The printable gun has arrived

posted at 8:31 am on May 4, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

Just to establish a baseline of what we’re talking about here, any of you who regularly watch shows like How it’s Made, Modern Marvels or any of the other science and technology offerings on cable probably already know about 3-D printing. (One of the featured manufacturers of these machines has a nice video tutorial on it.) Basically, a 3-D model is designed and the “printer” lays down one layer after another of material until the model is produced. And some of these machines are already getting down to the affordable range.

So what would you do if you got one? Well, if you’re Cody Wilson, you’d print a gun of course. Forbes has the exclusive.

Eight months ago, Cody Wilson set out to create the world’s first entirely 3D-printable handgun.

Now he has.

Early next week, Wilson, a 25-year University of Texas law student and founder of the non-profit group Defense Distributed, plans to release the 3D-printable CAD files for a gun he calls “the Liberator,” pictured in its initial form above. He’s agreed to let me document the process of the gun’s creation, so long as I don’t publish details of its mechanics or its testing until it’s been proven to work reliably and the file has been uploaded to Defense Distributed’s online collection of printable gun blueprints at Defcad.org.

Here’s a picture of the piece, provided by Forbes.

PrintableGunFull

Now, if you’re the same kind of sensitive, caring person as me, you’re probably sitting there thinking the same thing I was. “That is totally awesome. I have got to get me one of these.” But this does bring up some dicey subjects. Cody Wilson has been working on this project since last summer – obviously just to make a point that I’m not all that concerned about – and he seems to have pretty much pulled it off in a relatively short period. (Forbes has a good summary of the whole back story at the link.) But I get the impression he was never expecting a fool proof product on the first go.

“We want to show this principle: That a handgun is printable,” says Wilson, a 24-year-old second-year law student at the University of Texas. “You don’t need to be able to put 200 rounds through it…It only has to fire once. But even if the design is a little unworkable, it doesn’t matter, as long as it has that guarantee of lethality.”

As far as I’m concerned, 3-D printing technology is absolutely awesome. It may be the first step on the road to replicators. The number of up-sides to this are probably too numerous to count, since early stage manufacturing for some small businesses who are just starting out might be a lot more affordable. But we have to deal with the fact that the technology is now – or very shortly will be – cranking out guns. Dr. Joyner seems to agree.

… [O]nce this technology becomes more affordable and widespread—and that’s going to happen very, very soon—it’s going to make a lot of existing laws obsolete.

Indeed, there are already attempts to regulate the technology:

New York congressman Steve Israel has responded to Defense Distributed’s work by introducing a bill that would renew the Undetectable Firearms Act with new provisions aimed specifically at 3D printed components. In January, personal 3D printing firm Makerbot removed all gun components from Thingiverse, its popular site for hosting users’ printable designs.

All of that opposition has only made Wilson more eager to prove the possibility of a 3D printed firearm. “Everyone talks about the 3D printing revolution. Well, what did you think would happen when everyone has the means of production?” Wilson asked when we spoke earlier in the week. “I’m interested to see what the potential for this tool really is. Can it print a gun?”

The very nature of the technology would seem to make it next to impossible to regulate.

As technology expands in any area of endeavor, things change. As prices drop and availability increases, the idea of some single set of well regulated manufacturers acting as gatekeepers of tools becomes more and more problematic. And now that seems to be happening in the field of manufacturing complex mechanisms. Yet again, people will be asking us… what do we do about this? I have no idea. But that genie is out of the bottle now, folks.


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People will always find a way to defend themselves.

Yes they will. Whatever is at hand. Same goes for assault weapons. Many items fit that definition that can be lethal.

Kid Sheleen: Guns, bottles, fists, knives, clubs – all the same to me.

hawkeye54 on May 4, 2013 at 12:06 PM

The first thing we do is stop the NYT from sneaking the plans out to their friends in Iran and Russia until….

