German Police Experimenting With 3D Printed Guns

3D printed guns made headlines earlier this year, especially when the 3D printed “Liberator” pistol design was released to the public by Defense Distributed. It sparked a debate as to whether plans for 3D printed guns such as the Liberator pistol should be available to the public. The State Department even requested that Defense Distributed take down their 3D printer files a few months back citing a violation of ITAR regulations.

Well it looks like the German Police (the Bundeskriminalamt), or the BKA for short, are getting in on the 3D printed gun action. They’ve purchased a 3D printer of their own to test whether these inexpensive firearms are a real concern, or just a bunch of malarkey. Just ask the Australian Police, they tested a 3D printed gun that blew up. The BKA is also looking into 3D printed guns as a cost cutting measure for their own police force. Maybe Heckler & Koch should look into developing a 3D gun of their own to help reverse their financial situation.

Ray I.

Long time gun enthusiast, archery noob, Mazda fan, Sci-Fi nerd, Whiskey drinker, online marketer and blogger. My daily firearms musings can be found over at my gun blog and Instagram.

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  • bbmg

    A 100% 3D printed gun is obviously going to be deficient in some areas and also be less than compact due to the need to build up material thickness for strength. Now that Defense Distributed have made their point that an all-plastic pistol can be made, why aren’t they focusing their efforts on a desgin which can take strategically placed inserts for load bearing items like the barrel and hammer, and uses metal springs?

    Suitable items can be found easily and cheaply in a hardware store so it would retain its “people’s pistol” status, yet actually be practical as a weapon.

    • Kav

      Remember that 3D printing technology, and material technology too, is fluid. Expiring patents and new tech will advance the field even further – obviously that’s not going to make the BKA any faster, but it could help widespread implementation of 3D printing in firearms come a little bit sooner.

      • bbmg

        I doubt anyone will have a laser sintering metal “printer” on their desktop any time soon, not in my lifetime at least. Then again, who in the 1930s could have known that devices small enough to be carried in your pocket which could access a world of information (though would be used to look at boobs and funny cats) would be available to almost anyone less than a century later.

        • Kav

          Oh jeez, here comes the wall of text.
          I agree with you, some of that technology is a bit far fetched. One thing I do think is fairly obvious is that albeit gradually, stock reduction manufacturing and metallurgy are reaching their peak. Home printed weapons are one thing, but to a police force looking to save on weapons by investing in multi-thousand dollar printers and manufacturing at-cost, given how far we’ve come, them being able to print high-strength composites isn’t that far fetched. PLA and ABS printing at that level have been accomplishable for a while and are now bottoming out in price (You can get an ABS printer for under $400! Holy shit this is the future!), and the very fact that sintering tech exists suggests that we’ll see a convergence of top-end 3D printing tech and bottom-end cost efficiency as the patent holders of the premium machines lose exclusive access to their tech.
          All in all, I think desktop sintering in your lifetime could probably happen, assuming you’ve got a few decades left. It just might force you to choose, ironically enough, between the sintering and your organs.

    • wetcorps

      Depending of where you live, finding a (cheap) rifled barrel is NOT easy. Once you got the barrel, building the rest of the gun is not that complicated, 3D printer or not.

      • Bull

        button rifling isnt that complicated though 🙂

        • Paul Epstein

          Not on a conceptual level, but machines that will do it precisely, in a reasonable span of time, and repeatably, are still very difficult to craft. Unless you’re going to go into business rifling barrels, it’s impossible to justify sinking the expense into one.

          If it’s ever possible to make consistent rifling strong enough for actual use, manufactured with some sort of additive technique as found in 3d printing, that’s probably going to be a game changer for the industry. If it can be done using the same machine that makes other gun parts, you’re looking at the potential of 100% in house construction of custom weapons, anything with a valid set of plans can be made to spec. How cool would that be?

      • bbmg

        An improvised firearm is unlikely to be used in a situation where a spin stabilized projectile is relevant so a smoothbore barrel is more than adequate, particularly if chambered for say a 0.410 bore shotgun cartridge.

        • wetcorps

          Smouthbore is sufficient for most purpose, true. A rifled barrel, even a short one, would be usefull for a .22 zip gun for cheap ammo and less chances to blow your hand up.

  • JT

    I believe the Australian police printed a gun to get it to fail. I think the German police will print a gun until it works, which probably won’t be that difficult

  • sakitla

    I believe they are testing this not just to save money but also the practicality of such a weapon in the real world. If a cop could do it on govt time one could think of various way a criminal enterprise could do it for profit