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Print-a-gun becomes a reality

So it seems that it is possible to create a functional firearm with a 3D printer after all… awesome.

Ammunition may be a tad harder but where there is a will, there is a way.

65 comments to Print-a-gun becomes a reality

  • llamas

    All I can say is – we shall see.

    I reiterate, that, from actual mechanical engineering experience, I fail to see how you can make a thing from 3,000 psi, porous material to repeatedly withstand 20,000 psi pressures, and expect it to last and work reliably. Maybe there’s something I’ve missed. But I doubt it.

    (that appears to be a 32 ACP or 380 ACP cartridge laying next to the device in the photograph.)

    The weapon appears to have interchangeable/multiple chambers, which makes it seem rather – impractical.

    I reiterate what I’ve said before – this is about the most-impractical and uneconomic way to make a practical firearm that could possibly be devised. A $15,000 machine using $50-a-pound material. The Mythbusters once made a working cannon out of duct tape – that does not mean that duct tape is a good way to make a cannon.

    If the goal is to make untraceable, easily-distributed and individually-manufacturable firearms designs available to all, there are 100 better ways to do it. And I can see where 3D-printed parts might form a part of that approach. But this insistence that somehow the technology must be used 100% or not at all tells me that this is not a serious effort, but a publicity stunt – in which, it has been quite successful.

    I predict that this effort will have quietly faded into obscurity within a twelvemonth. An interesting curiosity, like a Bible printed on a grain of rice or a Faberge egg – it exists, and you marvel at its existence at all, but mere existence of one example does not make in a realistic product in a real world.

    I’m suprised that so many people are so easily taken-in – oh, wait, no, I’m not. This is the mainstream media, after all.

    llater,

    llamas

  • MicroBalrog

    1. The 3D printed gun isn’t intende to last more than a few shots.
    2. The main advantage to 3D printing is that it obviates most of the need for technical skill – just print the parts and put them together, no machining and skill.
    3. The machine cost them $4,000, and they’re adopting this technology for cheaper machines.

  • Still seems easier to buy a gun in a country where it is legal to purchase guns, disassemble it into its component parts, package each part into a small shoebox sized package along with a quantity of similar looking (black metal) screws, bolts, strips and similar detritus labelled ‘automotive parts’ and then ship it back to your home country and reassemble.

    You need to be able to spot the parts amongst the ‘detritus’ to reassemble it, but as long as you have an encrypted electronic record of the disassembly (photographs of all of the parts laid out on a flat surface), then it should be straight-forward.

    Getting the ammunition is a bit harder, but it is generally easier to purchase ammunition than weapons. You can then repack the bullets into a ‘hide in plain sight’ protection like inside a cheap set of golf clubs. Use a none corrosive gel as a packing agent to prevent obvious rattling.

    Provided you drive / ferry across borders you are unlikely to be stopped and searched.

    Well done. You are now an armed civilian amongst an otherwise unarmed populace. Provided you manage to keep the weapon and ammunition out of sight of others including the police.

    Remember if you do this that if you are caught you will be subject (in the UK at least) to a mandatory 5-year jail sentence for possession of an unlicensed firearm.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    I think you are mistaken llamas, and that this or something like it will change the world. Mostly for the better, but with many tragedies along the way. It will change the world by making it much easier to make untraceable firearms for self defence, and also by making it obvious that this can be done – so that efforts at gun control will become obviously futile. I’d would like to contest two of the points you have made in particular:

    I fail to see how you can make a thing from 3,000 psi, porous material to repeatedly withstand 20,000 psi pressures, and expect it to last and work reliably.

    It doesn’t have to be reliable if it is intended only for use in extremis.

    A $15,000 machine using $50-a-pound material.

    I remember being sent advertising material for one of the first commercial satellite navigation devices. Boy, had they got their targetting wrong – it cost £5,000! My whole car cost less than a tenth of that! But I saw, I wanted, and I knew I’d possess one in a few years when the price came down. And so it did and so I did.

    I am confident you are correct about there already being easier ways to make untraceable firearms. The same view has been expressed by people I know personally whom I know to have relevant expertise. However 3-D printing is an intensely desirable technology for other reasons. I know quite a few guys like metalwork, but it’s a minority hobby and requires quite a lot of skill and patience, not to mention workshop space. I think 3-D printing has more mass appeal. It’s like magic. Loads of guys – and girls, an important point – would love to have one of these gadgets in the same way kids want a transformer toy for Christmas. It will be very, very hard to ban this technology, especially once a critical mass of people have it who then start thinking of new uses for it.

    If it spreads, then although guns are at the extreme edge of what the technology can do, they will be made. Badly functioning guns, but that won’t matter, if there are lots of them.

    In World War II the Liberty Ship was, considered as a ship, a poor design. Several broke in half when it got too cold. So what? They tweaked the design and built some more. They could build them quicker than the Germans could sink them, and with unskilled labour. The Liberty Gun is coming.

