3D Printed Guns or Dude Why are These Shards of ABS Plastic Sticking Out of My Hand and Other Parts of My Body?

There’s been some chatter in the comments over the past several days over the DOJ settling with the anarcho-libertarian who set up a company to make the blueprints for 3D printing guns and gun parts readily available and to sell his own CNC machine so that people can machine gun parts at home using the blueprints available from him. Yesterday a Federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on the release of the blueprints by Defense Distributed. The simple truth is the temporary restraining order is pointless. The CAD files are available from download at numerous other sites on the Internet. As all good browncoats know, you can’t stop the signal!

Before anyone starts to freak out because people will be able to 3D print their firearms, you can’t 3D print any form of firearm that is going to do much but blow up in your hands after a few shots. The plastics just can’t take the pressures. So you can get a shot or two plastic zip gun and maybe that’s it. Even the highest end, most advanced 3D printers that can print metal aren’t advanced enough to fabricate a decent firearm that is going to be sturdy enough. If you’re looking to print a new butt stock or the grip module for say a SIG P320 or a Beretta APX – both of which have a removable fire control unit that under Federal law is the serialized gun – then 3D printing is fine. But printing the lower receiver for an AR pattern rifle, which is the serialized part of an AR pattern rifle and therefore technically/legally the gun, is just stupid. All you’re going to do is hurt yourself because the plastic lower receiver can’t take the pressures. And you can’t print barrels out of 3D plastic filament that can handle the pressures either.

Not to rag on SIG Sauer, but SIG just released a brand new subcompact pistol, the P365. It is a similar concept to their P320, which with a couple of modifications, is the new duty side arm for the military the M17 (full size) M18 (compact). The actual firearm for both the P320 and the P365, according to the law, is the removable fire control unit (FCU), which is the serialized part. The slide is machined steel. The FCU, the return spring, the striker, the trigger springs, etc are all machined. Either directly produced or by metal injected molding (MIM). The trigger is plastic and the grip module (frame), is polymer. The magazines are metal. SIG spent significant amounts of money designing, creating a prototype, testing a prototype, etc. In the first several months of the production run they’ve been making rolling adjustments to both the production process and the design of several parts as a small number of problems have been reported. Initially it was barrel peening because of the fit between slide and barrel as it returned to lock up. Then it was a problem with the trigger spring on the FCU, as well as issues with the striker.

This is not surprising. There has not, as far as I know, been a new handgun debuted that hasn’t had production teething issues. Largely because they are mass produced items where the parts have slight variations while still technically being in spec. SIG has this problem with the new P365. They had a different issue that came to light last year with the P320. In fact Springfield Armory, which just rolled out a new variant of their pistol that is a direct competitor to the P365, has also introduced a marketing campaign that takes direct aim at the new competition without naming the competition.

Remington has had significant trigger problems with the triggers on one of their best selling shotguns. There are so many of these shotguns in circulation that it will take them decades, if not hundreds of  years, to replace all the triggers if they do nothing but replace triggers 24/7. GLOCK, known for their GLOCK Perfection advertising campaign, have had several issues as they move from generation to generation or introduce new items within a generation. And these are just ones I can think of off the top of my head. And that’s before we mention that even in a perfected, if you will, firearm, because there are always some variations in production runs of parts, even a largely reliable, trouble free firearm line will produce the occasional lemon.

If the professionals, with professional gunsmiths and hundreds of years of experience among those gunsmiths, have teething issues in their professionally manufactured and assembled firearms, all the 3D printed ones made at home are going to do is get a lot of people self perforating with ABS plastics. Unless and/or until the 3D printing technology, specifically the 3D printing technology for metal, gets a lot more advanced and a lot cheaper for personal purchase and use, all that is going to happen is that people trying to make ghost guns are going to be just as likely to blow their hands up as hit what they might be aiming at with a roll your own gun made of plastic filament. And then the lawsuits for damages will start. The 3D printing manufacturers will claim that injured people need to sue the anarcho-libertarian pushing to publish the plans. And then he’ll be in a lot of legal jeopardy.

Obligatory musical accompaniment:

Open thread!

118 replies
  1. 1
    Keith P. says:

    Even the highest end, most advanced 3D printers that can print metal aren’t advanced enough to fabricate a decent firearm that is going to be sturdy enough.

    I dunno…Bugatti is using them to make titanium brake calipers, so I would feel optimistic that one could at least handle a .22. Of course, it’ll cost you about $10000+ to print it assuming you can find someone who has one who will sell time on it. And it will take about 10 hours to print. So it’s a very long way to go a very short distance (aka Wal-Mart)

  2. 2
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Is this a thing? Golly.

