3D Printers Start Making Home Firearms Manufacturing a Reality

Earlier this week there came news from ARFCOM that someone had actually printed an AR-15 lower receiver on a 3D printer — a machine that layers plastic or other materials to form an object. That lower was then used to successfully shoot 200 rounds of .22lr ammunition. It has even successfully fired full power 5.56 ammunition. Its shaping up to be the beginning of a new era where people can print their own complete firearms, and there’s already a project to provide them with the design…

Defense Distributed is a new project that aims to develop and make freely available to anyone with a 3D printer designs for a fully functioning firearm. They’re planning to do it in two phases — first a design needing external parts, and then a fully functioning design that can simply be printed out and used.

The implications for such a project, as well as the AR-15 receivers already available for download, must scare the living crap out of gun control advocates. A world where anyone can grab a file off the internet and print themselves a firearm means that there is no longer any viable means of implementing gun control. Anyone who wants a gun can just print their own, no matter where they are in the world or what their criminal record looks like. These guns completely bypass the FFL system, and can be made to any specifications.

We’re talking about a future where the average citizen can print themselves a machine gun without anyone knowing. And I think its fantastic.

Before the gun control acts came into effect, the United States was a hotbed for firearms innovation. We’re the country of John Browning and Eugene Stoner, “Carbine” Williams and John C. Garand. We’re a country of people who spent countless happy hours in their workshops tinkering with stuff, finding new designs for guns that made them better, more accurate, and more efficient. But that all stopped when the new regulations came in and manufacturers needed to get a license before they could start designing firearms. It raised the bar for entry so high that the average citizen could no longer come up with a new design, that was all done by committee in board rooms.

With 3D printing, I see a future where we once again are able to tinker with stuff and play around with gun designs, making newer and better designs all the time. And whats even better is that these designs can legally be tested by any number of people across the country, as each gun would be manufactured by the individual for individual use and keep the original designer from being a “manufacturer” and needing a license.

3D printing may just see the renaissance of backyard firearms designers, and hopefully with that comes new designs and new concepts in firearms technology. This is gunna be fun…


  1. avatar SD3 says:

    Hmmm…well, I guess it’s time to assume control of the inter-webz.

  2. avatar Mr. Lion says:

    Only a matter of time before barrels/uppers/misc parts are reclassified as “firearms” as a result.

    3D printing isn’t particularly useful for building actual parts, even though it has been done with some success. It is very useful, though, for making casting patterns that make it pretty trivial for the home builder to cast their own high grade and dimensionally accurate parts.

    Much easier and cheaper than, say, a big enough CNC machine to cut something out of a block of metal.

  3. avatar Josh says:

    Hold the phone while I order up some 3D printers and apply for an FFL.

  4. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

    Looks like some stress in the vicinity of the bolt hold-open mechanism. Still, the very thought of the government not being able to regulate firearms puts a big grin on my face.

  5. avatar jwm says:

    am i being too big a geek when i say”ooh, a star trek replicater”. after all i now have a flip open communicater in my pocket.

    1. avatar Kelly in GA says:

      It was the first thing I thought of when I saw one a year ago.

    2. avatar Sanchanim says:

      jwm your killing me hahaha

  6. avatar Joseph says:

    Politics and ideology aside, I think I’ll leave the gun making to the gun makers. Some people may unknowingly be making homemade mini bombs that do them in unintentionally.

  7. avatar Air Force TSgt says:

    Sweet, just downloaded the MP5 full auto sear mold kit! …..someday 🙂

  8. avatar OHgunner says:

    Glad to see that there are people out there still interested in advancing liberty and freedom over monetary gain. As such, I hope that they make a million dollars off their idea because they have their hearts in the right place.

    As a side note, I’m not sure that I would personally want to fire a weapon that I downloaded from an open source torrent file. There are too many variables that could be of by one line of script, enabling a catastrophic failure and loss of digits/life. I’m still getting used to using my reloaded ammo without flinching and expecting shrapnel every time I light one off. And that’s just ammo. Reloaded ammo and homemade gun from open source software? I’m renting a bomb squad to do my R&D.

    1. avatar Josh says:

      I could be wrong, but Im pretty sure the lower of the AR-15 is the tightly regulated part of the gun, the rest of the parts can be purchased fairly easily online right? The lower was the printed part, the rest were professionally fabricated.