    You are right in saying this is a publicity stunt, but wrong in thinking it is not a serious effort: a publicity stunt can be a vital part of a serious effort.

  • Like the original Liberator, this gun is not intended to be a long use heirloom that you pass down to your descendents. It’s a limited use device that will defend your life or property in a pinch, or if you harbor revolutionary thoughts, will possibly allow you to “liberate” a real weapon.

    With time, I’m sure it will get cheaper and more reliable. Being nearly all plastic, it has the advantage of being almost undetectable. Later models with multiple round capability will give this advantage away as the bullets will always be detectable.

    In the meantime there’s always the possibility of reworking some of the “zip guns” from the 50’s in PVC, reenforced with fiberglass overwrap to accomplish the same thing at a much reduced cost.

  • Tedd

    …efforts at gun control will become obviously futile.

    Efforts at marijuana control are obviously futile, but the laws and enforcement persist. When it becomes too hard to control guns at the source (the manufacturers and distributors), governments will just up the ante, probably with random searches or something to that effect.

  • llamas

    Ok, I was finally able to review the video on DD’s website.

    This is s single-shot arm, with no immediate reloading capability. Once you have fired one round, you may as well drop it for all the good it will do you.

    There is no ‘barrel’ as would be understood in a normal firearm, and no rifling. The arm uses the cartridge case (in some part at least) as the chamber.

    So, what we have is a device for making a single centerfire cartridge go ‘bang’ and sent its projectile approximately downrange. It is one step up from a nine-year-old putting a 38 in the vice on the workbench in the garage and hitting it with a hammer.

    And for this, we needed a $40,000 machine (that’s the machine shown in the video) and $50-a-pound materials? Incidentally, no way did they buy this machine for $4000. This is the exact model of machine they say they used (in another press release)on Ebay right now:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/STRATASYS-DIMENSION-SST-3D-PRINTER-8-X-8-X-12-/251265383671?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3a80957cf7#ht_3547wt_806

    $10,000, as-is, where-is.

    The basic misunderstanding being repeated here is that all processes and systems must be scalable in the same way that electronics are – that Moore’s Law applies to everything. By this logic, we should by now have 25-ton supertankers and $15 automobiles. But many processes in the real world are not scalable in this way, whether as to cost or size. I have already explained (in prior threads) exactly why the 3D printing process is not scalable – because the physics of the process does not allow it.

    I repeat – anyone can make a firearm that’s as-good (and in may ways, far better) than this curiosity, from scratch, for less than $50 and with no real skills. No arcane metalworking crafts are required. For obvious reasons, I will not tell you how to do this but the US Defense Department has publihed several excellent manuals on how to do this, all available for pocket change.

    One of the solons at the firehouse mentioned that the last improvised firearm he saw was made from a common tool that anyone can buy at Home Depot for $21.98 plus tax (I checked) and Home Depot will sell you the ammunition that powers it, all you want, for $6.98 per hundred. Plus tax. All completely unregulated, and the conversion that turns it from an innocuous construction tool to a devastating handgun can be done in 30 minutes by anybody’s granny, on the kitchen table, if properly instructed. And it’s not hard.

    Incidentally, the Liberty ship was an excellent design, marred only by poorly-understood metallurgy. Poor example.

    I repeat – this is a curiosity, nothing more. It will do little or nothing to advance the goal of widely-distributed and untraceable firearms – which is not, NB, a bad idea. But there are 658 easier, quicker, cheaper, more-effective and less-traceable ways to advance this goal.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Still seems easier to buy a gun in a country where it is legal to purchase guns, disassemble it into its component parts, package each part into a small shoebox sized package along with a quantity of similar looking (black metal) screws, bolts, strips and similar detritus labelled ‘automotive parts’ and then ship it back to your home country and reassemble.

    As opposed to… print it in the safety of your own home?

  • Like the original Liberator, this gun is not intended to be a long use heirloom that you pass down to your descendents. It’s a limited use device that will defend your life or property in a pinch, or if you harbor revolutionary thoughts, will possibly allow you to “liberate” a real weapon.

    I think Billl has it exactly correct. This is designed to give a usable weapon to people with nothing more than a kitchen knife or cricket bat. Home grown ammo is going to need to follow to make this concept truly useful (and with a working knowledge of ‘kitchen chemistry’, that too is possible).

    Think of these things as high-tech single shot flintlock pistols to be stuffed into your belt… make several and use them to defend your house in times of disorder when the fuzz are nowhere to be seen or to ‘liberate’ a real weapon. Hide the ammunition components in plain sight and just assemble the weapons “when the time comes”.

  • MicroBalrog

    >And for this, we needed a $40,000 machine (that’s the machine shown in the >video) and $50-a-pound materials?