  3. 3
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Keith P.: Yep. But those really aren’t commercially available for personal purchase and/or use.

    ETA: I’ve updated the post to reflect this.

  4. 4
    Mike J says:

    @Keith P.: The first CD ROM burner I used cost $20,000. It wasn’t long until it was $2000, then $200. Now they’re $20.

  5. 5
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: It has seen a lot of time on the news over the past couple of days. And it has come up several times in comments, so I figured I’d do a post on it.

  6. 6
    debbie says:

    @Keith P.:

    So it’s a very long way to go a very short distance (aka Wal-Mart)

    Seems to me it’s more about “sticking it” to the government than anything else.

  7. 7
    HL_Guy says:

    I made similar comments on Twitter, but framed it as “we have a real gun problem- cheap guns you can buy now, and an imaginary, expensive future one- 3d printed guns and components perhaps some time in the future.” That managed to piss off an unlikely coalition of
    Don’t mess with our home-printed libertarian gun fantasies! I can build the lower receiver of an AR IN MY GARAGE- I bet you don’t know what that even IS – i do, but nevermind that.
    Why don’t you accept 3d printed guns a future apocalypse?
    and even, 3d-PRINTING ENTHUSIASTS (bla bla bla I can print cool stuff, you’re dumb shut up).
    It doesn’t even seem worth it, but I had to turn off my Twitter notices for 3 days. I have left them off because peace is lovely.

  8. 8
    TheOtherHank says:

    CNC machines and 3D printers are different beasts. CNCs remove material (think computer controlled router) and 3D printers add material (think computer controlled glue gun). With a fancy enough CNC machine it is probably possible to take a chunk of steel and end up with the lower receiver of an AR15. But it would have to be a beefy CNC machine. Home-grade CNCs are for wood and maybe aluminum.

  9. 9
    Steve in the ATL says:

    Everything about this is bad.

  10. 10

    Now there’s a band you don’t hear about every day.

  11. 11
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @debbie: The idea, if you will, is the ability to make a gun or guns for personal use that the government can’t and won’t know about. No serialized part from the manufacturer, no Federal form 4473 that records that serial number and who purchased the firearm, so no record. Apparently because “shall not be infringed” means no paperwork. Who knew?

  12. 12
    lagarita says:

    Wasn’t there someone who was trying to sell a home CNC machine with a program to make a full auto AR-15 receiver?

  13. 13
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TheOtherHank: I am aware. But the knucklehead who is suing to be able to post the 3D blueprints on line also sells a proprietary CNC machine to produce gun parts.

  14. 14
    Another Scott says:

    Here’s him firing his plastic gun in 2013 (3:08)

    “Safe for one shot”

    Sign me up!!11ONE



  15. 15
    Keith P. says:

    @Mike J: You have a point there. Hell, those blue Blu-Ray lasers can be had on EBay for a few bucks, and you can build a pretty dangerous laser rifle with them (plenty of demos on youtube). And you could bypass firearms altogether and make a Gauss gun with enough power to do some real damage. And then, there’s the cost of a titanium metal printer 5-10 years from now…they’ll be doing what CNCs have been doing.

  16. 16
    mike in dc says:

    I guess if they had a 3D printer that used graphene or somesuch, maybe everything would be strong enough to withstand various stresses. (Note: graphene is years away from market-ready uses, as far as I can tell).

  17. 17
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Steve in the ATL: Why should today be different than any other day.

  18. 18
  19. 19
    debbie says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Between these guys and Alex Jones, I’m getting really tfed up with these people willfully misinterpreting the laws of this country. Instead of a census, there should be mandatory civics classes. Or something.

  20. 20
    Jay Noble says:

    Ummm . . . While they aren’t 3-D printer ready, pretty much every weapon made over the past 200 years was patented and those patents with their detailed drawings are and have been available online for sometime. You can get them as posters for heavens sake. So kinda barn door too late problem from my perspective.

  21. 21
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @lagarita: This same guy who is suing to post the 3D blueprint files online.

  22. 22
    Another Scott says:

    @HL_Guy: Your comment about “cheap guns” reminds me…

    There was a time when we had an “epidemic” of “cheap Saturday Night Specials“. Laws were passed and they disappeared from the marketplace (specifying that guns had to be made of certain materials (no Zn-alloys, etc.) and have other easily measurable characteristics.

    Couldn’t such laws be used to keep these obviously cheap and dangerous “guns” off the market? Yeah, it wouldn’t keep idiots from making them, but it could make it illegal to have one in public or offer it for sale, etc.


