The Micro-Effectivenes S Of Microstamping

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Since Bill Clinton’s public recognition that his anti-gun activities bore a horrendous political cost, Democrats have been cautious indeed about overtly championing gun control measures. Not every Democract, to be sure. There are always true believers for whom not even potential exile from politics is sufficiently daunting. And even Mr. Obama, one of the most anti-gun politicians to ever hold office has stealthily pursued gun control “under the radar,” primarily through the deadly gunwalking schemes that now appear to have been far more widespread than was thought possible, as my former Confederate Yankee co-blogger and fellow PJ media contributor, Bob Owens reported.

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It has long been an integral part of anti-freedom tactics to embrace the possible. If it’s impossible to ban guns, do everything possible to make them so expensive, so difficult to obtain, so difficult to use, that such regulations and laws become a defacto gun ban. Selling the wonders of technology as a means of crime control has always been an integral part of this tactic, and one of the most prominent—and useless–bill of goods gun banners have attempted to sell in recent years is micro stamping.

Micro stamping consists of laser engraving unique identifying numbers or codes on the firing pins of firearms on the theory that this identifying information will be transferred to the metal of cartridge primers. All the police need do—as the anti-gun fable goes—is pick up expended cases at the scene of a crime, read the information from the primer and mirable dictu (wonderful to tell), the case is solved!

Fox News recently reported:

“Two venerable American gun manufacturers — Remington and Colt — could head for the West their weapons helped win if New York and Connecticut force them to implement microstamping technology…

Mandatory microstamping would have an immediate impact of a loss of 50 jobs,’ New York State Sen. James Seward, a Republican whose district includes Ilion, said, adding that Remington employs 1,100 workers in the town. “You’re talking about a company that has options in other states. Why should they be in a state that’s hostile to legal gun manufacturing? There could be serious negative economic impact with the passage of microstamping and other gun-control laws.”

New York politicians, even during a time of great national economic distress, can’t abandon their utopian anti-gun beliefs:

“New York Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, a Democrat and the chief sponsor of the microstamping legislation on semiautomatic pistols that was last considered by the state’s full Senate in 2010, said she believes Remington’s vow is merely a threat.

‘Their main product isn’t even semiautomatic guns; the main thrust of what they do are long guns and military contracts,’ Schimel told ‘As a former businessman, it would be foolish for them to leave the New York market. They are getting a lot of money from the state.”

However, there are apparently rational politicians in New York State and Connecticut:

“Ilion [where Remington is headquartered] Mayor John Stephens told he believes the company, which has had suitors in several Midwest states with less restrictive gun laws, was not bluffing. Stephens also said the microstamping proposal is bad legislation…

The closure of Remington’s plant in the 8,000-resident village would be a ‘huge hit’ to the local economy, Stephens said, and suggested that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — and other politicians supporting stricter gun-control measures — are off the mark.

Meanwhile, in Connecticut, similar microstamping legislation has long been opposed by Colt, whose executives have claimed the ‘feel-good legislation’ would drive gun manufacturers out of the state.

Erich Pratt, spokesman for Gun Owners of America, said companies — and indeed industries — leave when they believe the business climate is hostile. He cited the car industry.

‘It used to be Detroit and only Detroit, but now they’re opening up shops all along the South,’ Pratt told ‘If they’re not going to be pro-business, then they’re going to lose those jobs. They’re making a bottom line decision: At what point does it become more cost-effective to leave the state?”

Some ostensible conservatives buy into micro stamping, even at The National Review, as a June article by Robert VerBruggen notes:

“Microstamping would be helpful to police, who often find shell casings but no gun at a crime scene. It would be valuable to know what gun those shell casings came from, and to whom that gun was originally sold.”

To be completely fair to VerBruggen, he doesn’t wholeheartedly embrace micro stamping. He ends his piece by suggesting that states wanting to enact micro stamping should do so by making taxpayers, rather than manufacturers and their law-abiding customers, bear the cost. This may sound at least somewhat reasonable, but more reasonable by far is rejecting micro stamping out of hand, a proposition for which there are many good and compelling reasons.


Micro stamping is unreliable. noted:

“A 2006 University of California (Davis) study concluded that laser cutting of the firing pin was feasible but the resulting stamping was inconsistent…

The University of California (Davis) study showed that the vast majority of marks left in the primer were unreadable. Other studies by the firearms industry found similar results.”

Other studies have indeed found the same—and worse—results. The metals used in the production of primers are not absolutely consistent, even within a given batch. If the metal is just a little too hard, little or nothing will be transferred to the primer. Too soft and similar problems result. Anti-gun types would demand that all primers be absolutely consistent, which only plays into their stealth strategy. Such mandates would dramatically drive up the cost of ammunition, making shooting too expensive for most, which is the old-as-dirt ban the gun by banning ammunition tactic.

Micro stamping is expensive. Remington believes a micro stamping mandate would add at least $12.00 to the cost of every firearm. Tooling and production costs could easily run into the tens of millions of dollars, which is why Remington and Colt are serious about moving to a more firearm and business-friendly environment.

