Welcome to the dark side of 3D printing.

The hobby is best known for creating colorful toys and trinkets, but some enthusiasts are working on design files that would allow anyone to print a working gun. These don’t exist yet, but some believe it’s only a matter of time.

Why would a 3D-printed gun be appealing? For one, it could potentially be cheap. You can buy a preassembled 3D printer for about $500. A spool of ABS plastic to print with goes for $50. Depending on where you shop, you can buy .38 Special ammunition for 30 cents a round. The plans will undoubted be distributed free like so many MP3s.

  1. bobbo, are we Men of Science, or Devo says:

    Link says what we all know. Plastics available now can’t hold the pressure. But the tech will continue to develop. I’d think buying the barrel and compression chamber in metal and doing a combo is a good fix for the near/extended future, pretty much doing away with gun printing opportunities.

    I can’t wait for Kinko’s to have a few of these. I have about 5-6 small parts that need printing. do the design at home, copy to flash drive and take to Kinko’s for printing…….sweet. Different machines for different plastics?

    I’ve always had the fantasy of being able to use a machine shop in my garage. Glad to see it coming to the desk top.

    The future is so bright, I gotton wear my own designed/built shades.

    • msbpodcast says:

      I can’t wait for Kinko’s to have a few of these.

      The printers are already available at MAKE: shops all over the world. The printers are almost cheap enough to be affordable by first world individuals.

      There will be a proliferation of weapons and weapon designs in CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) files sent over the internet and available for dirt cheap to anybody.

      The first people to get pissed off will be the arms manufacturers (and you don’t want to get those guys pissed off, they got guns!)

      This threatens a huge revenue stream.

      It will not disrupt the world otherwise.

      It will just reduce the number of weeks some gun-loving, death-wishing nut-job has to save up to buy his favorite weapon. (Now he only has to rent time on a MAKE: 3D printer and provide a few metal components, like a rifled barrel and an ejection chamber. [And with some metal powder fed 3D printers even those can be pumped out from a CAM design. {Okay, the tolerances are only .001″ but that’s close enough for most things.}])

      • Spleenboy says:

        So…it has to be a nutjob that wants to do this? What about those of us who want to protect ourselves from the nutjobs? Gun “control” is a practice that impedes my ability to protect myself and my family. If the government or any other nutjobs have access to weapons, legally or otherwise, then I need access to them too, or else I and my family will become victims at some point. Ergo…the 2nd ammendment, which is not about granting me the right to have guns for “sport”. It is about protecting myself from crime (thugs) and tyranny (government thugs).

  2. UncDon says:

    3D printing is pretty strange and wonderful for ordinary things, but the laws of chemistry and physics for propelling a bullet and having the barrel stay together would only allow for a round or two and that’s it.

    But then, most criminals would probably be able to get along just fine with only one or two bullets.

    • jasontheodd says:

      There is no plastic that could withstand the initial combustion of the smokeless powder in a modern bullets casing. The barrel would rupture and partially melt, and the bullet would take a half power (at best) tumbling flight that would be totally inaccurate and only lethal at very close range. To make the combustion chamber viable enough to get as far as what i described would require it be several inches thick on all sides, leaving you with a single shot low power weapon the size of a large handheld hair dryer.
      For the last two hundred years people have just put a bullet in a cheap steel pipe and rigged a metal combustion chamber and firing mechanism, still horribly inaccurate and dangerous to use, but will always be better than plastics, due to plastics flexibility…you don’t want any flex in your barrel, ever.
      All of this is moot, since you can get a cheap black market throw away gun for about fifty bucks from any of a thousand people standing on city street corners. Just go to the places the cops have been bribed not to go.

      • Ken says:

        Conductive plastics already exists. Materials that can extrude like plastic but act like metal also exist, and new materials that could be used for small guns are only a matter of time.

        Current plastic printers may not make viable firearms, but nanotechnology and new materials may very well have cheap printers of their own in the not-so-distant future.

  3. spsffan says:

    I saw this posted somewhere else recently. It should be noted that metal workers with hand tools in some parts of the world have been known to replicate most guns. The principals and materials are not rocket science. Yes, it involves some skill, but no fancy technology.

    Plastic guns tend to suck from where I sit, anyway. Even with metal barrels and/or frames.

    Of course, if this were really a free country, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would be a isle in the 7-Eleven rather than a federal bureau.

