I have to admit this is an area I have some interest in though I feel conflicted about it due to a deep admiration for the mechanical and the developmental history of firearms.
I've been thinking about the advantages of using electronic firing controls for quite while now. I have some expertise in electronics and computers and was surprised to catch an episode of Future Weapons which featured the Metal Storm
What is Metal Storm Technology?
Metal storm technology is an electronically initiated, stacked projectile system that removes the mechanical elements required to fire conventional weapons. Effectively, the only moving parts in Metal Storm technology are the projectiles themselves. Multiple projectiles are stacked in each barrel. The technology allows each projectile to be fired sequentially from each barrel.
How it Works.
Metal Storm stacks its projectiles in the barrels nose to tail. Metal Storm technology achieves its unique performance by having the ability to fire each round independent of the other. In other words when the propellant of one round in the stack is ignited the other rounds are not affected.
Rather than using a firing pin impacting on a primer, Metal Storm weapons are electronically fired. A computerised fire control system precisely controls the firing signal to each round in the barrel. As there is no need to mechanically reload the barrel after each round is fired, Metal Storm has complete control over the timing and rate of fire. As a result, the weapon can be used to deliver a single round or dozens of rounds instantaneously at the target. Moreover, when combined with airburst munitions, Metal Storm weapons can use precisely timed firing to create a pattern of fragmentation and blast to meet specific needs, such as to intercept an incoming RPG or missile.
Due to the light weight of Metal Storm barrels, most non-infantry configurations use multiple barrels, usually between 4 and 64. This provides increased firepower and the ability to mix munitions - to have a weapon configured to respond to different threats in different ways - such as having less than lethal or marker rounds instantly available as an alternative to the use of lethal force.
Today, Metal Storm converts conventional munition warheads, such as 40mm grenades, into Metal Storm munitions by attaching a special Metal Storm tailpiece, containing the propellant and primer. With this approach, Metal Storm can quickly adapt the certified warheads preferred by its customers to be used in a Metal Storm weapon system.
Multi Barrel Configuration - used for remote weapon, robotic and area denial
MAUL Launcher add on for assault rifles:
Other manufacturers are looking into electronic firing controls including some of the traditional big names like Beretta, Remington and so on. A lot of them are looking at them for weapons which use smart / adaptable ammunition such as non lethal weapons which adjust velocity based on the targets range in order to deliver just the right amount of force.
I have some design ideas I plan to work on once my machine shop is complete. One is a drop in kit to add electronic fire control to M-16 type rifles. I have to admit the idea of building a few robotic "area denial" cannons to deploy around the perimeter of my ranch (once I move to it) makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I'm looking forward to some comments and discussion with other gunsmiths and hobbyists on the technology.