And It Starts…

The first illegally manufactured 3D has been confiscated by UK police during a gang raid. The guardian reports

Component parts for what could be the UK’s first ever 3D printed gun have been seized by police in which they called a “really significant discovery”.

Police believe the parts represent the “next generation” of firearms, which can be created by gangsters in the privacy of their own homes and smuggled with ease because they can avoid X-ray detection.

The gun parts were discovered, along with a 3D printer, when officers from Greater Manchester police executed warrants in the Bagley area on Thursday.

Police found what is thought to be a 3D plastic magazine and trigger which could be fitted together to make a viable 3D gun.

Poorly made 3D printed guns are probably more dangerous to criminals than to anyone else.

Thanks to Conor for the tip.

UPDATE: It sounds like they have overreacted. Newer reports say that only a few trigger components were found along with a 3D printer. Maybe the media are getting warmed up. Just wait until a full gun is found!

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.


  • floppyscience

    “Police found what is thought to be a 3D plastic magazine and trigger which could be fitted together to make a viable 3D gun.”

    Wait…that’s all they found? Are those individual components illegal in the UK? You don’t just screw a trigger to a magazine and voila, functioning firearm.

    • sianmink

      Nanny state rules. It’s illegal if the state says so. Who to question their judgement, subject?

    • NotHisRealName

      I don’t know about the UK, but in Australia components that can be used in the manufacture of illegal firearms are as illegal as the firearms themselves. Trigger groups, upper and lower receivers (even 75%)… heck! Even folding or collapsible stocks are highly regulated in this country.

      • JackNco

        triggers are somethign you need a licence for, magazines are not here in the UK….. which is odd.

      • Frank

        Maybe it is time that Englishmen stood up and demanded their Rights as Men, Subjects of the Crown, English Citizens under God. Dear Lord, have some respect for your ancestry, yourselves, & some knowledge of the Commonwealth Constitution & Common Law.

        • bbmg

          Look at the highest rated comments on this recent BBC article:

          British men are angry at being emasculated by their nannified society, but being a stoic lot most of them are keeping a stiff upper lip. For now.

    • Brandon

      “You don’t just screw a trigger to a magazine and voila, functioning firearm.”
      You don’t? Drats! Back to the workshop….

  • Gunhead

    Two words: Machine Shop

  • MikeinBallard

    One word: Luty

    • Bubba

      The Austrians seized a bunch of full auto Luty guns recently.
      They seem to be far better than the 3D printed guns, because they’re able to fire more than 3 shots without exploding and blowing your hand off.

  • Blake

    I guess they haven’t found any 3D printed ammo yet…

  • Nicholas Mew

    meh. I would just go with a knife.

    • Frosty_The_White_Man

      When you can decapitate a guy on the street with ease, why bother with a zip gun?

      • Esh325

        Generally speaking on a wide basis, guns are going to be much more successful at killing people than stabbing instruments.

        • Cymond

          “Generally speaking on a wide basis” yes, modern firearms are more lethal than a common knife.

          However, I would MUCH rather face a single-shot pistol in a small caliber than a meat cleaver or machete.

          In case you don’t know, two jihadists publicly attacked & beheaded a British soldier on the streets on London in May 2013. They then stood around posing for pictures and giving interviews for 20 minutes until the police arrived. The police shot them.

          • Esh325

            I know about that story, yes. You can’t outrun a bullet, but you can outrun a knife.

          • dan

            Not if the guy holding it is faster

    • bbmg
    • Sticky-eye Rivers

      You are aware that knives are also illegal in the UK, right? I am not joking.

      • The Forty ‘Twa

        Knives are not illegal in the UK, completely uninformed nonsense.

        • bbmg

          “A court will decide if you’ve got a good reason to carry a knife if you’re charged with carrying it illegally.”

          That sounds encouraging 🙂

          • The Forty ‘Twa

            That does not state that knives are illegal in the UK, indeed it suggests a number of situations where it is legal to carry knives. I’m a Scottish police officer and I carry a knife with me at work every day. I also regularly come across people who are carrying a penknife or such on their persons in a perfectly legal manner.

          • bbmg

            Fair enough, but nowhere is it stated that self defense is a legitimate reason to carry a knife.

            Sikhs on the other hand are allowed to carry knives for religious reasons.

            I appreciate you are a law enforcement officer and duty bound to uphold the law, but objectively it makes no sense whatsoever.

