British Cops Catch Shooter-Printing Villain

It’s a perennial of breathless British tabloid scare reporting that 3D printers will unleash a tide of weapons upon the streets. But perhaps it might actually be time for Brits lock up their children, because London’s Metropolitan Police have announced their first prosecution for 3D printing a handgun. The gun pictured appears to be a Repringer 5-shot .22 revolver, and was found by police during a drugs raid.

The UK has significantly restrictive firearms legislation and shooting incidents are extremely rare in the country, so while this might not raise any eyebrows on the other side of the Atlantic it’s an extremely unusual event for British police. It appears that the builder was not the type of libre firearms enthusiast who has made the news with similar work in the USA, so it has to be assumed that it was printed purely as a means to secure an illegal firearm however rough-and-ready or indeed dangerous it might be.

Stepping aside from the firearm aspect of the story, it should be of concern for any British 3D printer enthusiasts. As we’ve reported over the years with respect to drone incidents they can sometimes throw reason to the wind when faced with unfamiliar technology, indeed we’ve already seen them imagining RepRap parts to be for a firearm. We’d counsel all parties to keep sane heads, and hope that both the sentence for today’s criminal proves to be a suitable deterrent, and that no clueless fool decides to download and print another weapon for the hell of it. As always, we’ll bring you developments as they happen.

84 thoughts on “British Cops Catch Shooter-Printing Villain

  1. I really can’t understand why people insist on printing guns, when a crossbow (or any number of variations on it) would be much more practical and deadly. I imagine a dart gun for poisoned darts would be very easy to make.

        1. I admit no, and correct me if my assumptions are mistaken, but I wouldn’t have thought loading a normal cross bow would come with a high chance of incinerating my hand.
          I mean I realize this is hackaday, so I’m not talking about *your* crossbows, I mean the ones a random person would go out and buy ;}

        2. I have actually used a number of replica medieval crossbows, but that’s not what I had in mind. We have much better materials and tools today, we can make designs that are much more compact, safer and easier to use. Plus, if you use poisoned darts, you really don’t need much power. Poisons are much easier to make than explosives.

          1. Why not both?

            Nothing like impact-triggered exploding poisoned fragmentation darts/bolts for thoroughly ruining someone’s day – just… don’t fire at anything *too* close, or “someone” will probably include you.¹

            Either way, one of those little self-cocking cobra crossbow pistols (perhaps with a 3d-printed magazine attachment?) would probably be a far better choice compared to a classic medieval crossbow; even with a fancy winch, the firing rate of, at best, 1RPM, would probably make for a poor defensive tool. And it’s not like you’d be trying to pierce plate or mail, or take down a stag, so all that extra force would pretty much just go to waste.

            ¹ Concept for illustration purposes only, do not attempt if living, dead, undead or robot.

        1. that idiot on youtube had a whole channel for home made guns. forget his name but I always cringed watching him test fire his guns without any safety devices. at targets that could bounce bullets back. googled, royal nonesuch was his name.

          1. haha, In the first sentence I knew who you were talking about. I followed his channel for a few weeks.
            When I was a teen I once shot a bb gun at a improper target, the bb bounced back around my safety glasses and gently squeezed in between my eyeball and socket, I instinctively rubbed my eye, usually a really really bad idea, but the bb popped right out and there has been no evidence of damage.
            needless to say, I now take ricochet very seriously

  2. when it comes to firearms the BS factor is always +infinity.
    there is NO 3D printed gun. barrel and breech of plastic will just explode, and the only one being hurt is going to be the idiot pulling the trigger.
    moreover, even assuming the “gun” will not blow up, which it will, without rifling the bullet will start tumbling right at the exit of the barrel, and will go in any random direction making it absolutely useless at more than a couple meters.
    also, this particular contraption shoots (or better said tries to shoot) a round that calling useless is a gross understatement. might be effective against cockroaches if shot at point blank. but not so sure.
    if you want a weapon, 3D printing it is nonsense. any DIY shop has all the material to build a perfectly working weapon with a few dollars worth of hardware
    stay tuned for the british cops raiding all hardware stores next, once they are done fitting a GPS tracker on every knife…
    british police better get their acts together and start doing something useful instead of extruding this sort of garbage

    1. UK Knife crime – you can’t buy cutlery in the UK without being age-checked.

      Guns (in the general case) have been out of circulation in the UK for over 20 years (triggered by the only school shooting in the UK in 1996 – Dunblaine)

      The deadliest things that you can get your hands on in the UK are essentially shotguns and heavily regulated rifles. Even armed police have strict regulations on their use.

