Building A Sheet Metal Pistol

Floating around the Internet are plans for a semi-automatic pistol constructed out of sheet metal. Like so many plans for 3D printed guns, it appears no one has actually built one of these pistols. It exists only as a technological construct, with diagrams you can photocopy, trace onto a few bits of metal, and presumably assemble into a gun. The only proof these parts can be turned into a gun-shaped object are a few random blog posts from two years ago showing a very ugly pistol spray painted matte black.

[Clinton Westwood] decided to take up the challenge of turning these plans into a real, working gun. He’s documented his efforts on YouTube and put a bunch of pictures up of the entire build process. The gun doesn’t work quite yet, but it almost does, and he’s doing this entirely in a garage shop, with tools anyone can pick up from Home Depot.

Most of the construction of this gun is simple enough – it’s just sheet metal, after all. The magazine was constructed by tracing the pattern onto a piece of metal, wrapping it around a mandrel, and welding it together. The side plates of the gun, again, were created with a jigsaw. Rifling the barrel – the thing that makes this gun both accurate and legal – required the construction of a few interesting tools. The rifling tool is just a piece of round bar that fits through the barrel. A small piece of a hacksaw blade was cut to fit inside this round bar, and the barrel was cut very slowly with a shop-built tool.

The finished result is something that looks like it came from the finest post-apocalyptic craftsman. A gun that looks cool is useless if it doesn’t work, and here the DIY pistol falls short. The spent casings don’t eject. It’s still a step up from the first build of this gun that was only rumored to fire blanks.

Recently, the world of gunsmithing has been inundated with 3D printed pistols that don’t work, and 3D printed guns that do work, but are somehow 200 years behind the state of the art. We’re happy to see some people are still building things with their hands, and hope [Clinton] can eventually get this gun to work.

118 thoughts on “Building A Sheet Metal Pistol

  1. It’s beautiful… Real work of art.

    In many ways I see this as a more significant tribute to the 2nd Amendment than Cody Wilson’s efforts revolving around AR-15 lowers and Zip guns.

    It’s priceless as far as I’m concerned so I won’t insult the creator with a hypothetical value.

    Once he resolves the failure to eject/failure to feed issues, he should consider an Indiegogo campaign to Waterjet kits, both with & w/o pre-rifled barrels. I would buy an 80% under those circumstances, and possible pay an FFL to transfer a completed firearm.

    1. I think we can do with one less gun in the world. After all we have enough to wipe out all humanity. I have nothing against guns. Everyone should be able to arm themselves if they are responsible. But making a gun that anyone could build isn’t a good idea. The next thing you would see is some creep that followed those you tube videos and made the gun work enough to harm people for absolutely no reason. That’s scary to me. I’m not personally afraid but I have a wife and kids and even if I was there I couldn’t say for sure things would go my way.

      1. Actually if somebody meant to use a gun for evil purposes he’s better off with such a gun as this home-made zippy gun compared to something made in an actual gun factory because unless the builder really knows what he is doing, chances are it’ll jam on the first shot. Besides which, I’ve met plenty of people who love projects like this, they are all DIY hands-on types that enjoy machining, welding, painting, and just creating something from a bunch of metal! Somebody with the self-discipline and skill required to actually build something like this, is in general NOT doing it for any nefarious reason but for the simple joy of the building. And these are the very last sorts of people that would build this and simply run amok, as you seem to fear so much, since they are probably already on to their next project.

    1. I don’t see any reason why that would be a potential problem. The barrel and other critical components are oversized for the pressures present and the pistol design also avoid the revolver problem (leakage of hot high pressure gasses).

      1. Even if the design is sound, though, there’s no guarantee the gun is. It’s easy to forget stuff while building something like this.

        I’d probably fire the first rounds remotely, with a string, but if those work I’d probably trust it.

  2. Not an expert but I don’t think just having rifling makes it legal. Just the fact that it was purpose built as a gun and not re purposed from other parts makes it a legal firearm. But laws in the US vary from state to state on this.

    1. A non-rifled barrel would class it as a shotgun, and IIRC with a barrel that short (under 18-18.5 inches) it’s considered either a DD (Destructive Device) or an AOW (Any Other Weapon) and thus to own would likely require a $200 ATF tax stamp (IIRC, IANAL, ETC)

      1. With a smooth bore this firearm would be classified as an AOW, If it had a stock it would a SBS(short barreled shotgun), it would not be a DD unless the bore was larger than .50″ and wasn’t a 12 guage smooth-bore(the 12 gauge DD exemption is a real grey area subject to change at any given time for any reason).

