After just watching another uninformed news segment on 3D printed guns, this time on Sunrise, I felt impelled to post some facts about the reality of such a thing.
Can you actually 3D Print a Gun?
Yes it is possible. Cody Wilson of Defcad.com has released files on the internet for a hand gun which is capable of firing a single bullet. When I say hand gun its more of a zip gun then a fully working fire arm. Zip guns, or improvised firearms as Wikipedia refers to them, can be constructed from every day items such as a simple metal tube, a torch body, PVC tubing or even just a piece of wood. Every one of those items is way more accessible to the average Joe then a 3D printer at this point in time.
Can it really fire nails, shards of glass etc?
NO. Like most conventional firearms a 3D printed gun can only fire a bullet. The bullet cartridge or shell contains the propellant the actually fires the bullet. Like conventional guns, the 3D printed gun swings a hammer (a nail) which contacts the end of the bullet casing, igniting the propellant and sending the bullet forward. A 3D printed gun on its own is not capable of firing anything. The only danger a 3D printed gun posses on its own is if someone threw it at you, and being made of plastic the worst it could do is give you a nasty bruise.
How is a plastic gun capable of firing a bullet?
A conventional hand gun has a metal barrel with a thin wall section approximately 3-4mm thick. The 3D printed gun has a replaceable, single use plastic barrel with a very thick wall section, approximately 10-15mm thick. The barrel is also very short (50-60mm) in length which severely limits the accuracy of the gun. I’m no expert on guns but from what I have read you’ would need to be within 1-2 meters of the target to be remotely accurate. When a bullet is fired it generates a lot of heat which deforms the plastic barrel, hence they are single use only and must be replaced to fire another bullet.
How easy is it to print a gun?
If you can get your hands on the 3D CAD files and have access to a 3D Printer that can print strong accurate parts and you know how to use it, then its not that hard. The complete gun would take somewhere between 24-48 hours to print and assemble depending on your 3D printer and your assembly skills.
Is this the first time people have fabricated their own guns?
No. Hand made guns have been in around well before commercially manufactured guns even existed. Even before this 3D printed gun was blown out of proportions by main stream media people have been making their own firearms, guns and other weapons. Google “CNC guns” and you will find plans and designs for manufacturing your own firearm from metal. All you need is access to a block of steel and a CNC mill.
But YOU STILL NEED A BULLET TO ACTUALLY FIRE A GUN!!
The main thing the media is missing is that you still need to get your hands on a bullet before a gun becomes dangerous. If the government wants to control anything it should be the control of the ammunition, not guns. Chris Rock figured this out well before people started printing guns!
3D printers are not the problem here, they have made fabrication of a gun easier if you have access to the technology and CAD data but that’s not a problem if obtaining bullets/ammunition is regulated and controlled… and you have $5,000 for a bullet!
That’s my two cents!