    1. They are even now working on adaptation of this to cheaper machines.
    2. They say they bought it at $4,000 used.
    3. ABS plastic is not $50 a pound. 2 pounds of ABS string fit for 3D printers can be had at about $30-35.

  • llamas

    @ Perry de Havilland – now you’re talking!

    A single shot discharger. You don’t have to brew up propellants at all – you can buy ready-made powder loads for a variety of legal and innocuous uses. Don’t make a firearm – make a one-shot discharger, and have lots and lots of them.

    And the way to do this is to mass-produce the two or three parts needed – each innocuous by itself – and make them universally available. Combine with a couple of other things that you can buy at any hardware store and – presto.

    Note where I said “mass-produce”. Again, entirely the wrong venue for a 3D printer. Have the parts made by the millions in China, import then as ‘slide bushings (left hand)’ and ‘drill sleeves’, and distribute them for pocket change. Suppressing that would become a game of whack-a-mole that the authorities couldn’t possibly win – unlike 3D printing, which would be easy to regulate. The parts could be so cheap that you could give them away and leave them wherever you went – defence on the Johnny Appleseed plan.

    If Defense Distributed really meant what they said, they’d be working on an approach like this, not the dead-end publicity stunts they’ve done to this point.

    llater,

    llamas

  • llamas

    @ MicroBalrog – don’t lecture me about 3D printing. I have forgotten more about it that you have ever known.

    Cost of a material cartridge for Dimension SST series 3D printers = $260. One cartridge contains 56 cubic inches of material.

    http://advancedrp.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=8

    Density of ABS – 0.038 lb/cubic inch, so contents of one cartridge = 0.038 x 56 = 2.128 lbs. So the cost of the material for a Dimension SST is $122 per pound. As you can see, I was being generous.

    The ABS string that you qouted is for the plywood Maker-Faire homestyle rip-rap machines that everyone assumes will do the same thing that a Stratasys Dimension can do. Well, I tell you what – you get one of those machines, and you try it, and let us all know how you get on.

    They say they bought a Dimension SST for $4000, used? Sure, they did. But that’s not the market price. I showed the market price, you showed ‘they said’. Don’t believe everything you read.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Mr Ed

    And the advantage over a crossbow is…?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    It may be relevant that the ‘comic-strip’ of instructions that came with the original ‘Liberator’ pistol showed the maquisard sneaking up behind a German sentry, shooting him with the pistol and taking his far more functional rifle.

  • Sigivald

    On the other hand, if we’re talking about a homebrew single-use gun, that makes me think “muzzle-loader and some pipe”.

    One can make a perfectly usable shotgun that way, with minimal effort, barely any tools at all (a drill is about all you’d need)…

    (In the “total gun ban!!!” case, ammunition will be very hard to get – you can’t realistically make your own brass – but they’ll never be able to stop people from making gunpowder and casting or acquiring loose projectiles.

    They can’t win.

    Fortunately.)

  • QuinT

    @llamas–your counterpart of 30 years ago had forgotten more than anyone else ever knew about silicon wafer technology and therefore knew what he was talking about when he said that anyone dreaming that you’d ever get below $1K per megabyte should just keep on dreaming. You wanted to store a lot of data? Better just invest in microfiche technology.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Pipe + pipe + cap + nail + metal putty + 12ga cartridge = shotgun. Total cost <£20. Total time to make <30mins. They were are still are used to great effect in the Philippines. Making an improvised gun is not difficult. The printed gun has not done anything to make it less difficult, quite the opposite. It is rather more complicated to make than many improvised firearms.

    The only advantage to the printed gun I can see is the politicians will be worrying that the kind of person who would never make another improvised firearm may well make one of these, just for the heck of it. And politicians feeling worried is usually a good thing. But beyond creating some existential angst in the corridors of power, I don't see it doing much.

    As an aside, I think the original FP-45 Liberator is due a comeback. Can you imagine what would happen in North Korea if 500,000 were dropped all over the place, with special attention paid to the Gulags? Kim Jong-Un is a politician who deserves to lose some sleep at night….

  • llamas

    @ PersonfromPorlock, who wrote:

    ‘It may be relevant that the ‘comic-strip’ of instructions that came with the original ‘Liberator’ pistol showed the maquisard sneaking up behind a German sentry, shooting him with the pistol and taking his far more functional rifle.
    ..’

    Much as I hate to disagree with you, this is not so. The comic-strip that came with the FP45 Liberator showed you how to load and fire the weapon.