      However a 3D printed gun is probably more menacing than an airsoft or imitation firearm – as “we don’t have guns in this country” – context is everything.

      That said, I can imagine the press having a field day with it … something different to run instead of brexit brexit brexit *sigh*

      1. “UK Knife crime – you can’t buy cutlery in the UK without being age-checked.”
        lol thats why stabbings in UK are so rare. anyway, any hardware store will sell steel, angle grinders and tape. 5 minutes later, you have a knife.

        “However a 3D printed gun is probably more menacing than an airsoft or imitation firearm”
        any of those will get you killed when meeting someone with a real firearm, even a homemade one. or a knife. or a stick.
        thats why they dont get routinely used in place of real firearms

        “Guns (in the general case) have been out of circulation in the UK for over 20 years”
        you mean legally obtaineable guns.
        plus im pretty sure there is a number of WW2 era guns still in circulation.

        1. If you’re going to go the route of illegal weaponry for purposes of intimidation anyway, you might as well go all the way, and wear a couple bandoliers loaded up with pipe bombs with pull-string (or electrical) fuzes under your coat (*note: don’t actually ever do this).

          Sure, actually using them would ruin your day, but at least you could damn well guarantee the other party would end up in similar shape. The prospect of Mutually Assured Destruction worked well enough during the Cold War, at least in the sense that no one got nuked.

        2. he wrote age checked, you can of course by kitchen knives in poundland … last time i checked they were pretty low quality but for single use … who cares (15years ago the same poundland knives were much better)

        1. I would imagine it’s the same thing as it’s here in Finland, ie. they do a background-check on you even if you are just buying ammo. Without a permit, they won’t sell you such a thing and will call cops.

    2. Wow, much frothing – much like the other side who you’re trying to decry.

      As per the linked article:
      “was planning to line the printed firearms with steel tubes in order to make a barrel capable of firing”
      So a) they were going to use a DIY shop to make it more lethal (even if it’s probably still to himself as well) and b) people are arrested for attempting to make illegal weapons from DIY shop hardware (i.e. before they’ve demonstrated success).

      Despite the alarmist response from the linked headline, I would say that the arrest isn’t about 3d printing gun in and of itself, but a demonstration of intent with it and I would argue that “it should be of concern for any British 3D printer enthusiasts” is a bit extreme – be aware of, maybe, but of concern? hardly (well, not unless you’ve been researching how to make the gun capable to actually fire, grow illegal drugs and don’t have a justifiable reason for making such an item).

    3. Yes … there is. As someone who has printed and tested more than a few .. like a RepRap there are some “vitamins” you need, but nothing spectacularly hard to get.

      Steel brake line ( straight, easy to obtain at almost any AutoZone ) or thin steel or brass refrigerant lines ( again, available at most hardware stores ) is all you need to line the barrel(s).

      The most common ammunition used is LR-22’s, not very powerful, but certainly more than enough to do the job.

      The largest caliber I have printed and tested was a semi-auto 40 caliber pistol with a functional 10 round mag. The vitamins were some very common steel screws and bolts … a smooth-bore steel barrel was made from a piece of pipe purchased on Amazon, two fairly common springs, and another small bolt which is used as the firing pin. It survived four boxes ( 200 rounds ) of ammunition without issue before being dismantled.

      I would say that anyone with access to the Megapack ( DefCad ) archive, experience printing with petg or nylon and has a basic understanding of how to assemble something from IKEA could do it.

    4. Check out the FGC-9. The progress on 3d printed guns has come extremely far in the last year.
      The state of the art is a semiautomatic gun that can be made with entirely unregulated parts in most of the world. This includes fast and easy electrochemical machining rifling into barrels using a 3d printed jig and salt water. They are approaching factory pistol accuracy from these barrels that can be rifled in less than an hour, and everyone with a 3d printer has the tooling to do it.

