A fully 3D Printed Metal 1911 Pistol

It was bound to eventually happen, but I did not think it would be so soon. The company Solid Concepts has printed an entire 1911 pistol with a 3D laser metal sintering printer. What is more, the company has an FFL Manufacturing license and can print guns on behalf of customers with a five day turnaround. You provide them with a suitable CAD model and they will print it for you. This video shows their all-printed 1911 being fired …

What is even more amazing is that they printed the barrel, including the rifling grooves. There was no machining whatsoever involved in the manufacturing of this gun.


SolidWorks writes

Laser sintering is one of the most accurate manufacturing processes available, and more than accurate enough to build the 3D Metal Printed interchangeable and interfacing parts within our 1911 series gun. The gun proves laser sintering can meet tight tolerances. 3D Metal Printing has less porosity issues than an investment cast part and better complexities than a machined part. The barrel sees chamber pressure above 20,000 psi every time the gun is fired.  “We’re proving this is possible, the technology is at a place now where we can manufacture a gun with 3D Printing,” says Firestone. “As far as we know, we’re the only 3D Printing Service Provider with a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Now, if a qualifying customer needs a unique gun part in five days, we can deliver.”

I mentioned earlier this isn’t about desktop printers, and it’s not. The industrial printer we used costs more than my college tuition (and I went to a private university) and the engineers who run our machines are top of the line; they are experts who know what they’re doing and understand 3D Printing better than anyone in this business. Thanks to them, Solid Concepts is debunking the idea that 3D Printing isn’t a viable solution or isn’t ready for mainstream manufacturing. We have the right materials, and the right engineers who know how to best program and maintain these machines, to make 3D Printing accurate, powerful and here to stay.

So you won’t be able to print a gun from a small desktop printer, but technology is only going to get smaller and cheaper. One day a machine gun will be just a click away …

Thanks to Whaleoil and Matteo for the tip.

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.


  • Stanislao

    Metal printing isn’t going to get terribly cheap. The metal powders alone are horribly expensive. Printers capable of sintering metal require a very powerful laser, another expensive component.

    • Ch

      Yah, and one day we’ll have phones that fit in our pockets, computers for everyday people and cameras that take color film.

      And flying cars.

  • Lance

    It is the gun banning advocates worst nightmare come true now.

    • Guest


    • El Duderino

      Not really. For less than the printing machine, you could have a traditional gunsmith shop and a fat wad of cash left over. You’d need a ton of skill to build firearms (beyond illegal open bolt fixed firing pin submachineguns) but as noted in the article you need a ton of skill to build firearms this way too.

      • JMD

        It’s the beginning of something they can’t stop, and eventually it will be affordable for average people. Some day, everybody will have a 3D printer that can do things like this in their house, next to the microwave, and the dishwasher. Why buy stuff and have it shipped to your house, when you can just buy and download the plans and print it? This is technology that’s going to change everything, from manufacturing, to retail, to transportation and logistics, and yes…..gun ownership rights.

        This technology is a powerful tool in the fight against people who hate freedom, and love to control other people. It’s a new way to do an old thing, and so much more.

        • Jonathan Lynch

          I agree ! This is a remarkable accomplishment ! But where to you see gun availability going when the last Lead factory is being forced out of business by our great government, with the specific purpose of drying the marked of ammo ?

          • noob

            melt down the copper in disused whitegoods to cast bullets.

        • Anonymoose

          Who says people are going to pay for gun blueprints? We’ve already got a ton floating around the internet for free.

        • noob

          Hmm. does anyone want to start a business selling the metal powder material – home delivered?

      • kevinp2

        The skill in 3D printing is in the design and development process. Once the design is verified in the field, anyone who has access to the same equipment and material should be able to replicate infinite copies of the firearm, without having much skill other than assembly of the final parts.

      • Cornelius Carroll

        FWIW, SLS and DMSLS goes off patent next year and there’s talk of $1,000 Chinese printers

        • Callum King-Underwood

          which handle resin only

          • Cornelius Carroll

            DMSLS handles metal. The “DM” stands for “direct metal”

          • Callum King-Underwood

            none of the DIY or rumoured chinese machines are DMSLS.

      • noob

        only for now.

        the price of the metal sintering printer is mostly tied up in patent royalties and software licences.

        remember when laser printers were really expensive and now they’re not?

        remember when computers were really expensive and hard to use and now babies use iPads?

        it’ll be like that.

        the price of a lathe on the other hand is mostly tied up in the price of the quality steel to make it.