  23. 23
    Seanly says:

    We should just tell Trump that MS-13 has a 3D printing factory in Los Chapula, Mexico. They’re churning out 3D printed AK-357’s out of clear plastic so you can’t even see who is carrying one.
    Oooh, I’m going to post this on Twitter…

  24. 24
    Roger Moore says:

    Even a good CNC mill will have trouble making the heavily stressed gun parts, or at least making them nearly as good as current manufacturing techniques can do. To handle the kinds of pressures encountered in guns, you don’t just want a piece of steel, even a piece of really high quality steel. You want a piece of pre-stressed steel, i.e. one where the inside of the barrel is under compression and the outside is under tension. Pre-stressing the metal that way allows it to handle considerably more pressure than a homogeneous piece of metal would.

  25. 25
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    Well it’s either guns or coffee cups.

    A 3D printer has gotta do what a 3D printer has gotta do.

  26. 26
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Another Scott: depends on whether the NRA wants its captive political party to do that

  27. 27
    Miss Bianca says:

    o/t for this thread, Adam, but I just read your article. Then I went and read the article you were responding to and now I’m just smh.

    “We really, really, need to PLAN for this thing that would be a really, really, bad idea! Because you always need to have a plan! Because even a bad plan for a bad idea is better than NO plan for a bad idea!”

    Uh…yeah. Right. No. I think Cheryl’s take is right on – this is some eager beaver grad student BS. Good on you for slapping it down. Nicely. : )

  28. 28
    HumboldtBlue says:

    I’m not a Twitter user, but Kamala Harris is a Cop, is.

    California is such a great place, even when it’s on fire.

  29. 29
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    I suppose that the whole 3D printed guns argument is that they are totally unregulated and unregistered. If you go down the street and buy one at Wal Mart there are a whole bunch of regulations that have to be followed. If you print one then that is all bypassed. I think that is the point that people are making. I watched a video on twitter today where the dude who was for this was stating it was all about FREEDOM! I honestly don’t want to be in a world where I can be shot by anyone with a 3D printer and the patience to wait for his gun. What now happens to metal detectors at airports? Totally useless. Reminds me of that movie. Clint Eastwood, Secret Service Agent, John Malkovich? Assassin, plastic gun. Can’t remember the title. Same thing. If you can get a plastic gun into an airport where the hell are we?

  30. 30
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Miss Bianca: It is always better to have a plan than have no plan. It is always better to have a strategy than have no strategy. But there is no way to plan to for a positive end state for this scenario is there is no positive end state to be achieved.

  31. 31
    Jay says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    You can buy an 80% finished reciever, finish it up with some basic hand tools and skill, or a refitted drill press, or a milling machine, or a CNC machine,

    No serial number, no registration, then either swap it out with the receiver of another AR, or buy the rest of the parts, to create a “ghost gun”.

  32. 32
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @HumboldtBlue: Well that was different. Also, as a martial arts instructor, please punch straight from the shoulder while generating power from your knees and hips, not whatever that woman was doing, otherwise you’ll hurt yourself.

  33. 33
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @HumboldtBlue: Did the cops arrest or cite either of those women?

  34. 34
    Roger Moore says:


    Reminds me of that movie. Clint Eastwood, Secret Service Agent, John Malkovich? Assassin, plastic gun. Can’t remember the title.

    In The Line of Fire.

  35. 35
    Jay says:

    @Jay Noble:

    The “plans” are not plans in the form of blueprints, they are “plans” in the form of the programming for the printer.

  36. 36
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    This probably has a bigger impact in countries where guns are hard to get. You no longer have to smuggle your guns in the bottom of drug filled shipping containers, you just print them out on demand. As far as I know, here the parts required would not be hard to get and possession would not involve the police.

    The self mutilation aspect of it is probably of less concern to those shooters intending to be taken out afterwards anyway. Domestic violence takes on a different complexion when a gun can be printed in less time than it takes to settle an argument. It only has to work once.

  37. 37
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: Technically it is illegal to produce, even for personal use, completely plastic firearms. US law requires that a metal pin be included so that the firearm is discoverable by metal detector.

  38. 38
    Mike in NC says:

    Lots of people were unhappy when the DOD retired the venerable M1911 Colt 45.

  39. 39
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jay: I am aware, which is why trying to 3D print one is stupid.

  40. 40
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    But there is no way to plan to for a positive end state for this scenario is there is no positive end state to be achieved

    Yeah, well, I think that’s what I was trying to say. But as usual you managed to say it better. ; )

  41. 41
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mike in NC: Yes they were.

  42. 42
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Miss Bianca: Do not try this at home, I am a professional…

  43. 43
    Roger Moore says:

    @Viva BrisVegas:

    Domestic violence takes on a different complexion when a gun can be printed in less time than it takes to settle an argument.

