The ‘Ghost Guns’ That Time Forgot

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history's forgotten ghost guns home made homemade

Reader James Kaleda writes . . .

Gun rights deniers are increasingly up in arms about 3-D printing and the making of “ghost guns.” Many states, such as New York and New Jersey, have jumped on the bandwagon, passing laws intended to prevent people from purchasing certain parts, downloading 3-D plans, and all kinds of other silly restrictions. The ATF is putting a rule in place to redefine what “gun” means.

It’s all so silly, not just because prohibition never works, but because the materials and instructions for making your own firearms have been readily and easily available for decades.

I don’t know when the first book on how to make homemade guns was printed, and I don’t know when the first person noticed that certain pipes at the hardware store were the same diameter as a 12-gauge shotgun barrel. But the knowledge and expertise have long been out there and you can still buy books on how to build your own from Amazon (for now). In fact all of the books below were, at least until recently, available on Amazon.

3-D printing a firearms is an increasingly viable option, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re someone who’d rather build your own and get most of what you need from the local hardware store, there are several books available for free on the internet at allow you the build firearms with tools you already have lying around your house.

history's forgotten ghost guns home made homemade

Homemade Guns and Ammo by Ronald Brown provides instructions on how to make a shotgun out of some pipes and scraps of wood…or just a couple of pipes. And quite a bit more.

And then there’s everything that’s (still) on YouTube . . .

If you have a bit more skill with tools than I, well there are plenty of sources available online right now — for free — on how to build submachine guns with parts you can get at Home Depot and tools you probably have in your workshop.

Expedient Home Firearms – The 9mm Submachine Gun

Expedient Momemade Firearms, VOL II – the .32/.380 Machine Pistol

The Sten MKII – Complete Machine Plans

Home Workshop Guns for Defense and Resistance – .22 Machine Pistol

A Do-It-Yourself Submachine Gun

This is probably a good time for me to include the obligatory disclaimer about following all applicable gun laws, regarding background checks, unregistered gun parts, lower receivers, unserialized firearms, the National Firearms Act and other federal laws administered by agencies including the ATF and FBI. It’s generally illegal to make your own untraceable full-auto gun in the United States. P.A. Luty, author of Expedient Homemade Firearms, was incarcerated for making some of his designs, so act accordingly.

history's forgotten ghost guns home made homemade

All of that said…do you want something in a bolt action? Maybe something with a little more power? Bill Holmes has instructions on how to build a 50 caliber rifle. If that’s still not enough, there’s even a manual that shows you how to build a DIY bazooka.

Now maybe you may be thinking, “That’s all fine and dandy, but now anti-gunners are talking about regulating ammunition, too.” That’s OK, you can find instructions on building your own ammunition at The Home Gunsmith.

Gun Powder? There’s The Do-It-Yourself Gunpowder Cookbook by Don Mclean.

Want to quiet things down a bit? Well there’s are plenty of resources out there for that, too (including a number of options still available at Amazon):

The Hayduke Silencer Book

Workbench Silencers – The Art of Improvised Designs

More Workbench Silencers

With all of the attention that 3-D printing, 80% lowers and “ghost guns” have gotten, it’s easy to forget that all of this information is available for free, and has been for decades. So why are the gun bigots so excited now? Could it be that they never noticed that free bazooka plans are and have been available online? Or is all the outrage just pretense to make further infringements on our Second Amendment rights? 


James Kaleda is a gun rights activist and Anarcho-capitalist, known for challenging anti-gun politicians. He was the host of the Out of Order Gun Rights podcast.


This post was originally published in 2018.



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  1. The Sten gun was designed to be built in clandestine workshops. At the time England was facing the real threat of invasion and did not want all gun making to be concentrated in one or two factories.

    Clandestine workshops can be anything. Garage. Garden shed. Cave.

    • Wow, you’re committing way too much thought and effort into this… all you need to do is clandestinely acquire a trunkfull of AKs to pass out to your fellow peaceful protesters, along with freshly printed ” BLM – CHAZ chapter ” t -shirts, then close off a section of your town, and not let the cops (or ATF) in to investigate or arrest anyone. Super easy peasey !!! It’s not like they’d ignore the precedent now, right?

  2. I’m pretty good with wood. My mettle ain’t metal. The time to stock up was 3 years ago…I did.

  3. I’ve always wanted to make a falling block rifle in 357 or 44 ever since I saw the book “Building a Single Shot Falling Block Rifle” in a Brownells catalog. Maybe in a few more years when I can retire and make the time.

  4. former, “the time to stock up was three years ago.” I’m afraid I have to disagree. The time to stock up began decades before that. I didn’t get in all of it, but I got in on a chunk. And, still, it goes on.

    • “The time to stock up began decades before that.”

      Late 80s, 7.62 X 39 was about 7 cents a round, sealed in tins, thanks to China. And an SKS was about a hundred bucks…

  5. I saw in a documentary a person in the Papua New Guinea highlands making a shotgun from a pipe, I piece of wood, and some parts from an umbrella.

    Where’s there’s a will…

  6. Decades? Excuse me, I have a “homemade” firearm that is over 150 years old. It is a .36 caliber BP percussion rifle. I can assure there was no Federal oversight when it was built and it does not have a serial number! Heavens to Betsy, hide the children!

  7. The author failed to mention ‘Improvised Munitions Manual TM 31-210.” Rather than being written by some Walter Mitty with questionable validity for “entertainment purposes only,” it’s Department of the Army tested, approved, and in the public domain for free. With sections on Explosives and Propellants (including ignitors), Mines and Grenades, Small Arms Weapons and Ammunition, Mortars and Rockets, Incendiary Devices, Fuses, Detonators & Delay Mechanisms, and Miscellaneous (Switches), it has everything a backyard ballistician or curious teen could want. It even makes a cameo appearance in Sid’s bedroom from Toy Story. Oddly, a lot of the measurements and products are imperial, rather than the metric that would be more commonly encountered in foreign nations. It’s out there on thr web for all to access. “Can’t stop the signal, Mal.’

    My uncle told me of a rocketry project he was making with a high school buddy in the 50s. They made a coffee can full of black powder from scratch as propellant. Luckily, it ignited and filled my grandparents’ garage with thick smoke before they had placed it in the “rocket body,” which in reality would have been a pipe bomb that could have killed them.

  8. Back in the early ’60’s at the ripe age of 13 or so I ordered plans from a gun magazine on building a silencer and a how-to to convert a M-1 carbine to a select fire M-2.

    Came home from school one day and had my mother tell me that two Federal agents had stopped by to check out the purchaser of the how-to plans and to point out that it would be illegal to make either project. She assured the agents that she would pass the warning on to me 🙂

  9. The push is on because the ATF lost two cases where it was determined that neither the upper or lower AR-15 type receiver constitutes a firearm, as the fire control group is in the lower while the bolt, firing pin, chamber and barrel are in the upper group. As long as they are separate, neither upper nor lower fits the ATF current definition of a firearm.
    This is why the push is on to change the definition.

  10. Back in the 1760’s my 5th great grandfather and his brother, both blacksmiths, decided to make a cannon. They bored out a locust log and banded it with iron. The first shot went fine. Then they decided to load it up with gunpowder a little more. It exploded and pieces were found across the river.

    True story.

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