Shooting for the First Time with Help from a Raspberry Pi

Like many people, [Mike] has a list of things he wants to do in life. One of them is “fire a gun with a switch,” and with a little help from some hacker friends, he knocked this item off last weekend.

For those wondering why the specificity of the item, the backstory will help explain. [Mike] has spinal muscular atrophy, a disease that was supposed to end his life shortly after it began. Thirty-seven years later, [Mike] is still ticking items off his list, but since he only has voluntary control of his right eyebrow, he faces challenges getting some of them done. Enter [Bill] and the crew at ATMakers. The “AT” stands for “assistive technologies,” and [Bill] took on the task of building a rig to safely fire a Glock 17 upon [Mike]’s command.

Before even beginning the project, [Bill] did his due diligence, going so far as to consult the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and arranging for private time at a local indoor gun range. The business end of the rig is a commercially available bench rest designed to control recoil from the pistol, which is fired by a servo connected to the trigger. The interface with [Mike]’s system is via a Raspberry Pi and a Crikit linked together by a custom PCB. A PiCam allowed [Mike] to look down the sights and fire the gun with his eyebrow. The videos below show the development process and the day at the range; to say that [Mike] was pleased is an understatement.

We’re not sure what else is on [Mike]’s list, but we see a lot of assistive tech projects around here — we even had a whole category of the 2017 Hackaday Prize devoted to them. Maybe there’s something else the Hackaday community can help him check off.

15 thoughts on “Shooting for the First Time with Help from a Raspberry Pi

  1. Be really careful, in the US I recall a decision by the ATF that electronic trigger actuators on semi-auto firearms is a case of readily converted to full auto, heance to be treated as full auto(GCA’68). What is worse is that if the feds decide the weapon(legally the frame or receiver) has ever been full auto then even when removed from the device it is still considered once-a- class-3 always-a-class-3. I highly recommend pulling the video and documentation until you have spoken to an in state attorney who deals in firearm law. In the US anyone considering anything novel with firearms in the US it is absolutely tragic not to write a letter and get a letter of authorization back form ATFE and the state police or whatever the regulating agency and always keep a on paper copy with the firearm, and to be careful ever crossing state lines without another letter from that new state. The law in the US is very liberal until you hit many arbitrary and arcane iron walls somewhere in the administrative and executive rulings of GCA34 and GCA68. Then we are talking hard federal no parole possible prison time with a 98% conviction rate if charged.
    This is not a joke, I used to be a US FFL dealer almost exclusively to police agencies and worked with an in state NFA dealer for full-auto, short barrel, and suppressor tax stamp requests.

      1. True, but not how the conversation went. Was this a case of special dispensation, or hazy law that wouldn’t be pursued in this case, or general permission, or something else altogether? Did they receive official documentation or just a conversation? It matters very much because my understanding is the same as the OP’s and think understanding the details are important.

  2. I will add that the on-paper letter of finding by the ATFE technical branch must be obtained before any final assembly, here is the email but I would only trust a paper in and paper back written authorization. fipb@atf.gov
    And be careful, peoples careers are based on numbers, do not admit guilt or having already acquired parts, built, or posessed anything ever in any letter to a police agency. IANAL get one of your own competent in the specific field who can assess the details of your own case.

    1. If you email them a question they will tell you to mail them the question in writing, They will respond about 3 months later in writing. They may ask for the item to be sent to them for a ruling.
      It took me over a year to get a ruling on a semi-auto M2 .50 cal gun I designed new parts for (to make it semi-auto only).

      1. I get questions answered all the time. For example I asked if I could use machinable wax to make a monocore “candle” and whether that would constitute a suppressor. Given that it cant actually be used in any reasonable way as a functional monocore they did respond to my question in less than 48 hours. It took a few emails to get it cleared up because at first they did not understand the wax part. The stupid part is before they understood it was wax they told me to make one and send it to them for review. Which means if they determined that it did require a form 1 I would have sent them evidence that I made a qualifying object without a tax stamp.

        There are other questions I have asked an always gotten an email answer. Often in less than 24 hours but never longer than 72.

        BTW the NFA is title 26, the revenue code (taxation). It is 100% predicated on a tax stamp. The crime is always not having a valid tax stamp.

        Article 1 Section 9 Clause 5 of the US Constitution “No tax or duty shall be laid on items exported from any state.”

        1. In my case they actually needed to see and inspect the receiver parts (side plates in this particular case) to verify they were not NFA parts. But sure, there are some questions they can answer by email.

  3. Wow, that’s unexpected! While it certainly doesn’t compare to firing a real thing (and I assume he couldn’t really aim), I’m happy to see assistive technology development helping people, with things big and small.

  4. From a European point of view, this sounds so wrong.
    With this amount of energy, effort and technology, one could create something
    that could help this guy in his daily life.
    And to have this wish in the first place…

    1. From my (also European) point of view – I’m sure that, if he had another priorities and could ask for something more important to him, he’d ask for that instead. And then, there’s a gun culture in America, that we don’t fully understand in Europe because we don’t have a similar gun culture in our countries, and that likely influenced his wish. I think we both are not in a position to understand his wish, much less to judge it.

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