    1. It doesn’t at least not in the USA. there is no legal requirement for rifling. Unless his country has some really bizzare laws.

      In the USA you can build ANY gun legally from scratch, You will not be able to sell or trade the weapon, legally with out filing an ATF form 1 (5320.1) a serial number and your name and address will have to be stamped or engraved on the side of the receiver.

      1. “In the USA you can build ANY gun legally from scratch”

        This is untrue – you can’t built a machine gun unless you’re a manufacturer. You similarly can’t build anything that requires a tax stamp without obtaining that tax stamp.

      2. You are also allowed to sell or trade without putting the makers information on the firearm obviously the atf prefer you provide this information. You are however prohibited from making a firearm with the intent if selling it. Doing that requires a manufactures license.

        Form 1 is only required for items regulated under NFA 1934 , ie suppressors and SBRs

        State laws vary.

        1. You’re not going to pull a fast one on uncle Sam. You aren’t that clever. That goes for most people, but you in particular.

          You cannot manufacture a firearm for the purposes of sale without a license. You can’t sell it as “scrap”, you can’t charge for labor., you can’t charge for materials, you can ‘t charge for “expertise”.

          You cannot manufacture a firearm with the intent to sell it without a manufacturers license.

          1. No- You have “made” a gun, which is allowed by the GCA. Because, in this case the receiver of that firearm is classified as a gun by the GCA and BATFE.
            You are only considered a manufacturer by Federal law if you are licensed as a manufacturer, or if you are not licensed and are selling the guns you are making (which is illegal) per GCA Section 921(a)(10).

        1. Tell that to the people at Ruby Ridge and Waco…

          “Well… we had to go to Waco because we heard reports that there was child molestation goin’ on…”

          “Oh. Really? Then why aren’t there flame-throwing Bradley tanks knocking down the doors of Catholic churches?

          -Bill Hicks

        2. No bullshit. If its a breach loader with riffled barrel shorter than 18 inches you will need to register it as a short barreled rifle. That includes fingerprinting, background check, local law enforcement signature, and a $200 tax.

  3. If he is in the US (and not the wrong State) he can make it and use it as long as no one else handles it or has it in their possession, otherwise he needs to get it numbered – and IIRC, must apply for the number before construction.Someone here will know for sure. (Is it cheating to use a Walther PPK mag?)

      1. Somewhere buried in either 27 CFR 478 or 18 USC 932 it does state that you do need to have the ‘firearm’ serialized prior to transferring it to another party.

        IANAL, so I have not the ability to read through all the gobbly-gook and say for sure. I do know that I have read several posts on this and they were commented on by lawyers. It would not be a good thing to try.

        1. Looks like the marking of non-NFA firearms is only required by Licensed Manufactures or Importers when they manufacture or import a firearm. That said the line between regular-joe and illegal unlicensed manufacture gets really blurry really fast when you start transferring your home made firearms to someone else, outside of a true free and clear gift or inheritance it may be hard to defend yourself as not being “in the business of manufacturing firearms”.

          1. My info is from the recommendations of the 80% receiver crowd who have researched very thoroughly. They send in the form for the serialization and do not start a project until they have the numbered form back in their hands – months usually. That is, if they plan to ever transfer. If not, don’t bother, but you are leaving a time bomb for your estate.

            Of course they always get the papers back first and a $200 stamp if they are making a suppressor. You can’t even repair a suppressor without doing the papers again.

            50,000 lbs per square inch is a lot. What is this thing made of?

          2. Some states require serial numbers on all guns, so beware.
            If you get pulled over with a gun in your trunk with no markings on it- guess what happens to you? You sit in jail while you pay a lawyer to figure out how to get you out.
            State and Federal laws don’t always agree with each other.

    1. Other people can handle it providing the owner/creator is present. I have fired several AR’s that have been made with 80% lowers that I did not do the work on. It is sort of in the same stream that I am allowed to let other people fire one of my guns that have been equipped with a suppressor. They are allowed to do that because I am there and I have the tax stamp for them.

      1. In Washington State and a number of others, thanks to recent efforts by Bloomberg, by the letter of the law you can not let someone else have possession of your firearm without doing a transfer. That includes letting them hold it or use it under supervision. The AG assured everyone they will never prosecute to the letter. :-0

  4. Almost all jurisdictions in the US allow one to build a firearm that you can legally possess. Not sure about California. Anyway, there’s restrictions on selling and transferring. The barrel must be rifled to take it out of the realm of zip guns. This is a completely legal build where I reside.