    FWIW, I don’t think these guns can be printed that fast- most 3D printers are pretty damn slow- and they are actually printed in pieces that will require assembly once they’re made. They’re still a terrible idea, but they’re not the kind of thing you can make and use in a moment of anger; they’ll require some premeditation.

  44. 44
  45. 45
    Chetan Murthy says:

    Adam, what’s the state of the art on “homebrew ammunition”? I’d guess that you can reload spent cartridges, but that’s about it? And I’d hope that there’s no machine that one cay buy for a reasonable homebrewer’s price, that’l reload them en masse?

  46. 46
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    Anybody who prints out this thing and fires a hot round through it is going to the hospital. End of story.

  47. 47
    Yarrow says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: Well, the TSA is considering stopping security screenings at small and some medium airports, so even a metal gun wouldn’t be found.

  48. 48
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @The Midnight Lurker: sounds like the people who do the Darwin Awards may need a whole new category

    “Sht, Vern, look what I made on the computer”

  49. 49
    James E Powell says:


    It will be like the rumor about the LePage Glue Gun.

  50. 50
    Old Dan and Little Ann says:

    I just saw on Twitter. “A sex robot is going to shoot someone with a 3d gun in my lifetime.” Ha.

  51. 51
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Do not try this at home, I am a professional…

    “Mercy, it’s the Iranian Occupation at the door, and I’m in my bathrobe!”

  52. 52
    Millard Filmore says:

    The 3D printing manufacturers will claim that injured people need to sue the anarcho-libertarian pushing to publish the plans. And then he’ll be in a lot of legal jeopardy.

    This dude will take responsibility for his actions, like any good conservative capitalist would do: declare his company bankrupt, turn his back, and walk away.

  53. 53
    burnspbesq says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    Now there’s a band you don’t hear about every day.

    With good reason.

  54. 54
    Wapiti says:

    These plastic guns make me think of the little stamped metal pistols we dropped into France during WWII. iirc, the guns held one .45 cal pistol round, and the entire package contained a pistol, 6 rounds of ammo, and instructions. The idea was that someone could kill a German at close range and then they’d have a real weapon. I’m not sure anyone actually used one of those pistols successfully.

  55. 55
    Roger Moore says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    Adam, what’s the state of the art on “homebrew ammunition”?

    That’s called hand loading, and it’s a popular hobby among gun enthusiasts. It can be more economical to load your own ammunition, and it also gives a wider range of choices of bullet and powder weights than what are sold commercially. So the horse is not just out of the barn on that one, it’s into the wild west and has sired an entire herd of offspring.

  56. 56
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Chetan Murthy: Reloading is big. Usually you reuse your brass. Pop out the used primers, put the casings into the cleaner, run the cleaner. Take it out. Inspect it and pitch the brass that can’t be reused. I don’t know of anyone who is forging their own bullets, but I’m sure there’s someone, somewhere who does this. If you have a multistage press, which seats a new primer, dispenses an appropriate amount of the powder you’ve selected, seats the bullet in the casing, and then crimps it into place, and you know what you’re doing, you can bang out several hundred reloads an hour. There are a few calibers that don’t do well with reloading because of the shape of the case, but by and large it isn’t very difficult to do. You can get set up with a decent multistage press and a good automatic cleaner for about $500. Powder, a powder scale, primers, a primer removal tool, bullets, and cleaning medium will run you several hundred more dollars. But powder lasts for a while. The cleaning medium is fairly cheap and can be reused several times.

  57. 57
    Another Scott says:

    @Wapiti: Wikiville knows all – FP-45 Liberator:

    The FP-45 was a crude, single-shot pistol designed to be cheaply and quickly mass-produced. It had just 23 largely stamped and turned steel parts that were cheap and easy to manufacture. It fired the .45 ACP pistol cartridge from an unrifled barrel. Due to this limitation, it was intended for short range use, 1–4 yards (1–4 m). Its maximum effective range was only about 25 feet (8 m). At longer range, the bullet would begin to tumble and stray off course. The original delivered cost for the FP-45 was $2.10/unit, lending it the nickname “Woolworth pistol”.[3] Five extra rounds of ammunition could be stored in the pistol grip.

    It sounds like a machete or short pike might have been more effective… :-/


  58. 58
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @HumboldtBlue: Well those folks sound like great fun at parties!

  59. 59
    Roger Moore says:

    @Millard Filmore:

    This dude will take responsibility for his actions, like any good conservative capitalist would do: declare his company bankrupt, turn his back, and walk away.

    ITYM he’ll point out the disclaimer in the fine print* and lawyer up.