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://vintageordnance.homestead.com/files/VOPhotos/liberator_Sheet.jpg&imgrefurl=http://vintageordnance.homestead.com/Firearms_Accessories.html&h=770&w=576&sz=63&tbnid=k8xbqe3IM3EX3M:&tbnh=90&tbnw=67&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dliberator%2Bpistol%2Binstructions%26tbm%3Disch%26tbo%3Du&zoom=1&q=liberator+pistol+instructions&usg=__HKOIhD1S7nJOs2xmLMtS9r0GsGc=&docid=PCO5vc_RzI6HwM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=C_aHUer7IKaZyAHf24C4AQ&ved=0CFMQ9QEwBw&dur=172

    You’re thinking of the mid-60’s ‘Deer gun’, designed for similar purposes for use in SE Asia, the instructions for which did show it being used to cap the other guy:

    http://www.rockislandauction.com/viewitem/aid/54/lid/3724

    llater,

    llamas

  • bloke in spain

    Still don’t know why nobody’s gone the ‘lost wax’ casting process to produce the models for moulds. Bronze is a much better gunmaking material than plastic & you really can’t get easier tech than bronze alloying & casting. It’s got a pedigree of thousands of years. Presumable the “to a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail” applies to 3D printing.
    llamas is the expert. Would a cheap 3D printer fabricate a suitable plastic model? Shouldn’t think a design using a steel hydraulic pipe smooth bore barrel would be too hard, either.

  • Paul Marks

    In some States in the United States tyranny-via-bureaucracy is already becomming a reality.

    If “the power tax is the power to destroy” then so it the power to regulate – and the Progressives are determined to so tie up firearm ownership up in redtape that it becomes harder and harder for honest people to own firearms. Leaving a de facto monopoly the state and for the “socially friendly elements” (the street gangs and other criminals).

    If this techology (perhaps with further development) can help resist this – good.

    But only OPEN dissent will transform the situation.

  • mdc

    I think you are better off learning some metalworking skills than spending $15,000 for a machine to do it for you.

    The big problem is ammunition, though. If you can manufacture explosive yourself why wouldn’t a wannabe insurgent just use the explosive rather than turning it into ammunition?

  • Jordan

    The level of pessimism and nay saying in this thread is surprising. The point of this is that it’s a prototype, not a ready-made replacement for your favorite sidearm. Is it relatively expensive and crude? Yes. But it’s only getting less so as time goes on.

  • bloke in spain

    Academics. Sort of people insist on reading the instruction manual.

  • MDC: Sometimes even a dedicated terrorist wants to make a very personal statement, and bombs lack the personal touch. Yes, I have the metalworking skills. For that reason I favor the old school zip gun, but Jordan has it right, the price and complexity will improve rapidly I expect.

    Bloke in spain: Reading the manuals is for wimps. Takes all the challenge out of it, no?

  • MicroBalrog

    LLamas: Do you suggest these people will not succeed in making an identical gun in a simpler, cheaper 3D Printer?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    llamas,

    Darn, you may be right. But I could swear I saw what I described somewhere, sometime. Ah, well, such are the infirmities of age.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Ed, how big would this crossbow be? Could it be safely carried in the trousers without being detected? (Is that a crossbow in your pants, or are you just pleased to see everyone?)

  • bloke in spain

    @ Nick. You are of course thinking linearly. A crossbow is a spring weapon. Coil the spring & put it in a tube & it would fit neatly into a pocket. The design’s centuries old & can be knocked up with car valve springs & a bit of pipe. Put a steel dart through a 2 inch wood door at 20ft.

  • Mr Ecks

    Ceramic powders might be a way forward for 3D gun printing. Advanced ceramics could be made non-brittle and powerful enough to withstand the internal pressure. Also, the ammo question could be settled by 3D printers also, in the form of “molecule makers” that can assemble a wide range of chemicals (including medicines, drugs and, well anything almost) from elements. Much more advanced of course but I understand experiments are underway.

  • llamas

    @ MicroBalrog, who asked:

    ‘Do you suggest these people will not succeed in making an identical gun in a simpler, cheaper 3D Printer?..’

    ‘These people’ will probably succeed in transitioning their design to the kind of home-use 3D printers that are available. Once. However, that does not mean that it will successfuly transition to a mass solution. The issues with these sorts of single-material home-use machines are well-understood and it is not realistic to suggest that anybody with one of these things will be able to produce a perfect example of their design at the touch of a button. A few people will, unfortunately, get their fingers blown off before these issues are fully understood.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    I wonder what the political ramifications would be if private individuals, without the consent of any government, arranged to have a few hundred thousand Liberators (be they plastic, steel, whatever) made up and air dropped over NK.

    I imagine Mr. Kim would be apoplectic. Obama would have something else to apologise for. The NK people could start a revolution….

    … so everybody would be happy, then? ;-)

  • llamas

    Latest word on the DD tests, from ‘Wired’ magazine:

    ‘Wired reports that the ammunition used in the test-firing was .380, which is a fairly popular self-defense round, at the low end of power (and therefore an appropriate choice for an experimental plastic weapon). Interchangeable barrels in 9mm and .22 are also planned, though the gun is definitely still experimental and suffered a burst barrel. The Defense Distributed blog shows what looks like a broken receiver, too, though that could be add-on damage from the barrel.’

