3D-Printed Gun Successfully Fired
The world’s first gun made almost entirely with a 3D printer has been successfully fired in the US. But it’s not going to herald an age of widespread weapon ownership, and it’s certainly not proof that 3D printing technology needs to be controlled for our safety.
The gun – called the “Liberator” and produced by Defense Distributed, a group that describes itself as aiming to “defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms” through “information and knowledge related to the 3D printing of arms” – is the second to have made the headlines in the past year. In July, an American gunsmith printed the lower receiver for an AR-15, a type of modular assault rifle popular among enthusiast. Although not capable of firing on its own, the part is the only component legally considered a firearm in the US, so the rest of the gun – the barrel, trigger, cartridge and so on – could be bought without a licence.
The Liberator is a more serious prospect. All of the necessary parts can be printed from a 3D printer except for the metal firing pin, which is made from a single nail. (In order to comply with US laws, the gun as produced also has a 175g chunk of steel inside it, so that it doesn’t evade metal detectors). It is a fullblown gun, and recognisably so.
But technologically, it’s still simple. That’s because the principle behind a gun isn’t too tricky: load a bullet into a reinforced tube, and whack the back of it hard. That’s an engineering problem street gangs in the 1950s managed to solve with wood, antenna housings and elastic bands, building “zip guns” to shoot at each other; and it’s also the basis for converted air rifles and cap guns. The difficult stuff – getting it to fire accurately, repeatedly and without jamming or blowing up in your face – is still a long way off for 3D printers. And even the best 3D-printed gun still relies on someone else to make the gunpowder.
Here’s the video:
Now that this technology is out of the bottle and in the public domain, controlling it is going to be next to impossible.