3D Printed Guns, Laws And Regulations, And Philosophical Discussions On The Nature Of Printed Objects

For as long as they’ve been banded about, 3D printers were regarded as the path to a new economy, a method of distributed manufacturing, and a revolution for the current consumer culture. With every revolution, a few people need to get angry and the guys at Defense Distributed are doing their part to make that happen. They’re designing a handgun able to be printed on a hobbyist-level 3D printer

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a 3D printable weapon; this 3D printed AR-15 lower receiver is the only part of an AR-15 that contains the ID markings and serial number. Legally, the AR lower is the gun, and requires a background check to purchase (with the footnote that this varies from state to state and country to country – long story short, the BATFE probably isn’t happy about a 3D printed AR lower). The one drawback of a 3D printed AR-15 lower is that every other part of the gun must be purchased elsewhere. This is where Defense Distributed comes in: they propose designing a gun that is 100% printable on a hobbist-level 3D printer such as a RepRap or Makerbot.

Right now, Defense Distributed is looking for funding to produce two gun designs. The first design, WikiWep A will serve as a research build, allowing Defense Distributed to answer a few questions on what can be built with a RepRap. WikiWep B will have moving parts for the firing action and very nearly all the parts will be printable on a RepRap or Makerbot.

In the video Defense Distributed put up for their now cancelled IndieGoGo campaign (available after the break), the guys talk about the distribution of a CAD file of completely 3D printable weapon being a threshold of a new economy where laws and regulations cease to apply. We’re not sure we agree with that statement; after all, anyone with some metal forming tools can build an excellent weapon to acquire another weapon, but we’re interested in seeing what governments and regulators will make of Defense Distributed’s project.

237 thoughts on “3D Printed Guns, Laws And Regulations, And Philosophical Discussions On The Nature Of Printed Objects

  1. After 3D-printers will be banned because of the ability to print parts instead of having to buy them from corporations, we will have to print guns to shoot those who will come to take away our printers.

    There is a big potential in the printers. Wax can be used for printing parts for lost-wax casting, jigs can be printed for metalworking (e.g. rifling). Very hard parts can be printed from ceramic precursor and then fired into a sintered ceramic. Then there is the selective laser sintering, and possibly 3d-printing from metal using wire and a tiny plasma torch, essentially welding on layers of metal. (Which can be potentially used for printing metal-ceramic composites, or metal-metal composites – e.g. alternating layers of very hard and very tough materials.)

    If your tools can’t make something, use them for making tools that can.

    1. “After 3D-printers will be banned because of the ability to print parts instead of having to buy them from corporations, we will have to print guns to shoot those who will come to take away our printers.”

      Watch a “tax” appear on 3d printers, parts and plastic spools long before that to help the “poor corporations”

      1. Let them take our 3D printers. We’ll be forced to re-arm the old-fashioned way: by using Word and Photoshop to forge Federal Firearms Licenses with Eric Holder’s handwriting.

  2. What do you folks think the real gun manufacturers do to make their parts. Cast spells?

    Forget #D printers, google AR15 CNC lower receiver and see how many hobbyist out there are making their own out of metal, not plastic. Something that is perfectly legal.

    The AR15 lower receiver design is 40-ish years old. I have my own milling machine and I could make one out of a $5 block of aluminum WITHOUT computer assistance. With CNC, a $700 upgrade to my Sherline, I could crank them out like cookies.

    Or if I wanted to just be lazy. Send them to a CAD machine shop in China (or USA) and they’ll grind it out and mail it to me. You think they are going to look at this machined part any closer than they do the other 100 per week they ship out.

    I work for a hard drive company, the aluminum tray of a hard drive is about the same size, weight, and more complex than the lower receiver of an AR15. We send those out of country to fab and the mail them back UPS. I have no doubt if the file our CAD techs sent them was an AR15 lower receiver that they would grind it out and ship it back the same exact way.

    So the notion some hobbyist level CAD guy can do anything that isn’t already being done 1000’s of time per years is silly. Ever one of those MILLIONs of guns lower receivers was ground out on a CNC milling machine for a fraction of what they sell them for.

    If you want one, download the CAD files, send them to a China fab house for a quote, pay them, and in a few weeks you can have a real one, made out of metal, not plastic goo, No equipment of your own required. The are 100’s of manufacturers of AR15 lowers doing exactly that, some even add zombie logos.

    It’s almost that easy today and getting easier every day. Pass as many stupid laws as you like, you can’t stop this unless you plan the inspect every brown box on planet earth.

    Why is this nonsense even a topic? If you can CAD it, or download it, you can have it made out of any material you desire. And in the world of CAD, these things are pretty simple hunks of metal.

