I sent the following email to Charles Brown, President of MKS Supply “cbrown (at) mkssupply.com”, Kelly Walton, Vice President “kwalton (at) mkssupply.com”, Kenneth Vanhoose, Director of Operations “kvanhoose (at) mkssupply.com”, and the generic “info (at) mkssupply.com” address this morning, and I additionally copy-pasted it into the Contact Form at Chiappa Firearms proper:
Charles, Kelly, Kenneth, et al.,
My name is [Linoge], and I confess to being borderline-infatuated with your Chiappa Rhino revolver ever since it was announced all those years ago. Thanks to various science fiction shows and movies, as well as poking around on the internet, I became fascinated with the Mateba semi-automatic revolver some time ago, and when I heard that another of Emilio Ghisoni’s designs would be reaching the American market at a price-point I could actually afford, well, you can imagine how happy I was. Once I had a chance to look at the design, grasp how the lower bore axis could significantly improve perceived recoil (I hated Statics and Dynamics, but it is occasionally useful), and take in the… unique… styling of he firearm, I started making plans to purchase one of the full-size revolvers once they became available.
Unfortunately, I am very sad to say those plans have just been canceled.
My day job has a significant amount to do with operating, maintaining, and monitoring an RFID-tag-tracking system, and my previous education was focused heavily on logistics, inventory management, optimization, and so forth, so I can completely comprehend the utility of RFID tags on a factory floor, and, honestly, I do not really begrudge you all trying to leverage that functionality to improve your own system. I do mind you publishing misinformation, and publicly attacking and insulting those who would dare question your actions.
In a recent press release, viewable at http://www.ammoland.com/2011/07/28/rfid-chip-in-chiappa-firearms/, MKS Supply wrote "The Chiappa PASSIVE RFID can be read ONLY when passed within (2-3 inches) of an active (and powered) reader that is dialed in for the particular long antenna radio frequency of the RFID-this is not random." Your RFID tags may be *designed* to only be read when within 2-3 inches of a reader, but the unfortunate reality is that range can be significantly increased with the right equipment and know-how – please take a look at http://blogs.pcworld.com/staffblog/archives/000798.html and http://venturebeat.com/2010/07/30/hacker-tries-to-read-a-radio-identification-tag-from-29-floors-up/ for examples. Granted, both those experiments were conducted with different technology tags than the ones you are employing, but the concept remains sound – with enough power being transmitted from the reader, and with a good enough signal-too-noise discriminator on the receiving side, the *maximum* read distance for RFID tags is typically significantly farther than their *designed* read distance.
Of course, if your read distance really is engineered for 2-3 inches, what good does that do you for inventory management when the firearm is in a box, in the middle of a carton, in the middle of a pallet? Or does your inventory management, assume that once an item is placed in a carton for shipping, it is "safe"?
This is unquestionably a privacy concern, especially should this technology become more prevalent in the firearm industry, as you allude it might. Your firearms, and specifically the 2" version, are specifically marketed for law-abiding American citizens to carry on their person, and the vast majority of those people do so in a concealed fashion. If the firearm, and its associated RFID tag, are detectable from even a few feet away, that completely defeats the purpose of "concealed" carry. Worse, if they are detectable from more than a few feet away, technologically-savvy robbers can simply "scan" homes and see if there is anything worth their time.
If you want the benefit of RFID tracking for your manufacturing process, invest in some disposable sticker tags or reusable zip-tie tags, and include removing that tag in your last inventory check as the firearms leave the factory – that way, everyone is happy.
Unfortunately, from your last comment in that press release, I am forced to conclude that "customer satisfaction" is nowhere on your priority list. That release closed with, "Others may prefer to wrap the revolver and their head in aluminum foil, curl in a ball and watch reruns of Mel Gibson’s 1997 film, Conspiracy Theory. Well, that’s a plan too!" Frankly, even if you were right about RFID technologies (which, as I said, you were not), that does not excuse you blatantly insulting, demeaning, and denigrating individuals who have expressed understandable and valid concerns regarding Chiappa’s business decisions. If that is how you treat people who have not even bought your product yet – people who *should* be your target audience – I shudder to think of how you handle your actual customers.
I think I will avoid the experience all together.
My understanding is that MKS Supply is currently the exclusive importer/distributor of the Chiappa Rhino revolver. Until that changes, I will not purchase a new Rhino, on account of having no desire to do business with a company that maliciously maligns anyone who raises questions about their products.
I hope the insults were worth the decrease in business you will undoubtedly be experiencing soon.
Thank you for your time,
(Please note: This email has been copied to Chiappa’s Customer Service Contact Form. Additionally, this email, as well as any response, will be reposted at http://www.wallsofthecity.net.)
I omitted it from the email, mostly because it does go without saying, but an apology and retraction of their uncalled-for insults would also convince me to reconsider my position.
In case I did not make myself abundantly clear in the email, I have made that decision on the basis of MKS Supply’s handling of potential customers’ concerns, not on the basis of their inclusion of the RFID tag in their firearms. I completely comprehend the time and money those devices would save them on the factory floor and warehouse shipping docks, and do not begrudge them either, especially since the tags in question are at least removable should you actually want to. The permanent inclusion of the tags in their products (i.e. shipping them to their customers) does indicate a marked lack of understanding of Americans on the part of Chiappa, but being an Italian firearm fabricator, I can probably excuse them.
MKS Supply’s handling of the news and resulting hue and cry, however, is pretty much unconscionable in my book, and not only illustrates a lack of understanding of their intended market, but also a lack of caring about their intended market. So, no, I am not at all sorry about generally avoiding giving money to companies that openly mock valid, substantive concerns about a piece of technology that is damned near riddled with all kinds of security and privacy shortcomings.
As I said, I hope the emotional outburst was worth it.
For more thoughts on the RFID tag situation and the idiocy of insulting your intended consumers, check here (with bonus RFID experience), here, here, here, here, here, and here. Suffice to say, if the gunblogosphere is any indication, MKS Supply’s "joke" did not go over well…