    • Eric S

      Indeed. My supply of soccer mom tears was running low and I find that they keep the spring in my baby murdering assault clips well lubed.

      But this tech is neat and anything they can do to advance it is okay by me.

      • Edgar Castelo

        Just say you’re a Mexican, and Eric Holder will supply you with every gun conceivable.

        • mikewest007

          That’s a fantastic offer, since come elections over here in Absurdistan, I’ll have to lead either a revolution or a counter-revolution, and this way or the other US interests in foreign countries will be in danger. But what am I supposed to do if I don’t even look Mexican?!

          • Edgar Castelo

            Come on! I’m Portuguese, and a Catholic!
            For any Democrat, that makes me a papist NIGGA!
            I’m Holder’s “People”…

          • Hey Edgar–man please don’t use the “N” word that’s a big time rule breaker. Thanks!

          • Guest

            I love yoyr Blog, and even if i did not, it’s your Blog, your rules. Ok.

            But there’s this thing called CONTEXT, and you might notice no race was insulted by the Phrase, not even mine, as I was being sarcastic.
            Won’t do it again, but, just one question: What will you do, when Libs start calling Constitution, the “C” word, and Freedom, the “F” word?

          • Edgar Castelo

            I love your Blog, and even if I did not, it’s your Blog, your rules. Ok.

            But there’s this thing called CONTEXT, and you might notice no race
            was insulted by the Phrase, not even mine, as I was being sarcastic.
            do it again, but, just one question: What will you do, when Libs start
            calling Constitution, the “C” word, and Freedom, the “F” word?

          • sauerquint

            Plenty of liberals read this blog, like me. So F word you 😉

          • Edgar Castelo

            What? So you gun-grabbers want guns, but only for you all-knowing Commissars; Obamacare bailouts, but only for you Pinko lot. F word you, Commie, why aren’t you in Cuba, already?

          • Nicks87

            Real liberals, like the people that wrote the constitution or socialist posing as “liberals” like the ones running/ruining our country?

          • Freedom1Man

            Say “Hola senior Holder.”

        • sauerquint

          It’s funny. The program to which you refer started under Bush and Gonzales, but it’s shutdown came under Obama and Holder. So they are obviously to blame.

          • Edgar Castelo

            “Bush did it”. No, the program was quite different, no-one under Bush provided Auto Rifles to Drug-Lords, just so a lot of people were massacred, so ALL guns are confiscated. But even if it was exactly the same, why didn’t Obama stopped it? He sure stopped NASA’s Space Shuttle program, and is killing one Industry after another, but let me guess… Bush started it, or was it Julius Caesar?

          • guest

            Firearms Not Politics.

            Please shut the fuck up already.

    • jdhunter

      Yeah… lots of criminals have so much trouble buying a second hand throwaway gun that they’ll save up money to buy a laser sintering printer and hire a couple of engineers to make one for them.

      Got it.

    • angrymike

      Isn’t it great !!!!!!!!!!! 😉

  • B

    This is great! This is innovation and capitalism truly at work

    • mikee

      The innovation to come from this technology as it develops will be revolutionary in all manner of applications!

  • Cornelius Carroll

    I’m very curious about the barrel. Does anybody know if they heat-treated the barrel?

    • Russell

      I’m not sure if they did, but the laser that sintered any of these pieces is more than capable of laser surface treatment, similar (usual superior to traditional) heat-treatment processes.

    • Lurgubbe

      This. From what I’ve seen from SLS before printing a barrel seems like a very, very big leap. Perhaps the barrel simply isn’t that good?

    • Greg Paulsen

      <– Additive manufacturing tech.

      As part of the DMLS process there is a post heat treatment in a furnace to de-stress the material. So yes, it is heat treated. My educated guess is they built the barrel small and post-machined the inside to get the smoothness and/or rifling needed. The out-of-the-machine texture is more of what you see on the lower part of the slide (slightly grainy). Anywhere you see smooth/shiny you are guaranteed that they milled the piece after metal sintering.

  • Metal man

    as great as this is… it’s not the same as coming from billet metal. I foresee cracking on the slide as the first failure. Not saying it will happen right away but will eventually happen. I don’t know how it would compare to cast metal but I would have to say cast is more durable. 3d print castings for the lost wax process. My 2 cents

    • Paul Epstein

      Casting isn’t perfect either but it can be heat treated. Shapeways is a 3d printing site which offers metal components, and they do exactly what you’re talking about with lost-wax castings.

