Defense Distributed Printed AR-15 Lower: It Works!

Gun control, to the extent that the current gun control advocates want it, used to be somewhat feasible. Only so many machine shops could produce quality gun parts, and the cost of setting up such a shop was prohibitive for criminals and political dissidents. But now, with a fully functioning AR-15 lower capable of being created on a homemade 3D printer, the genie is out of the bottle. And since nothing is being bought or sold, it appears to be completely outside the scope of any interstate commerce considerations. If you ask me this is going to get very interesting, very quickly. If you want a copy of the digital files for the gun, click here.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

80 Responses to Defense Distributed Printed AR-15 Lower: It Works!

  1. avatarLLARMS says:

    “This is going to get very interesting, very quickly.”

    Famous last words…. haha

    - D

  2. avatarMisterTurbo says:

    I hope they can get the double barreled shotgun printing up to speed asap.

  3. avatarJim R says:

    They’re gonna need a bigger server.

    • avatarHuman Being says:

      *Do* need a bigger server.

      “Error establishing a database connection”

      I can’t get through to them.

  4. avatarMichael B. says:

    Well, you see, the operator of the printer breathes and that carbon dioxide returns to the atmosphere, which belongs to everyone, therefore his activities constitute interstate commerce and can be ban– regulated reasonably.

  5. avatarJPT says:

    Thats pretty cool. And if they like throwing ammo away they could give me some.

  6. avatarSkyler says:

    “And since nothing is being bought or sold, it appears to be completely outside the scope of any interstate commerce considerations.”

    I think you need to read Wickard v. Filburn to see that this is not a limitation of the Commerce Clause. In short, a farmer grew wheat that was never intended to be sold, and was used solely for his own consumption. He was still subject to federal price controls because his wheat replaced wheat that would have been created for commerce had he not grown it. It was ruled that the government has the right to enact price controls and that anything that creates an escape from those controls was not consistent with the law’s intent and therefore illegal.

    Additionally, the NFA is not really based on the Commerce Clause, so far as I know, so it’s a moot point anyway.

    • avatarChris says:

      Pretty much all federal authority is derived from the Commerce Clause unless it’s enumerated in the Constitution. It’s the catch all for their insinuated power they have over the States.

    • avatarCory says:

      Wickard v. Filburn was ruled by a packed FDR court, one of the most statist presidents in history. I would argue that the SCOTUS today, which has several members who have voiced critical opinions of the Filburn decision, is unlikely going to be persuaded that a printed lower, which is incapable of being sold (unless it is made by a firearms mfr, but what’s the point?) or transferred would fall under the Commerce Clause.

      If it weren’t for Roberts, I’d be confident if any law banning printed receivers made their way to the Supreme Court.

      • avatarPro-Liberty says:

        Read the Raich v. Gonzales medical marijuana case if you doubt that the Wickard precedent re: interstate commerce still stands.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzales_v._Raich#The_decision

        • Agreed that Wickard and Raich are still applicable, but eager to hear arguments about how this is different.

        • avatarBen says:

          I agree that these cases are still applicable, but ultimately I think that the legal precedent is irrelevant. This is technology, which once released can’t be easily put back in the box. The behavior can be criminalized, but the cat is out of the bag.

        • @Random

          John Roberts’ majority opinion of one on National Federation of Independent Business v Sebelius was a fairly big hit to the Commerce Clause, since Roberts ruled that Congress has vast power to tax to raise money for the government, but cannot use the Commerce Clause to coerce individuals. It’s a strong indication that Wickard is on its last legs.

          If the makeup stays the same as currently constructed, the right wing of the Court will throw out Wickard soon.

      • avatarSkyler says:

        But they won’t argue it on Commerce Clause grounds. They would go with Second Amendment grounds, or just simply administrative law by redefining the part of the weapon that should be serialized and get rid of the loophole.

        • avatarNathanredbeard says:

          To what? for just about every firearm out there, the serialized part is the receiver. Both of my semi-auto istols, I could buy a whole slide assembly and have it mailed to my house. I can buy a new barrel for my shotgun, a whole new action for my .22 online. I doubt that would ever be changed, simply because serializing the receiver is the industry standard.

      • avatarMikeP says:

        I’m not so sure … the cascade effects of overturning W v. F would be to force the dismantling of half the bureaucratic, alphabet-soup-agencies administrative superstate. EPA comes to top-of-mind. The entire “system” (for lack of a better word) hinges upon the thin patina of legitimacy granted by that decision.