      Also, the lower of an AR-15 only houses the trigger assembly, mag well, etc. The extent of forces on it would be the buffer and its spring right? While it might not be the most durable of parts, I cant really see this being dangerous to fire…

  9. avatar AK says:

    Hackaday featured this story last week. http://hackaday.com/2012/07/26/3d-printed-ar-15-lower-works/

    Its scary and disheartening to read the comments from the anti-gun posters, most of which are from the UK.

    “I don’t live in a sheltered society. Knifes are as forbidden as hand guns, that is not the point.

    My point and the point that I totally don’t agree with is that “All Americans have the right to carry a handgun to defend themselves”.

    Themselves from WHO? Aliens? Other Americans? You should fight crime with education not with handgun defense!!!

    In my city I never heard of someone’s house being broke. I was never mugged and certainly I was never assaulted.

    Also, why would someone even break into your house?? Really! This is a type of thinking that is totally unacceptable in the society I live. Just the fact that you have this mentally explains a lot!

    Police isn’t needed because the society is well educated. People just don’t need/want/desire to break into others houses. End of conversation.

    Police is just there to help people in daily urban affairs. Like neighbors putting music too loud, neighbors doing barbecue in their apartment, neighbor fights because a tree between their gardens, traffic information, road directions and even to ask for a ride.” -MrX

    1. avatar Josh says:

      This guy is just as delusional as the last guy that was commenting on here saying that only wealthy people should own guns, because wealthy people dont ever break the law, and are inherently smarter than the rest of the populace.

      I would love to know where exactly this guy hails from so we could look up crime statistics and throw the facts in his face. You cant educate away crime, and even if it is possible to educate away crime, it certainly would not work as fast as 147 grains of copper jacketed lead headed their way.

      1. avatar Swarf says:

        “guy that was commenting on here saying that only wealthy people should own guns, because wealthy people dont ever break the law, and are inherently smarter than the rest of the populace. ”

        Surely all the Ayn Rand fans on this site will agree with this, right?

        1. avatar StPatrick says:

          I *sort of* enjoyed Atlas Shrugged. I can’t remember who said it, but somebody somewhere described the book as best used as an inoculant / vaccine against statism. Give it to the young early enough to prevent their adoption of collectivist thought, but late enough that they can see why Objectivism is not a practicable philosophy.

          Also, Nancy Pelosi is rich as Croesus. Wealthy and smart may often correlate, but it’s no absolute.

        2. avatar Aynonymous Randian says:

          Corporations prefer unarmed workers.

      2. avatar Swarf says:

        “guy that was commenting on here saying that only wealthy people should own guns, because wealthy people dont ever break the law, and are inherently smarter than the rest of the populace. ”

        Surly all the Ayn Rand fans on this site agree with this statement, right?

    2. avatar Anon in CT says:

      I think that was a parody. Or maybe a Swede.

  10. avatar bontai Joe says:

    I remember the “good old days” when countries like Romania regulated and restricted the ownership of TYPEWRITERS and copying machines. These were the “instruments of treason” that could be used to print views in opposition to the government. The Ceauşescus (husband and wife) were eventually overthrown, tried and then shot by firing squad, a process that allegedly took a couple of hours from start to finish. So when I think of all the things that can be made with a 3D printer, I’d be very cautious about buying it using my own name, or anything that could be traced back to me. Just in case our “democratic” government decides that ownership of these is a bad thing and sends people in the dark of night to collect these machines AND their owners.

  11. avatar John says:

    Only issue I see is the cost of the 3D printer, but I’m sure those costs will come down in the near future. Great, now they will BAN these as a dangerous weapon.

  12. avatar Aharon says:

    Truman was wrong dropping the atomic bomb on Japan was the greatest thing in history. The Gutenberg Printing Press and now this machine are the greatest things in history. OK, on a serious note can’t the Feds step in and restrict certain parts needed or the whole machine or then focus on ammo regulation or the regulation of raw materials to hand-load, etc? I have trouble imagining the anti-gun forces calling it quits quietly.