          • The Forty ‘Twa

            Self defence isn’t a reasonable excuse to carry a knife in a public place in Great Britain (that might not be the case in NI, I don’t really know) however if they are carrying it for a legitimate purpose and use it in self defence then that would be permissible, if you catch my drift. I would say most people don’t have the skills to be able to effectively defend themselves with a knife and I couldn’t see that changing even if carriage for self defence was allowed so I’m not really sure what difference it would make in the real world.

            Probably the biggest issue I have with knife laws is that they are more prohibitive than parliament intended due to a couple of instances where judges interpreted them in a manner which was beyond the scope of what parliament had intended (especially when it comes to knives with a locking blade). Unfortunately this probably won’t change any time soon.

            Firearms not politics eh!

          • Howie Blumenkopf

            I think it has to be understood culturally.In the US it’s so easy to buy a firearm that knife control can be seen as a far left position that supposes further restrictions on the rights of self defence.I dont think it’s so much politics as it is the absurdity of knife control to most american when in most states it’s perfectly legal to go into a gunshop and buy any gun you want on the condition that it isn’t a machine gun.I mean even a modern artillary piece technically only requires a $200 tax stamp.

          • Levi B

            And fingerprints and a picture and a sign off from local law enforcement and a wait for a thorough FBI background check that is swiftly approaching a full year. “Only” my ass.

          • Jordan Bear Pollard

            In Canada, it’s the same process as you’ve described just to get a long gun licence. A one-year waiting period for a howitzer is pretty reasonable…

          • Howie Blumenkopf

            thats why I said “technically”

          • Vhyrus

            Here’s a counterpoint:

            In New Mexico (a fairly gun friendly place), auto knives (AKA switchblades) are completely illegal for most people to carry. Open carry of firearms, however, is allowed without any license and licensed concealed carry is legal as well. So, for me personally I can walk around with a handgun or even a fully loaded AR and no one would bat an eye, but I would go directly to jail for carrying a knife that opens itself.

            Make sense? I didn’t think so.

  • bbmg

    “The model parts can then be converted to become a genuine firearm capable of firing bullets.”

    In the same way a car starved of fuel won’t work, a gun without cartridges is useless. Where are these “bullets” coming from? Surely police time is better spent on tracking the ammunition sources as opposed to going for the most awkward zipguns ever conceived.

    • bbmg

      Reading the article again, it seems that the man arrested was suspected of “making gunpowder”. Certainly there are ways to make your own propellant, and having less energy than smokeless powder it would be less likely to blow the thing apart.

      Note the fire extinguished clipped in front of the printer, good to know that the UK’s Health and Safety regime has permeated into the criminal underworld too 😀

      • Callum King-Underwood

        the dude owned a model shop (which was infact the location raided) which stock rockets, as in models of the saturn rocket or apollo or something entirely fictional that people load up with explosives (can get a permit for it) and launch from a field. Its thought that he hadnt renewed his explosives license.

  • Julio

    I see that the BBC report

    notes that the arrest was made “on suspicion of making gunpowder”, presumably under this act (passed in 1861!):

    and not on suspicion of making restricted gun parts.

    I suspect that as far as the printed parts are concerned, this will be another case of the law lagging behind the advance of technology.

  • dougal

    It is Fascist Britain

    • phuzz

      It’s paranoid Britain.

  • Tenacious221

    What kind of viable gun can you make with a magazine and a trigger?

    Also…the firing pin and ammunition are still gonna show on an xray…

  • KLP

    Much ado about some ink printer components. Honestly, are even the law enforcement in the UK so out of touch about firearms that they can’t even identify what is NOT a firearm? Thankfully some citizens were able to id what they actually were. The “trigger component” would either be an atrociously unergonomic trigger blade or a horribly ambiguous sear release. If an individual (even a “gangster”) had the knowledge to model something in a CAD software, he or she would be able to at least draw a few straight lines and gentle curves.

    It’s an understatement to say it’s sad that guns really are the bogeyman over there, where grown adults are seeing their shapes in the shadows and crying a press release over it.

    • bbmg

      Thanks for that!

      Worth noting that very few law enforcement officers in the UK actually handle firearms.

      • Clint Notestine

        not much different here when you have cops who cant even tell their sight is on backwards or their mag is backwards. Average cop here gets 2 hrs of gun training a year if they are lucky.

