The Advantage Of Open Source Guns

Forbes has published an article about some of the modifications and upgrades that the 3D printing community have made to the open source DefCad Liberator Pistol. Andy Greenberg writes

Travis Lerol, a 30-year-old former military software engineer in Glen Burnie, Maryland, printed his Liberator (shown at right) within days of its appearing online. Unlike the original printed gun, he says he’s altered his to have a rifled barrel, a move designed to avoid the National Firearms Act, which regulates improvised and altered weapons and has a provision covering “smooth-bored” pistols. He’s also built another version of the barrel for .22 ammunition that uses a metal insert for reinforcement, instead of the entirely-plastic barrel for .380 rounds used in Defense Distributed’s original. And he’s cast versions of the Liberator’s barrel in epoxy that take .380 and .45 ammunition, a design he argues will be more durable than the pure ABS plastic Defense Distributed tested.

liberator pistol 2

liberator pistol 3

The ability to experiment with open source 3D printed designs is powerful. Just like with open source software, designs like the Liberator can evolve keeping the best features and community modification,  while bad ideas fall by the wayside.

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.


  • bbmg

    The genie is out of the bottle, it won’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that with a couple of strategically placed metal inserts – that can be easily available over the counter items like plumbing parts – one can easily design and print a Sten style pistol calibre weapon capable of automatic fire.

    It still needs ammunition to function though, granted it’s easier to get your hand on a cartridge than a complete firearm, but the advent of 3D printers is not making ammunition more accessible, fearmongers take note.

    • mikewest007

      I saw loads upon loads of home-made guns in different calibers, and all of them years before 3D printers even appeared. Determined people can do a lot of things, and the knowledge is out there since a long time (I remember some cottage industry “build your own SMG” books from the sixties).
      Proof? Poles built a lot of Stens right under the Nazi noses, and they even managed to improve the design with the Blyskawica.

      • sianmink

        Yup. Printing a gun is nice, but you only need a drill press and basic tools (if that) to make a sten clone.

        • Robert PARIS

          Before all that, you could build an ak from a screw build kit and a barrel press kit. The rifle may only last a few hundred rounds. but it would last long enough to procure a few better weapons.

          • Few hundred? Mine is going on a few thousand.

    • noob

      I’m waiting for somebody to fire a black powder muzzle loading DEFCAD Liberator variant with a hand cast projectile made with lead from an automotive wheel weight just to shut up the “you can’t print ammo crowd”. It’s a single shot design. You don’t lose much going to muzzle loading.

      • foxtrot unicorn

        why cant you print ammo? you can print bronze, ceramic or glass bullets and plastic cartridges – all it needs to do is hold the powder and the primer.

        • Uberyeti

          Where will you get powder and primer from if not a gun shop?

          You could make them from scratch, but it’s a laborious and dangerous task for most people.

          • noob

            if you can cook meth, you can make powder and priming compound. a chemistry college dropout could do it. if they restrict powder enough there will be a black market.

            you remember when we had that drug problem, and we had a war on drugs and now nobody takes drugs anymore?

            me neither.

  • 032125

    I love how the US government is scrambling to suppress the “Liberator” pistol without any sense of irony. Perhaps they are just hoping like mad that no one remembers how our own government planned at one time to actively distribute the FP-45 Liberator into other nations with the express intent of causing mayhem. Cody hit the bullseye when he named this project.

    file has been removed from public access at the request of the US
    Department of Defense Trade Controls. Until further notice, the United
    States government claims control of the information.”

    Consider the implications of the open admission that “the United States government claims control of … information.”

    • M.M.D.C.

      Yes, and the most beautiful irony of all is that after hundreds of thousands of downloads it’s too late for the feds to “control the information.”

    • The allies in WWII actually did drop a ton of original Liberators all across the continent. The idea wasn’t to use it as a primary or even secondary weapon. The whole idea was a resistance fighter used the Liberator to kill a german soldier and take his K98 or whatever he had and ditch the liberator or pass it along to another fighter.
      Inland manufactured the Liberators for the US Army.

      It certainly worked!

      • As I read it, they weren’t really used in the European theatre at all (even though that was the original plan) and most went into the ocean, but they did drop them all over the Pacific theatre. Sadly, due to the jungle environment they’re most likely all dust by now.

        • junyo

          Thus the actual idea was to get the Nazis to do as the current US government is doing – freaking out about a theoretical threat.

