Title:
Fire control authorization system for a firearm
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An authorization system for a firearm includes a personal device worn by the authorized user, modifications to the firearm's fire control system, and an authorization control circuit carried in the backstrap of the firearm handle. The authorization control circuit controls the fire control system and communicates with the personal device. In particular, the authorization control circuit will send a first signal to the personal device via an ultrasonic transponder and wait for a coded response. If the personal device is worn by a user and is within range and properly oriented, it will respond to the first signal. If the correct coded response is not received, the authorization control circuit signals a bi-stable solenoid located near the trigger arm to move its plunger to an extended position where it will cam the edge of the trigger bar out of engagement with the sear when the trigger is pulled. Consequently, the trigger bar will not move the sear. The firearm also forces the user to obtain authorization by not allowing the trigger to be pulled unless the firearm is held in normal firing position grasp. In that position, the user depresses a pressure sensing device on the handle. Depressing that device enables the trigger and initiates the authorization request.



Inventors:
Gering, Armand (Liege, BE)
Schmitter, Edward P. (Eastover, SC, US)
Heins, Patrick (Thimister, BE)
Kesteloot, Andre Victor (McLean, VA, US)
Hitchcox, Jason Lee (Columbia, SC, US)
Gavage, Xavier (Chaudfontaine, BE)
Application Number:
09/886445
Publication Date:
11/22/2001
Filing Date:
06/21/2001
Assignee:
GERING ARMAND
SCHMITTER EDWARD P.
HEINS PATRICK
KESTELOOT ANDRE VICTOR.
HITCHCOX JASON LEE
GAVAGE XAVIER
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
42/69.03
International Classes:
F41A17/06; (IPC1-7): F41A3/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
CHAMBERS, TROY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MICHAEL A. MANN (COLUMBIA, SC, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A firearm, comprising: a frame including a hollow handle; a barrel carried by said frame; fire control means carried by said frame and adapted so that, when a round of ammunition is loaded into said firearm, said round can be fired through said barrel by said fire control means; authorization control means for verifying authorization of a user, said authorization control means being carried by said frame, said fire control means responsive to signals from said authorization control means so that said fire control means is enabled to fire said round of ammunition when so signaled by said authorization means and said fire control means is not able to fire said round of ammunition when so signaled by said authorization control means, said authorization control means including a first ultrasonic transponder; and a second ultrasonic transponder responsive to said first ultrasonic transponder so that when a first signal is transmitted by said first ultrasonic transponder, said second ultrasonic transponder, if said first signal is received by said second ultrasonic transponder, responds by transmitting a response.

2. The firearm as recited in claim 1, wherein second signal from said second ultrasonic transponder contains an authorization code.

3. The firearm as recited in claim 1, wherein said authorization control means measures elapsed time required for receipt of said second signal from said second ultrasonic transponder and compares said elapsed time to programmed requirements.

4. The firearm as recited in claim 1, wherein said authorization control means further comprises means for disconnecting said fire control means.

5. The firearm as recited in claim 1, wherein said authorization control means further comprises a solenoid having a plunger with a retracted position and an extended position, and wherein said solenoid is a bi-stable solenoid.

6. The firearm as recited in claim 1, wherein said authorization control means further comprises a solenoid having a plunger with a retracted position and an extended position, and wherein said fire control means further comprises a sear and a trigger arm, and wherein said trigger arm engages and moves said sear when said plunger is in the retracted position and said trigger arm does not engage or move said sear when said plunger is in the extended position.

7. The firearm as recited in claim 1, wherein said authorization control means further comprises a solenoid having a plunger with a retracted position and an extended position, and wherein said fire control means further comprises a sear and a trigger arm, and wherein said trigger arm engages and moves said sear when said plunger is in the retracted position and plunger deflects said trigger arm away from said sear when said plunger is in said extended position so that said trigger arm does not engage and move said sear.

