First (Almost) Entirely 3D-Printed Gun

Cody Wilson has completed his 3D printed handgun. Forbes reports

All sixteen pieces of the Liberator prototype were printed in ABS plastic with a Dimension SST printer from 3D printing company Stratasys, with the exception of a single nail that’s used as a firing pin. The gun is designed to fire standard handgun rounds, using interchangeable barrels for different calibers of ammunition.

Technically, Defense Distributed’s gun has one other non-printed component: the group added a six ounce chunk of steel into the body to make it detectable by metal detectors in order to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act. In March, the group also obtained a federal firearms license, making it a legal gun manufacturer.

The gun appears to fire a very low powered pistol round. It looks like a .25 ACP to me. The gun can probably only fire one shot. A gun like this can be easily built out of a pen, a spring and a nail using nothing more than a drill and a hacksaw. It does not require a $10,000 3D printer.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in.





Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • From the pic, it seems to have a metal barrel liner, besides the firing pin. ABS alone cannot withstand the pressure and temperature of a shot.

    • bbmg

      That was my first though but looking closer it could also be discoloured plastic from the shot.

    • He may have rubbed it down with acetone to get a little harder surface inside the barrel.

  • Tropicalspeed

    SURE IT CAN, ALEX – ONCE.

  • NickB

    So…… paying back the $10,000 using the NYC buyback program?

  • Guest

    How about a $1300 printer from Staples?

  • alexander bowden

    what about a $300 abs printer? or the $1000 DIY printer, which is one of the best FDM printers on the market…

  • FourString

    Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I’m pretty sure you can buy a 3D printer that can make these parts for way less than $10,000 ($1300 last time I checked). Cheaper than two-three average pistol purchases or even (depends) maybe a fancy semi automatic rifle.

    • milo

      the main reason why we constantly throw around the $10,000 phrase is that only those in that range have a good enough detail to make parts for firearms, even that most recent documentary that went out showed only $40,000 printers. i like the liberator design since it seems so basic that it would probably work with a $1,300 printer and its homage to the wwII liberator

      • FourString

        Oh, I did not know that. Thanks for enlightening me! 🙂

      • Steve (TFB Editor)

        ^^^ What milo said. Not just detail but also the quality of the finished plastic. $10,000 was the low end, they go much much higher than that.

  • Exactly on with the pen thing there at the end. All the panic this thing will cause. Those panicked people don’t realize there is far easier ways to make a junk gun to fire one shot than to use a 3d printer.

    If I were Cody Wilson, I would design this to be single shot but use a glock barrel or something.

    • Daniel

      That would be fine, but the whole point of it was to show that you can build a gun entirely on a 3D printer, even the barrel. Using a Glock barrel would negate that point and add additional cost. I don’t think it’s supposed to be practical or meant for anybody to actually print them for personal defense.

      • That’s true. I kinda got sucked more into practical than principle 🙂

  • it’s hideous.

  • BFS

    Neither new nor particularly interesting from the technical standpoint.

    Back in high school in the 1970s, a friend made a functional .22 from a nail, a rubber band and a block of hardwood, following plans from the old “Improvised Munition Handbook.” His tools consisted of a hand drill and a saw and it would have been equally “undetectable.” It lasted for a few shots before cracking. Later, he made an upgraded version in wood shop with a steel barrel. If memory serves, it was a .45 ACP and is probably gathering dust in an attic somewhere.

    (Then there’s the disposable “Four Winds” slam-bang shotgun, made from sleeved water pipe. Concealable, untraceable, illegal as hell and less than $10 at your local hardware store, no questions asked.)

    I get what Cody’s trying to do here. This is a political statement, nothing more or less. If this is a first step, well and good, but printing a gun (almost) entirely out of plastic is little more than a publicity stunt.

    • noob

      The legal basis behind this weapon is interesting because lawmakers will prima facie want to ban it, but they will be hard pressed to find features that don’t apply to other guns, or can’t be designed out of the liberator by anybody with 5 minutes and a copy of solidworks.

    • noob

      The “four winds” shotgun is “illegal as hell”, but the final Liberator design will be compliant with all gun laws. Since it is from a licensed mfg it could theoretically even be sold at your local gunstore with no problems.

      Now for a thought experiment – let’s try to ban it:

      Ban 3d printed plastic guns?

      Ok, take the plastic parts, make a mold and do a lost plastic cast in metal, and a barrel (available in the mail) from another gun as the barrel. With a very low power round it should still be safe enough for intended purpose. Banning guns with cast parts means you have to also ban the Hi-Point C9 which would make Hi-Point unhappy.

      Ban 3d printers for private use without a licence?
      That’s like setting fire to your house to kill a flea. Desktop mfg is supposed to save the american economy from cheap chinese imports. Any country that kills the 3d print technology this early in the game would fall behind the countries that don’t. It would be like banning the computer or banning headphones because the RIAA says so.

      Also the RepRap 3d printer prints itself, so kids will have them hidden in their rooms.

      Ban home made firearms?
      Thomas Gomez made a 80% lower into an AR-15 the other week on this blog. Banning the manufacture of home built firearms for personal use has occurred in other countries. I think USA has an advantage for permitting the mfg of firearms for personal use as a human right because it won’t send police and honest individuals into conflict at the stroke of a pen.

      • mikewest007

        Bah, some guy made an AK receiver from a shovel. Ban shovels?

        • noob

          I fear the day that a politician realises that the one thing all these things have in common is the man, and just bans the man.