    • Ding-Dong says:

      …and it’s not like you can’t “print” a squirt gun to play with either. A squirt gun that the cops will always mistake for the real thing!

      Sooner or later, the logic of “people kill people” will sink in. So go ahead and “print” all the guns you want. Point them at whoever you like too. Be stupid!

      But don’t go crying foul when someone pulls out a real gun and blows your arm off, or worse (I’d say, “when they blow your head off” but then you wouldn’t exactly be crying either). That’s just nature and a little respected law called “natural selection” at work.

      Don’t get me wrong! I’m just as upset whenever I hear about a cop killing a kid whenever the cops mistake a play gun for the real thing. But then you just have to ask, why the hell would any “reasonable” or “responsible” adult allow a child to play with any kind of gun?! About all you can do is try and comfort the dumb-ass parent.

    • msbpodcast says:

      … Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would be a isle in the 7-Eleven …

      The ATF sounds like a one-stop shop, doesn’t it? 🙂

  4. Dallas says:

    Does it print a shoulder fired rocket propelled grenade launcher ? I need one of those bad boys to protect my family and occasional hunting .

    • Ding-Dong says:

      You don’t have to use 3D printing to make a RPG. Cause there are these places called “hardware stores” and “hobby/toy stores” where you can already get a galvanized steel pipe and rocket motors (like the ones you put in a Estes like toy rocket). And it’s all pretty cheap too!

      Attach a few rocket motors to a jelly jar of gas, shoot it at something and watch the boom boom! That might not be as effective as a real RPG. But with a little added Makerfair-like “tech” and perhaps a few dozen printed fuses it could be even better!

      • Dallas says:

        Thanks for DIY tip! This will save me a bundle!

      • msbpodcast says:

        I remember Estes motors very well…

        In my misspent youth, I once launched a finned hollowed-out wooden egg.

        It flew pretty damn good when it was loaded with a parachute.

        It didn’t fly that high when loaded with a goo of magnesium shavings, gasoline and bio-ad powdered soap and had a .22 caliber bullet as a detonator on the end of it, but it made one hell of a smokin’ crater where it landed. 😉

  5. birddog says:

    Like a 3d printer is the only way to build a gun lol

    • Ding-Dong says:

      You must have no imagination.

      All you need is a combustion chamber and a barrel of any real “strength” to make a gun. Even your grandfathers hunting rifle or hardware store steel pipe with just a little bit of drilling could work. The rest of the gun could be all “printed” plastic. (Hasn’t anyone here been to a good gun shop?)

      Even better! 3D printing could be used to convert a cheap semi automatic weapon like a SKS or AR-15 into a fully automatic machine gun. Even a more expensive “legal” M16 could be converted. And those are just 3 specific guns. Oozies, tech-9’s, and a whole plethora of .22 caliber models could also be converted with just the right parts.

      At the very least, you could print your own high capacity magazines. That’s the part that holds the bullets and has been outlawed in certain States if it holds more than x-amount of bullets.

      But then you’d know this if you knew anything about weapons.

      So what are you liberals going to do now? Outlaw 3D printing?!

  6. George says:

    Its not that the 3D printer is needed to make the entire firearm, it is only needed to make the critical part of an AR15/M16, that being the lower receiver..

    Complete gun part sets for AR15s (minus receiver) are not regulated. Anybody can buy one. The issue with putting together a workable rifle with these parts sets is obtaining the receiver, which until now you either had to buy just like a complete gun, or manufacture yourself using mills, lathes, and other machinery.

    Plastic AR15 receivers have already been successfully created (and legally sold) using old-fashioned injection molding techniques. Eugene Stoner was a genius in that he created a rifle that used a receiver that was under relatively low-stress, and so could be made of light weight and lower strength materials like aluminum and plastic.

    Now it seems you can just print an AR15 lower receiver that will function with your factory-built parts kit. One person has done this, and while he could not make his printed receiver work with 5.56 rifle ammo, he did get it to function using .22 rimfire ammo.

    • birddog says:

      Ar 15 receivers are harder to build that Ak receivers but it is not as hard as people think if you have the skills and tools our personal shop has lathes and mills and presses we need to build whatever we need. I was a machinist until the need disappeared so that is what myself and several friends do for a hobby now. We have built some very beautiful ar’s and ak’s without any bought receivers.

      • ± says:

        Kudos on your machine shop capabilities.

