Gunsmith makes a rifle with a 3D printer

Here’s another reason gun control won’t work (not to mention it’s against the Second Amendment in the United States): people will eventually be able to download them. Say what! Yes, people will be able download CAD files of firearms and then 3D print them. Unless you want to regulate 3D printers or the transfer of CAD files, it’s going to happen. In fact, it actually has already happened–the first step has already been taken, with the result you see here:

3d printed gun

This photo was recently posted by a member HaveBlue of the AR15 gun forum, who started a thread, where he posted photos of his project. The gun enthusiast had access to an old Stratasys 3D printer from the mid-1990’s, and used it to create the “lower,” which is one part of a firearm, in ABS plastic. What you see in the photo above is the 3D-printed lower, assembled with other parts, to create a .22 caliber pistol.

And the darn thing works. He’s fired over 200 rounds from it.

Then he went to the next level, and 3D printed the “upper” part. With the upper and lower now in hand, along with other manufactured parts, he assembled a .223 rifle. And while he had some issues with feed and extraction, it proved successful. Here’s a photo:

3d printed rifle

He suggests that only gunsmith experts try this at home, as one little mistake could cause the firearm to explode in your hands when you pull the trigger.

The forum thread evolved, of course, into what the future might hold for the 3D printing of firearms. Here’s member phurba on the subject:

This is a hot topic on the 3D printer forums. Some people want to make plans for gun parts readily available, either to prove gun laws irrelevant or to circumvent them; while others feel that guns are icky and no such thing should happen.

Anyone who knows me here knows that I am hardly an advocate for gun control, however it is simple for an ineligible person to print a gun and buy the non-gun parts online. Is that something that could be regulated? Not really, unless you regulated the printers. The easiest way to control that is to stop the plans from being posted on public forums. But lets be honest here: anyone who wants to circumvent these laws could go learn machining and mill their own AR receiver, and the same thing goes for learning CAD software and running a polymer printer. Does that mean that machinists classes and forums should be regulated? Certainly not. I really feel the same argument applied to 3D printers: basically, there’s nothing that anyone can nor should do.

But the thread also moved on to the subject of 3D printing in general, with the wonderment and excitement that comes with any person discovering the world of 3D printing. I do think quite a few Makerbots were sold as a result of this discussion.

Member M4Builder summed it up perfectly: “Awesome, just simply awesome. The wave of the future.” He wasn’t talking about 3D printing guns, he was talking about 3D printing.

I’m sure the thought of people printing out 3D printers at home, unregulated, has many people cheering and many people worried. Which side do you fall on? What’s your opinion?

Hat trick: WebProNews

Update: We just published an excellent article entitled, “3D Printers, obsolete firearm supply controls and the right to build self-defense weapons under Heller.” It’s a legal “Comment” on 3D printing and firearms.

  • Just to correct a few minor points – one little mistake with the lower won’t cause a catastrophic failure, but people unfamiliar with the AR-15’s operation generally seem to think that it will. The truth is, the lower doesn’t see much stress, so even a 3D printed lower receiver will hold up quite well.

    I did not 3D print the upper receiver – it is just a DPMS upper. 3D printing the upper _might_ be possible, but it’s not something I’d feel comfortable trying at this time.

    • Thanks for the clarification. You can tell how knowledgable I am of firearms. Even though I own some guns, I’m not much of an expert. Can you explain what the DPMS is?

      • DPMS is simply a brand name – the point is that the upper is standard/generic and unrelated to any 3D printing work.

  • Pro-Liberty

    Greg Rome, a Louisiana attorney and friend of mine wrote a great post about the legal issues surrounding these lowers a while back:

    • That’s an excellent article on the subject. Thanks for posting the link. I suggest anyone interested in this topic read it.

  • Mark,

    Very cool post, fun read. It’ll be interesting to see how regulation comes into play with this technology. I agree with the AR enthusiast here – it’s pretty much one of those “regulate everything or it won’t stop the process” kind of situations. Very interesting thought, and I’d love to see this firearm in action!


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  • Andre

    give me the models so i can print my guns and free my people from opression

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  • COOL! I know it’s incredibly dangerous…but still…fairly awesome.

    • Pro-Liberty

      I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I have to contest the assertion that this is incredibly dangerous. There are tons of AR rifles on the market with polymer lower receivers. This is a well-tested concept, and the declining cost of 3D printing just makes it easier for individuals to do.

  • su your brain

    Even if 3-D the printers were highly regulated, the first thing to do would be to make a copy of the printer.
    Second, there’s no reason why a printed weapon has to shoot regular ammunition, it’s just as easy to shoot a hypodermic projectile carrying a lethal toxin (poison dart ), this would solve the problems caused by standard ammunition being too strong, also the problems of corrosive primers, and exotic propellants.
    Third, your weapon can look like anything flashlights, cell phones, umbrellas, etc. Or you can use weapons that you already possess and make caliber converters.
    And finally none of these weapons would have serial numbers, or manufacturers, created individually, or in mass quantities as needed.

    • Pro-Liberty

      I’m not disputing anything that the commenter is saying, but I would point out that folks who are making firearms designed to look like something else could be found in violation of the National Firearms Act for manufacture/possession of an “AOW” (any other weapon, a heavily regulated category of firearms that includes hidden firearms, cane guns, pen guns, etc.). That doesn’t mean that you “can’t” do it, but it does mean that if you are _going_ to do it you might want to do the appropriate paperwork so as to avoid committing a felony under federal law.

  • We have an excellent article we just published on the legal issues. Please check it out:

  • dsfww

    The 3D Print guns can also print body armor

  • Those on this comment thread will be very interested in this post we just published:

    3D-printable gun project hits its fundraising goal despite being booted off Indiegogo

  • Here’s a story we just released, about Stratasys seizing the 3D printer they leased to Defense Distributed:

    Stratasys seizes 3D printer from printable gun project

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  • KEith

    All it takes is a simple change to the law replacing ‘assault weapon’ with ‘assault weapon or assault weapon design specifications’. The trafficking of 3d printer plans for firearms will be as illegal as trafficking the weapons themselves.

  • Matt

    We’re gonna need a full fledged background check and all relevant information for anyone who purchases a 3D printer 😉

    There will also be a waiting period…

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  • Readers of this article will find one we just published today very interesting:

    Click: The government is very interested in 3D printable firearms

  • Bret

    When the first airplane gets hijacked because of a 3d printed gun perhaps that will tamp down the enthusiasm.

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  • George Colaluca

    I have seen a S&W police special blown apart with a overloaded .38 never mind a plastic gun. These guys can test fire it not me.

  • Chris

    I’d love to have this tech on a submarine, talk about saving money and getting the parts I need when I need it!

  • George Colaluca

    NASA IS WORKING ON a 3D printer using steel wire for long duration space trips Dr o make spare parts.