  3. Even if it did work successfully, it’s not that it can be 3d printed, it’s that new fangled technology had the potential to kill. Somebody can still go to a hardware store and buy everything needed to make a gun, or a bomb or someo device designed to kill/mame/injure/threaten. Point is, people use the technology at hand to do what they want, whether it’s using a pen to write a love letter or stab someone in the neck, it’s a bad analogy but you get my (ball) point. The media jump on it when it’s something controversial or new, particularly if the justice system has yet to make a ruling about it.

    1. “The media jump on it ”
      problem is, there is a press release from the police on this. which tells me that the cops either think everybody is an idiot, or they really are in the wrong business.

  4. I really don’t understand why you’d want to print a derringer-like pistol from plastic, when it’s so easy to make from metal. Much safer for your own hand as well.

    I do understand the media hype. Because it’s simply something new. The problem of home-made guns is not new, but making one from plastic is. Just that it doesn’t matter at all that it’s made from plastic. Ban 3D printers, and you gain exactly nothing in the abolishment of homemade guns.

    Waste of time and money. Ban bullets, if you want to win something.

    1. “Ban bullets, if you want to win something.”
      assuming you meant “ban cartridges”, because “bullet” is the lead pointy thingy, are you serious?
      ammunitions are already regulated more or less everywhere, but it is trivial to produce them.
      as a matter of fact, i produce my own pistol ammo, at a rate of around 600 per hour.
      rifle ones take a bit longer but you dont need as many.
      not being able to buy in the shop the components will only make the process a little more complex, but not much.
      a technology cant be “banned”, or uninvented, expecially one that is hundreds of years old and that does not require exotic materials and tools.
      you should ban files, welders, steel, brass, several types of chemicals, and so on. pure nonsense.
      an angle grinder, a drill, a stick welder and steel is all you need to build a firearm.
      anyone who really wants a firearm, will get one.
      lastly, “banning” guns and ammo requires also one more thing: total disarmament of cops and military

      1. You say you manufacture your own ammunition, but I’m guessing you don’t produce your own smokeless powder?
        Here in the UK you can’t buy powder or ammunition without a license, so having a home-made gun isn’t much use, unless you’re happy with a black powder musket.

      2. Really? You make your own brass cases? And your own primers?

        Sure you can make 600 cartidges an hour if you have access to buying the brass,primers and bullets (or bullet moulds)

        But in most of the world even access to empty cases and primers for hand loading is regulated. That is probably what he meant. And yes, it’s much harder to get ammo but that doesn’t stop people intent on breaking the law.

  5. This is to do with how petty criminals / gangs work in the UK, it’s a very different environment to the US and having any sort of gun is a big deal – there was a BBC article following one gun that was basically rented out to criminals and the police reckoned was involved in many many crimes:

    Also, the reason for having a gun is that it’s easily concealed and you can drive (or ride) up to a target, pump a bullet or two into them and disappear again before anyone twigs what’s happened – a crossbow is far too unwieldy for that, they’d probably just stab the victim instead.

    1. “it’s a very different environment to the US”
      switzerland has more firearms per household than USA.
      tons of people in Czech own guns, and many carry it.
      this idea that having availability of firearms will transform otherwise honest people in murderous criminals is BS.

      1. Your logic says that Americans are incredibly stupid because they manage to kill so many with so few guns. In comparison the Swiss are vastly more intelligent and they deserve their guns. By your logic, American should not have guns at all.

        1. my logic is that number of guns in circulations have nothing to do with the will of some nutjobs to kill other people
          without guns they would use cars, or chainsaws, or gasoline.
          a guy in Nice, France, killed 86 people and injured close to 500 with a truck.

  6. When I tell people I have 3D printers (I make and give away 3D printed gecko fridge magnets just for fun), I often get the question, “Can you 3D print a gun?”
    It seems the public in general have jumped onto the 3D printed gun band wagon.
    As RetetV says, I too do not understand why one would 3D print a gun. One machined from a solid block of Nylon would surely be safer if you really wanted a plastic gun.
    I for one would not try to fire a 3D printed gun. My fingers and eyes are to precious to me!