8. The firearm as recited in claim 1, wherein said authorization control means further comprises a solenoid having a plunger with a retracted position and an extended position, and wherein said fire control means further comprises a sear and a trigger arm, and wherein said trigger arm engages and moves said sear when said plunger is in the retracted position and plunger cams said trigger arm away from said sear when said plunger is in said extended position so that said trigger arm does not engage and move said sear.

9. The firearm as recited in claim 1, further comprising means for disabling said fire control means, said disabling means having a blocked position wherein said fire control means is not able to fire and an enabled position wherein said fire control means is ready to fire pending authorization.

10. The firearm as recited in claim 8, wherein said disabling means is moved to said enabled position when a users grasps said handle of said frame.

11. A firearm, comprising: a frame including a hollow handle and a trigger guard; a barrel carried by said frame; fire control means carried by said frame and adapted so that, when a round of ammunition is loaded, said round can be fired through said barrel by said fire control means, said fire control means including a trigger, a trigger arm that moves in response to movement of said trigger, a sear that is movable when engaged by said trigger arm; authorization control means for verifying authorization of a user, said authorization control means being carried by said frame, said fire control means responsive to signals from said authorization control means so that said fire control means is enabled to fire said round of ammunition when so signaled by said authorization means and said fire control means is disabled from firing said round of ammunition when so signaled by said authorization control means, said authorization control means including a first transponder; and a second transponder responsive to said first transponder so that when a first signal is transmitted by said first transponder, said second transponder, if said first signal is received by said second transponder, responds by transmitting a response.

12. The firearm as recited in claim 11, wherein said authorization control means includes means for initiating authorization, said initiating means being activated upon said user grasping said handle of said frame.

13. The firearm as recited in claim 11, wherein said authorization control means includes a pressure sensing device carried on said handle of said frame, said device, when pressed, activating an authorization process wherein said first transponder of said authorization control means transmits said first signal.

14. The firearm as recited in claim 11, further comprising means for enabling said fire control means, said enabling means having a disabled position wherein said fire control means is not able to fire and an enabled position wherein said fire control means is ready to fire pending authorization.

15. The firearm as recited in claim 14, wherein said authorization control means includes means for initiating authorization, said enabling means moving to said enabled position when said initiating means initiates authorization.

16. The firearm as recited in claim 11, wherein said authorization control means further comprises a solenoid having a plunger with a retracted position and an extended position, and wherein said trigger arm engages and moves said sear when said plunger is in the retracted position and said trigger arm does not engage or move said sear when said plunger is in the extended position.

17. The firearm as recited in claim 11, wherein said authorization control means further comprises a solenoid having a plunger with a retracted position and an extended position, and wherein said trigger arm engages and moves said sear when said plunger is in said retracted position and said plunger cams said trigger arm away from said sear when said plunger is in said extended position so that said trigger arm does not engage and move said sear.

18. A firearm, comprising: a frame including a hollow handle and a trigger guard; a battery carried by said frame; a barrel carried by said frame; fire control means carried by said frame and adapted so that, when a round of ammunition is loaded, said round can be fired through said barrel by said fire control means, said fire control means including a trigger, a trigger arm that moves in response to movement of said trigger, a sear that is movable when engaged by said trigger arm; authorization control means for verifying authorization of a user, said authorization control means being carried by said frame and in electrical connection with said battery, said fire control means responsive to signals from said authorization control means so that said fire control means is enabled to fire said round of ammunition when so signaled by said authorization means and said fire control means is disabled from firing said round of ammunition when so signaled by said authorization control means, said authorization control means including a first transponder, said authorization control means drawing on said battery only when said authorization control means is verifying authorization; and a personal device including a second transponder responsive to said first transponder so that when a first signal is transmitted by said first transponder, said second transponder, if said first signal is received by said second transponder, responds by transmitting a response.

19. The firearm as recited in claim 18, wherein said authorization control means includes means carried by said handle of said frame for initiating authorization, said initiating means responsive to the grip of a user.

20. The firearm as recited in claim 18, wherein said handle has a back strap and wherein said authorizing control means includes an electrical circuit carried in said back strap.