    Oh, so let me get this straight – now we’re being told that the gun blew up when fired – after the first hysterical news cycle screaming about ‘successful test of 3D printed gun’?

    Incidentally – exactly as this boring engineer predicted? I did the shirtcuff math on the design I saw on their website and I knew it could not survive the firing event as-described. And I did the math for 32 ACP, not 380.

    It may be different in your world, but in my world, a gun that blows up when you fire it is the very definition of a failure.

    Call me when they fire something that doesn’t blow up in your hand.

    Tchah!

    llater,

    llamas

  • MicroBalrog

    I would certainly prefer a gun that blows up in my hand some of the time to no gun.

  • MicroBalrog

    Frankly, as long as Europol is worried, this machine is doing its job.

  • MicroBalrog

    And if you read the actual report of the test you’ll find out the gun exploded when using a more powerful cartridge, and then they went back to .380 and shot it again.

  • llamas

    And, all of a sudden, the used Dimension SST printer that they bought for $4000, now magically cost $8000.

    I don’t know, it’s almost like they are changing their stories in response to people fact-checking them, or something. Imagine.

    This whole episode is starting to stink to high heaven. No sensible person would take anything this outfit says at face value anymore.

    The design files are now supposed to be downloadable online. I have the use of multiple Dimension 3D printers. I may just build one of these things myself and see what happens. But you may be for good and sure that it will be packed in sandbags, and fired using a string.

    llater,

    llamas

  • MicroBalrog

    It is completely irrelevant how good or bad the 3D printed gun is. For four reasons:

    1. Nobody ever expected it to be very good. If I were to need a gun for self-defense NOW NOW NOW I’d prefer a gun that explodes in my hand 10% of the time to no gun. So would you.

    2. Everybody knows the technology will get better. It’s what it does.

    3. We all know that you can make a zip gun. The purpose of this recent process is to obviate the need to technical skills to o it – which most people don’t have. Yes I know you can make an automatic rifle in your garage, I read Luty’s book as well. Stop it already.

    4. The main reason for which this is done – and why it does not matter how crappy the gun is – is to put into the minds of politicians, voters, and general people all over the world the notion – that was ALWAYS true – that ‘you can’t ban guns, people will make their own anyway’. If DefDistributed succeeds in proliferating this notion, it will be more useful than if they invented a way to print a fully-functional AKM rifle.

  • To M.B.: If you present irrefutable evidence to a politician that guns cannot be banned, demonstrating for example that an AKM can be made from items purchased at Toys-R-Us, they will simply pass a new law repealing gravity or something. There is no arguing with these people.

    I’m not the least bit surprised that the gun blew up when fired with a more powerful round. Frankly I’m impressed that it held together at all in the first place. I keep asking folks about using a small piece of 3/8″ plumbing pipe as reinforcement in the barrel part and printing the rest around it. This will get you to .38 caliber without too much effort if you don’t mind a “hybrid” weapon. In the U.S. an all plastic gun would be illegal anyway, so put the required metal where it will do you the most good.

    For you purists, start with a thin plastic barrel, and wrap it with fiberglass prepreg tape. 5 minutes in the tanning booth and you’re ready to go.

    And yes, llamas has it exactly right: Test it under sandbags, fired with a long string.

  • llamas

    @ MicroBalrog, who wrote:

    “1. Nobody ever expected it to be very good. If I were to need a gun for self-defense NOW NOW NOW I’d prefer a gun that explodes in my hand 10% of the time to no gun. So would you.”

    But the 3D printed gun does not give you a gun NOW NOW NOW. I checked the files (briefly). It will take about 50 hours to print all the parts required to make this gun, plus wash time, drying and assembly. Sure, you can pack the parts and get several guns in one build – but it’s still going to take you at least 24 hours to get your first finished arm. That’s assuming that everything builds perfectly (by no means assured, even in a really good 3D printer) and that it all goes toegther as it should.

    But this is somehow better than a one-shot weapon that anyone can make, from readily-available household materials, in 30 minutes or less – without needing a special printer, a PC, special materials or the necessary skills to use them? How, exactly? By the time you have the files downloaded and packed, your printer warmed up, files loaded and printing started, I’ve already been to Home Depot and back and I have a working arm in my hand, and in an hour, I’ll have 10 more.

    “2. Everybody knows the technology will get better. It’s what it does.”

    Everybody knows this – how, exactly? I’m an expert in the use of 3D printers, with 15 years direct experience, using all of the major technologies, and I don’t see it at all. At All. But somehow, everyone else knows this because it’s just “what it does”? Nonsense. History is littered with technologies that didn’t get any better because they met their physical limits.

    “3. We all know that you can make a zip gun. The purpose of this recent process is to obviate the need to technical skills to o it – which most people don’t have. Yes I know you can make an automatic rifle in your garage, I read Luty’s book as well. Stop it already.”

