3D Printing 9mm Bullets: Subsonic and Supersonic Loads

A TFB reader recently 3D Printed 9mm caliber bullets and loaded them 9mm Luger/Parabellum cases with subsonic and supersonic loads. The bullets were printed with PLA, a bio-plastic made from corn starch in the USA or sugar cane elsewhere in the world. PLA is commonly used in 3D printers as an alternative to ABS plastic (think lego bricks). It is easier to print (at least in my experience) than ABS requiring lower temperatures and it has a pleasant non-toxic smell.

The bullets printed weigh just 13 grain, about 10% of the weight of a regular 9mm bullet. This puts them in a “less lethal” category along with rubber bullets. The subsonic variant of this round (loaded with 1 grain of N320 powder) would have had under 31 ft/lbs of muzzle energy, less than a third of a .22 LR round. Still, I am sure it would sure hurt like crazy if one of these hit someone in the chest.

A supersonic load had the same 13 gr bullet but backed with 3.8 grain of N320. The velocity was not tested, nor was the accuracy.

Watch the 3D bullets being made and fired from a pistol …

Next I think they should try printing a bullet with channel through the bullet for air to pass creating a whistling noise.

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.


  • Brett

    Dang! Airsoft is getting serious.

  • BattleshipGrey

    I’ve seen this sort of thing done with hot glue. I’ve been tempted to try it just for some kicks to play around with in the basement.

  • Martin Grønsdal

    Will this make the gun cycle?

    • fast

      doesnt appear to cycle.

    • Sianmink

      No way in heck.

    • Vanpanzerkopf

      No, we did not get the gun to cycle. We felt a small recoil impulse on the supersonic ones, but it didn’t move the slide. If we find a viable way to increase the projectile weight, we could also increase the power loads and in turn increase chamber pressure.
      There are different 3D-printing compounds available, and some of them have metal particles embedded I’ve heard, so we might test that out as well.

      • Anonymoose

        Please get back to me when you can 3D-print lead. 😀

      • Cymond

        Maybe you could print a hollow jacket and fill it with metal pellets or something, depending on the legality, of course.

  • Major Tom

    Maybe I need to start investing in 3D printing technology…

  • Joe

    Mag dump, center mass.
    Please post results.

    • MrEllis

      Gooey barrel?

  • Anonymoose

    I don’t get it.

    • Todd

      Because it makes liberals cry.

    • Badwolf

      For choice, for science, for fun… Pick one. Not everything needs to make money or make sense.

  • Frank

    Interesting, but not that unusual. Speer has been selling plastic bullets for decades. They are powered by primers. Plastic cases also. Both are reusable.

  • wildbillb

    hot glue is WAY better. faster, greater re-use. i tried both, and have been using hot glue A LOT. it is a blast, helps with drills, and cheap. no lookin’ back, baby.

  • How about .38/.357 bullets. Revolvers would be a better platform for these.
    .45 for the Cowboy Action guys.

    • Vanpanzerkopf

      Once we get more reloading dies, we will be experimenting with more calibers. We do have .45ACP dies, but we lack .357 and .308 (we’ll be trying this in a bolt action eventually).

  • iksnilol

    Hmm, make a cavity for a construction nail to fit. Should help with penetration.

    • mosinman

      i was thinking about having a cavity that you can put some lead in the plastic round

      • iksnilol

        Might as well just cast a conventional lead bullet then?

        • mosinman

          other than it saves lead

          • iksnilol

            It just feels like a half measure. Though you could maintain the correct shape of the bullet while saving lead. I’ll give you that 🙂

            Regarding the construction nail: Maybe you could get adequate penetration with very low pressures allowing the use of plastic cases? Maybe even caseless with the bullet forming the case (like the Volcanic repeater)?

          • mosinman

            the reason i mention it is because steel cores are often used in bullets to save lead

          • iksnilol

            Ah, so you suggest using plastic cores in lead bullets to save lead? Or the other way around with lead cores in plastic bullets to save even more lead?

          • mosinman

            lead cores in plastic bullets

  • 2015 flobert

  • Nick

    Not exactly novel. NATO has plastic training rounds for 7.62mm. I have some. Even the shell casing is plastic, except for the base. Their low impulse energy however means they won’t cycle except in specially modified weapons.

    I tried one against 3/8″ plywood. Dinged it, but didn’t penetrate. It had practically no recoil. Less than even a 22.

    • Todd

      I enjoy shooting those .308 plastics in my Lee-Enfield. Lotsa noise, no recoil, and, at the time, WAY cheap!

  • Anonymoose

    Bismuth, maybe?

  • INFI

    This technology certainly has a lot of promise for complex projectile design. I’m interested in seeing what the future holds for military and and also civilian use bullets.

  • Glock Guy

    At some point, that gun is going to jam because the bullets will melt from a hot barrel. Not the best choice for self-defense, but interesting.

    • Cymond

      Jam? It doesn’t even cycle …
      And how many manually-cycled rounds would it take to get that hot?

  • Tony K.

    Made from using sugar, huh? It should smell like making homemade candy and caramelizing sugar when you shoot them.

  • itsmefool

    Yawn…get back to me when you’re printing powder.