58-year-old Ernst Mauch was one of the top engineers for Heckler & Koch, the famed German defense manufacturing company.
He worked on some of the company’s most iconic firearms, including the HK416, a variant of the M4 carbine that used a proprietary short-stroke gas piston upper. The HK416 was later adopted—with some minor tweaks—as the U.S. Marine Corps M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, a replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
A devout Christian, Mauch has wrestled with apparent conflicts between his faith and his career for decades. It was hard for him to reconcile a faith that teaches “thou shall not murder” with the creation for firearms. For years, it was enough for him that he was designing weapons primarily for NATO military and allied police forces… those presumably acting on the side of peace, for good.
A moment came, however, when he wondered if he was doing enough to ensure that people weren’t dying unnecessarily due to his work.
In a Washington Post interview, Mauch describes the pivotal moment in his life that inspired him to seriously begin considering smart gun designs:
Mauch came home to that family one day in the 1990s following four hours of questioning by authorities after a boy accidentally killed a friend with one of Heckler & Koch’s handguns. “Why did the boy not know the gun was loaded?” Mauch was asked. “Why did the boy not know there was a round in the chamber?”
He told his wife, “My dear, I will never forget these last four hours.”
The questions, Mauch said, were good ones. “It was a good gun,” he said. “A good gun, but a dumb gun.” The idea of making guns smarter took hold.
I empathize with Mauch, and his crisis of conscience. It makes perfect sense that a man in his position, with his talents and concerns, would want to reduce the likelihood of accidental firearms deaths. They are, after all, a concern of every responsible gun owner.
Mauch eventually left Heckler & Koch in 2005, and joined Armatix in 2006. His first project was the iP1/iW1 pistol and watch combination, a firearm developed for the United States civilian pistol market. He’s spent 8 long years developing the technology, even pouring in his own money to help finance the development of the system.
It was—and remains, despite Mauch’s best intentions—a pistol that gun owners don’t want.
[continues on next page]