  5. Rifling the barrel makes this legal because that is what the ATF defines as legal. If it were smooth bore it would be closer to a shotgun and not legal. For pistols, the basics are, it has to be rifled, not full auto, and not have a stock.

  6. This is awesome. Sure, even a modest CNC mill can mill an AR lower from a block of aluminum today and 3D printed guns are improving. While it looks crude, what makes this great is that it can be built with hardware store tools.

    Both the AK and the AR are truly great firearm designs. However, Stoner’s AR design relies on the availability of high-tech manufacturing machines that can produce parts with very close tolerances. Kalashnikov’s design is at the other end of the spectrum – it was designed to be built using extremely crude tooling. In some parts of the middle east, people literally build AK’s with not much more than a hydraulic press, a file, and a drill press (barrels are the exception here, but even a crude lathe can make a functional rifled barrel).

    The fact that there is maker activity at both ends of the spectrum is fantastic. Like encryption, no government can snuff out hobyist-built firearms. That’s as it should be; firearms ensure freedom.

    1. Also, this reminds me of the FP-45 Liberator. It was a single shot sheet metal pistol designed in the US during WW-II. GM’s Guide Division made them at a cost of $2.10 each. The pistol, along with 10 rounds of 45 ACP, was to be distributed to the resistance in Europe as an insurgency weapon. I believe that around 500,000 Liberators were made, but only a small fraction of that actually made it to Europe.

      1. “…an effective range of 1-4 yds?!” I’m sorry, a pistol like that (t he FP-45) is less than useless as an effective weapon especially in the hands of poor sod of an irregular in a resistance movement. Mind you I doubt rifled bore notwithstanding the pistol in the OP is much better. These sorts of things IMO are worse than no weapon at all because they give a false sense of one’s capabilities that the device cannot guarantee.

        1. Not sure it’s useless at all. The point of the liberator was to kill an unsuspecting armed German soldier, and liberate his weapon. It’s not a weapon to be used against someone who knows you’re armed, but against someone who either doesn’t know you’re there, or who thinks you’re unarmed and asking for directions etc. A short range is fine for that.

          1. To get a weapon of this sort to kill first time with a single shot would take far more skill than an irregular is likely to possess even if the situation wasn’t as high stress as what your scenario suggests. Given the history of these, it would seem that my view was shared by those professional soldiers like Eisenhower, Stilwell and MacArthur as they did not distribute these pistols when they were made available to them to do so.

          2. You may have more expertise than me, but if zip guns kill people, then I’d assume liberators would too. If 2-3 people with them accosted a lone soldier I’d expect that might improve the odds? Though I agree, it’s not a guaranteed kill, but gives you a better chance than a knife – particularly if you’ve also got a knife.

          3. Well consider the fact that this “Liberator” did not seem to have been conceived by anyone with any combat experience and was promptly buried by those that did and was not deployed. That should tell you everything you need to know about the weapon and the program.

          4. They were tried in Burma/Laos too. A family friend witnessed British officers un-crating a bunch and showing them to a Hmong village. The were meant for sneak attacks at point blank range. The head guy promptly shot the fellow next to him by accident. The Brits packed them back up and left.

        2. Ever hear of the 3, 3, and 3 rule? Most cases for self defense happen over the course of 3 seconds at 3 yards with only 3 shots being fired. 1-4 yards is well within range. My 1911 with a 3″ barrel only has an effective accuracy range of about 7 yards, after that it is not very accurate due to the small length of the barrel.

          1. These Liberator pistols were not conceived as self defense weapons, but rater to arm resistance fighters. Nevertheless to make a single shot effective in any sort of firefight, that one shot has to count, and that is not easy, which is why firearms designed for close in fighting are multi round.

        3. From Wikipedia:
          “The Liberator was a crude and clumsy weapon, never intended for front line service. It was originally intended as an insurgency weapon to be mass dropped behind enemy lines to resistance fighters in occupied territory. A resistance fighter was to recover the gun, sneak up on an Axis occupier, kill or incapacitate him, and retrieve his weapons.”
          It was probably good enough for that, however, few were distributed and there are no confirmed cases of their use, so I doubt anyone had a false sense of superiority from them.