    • Vince

      “3D Metal Printing has less porosity issues than an investment cast (lost wax) part and better complexities than a machined part” And once you heat treat the printed part, it winds up with simmilar strength properties to metal machined out of a billett, if not better because your not work hardening or stressing it. Most surprising thing to me is getting the rifling right

      • noob

        hmm. QC would be important.

        imagine not discovering a glitch in the 3d model on an unseen recess of muzzle crown (if the weapon was printed with an integrated flash hider) until 10,000 copies had been made?

  • Benedict Tan

    Politics aside, the fact that this technology can print something for an application as high impulse as a firearm is pretty darned awesome. I can only imagine how potentially beneficial to mankind the tech can become when it gets cheaper.

    • sauerquint

      It’s the Star Trek replicator prototype.

      • gunslinger

        tea. earl grey. hot

    • noob

      hmm. Can it print an engine block? A car engine is just a gun with a bullet that turns a camshaft and then returns.

      I’d love to see a completely printed car, manufactured in one piece, with only a need to install glass and tyres.

  • TalkingBear

    All I have to say about 3d printing guns is, this is probably the same discussion people had when polymer was introduced. “Thats never going to work”, “It will break”, etc.

    • Callum King-Underwood

      This isn’t one of those plastic printers your used to. Its a laser sintering machine. They essentially take powdered metal, blast it with high power lasers and fuse it into 1 piece.


      An additive manufacturing layer technology, SLS involves the use of a high power laser (for example, a carbon dioxide laser) to fuse small particles of plastic, metal (direct metal laser sintering), ceramic, or glass powders into a mass that has a desired three-dimensional shape. The laser selectively fuses powdered material by scanning cross-sections generated from a 3-D digital description of the part (for example from a CAD file or scan data) on the surface of a powder bed. After each cross-section is scanned, the powder bed is lowered by one layer thickness, a new layer of material is applied on top, and the process is repeated until the part is completed.

      Might not be as strong as casting. But its going to be alot stronger than polymer. Apparently heat treating SLS’ed parts ends up with near identical results to heat treating billet. I dont know if they heat treated these parts.

  • AD

    It’s only a matter of time now before you can get actual firing replicas of your favourite sci-fi movie and anime weapons… dibs on the revolver from Trigun!

    • gunslinger

      i’d love to see that

    • noob

      I’d like to see personalised guns with messages written on every part.

      something to give you a warm fuzzy feeling while doing a boring clean.

  • bbmg

    Laser sintering is beyond the reach of most tinkerers, but with a cheap-o printer and a rudimentary furnace you can cast your own metal parts from 3D printed models: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bxOzCgUj_U

    • noob


  • gunslinger

    granted they only printed one(?) i’d love to see a full stress test and find the first point of failure. will the slide, frame or barrel crack? what goes wrong.

    but definitely a move in the right direction.

    • Callum King-Underwood

      My opinion, barrel first, but it seems to be holding up. Its apparently eaten through 50 rounds without issue.

  • Dr. Strangelove

    I’m not at all familiar with 1911 pistols but to me there seems to be a 0.25s pause just before the next round is chambered when we see the pistol being fired from about 1:37 onwards (in the video above). Is that normal? Compared to footage of other 1911s being fired, it doesn’t seem to be normal!

    Might that be why they showed a lot more footage of the pistol being fired with no more rounds in the magazine, only one in the chamber?

    • gunslinger

      crap. that’s the question i wanted to ask.

      a 1911 shouldn’t hang up like that.

      • noob

        it’s impressive since there was no hand fitting or break in.

        a 1911 made traditionally would have some guy put jeweler’s rouge on the rails and work the slide until smooth at the very least.

    • BOB

      obviously there’s some issue with the extractor and timing, nonetheless, excellent proof of concept

    • It almost failed to chamber the next round on two out of three rounds fired.

    • st4

      The tolerance must be very tight. I’ve shot high end 1911’s out of the box that similar return to battery bugs that worked themselves out after a break-in session or two.

  • Slim934

    This seems more like a proof of concept kind of thing than anything else. Nobody is going to seriously produce 3D firearms as a profitable business without another few decades of development to make the process less expensive.

    That being said I would imagine a huge market for either custom aftermarket parts or just for parts which are hard to find.

    Midway USA or somebody like that could field orders for certain small hard to find parts to any machine shop with the right equipment to get them fabricated for them. This will be a boon to people with rare guns that need replacement parts.

    • Callum King-Underwood

      They were just demonstrating the versatility of machine and materials I think.

