The antis’ worst fears are becoming reality and most of them don’t even realize it. Yet. You see, there’s a quiet revolution taking place in the home manufacturing and materials industries. You can now buy desktop milling machines and 3D printers for under $800. As the technologies improve, prices will only continue to drop. Now whatintheheck is a 3D printer? Only something that will allow you to “print” your own magazines, receivers and other gun parts right there in the comfort of your very own home…
There are several types available. Most 3D printers are designed for commercial use and can cost upwards of $10,000. The ones we’re interested in, though, use a heated head to deposit very thin layers of plastic (very thin as in 0.1mm) over and over, building the desired object in a process called additive manufacturing (as opposed to the classic subtractive manufacturing, which is what a milling machine or lathe does). These rickety looking machines use plastic filament (frequently ABS, PLA or HDPE) and computer files to produce, well, just about anything that will fit in the build space.
Have the antis banned normal capacity mags again? No prob. Make your own. This one is only five-round capacity. If you expand the body and get different springs you’re only limited by the strength of your materials. Finally managed to outlaw AR-15s? As far as the ATF is concerned, the receiver is the firearm, so make your own receiver.
Most of these printers are open-source; there’s a lot of free support available, including libraries of images/objects that you can make. But what can you do if there isn’t an exemplar already out there? Do you have to figure out how to work some clunky CAD program or drop a couple thou for a 3D scanner? Au contraire, mes amis. There’s a free service available which will take your uploaded photos and return you a point-cloud file which can then be massaged with some more freeware into a file that will work with a 3D printer or CNC milling machine.
What’s that? You say you don’t want a plastic receiver? OK, get yourself a small milling machine, some blanks and go to town. If you aren’t comfortable operating a milling machine, many community colleges and tech schools have adult ed. courses that will teach you the fundamentals. Bonus! They frequently give students free access to their (industrial quality) equipment while you’re taking the classes. You might not be able to convince your instructor that a scratch-built rifle would make an excellent extra credit project, but you could probably make at least some of the smaller parts and then purchase an after-market barrel down the line.
How can advances in materials worry the antis? Quite simply their fears of “plastic guns” may soon be realized.
Advances in plastics and resins mean that right now you can get resins you can use at home with a ten-thousand PSI (69MPa) tensile strength. For reference, an AR-15 develops about fifteen-thousand PSI (104MPa) as the bullet travels down the barrel. Given the advances in materials science, we’ll be able to go to the hardware store, get a couple of gallons of two-part resin, mix it up and cast an AR-15 barrel assembly and upper receiver in our kitchen.
I personally can think of nothing more horrifying for the Brady Bunch, Violence Policy Center or Hizzonner Mayor Bloomberg than the thought that anyone can manufacture a firearm in their own home. I believe it was Robert Heinlein who once said: Nothing will make an aristocrat reach for the smelling salts faster than the idea of cheap plentiful weapons in the hands of the peasants.
Well, here we go.