          “The weapon was valued as much for its psychological warfare effect as its actual field performance. It was believed that if vast quantities of these weapons could be delivered into Axis-occupied territory, it would have a devastating effect on the morale of occupying troops. The plan was to drop the weapon in such great quantities that occupying forces could never capture or recover all the weapons. It was hoped that the thought of thousands of these unrecovered weapons potentially in the hands of the citizens of occupied countries would have a deleterious effect on enemy morale.”

          • I read somewhere that what stopped our plan to drop the Liberators was the objection of General DeGalle, who feared an armed French citizenry after the war when he would be seeking the Presidency.

          • 032125

            “weapons potentially in the hands of the citizens” certainly does seem to be having a “deleterious effect” on my enemies, foreign and (especially) domestic.

  • Geo

    Their fear is misguided. Why would criminals print a single shot with a short lifespan on a printer that cost a few grand when they could illegally buy a functioning street gun for $100. I can’t believe I’m saying this but a .25 Lorcin is the better option.

    • or a cap’n’ball revolver bought off the internet (no background check necessary for this ‘obsolete’ firearm) for less than $200

      • sianmink

        Man now I kinda really want a dragoon or 1860 army repro.

        • Komrad

          Then do it.

        • Suburban

          OMG, it’s the “black powder loophole.” Won’t someone please think about the children.

  • Ian

    I think my favorite part of this is the gun owner victims thinking that the government is trying to suppress them from printing their own firearms. The reality is that they’re trying to keep “those who would do harm” (I am loathe to use the T word) from gaining access to potentially difficult to identify firearms (zip guns).

    The Gov’t doesn’t care if you idiots go and blow off your hands trying to make a pressure vessel out of squeeze cheese plastic.

    • Komrad

      I would be far easier for a terrorist to go to any hardware store and buy two sizes of pipes, an endcap, a dowel rod, and a nail and make a slam bang shotgun (not to mention more effective and longer lasting) than it wouldbe for them to purchase a ~$1000 printer to print a gun that fires twice.

      The attempts to censor defcad are futile in this era and demonstrate a willful disregard for freedom of speech.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Ian and a hundred other vocal people don’t seem to get that while we all know you can make a trip to home depot and come out with a shotgun, that doesn’t matter to the people who are taking alarm at this.

        The people who against this are mistaken that creating a gun would require skill, they see this as a click-print which even they can not pretend takes any amount of thought or skill. The key part here is the distribution and easy replication.

        This if done correctly is the end of gun control, and not because of the single shot product being made, but of how the average person can even perceive how regulations like AWB and mag limits are done for if you can just quietly “hit print” in your home.

      • Or, you know, the logical route, and get them off the black market.

    • gunslinger

      Citizen! PICK UP THAT CAN!!!

    • Nicks87

      Wow, pro-authoritarian much? What does boot polish taste like exactly?

    • dantes44

      They’re closing hardware stores now?

    • Robert PARIS

      …Look up 4 winds shotgun and see that you’re an idiot, But you’re more then welcome to continue drinking the coolaid.

    • Not sure why you believe a gun like this is not safe.

      a) Made from modern, very strong materials.
      b) Most of the calibres it’s designed for do not fire at high pressures.

      This is perfectly safe.

  • Avery

    I’m still waiting for someone to make a modification to attach muffler or oil filters as a crude suppressor.

    Oh, DefCad had the original version of that adapter.

  • tincankilla

    I think the far bigger market for 3D designs won’t be in zip guns, but in the greater freedom this will bring to gun design in general to the basement gunsmith. design, print, test, redesign. hell, i have three novels designs that i’d love to tinker with. just need to learn CAD.

  • Cuban Pete

    I love American ingenuity. AWESOME JOB!!!

  • KM

    hold on. IS THE GUN IN THE PICTURE MAGAZINE FED?? When did this happen. Bravo for following these developments. This is history in the making, in that there is the potential for non-gunsmiths, non-mechanically inclined to build firearms AND to work with others to produce the best firearms for their needs or interests


    • Komrad

      It’s still single shot.

      The protruding piece is a block of steel to comply with the a law that requires guns to have at least 6 oz of steel so that they can be detected by metal detectors.

      • KM

        I see. I almost wonder if it was also intended to leave room for an eventual magazine-fed design

        • Komrad

          That would be cool.
          Make it take CZ-83 mags or something.


    Looks like a tediore pistol!

  • Smootchie

    Is that a Kel-Tec? I think I saw one on Gunbroker for $3k

  • Geo
  • SN

    What many folks seem to miss here is that not everyone took metal shop as a kid
    or has a garage full of tools. Yes you could make a zip gun out of pipe and wood
    but I just need access to a printer and to click a mouse. Even that is not the most
    important point…the debate over being able to prevent ownership of a firearm is over.