The Future Of Buying Gun Parts

On Demand 3D Printing and CNC’ing might one day change how we buy firearm parts. Instead of finding a retailer with a product in stock, we would buy the part from an intermediate company which would print or machine the part on demand, then ship it to us. The creator of the part would get a percentage of the profit after the materials and labor expenses. Much like buying an app from the Apple App Store.

A Spanish reader emailed me to show us a battery compartment replacement part he made for the Magpul PDR airsoft carbine which allows a bigger battery to be squeezed into the grip. The part can be ordered from, a 3D printing marketplace. Shapeways will print the part on demand and ship it anywhere in the world.


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.


  • Jim Nanban

    This really could help with the external parts and bits and such, that’s an excellent point. I could easily see custom grips and maybe even stocks/risers growing out of this 3D printing stuff.

    • Vermin.308Winchester

      Yeah Fuck Nill-Griffe elitist scum bags allways gouging the common man with their sellout craftmens workmanship all the power to the proletariat man

      • Jim Nanban

        Oh…kay? Try English?

      • Steve (TFB Editor)

        That was unnecessary

      • Vermin I don’t know what’s up with you today but you aren’t making any sense and we don’t need the vulgar language in every post.

        • Vermin.308Winchester

          I don’t have vulgar language in every post although that was the definition of rant s

          • I’m not that quick on the ban trigger. I like to talk with readers and just pass along the rules of the road. Just no political talk please.

            I’m not going to remove you’re account.

          • Vermin.308Winchester

            helo who removed my comment is vote based?

  • Vermin.308Winchester

    Microscopic businesses selling to a slowly diminishing clientele god forbid they have any poltical influence I can hardly wait what where we thinking with those crazy free markets and businesses that had the right to defend their own interests of all things so archaic

    • Bob Barker

      English motherfucker, do you speak it?

      • Vermin.308Winchester

        Thinly veiled satire, motherfucker do you understand it

        • Chrome Dragon

          Thickly veiled satire, I’d say.

      • I don’t think English is his first language. I’d hate for somebody to ask me to type a comment on a Hungarian or whatever page.

    • NO political rants–you know the rules.

      • PatrickHenry1789

        Dang Phil, none at all? Kinda hard to do these days, especially when it comes to gun control issues.

  • Cornelius Carroll

    I have to agree with Jim: many parts such as grips, stocks, and handguards will flourish in the on-demand market. Maybe even with lowers on ARs. However, I think we are a long ways from on-demand uppers, barrels, bolts, etc. Those use exotic materials (e.g. C158 or 9310… 4150CrMv) which are difficult to acquire and machine hence the need to specialized work fixtures etc. It kind of takes a specialized shop to produce those parts and it just makes sense to do them in runs of 20-100 not one at a time.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      Excellent, sensible point made — I definitely second your opinion on this topic.

  • Panda

    3 letters to tear down this argument. FFL or ATF (technically that 2nd one is 5, BATFE) take your pick.

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      ATF does not regulate parts. If any organization does it is State with regards to exporting gun parts.

      • ThomasD

        No, but they have already demonstrated an ability to regulate if and how those parts are attached to a firearm. So practically speaking the market will be highly controlled by the ATF.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    The potential, although as yet not fully realized, is significant. It will be interesting to see what time, and the attendant legal ramifications, bring to the table regarding this subject.

  • Ben 10

    how about 3d printed bullets?

    • Anonymoose

      How about just casting your own?

      • Vermin.308Winchester

        ben 10 was proboly joking however metal printing based on layering binder impregnated metal dust then infusing the weak easily crumbling mass with a liqed metal could make som interesting frangibles

  • JT

    Or print the parts yourself. Miniature CNC machines are coming available that can be used to print small durable metal parts like pins and fire control groups. 3D printers can print the body, even in small increments like WarFairy’s designs. All you need is a barrel, and if accuracy isn’t paramount or we’re talking shotguns, just substitute a pipe. The future will be in pistols and barrels for printed designs. And premium non-printed guns iMO

  • bbmg

    It’s more of an effort to produce the 3D drawing than the actual part, but once you have it you can print as many as you want.

  • Jim Chambers

    CNC parts have been here for a while. I needed a firing pin for a long out of manufacture rifle and was able to have one made for a very reasonable price (under 10 bucks).

