For me, the whole process of building homemade shooters started with Wham-O. Yes, Wham-O. The seller and marketer of the Slip ‘N Slide, Hula Hoop, Hacky Sack and the much-loved Frisbee started out not with the Hula Hoop, but with a powerful slingshot. It was robust, well-made and accurate. It hit hard enough to take small game. Hence, the name Wham-O. I could not buy one, so I made one. And it was easier than I thought . . .
The materials consisted pair of wire coat hangers, properly trimmed, bent into position and wrapped in plastic gaffer’s tape, rubber bands and the tongue of an old shoe for the pouch. Ammo consisted of marbles. Within a short time, I was able to hit tin cans at 25 yards and more, easily, repeatedly. Which only whetted my appetite for more.
My next effort was a linoleum rifle. Materials were a length of 1”X2”, rubber bands and eye hooks for anchors. They could be shot bow-and-arrow style or with a spring-type clothes pin for the thumb-operated trigger. Ammo was small, cut up squares of old linoleum. Linoleum proved to be less accurate than marbles as the squares tended toward curved flight. But if you were hit by a shot from a linoleum gun, you ran home crying. Which only whetted my appetite for more.
I wanted to make a real gun.
In the Bronx of the 1950s, the making of zip guns was a cottage industry. There were two basic kinds. The most elegant were built up from cap guns. Frankly, I was unwilling to sacrifice any of my cap guns. They went too well with my holsters, hat and little cowboy boots.
The crudest .22 caliber zip guns utilized a length of thin tubing, such as the kind found in percolators, telescoping car antennas or rigid, under-sink plumbing. Supporting that “barrel” was a piece of scrap wood, perhaps left over from the 1”X2” strips used to make a linoleum rifle. The firing pin was a nail with the tip blunted, so it wouldn’t puncture the case. The nail could be stabilized with a plug of cork from a wine or whiskey bottle. The striker was driven by a spring or rubber bands.
More firepower was available, of course A piece of ¾” plumbing pipe was a good size to make a zip shotgun, and threaded pipe and end caps were readily available. Because of high pressures, homemade shotguns tended to blow up, dispersing shrapnel in all directions, including toward the shooter. This gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “one shot stop.” A zip maker had to really know what he was doing to make a 12 gauge. Learning was by experimentation, since there was no Internet. There was a library, but who wanted to go there?
Ammo was hard to come by, but there was usually a hunter in the neighborhood with a .22 or a shotgun. And they usually didn’t notice one or two cartridges or shells missing.
So today it’s printed guns and yesterday it was zip guns. How easy was it to make zip guns? Very. Child’s play, really. I was ten.
Making functional, safe homemade firearms with 3D printers is amazing, no doubt about it. It’s a breakthrough. It’s disruptive. Best of all, it scares the crap out of the Imperial State. But let’s face it, people have been making homemade firearms ever since firearms were invented.