    *Actually, I expect this guy to put the disclaimers in the big bold print up front.

  60. 60
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: People are going to blow their hands off and I can’t imagine there won’t be lawsuits.

  61. 61
    Brickley Paiste says:


    This right here.

    The fact that bothsides-erism is usually wrong and just a rhetorical position taken y RWNJs, does not mean that bothsides-erism is ALWAYS wrong.

    They’re both a bunch of annoying fucks. I have some guns – I don’t give a shit about your views of the shadow government or the environmental apocalypse. Just leave me the fuck alone. There’s no need for anyone to have a semi-automatic anything except a revolver. That’s it. Everything else is fine. Have it. 500 round magazine? Sure, but you have to pump it or work a bolt for every shot. Shorter than 26″? Fine, just going to kick the shit out of you and be inaccurate – but go nuts.

  62. 62
    Brachiator says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    The simple truth is the temporary restraining order is pointless.

    Great post. You explain all the potential and real problems very well.

    I suppose that a lot of dopes will try to make guns anyway, and hurt themselves. This makes some of the process self limiting for now.

    But I wonder whether these devices could be effectively used for cheap DIY research into other types of weapons?

    I also wonder whether 3D printers are allowed in prisons.

  63. 63
    burnspbesq says:


    Wood, whoever he is, was right to oppose AB 562, which was half-baked and bass-ackwards.

  64. 64
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Yarrow: The amount of stuff they find, and what they find, is astounding!
    Whoever runs their instagram is excellent. And they do dog posts too!

  65. 65
    Brickley Paiste says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    There are tons of people who cast their own bullets. Always on the lookout for cheap lead, tire weights by the road? Fantastic.

    Cabelas has a section on casting equipment.

  66. 66
    Roger Moore says:

    @Another Scott:

    It sounds like a machete or short pike might have been more effective… :-/

    Not nearly as easy to conceal, though.

  67. 67
    Jay says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Guys use the small metalworking lathes to make custom bullets from barstock and castings.

  68. 68
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @James E Powell: I’m almost afraid to ask…

  69. 69
    Another Scott says:

    @Adam L Silverman: My uncle had a gizmo like that to reload shotgun shells.

    He also used to make shells for his 3-pounder cannon out of frozen-juice cans (filled them with concrete).



  70. 70
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    @Wapiti: The liberator pistol! I’ve seen one! Stamped heavy metal. Waaaay safer than a 3D printed pistol.

  71. 71
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Miss Bianca: You’d be surprised how often that happens. Except I wear tshirts and workout shorts at home.

  72. 72
    Roger Moore says:

    Yeah, single payer isn’t going to work without a constitutional amendment to exempt it from Prop 98.

  73. 73
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Roger Moore: I expect that 3D printer manufacturers will begin including warnings saying that printing firearms/firearms parts, such as lower receivers, are not recommended.

  74. 74
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Brickley Paiste: I did not know that. And now I do.

  75. 75
    Roger Moore says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    I’m waiting for dirty cops to start 3D printing guns they can plant on victims as justification for killing them.

  76. 76
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Ugh. And I’m guessing I’m going to find that pressing new cartridges isn’t that tough either, sigh.

  77. 77
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jay: I will update someone’s dossier.

  78. 78
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Another Scott: I find it difficult to conceal carry anything above a 1.5 lbs cannon, but I’m funny that way.

  79. 79
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Right after the first lawsuit.

  80. 80
    Brickley Paiste says:

    And you can have “parties” where you go in with 10 or 20 people and buy a bunch of 80% receivers and rent a night at a machine shop. The operators can secure the receiver in the holder, calibrate the drill or miller or whatever, and then let you press the “on” button. “Your” are machining the receiver, see? Then carry it over to the next machine.

    There were a ton of these in the SF Bay Area a few years ago but they have died out. And I think that is mainly because people who wanted one or two or 5 new AR chassis, already have them. Of course you can’t sell them. But gosh since they don’t have a serial number who can really say who made it?

    The gun control crazies are fighting a battle they have already lost.

  81. 81
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Roger Moore: Well that’ll be different.

  82. 82
    Jay says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    It’s actually very tough, but you can buy new brass with 0 controls.

  83. 83
    HumboldtBlue says:


    Wood is our Assemblymember and a damn fine representative.


    We have a unique place here on the North Coast and we have pretty good elected officials.

  84. 84
    Jay says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Miss spent youth, back in the day when Grandparents bought kids chemistry sets and parents never clued into the high consumption of saltpetre, sulfur and fine charcoal.

  85. 85
    Adam L Silverman says:


    Wood is our Assemblymember and a damn fine representative.


    So he’s an expert at reading body posture and facial expressions?