  • iksnilol

    Am I the only one who is impressed by the fact that they printed the rifling? Could one possibly make some sort of mold to easily rifle plumbing pipe (of the right diameter)?

    How durable is cast aluminium? I was thinking of using a sun catcher or two to melt aluminium to cast a trigger mechanism for a crossbow (thinking of metal tubing for receiver)?

    • noob

      hammer forged plumbing pipe?

      • iksnilol

        For improvised firearms.

  • snake

    Looks as if it has some cycling issues, but still pretty cool.

  • Cpl. Ivan

    Is typical American solution to problem not existing. Throw computer programmers, tens of thousand of dollars into giant machine with lasers and computers and make same piece of metal that lower school dropout with drill press and file can also make. Also make sure use garbage design of American capitalist John Browning, who burns yet in Hell for pushing jamming model pistol on noble anti-Nazi fighters. Shoot many times, enjoy when expensive laser pistol blows up your face.

    RUSSIAN men will continue to make weapons with ingenuity, 16GA steel, pliers and drills. If weapon can not be built drunk, is not worth building!

    • mikewest007

      Well, Garlickey, I believe that Georg Luger would have to say a thing or two about “jamming pistols”. And over here in Absurdistan, we managed to send all those four-star drunks away for a retirement and build something that looks pretty enough for an American, and works good enough for anyone in shitty battlefield conditions.
      As opposed to the identically-looking, yet mechanically worse Remington ACR.

    • Callum King-Underwood

      It was more to demonstrate the versatility of what professional 3d printers can produce, which I think it has done. I highly doubt they were thinking of mass producing 1911’s from a 3d printer.

    • Nicks are you playing roles on us? The 1911 rant gave you away buddy:-)
      If it isn’t you somebody is doing a good job at mimicry.
      Anyway no fake names and such guys.

      • Nicks87

        Not me Phil, I let go of my 1911 hate. An STI Tactical SS 5.0 in 9mm soothed my 1911 induced rage.

  • phuzz

    “One day a machine gun will be just a click away”
    Just like printing a document is now!

    One click, then realise you forgot to get a new print cartridge, then the printer jams, then after you’ve cleared the blockage the cartridge has run out again, then you’re out of paper, then once it’s all printed you realise you made a typo on the first page and have to print it all over again…

    • phuzz

      Oh, and let me know when you can print ammunition for it as well…

      • noob

        why? reloading ammunition is not as hard as machining a gun barrel.

        use the tech to get rid of the hard parts of the process.

        if there is a simple part of the process, you don’t need to change that bit.

    • ClintTorres

      The printer will cost $250 but the cartridges will cost $25k each…and they’ll find a way to make the metal dry out or evaporate over time when not used.

      • noob

        your inkjet today has a chip in the cartridge that makes the cartridge be “empty” when it says its empty regardless of actual ink level. You can buy a chip resetter at most swapmeets of off ebay.

        there are some 3d printers that sell plastic filament in cartridges. I personally find this distasteful, but these plastic extrusion printer models are targeted at the “do it for me” market and are quite popular.

  • fasdf

    How much did this cost? Could this make replicas of obsolete guns (such as the any Frommer pistol, the Bergman no1 or no2, the Roth-Steyr 1907, Borchardt c93, or other expensive old guns) affordable?

    • Callum King-Underwood

      the entry level laser sintering machine I think starts from well over $50000 (DIY ones are on the way with reasonable costs but wont be handling metals or the accuracy of this machine). The machine that made this 1911, apparently you should be looking at 6 figure sums. Materials have to be specially prepared for the machine and it only works with certain alloys, I’m not sure on the cost but its not as cheap as just obtaining metal for other machining methods.

      So although it could replicate obsolete guns, the cost of the machine is just so phenomonal that it probably wont be happening at a decent end user price. You would probably be better off trying to setup stamping presses, mills and lathes and doing it old school.

      3d printing is also a rather slow process compared to traditional methods, you only save on the fact that there is no tooling setup time beyond printer calibration.

      DIY laser sintering machines are on the way, but they seem to be dealing with resin. DIY machines with both accuracy and capabilities to work with metal are a long way off yet.

    • t-bone

      The DMLS machine costs $680,000, apparently, and there’s another expensive machine for post-processing. Then there’s the cost of the metal powders and the engineers who babied this project thru.

      The price is deep within the realm of “you don’t want to know”.

    • STOVL

      Based on the prototype DMLS parts I’ve seen ordered for prototyping, I would estimate the cost to a customer for this being in the $15k range. Just an estimate though.