21. The firearm as recited in claim 18, wherein said authorization control means includes a solenoid having a plunger with an extended position and a retracted position, and wherein said plunger, when in said extended position, cams said trigger bar when said trigger is pulled to a position that prevents engagement with said sear.

Description:

[0001] The present application is a continuation in part of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/519,579, filed Mar. 6, 2000.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to firearm security in general and to firearms with authorization systems in particular.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] There have been numerous improvements to firearm security over the years. However, there is an inherent paradox in firearm security. On one hand, a secure weapon may require several steps to be taken before it can be fired. For example, it may have to be removed from a locked cabinet. Ammunition may be stored separately; a trigger lock may need to be unlocked; and safeties may have to be moved to the “off” position. On the other hand, the user, who may be a law enforcement officer, may need to fire it quickly in emergencies to save lives or to save his or her own life. Inevitably, compromises are made in the design and storage of firearms between security and usability.

[0004] Historically, firearm safeties were of the type that, when the user wanted to be able to fire the weapon, he or she moved a safety lever or catch from the “on” position to the “off” position. Other safeties have been developed to complement this basic approach, all emphasizing that the user must intend to discharge the weapon in order for the weapon to be in a condition for it to be fired, or to be “enabled.” None of these systems questions whether the user who intends to fire the gun is permitted to do so.

[0005] More recently, firearms have been designed with authorization systems. These systems attempt to verify that the user is someone who is permitted to fire the gun. An unauthorized user cannot fire the gun equipped with an authorization system. Typically, these systems rely on some means of identification: the user dials in a code on a keypad on the gun or turns a key to unlock the gun, or the gun has the capability to read a particular individual's fingerprint. Another type of authorization system relies on a “personal device” worn by the authorized user that communicates using radio-frequency transmitters and receivers with electronic circuits carried in the gun. Indeed, many improvements and variations have been made in existing authorization systems. The nature of the use of the firearm must be considered in the design of an authorization system. For example, a pistol designed for shooting for sport can be designed with greater limitations on when and where it can be enabled. The design of authorization systems for law enforcement pistols are more challenging. Law enforcement must be prepared to fire their guns on short notice. However, a law enforcement officer must sometimes grapple with a suspected criminal which gives the suspected criminal an opportunity to turn the officer's gun on the officer. Thus, in an instant, an ideally designed authorization system will give the gun the capability to switch repeatedly and automatically between being enabled and being disabled as the struggle for control of the gun continues.

[0006] Other design considerations must be taken into account as well when designing an authorization system for a law enforcement firearm. Authorization systems must not be easily defeated by those criminals who understand how these systems work. Authorization systems that rely on battery power must have a ready to fire condition when the battery is dead and must not drain the battery too rapidly. Accordingly, there remains a need for an authorization system that operates reliably, that does not drain its batteries quickly, and that is particularly suited for law enforcement use.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] According to its major aspects and briefly recited, the present invention is an authorization system for a firearm designed especially for law enforcement use. The system includes a personal device worn by the authorized user that is able to transmit coded ultrasonic bursts to a receiver on the firearm when a request for authorization is made. The request is initiated when the user holds the firearm in a normal firing grip. In the case of a pistol, the user's hand must grasp the handle and the fingers of the gripping hand must automatically depress a pressure sensing device located on the handle in order to initiate the authorization process. Depressing the pressure sensing device also enables the firing system and allows the trigger to be pulled.

[0008] If authorization is not given, pulling the trigger will not cause the firearm to discharge. A failure to authorize causes the plunger of a bi-stable solenoid to be moved to the extended position where it cams the trigger bar away from the sear. On the other hand, if authorization is received, the plunger of the solenoid moves to the retracted position, so the trigger arm will be allowed to engage and move the sear.

[0009] An important feature of the present invention is the use of ultrasonic signals. Ultrasonic signals are directional by nature and can be used to measure distances accurately. Under various scenarios that can occur in the line of duty of a law enforcement officer, it is preferable to have limits to the relative orientation and position of the firearm with respect to the personal device. The choice of ultrasonic signals meets this need.