    • avatarDon says:

      Download the files now and then it doesn’t matter ;)

    • avatarMikeP says:

      Truth on a pointy stick. Effectively, the W v. F decision declared driving the speed limit an attempt at eploiting a “legal loophole” to avoid a speeding ticket – the decision effectively closing that “loophole”. You’re just denying the authorities revenue they’re entitled to by “claiming” that they have no “authority” to levy a fine since you were “following the law”. OK, a bit of a metaphorical stretch, but not much logically speaking.

    • I think the difference is in the capability.

      The farmer’s product was not intended to be sold, but since it was generally sold and indistinguishable from the regular crop it logically follows that it falls in the “commerce” definition.

      However, the AR-15 lower is incapable of being sold. The printer does not have an FFL, and therefore is unable to sell it on the market like the legal receivers. And the lack of a serial number means that it can never enter interstate commerce.

      I think this is a hell of the GCA’s own making. The fact that it was made without a serial number makes it exempt.

      As far as I can tell, at least.

      • avatar16V says:

        This and all other printed parts are fully capable of being sold. Or given away. Which is why this stupid kid and his 8th grade publicity stunts are a very real problem for the much larger community of guys who actually do CNC and 3D print gun parts. He’s contributing jack diddly and drawing a ton of attention, before the hobby has reached a critical, uncontrollable mass.

        As far as the laws about homemade firearms go, it is perfectly legal to sell them, provided you didn’t make them with the intent to do so. Yes they still have to conform to all NFA regs plus what ever your state has for laws. Yes, it can get dicey. No, I wouldn’t advocate doing it because ATF will be looking for something to hang you on – which they will, because they always can.

        Here’s the full ATF guide for those who want to know the law.

        http://www.atf.gov/publications/download/p/atf-p-5300-4.pdf

        For those who want to know how it is often twisted to tears in it’s application, go hang out with a firearms lawyer.

      • avatarDuke says:

        Nick, check out Gonzales v. Raich, as others mentioned above. The federal government can outlaw the growing of marijuana for personal use because if marijuana prices on the black market rise, that “personal marijuana” might be sold instead of kept for personal use, thereby affecting commerce. “Interstate commerce” isn’t limited to lawful commerce. Thus, the fact that you aren’t allowed to sell the lowers that you print won’t stop the feds from banning you from printing them. I know, it’s sickening that the commerce clause has been transformed into such an abomination that lets the feds do whatever they want. But that’s the state of the law right now.

        • avatarorangeblue says:

          The relevant take-away from Raich:
          “Wickard thus establishes that Congress can regulate purely intrastate activity that is not itself ‘commercial’, in that it is not produced for sale, if it concludes that failure to regulate that class of activity would undercut the regulation of the interstate market in that commodity.”

          Obviously, there is heavy regulation of the “class of activity” involved (firearm production and sales), which would be undercut by allowing the activity to continue.

      • avatargreaseyknight says:

        Nick,
        Wickard states that because he used his own wheat for personal consumption, that had an effect on interstate commerce. The effect was that he did not have to purchase wheat, thus less wheat was sold, thus effect on interstate commerce. The same argument could essentially be made RE printed lowers, you printed a lower, thus you affected interstate commerce by not buying a lower. The only limit on the commerce clause in recent memory was Lopez, ie the gun free school zone act (brady bill). Where the court held that the possession of a gun in a school zone is sufficiently far enough from the stream of commerce so as to not fall under the commerce clause.

  7. avatarMichael B. says:

    By the way, I love these guys and especially enjoy how subversive they are but I really do fear for their safety. The government haaaaaaates them and this is a huge long-term threat to their power.

  8. avatarJoseph says:

    “If you want a copy of the digital files for the gun, click here.”

    The link didn’t work for me, I got a data-error message…
    Was it suppose to be a usable .html or PDF or is there another web page that would work?

  9. avatarSentMKG says:

    What printer are they using?

    • avatar16V says:

      He was leasing a real Stratasys 3D printer, till he started running his mouth like an idiot. They didn’t like the idea of bad publicity, or potential legal entanglements for them – so they came and took it away months ago.
      Now he’s using a repcrap, computerized hot glue gun.

      We always knew there would eventually be some idiot child that would screw this hobby up for everyone. Already people are looking cross-eyed at the guys who have to use rental printers and rental CNC. They’re already hearing admonitions not to be doing any ‘gun stuff’. It’ll only be a matter of time before someone starts inspecting your files before you print at a rental place.

      • avatarMichael B. says:

        Blame the nannies, not the freedomistas.

        • avatar16V says:

          When you haven’t completely solidified your escape routes, the retard who flips off the guards and yells “we’re just walk right out of here and you can’t stop us!” is not helping anyone. Except his own self-aggrandizement.

          Especially since he’s moved very little dirt from the tunnel, and is only involved because he thinks it’ll look good on the CV.

