The O'Dwyer VLe (Variable Lethality) was a prototype fully electronic handgun and an early smart gun developed by Metal Storm in partnership with the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Taurus USA. Named after Metal Storm founder James O'Dwyer, one functional single-barrel prototype was designed, while multi-barrel models were proposed.[1][2]

The VLe utilized Metal Storm's proprietary stacked projectile technology. In its final form, VLe would have had multiple barrels, using either lethal ammunition or less-than lethal ammunition. The two ammo types could thus be switched easily, hence its name of Variable Lethality. Reloading is achieved via either rear-inserted barrels or break-open frames.

The VLe was also intended to be an early smart gun, meaning that it can detect its user and only fired when used by an authorized user. Early versions of the smart gun design used an RF receiver and an RF transmitter to identify the user. With NJIT involvement, the "Dynamic Recognizing Grip" was applied to the weapon. The technology features an array of 16 pressure sensitive sensors around the pistol grip. When the gun is held, the system identifies the user's unique palm signatures. According to NJIT, the palm signatures are unique enough for practical use.[3]

Taurus USA would have manufactured and sold the finalized gun.

Several prototypes were made, including a single-barrel model, a double-barrel (vertically arranged) model, and a quadruple barrel model (in a diamond arrangement). The quadruple barrel model apparently never progressed beyond mock-up stages, and only the single and double barrel models were made and tested.

Development of the VLe was founded by the US Department of Justice and New Jersey, as in 2002, New Jersey passed the Childproof Handgun Law. Boycotting from gun rights groups eventually resulted in the investments being pulled back, and research on the VLe was terminated. [4][5]


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