CCW Weekend: Microstamping Would Be A Great Idea, If It Could Work

Guns and Gear | Contributor

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

The Democratic People’s Republic Of California seems to be bent on depriving its citizens of their Second Amendment rights for the most part. Much of that state is inimical to law abiding citizens being armed, and further restricts the number, make and model of firearms people can actually own every year.

However, let’s give them a little credit where it’s due. The microstamping idea has a certain logic, or at least would if it could work in the real world.

Unfortunately, what makes sense on paper doesn’t always translate into real-world success and it probably won’t be feasible for quite some time.

For those unaware, the basic idea is this: gunmakers create a unique stamp, which is very, very tiny (less than 1mm in size) that is installed somewhere in the firing mechanism. When a round is fired, the stamp imprints on the case. Manufacturers would – ostensibly – send a list of the stamps and the corresponding serial number on the gun to the government. Thus, if a gun was used in a crime and cases were recovered at the scene, it would be immediately established which gun was used and therefore the crime would be more easily solved.

Not such a bad idea, really. A unique identifier that conclusively proves which gun was used in a crime. It makes a certain amount of sense, right?

But then reality intrudes, as it must, and as usual ruins basically everything. Reality is kind of like that one roommate we all had in college in that regard, and if you didn’t have that roommate then you were that roommate.

There are some serious hitches.

To start with, microstamping on the firing pin is problematic at best. As we all know, firing pin strikes are not universal. Some strikes are too hard and others are too light. Too light a strike and the stamp won’t be readable; too hard and it smears.

Another problem is that a firing pin can simply be changed. Additionally, California’s law also requires a second stamp located elsewhere in the firing mechanism, which would necessarily only be in the throat of the barrel or on the ejector. Barrels and ejectors, of course, can also be replaced. What good is the microstamping requirement when a few parts can defeat it?

There is also the documentation. This sort of documentation of firearms could be a backdoor into gun registration, which is problematic at best.

Then you have the nature of gun crimes. You see, most guns used in crimes spend five to ten years in circulation. Not all, but many. Besides crimes of passion or mass shootings – in which the suspect or perpetrator is usually identified quickly anyway – it would take years before any serious effect would manifest itself.

Even then, the effect would be mitigated by the sheer number of guns that are out there. Granted, many are in the hands of the responsible citizen, rather than the criminals, but a great many are in the hands of malefactors.

Additionally, the technology to create microstamping is not fully proven, though isn’t overly complicated. A microlaser etches the stamp in the factory, which isn’t exactly the most advanced thing in the world. The only maker of the technology – NanoMark – has had some promising tests, but no independent entities have produced tests demonstrating its efficacy.

So, like other things that make a certain amount of sense on paper – like smart guns – it would be a great idea…if it could work.

But what do you think? Terrible idea from the ground up? Or do you think there’s something like a good idea in there somewhere?

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit

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