        • Callum King-Underwood

          Police here dont get firearms training, they basically just walk around wearing stab vests with a baton (asp moadknock or casco) and CS spray (which is itself classified as a section 5 item in the UK and cannot be owned by the public). Even in london only 7% of police are firearms trained, let alone carry (although go to a busy tube station, those are one of the few places you will see police walking around carrying firearms, old phone I had a good pic of some police carrying LMT AR15’s through london bridge station)

          • SUPERSOAKER

            That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever read

    • The Forty ‘Twa

      What you might think of as a firearm is not necessarily what is defined as a firearm for the purposes of law in the UK (or Great Britain more specifically as NI have their own firearms legislation, because of course the UK is made up of three distinct and separate legal systems as I’m sure everybody knows…). A component part of a firearm is interpreted to be a firearm under the Firearms Act 1968.

    • KestrelBike

      Even if they were firearm components, I’d take a shoddy 3d-printed single-shot gun pointed at me over a real steel knife any day, thank you very much.

  • PCP_original

    You know…. if Uk criminals are THAT hellbent on making their own guns, instead of buying them in the black-market like any decent criminal does since… ever, to build a crude gun out of scratch why don’t they make a Sten? Heck, rifling is optional depending on the application. It would probably be easier, cheaper and better than the current printed guns. Or if just want something that shoots why not a Philippine Guerrilla style slam fire shotgun, you need a nail, a threaded plug and two pieces of pipe.

    • phuzz

      But that wouldn’t grab as many headlines!

  • hami

    Until you can pass ammo through a metal detector the X-ray defeating properties of a 3D printed gun is a non-issue.

  • MP

    Got to make the UK safe for those legions of royal watchers.

    • Callum King-Underwood

      Because we are all royal watchers….

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    It’s almost as if other countries are going to be forced into experiencing liberty and freedom first-hand.

  • RocketScientist

    I am reading in several posts that in the UK, Australia and elsewhere that possession of components that could be assembled into a firearm is illegal… I do not understand how these laws work, or are at all enforceable. With $10 and a trip to any hardware store to get some pipe, a nail, and a bungee cord, you can make a very effective hand-held shotgun in under 10 minutes. Are these regulated items in the UK? Just about any device with a release catch can be used as a trigger, any sort of tube can be used for a low-powered pistol or shotgun barrel, any piece of wood/plastic/rebar/composite can be used as a stock, a “receiver” is basically just a hunk of metal/wood/plastic/whatever that all those other things are mounted to or inside. It seems if these laws were enforced to the point of being effective, you would essentially not be able to own anything more complex than a pencil. And if they do NOT bar possession of some of the above things, then why even have them on the books, as anyone could walk into any hardware store or stroll through any scrapyard and walk out with everything they need to make a gun??? I often despair at the idiocy of the American people and the American gov’t. Then I look at other countries and think “at least we’re not quite as idiotic as they are”.

    • bbmg
    • The Forty ‘Twa

      They work because the judiciary is not deciding that every single bit of bungee cord is a component part of a firearm. What you describe is simply ridiculous and does not happen.

      • RocketScientist

        You reinforce my point. It would be ridiculous to outlaw all those everyday objects. But since those everyday objects can be very easily made into a reliable firearm, why have the law on the books at all? If its intent is to prevent people from owning/purchasing components that can be assembled into a firearm, why does it not apply to those items that are (a) the most easily acquired and (b) the most easily assembled into a firearm? And if it is NOT going to apply to those items, why does it even exist? My point is that the law is either ridiculous (if enforced in such a way as to actually achieve its intended goals, namely preventing people from having the ability to build/assemble a firearm) or is completely pointless (if not enforced in such a way).

        • The Forty ‘Twa

          I’ll employ an analogy here.

          Pick an everyday object you have lying around your house for DIY like a hammer. A hammer is not a made or adapted offensive weapon, ergo perfectly legal. However if you intend to use a hammer as an offensive weapon it becomes an offensive weapon… What you see here is the intent and the purpose behind carrying the hammer is important in deciding whether it is an offensive weapon or not.

          The law is broadly analagous when it comes to component parts of a firearm, the case would be decided on it’s merits. Now I don’t know about the US legal system in any great detail but I strongly suspect that provisions are in place for various different offences in that they are decided on merit. One possible example would be if somebody were buying fertiliser to make a bomb, the fertiliser by itself isn’t illegal but the intent of the person buying it is important. Perhaps you can tell me what the US legal position is when buying fertiliser to make a bomb.

