I’ve just been reading up on 3D-printed guns for another article I was writing, and I was pretty surprised at how quickly the technology is advancing. I first heard about printed guns three or four years ago, when Defense Distributed released download files for the controversial Liberator pistol. This caused predictable outrage about a new wave of gun violence (which didn’t happen, of course) and the US government moved quickly to pull the files from Defense Distributor’s site.
Things have come a long way in three years, though. By the time the Liberator files were taken down they’d already been downloaded more than 100,000 times, so of course, they’re all over the internet by now. They’ve also been modified and improved or taken as the inspiration to create completely new designs.
As guns go, the Liberator is a fairly pathetic one. It’s a short-barrelled single shot pistol with no real sights and a clunky reloading system; it can only handle relatively low-powered pistol ammunition, and the barrels tend to burst after firing about ten rounds through them. On the other hand, every component of it can be made on a cheap 3D printer except the firing pin, and that’s just a one-inch nail.
There are some much better designs out there now. There’s a revolver version of the Liberator that holds four shots. The Songbird is a more compact and conventional-looking pistol that keeps the basic concept of removable, reloadable barrels. The Shuty is a semi-auto handgun that uses some metal parts. At the top end of the scale, if you have an industrial printer capable of laser-sintering powdered metal you can print a fully functional 1911 clone.
To a politician, this is a nightmare. To anyone who likes technology, or guns, it’s incredibly impressive. But is it really any use? Right now, probably not. The printed 1911 was made on a $600,000 printer, and even if you already have the equipment the cost of making it would buy you three or four brand new Colt Series 70s.
Plastic designs are a different story. Making a Songbird will need about $25 worth of parts and materials, and you can print it on a pretty low-end machine. The downside is that you get a very crude gun that isn’t a lot more dangerous to the target than it is to you. If you can legally get your hands on a conventional gun there isn’t any real reason to want a Songbird. The Shuty, meanwhile, is huge for what it is. The first models were built on a printed AR15 lower; current ones use a custom (but equally large) lower designed to take Glock 17 mags, and they also need a Glock barrel and AR15 trigger mechanism. It’s an ingenious DIY project, but not a practical gun.
But what if you can’t legally get a gun? Well, remember that printed AR15 lower the original Shuty used? Thanks to the USA’s bizarre gun laws the lower is the only part of an AR15 that’s legally a firearm, and you can print one of those. By the time you’ve bought the materials and cleaned up the printed part it’s cheaper to just buy a polymer lower, but if necessary you can build a working rifle on a printed one. And that’s with today’s technology; what will be possible in five years? It looks like gun control is on the way out.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.