  86. 86
    Ian R says:

    @The Midnight Lurker: They seem pretty useful for intentional suicide. Keeps anyone from being blamed for selling a gun to an obviously-depressed person.

    Still not a way I’d choose, since it’s far too likely to explode and seriously injure, but not kill.

  87. 87
    HumboldtBlue says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Meh, he’s big on soda bans.

  88. 88
    joel hanes says:

    @Brickley Paiste:

    There are tons of people who cast their own bullets.

    My grandfather was one. Handmade a couple rifles, too.
    We used get permission from the cops and then go scavenge the backstop hill at the police firing range;
    on a good afternoon after a rain, we could pick up 50 or 60 pounds of slugs,
    which would give him maybe 30 pounds of nice clean molten lead.

    I wish we’d known, back then, how poisonous lead is. Four generations of guys with my name grew up with lead soldiers, lead-casting tools, lead fishing weights (that we crimped on with our teeth), lead decoy anchors, etc, and spent far too much time standing far too close to a crucible of molten poison. I wonder who we’d have been if not for that.
    No way to know.

  89. 89
    Brickley Paiste says:

    @joel hanes:

    And you can always carry a few pellets tucked between your cheek and gum like tobacco rub so you could spit them out for quick reloads.

    What was I saying… oh yeah.

  90. 90
    HumboldtBlue says:

    @joel hanes:


    I’m over here wondering if Mo Salah can be even better this season.

    At least I’m gonna find out.

  91. 91
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @joel hanes: you’d be posting on a top 10,000 instead of here

  92. 92
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    It looked like it was pure instinct on the second woman’s part. Someone (in Minneapolis?) should offer her a few free lessons at their dojo so she can be more effective next time,

  93. 93
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brickley Paiste:

    And you can always carry a few pellets tucked between your cheek and gum like tobacco rub so you could spit them out for quick reloads.

    This explains a whole lot right here.

  94. 94

    @Roger Moore: My dad had reloading equipment back in the 70’s.

  95. 95
    Brickley Paiste says:


    I know, it makes me want to write Regency romance novels. What a fucking retard I am. Is there anything the world cares about less? Anything?

    No wonder crayons taste good!

  96. 96
    Brickley Paiste says:

    Oh Garbonzo, hold me in you pulsing sweaty arms for I am off to the capital to overthrow the tyrannical government!!!

  97. 97
    L85NJGT says:


    Spent brass is like golf balls, if you know where to look, it is everywhere. We’d scavenge whatever the off the shelf shooters left on the range. Last time I was at Laguna Seca there was still spent WWII brass littering the inside of the corkscrew.

    Best lead find I’ve seen was a X-ray room demo. All the walls were lead lined, and the competitive shooter on the crew couldn’t believe his luck.

  98. 98
    🌷 Martin says:

    Even the highest end, most advanced 3D printers that can print metal aren’t advanced enough to fabricate a decent firearm that is going to be sturdy enough.

    That’s really not the case any more. We can print (laser metal sinter) turbocharger housings and rocket engine housings that couldn’t be cast or fabricated in any other way. These are parts that operate under far more extreme load than a firearm and carry higher tolerances. Those printers are hella expensive, but we’re expecting a consumer metal printer in the next year or so to come in under $5K. Almost certainly not accurate enough for a gun, but these technologies are moving VERY fast and costs are coming down very quickly. I know some F1 teams are experimenting with 3D printed pistons using exotic alloys that have high heat tolerance and low thermal expansion (under normal operations, F1 engine tolerances are so tight that the engine is seized at room temperature – you can’t start the car without heating the engine up a few hundred degrees). It’s almost certain that there is some machining on these parts after printing, but they’re likely close enough that they could be used to produce a gun.

    Now, Adam is correct that modern firearms suffer production problems, but modern firearms seek higher tolerances because it makes the product better, and because that drives the value of the brand. But we’ve been making reliable firearms since before the Civil War, and it’s those tolerances you need to meet here, not modern ones, and even that consumer 3D printer is going to get pretty close to that.

    It strikes me that there are two markets for 3D printing guns – a high end market that is looking for capabilities that can’t be achieved with conventional machining (3D printing also allows you to combine materials in ways that you can’t do any other way) and a low end market for someone that wants a limited use but untraceable weapon. The Glock doesn’t get recalled because it blows up in the users face – it never makes it out of the factory in that case – it gets recalled because it’s unreliable over extended use.

    Ultimately, the release of plans for guns means that any regulation that relies on manufacturing (serial numbers, etc.) or sales channels (background checks) becomes moot because gun owners can bypass what has historically been mandatory steps in the acquisition process (which is why private sales are problematic). That means all gun regulation needs to happen at the point of ownership – a registry, possession restrictions, inspections possibly in certain cases, etc.

