How it All Started
The origin of the Last Round Indicator (LRI) came about in 1989 when I was going through an auto loader class in the Los Angeles Area. During drills, the instructors would do everything possible to try and catch the students with an empty weapon. They wanted to stress the importance of knowing at all times the status of the rounds in your gun. So while they were training us to move tactically, they also taught us exactly how vulnerable we were once that weapon was dry. It bacame pretty obvious that even though the training was pretty rigorous with a high capacity auto loader that you could run the weapon dry and not realize that it was going to be dry at an inopportune time.
While I did well in the class, I went home with this issue still on my mind. I had seen many people repeatedly run dry even though they knew the objective of the drills were to catch them out in the open doing a forced magazine change. During a gunfight, People will be thinking of a lot of other things as far as moving, shooting and engaging adversaries and usualy neglect tactically reloading their weapons. A Last Round Indicator had to be small. It had to be easy. It had to be noticeable to only the user and it had to be able to be put on most common hand guns.
After weighing the options, I wanted to make the indicator an led on the rear of the weapon. This seemed to be the best solution- a simple circuit. I took the left grip off my Beretta-92F. I put an led, battery and wire in it so that when the follower rose to the point where the magazine was empty ( with only one round left in the chamber), it would raise the slide stop/release up which completed a circuit and a small red led light would come on. The light was only visible to the user and not any opponent, even in low light conditions. If there were any problems with the indicator it could be switched off or a damaged one could be replaced with a new one. The battery was small and could be replaced by removing the grip.
Obviously a well trained user is likely to do tactical reloads at the right place and time and this is not a replacement for proper training. Unfortunately there are many people out there who are not ace gunfighters and I can think of at least one instance where this could have saved an officer's life. This was just an additional tool to be used to make sure the end user is the one to come home safe and sound.
When I first put it to use at the range, I didn't tell the staff just to see if they would notice. They did notice it as it helped me avoid running dry over and over. Finally one of the range masters came over and asked " hey, why didn't you run dry and how did you know when to reload the magazines without having to actually rack the slide or anything?". So I showed them my Last Round Indicator. They loved it. They told me I should get a patent on it.
So I did a patent search and found that there was nothing out there exactly like it but there were some other very complicated devices to count the rounds in your gun or have something like a beaded rod stick out the bottom of the magazine.
Over the years, this has been a bit of a pet project and I have worked with additional designs since then. Some of them included gunsmithing it on an AR rifle. There are more versions and it just depends on what the desired end result is. Perhaps the future is a tactile Last Round Indicator..or an indicator or round counter incorporated in a HWS or dot sight ... hmmm...
The best, simple, Last Round Indicator I made came about in 2007, I got my hands on a Smith and Wesson M&P and fell in love with the grips. It was so customizable, perfect for my Last Round Indicator. So I did it again. It looked great. It worked great. My friends and co-workers loved it. So my attorney did another patent search. It looks like someone else had come up with something similar a couple of years earlier. My attorney advised that while my design did not conflict with the current patent, it was also easy to circumvent any patent and would not be worth the investment. We could market it ourselves as a patent pending, however the cost was extraordinary.
In February of 2008 I took the M&P to the Shot Show and showed it to the Smith and Wesson Company. They said they loved the idea but didn't know if the cost of re tooling the machines would be worth it. So far we opened this site in hopes that someone could bring an idea like this to market.