  13. avatar Dyspeptic says:

    As interesting as 3D printing is it still has serious limitations for application to firearms. The polymer resins currently available are not that durable and have no fiber reinforcement or composite additives to make them stronger. Even if 3D printed gun parts were durable enough the gun control issue isn’t solved since The Powers That Be can simply make the resulting gun illegal to possess. I bet my state, California, has millions of illegally owned guns possessed by otherwise law abiding citizens which are permanently tucked away in closets, safes, attics, crawl spaces etc. It’s not much fun owning something you can’t use for fear of arrest and prosecution.

  14. avatar Don says:

    To those pointing out that the polymers that 3D printing uses aren’t adequate for making guns…

    You can 3D print almost any material, including metal. Metal is usually 3D printed by depositing layers of metal powder over the substrate and then melting it with a laser. You can 3D print machine parts like this. People have 3D printed organic tissues, polymers, metals, circuitry, and most recently even a working battery. There is a 3D printing research project going on now which is attempting to 3D print a basic robot including circuitry, servos, batteries, and programmed logic, and have it “walk” off of the platter. Companies are starting to 3D print processed foods too.


    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Thanks for pointing that out to people so I didn’t have to.

      3D printing is going to change the manufacturing industry. CNC equipment makers will need to consider the impact to the machine and tooling industries.

  15. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The day is rapidly approaching when all someone will need to make many of the parts that go into a gun are a 3D printer and a sintering/heat treatment oven, possibly with an inert atmosphere.

    This level of technology will fit into a much smaller space than CNC machines, and the costs of production will eventually be lower than “subtractive” manufacturing technologies where material is removed from a larger piece of parent material.

    As for barrels: Harry Pope made barrels on a modified lathe. The challenge in making a barrel from a piece of 4140 or 4150 cho-moly steel isn’t the rifling, as too many people assume. The challenge is in getting a nice, straight hole through the bar stock. Deep hole drilling takes very light feeds and high coolant/oil pressures to push the chips back up the bore. You could do it on a lathe if you’ve re-worked the leadscrew gearing, or you get rid of the leadscrew/gearing setup entirely and go to a servomotor control on the feedscrew, put an optical shaft encoder on the spindle to accurately read the RPM and then compute the feed (usually in 10’s of millionths to tenths of a thousandths of an inch per turn).

    As I said, Pope made barrels on a modified lathe. Rifled them too. It isn’t rocket science.

    1. avatar Mark_Miata says:

      Do the same issues with drilling apply to pistol barrels as well as rifle barrels? Seems that a barrel length of 2 or 3 inches would not be as hard to keep true, but I’m no machinist.

      Also, I’d imagine that eventually you could just print the barrel with the rifling already there, assuming you could make it out of suitable materials – that would make things even easier.

  16. avatar Sanchanim says:

    Wow this could change everything. Imagine being able to use metal in it, or even using a CNC. I have seen small CNC units. Usually the large production ones are bulky, but I have also see tiny ones. they just won’t cut as fast. If you used the 3D printer to cast like others have said them clean it up with a CNC that should be a high quality product in the end.
    Lasers are getting stronger everyday. Eventually I could see using that to bore a barrel. You have to take into consideration the heat generated, but if you used some sort of coolant that wouldn’t affect laser performance you could do it.

  17. avatar Sanchanim says:

    Wholy crap they are putting the cad files online for free!!!!
    BTW you can apply those to a CNC as well so this is really gonna give some gun grabber an aneurism!!

  18. avatar jd says:

    The challenge, currently here, would be cartridge cases as ammo is a target point for gun control. If your driving behaviour can be ‘controlled’ by $9 gas, your 2A fun can be with $1 per round ammo-you can see this firsthand with hunters, they’re even switching back to cheaper, less effective (& less humane for quick kill) calibers. As you print a tall narrow object, cooling control becomes everything as it will try to collapse or lean over near the top end (case mouth). You can print too thick, then manually reduce the wall dimensions. You can print without a rim and substitute your metal alternative in steel, brass or carbon fiber tube (like commercially available plastic ammo). So, then when the dictatorship controls the plastic filament inevitably, you’ll have to start chipping up your milk jugs, laundry detergent jugs and any other abs you can get your hands on and extrude it yourself with a 3mm or 1.75mm roller to control O.D. Not difficult, just labour intensive.

  19. avatar Derek says:

    I could see this being useful for bolt gun stocks or even furniture for your tacticool rifle of choice.

  20. avatar Sean says:

    I want to know if these can be used to make a suppressor. And do I have to register one if I make it myself? Just the say that we can make our own lowers?

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