Don L on May 4, 2013 at 12:12 PM

There is really no advantage for this.. Unless, you could replace your lower receiver with a plastic replacement that is not labeled traceable.

jjnco73 on May 4, 2013 at 11:29 AM

They already did that. http://defdist.tumblr.com/post/44209819568/printed-ar-lower-v5-review

ChrisL on May 4, 2013 at 12:15 PM

What I want to know is can we print this one?

http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2013/05/daddy-like-israels-iwi-tavor-battle.html

Video available also:-)

bluefox on May 4, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Kermit on May 4, 2013 at 12:04 PM

Also, a few folks have opined the any gun that could be manufactured by a printer would be “untraceable”. Even paper printers have been traceable for years. Everything leaves a footprint, intended or not.

whatcat on May 4, 2013 at 12:18 PM

The real value of 3d printing in gun manufacturing would be making the masters. Or, if it could print in the mold medium for cast pieces, you’d really have something. My Beretta and Taurus both have composite pieces, but the barrel and many other working have to be made out of metal if you want any longevity out of the piece.

hawkdriver on May 4, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Their AR lower receiver is freakin awesome and on sale

Their magazines are on sale too. All proceeds go directly to their cause.

jawkneemusic on May 4, 2013 at 12:21 PM

No video of it being fired? I suspect the guy is having a hard time finding someone stupid enough to try it.

whatcat on May 4, 2013 at 10:42 AM

There’s video of him firing an AR15 built using a printed receiver. The receiver broke after 6 shots, IIRC. Nobody’s dumb enough to fire something like this (or any gun) for the first time. You put it in a clamp and pull the trigger with a string. I’m sure video will be forthcoming, if it fires. If not, he’ll continue the prototyping process.

Dubya Bee on May 4, 2013 at 12:22 PM

I just went to a 3D printer face off… Two machine types with different printing techs and plastic printing materials. While I don’t assume to know what tricks the gun printer used to get the gun to work and survive the shot… it may be a simple matter to add some metal or ceramic chamber liners, and a real firing pin… while the printing is in progress.

The criminals will absolutely be using this tech one day. For about $20,000 a decent base machine can be had… so once they ban guns, and confiscate all the legally own guns, and then slowly by attrition the illegal guns disappear… this will be the gun source of choice for the BAD GUYS. Or maybe they’ll just do bombs…

RalphyBoy on May 4, 2013 at 12:29 PM

Dubya Bee on May 4, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Thrived already perfected their design. 600+ rounds with no failures.

http://youtu.be/tAW72Y_XPF4

jawkneemusic on May 4, 2013 at 12:35 PM

I don’t know, wouldn’t you be better off just downloading the blueprints to a sten gun and building that in a shop? (I mean didn’t those things get built in occupied countries in WW2?)

Dave_d on May 4, 2013 at 9:48 AM

The receiver of a Sten, is literally a tube with some holes cut into it, it can be made with a drill, dremel, and a glue-on pattern if necessary. The rest of the parts were still widely available a few years ago, I dunno about now.

If you’ve got a machine shop handy and know what you’re doing, you could build the rest, minus maybe rifling the barrel. If you’ve got that kind of capability, well, then you’ve got gunsmithing tools.

PXCharon on May 4, 2013 at 12:41 PM

I don’t know the state of the art for this, but the strength of the barrel and chamber is what would be of key importance. It’s not enough that it looks right and has the right pieces, but it has to withstand the force of the firing. Otherwise, the firer would be in more danger than the target.

Kevin K. on May 4, 2013 at 10:31 AM

It depends on the ammunition. Going back to the examples I cited, the “Paltik” 12-gauge weapons mostly had barrels consisting of a length of Jeep (TM) steering-wheel shaft tubing; it’s a nominal .68″ ID, and has ample wall thickness to handle the relatively low pressures of shotgun rounds.

Pistol rounds other than Magnum types can be safely used in heavy-wall seamless tubing of the correct size.

And as for 3D printing, modern plastic composite formulas can be used that have much higher tensile strength vs pressure (kg/cmE2) than the majority of even ordnance-type alloys. You often find them used in the aerospace industry today for just that reason; lighter and stronger than metals.

Technology always has the last laugh.

cheers

eon

eon on May 4, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Can this be done with pizza? Beer?

Blaise on May 4, 2013 at 12:48 PM

jawkneemusic on May 4, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Well, at that price, they aren’t going to sell very many.

You can buy a polymer lower from New Frontier Armory for $60 and there’s have been stress tested and used for rifle builds for a couple of years now A few other places are comparable in price.