      • avatarMax says:

        Oh be quiet! Bow before your nanny masters!

        Seriously, let’s not start blaming each other for the abuses of our own government. Any right not exercised is a right lost.

      • avatarMatt in FL says:

        They had their lease yanked on the original Stratasys they had, but they’re not using a RepRap. When the lease was yanked, they got the cash and outright bought a Stratsys Dimension series machine, $30-35k.

        Which brings me to my point. I’ll be impressed when this can be done at home, by me, on a RepRap. As long as the bar is a $30k machine, this doesn’t blow my skirt up.

        • avatar16V says:

          Pre-owned Stratasys machines are in the $5-10K range if you know how/where to shop. Though they are one of the original players, there are several other manufacturers who have had product on the street long enough for it to hit the secondary market at an affordable price point.

          I hadn’t heard he had gotten a new machine, last I heard he was going to try to gear towards repcrap. And if he’s still designing for, at minimum, $5K tools to be needed, you’re right, it’s little to get excited about. Depending on which machine he got, he might be able to use plastics of high enough quality to actually make some parts function and last more than an hour in use.

          To be honest, for those on a budget, additive machining isn’t the most versatile solution set. For $2-5K, one can get a preowned, fully functional CNC mill. One can do all sortsa things in metal. But, depending on what you get, it may take up more than a table top.

      • avatarDavidT says:

        The video shows a Dimension Elite (from Stratasys, don’t know who owns this one). This printer can print in layers as thin as .007 out of a high strength ABS plastic (available in 9 colors, for fun use nectarine or yellow). I work on these printer daily and the quality of the output completely shames a rep-rap based machine. The support material (brown in the video) dissolves in a sodium hydroxide bath so holes can be made without machining or spending hours picking out unneeded material.

  10. I don’t have a 3D printer, nor to I anticipate every owning one personally, but I am going to download the files anyway because…well…I can.

    • avatarSixpack70 says:

      I was thinking the same thing.

    • avatarHenry Bowman says:

      “I don’t have a 3D printer, nor to I anticipate every owning one personally.”

      50 years ago, people probably said the same thing about computers. :-)
      I’m downloading as well.

  11. Well that’s it then. In the long run gun control is dead!

  12. avatarإبليس says:

    How hard would it be for the ATF to designate upper receivers as firearms?

    • avatarPartially Concealed says:

      They’ll figure out a way. I’m a huge 3d printing believer, but I think this will actually hurt our cause.

    • avatarLars says:

      You two seem to be the only sensible people on the thread.

      This is all BAD for gun rights. When new tech arrives so does new laws. If you thought extended mags and mean looking ar furniture scared the gungrabbers, just wait and see how bad this tech will scare them. And with our government and population moving mostly left, at least on gun the issue, all this tech advancement in 3d printing related to firearms will surely bring something wicked our way.

      • avatar16V says:

        The tech for (cheapish) home CNC has been here for over a decade. The tech for home 3D printing is far ahead of what this childish attention monger is doing.

        There’s been rumblings in ATF about homemade firearms for just this reason for the last 2 decades. They aren’t illiterates. But, since nobody was stupid enough to go running around making a big deal about it, it always fell through the cracks.

        Until now.

        Thanks to this cretin and his ‘look at me’ nonsense, it’s now a topic for the chattering class. Which means the legislative class won’t be far behind. Which would be fine were he to have actually done something useful. CMM’d and posted a hundred guns that could easily be created with folded metal, or put up something useful like how to 3D print a bunch of gun parts. But he didn’t.

        So, two or three years from now when it’s all likely to be a Federal felony, remember who should be been given a really good blanket party for bringing all this on.

        Had he the good sense to STFU, 5 years from now everything could have been out there. The minute a new gun came out, someone would CMM it, set up files for 3D printing and CNC machining and post them on a wiki somewhere. Anybody could do this anywhere, files would be out there, and it truly couldn’t be stopped. But it likely will be stopped, thanks 100% to this dolt.

        • avatarJD says:

          3D printers are slow as molasses in winter, like 8 hours per receiver + you must be fluent in software and modeling to do your own stuff or modify anything-sure additive manufacturing has unique capabilities that reductive doesn’t: so if you CNC an injection mold as the pro commercial outfits [have purchased] (plumcrazy, new frontier, hesse, etc.) you could bang out many more per hour at higher quality if mass production or density/quality was the primary goal.
          Dianne Feinstein has been going after Slide Fire stocks and they haven’t been out as long as 3D printers, which is a creation of the Left: if we were the only originators and users, sure, DiFi/Cuomo/Silver would TRY something no doubt..

          http://store.solidoodle.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=79

          http://www.makerfarm.com/index.php/

        • avatar16V says:

          JD, That was something I tried to bring up when this nob starting getting attention. The best use would be to use as an intermediate step to create the ability to injection mold or cast in a better material.