    I never talked about making automatic rifles. My discussion has always been at the ‘zip-gun’ level. And I contend that you can build a better, more-reliable ‘zip gun’, on your kitchen table, with a lower level of technical skill than is required to make a comparable arm using a 3D printer, and for far less money. And it won’t blow up in your hand.

    And I further contend that that will continue to be the case for a very long time to come. My basis for saying this is not wishful thinking about how we all know something will get better because it just must, but boring math and years of experience.

    “4. The main reason for which this is done – and why it does not matter how crappy the gun is – is to put into the minds of politicians, voters, and general people all over the world the notion – that was ALWAYS true – that ‘you can’t ban guns, people will make their own anyway’. If DefDistributed succeeds in proliferating this notion, it will be more useful than if they invented a way to print a fully-functional AKM rifle.”

    If this was, in fact, the main reason why this was done – then why waste all that time and money on 3D printing? Why not simply publicize, at little or no cost to anybody, a few really-excellent improvised-firearm designs that anybody can make, for trivial cost and with no special skills? If that was really the goal, why not simply distribute a few million copies of TM31-210, which is in the puiblic domain and which contains a mass of really excellent solutions?

    It’s because the main reason for doing this was a publicity stunt. It has done precisely nothing to ” . . . put into the minds of politicians, voters, and general people all over the world the notion – that was ALWAYS true – that ‘you can’t ban guns, people will make their own anyway’.” It is, as I have said before, Sheldon-and-Leonard geek pr*n. And I say that as King of the Geeks.

    llater,

    llamas

  • MicroBalrog

    >from readily-available household materials

    What ‘readily-available household materials’?

    >History is littered with technologies that didn’t get any >better because they met their physical limits.

    And typically were superceded by other technologies that did the same thing.

    Will there be 3D printers that handle metal in twenty years? I do not know.

    But there will be some kind of home-manufacturing machine in 20 years, and it will be cheaper and more versatile than the 3D printer DefDistributed used.

    >with a lower level of technical skill than is required to >make a comparable arm using a 3D printer

    Printing parts and assembling them into a gun is inherently easier than anything involving, say, drilling or milling parts into shape.

    I can do the former (am a certified armorer), not the latter.

    What are the ‘houisehold’ items you speak of? I bet they’re not actually parts of, say, my household.

    >Why not simply publicize, at little or no cost to anybody, a >few really-excellent improvised-firearm designs that anybody >can make, for trivial cost and with no special skills? If >that was really the goal, why not simply distribute a few >million copies of TM31-210, which is in the puiblic domain >and which contains a mass of really excellent solutions?

    These things are already online.

    If it only makes noise it is justified.

    >It is, as I have said before, Sheldon-and-Leonard geek pr*n.

    You say it like it’s a bad thing.

  • George Weinberg

    Obviously this is a proof of principle and nothing more. Nobody expects these to be used. It’s trivial to make a better gun than one of these using materials you can buy at a hardware store.

  • Laird

    llamas, if you do print out and test (with a long string!) DD’s gun I’d be interested in hearing the results. I hope you do.

  • Don’t need to print out a gun because a.) I already have more than enough guns already and b.) I have lots of friends who have lots of guns who would give/sell/trade to me in a moment, law be damned.

    Now, as for you poor chaps in Blighty and Euroland… sorry for your predicament that you have to even consider plastic, printed firearms. Which is why you should never surrender your guns in the first place.

  • Sorry about the fractured grammar above. I offer a tough final exam on Napoleonic Europe as my excuse.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    There’s a cultural divide to explain that Kim.

    In Britain the popular consciousness runs thus:

    Guns kill people – Killing people is bad – Guns should be banned – Obvious ‘innit?

    Whereas in America it runs:

    Guns kill people – Some people need killing – Ooh that Glock looks nice – Obvious ‘aint it?

    Which is weird because for a long time the right to bear arms was considered an essential freedom of a gentleman in Britain. I hate to say it, but I think the enfranchisement of the working classes and the rise of the Labour party have had a lot to do with it. We went from a system of governance by our supposed social betters, to governance by our supposed moral betters. Empirically one system isn’t necessarily better than the other, but many of the old Tories were “thoroughly decent chaps”™, and nearly all of the boilerplate (or in recent years, champagne) socialists have been aspiring dictators.

  • bloke in spain

    Interesting comment from Llamas,but one can tell it’s coming from an engineer. And, sorry to say this; they do tend to be the people to tell you it’s impossible, right up to the time when you dump the working example on their foot.
    I’d agree with him on one aspect. It’s unlikely anyone is going to successfully reproduce a working example of a current firearm using a 3D printer. For a simple reason. A modern firearm is the result of the technology that produced it. Every part of it, the principle it works on, is the child of that technology. The materials & the machinery that shapes them. It’s advantages & limitations are the advantages & limitations of that technology. It started with bell founders in Florence with the first cannon & progressed to what you see now. An ongoing process of refinement.
    If you want to design using different materials & different technology, you have to go right back & ask the same question the man who made the first gun did. How do hurt that thing over there from here? How do I contain & direct the energy to do this? But they will not be the same answers.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Black powder weapons are so passé, why bother when an mini laser gun or rail gun are much cooler ways to deter unwanted guests.