  7. I really cant see the point of 3D printing a gun, the explosion and hot gasses released are not going to play nice with any filament used. Plumbing parts from the hardware store work just as well and are not as prone to blowing your hand off.
    mind you I did learn why you should not store your acetone beside all your electroplating chemicals. :)

    1. Or rock (stone) crime, or car crime :) This is getting ridiculous.

      As much as I despise US invading other countries, I do think that citizenry should be armed to defend themselves from their (and foreign) governments, and other bad “actors”. US constitution did get that part right … Of course, guns should not be sold to mentally sick individuals, and convicted criminals.

      Just my 2 cents. YMMV.

    2. In the UK you can be prosecuted for “possession of an offensive weapon” which includes anything where there is an intention to use it as a weapon. It would certainly include screwdrivers.

      1. And there’s that word again. “intention”, this is such a volatile word and until someone invents a way to read mind’s you can never really know a persons true intent. I have seen the courts abuse this word way too many times. In some cases intent can be quite clear but in others I have seen the courts used emotion to rule on the intent or a person.

  8. its a .22. the average pair of jeans is sufficient body armor to protect yourself from this scourge (and thats with a real firearm).

    that said i dont think they are going to start outlawing 3d printers over it, might as well outlaw the lathe as well. make hardware stores illegal next as you don’t want people building zip guns. im so glad i live in the usa where any nut, their mother, their wife and all their children can own guns.

    1. I can see a plastic gun as a deterrent, or possible as a last resort. I wouldn’t fire one off, unless I there was little else handy to get the job done. To much of a chance something would go wrong, if it fired at all, but if you are concerned you might lose your life anyway, if you don’t try. Really doubt plastic guns are anyone’s first choice to do harm, since you don’t even need a weapon to hurt or kill. Even all guns could be taken away, there would still be crime and murder. Was going on, long before guns.

      I’d much rather see more people carrying openly, you know who is more likely trusted to own and use them. The ones hiding them, well you just don’t know if they are legal, or know how to use them. There should be thorough background checks, gun safety course requirements, registration, licenses, insurance… Cars are deadly too, but they aren’t often used as weapons, and people tend to take good care of them, and not turn over the keys to just anyone. Too many people just think of guns as a cool toy, like in the movies, or video games. They need to get out of that mindset, and realize they are made for killing, and do the job very well. It’s a responsibility, not a right, and not everybody has what it takes, to own and use them responsibly. I think any sort of felony conviction, should be enough to lose the right for life. People would be a lot more respectful of the laws, if they risk losing gun ownership, since most people eventually consider them for personal defense at some point in life.

      Mostly, printed guns are a novelty, which very few people would ever actual fire, maybe a one time thing, at best. Someone would have to be mentally ill, to think these plastic guns are a good idea. Then again, someone would have to be mentally ill to want to go out and kill some people…

    2. So jeans can stop a .22 round? Are you aware that all assault rifles are more than capable of getting a round to penetrate a pair of jeans and the leg inside them?
      Of course most assault rifles are 5.56mm and makes all the difference.
      Does anyone have a vernier caliper handy?

    3. .22CB/BB maybe. I’d prefer not to get shot with them but there you MIGHT be right a good pair of jeans could (mostly) stop them. A .22 short or larger will definitely go through.

      If we include .223/5.56 in the mix then it’s even more wrong.

  9. You can’t buy ammo in the UK without the requisite firearms certificate and all sales are in person. The dealer physically writes the purchase (quantity, type etc) onto your certificate. No certificate, no sale. And the ammo must match one of the cailbres of firearms on your certificate. No “background check” as such, if you commit crimes the certificate is yanked off you by the plod, so by definition of having one, you’re already checked.

    Dealer won’t sell you any primers for home loading without physically checking your certificate in person either – and the primers much mach a calibre of ammo you’ve got on the certificate so you can’t buy primers for ammo you don’t need to make. You can buy powder and bullets technically without a certificate though most dealers will want to check your certificate even for those.

    So you can’t buy ammo without a certificate, you can’t buy primers to make ammo without a certificate.

  10. I envision a huge career field for American ex-convicts living in Europe and using Shank printe.. I mean 3D printers…

    I wonder how well skills like melting down and reshaping toothbrushes translate into Creo/AutoCAD/SolidWorks/etc?

  11. I fail to see why the Bobbies have gotten their knickers in a twist over this. Any competent home machinist with a mill, lathe and brake can put build shotguns, Derringers and even Sten guns.