[0010] Another key feature of the present invention is the use of a solenoid plunger to cam the trigger arm away from the sear and thus disable the fire control system. Prior art devices use solenoids to block various parts of the fire control system of a firearm. If sufficient pressure is brought to bear on the trigger of such a device, the solenoid plunger or the component it is blocking can be broken, thus defeating the authorization system. In the present system, applying additional force will simply result in the trigger arm being cammed away harder and faster.

[0011] The use of a bi-stable solenoid, along with some aspects of the control circuitry, is another important feature of the present invention because it greatly reduces electrical power supply requirements. A pair of small batteries may last a year in the present firearm subjected to normal use.

[0012] Another important feature of the present invention is the dual function of the pressure sensing device on the handle. This device initiates the authorization system and enables the fire control system. Because of the logic of the authorization system, it is necessary to disable the fire control system in the event an unauthorized user attempts to fire the firearm without holding the handle in a way that will request authorization. The disabling of the fire control system prevents firing of the gun unless the authorization device is depressed.

[0013] Other features and their advantages will become apparent to those skilled in the art of firearm design from a careful reading of the Detailed Description of Preferred embodiments, accompanied by the following drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014] In the figures,

[0015] FIG. 1A and 1B are side views of a firearm, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, with the fire control system shown in phantom lines and with part of the frame cut away to show the fire control system disabled in 1A and enabled in 1B. A portion of the authorization system is also shown;

[0016] FIGS. 2A and 2B illustrate in perspective the operation of the solenoid plunger in camming the trigger arm away when the trigger is pulled by an unauthorized user, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0017] FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrate in perspective the operation of the solenoid plunger allowing the trigger arm to engage and move the sear when the trigger is pulled by an authorized user, according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention; and

[0018] FIGS. 4A and 4B are top views that illustrate the directional and distance measurement nature of ultrasonic waves in an authorization system according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0019] The present invention is a firearm with an authorization system. The authorization system will disable the firearm so that it will not fire unless the firearm receives a correctly coded signal and determines that it is the proper distance from a personal device, which is to be worn by an authorized user.

[0020] Referring now to the figures, FIGS. 1-4 illustrate the present firearm with authorization system. In most respects, the firearm, generally indicated by reference number 10, is a conventional firearm, here illustrated as a semi-automatic pistol. It has a frame 12 with a handle 14 and trigger guard 16, a barrel 18, a slide 20, and a breach block. It has a fire control system that includes a pivotally mounted trigger 30 and a trigger bar 32 that moves rearward in response to the pulling of trigger 30. When trigger bar 32 is moved rearward, it is aligned with a sear 34 so that it will catch sear 34 and move it rearward as well. Sear 34 loads the firing pin 36 against the firing pin spring, until sear 34 reaches a point where it releases firing pin 36, which is then propelled forward at the urging of the firing pin spring. Firing pin 36 strikes the primer of a round of ammunition (not shown) in the breech block, which detonates the powder in the cartridge. The exploding powder propels the round through barrel 18. The foregoing is conventional operation for a semi-automatic pistol and similar to that of many other firearms.

[0021] In the present system, a firing disable system prevents trigger 30 from being pulled. The firing disable system includes a trigger block 44 biased into a notch 46 in trigger 30.

[0022] Depressing arm 60 at end 62 will rotate its other end 63 clockwise, as seen in FIG. 1B, around pivot pin 64 causing trigger block 44 to rotate from notch 46 whereby trigger 30 can be moved rearwardly.

[0023] Button 60 is also connected to an electrical circuit 76 in aback strap 78 in handle 14. By depressing button 60, not only is the fire control system unblocked, but it also initiates an authorization request. If the user holds firearm 10 in such a way that button 60 is not depressed, in an attempt to avoid the authorization request, trigger 30 cannot be pulled because end 43 of arm 60, which is urged counterclockwise by spring 65, will be in contact with trigger 30 at its indent 46.