Laser engraving is not persistent. As every study has shown, no method of laser engraving is particularly long lasting. Some wear very rapidly, while others tend to last somewhat longer. The mere act of firing a gun will degrade any laser engraving. Anti-gunners would want to make changing or removing the engraving a felony, but this would inevitably catch the law abiding when normal wear was discovered on a firing pin. This too is a part of the anti-gun strategy of making gun ownership prohibitive where outright bans can’t be enacted. That the innocent might be imprisoned, their lives destroyed, means little to true believers who see such abuses as banning the gun by essentially banning gun owners.

Micro Stamping is easily defeated. An emery board or fine sandpaper would be sufficient to damage or erase the laser engraving on a firing pin with only a few minutes of effort. Even vigorous cleaning of a dirty firing pin will degrade laser engraving. Simply changing firing pins would utterly defeat micro stamping. Of course, anti-gunners would demand that such actions be felonies and care nothing for the imprisonment of the law abiding who unwittingly degrade the engraving through normal cleaning, or who replace a broken or worn firing pin.


The CSI series of TV programs have led the public to harbor unfortunate ideas about crime solving. The state of the art labs inhabited by TV actors full of almost magical equipment are sets and props. There is no universal fingerprint database; the memory requirements are too high, to say nothing of the imaging difficulties. There is no such thing as inputting a partial fingerprint into a computer, which will, within seconds, spew out the name and address of its owner. In reality, forensic evidence is used primarily after a suspect has been identified, and then only to help link them to a crime scene. Most crimes are solved the old fashioned way: by cops talking to people.

Leave no case behind. There are a wide variety of simple ways to defeat micro stamping apart from dealing with a firing pin. Here are two primary means:

(1) The easiest way is simply to use a weapon without that feature. No matter which law passes, there will still be millions of weapons available without it. Anti-gun forces would try to ban and/or criminalize all weapons without that feature, but would be unlikely to accomplish it, and if they did, the public would engage in mass non-compliance.

(2) If there are no cases left behind, micro stamping is useless. This would be very easy to accomplish. Revolvers do not eject their cases upon firing, and it would be a simple matter to stop to pick up any cases ejected by semiautomatic pistols or any other kind of firearm.

The no-solution solution. Let’s assume the best possible best-case scenario. A man is shot and killed in a dark alley—there are no witnesses–and a single casing is found near his body. The primer is examined, the micro stamping left on it is perfect and legible, and it is entered into the massive, all-knowing federal registration computer which reveals that the weapon that fired the bullet and ejected the case was originally purchased 12 years earlier in another state by Mr. Bob Smith, 123 Anytown Ave., Anytown, Anystate. That’s great, isn’t it? We know who shot the unfortunate man in the alley!

Actually, all we know, and all we can possibly prove, is the firing pin that left the impression on the primer was originally installed in the gun bought by Bob Smith in another state 12 years ago. The police still must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following:

(1) That Bob Smith actually bought the gun 12 years earlier.

(2) That the gun has been in Smith’s possession ever since.

(3) That Smith was in that alley on the date and at the time of the shooting, and:

(4) That Smith actually pulled the trigger of that specific gun and that the bullet fired from that gun struck and killed the victim.

Do you begin to see the problems? All that a micro stamped primer can tell the police—if it works at all—is who originally bought a given firearm. It proves nothing else, nothing at all. The murder weapon might have been lost, sold, stolen, removed from Smith’s home for the shooting and replaced thereafter, the firing pin might have been replaced by Smith who thought it defective, found in the garbage by a criminal and installed in another gun, the possibilities go on and on.

Any criminal stupid enough to leave a micro stamped casing at a crime scene would be highly likely to be caught anyway. Thankfully few criminals are true masterminds of the kind popularized by fiction, but fewer are that stupid. That’s just not the way crimes are solved.


In order for any micro stamping system to have the faintest hope of working, universal registration would be mandatory. While this has long been one of the fondest dreams of anti-gunners, Americans have always vehemently resisted it, rightly recognizing it as the necessary first step to confiscation.

Five years ago, Americans would have been skeptical of the possibility of any American government confiscating personal weapons. After the age of Obama, few Americans doubt that it is possible and, taking Mr. Obama’s cues, have engaged in a veritable hurricane of gun and ammunition acquisition.

Another necessary step in a comprehensive micro stamping policy would be the draconian regulation of ammunition, which would become very expensive and hard to get. Hand loading would have to be outlawed, for it would render any attempt to place identifying information on bullets—usually considered a close relative to micro stamping—useless. The entire reloading industry would be wiped out or underground.

Final Thoughts:

For the hardened progressive, there is no reality that can dislodge their beliefs. Even if we assume that they are acting in good will—and they are obviously not–the facts that micro stamping is not remotely cost-effective, can never truly help to solve crimes, is destructive to liberty, and will require a massive and expensive new bureaucracy to implement mean nothing to them. Anything that will disarm the law abiding is good in and of itself.

Even chasing away companies that have been a part of their communities for centuries, companies that would prefer not to leave, means nothing to such people. It likewise means nothing that forcing any business out of any state during a serious and potentially worsening recession is an incredibly stupid idea.

It might be a good idea to keep these people in mind in early November of this year and macro stamp candidates who respect the Constitution and recognize ineffective foolishness when they see it.

Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a

One Comment:

  • Rob62: I can’t believe I have not seen this write up till now. Wonder what bumped it up. Anyway, GREAT JOB explaining everything. Maybe the low information voters will take note of what you wrote.

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