          As something of a tangent to the discussion about component parts, when I served in Northern Ireland during my time in the army finding couriers with a few component parts of firearms was not uncommon. A trigger here, a barrel there and so on.

          • Cynicalforareason

            And it’s the “intent” part of the law that’s the issue here. If somebody has _actually_ committed a crime against another person, there is usually objective evidence to prove it. Someone’s _intent_, however, is only ever known to the individual in question, rendering it completely subjective. Any law that allows the police and CPS to second-guess someone’s intent is wide open to abuse. (The outrageous prosecution — indeed persecution — of Mick Shepherd springs to mind here.)

            “They work because the judiciary is not deciding that every single bit of bungee cord is a component part of a firearm.”

            But what’s to stop them if they did? Who’s to say that old widow Doris isn’t intending to construct a shotgun out of those old bits of gas pipe in her garden shed? Egads, she has fertiliser in there too! She could be making pipe-bombs! Intent is entirely subjective, after all… Let’s face it, if they really wanted to fit her up for something, old widow Doris would be hauled off in an instant.

            Unlikely scenario? Well, change “widow Doris” to something like “Mohammed Abdul” and see if it still sounds unlikely.

          • The Forty ‘Twa

            The CPS don’t have anything to do with prosecutions in Scotland so I can’t comment on how they operate.

            Something like assault in Scots Law still requires intention, even with objective evidence, to prove it. Intent is absolutely fundamental to the legal system as a whole and is applicable to a huge range of offences. This is something which is common to common law legal systems around the world.

            It would arguably be a lot easier to prosecute somebody if intent was not a requisite part of the legal system. Juries would be extremely unwilling to convict Doris (although perhaps not for the more exoticly named Gentleman you mention…).

          • Cynicalforareason

            Quite so: without the legal requisite of intent, it would be essentially impossible to live within the law at all. But when the authorities can decide on your intent, without an actual crime having been committed, that’s perilously close to what you’ve got. True, it’s still got to go to a trial, but if you happen to be the ethnic, religious or political folk-devil-du-jour…

            Actually being in possession of an illegal weapon is one thing; there’s a physical weapon there constituting evidence of the crime. But if the authorities can decide that a few bits of plastic could be made into a gun, therefore the owner of that plastic is in possession of a gun, then you truly have a thought-crime. And that should scare the crap out of everybody.

          • The Forty ‘Twa

            I’ll readily admit to having a bias when it comes to component parts due to my experiences in Northern Ireland. I knew people were assembling these parts to be used to try and kill us. Perhaps for that reason alone I consider the intent important because looking at a barrel or a receiver alone and saying it is useless ignores the fact that people with criminal intent are more than willing to disassemble a firearm if it means they can exploit the system.

            There certainly is scope for debate as to when a firearm becomes a firearm. If somebody has a barrel, a receiver and a couple of other components but a no bolt for instance do we call that a firearm or not? I don’t think there is an answer to that that will please everybody unfortunately.

            I don’t expect many here to agree with me, especially those from the US, but the legal and cultural aspects surrounding firearms in the UK are a lot more nuanced than even most Brits would realise.

          • Phil Brereton

            “The law is broadly analogous” In reality firearms law in the UK is
            basically anal. Drawn up by lying politicians running scared of an out of control press. 2 Men, Michael Ryan in Hungerford and Thomas Hamilton in Dunblanes, actions have caused the draconian law changes we suffer here.
            Its about time we found a set and got a few of our “rights” back. We no longer have the right, it’s a privilege to hold a firearm that the local Chief constable can withhold. Welcome to the UK nanny state.

    • Callum King-Underwood

      Crown Prosecuting Service guidance:

      “component parts”. R v Clarke (F), 82 Cr App R 308, CA states that the component part of a prohibited weapon is itself a prohibited weapon. Although there is no statutory definition, the Home Office Guidance to the Police at paragraph 13.70 states the following:

      The term “component part” may be held to include (i) the barrel, chamber, cylinder, (ii) frame, body or receiver, (iii) breech, block, bolt or other mechanism for containing the charge at the rear of the chamber (iv), any other part of the firearm upon which the pressure caused by firing the weapon impinges directly. Magazines, sights and furniture are not considered component parts.