          This would give a plug-n-play ability for the average hobbyist to do quality investment casting, or make things using molded off the shelf 2 part epoxies.

          As the UK has come perilously close to banning possession of even a manual vert mill to prevent a few guys from making their own firearms, I harbor no illusions about our own gov. There’s a dozen off-the-shelf ways to force licensing and control of every CNC and 3d printer in the US. It won’t happen anytime soon, but it will happen…

  13. avatarST says:

    “In recapping the Headlines of This Year, we must not forget the landmark SCOTUS ruling establishing that printed gun parts were still subject to Federal regulation under the Commerce Clause,since internet phone lines by definition cross state borders.”
    -MSN web article ,circa 2020 AD.

  14. avatarJavier says:

    Something blocking access (I WONDER WHOM).

  15. avatarRuss Bixby says:

    A homemade 3D printer, or a homemade lower.

    A stereolithographic modeler is at least as hard to build as an AR.

    Methinks there’s a typo…

    That said, I hope that “they” don’t tempt to control this technology, as they tried to outlaw the playing of DVDs under Linux because it “could be used to infringe copyright.”

    Maybe I’ll start a site called the Truth About Computers…

    • avatar16V says:

      Look up “reprap”. They are available as easy and cheap kits and fully assembled. There’s a whole world of thermoplastic 3D hobby stuff out there. Of course, you can get real machines pre-owned under $10K provided you have some room.

      Sort of like the home gene manipulation hobby – the hardware is a grand or two, and there’s a whole community of tens of thousands of folks doing it. And those who aren’t into it, have no idea it’s that cheap and ubiquitous.

  16. avatargloomhound says:

    You can’t stop the signal.

  17. avatarIn Memphis says:

    Was that the theme from Conan the Barbarian? Guess I know what Im watching later.

  18. avatarjaniak says:

    Nick,
    Your link is to a different version of the lower than was used in the video. Here’s the link to the one in the vid:
    http://defcad.org/index.php/defdist-ar-15-lower-receiver/

  19. avatarJesse says:

    Serious question, is there any software I can use to design stuff in this file format?

    I don’t have a printer but I would like to open the files and perhaps make some modifications to some to upload to everyone for the greater good.

  20. avatarStumpmaster says:

    I can see the CAD file in Inventor and the thickening of the material at the top is very interesting. Not exactly novel but more like logical in how it has been done. Because of the thickening a conventional take-down pin can’t be used. The rear take-down pin hole is smaller, significantly (hole diameter is 0.393 in.). So, the user will need a pin and spacer for attachment. The smaller pin, potentially, will increase local stresses, though. But, because of the thickening and small diameter, the distribution and stress field will probably “not see” the hole. This could be a viable design. Obviously the video shows it. Good Job!

  21. avatarMax says:

    For anyone interested, here is a site that sells 3D printers;

    http://www.makershed.com/MakerBot_Replicator_2_3D_Printer_p/dsmb03.htm

    Cost is actually reasonable (about the same as a nice AR Rifle), but their newest model is sold out, just like our AR parts!

  22. avatarLars says:

    Come on, we all know the government isn’t going to stand idly by on this 3d printer thing. Nothing good is going to come of this other then a butt load of Pmags maybe. Printing a working lower will eventually be a crime as will possession of one and tech like this only hurts our side in the battle of the second. Maybe being you can’t print a working upper they will serial number these, or maybe being you can’t print ammo they will go after that. It’s cool tech, it’s only plastic, but this isn’t going to help gun rights, it will hurt them.

  23. avataruncommon_sense says:

    I don’t know what’s more impressive: the printed AR lower or the fact that they had enough ammo to test it.

  24. avatarSGC says:

    Excellent, most excellent! Nothing wrong with this, put the power back into the hands of the people. Yeah, the gun grabbers will throw a hissy fit, but you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. When technology allows the common man to be able to create something like this, there’s no turning back.

  25. Link already seems taken down. You snooze, you lose, I guess…

  26. avatarJustice06rr says:

    Personally i’m not a fan of the plastic 3D lowers, but its good to hear that they have a working model that does not fail after just a few rounds. I still would not trust my life to an AR15 with a printed lower, but this is an option for those who choose to go that route.

  27. avatarwhatever says:

    I’m pissed! I downloaded the megapack last month (carothers) and it’s corrupted.

    Does anyone have a copy of it, or a later version? Or maybe how to “uncorrupt” it? It’s a zip file, I seem to remember a way to at least get some of the files out.

    Anyone have an idea?

    Thanks

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