          • mikewest007

            Ten bucks it’ll be a misguided feminist.

      • If the four winds is long enough it’s perfectly legal in the US.

    • noob

      3d Print has taken guns from being one of the commanding heights of mass production industry to being a cottage industry again.

      Now one does not need to be a skilled machinist with a factory to make a gun, but can instead get a home computer to handle the detailed work for you. The price of doing this at home will continue to fall, and 3d printers like the rep-rap will self replicate and spread exponentially.

      at this point there are three ways to react, acceptance, regulation and prohibition.

      I contend that acceptance of home made firearms for personal use (as is the case in the USA) is the only reasonable way to legislate, because the other two will lead to a war-on-drugs scenario, except that instead of drugs we’re talking about something that will spread as fast as pirated music.

      Countries that do not value liberty so highly will try to regulate at first – which is a thorny problem because the only ways to police what goes on in one’s own home are search or entrapment or making the possession of a prohibited article an aggravating (aggravated?) offence. All these techniques have been used against the drug trade, and the liquor trade before that, with a lot of bloodshed and mixed results.

      Complete prohibition simply increases the level of violence between the state and the people.

      To give an example – say the laws target fixed ammunition and propellants, because the guns are too easy to print.

      On amazon you can buy ISBN 978-0-6151-7427-3 “The Preparatory Manual of Black Powder and Pyrotechnics” by Jared Legard. In it it can show you how to make several kinds of nitrocellulose based smokeless powder, but please do a chemistry degree with a practical component at at least community college first. You will blow yourself up if you forget to passivate the glassware (which he assumes you know).

      Primer compound is also discussed..

      To make a law that stops people from making their own .22LR in their home workshop you would need to regulate the sale of ammonia, battery acid, paper, lead fishing sinkers, metal pots, glass cups, pencil lead, and plumbing supplies.

      Other countries might be okay with you needing to own a car, and present your licence and registration, to buy car battery acid but I don’t think America would be.

      And some countries that are decidedly unfree may benefit from suddenly having an equalizing force in the hands of the youth.

      I mean, look what facebook did to Egypt.

  • Nicks87

    Awesome, I love what these guys are doing. Anybody who believes in freedom and is sick of the corrupt US govt regulating, banning and taxing everything in existiance needs to support DD and the devlopment/research they are doing.

  • tincankilla

    i get the political point of this exercise, but these gents should start a collaboration with readers of this blog to start banging out some sweet new designs.

  • Duray

    Wouldn’t a plastic bore be legally classed as smoothbore, making this an AOW? Hard to imagine poly lands putting any spin on a bullet.

    • noob

      I think that having gone to all the trouble of getting a firearms mfg licence and putting in a metal lump for detection purposes, he’d rifle the barrel for legal reasons even if it wasn’t effective. This is a legal pistol from a legal mfg that can be sold through a FFL dealer to anyone who is legally allowed to own firearms (non felons etc).

      any law changes to ban it (except by saying that you can’t 3d print a firearm, which is a whole other can of worms, because how are you going to police what a man does with his computer?) will cut into all other firearms made by everyone else.

  • Big Daddy

    Might as well make a zip gun. That’s an old name for a one shot homemade gun. We took a car antenna, a piece of wood, spring and simple door lock with some O rings. It looked almost like a flint lock pistol. The bottom of the antenna was about the same size as a 22. I guess you could find a used barrel and use something bigger, like a 38. Ya pop open the latch of the door lock and boom, it was loud.

    • I’ve heard that most of the antenna zip guns blew up after a few shots.

      3D guns are cooler.

  • bbmg

    Once you have the ammunition, making the gun to fire it is the trivial part.

    http://improguns.blogspot.com/

    3D printing one for the sake of it is a bit of a first world whine more than anything.

  • Komrad

    I have an idea for getting the requisite 6 oz of steel. The main problem with these guns will be the low strength of the barrel. It would be easy to set the outer dimensions of the barrel to inner dimensions of a standard size pipe. Slide the pipe over the barrel and secure with some 3d printed pegs.
    Shouldn’t be too hard to get 6 oz that way and the gun would actually be more functional.

    Another problem would be the rifling. I’m sure that the design does (or could) include rifling, but it would almost certainly be worn away with the first shot.
    If a short end section of the barrel was made oversized by .1″ or so, it would remain rifled and thus legal after the rest of the barrel reverted to smoothbore.

  • MOG

    Suicidal assassin weapon.

  • Castillo

    There are 3d printers that use metal, not everything 3d printed needs to be made of garbage plastic

  • orly?

    Yup, I can see this potentially getting past a security checkpoint.

    I doubt everyone will follow the Undetectable Firearms Act.

  • blackthorn

    According to the NY POST article, it’s a .380 acp. and lasted6 rounds before it went belly up. The best part is that it’s got every gun owners favorite Senator, Chucky Schumer, foaming at the mouth.
    That’s always entertaining! 🙂

  • SN

    I think the real point is being missed by many of us folks who have
    technical skills…more and more folks don’t. I took metal shop (and
    any shop class available) growing up…I work with many folks today
    who would be hard pressed to change the oil fillter in their car. I
    could probably make a crude 20 rd AR-15 mag from sheet steel, more
    a more folks don’t. I live in a apartment….no garage or shop behind
    my place either. But many folks CAN pour some plastic in a printer and
    load a cad file. The 3d gun DOES work…1st rule in a gun fight is have a
    gun.