        But why do you bother to emulate an AR15/M16? The fact that this unreliable weapon is forced on our ground troupes exemplifies the rot and downward spiral the USA is in.

        Our standard weapon should be an AK47 since we couldn’t come up with anything better.

        • So what says:

          The problems with the M-16 was due to Army bureaucracy not the design of the weapon. The army made changes to the weapon, lack of a chromed receiver, changing powder in the round itself that Stoner never approved. Those changes and resistance to the introduction of the weapon itself by the military brass were the root cause of the problems associated with the M-16.

        • birddog says:

          I prefer an Ak it is the most reliable in my experience but the ar has its place. When kept clean it is a good gun with very good accuracy. The new piston drive guns have also improved their reliability.

        • Ding-Dong says:

          We had one hell of a weapon and it was the M1 Garand. It was the workhorse of every GI in WWII. Only problem was it wasn’t fully automatic and didn’t hold a whole lot of bullets. But those bullets could do a hell of a lot of damage from distances as long away as a half mile!

          But the M16 isn’t that bad either. It’s like a .22 on steroids. M16 ammo may have a small tipped bullets (about the same size as a .22 projectile) but that’s only so soldiers don’t go polluting the environment with lead. You just gotta love Congress for always thinking of our health like that. 😀

  7. Michael says:

    Polymer lower recovers for AR15s already exsist and can be purchased.

    Most gun knowledgable gun owner avoid them. We like and trust metal on rifles.

    Even a Glock has metal embedded in the frame for strength.

    It’ll be decades at least before a plastic gun might be possible.

  8. dusanmal says:

    Why “dark side”. Gun control should be irrelevant according to US Constitution. It is one of specified individual rights. So, as much “dark side” as growing your own food patch. Just as many other technological advancements this one too frees the individual from control of others. Consequences? – freedom always comes with consequences, freedom is always worth more than consequences of it.

    • msbpodcast says:

      So, as much “dark side” as growing your own food patch

      Monsanto will brand you as an infidel and a heretic for uttering words like that.

      Repent! You fool, repent!

      Order an extra large pizza and some diet cola followed by a Pepto Bismol©™® chaser, or you’ll face the implacable wrath of Cargill, Monsanto, the USDA and the FDA.

  9. jpfitz says:

    I call B.S., what’s wrong with a lathe and bridgeport mill to make a real weapon. Printing a toy firing plastic BB’s is something else.

    • ± says:

      It is BS.

      There are incredible forces in a firing weapon all around, not just in the breach. Also, I’m going to guess that there are probably 20+ springs in a full auto weapon. The physics goes beyond the understanding of most people who wouldn’t/don’t understand the concept of force per unit area.

      This is like the cover of Popular Science every 10 years since 1960 saying practical controlled energy producing nuclear fusion is just 10 years away.

      • So what says:

        Poor guess the M-16 contains 11 springs, 12 if you count the magazine follower spring.

    • Uncle Dave says:

      Missing the point. Today it’s a toy gun. As 3D print tech advances, real lethal weapons should be possible without the high cost of a lathe, mill, etc.

      • bobbo, are we Men of Science, or Devo says:

        Without the high cost of equipment, without the need for special expertise/experience, and with the knowledge and ability widely diffused through out society.

        What else besides guns would be of interest I wonder?

        Same thing with genetic engineering kits. Slice and dice right on the desk top. My gut tells me that still might be a bit more difficult for awhile.

        Over/Under==years before I can go to the corner and make a replacement chess piece? I’ll WAG 5 years.

      • So what says:

        “Missing the point. Today it’s a toy gun. As 3D print tech advances, real lethal weapons should be possible without the high cost of a lathe, mill, etc.”

        You mean say a knife?

  10. mharry860 says:

    I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that you can buy guns at a gun show without any Government involvement. That’s the primary reason I’ve never bought any, I don’t even want them to know I exist. I probably just screwed that up. Looking out the window for the black vans.

    • Ding-Dong says:

      What amazes me is why more stupid people aren’t blown away when they point even toy guns at other people.

      Remember. It’s not what a person has that makes them a threat. It’s what they do!!! And pointing a gun at anyone – especially a cop – should always result in the offender being instantly “neutralized”.

  11. kmfix says:

    Unfortunately my uzi wouldn’t weigh a ton.

  12. Kent says:

    I so want this! Sure bets going through the licensing process in Canada. Now, they need to be able to form bullet casings too.