          1. If your assailant is armed and you do not kill or utterly incapacitate him with your first shot, you won’t likely have time to explain that you are no longer a threat because your weapon had only one round before he kills you. If you are going to carry for self-defence, you need a pistol that fires several rounds – they are not that expensive. You also need to keep the weapon serviced, and go to the range regularly. Yes it’s a neat home build, but that is all this firearm is, and nothing else. It would be foolish to consider it anything more.

    2. During WWII the resistance build stenguns in bicycle shops and sheds with not much more than hand tools. that’s why it is so silly to hear all the fuss about semi functional 3dprinted guns, there is far easier ways to build a gun that actually works

  7. like all good hacks not sure I see the point but neat none the less!

    In before 200+ comments arguing about legal stuff that only applies to certain regions in one country but written like everyone lives in that country.

    1. Because it’s fun, one learns techniques not used otherwise (rifling) etc.? Learning to shoot well is fun too!

      But I agree the comments are irritating and IMHO 95% irrelevant for the topic.

      1. Maybe you should deal with the fact that many of the readers are from outside the edge of the world called USA. Who knows, might even be over 50% aka most. You comment is not helpful at all.

        I personally don’t mind regional talk about laws conserning the matter at hand. It is good to know, if there are legal barriers on building stuff. It’s should be clear from the comments where the laws apply though.

  8. The rifling is legally necessary to keep it simple, as a firearm with a smoothbore, no stock and over-all length of less than 26″ is classified as an AOW(Any Other Weapon) per Firearms Act portion of the the Gun Control Act of 1968, the legal manufacture of an AOW is subject to a $200 Tax and a lengthy background check. However a firearm with a rifled bore and no stock is simply a pistol and can be manufactured for non-commercial purposes by any non-prohibited person.

  9. Is it me or does the casing look quite bulged? Apart from damaging the casings (can’t be reloaded), it also indicates that the main spring is waaaay too weak…

    Also since I’m not american, does Home Depot sell reamers for machining??? (because I think they don’t :P)

    1. I haven’t watched the videos, and the only pictures I saw showing spent cases showed only a little below the extraction groove, which did not appear bulged, but that’s hardly surprising. Can’t tell if the cases are bulged ahead of the case head.

      But assuming one does have a blowback pistol like this that’s bulging or bursting cases, the spring has almost no effect — you’d have the spring far too heavy to rack the slide by hand before you slowed the slide enough to matter. The inertia of the slide is what matters, and the fix is to add more mass, either by adding more steel, or by drilling holes in steel and filling them with a heavier metal such as lead.

  10. A Clinton MAKING a gun! (Rather than working to ban them.)

    I fired a .45 that had about the same shape and fit in hand as this gun, It was a tip-open barrel. It was very rough to shoot. It hurt my hand for two days…

    A tip-open gun wouldn’t need a magazine, but would be limited to one round. Or two, if it has two barrels. Might be easier to make one than a gun that needs a slide.

    1. It’s because the NFA is very thin ice to walk on. Something simple like putting a foregrip on a pistol (without registering and paying the tax) can get your jailtime. It’s important to know everything before building a gun.

      Fortunately the comments are pretty civilized this time. Comments on gun articles on HaD are usually a mess.

      1. There are quite a few designs that can be made with sheet metal. My first AK was something I made from pre-cut flat sheet metal, and bent the receiver from that. There are AK kits you can buy. You fold the receiver, a few small welds, and add your parts kit to it.
        I’ve also seen H&K G3, M-10, M-11, and Uzi kits.

    1. You are more than welcome to move to a fanciful settlement with zero weapons of any kind. If you are feeling truly zealous, you can rent a room in just such a place, hopefully you like your walls padded for your safety. Fun fact, even there, deprived of every advantage they can be deprived of short of life itself, people build weapons. This isn’t a flaw in the human race, it is a defining feature. We are the great tool makers of planet earth, and weapons have always been first on our list of tools.

      P.S. Brian et al, the report button sits where I expect to find the reply button, it’s bloody annoying, any chance of getting a “ohh shit wrong button” button?

  11. Sitting in the UK reading this is quite interesting. See we are not allowed such guns (in case you were not aware).
    What I always find interesting about these gun threads is that no one seems to be concerned with the manufacture of ammunition from scratch.
    Building a gun isn’t too tricky.
    If you want to curtail guns, stop the ready supply of ammo.
    One gun fires lots of ammo. You need a production line to make your own ammo.
    And I mean from scratch, no pre made casings, no primer pins, nothing but sheet metal and household chemicals.