      Of the 2 parts printed the police claimed that one was a trigger and the other was a magazine. The magazine by the government themselves is declared to be perfectly legal to manufacture, the trigger however is ambiguous thanks to legal mumbo jumbo. Component part of a weapon is considered a weapon, but then trigger doesn’t directly fit into their definition of component part.
      Regardless, the photographs of the parts can be directly compared to photographs of the printouts from publically available 3d models, they are part of a makerbot replicator filament extruder (the printer owned by the “suspect” was a makerbot replicator 2) and a filament spool holder.

  • sianmink

    It was printer parts all along. Leave it to hoplophobic england to get in a tizzy about parts that sorta maybe could be gun-shaped.

  • The Forty ‘Twa

    Greater Manchester Police, who seized these parts, are notorious for their PR machine going into overdrive at the slightest whiff of anything that might make them look good (have a look at their Flickr page, their Chief likes to be in the limelight as much as possible). This looks like it is going to backfire for them if they are indeed 3D printer components as they appear to be and I hope it prompts a rethink of their policy.

  • Munkfish

    This one seems to have already been busted. What they found are 3d printed parts to a 3d printer. Buuuuuut, that 3d printer could print guns, so…

  • Andrew

    No, Greater Manchester Police Haven’t Seized “The UK’s First 3D-Printed Gun”

  • Callum King-Underwood

    The parts seized the police claimed were a trigger and magazine. However the parts can easily be proven (they are on thingiverse) to be part of an extruder (the actual part for squeezing plastic into the heater and nozzle) and also a spool holder (the filament comes on a spool).

    They did however find gunpowder and chemicals to manufacture gunpowder, which is great and all, but they also found those model rockets people launch as a hobby – which also use gunpowder… He didnt have a permit for the powder, but thats not going to get him in jail, they’ll just fine him a bit and force him to get a permit.

  • Fromthesidelines3

    It looks like they aren’t even gun parts after all and instead the UK police jumped the proverbial gun.

  • Frank

    Maybe it is time that Englishmen stood up and demanded their Rights as Men, Subjects of the Crown, English Citizens under God.

  • Jordan Bear Pollard

    This thing would blow your hand off on the first trigger pull. Plastic doesn’t stand up to 30,000 pounds of explosive force any more than flesh and blood does.
    I think these guns might actually be effective at preventing crime…

    • Callum King-Underwood

      “this thing”, wasnt found. What was found was a linkage for a makerbot replicator 2 extruder and an ABS spool holder.

  • Maleficarum

    From what I understand after even further investigation the ‘trigger’ parts just ended up being replacement parts for the dual extruder on the machine, and not even remotely gun related.

  • Martin Grønsdal

    Apparently this turned out not to be weapon parts of any sort.

  • avconsumer2

    “Police believe the parts represent the “next generation” of firearms,
    which can be created by gangsters in the privacy of their own homes…”

    lol…. or… just regular people?

  • Fed24

    I live in the UK and this has been a massive mess up by the police that our anti shooting press lapped up. Going on the morning news the police had raided a criminal gun factory and found a 3D printed gun.

    The chief constable made a live statement on TV, lots of patting themselves on the back and all that.

    As the day went on the truth started to trickle out:

    Criminal gun factory => in reality a model shop.
    3D Printed gun => a plastic magazine and trigger (more on that later)
    Possible explosives manufacture => this is a model shop that supplies black powder for model rockets
    Air rifle customised to look like an assault weapon => in reality a completely standard Steyr H/FT target rifle. Shop owner is member of target shooting club.
    Plastic magazine and trigger => well no they are actually printer parts.

    To save face Police state they never said it was a full gun (liars going on earlier press release) and are investigating if the parts could be made into an illegal gun. Well here is the rub, neither a plastic magazine or trigger are controlled items in the UK. Anybody can own or make them, no licence is required! So even if this guy had been making exactly what they were saying he was breaking NO LAW! Cosmetically dressing up an air rifle to look like an Assault Rifle is again totally legal, the owner had not done that and the rifle was totally standard anyway, again NO LAW was broken! As long as he does not tamper with it to make it more then 12ft/lb (unless he holds a FAC and has a slot for it) he is not doing any wrong…which he didn’t due to it being entirely standard!

    Utter Farce, the press is only just starting to correct the mistakes and police lies they were funnelling onto the public.