  3. Didn’t read all the comments, too many…
    My opinion on this is simply: “It can be made with anything, and a 3d printer is just a new way to do it”. I can go to Home Depot and make barrels and explosives, I can go to hobby lobby and make remote detonators, ect ect. There is technically not anything stopping a guy with a dremel and block of aluminum either other than time it’s self. The fact that they are automating it just means they are smarter than other people. Also keep in mind that you could make a cast and die from the printed piece and then what? Do you ban aluminum? or sand? or heat? I think 3d printers are safe, along with dremels and other tools as they simply are. Also keep in mind all the polymer pistols that could be printed, not just the AR-15. I think there is a lot of attention to this because this is a “to specs” part. Well it IS just ONE part. The trigger assembly, barrel, gas tube ect, make it an extremely HUGE waste of time to make all these pieces by hand OR machine. Yes you can buy them and drop them in, and yes there ARE receipts that go on file for years in this day and age. The fact that the govt declared that only the lower is “the weapon” was probably a bad idea. Most ballistics are pulled from rifling, the upper, anyways so that should have been called “the weapon” in my opinion. What all this boils down to is far too much gun control. We don’t have knife control, or rope control, or other things of that possible devious nature, so why gun control? If you argue that guns “make it too easy to kill”, I would have to argue that the sounds of gun fire negate that for the most part. It’s easier to execute, but harder to get away free. With perfect gun control (no guns other than military and police owned) knives would be used, slingshots, bows, ect. I think the govt had a good idea on paper, track all the guns, but it’s poorly executed because if I swap barrels and firing pins (non tracked parts) then no evidence could be traced back to me from the fired casing or bullet. Another tidbit to keep in mind, with the very same lower, you can attach uppers that fire all calibers of bullets, up to .50 cal. Again, way to many pieces to be tracked by the govt.

  4. I can’t believe how sick this is.

    The most casual analysis of the facts around gun crime clearly shows that Americas liberal gun laws cause many many needless deaths.

    How or why you choose to publicise a project like this on Hackaday is beyond me. I am stunned at your stupidity in blogging this. Projects like this should be denied the oxygen of publicity by intelligent journalists.

    1. Richard, I think you suffer from three problems:
      1) You don’t know your history.
      2) You’ve swallowed the government propaganda.
      3) You may be the sick one, suffering from hoplophobia – an irrational fear of a tool.

      The “most casual” analysis of the facts around “gun crime” indicate that more than a million lives are saved every year by guns. When a policeman or when a concealed-carry permit holder draws their firearm to defend themselves, or a homeowner saves his family. Many of these incidents are recorded, but many are not. The news media doesn’t cover them because they aren’t sexy if the bad guy runs away and nobody gets hurt. See gunssavelives dot net.

      The “most casual” analysis of the facts around “gun crime” indicates that guns are incredibly SAFE when compared to other common items. Say, cars.

      Cars kill about 40,000 people a year in the USA, guns kill 30,000 a year (Nearly 2/3 are suicides that aren’t going to be stopped by taking guns away). “OhhhOhh, but guns are only made for one thing; killing people!” you say. THAT’S RIGHT! (Not really, but let’s stick to the propaganda for a moment.) And cars are designed to SAVE people. So, there are more than TWICE as many guns (300 million) as there are cars in the US, and they are designed to kill people, yet CARS kill 10,000 MORE people a year than guns! We won’t even get into the fact that most “gun crime” is committed with guns that are possessed illegally. Or how delusional it is to think that tougher laws will suddenly make these criminals decide to obey the laws they are already breaking. (I’m rolling my eyes…)

      If you don’t have a powerful personal defense tool at-hand and someone attacks you, what are you going to do? Call the police? Of course! But you know the average response time is more than five minutes, right? LONGER in cities and rural areas. How long can you hold out with your bare hands against that guy beating you with a bat? The saying is “When seconds count, the police are minutes away.” for a reason. I hope you are never in a situation where someone is threatening you with deadly force. If you ever are, you can die righteous in your belief it’s wrong to use deadly force to defend yourself against deadly force.

      I haven’t even touched on the fact that this country was founded by men (and some women) with guns willing to defend their rights. It was founded when the government came to take their guns away, and they said “NO!” to tyranny. (April 18, 1775, btw.)

      Good thing they did. Are you aware that over 260 million people were murdered by their own governments in the 20th century? In all cases they were first disarmed for “their own safety”, and then systematically murdered. That’s the history you should learn. Governments love it when you regurgitate their propaganda about how “guns are bad”. Lets hope you never have to experience democide at the hands of your government. So long as there are Americans willing to exercise their Second Amendment rights, you won’t. And you will be able to exercise your First Amendment right to say how “sick” they are for defending your rights.