  • Annika R

    If it is true that, as they say, they will print and sell any (legal) firearm from a suitable 3D model file then this is potentially a dream come true for rare firearm working replica enthusiasts. As long as somebody has access to both the original firearm in question and a suitably accurate 3D scanner then a working model should not be too hard to obtain, and then from there it’s just a question of payment. I’m going to start saving up now for a Bergmann 1896, preferably modified to fire .22lr (not too much of a stretch for the 5mm jetfire model)

    In response to the previous comment about sci-fi movie guns, the question is less one of production and more of engineering. Vash’s top-break revolver would be relatively easy to machine if not for the standard issues that all top-break designs run into when chambering modern high-pressure rounds.

    • noob

      I get your point about the engineering. A sane gunsmith would see that being a replica you can chamber it for something less hot than what Vash uses in the anime and still be a firearm – and the buyer would still love it because it looks cool.

  • Surfgun

    How about a new Python .357?

    • Callum King-Underwood

      cheaper to do it traditionally

    • Player_L

      I don´t think it would be a very good idea, or at least not on that caliber.
      On a pistol, you have a sturdy chamber to keep the casing from rupturing, while on a revolver you have only the cylinder, which is much thinner.
      Besides, .357 is a beast of a round, and would put an incredible amount of stress on the cylinder, which I don´t think a thin sintered metal wall can withstand.

      But, I was convinced that a sintered gun couldn´t be done, so take my objections with a pinch of salt.
      Still, wouldn´t want to be the first one pulling that trigger…

  • Patrick Mingle

    The question I have is whether subtractive or additive manufacturing processes are more effective as far as parts fitting together or if one provides better quality than the other

    • noob

      since you can see that there are some near-hangups in the feeding and cycling in this example of a 3d printed version of a design designed for hand fitting, nothing beats jeweler’s compound and small files for “perfect” fit on a 1911.

      on the other hand, if they were laser sintering a design suited for cnc machining like AR-15 lower receivers with crazy integrated pistol grips or magwells that could be changed at design time, well, that’s a different story.

  • Shua556

    Might interest some to know I’ve been running a titanium suppressor that was 3D printed, definitely doesn’t seem like it’s going to fall to bits any time soon., Also having seen a torture test of the same suppressor being fired until glowing hot with the end result being no harm done. Personally wouldn’t worry about the strength of laser sintered gear, just maybe not the most economical way to make things.

  • CLarence H.Moore

    Just wait until you get a few smart drug dealers together and they start pumping these weapons out. With the new materials that are coming out, you could raise your own army so much easier now. The Genie is out of the bottle lol.

    • Clarence Moore

      Even if this was banned here in the States, that would only serve to open up highly profitable black markets for these weapons. You can’t take back a trigger pull as they say.

    • CJS3

      PA-LEEESE. They can cobble them together in Pakistan by the thousands for less than the cost of the printer. Never mind the cost of the materials. I see Ruger and S&W using this process to manufacture firearms before the underworld gets started using it. No machining? As the process becomes more refined, ALL manufacturing will turn to this.

  • Mark Caldwell

    Awesome. Suck it commies.

  • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

    That may be the finest-looking 1911 I have ever seen.

  • smartacus

    Begs the question: Which Chinese manufacturer will be first to print a Ferrari V12 block, heads, valves, pistons, journals? (cause i got this here Isuzu Pickup yard truck that could use more poop)

  • Player_L

    I am sincerely amazed. One week before, I sincerely thought this could not be done.
    I even wrote as much on this very forum. Now I stand corrected.
    There are hundreds of questions I´d like to ask this amazing gentleman about the process.
    The first one would be how they managed to keep the material homogenous, and how did they achieve a sintered material that does´t fracture under stress.

    Now, despite this success being a milestone for this tech, and the skill of this company´s workers, I guess it´s still far from reaching production grade.
    Nowadays, when every major manufacturer (even some 3rd world ones) has successfully adopted polymer-injected tech for their frames, sintering the whole frame seems like an excess for mass production.
    Also, 3D sintering machines are still much more expensive than 3-axis CNC, and I´d prefer a milled barrel, slide, and firing pin any day.
    On the bright side, if this guys managed to iron out the kinks, this system will give home gunsmiths, builders and inventors access to high precision parts without the skill involved required to operate a lathe.

  • Airrider

    …what would be more expensive, printing a replica Gyrojet or buying one with a mag of rounds…