    1. >”If you want to curtail guns, stop the ready supply of ammo.”
      Well, in the U.S. the Government does this by tying up the production lines. Over the past few years, there have been dribs and drabs of articles where one agency or another is requesting ginormous lumps of ammo
      –You can buy a few boxes here and there, but the price has steeply increased. And everyone was complaining about the lack of primers for those who reload. I don’t know if that has slacked off or not.
      For everyone that claims that a sheet metal gun is/was/should be legal: I can’t argue the logic of it. Reading Leithoa’s linked article on Ruby Ridge, I would claim there isn’t any logic to it–if you make the government nervous with gun work, they can spend millions of taxpayer dollars for a hunting party to shoot you and kill your family, and if there is any wrongdoing, it is treated somewhere in the neighborhood of a clerical error. Count The Cost. As for me, if I want to endanger my life, I will do it troubleshooting old vacuum tube equipment. If I short my body across the plate rail and am found ice cold with my heart locked up, I will have put hardship on my family, but will probably not have taken out my wife and my teenaged son with me.
      (Now having put a wet sponge on this, let me also say I enjoyed reading about this…just READING it, and would read more like it. It’s intriguing to envision how the spread of information is going to be disruptive to government oversight and control of weapons, encryption technologies, media and news information, pharmaceutical options, etc.)

    2. Heroin and meth take complex chemicals too. Be they are still out there. even though they are illegal to manufacture. I think the YouTube channel Cody’s Lab makes primers and powder from scratch. I mean scratch!

    3. I’ve been thinking about the ammo problem myself. Building a shotgun for example is the easiest gun to make. Making shotgun shells is not that hard, just some paper or plastic tube and the metal end, but the primer is hard and dangerous.

      As for making a casing, that requires some equipment, and it’s pretty complicated manuveur. I’ve seen them being made and the quality control too.

  12. Didn’t Louis Theroux in one of his shows go to some piss-poor country/area where guys were making guns in a very primitive workshop from scratch? Using plans someone once thought out and which they taught eachoter. This reminds me of that.
    Or was it Vice news?

    Anyways it’s still the rifled barrel that is a bit of an issue I bet, and as Dave says, in the US people don’t even think about getting ammo, nor in the middle east it seems, but in other places they aren’t selling that over the counter as if it’s nothing. And as Dave says it’s crucial (and odd that nobody puts the brakes on it).

  13. Why are you concerned about the legality of this weapon?

    You’re ALREADY viewed as a criminal by the government, and any police officer can find something to jail you on. If you live in New York, and own an assault rifle, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t convert it to FULL auto. You’re already going to go to prison for owning the rifle.

    Build it, if you feel its in your best interest for protection of yourself and family, but understand the ramifications of doing so.

    1. Fun fact, in states like Massachusetts roman candles are also outlawed.

      And in other states anal sex is, and in yet more states the use of a dildo is outlawed, all that regardless if you are married and it;s in the privacy of your home with your spouse.

      Point being is that you need guns so you don’t lose your freedo….. uh wait a sec

      1. “And in other states anal sex is, and in yet more states the use of a dildo is outlawed, all that regardless if you are married and it’s in the privacy of your home with your spouse.”

        Actually that’s not true, and hasn’t been for some time. In “Lawrence v. Texas” SCOTUS established that laws criminalizing any sex acts in private between consenting adults were unconstitutional.

        Of course, a law banning the “sale” of a dildo would be permissible, so look forward to plans for 3D printed sex toys :-)


  14. NOT impressed and I hope this is a failure.

    Also NOT impressed with Hackaday. I now understand you’re a bunch of NSA cronies and right wing survivalists.

    I want nothing to do with this! It is abhorrent. Get some sense.

  15. Love the internal battling between the US posters.

    Our country simplified the laws on making your own firearms and classification/licnencing. And that is a big fat NO from the government.

    (to be clear, this is a great project build – well done – I wish I had your freedoms to do so legally – heck I served in our army and 13 years after enlisting I still don’t have a licence I can use in civilian life).

  16. Yes this gun works great now and the OP should delete his earlier comments and update this page.

    VERY simple to make, just need patience and will be an epic little .25acp wannabe PPK : )

  17. Is there a way you can post the video on Rumble or some other platform, as YouTube will not allow the content. Or, is there a set of plans to download? I am interested more in the trigger and safety mechanisms.

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