[0024] Electrical circuit 76 causes a first ultrasonic transponder 80 carried by frame 14 to emit an ultrasonic burst. First ultrasonic transponder 80 is located in the rear of firearm 10 and oriented to emit the burst rearward. If the user is wearing a personal device 82, it will respond via a second ultrasonic transponder 84 carried by device 82 as long as the user is not at too great a distance “A” and firearm 10 and personal device 82 are properly oriented. Second ultrasonic transponder 84 may detect the burst emitted by ultrasonic transponder 80 and, if so, will respond by transmitting a coded ultrasonic burst. In order for first and second ultrasonic transponder 80, 84, to communicate, they must be oriented generally toward each other (compare FIGS. 4A and 4B) and separated by no more than a pre-selected distance A. The highly directional nature and range capabilities of the transponders 80, 84, assures that firearm 10 must be in the firing hand of the authorized user and generally pointed away from the user for first and second transponders 80, 84, to communicate. Thus, firearm 10 cannot be fired when pointed towards the authorized user or be too far away from the authorized user.

[0025] If an incorrectly coded ultrasonic burst is received by the first ultrasonic transponder 80, or the distance measured is not within programmed parameters, electronic circuit 76 will send a signal to a bi-stable solenoid 90 located near trigger bar 32 and positioned in such a way that, when its plunger 92 moves from a retracted position to an extended position, it will interfere with trigger bar 32. Electrical circuit 76 is preferably an integrated circuit with memory secured within back strap 78 so that tampering can not easily defeat the authorization system. In particular, trigger bar 32 has an extension 94 with a camming edge 96. Plunger 92 of bi-stable solenoid 90 will interfere with camming edge 96 when trigger 30 is pulled, thus camming trigger bar 32 away so that it does not engage sear 34 and cannot cause firearm 10 to fire. Comparison of FIGS. 2A and 2B will illustrate the camming of trigger bar 32 away from the sear by plunger 92 of bi-stable solenoid 90.

[0026] Many prior art authorization systems use solenoids to block a component of the fire control system of a firearm, either the trigger, the sear, or the trigger bar. However, the present invention does not block the fire control mechanism; it disconnects it. By disconnecting, it is meant that trigger 30 still pulls and trigger bar 32 still moves rearward but firearm 10 does not fire. By blocking, it is meant that trigger 30 does not pull. This difference is important. If a component of the fire control system is blocked by a solenoid, a user who is not authorized may be able by sheer force to cause the plunger of the solenoid or the blocked component to become damaged and thus defeat the authorization system. In the present system, no amount of force will enable the disconnected fire control system since trigger 30, trigger bar 32 and sear 34 are not blocked.

[0027] If an ultrasonic burst is received from personal device 82 by the first ultrasonic transponder 80, the burst will be decoded and compared to authorized codes and distance parameters by electronic circuit 76. If the signal contained an authorized code and came from an accepted distance, an electrical signal will be sent to bi-stable solenoid 90 positioned near trigger bar 32. The signal will move plunger 92 of bi-stable solenoid 90 to a retracted position if it is not already in that position. When plunger 92 is in the retracted position, trigger bar 32 will be free to move rearwardly with the pull of trigger, by passing retracted plunger 92 and engaging and moving sear 34. Once sear 34 has been moved rearwardly a sufficient distance, it releases firing pin 36 and firearm 10 will fire.

[0028] The present authorization system is powered by batteries 100 stored in frame 14 shown below barrel 18. Current is only drawn when authorization has been initiated and movement of plunger 92 of bi-stable solenoid 90 is required. The authorization is repeated a number of times within a fraction of a second after pressure sensing device 60 is depressed and then not repeated until the next time firearm 10 is grasped. The pressure sensing device in the handle 14 detects when the user releases firearm 10. As long as the authorized user maintains his grasp of handle 14, reauthorization after initial authorization is not conducted, which reduces electrical power supply requirements. If firearm 10 is released and then picked up again immediately or later, then the authorization process is again initiated.

[0029] It will be apparent to those skilled in firearm authorization systems that many modifications and substitutions can be made to the foregoing preferred embodiments without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention, defined by the appended claims.