    The panic over 3D printed guns IMO is due to utter ignorance of the authorities as to what 3D printing can actualy accomplish.

    1. A home shop with a mill, lathe and brake costs a lot more than good 3d printer. Becoming competent with one takes a lot more time than getting decent prints from a 3d printer.

      And you’d still get arrested if the plod found a home made firearm in your home

  12. Only a desperate, low status drug dealer would make things like that. Fortunately, anyone who develops the skills to build a proper handgun with whatever tools will find those skills more valuable elsewhere.

    1. Mr. Ellis:
      [in woodwork class] What is that, Tomkinson?

      [standing before an enormous ship he’s assembling] It’s a model icebreaker, sir.

      Mr. Ellis:
      It’s a bit big for a model, isn’t it?

      It’s a full-scale model, sir.

      Mr. Ellis:
      [annoyed] It’s not a model if it’s full-scale, Tomkinson, it’s an icebreaker.

      Yes, it’s good, isn’t it, sir? It’s got three engines, an enormous…

      Mr. Ellis:
      No no no, that’s not the point. That is not a model. It’ll be hell if this comes out at speech day exhibition. You’re a very stupid boy building icebreakers like this, Tomkinson.

      [deflated] Yes, sir.

      Mr. Ellis:
      Now I won’t say anything to the headmaster if you can get it down to a minimum of four foot.

      But sir! There’s fifteen hundred tons of steel in this…

      Mr. Ellis:
      Do you want to come and see the headmaster with me?

      No, sir.

      Mr. Ellis:
      Well, melt it down at once.

  13. 3D printing in the context of firearms is a canard. The threat to proper gun control isn’t 3D printing, it’s cheap CNC milling.

    Set aside for the moment that the UK has a sovereign parliament, so they can basically write any law they like. Here in the US, we have a constitution with a bill of rights. The first amendment and a variety of supreme court decisions have made the bar for prior restraint on free speech incredibly high. Combine that with the Bernstein v. US case in the 90s and the writing is on the wall that for the purposes of the first amendment code is speech. Those factors combine turn gun control from a 2nd amendment issue to a 1st amendment one. You can’t ban CNC mills because they have all sorts of uses that have nothing to do with gunsmithing. You can’t ban CNC files that describe firearms because of the first amendment (if prior restraint couldn’t be used to bar publication of the details of constructing a fusion bomb, I doubt it could be similarly applied to ordinary firearms). The best you can do is ban the actual conduct of making your own gun, which if it’s simple enough to do will be as effective as vehicular speed limits.

  14. This stuff isn’t new. People are crazy. If a bad guy wants a weapon he’ll get it.. A couple of pipes, and a nail gets you a shot gun. It’s interesting too that the powerful but low-pressure (easy to improvise) shot-gun doesn’t get more attention. I guess the people making all the noise don’t know that much.

    This article claims 10% of the firearms seized in Australia are improvised.

    Neat homemade builds!

  15. Irony is that the USA has shown it can create effective gun regulation. The criminal use of full automatic weapons hasn’t been reported for decades. That regulation works, because, it eliminates Islands of gun regulation, in a sea of no gun regulation. While many don’t like that how that has been achieved, but they are hypocrites when they say gun regulation can’t work. Kansas on it’s way to “Constitutional carry”, allowing conceal carry with no educational licensing requirement; relaxed regulation on knives.

    1. Not too long ago, a law officer was arrested for selling full auto weapons without the needed paperwork.
      Lost his job and freedom over that. Still no cure for stupid.
      And yes, full auto weapons are legal with the correct paperwork.
      Travel to Las Vegas, enter gun range, rent and shoot full auto, legally.
      A buddy flew from Brisbane to LA, I drove him to Vegas.
      He liked it..

  16. it’s bs … the part about no gun crime … since the ban of guns the gun crime was on the rise … big surprise the criminals do not respect the ban? not long ago released documentary series about gun crime in Yorkshire “Hometown” … obtaining a gun is easy. in britain it is easy … if it’s not on the news it didn’t happen … they simply do not report on gun crime … otherwise people might realize that the gun ban is bs … always been … i remember few years back same thing in Sheffied, gang related gun shooting in residential areas almost every week … no news coverage ….

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