  • So us engineers then circle the wagons in self defense. We don’t necessarily tell you that anything at all is impossible, with a few notable exceptions, but we will tell you when something is impractical. Which is certainly not the same as saying that it will never become practical.

    Scientists investigate that which already is; engineers create that which has never been.
    A.Einstein

    J.V.: QOTD, cultural studies dept.

    Slightly off topic, but I have seen several references to the English right to bear arms, and since there seem to be a number of well-educated Englishmen here, how about this:
    Earliest reference I’ve heard to the English Right to Arms goes back to some Saxon king in about 800 AD who recognized that if the Danes landed in York, the place would likely be looted, pillaged, and burnt to the ground before he could call up his army and march up there. Hence a royal order that every able man equip himself with a sharp chunk of iron and sturdy outer garments and be ready when trouble arose. Which king, and when?

    Later this was amended to include the phrase “according to his station” and “station” depended on your ancestry, religion or national origin. Today, I guess, the ruling classes get to hold the ergonomic end of the stick, and the rest of us get to look at the naughty end.

  • DOuglas2

    I keep returning to think on the

    easier to buy a gun in a country where it is legal to purchase guns, disassemble it into its component parts, package each part into a small shoebox sized package along with a quantity of similar looking (black metal) screws, bolts, strips and similar detritus labelled ‘automotive parts’ and then ship it back to your home country and reassemble.

    plan.

    I know that a variation on that plan has been used recently in the AusPost/Glock scheme, but that plan involved hacking the procedure for export of weapons in Germany in order to evade Germany’s handgun licensing law.

    I know in the USA, one cannot legally purchase a handgun except within your own state of domicile, and one also cannot sell across state borders. So any alien would be unable to make a legal handgun purchase without previously establishing legal residence.

    Of course there are countries where guns are controlled much less than in the USA, but generally in those places other contraband is also less controlled, so small parcels posted from those places are subjected to special scrutiny.

    So I’m wondering how practical this plan is.

  • Richard Thomas

    Douglas, I think you may be able to exploit the so-called “gun show loophole”. Private sales are fairly unregulated.

  • Vinegar Joe

    Back in 2004, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu were shot by an assassin using a homemade pistol and homemade ammunition.

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2004/09/11/2003202433
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3-19_shooting_incident

  • Richard Thomas

    Not that I would condone doing anything illegal, of course.

  • Horst Brun

    Now, as for you poor chaps in Blighty and Euroland… sorry for your predicament that you have to even consider plastic, printed firearms. Which is why you should never surrender your guns in the first place.

    Patriot Act, relentless expansion of eminent domain, TSA, NarusInsight, RICO, the impending de-facto nationalisation of the healthcare system, etc etc etc etc. Yeah, your guns have really helped hold back the tides of tyranny in the USA. Shot any of the people involved with any of those things? No, didn’t think so.

  • jerry

    Just a couple of minor observations –

    ‘I know in the USA, one cannot legally purchase a handgun except within your own state of domicile, and one also cannot sell across state borders.’
    Simply not true.
    By using Federal Firearms License ( FFL’s ) and paying small fees at both the sending and receiving locations, one can quite legally and actually easily sell or purchase handguns across state line. Long guns are even easier !!!
    I’m not being picky, simply a bit more precise. This is similar to the oft heard ‘statement’ from the ‘news’ in the United States-
    ‘fully automatic guns are illegal’
    No, they are not, at least not in most places / states. You can own and fire them provided you go through the ‘process’.

    and

    ‘2. Everybody knows the technology will get better. It’s what it does.’

    Not for everything.
    I give you –

    solar cells !
    Yep, just one more breakthrough and they will supply most if not all of our electrical needs !!!
    Been hearing that one or some variation of it for 40+ years !!!

    ‘hang’ on the wall television is ‘just around the corner !!
    Read sometime in the mid 60’s

    ‘In 20 years we’ll all be driving electric cars because the oil will have run out !!
    Yeah, right. They still nothing more than glorified golf carts !!

    Llamas is right. Sometimes physics gets in the way regardless what is promised by politicians, or zealous ‘inventors’ !!

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Jerry, regarding solar cells, there have been two promising developments. Here in Sydney, a University has discovered a way to utilise common silicon- previously it had to be refined and refined, but the costs should now plummet.
    Secondly, some British team has discovered a glass that lets through ordinary light, but converts infra-red into electricity! Instead of unsightly tiles on roofs, power and light can both come from sightly windows.

  • Gareth

    The printed gun doesn’t appear to differ much from a flare gun.

