Defense Distributed‘s Ghost Gunner desktop CNC machine has been turning 80% AR-15 lowers into functional receivers for years. Now, it’s ready to sink its teeth into 80% pistol frames — 1911s, GLOCKs, specifically, with more to come. TTAG stopped by DD’s Austin HQ to get the lowdown from Cody Wilson, who pioneered open source software and hardware for making your own firearms at home.
In the video above, Robert and Cody chat about pistol lowers, Defense Distributed’s mission, their struggles with The Man, and more. Then we hit the range with the first two Ghost Gunner pistols ever made for a quick function check. Spoiler alert: they ran flawlessly.
A quick Cliff’s Notes on 80% receivers: a receiver is the part of a firearm considered by the government to be the actual, regulated “firearm” part; usually the frame or the component in which the trigger parts go. But an 80% receiver is no more than 80% complete. Because of its unfinished state, it is not considered a firearm and is no more regulated than a figureless lump of metal.
This unregulated lump of metal can ship straight to you, of course. As personal firearms manufacturing has never been illegal in the U.S. and has few if any restrictions in nearly all states — no serialization or registration is needed except in, naturally, California — you can turn that 80% lump into a functional receiver. Then assemble it into a functional gun. An off-the-books, untraceable “Ghost Gun,” that is.
Lots of people people finish 80% receivers now using hand tools or drill presses. Results vary based on their skill, patience, and equipment. If attacking a would-be rifle or pistol frame with a drill isn’t your speed, Defense Distributed’s Ghost Gunner, a tabletop CNC mill, will do the job with professional-level precision.
Once your 80% frame is machined into a 100%-complete receiver, you can hit up a shop like Brownells for every other part needed to assemble it into a functional firearm. All of those parts can be ordered online and will ship straight to your door.
This is the first completed 1911 frame — it began life as a Stealth Arms 80% receiver — to come from a Ghost Gunner. We fired 58 rounds of mixed ammo — including steel-cased ammo — through it at the range and it ran perfectly. In fact, it was smoothly fitted and felt extremely well-sorted.
Some slide-to-frame fitting work is expected. We asked Cody if they were cutting the frame rails slimmer than usual so just about any slide would plop right on the frame and run fine, but, no, Defense Distributed doesn’t make maracas. Apparently the rails are cut so a gun will function without hand fitting but will be a bit snug. That means it will probably function best with some lapping compound to perfect the slide-to-frame clearances.
On the not-a-GLOCK side of the house, just drop the parts into the completed frame and hit the range…no fitting work needed. The factory GLOCK 19 slide on this factory parts-filled Polymer 80 frame ran like a champ. I even shot the thing suppressed with a Lone Wolf barrel, and it never hiccuped.
The ergonomics and feel of the Polymer 80 frame put GLOCK to shame, frankly. From the texturing to the shape to the severely undercut trigger guard and the high beavertail, it simply feels awesome.
That’s what we call a Texas glamour shot.