A surgical instrument includes an E-beam firing bar engages the channel and selectively engages the anvil during distal firing movements, wherein the tissue is severed and stapled driven upward from the staple cartridge to form against the anvil. In particular, a wedge integral to the staple cartridge is driven distally by a middle pin of the firing bar to effect stapling. A single lockout of the staple channel responds to the presence of the wedge sled in its unfired position to allow the firing bar to fire. Otherwise, the single lockout prevents firing when the staple cartridge is missing or spent. Further, some versions include an Electroactive Polymer (EAP) actuator that presents an abutting surface, or acts as a trapdoor to a ramped recess in a staple channel to block the firing bar, as an active approach to preventing firing for one or more conditions.