  • bloke in spain

    @ Jerry
    Depends where you set your benchmarks.
    I know people here who “supply most if not all of (their) electrical needs” from solar. From necessity. They’re not grid connected. The cost of doing so is part of the viability calculation of living in that location. As solar PV gets cheaper, viable locations increase.
    Battery powered vehicles have advantages for certain applications. Hell, we had milk floats* for long enough. As battery technology improves the applications widen.

    A plastic firearm capable of automatic fire & lethality out to a mile is likely not in the physics. A plastic handgun effective at 50ft may well be. Which would compare favourably with a conventional firearm, bearing in mind it’s no different from the effective range of a conventional handgun used in a real life situation. Shooting people is not the same as shooting targets on a range.

    *Milk home delivery vehicles used in some UK cities.

  • llamas

    Oh, those rotten engineers, telling you something is impossible and spoiling your dreams with their boring math and actual data.

    For the record, I never said this was impossible. No engineer will ever tell you that. What I said was that it was a) technically-impractical b) perhaps the least-effective overall solution to the problem it claims to address and c) most-likely a publicity stunt.

    If you want to know all about the 689 different solutions that are already widely available that are superior to this approach, along a broad spectrum of cost, function and difficulty, then Google awaits you. I’m not going to descibe detailed solutions for you. Suffice it to say that I think many people will have an entirely-different view of the effectiveness of this solution when they fully-explore all the different ways that others have already found to solve this challenge.

    I looked at the files some more and I’m not going to be building one of these. The time and material far exceeds what I am willing to steal from my employer. But I’m sure that plenty of other people are going to be doing this, so we will see, what we will see.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Via Agammamon, one of Tim Worstall’s commenters, I found this interesting blog called “Impro Guns”:

    http://improguns.blogspot.co.uk/

    As Agammamon says, the blog consists of “a bunch of pictures of “improvised” guns. I use the quotes because some of those guns are commercial quality-could-be-sold-in-stores types.

    Heck one picture is of a haul from an Irish “factory” that had been making guns for loyalists for 20 years (according to the caption anyway).”

  • Laird

    I suppose that you’re all aware that our State Department has already moved to shut down Defense Distributed’s website in a vain effort to stop the spread of that “evil” file. Of course, it’s too late: I understand that it has already been downloaded several hundred thousand times, and is available all over the place (thank you Kim Dotcom!). You can’t stop the signal.

  • So all you law-abiding foreigners who have downloaded a copy of the files for the Liberator, please contact the U.S.Department of state with an e-mail and attach a copy of the file you downloaded so they know you’re trying to give it back.

    http://contact-us.state.gov/app/ask/session/L3RpbWUvMTM2ODIyMTkxNS9zaWQvalBVVEZTcGw=

    I’m sure they’ll be grateful.

  • The point being made by all this gun printing business is that there is no way to keep weapons out of the hands of a determined populous, and therefore, gun laws punish the law-abiding. Llamas’ statements that there are innumerable more practical firearm options is irrelevant to the point, though technically correct.

    Creating a plastic gun design that can survive a single shot is a baby step. Should someone come along who figures out a way to cheaply print with bronze (for instance), that will radically change the whole situation, and the plastic design baby step becomes a giant leap.

    Is this a stunt? You bet it is. And a most effective one.

  • bloke in spain

    @llamas
    I’d take you more seriously if you didn’t keep ducking answering my query about using a 3d model for the lost wax casting process. Either you know what you’re talking about & know the properties of the plastic or you’re stringing us along. I certainly know enough about alloying & casting to get from the mould to the finished product stage. That’s several years experience as a goldsmith. Doing it, not writing about it.

  • bloke in spain

    For the benefit of those who haven’t the vaguest what I’m asking:
    Some plastics will remelt satisfactorily after cooling & be able to be cleared from a mould. Others don’t. If it’s anything like plastics I’ve had to deal with it will depend on the molecular bonding that occurs as the plastic solidifies & at what temperature those bonds can be broken. It’s not really information that can be gleaned from data sheets, because there’s no reason to do this in normal manufacturing processes. But someone who works with the stuff should know. The possible manufacturing process I’m envisaging would have a lot more useful applications than making illicit firearms & no, I shouldn’t think it’s patentable. Just implicit in the materials.
    Or maybe I’m reinventing the wheel. But it’s not a technique I’ve ever heard of.

  • bloke in spain

    OK. Got fed up with waiting for Llamas’s invaluable input so went back & did some serious lateral thinking & don’t need it.
    If there is someone who knows how to design firearms from first principles, you will need;
    Ammunition (any)
    1 3D printer
    Some easily obtained materials & simple household tools
    A level of tech familiar to the average Minoan

    This will produce not an ‘improvised weapon’ but anything from a serviceable pistol to a fully automatic weapon. The only design constraints are the dimensional accuracy of the 3D fabrication process & the maximum size of the items can be fabricated.
    My e-mail address is available via the site management.