    It’s not that 3D printed guns is an imminent public threat, but it bypasses all existing regulatory barriers, in much the same way that Uber bypassed all of the regulatory barriers that had been set up around the taxi industry. Regulation can be a bit like the Maginot Line – it often works in specific places that you assume are necessary to contain a threat. If the threat comes at you from a different angle, then it’s useless, or worse, counterproductive for taking energy away from a broader, more agile regulatory structure. That’s what you’re seeing here.

    And guns aren’t the only problem area. Fundamentally, this falls in the same category as a host of other industry disrupting events that center around zero marginal cost distribution of goods. The IP behind a gun is valuable, and right now is generally only acquirable by buying that gun. So getting paid for that IP is reliable in that physical goods carry a lot of costs from manufacturing to consumer. But once that becomes digital and can be distributed for free thanks to the internet, then all bets are off. Consumers can find any of a range of options to turn that free digital IP into a physical good including buying the manufacturing layer itself. At that point, things rapidly commoditize and the value of that IP, that was previously protected by the necessity of having to buy the physical good diminishes a lot. The apparel industry is suffering from this a lot – cheap branded knock offs that are 90% as good but cost 10% as much. Designers are starting to turn to production techniques that are proportionately difficult to manufacture. When the $100 shoes cost $1 to make, $10 knockoffs are economically attractive to produce. When they cost $20 to produce, they no longer are. We’re watching that come for small item manufacturing. It’s inevitable. Guns will be no exception.

  99. 99
    dimmsdale says:

    thanks, Adam and everybody, for shedding some common sense on this issue–I think it’s just that so many of us are so inundated with “they’re doing WHAT, now?!!?” moments these days that there’s no such thing as “unthinkable” any more.

    I do wonder, though, whether plans or programs for 3D printed guns (especially in view of the plastic guns’ relative uselessness) fall in the same category as bomb-making manuals which are, I think, still readily available on the internet? The Anarchist’s Cookbook for SURE is still available–and provided 3D printed guns remain no more than a useful way of culling the herd of mental defectives, so to speak, I wonder what the harm might be even if plans/programs are disseminated all over the place.

  100. 100
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Viva BrisVegas:

    The was a single shot pistol called the FP-45 Liberator that was air dropped en masse to Resistance forces in Europe. It was called a “great gun to use to get another gun”. Like you said, it only had to work once. That is a concern with these guns. You only need it to work once to presumably get a better gun.

  101. 101
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Keith P.:
    Brake calipers encounter abrasion and heat, they encounter vibration, they encounter mechanical shocks from riding on a car wheel. But unlike the workings of a gun, they don’t generally encounter explosions that must be contained and channeled to propel a bullet.

  102. 102
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Roger Moore:
    Yeah, that can be a problem.

  103. 103
    Jay Noble says:

    Full Disclosure: I’ve been putting together Cabela’s catalog pages for over 15 years now. If you’ve seen a catalog in that time, you’ve seen some of my work (scary thought!) As has been pointed out, you can get everything to start your own arsenal from the catalog, except for that lower receiver. We even had a kit to make a single shot 10/22 into a Gatling gun.

    Reloading cartridges and shotshells is incredibly easy. Kids are often given some of the drudge tasks. What’s really interesting is how rare it is to hear about a reloader blowing up their garage but the fireworks nuts (both amateur and professional) do it fairly often.

    Anyway, there is so much out there that is legally and easily avaiable, it makes the motives of these printer people immediately questionable. The worst case scenario I see is these twits printing up lethal versions of Nerf guns.

  104. 104
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Amir Khalid:
    As long as you deal with small pistol calibers, however, the force requirements will not be as severe. I noticed a number of these homemade gun videos show .22 rimfire being used.

  105. 105
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Jay Noble:

    I’ve seen the gatling versions of both the Ruger 10/22 and the Ruger Mini 14. I don’t believe the Mini 14 version is easily available anymore.

  106. 106
    🌷 Martin says:

    @TheOtherHank: Consumer CNC is getting close. There are 5 axis mills with the precision you’d need for $5K or so. They may not be able to make a part that large yet, but they’re close. Won’t be fast, mind you…

  107. 107
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brickley Paiste:

    Still can’t get your “courtroom thriller” past the slush pile, huh? Don’t worry, vanity publishing has never been cheaper or easier. You’ll have copies of your unsold book ready to give as Christmas gifts in no time at all.