  13. Supreme Ultrahuman (I see the comment system is still designed for retards.) says:

    “Gun Control Efforts Soon To Become Irrelevant?” Hope so.

  14. mainecat says:

    Go ahead. Print one off. I look forward to the You Tube video tagged “spectacular instant disassembly.”

  15. eric says:

    Looks like a stealth commercial for the Mojo printer to me…

  16. It goes to show you – how everything has a good and bad side
    Or people can use any invention and tool for good or bad
    A simple hammer can be used to build a house or hospital or to kill and maim
    In this case a simple ( or not so simple) printer that has unbelievable positive use and potential can be used to create lethal killing machines
    Its really a quandary

  17. Gildersleeve says:

    Who writes the printer drivers for these devices? If it’s HP or Xerox I wouldn’t trust whatever it spits out (assuming it ever finished “printing” without throwing errors or crashing the base computer running them).

    Can you imagine the mainstream software developers getting into this game? Microsoft Arsenal. The Apple version would be called “Apocalypto”. What would the Linux version be called? GnuGun maybe? PistolX? PenguinPopper? SlashShot?

  18. John E. Quantum says:

    Let’s see someone print one of these…


    • bobbo, one true Liberal recognizing Obama is too far Right says:


      Range, accuracy? Much as I dislike guns as a policy issue, as a matter of tech and skill they are awesome.

      Top military marksmen use smaller weapons/less kickback for accuracy. They would use this or bigger if they were more accurate?

      I’ve always wondered why they don’t use in essence a cannon that is made for accuracy. Kill range of 25 miles?

  19. kmfix says:

    This is just a proud combination of the 1st and 2nd amendments.

  20. steelcobra says:

    Nice bit of FUD there, uncle Dave.

  21. bobbo, like any other nut, Gun Nuts appear in Bunches and are indistinguishable from one another--aka==a fungible idiot says:

    ± making the best but still losing argument says:
    9/9/2012 at 10:05 am

    Bobbo — your stat about gun owners being more likely to be injured by their own weapons is almost certainly true. /// I’ve read that several times and never the opposite. Same with the Westward Destiny: more pilgrims died from their own firearms than from Indians. Guns are like that. “Inherently Dangerous to their Owners.”

    And the people who comprise this stat are (relative) retards. /// Yep–last two examples I’ve read were both police officers. One cleaning his gun and it fired and the other one’s kiddie found the gun and fired it. Its not just the registered owner that needs special training. “Inherently Dangerous”

    There is a nice component of natural selection going on of culling genes of people who don’t keep their guns properly sequestered. /// If only that were true but its family members more than the gun owner who get killed. Maybe the genetic connection is close enough?

    No gun owner I know would fall into this category. /// Yes, this nice personal pirouette does not address or alter the group statistic AT ALL, giving truth to the saying that “facts are niggly things.” FACT–guns do not make society safer==IN FACT, just the opposite.

    No gun owner needs to be in this category. /// Of course they don’t “need” to be. Rather a silly comment on the unavoidable nature of being what you are. No one needs to be 6 feet tall, born in Kenya, hit by a car crossing the street …. but much of life just…. is. But you do NEED to be reminded of simple facts. Heh, heh.

    Guns kill. People kill. People with guns kill in greater number. Silly to ignore what IS. Its Puke thinking.


    Easy Peasy.

  22. Supreme Ultrahuman (I see the comment system is still designed for retards.) says:

    Everyone should be required to own guns.

    • Col Gallagher says:

      just like everyone should be required to buy health care insurance.

  23. MartinJJ says:

    “A spool of ABS plastic to print with goes for $50”

    Really? Toy guns from China are a lot cheaper.

    You make it sound like just printing a metal gun would be easy and cheap. I like to see the first real printed metal gun that won’t explode in your face. It probably will take quite a while, because that is a whole different ballgame then printing plastic 3D objects.

  24. Traaxx says:

    You really a stupid dip Uncle Davie Stalin. Do you really think or even know that you couldn’t ever, ever fire a gun made from this crap. The only thing that would go off is the metal left in you hand, you fear mongering troll.

    Your FUD is such a Troll, the only dangerous thing are robots like you, just like all the ‘Fellow Travelers’ of the NAZIs and Commies you just make stuff up and follow along. Globalist Obamabot…………whatever


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