Forged, stripped lower are also available for less if you know where to look. AR15.com is a good place to strt looking if you’re in the market.

For $150, it’s too high without any real-world testing and use available. The novelty of is also doesn’t warrant the price. If they can bring the price down and it gets some real world ‘shakedown’ they could be a market player.

catmman on May 4, 2013 at 12:55 PM

Kevin K. on May 4, 2013 at 10:31 AM

In current polymer lowers for AR/, the two biggest areas of failure are the area at the front of the receiver where the pivot pin is and where the recoil tube attaches to the rear of the receiver.

Sme companies have addressed the issue by strengthening their formula. But for normal use, their strength is comparable to a forged receiver.

Youwouldn’t be able to buttstroke someone, but for normal shooting they should be fine. Or if you’re apwanting to build a .22lr platform for your kids or something.

catmman on May 4, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Crap technology. Do not invest.

John the Libertarian on May 4, 2013 at 1:04 PM

A number of months ago I saw a news report about a company that was exploiting a loophole in gun registration and background checks if you build a gun yourself and never intend on selling it.
Soooo. you go to this company that owns a bunch of CNC milling machine. Pay them money, and they take you into the machine room and hand you a billit of steel. They instruct you to place it in the CNC machine and press the red button on the instrument panel.
bzzzz whiirrrrrr breeeee. Out comes your milled gun component. You buy the springs and seer components and then assemble it yourself. No government involvement at all. You didn’t buy a gun. You bought a block of steel and you formed it into the firearm of your choice, yourself.

kurtzz3 on May 4, 2013 at 10:20 AM

I’ve got an 80% AR lower. No serial number or background check. Sent to me in the mail no questions asked. Haven’t had a chance to get it machined yet though.

WhatSlushfund on May 4, 2013 at 1:20 PM

catmman on May 4, 2013 at 12:55 PM

Gotcha, wasn’t aware polymer lowers were that cheap. From my understanding their goal isn’t really to make a profit since they’re giving away the design on their defcad.org site. They’re just trying to raise what they can to dump back into the project. It’s sparked my curiosity enough though that I may order one in the future. You know, for the cause. ;)

jawkneemusic on May 4, 2013 at 1:24 PM

WhatSlushfund on May 4, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Yeah. I’ve got a bunch of P-12/P-13 paperweights that I am slowly working on. Fun stuff, though more than a bit frustrating at times. The AR paperweights are much easier to finish.

That said, some guy showed how to make an AK lower out of a shovel that he claims shoots very well.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on May 4, 2013 at 1:26 PM

Ban all the magazines they want, 3D printing will allow the generation of magazines of all makes and sizes.

Expect the government to attempt to restrict access to 3D printing under gun and copyright laws.

zdpl0a on May 4, 2013 at 1:30 PM

A number of months ago I saw a news report about a company that was exploiting a loophole in gun registration and background checks if you build a gun yourself and never intend on selling it.

kurtzz3 on May 4, 2013 at 10:20 AM

It’s not a loophole. A piece of metal is just a piece of metal and you are certainly allowed to build your own gun for your own use. Also, you can sell it, eventually, but you just cannot build it with the intent to sell since that would make you a manufacturer and you would then need to apply for all sorts of licenses and permits and such.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on May 4, 2013 at 1:32 PM

If they’re going to start confiscating your guns because you got a prescription for valium at some point in your life, then making your own or buying them illegally will be the only way to go in the future.

The Rogue Tomato on May 4, 2013 at 1:36 PM

Send this to all you know.

Schadenfreude on May 4, 2013 at 1:37 PM

Yet again, people will be asking us… what do we do about this? I have no idea.

We print our own, of course. And the media starts printing stories about “An Arms Race in America.”

There Goes the Neighborhood on May 4, 2013 at 1:42 PM

But can it make a baseball bat. Joe …err….I mean Brayam’s gots to know.

CW on May 4, 2013 at 2:05 PM

And, it will take just one nut to take one past metal detectors somewhere and do something stupid. Welcome to an all new mess.

Hope you enjoy having your 3D printers taxed and regulated to infinity. If, you can even get one into your state.

