We’ve been following the 3D printed gun for a while now. In internet time, it’s been generations. In real time, it’s been less than a year or so. What is legally defined as a gun has already been printed, but technically that’s not the entire object, just some of the parts that make it work. Now, Defense Distributed, the company leading the way into the future of 3D-printed weaponry, has finally 3D-printed an entire gun — in both the sense that it is legally considered a gun, and that every single piece is 3D-printed.
Defense Distributed has been slowly building the gun piece-by-pice, making sure each and every 3D-printed component can work on its own when integrated with standard metal bits. Back in December of last year, DD 3D-printed the lower receiver of the gun, which is the bare minimum of parts that legally constitutes a gun. Then, DD managed to 3D-print 30-round automatic rifle magazines, testing them until failure. They found that the magazines could easily last for over 100 rounds of fire, but would eventually wear down and cease function after frequent use. From there, DD needed to make the gun stock and the barrel, with the barrel most likely posing the greatest challenge, as that’s the part of the gun that the bullets actually hit while traveling.
While DD was making progress with its 3D-printed gun experiment, the company managed to get a license to become a legal manufacturer and vendor of guns, somewhat muddling the legal status of the 3D-printed gun, a weapon anyone with a 3D-printer could make at home. Toward the end of April, DD said it was around two weeks away from 3D printing an entire handgun, made from standard 3D printing material, ABS plastic. Now, the company has delivered on its promise, and showed Forbes a fully 3D-printed gun.
The gun is called “the Liberator” (Defense Distributed is located in Texas, after all), and every single part is 3D-printed. The Liberator still has some more testing to go through, but once that has been completed, DD will release the CAD files into the wilds of the internet, onto its blueprints archive, Defcad.org. Using Stratasys’ Dimension SST 3D printer, DD printed all 16 parts of the Liberator. The gun uses interchangeable barrels in order to allow the wielder to choose different caliber bullets.
As impressive as a fully 3D-printed gun is, ABS plastic purists will be sad to know that the Liberator has two parts that weren’t 3D-printed: a nail used as the firing pin, and a 6-ounce piece of metal so the gun can be recognized by a metal detector. Considering the gun works and wouldn’t be taken seriously at a glance because it looks like something a kid would make in elementary school art class, having a bit of metal inside it is certainly a good decision. However, since the plans will be made available on the blueprints archive, nothing is going to stop some ne’er-do-wells out there from printing the Liberator without the detectable metal bits. Those ne’er-do-wells will still need real bullets, at least, but the lack of requiring a license — and the gun’s lack of a serial number — are unsettling thoughts.
Only time will tell how the public and world’s legal systems will receive 3D-printed weaponry, but thanks to Defense Distributed, it looks like that time is right around the corner. While you’re waiting for the world to turn that corner, check out this documentary focusing on Defense Distributed and the 3D-printed gun, below.
By James Plafke | Extremetech