    BTW, love the ME3 design of the rifle in the pic. 🙂

  • Callum King-Underwood

    Nice N7 logo thrown on there.

  • greensoup

    The largest advantage now and in the medium term is that an idea is achievable to a regular person now. Some many things available are exactly the same, because your cost to innovate on something risky was to high, or you would have to pitch your concept to a bigger company. Now or very soon you’ll see more exploration, more great ideas because the cost is less of an obstacle, self employment based on someone’s imagination.

  • Vermin.308Winchester

    The delete twenty of my recent comments trigger is a different story apparently

    • There was no need to delete them Vermin308Winchester. If they need to go I’ll take care of it. I appreciate the gesture though.
      May I make a friendly suggestion that you use Google Translate– post in your native langage then have the program translate it to English. That should help get your point across a bit better.

      • Vermin.308Winchester

        I didnt delete them that was my point

  • janklow

    let me tell you what: if this can all ultimately result in me getting some Valmet magazines, i am all for it.

  • Nadnerbus

    For people that have pointed out the limits of the 3d printing process for guns, take a look on youtube for GE’s press release video on Additive Manufacturing. They have basically taken the process to the next level, using a laser and metal powder to 3D print aircraft engine parts. It’s a really remarkable process. Granted, its extremely expensive and new technology, but I see no reason to think that it will not become more widespread and available over the coming decades.

    Imagine having both the polymer and metal parts all printed out for you, only assembly required. Amazing times we live in.

  • Aaron

    Amazing times in deed! I’m seeing a lot of potential with these new processes. Like Jim Chambers noted, older products that are not in stock can now easily be replaced or upgraded. In addition, this process can allow buyers to custom fit common parts to their personal desires or needs for the popular firearms of today.

  • meatdonut

    While this certainly can happen to a small degree, it’s good to remember that 3D printing will NEVER become cheaper in volume than injection molding. CNC machining also isn’t the cheapest route for many parts (hard to beat stamped parts, where possible).

    • rjackparis

      Not so sure about that chief. Printers used to be expensive and yet nearly everyone has one now. Then again kinkos still exsists.

      • meatdonut

        More importantly, book factories still exist. Imagine printing a 400-page book on your laser printer. Another example: CD/DVD discs can be written by a writer in your home but production discs are pressed (molded) in a factory.

    • blobface

      It’s true to an extend, but remember, with mass produced injection molding, you have raw materials from Africa, mold designers from Taiwan, factory workers from China, factory owners from Hong Kong, shipping company from Australia, distributors in America, and shop keepers from [insert country] selling it to you, it’s a huge waste of energy for a small plastic part, sure, it works out cheaper if you have a massive volume, but with lots being chipped out along the way, and for small product designers / developers, they can’t afford these logistics, it might not be tomorrow, but one day it will be more sensible to print out your own simple products, just like how you wouldn’t drive down to a local repro company to have one sheet of A4 printed. With 3D printing now, PLA plastic reels can essentially be manufactured from any local low energy factory, and 3D printers that could be printed by your friend who owns a 3D printer, they are considered the future, the next industrial revolution, years before Cody Williams started messing around with stuff.

  • Jason

    More like we pay to download the program like video games from Steam and print it in our garage…

  • James Fisher

    Way to go guys, you got this removed from Shapeways. The company quite wisely removes anything gun/airsoft related for just this very reason.

    Shapeways is a incredible idea and an expanding new way of doing business, keep it out of the “Muh Freedoms” domain please.

  • Mike G

    If 3D printed receivers become common in the future, we can fully expect other critical parts such as barrels, slides and bolts to be controlled just as recievers are today. The current restrictions on the sale and transfers of receivers only dates from the Gun Control Act of 1968 which required serial numbers on the restricted receiver.

  • bradykyle

    Well there are plenty of stores where you can easily buy gun parts. They have a great stock for varieties of guns, you just need to place an order and they will not charge anything for shipping their product. One of the good examples of such shop is that could be of help.


    The Internet has revolutionized the human experience. Definitely 3D Printing and CNC’ing will one day change how we buy firearm parts. Very much appreciate your insights on this very important topic. Keep blogging!