invited to participate in an informational workshop regarding the testing and evaluation process, including the test procedures and the FDSC. This informational workshop will include an open discussion for all Stage 2 contestants, and an opportunity for private discussions with NIJ or ATC regarding information that contestants may not wish to share in a public forum, such as proprietary information. NIJ anticipates that the workshop will be held in the Washington, DC area. Contestants will be responsible for their own travel expenses. Participation in the informational workshop is optional, thus contestant inability to attend will not impact eligibility for participation in Stage 2 of the Challenge.

11. Other Rules and Conditions

(a) Release of Liability: By entering the Challenge, each contestant agrees to: (1) comply with and be bound by all applicable rules and conditions, and the decisions of NIJ, which are binding and final in all matters relating to this Challenge; (2) release and hold harmless NIJ, ATC, and any other organizations responsible for sponsoring, fulfilling, administering, advertising or promoting the Challenge, and all of their respective past and present officers, directors, employees, agents and representatives (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from and against any and all suits, actions, claims, costs, or demands for death, personal injury, and property damage to which the Released Parties, their agencies and instrumentalities may be subject by reason of damage or injury (including death) to the property or person of anyone for which the Released Parties are responsible resulting from use of a test item, test equipment or facilities in connection with the performance of all claims, expenses, and liability arising out of or relating to the contestant’s entry or participation in the Challenge, and/or the contestant’s acceptance, use, or misuse of the prize or recognition.

The Released Parties are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by contestants, printing errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Challenge; (2) technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; (3) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Challenge; (4) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the Challenge or the processing of entries; or (5) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from contestant’s participation in the Challenge or receipt or use or misuse of any prize. If for any reason a contestant’s entry is confirmed to have been erroneously deleted, lost, or otherwise destroyed or corrupted, contestant's sole remedy is to submit another entry in the Challenge.

(b) Termination and Disqualification: NIJ reserves the authority to cancel, suspend, and/or modify the Challenge, or any part of it, if any fraud, technical failures, or any other factor beyond NIJ’s reasonable control impairs the integrity or proper functioning of the Challenge, as determined by NIJ in its sole discretion. NIJ reserves the authority to disqualify any contestant it believes to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Challenge or to be acting in violation of any applicable rule or condition. Any attempt by any person to undermine the legitimate operation of the Challenge may be a violation of criminal and civil law, and, should such an attempt be made, NIJ reserves the authority to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law. NIJ’s failure to enforce any term of any applicable rule or condition shall not constitute a waiver of that term.

(c) Intellectual Property: By entering the Challenge, each contestant warrants that he or she is the author and/or authorized owner of the entry, and that the entry is wholly original with the contestant (or is an improved version of an existing technology that the contestant is legally authorized to enter in the Challenge), and that the submitted entry does not infringe any copyright, patent, or any other rights of any third party. Each contestant agrees to hold the Released Parties harmless for any infringement of copyright, trademark, patent, and/or other real or intellectual property right, which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from contestant’s participation in the Challenge.

Entering the Challenge does not convey intellectual property rights to the United States Government. All legal intellectual property rights in any materials or products submitted in entering the Challenge are retained by the contestant and/or the legal holder of those rights.

(d) Publicity: By entering the Challenge, each contestant consents, as applicable, to NIJ’s use of his/her/its name, likeness, photograph, voice, and/or opinions, and disclosure of his/her/its hometown and State for promotional purposes in any media, worldwide, without further payment or consideration.

(e) Privacy: Contestants may be asked to submit certain personally identifiable information as part of their submission to the Challenge. Such information will be used only to communicate with contestants regarding entries to and/or participation in the Challenge, and will not be used for commercial or marketing purposes. Submission of this information is entirely voluntary, but failure to provide such information may delay or disqualify a contestant’s participation in the Challenge. By submitting an entry to the Challenge, contestants understand that their submissions may, in some instances, be protected by the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a et seq.) and that any release of information is subject to the authorized disclosure provisions of the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a(b)). Contestants certify that they are at least 21 years of age and that their participation in the Challenge, including the submission of personal information, is done so voluntarily. In the event that the smart gun technology involves the collection, retention, or dissemination of personally identifiable information, the Department will assess any privacy risks associated with the Department’s use of the technology. Contestants are encouraged to consider potential privacy implications associated with personalized or smart gun technology.
(f) Compliance with Law: By entering the Challenge, each contestant guarantees that the entry complies with all Federal and state laws and regulations.

(g) Governing Law/Jurisdiction: This agreement shall be governed by the laws of the United States of America.

12. Prize

Stage 1: The names of contestants who submit materials to Stage 1 and are invited to participate in Stage 2 will be posted on nij.gov.

Stage 2: Up to ten contestants who submit entries with gun safety technology that meet or exceed the reliability of a comparable firearm without the gun safety technology as determined by NIJ and ATC will receive $5,000. If more than ten contestants submit entries that meet or exceed the reliability of a comparable firearm, a total prize of $50,000 will be divided equally among the winning contestants. Contestants receiving Stage 2 awards will be posted on nij.gov and will be invited to participate in Stage 3.

Stage 3: Up to ten contestants who submit entries with gun safety technology that meet or exceed the reliability of a comparable firearm without the gun safety technology as determined by NIJ and ATC will receive $10,000. If more than ten contestants submit entries that meet or exceed the reliability of a comparable firearm, a total prize of $100,000 will be divided equally among the winning contestants. Contestants receiving Stage 3 awards will be posted on nij.gov.

Prize winners must comport with all applicable laws and regulations regarding prize receipt and disbursement.

[note 1] The White House, Now Is The Time: The President’s plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence, January 16, 2013.

[note 2]Test Operations Procedure (TOP) 3-2-045 Small Arms - Hand and Shoulder Weapons and Machine Guns (pdf, 87 pages), Small Arms Systems Division (CSTE-DTC-AT-FP-S), U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center, September 17, 2007. This TOP provides procedures for testing small arms, which includes hand and shoulder weapons and machine guns, including crew served weapons and light automatic cannons up to 50 millimeters in caliber.

[note 3] California Penal Code, Section 31900-31910.

[note 4] National Institute of Justice, NIJ Standard for 28/357 Caliber Revolvers (pdf, 17 pages), NIJ Standard-0109.00, July 1983; National Institute of Justice, Autoloading Pistols for Police OfficersExit Notice, NIJ Standard-0112.03 Revision A, July 1999; National Institute of Justice, 12-Gauge Shotguns for Police Use, NIJ Standard-0113.00, March 1989.

[note 5]See, e.g.,  National Institute of Justice, Equipment Performance Report: .38 & .357 Caliber Revolvers Test Results (pdf, 89 pages), June 1987; National Institute of Justice, Equipment Performance Report: 9mm and .45 Caliber Autoloading Pistol Test Results (pdf, 81 pages), August 1987; National Institute of Justice, Equipment Performance Report: 12-Gauge Shotgun Test Results (pdf, 34 pages), October 1987.

Date Modified: December 21, 2016