Moesart on May 4, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Not quite printable but years ago I watched a TV show(Bonanza I think) where the stars were being held captive in a barn. They found some bullets in the barn and built slap guns out of a board and a nail. I have remembered that show all these years and have always known that if needed I could build a shooter if needed.

lakeman on May 4, 2013 at 3:13 PM

Can this be done with pizza? Beer?

Why not? Edible ink for food decoration art has been around for years. 3D just take that concept a step further.

hawkeye54 on May 4, 2013 at 3:28 PM

The printable gun has arrived

…But you’ve got to run a background check on yourself before you can print one. LOL!

FloatingRock on May 4, 2013 at 3:44 PM

If, you can even get one into your state.

Moesart on May 4, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Actually, there are plans on the ‘net for building your own. So, good luck with that.

GWB on May 4, 2013 at 4:07 PM

The preverbal Genie is out of his bottle, and is he pissed! I remember news coverage of the war in Kosovo, they showed a man making mortars in his small 3rd world shed. All he had a computer with Pro-e and a CNC machine. And that was in 1998! The problem with 3D printing is that is uses plastic resin which cannot handle the forces/pressures. Until they come out with a liquid metal that maybe could be somehow cured into a solid metal part, the 3D printer will be limited.
That said, there is another option to my surprise few have talked about. And all the parts are available now…Tesla Coil Gun. While admittedly, this is a low power version, it will take next to nothing to create a high power version able to reach out and touch someone.
http://youtu.be/QmpHpQhN9RE

JimmyGee on May 4, 2013 at 6:40 PM

I don’t think you guys get it. If you can create a one shot polymer gun, then you can create a one shot polymer shotgun. Either one is plenty for the poor person in a high crime area who can’t afford $200 for a crappy pistol. Theoretically, if he can print one up at the library for $14, you’ve got a revolution in self protection and crime prevention.

rbk2000 on May 4, 2013 at 8:14 PM

So we can all become our own China and make crappy copy’s of products…lol

Y314K on May 4, 2013 at 8:27 PM

Since ammo is getting harder to find, next will be laser guns. Or is that already an option?

tru2tx on May 4, 2013 at 8:59 AM

Rail gun. Don’t need gun powder, just a piece of metal that can be moved by magnets.

LoganSix on May 4, 2013 at 9:31 PM

Kid Sheleen: Guns, bottles, fists, knives, clubs – all the same to me.

hawkeye54 on May 4, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Let’s not forget a technology almost as a good as a gun under under some circumstances: the slingshot.

thuja on May 5, 2013 at 8:51 AM

As usual Homer Simpson says it best: “Now I know how God must feel when He’s holding a gun.”

In America, the gun is god.

chumpThreads on May 5, 2013 at 9:32 AM

3d Printing will soon become one of the biggest technological revolutions since Gutenberg’s Press and movable type…

…and perhaps even bigger than that.

All of you focusing on the gun aspect are missing the point. It’s not about the gun. It’s not even about the printer that made it.

It’s about having the ability to make what you want (and more importantly what you need) whenever you have the materials, the know how, and a printer that can work said materials. This is the end result of the industrial revolution: the power of the machine now universally available and usable by all.

In the words of Cody Wilson himself:

“Can 3d printing be subversive? If it can, it will be because it allows us to make the important things… not trinkets… not lawn gnomes… but the things that the institutions and industries have an interest in keeping from us–things like access, medical devices, drugs, goods, guns.”

–Cody Wilson

This is what it really means: One less obstacle, one less way that our freedoms can be trampled upon.

Chaz706 on May 5, 2013 at 10:25 AM

As usual Homer Simpson says it best: “Now I know how God must feel when He’s holding a gun.”

In America, the gun is god.

chumpThreads on May 5, 2013 at 9:32 AM

No, public assistance is.

hawkdriver on May 5, 2013 at 12:27 PM

In America, the gun is god.

chumpThreads on May 5, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Even if that were true, it would be one more way you’re Godless and powerless.

MelonCollie on May 5, 2013 at 12:43 PM

As usual Homer Simpson says it best: “Now I know how God must feel when He’s holding a gun.”

Unintentional damning confession.

tom daschle concerned on May 5, 2013 at 12:51 PM

A nice technical exercise but if guns were banned how long would it take for smugglers to add guns to their inventory?

