Understanding Binary Triggers: The Gadget That’s Raising Alarm for Police Authorities

by Michael Nguyen
Binary Triggers

The recent shooter in Fargo, North Dakota, used a firearm equipped with a binary trigger, a device that allowed his weapon to fire so rapidly it mimicked an automatic firearm. This modification caught the attention of police authorities due to the high-speed gunfire it facilitated.

In the tragic incident that unfolded on July 14, one police officer lost his life while two others and a civilian were wounded. The shooter, 37-year-old Mohamad Barakat, used this device amidst an array of other weapons and ammunition from his vehicle. Police reports reveal an alarming inventory: over 1,800 rounds of ammunition, a homemade grenade, gasoline canisters, and propane tanks rigged as improvised explosives. Barakat was later neutralized by a fourth officer who retaliated.

The event has prompted scrutiny of binary triggers and other such trigger enhancements, which are becoming a significant concern for law enforcement. North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley expressed fears on Friday that the incident could have been a precursor to a larger attack, especially as the Downtown Fargo Street Fair and the Red River Valley Fair were taking place simultaneously.

But what exactly are binary triggers? Here’s an overview of the device, its regulation, and how it compares to bump stocks:


Binary triggers, according to firearms experts and weapon manufacturers, are modifications that allow a gun to fire twice – once when the trigger is pulled and once more upon its release, effectively doubling the firearm’s firing capacity. They debuted in 2015 in response to efforts by federal regulators to prohibit modifications that turned firearms into automatic weapons. The price of these modifications varies by model, but they are generally affordable, costing a few hundred dollars.


Binary triggers are federally legal and are allowed in most states. According to Robert Spitzer, a professor at the College of William & Mary Law School who specializes in gun policy and politics, federal regulations do not currently cover the sale of binary trigger modifications. “It’s a matter of technology outrunning regulation, which is not a new thing,” Spitzer commented.

However, some states do impose restrictions on the purchase of binary triggers or similar modifications. According to manufacturer websites, 12 states, including California, New York, Florida, and others, along with Washington D.C., have bans preventing civilian ownership. Other states have imposed partial bans on similar modifications, firearm law experts suggest.


Bump stocks, unlike binary triggers, are attachments added to semi-automatic firearms that enable them to mimic machine guns by utilizing the recoil from an initial trigger pull to fire multiple rounds. Following the devastating mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival in 2017 where a bump stock-modified weapon was used, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives under the Trump administration moved to ban them.

The decision was challenged several times but upheld until January, when a U.S. Appeals Court in New Orleans ruled in favor of the challengers who argued that the federal regulations against machine guns do not specifically cover bump stocks.

The Bureau has also taken steps to regulate “forced reset triggers,” another modification that potentially transforms semi-automatic weapons into machine guns by adding a spring to a trigger, thus enabling quicker firing. Greg Wallace, a professor at the Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, who has researched firearm laws, clarified that binary triggers and forced reset triggers operate through entirely different mechanisms. He concurred with other experts in calling binary triggers a “gimmick” with little to no practical real-world use.

Heather Hollingsworth, a Big Big News writer based in Mission, Kansas, also contributed to this report.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Binary Triggers

What is a binary trigger?

A binary trigger is a firearm modification that allows a gun to fire one round when the trigger is pulled and another when it is released, essentially doubling the firearm’s firing capacity. It’s a relatively new technology that debuted in 2015.

How does a binary trigger differ from a bump stock?

A binary trigger is a modification that enables a gun to fire twice – when the trigger is pulled and when it is released. In contrast, a bump stock is an attachment added to semi-automatic firearms that utilize the recoil from an initial trigger pull to fire multiple rounds, thus mimicking the firing of a machine gun.

Are binary triggers legal in all states?

No, binary triggers are not legal in all states. While they are federally legal and allowed in most states, there are specific states, including California, New York, and Florida, among others, as well as Washington D.C., that ban the civilian purchase of binary triggers or similar modifications.

What was the incident that raised concerns about binary triggers?

The concerns regarding binary triggers increased following a tragic incident in Fargo, North Dakota, on July 14, where the shooter used a firearm equipped with a binary trigger. This device enabled the weapon to fire rapidly, mimicking an automatic firearm, and led to the death of a police officer, wounding two other officers and a civilian.

What has been the regulatory response to binary triggers?

As of the time of this report, binary triggers remain largely unregulated at the federal level, according to Robert Spitzer, a professor specializing in gun policy and politics. However, some states have implemented restrictions on the purchase of binary triggers or similar modifications.

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PolicemanDad July 22, 2023 - 1:27 pm

This kinda thing worries me. As a cop, it’s already tough out there… now we gotta worry about binary triggers too? stay safe, folks.

PeaceLover101 July 22, 2023 - 6:35 pm

More gun violence… when are we going to learn? What’s the point of these binary triggers anyway? Other than causing more harm, faster…

JakeSmith1987 July 22, 2023 - 7:40 pm

Wow, I didn’t even know binary triggers were a thing. Seem’s pretty scary that you can just double your firing rate like that…

GunGuy45 July 22, 2023 - 11:42 pm

I’ve used a binary trigger at the range once. They’re fun to shoot with, but I cant see any practical use for them. Agree with the prof that calls them a gimmick.

LegalEagle33 July 23, 2023 - 1:54 am

there’s a lot of legal gray area here… looks like a case of tech outpacing legislation again.

SandyB July 23, 2023 - 2:04 am

sounds like there’s a lot more regulation needed on these things… why aren’t the feds stepping up?


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