  108. 108
    🌷 Martin says:

    @Jay Noble: Oh, that’s you. My wife ordered me some new shoes from Cabela’s (you guys had a good price) and next thing we know there’s a catalogue with a shit-ton of gun stuff in it. Did not want! My wife immediately noticed the overrepresentation of women using the guns in the catalogue.

    Anyway, it’s a nicely produced catalogue. Good work.

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  110. 110
    Gvg says:

    Technology improves, costs go down over time. Adam, I sort of disagree that we shouldn’t freak out about this. It may not be instant immediate disaster but it is coming. The real problem is the lunatics are running our world right now. If we had logical moderates who could long range plan in charge, we could be making policy that would mitigate the inevitable problems. Especially get sane judges who understand and support regulation, instead of seeding our courts with magical slogan thinkers.

  111. 111
    BellyCat says:

    @🌷 Martin: I’ve been professionally involved in 3D printing for the past thirteen years and I agree 100% with Martin’s position.

    Dismissing this additive technology as part of a viable avenue for devices (which are not detectable with metal detectors) that can propel a lethal projectile is naive. Maybe not so much today, but consider 5, 10, or 25 years and the formula changes considerably.

    Undoubtedly, subtractive technologies will also be required. In both cases, additive and subtractive, the equipment prices continue to plummet and the accuracy keeps improving, making these technologies available to anyone with a modest salary.

    What we are looking at is not really a threat to the existing gun manufacturing industry as much as it is a threat to law and order since accuracy, repeatability, and range will continue to improve over time for home brewed guns. Legality be damned.

    How will we, as a society, respond? Only time will tell, because this will likely require a number of fatalities from homemade guns before there is even a chance for regulation if the past is any predictor of the future.

    On the bright side, DIY gun makers do not have a powerful lobby AND their activities threaten the hugely powerful existing gun manufacturing lobby.

  112. 112
    Another Scott says:

    @🌷 Martin: Good points.

    Presumably the way these “weapons” will be regulated in the future will be the same way we “regulate” nuclear weapons – it will be very difficult to get the raw materials (the plastic/metal spools) without tracers and/or regulated suppliers. And it will be more difficult to get the ammunition and the raw materials for the explosive parts of the ammunition.

    Having a CNC mill and a 3D printer isn’t a threat to anyone if they can’t get ammo, or can’t get the raw materials without Uncle Sam knowing about it..

    (Yeah, I recognize that there’s eleventy-seven-trillion tons of ammo out there already, so that’s a problem.)


  113. 113
    RAM says:

    To me, the blowing up in people’s hands is a definite feature, not a bug of plastic do-it-yourself guns. The unfortunate thing is that such explosions are infrequently fatal. Instead, they have a really good chance of creating disabled people who will be on public assistance for the rest of their lives. Which is ironic, since I’d be willing to bet they all say they hate welfare.

  114. 114
    Feckledd says:

    Im sure the person who gets shot will be comforted by the inevitable destruction of the gun. Thus technobabble is the usual smokesscreen.

  115. 115
    HL_Guy says:

    @Another Scott: Scott- you’re 100% correct. That’s sorta my point- we have real problems- I can buy a pretty reliable .38 handgun for like $150 with 3 minutes of googling. Why, other than personal curiosity and lack of scruples, would I want to buy an expensive 3d printer to make a shittier version of the same thing? If I’m really tryn’a kill someone or several, the tools are readily available. In the US, building 3dP guns will be like building bombs- people will do it, but it will be difficult, take expertise, and be a lot less efficient than just taking a credit card to a gun shop and buying an arsenal.

  116. 116
    boatboy_srq says:

    I have to ask whether ABS-perforated ammosexuals who thought their printed masterpiece was equivalent of either law enforcement standard issue or John Malkovoch’s plastic gun from In The Line of Fire is really sick a bad thing. Printed firearms at this stage of the technology seem best suited to ridding the planet of some very stupid people – namely, the idiots who thought the devices were a) useful, b) remotely safe to use and c) effective at anything besides inadvertent suicide. No doubt we will see more robust 3D printing solutions in the future, but for now this seems almost designed to rid the debate of one of its most useless and counterproductive segments.

  117. 117
    Skepticat says:

    Sssssh, don’t tell them. Let Darwin take care of them.

  118. 118
    Jay Noble says:

    @🌷 Martin: Well, not just me. :-) From beginning to the catalog going to the printer can involve up to 300 people or more. I do what used to be called Paste Up – rough layouts. And then clean up as the pages get passed through the various stakeholders.

    Guns and especially Ammo were/are Cabela’s bread and butter. So yeah, they kinda push those. But the more you buy the better they track you and you see less of the things-you-don’t-buy catalogs. Cabela’s customer database usage was the tops even before all the computer analytics was available.

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