      1. See the problem is that wrapping up your argument in an interpretation of the 2nd amendment right takes it beyond and objective argument. The whole “you can’t take my anti-personnel assault weapon because it’s my right” rhetoric drowns out any rational thought or discussion on the subject.

        Statistics from a gun lobbying group won’t cut it either because it’s just so much BS wrapped in a “could have, would have scenario” like the statement “more than a million lives are saved every year by guns. When a policeman or when a concealed-carry permit holder draws their firearm to defend themselves”. You have no proof of that, it’s just more conjecture to make it sound like there’s an argument that guns save lives…

        But back to the main point and that is gun ownership by the general public as a right isn’t a good thing. It’s not and that is because with rights comes responsibility especially when it comes to the kinds of weapons that are available today. If you have the right to possess a weapon you should have the responsibility to go through the same training as servicemen do in the armed forces. You should know the weapon inside and out and know when it’s safe to handle without blowing your nuts off like some of the idiots we read about almost daily. Furthermore, you should have to have a medical/mental checkup to make sure you aren’t going to shoot your neighbor, son, parent, etc… because they pissed you off. That seems to happen regularly as well.

        Now as far as facts go, the US has the #1 highest rate of gun ownership (something ridiculous like 88% or so) And to top that off the US is ranked in the #4 position for gun homicides, right up there with South Africa, Columbia and Thailand. If gun ownership was so darn good for saving lives, you’d think it would be somewhere closer to the bottom of those statistics right?

      2. @Canadian Eh:

        Yes, the US is #1 in gun ownership. The US is also #1 in gun homicides. Also note that places with a lot of swimmers tend to have a lot of shark attacks.

        Also worth noting that the US has less than 1/4 the rate of violent crime that the UK(where guns are pretty much completely illegal and they had to make an EXCEPTION for the Olympic games) has, firearm-based homicides in the US are not proportionately higher than firearm-based homicides in the UK(that is, while the US has more than 10x as many guns as the UK, we have fewer than 10x as many firearm-based homicides) and “homicide” is a fairly broad term that includes both murder of an innocent victim and lawfully killing a home invader in self-defense or defense of another.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States (last section)
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_Kingdom (last section)

        Further, it only takes a quick look at two maps of the US to see that locales with high gun ownership and permissive gun laws also tend to have significantly lower crime rates. There is simply no link between gun ownership and violent crime. Anybody who tells you otherwise is either lying to you or avoiding the facts.

      3. The problem with your violent crime statistics is largely what is reported as violent crime in the UK and what is reported as violent crime in the USA are different things. For instance in USA only aggravated assault is considered a violent crime, not lesser assaults, in the UK all assaults are considered violent crime.

        Also as regards the “more swimmers get bitten by sharks” comment, isn’t that the whole point of what’s being said here. Take the guns away there will be less gun crime.

      4. @Mental2K

        Less GUN crime, yes, but more CRIME overall. If you look at the .pdf I linked, they did a more thorough research job than Wikipedia, and the base summary is that while you’re more likely to be killed with a gun(or commit suicide with a gun) specifically in the US, you are more likely to be killed OVERALL(or commit suicide overall) outside the US.

    2. “Liberal gun laws cause many needless deaths.”

      Technically true. The Liberal mindset which seeks to ban the individual right to self-defense is a leading cause in needless death.

  5. It is easy to express negative emotion over technology like this, but we must consider that the creation of these weapons on such printers is inevitable, so it is to great service that such technology is being publicized for lawful use before criminals can conceal and have this underground technology to themselves.

  6. OK.. dunno if this has been mentioned yet… but if you want a good argument against banning weapons… one word.


    And they HAVE machine guns… and they’re still fighting tanks and planes.

    1. Yes, the United States is just like Syria. I imagine people get confused between the two all the time.

      You can’t create simple arguments for US law based on very complex places like Syria or for that matter any other 3rd world country. If you want to make arguments for US policy, you need to look at other countries with the same or similar socioeconomic conditions. Te downside is that you have to really think about it and it might undermine your argument with facts and reason.

      By the way, I’m not against the idea of gun ownership. In Canada, I can own a gun if I want and I used to shoot target practice with a rifle, it was cool. What I am against is the idea that you must have guns and lots of them because if you don’t, you’re going to get all shot up. All that does is frighten people and put more money in the pockets of weapon manufacturers who perpetuate the myth.

  7. okay so what is the print volume and extrusion layer precision needed to 3d print an ar15 lower? I was just looking at repraps and I am not sure the standard 8x10x8 inch print volume and .35mm extrusion head size would work???

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