Nomas on May 5, 2013 at 5:45 PM

Let’s not forget a technology almost as a good as a gun under under some circumstances: the slingshot.

Yup….got two of ‘em. Nice backups to our rifles, pistols, bow, machetes, k-bars.

Can’t have too narrow a selection of weaponry.

And, uh, our baseball bats too. :)

hawkeye54 on May 5, 2013 at 9:07 PM

Sme companies have addressed the issue by strengthening their formula. But for normal use, their strength is comparable to a forged receiver.

Youwouldn’t be able to buttstroke someone, but for normal shooting they should be fine. Or if you’re apwanting to build a .22lr platform for your kids or something.

catmman on May 4, 2013 at 1:02 PM

It’s a mistake to copy an AL part. The design has to incorporate the strengths of the polymer. These guys need to spend a little time looking at modern automotive parts. Currently your gas, brake, and clutch pedals are plastic. The designs include metal bushings at the stress points to absorb the forces and distribute them over a wider area.

I’ve been working with plastic since the eighties and I can make anything, but you have to make it for the polymer.

danielreyes on May 6, 2013 at 12:42 AM

I’ve just been thinking, that you could print this gun into the body of a small drone. Basically a four rotor flying toy, with a wireless video camera and a printed integrated firearm.

You could make this today.

It could be flying outside your window tomorrow.

danielreyes on May 6, 2013 at 1:06 AM

Middleton Ohio shoot out from yesterday

danielreyes on May 6, 2013 at 1:49 AM

Actual link:
Police Dash Cam.

danielreyes on May 6, 2013 at 1:50 AM

“Look, a gun: ban it!” -Upchuck Schumer

Akzed on May 6, 2013 at 9:46 AM

Background check and national registry for anyone who wants to buy a 3-D printer. That should stop any criminal from printing guns, right?

lea on May 6, 2013 at 5:08 PM

VICE Magaine made a comprehensive documentary on Cdy Wilson and as I understand was one of the earliest to bring the story to national consciousness. Worth checking it out and seeing Cody’s philosophy
‘Click, print, gun’
http://motherboard.vice.com/read/click-print-gun-the-inside-story-of-the-3d-printed-gun-movement-video

PunditFight on May 6, 2013 at 8:46 PM

Total number of crimes reported: 10,329,135 (1,246,248 violent crimes and 9,082,887 property crimes)

Show me were you get the number of gun related crime,gun murders.

 

Do you mean 360811.548?
 
It’s math from these two posts.
 

mags on May 6, 2013 at 8:18 PM
mags on May 6, 2013 at 7:10 PM

 
Multiply then add.
 

FBI says
How often firearms were used in crimes: in 67.5 percent of reported murders, 41.4 percent of reported robberies, and 20.6 percent of aggravated assaults
http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2011/september/crime_091911/crime_091911
Will you address that.

 

The math? See above.
 

3.5%
Do you really believe if it is 3.5% I would think that was low.It’s a thousand percentage higher then here.

 
It’s math from your numbers. Do you want to try them again?
 
BTW, here in the US we would say “ten times higher”. We may also note that you established the US has “probably about 1 gun per person in the country.”
 
Using your numbers the US firearm-crime rate is only ten times higher than the UK with, per you, near-universal and an infinitely higher percentage of exposure to guns.
 
Good point. That’s extremely low now that we put it in perspective. Thanks.
 

Only in America would that be deemed’ low’ You kept telling me less then 1% is low. Also saying ,did i think the U.S could follow the U.K to reach the same percentage of 0.3
What do you think of 0.3% here? What do you put it down too?

 
Except you typed the accusatory
 

How can you say firearms are only used in 3% of all overall crime in the U.S?
 
mags on May 6, 2013 at 8:32 PM

 
Implying 3% is low.
 

I will give you my mixed up comment,i only have 7 fingers and i have a child strapped to my back.
You must of recognised it was wrong to comment on it.
 
mags on May 7, 2013 at 12:52 PM

 
What are you talking about? The reversed US/UK? It was comical, that’s all. I don’t use typos as gotchas. We all make mistakes.

rogerb on May 7, 2013 at 1:38 PM

What the heck? I know for a fact I was on the right thread.

rogerb on May 7, 2013 at 2:13 PM

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