The Simplest Homemade Pistol? Mark Serbu Gives the World the GB-22 “Gun Buyback Special”

What is the simplest gun you can possibly make? When you hear this question, the kind of gun that comes to mind is probably a simple zip gun, like the one below, which has a forward-moving mass, a trigger, a barrel, and not much else:

Image source:


Given modern ammunition, this is basically the simplest configuration that can be made, and is essentially equivalent to a simple blowback submachine gun without the additional complexity of a magazine. Mark Serbu took this basic idea to the next level, creating an interesting machine project that works the same way, but has a much higher degree of craftsmanship. He calls it the “GB-22”, “GB” standing for “gun buyback”:

Redeeming improvised firearms at gun buybacks is nothing new. Due to their “no judgement” policy, and the very low cost to make some firearms (in many cases below $20 a gun), some individuals have taken to turning in homemade firearms as a way to protest the efficacy of the programs, although it should be noted that such activity is potentially very illegal and I do not recommend our readers do this themselves. The GB-22 is an interested “buyback special”, as it is actually very well made; Serbu mills the guns carefully using a CNC milling machine, and while total man-hours per firearm are low, the end results are still – for what they are – very professional looking.

The video also contains a very interesting tutorial on how to make springs for firearms using music wire and a drill press.

Whether it’s the nice-looking GB-22, or a pipe-and-2×4 that is barely recognizable as a firearm, what’s very clear is that the gun genie is most certainly out of the bottle.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • MzUnGu

    Fun DIY project, but that’s def cost more than $200 in labor and material cost, unless you do a big buy from China.

  • micmac80

    Unless this is rolling of some cinese production line , i am willing to bet it costs more than a Glock to manufacture

    • DIR911911 .

      how much money would you like to lose on that bet?

      • ozzallos .

        When most of your gun is injection molded plastic on a mass produced assembly line, I’m thinking Micmac80 has a safe bet on his hands… Unless you start counting R&D and other overhead.

  • Bradley

    What exactly are you claiming is “very illegal?”

    • Jonathan Wright

      crafting a firearm for your personal use, as long as it conforms to federal/local laws is perfectly legal without a license. building firearms with the intent of selling(turning in for money) them is not.

      • Sunshine_Shooter


      • B. Young

        It’s not illegal to sell a home made gun. It is illegal to “manufacture” guns and sell them. It’s generally accepted but not tested in court (that I can find) if you sell one gun a year or less not going to be considered a manufacturer but more than that manufacturing without a license-yes illegal.

      • m-dasher

        turning a gun into a buyback is not “selling”……its is “surrendering”

        they just give you money as an incentive to surrender your weapon…….legally there is a difference

        • DataMatters

          And while it’s fun to troll the idiots, this may be going a bit too far. I’d rather see gun owners band together and buy the better examples from people arriving to surrender the guns. The power mongers hate that.

    • Amplified Heat

      Smoothbore pistol

      • alex waits

        Five minutes with the right size file can make rifling.
        I suspect it has more to do with it being an “open bolt” design

    • Ambassador Vader

      Maybe it was open bolt and violated an ATF “Interpretation”

      • Sunshine_Shooter

        I’m pretty sure that single shot weapons can slide right on past that open bolt limitation. Royal Nunsuch on Youtube may have a video discussing it, since he’s got years and years worth of video evidence of him doing exactly that and has yet to be prosecuted.

        • Ambassador Vader

          I though single shot zips and cane guns fell under AOW’s for the NFA.

          • Amplified Heat

            Only when smoothbore or loading/firing from an open bolt. This thing has you manually load the round, then a large monolithic striker smacks it.

            Now, I’ve heard that the ATF are hypocrites on this topic (like so many other things) and do not tolerate a similar design based on STEN machinegun parts, even if the magwell is not present, contending it is readily convertible to an open bolt machinegun. I doubt it’s on the books as precedent, but they’ve supposedly said such a conversion would be grounds for prosecution so most people don’t do it. But for an original design like this that has no relation to a machinegun and cannot accept a magazine without a ton of redesign, it would not surprise me they would approve of it

        • iksnilol

          There was that Cobray Terminator which got banned for that IIRC:

          • Al

            The SWD “Cobray” Terminator was never banned – they stopped making them because they didn’t sell well. Although something of an open bolt, it relied on a fixed breech and a barrel that moved rearward.
            Additionally, single shot weapons – can’t – slide right on past the open bolt limitation. That was tried by RPB in 1982 with the M10SS pistol, essentially the then freshly banned open bolt M10 MAC in a single shot configuration. It too was ruled a machine gun by ATF, and subsequently banned.

          • Amplified Heat

            I wouldn’t rely on Cobray as a precedent; they had an outright feud going on with the ATF/Clintons, and all sorts of 14th amendment persecution stuff was being aimed at them. Besides, the president/ATF director can technically ban any shotgun 20g or larger based on the bore size alone. (That’s part of the reason I’m sure they keep trying to put up shotguns as the only ‘acceptable’ firearm)

  • Captain Obvious

    While the design is interesting unless it can be made with common household tools it is pretty much useless.

    • DIR911911 .

      you mean like the file and drill he mentioned in the beginning?? just about anything that can be done with a cnc machine can be done by hand you negative nelly.

      • Negative Nelly

        Okay, then lets see one made with just a file and drill?

        • Amplified Heat

          See: JACO Western. See also: Krikit pistol that was featured here on TFB (along with many other legal and also illegal DIY designs). JACO is most applicable, since it’s also a single shot. Little different being a tilt-barrel design vs. a slam fire, though

    • Amplified Heat

      “While the design is interesting unless it can be made with common household tools it is pretty much useless.”
      Uh-huh. I suspect it’s a bit more useful than a slamfire shotgun made from Chinese black water pipe. Amazingly enough, things actually worth doing tend to be harder than making Easy Mac. This thing can be built with a drill press & files, for those willing to put in the work (in fact, most gun designs can be). The fact it has no magazine greatly simplifies the endeavor.

      • Skunkeye

        The whole point of this thing, though, is to scam gun “buybacks” and take their money. If it takes 20 hours of grinding and filing and hacksawing to make the thing, it’s not worth doing for that purpose, unless your time has no value.

  • Roy G Bunting

    And here I was hoping for a nice 80% kit, just file/grind/ drill on the laser cut central part to complete.

    Bonus if it was in 32ACP, which IIRC has a similar pressure to HV 22LR.

    • ??

      .32 ACP is 20,500psi MAP and .22lr is 24,00psi MAP
      .32 Long would possibly be a better chambering with a 15,000psi MAP pressure. With not only the ability to launch heavier bullets (85gr-100gr) at lower pressures, but since the .32acp has a small rim .358in you could shoot that to in the same barrel.

      • Roy G Bunting

        I like a chamber that accepts multiple calibers.

    • iksnilol

      I like your thinking.

      How hard would this be to make with a hacksaw tho?

  • karmicforce01

    Gun buy back? Just bring a tactical baseball bat, they won’t know the difference.

  • That…looks like a really fun little pistol.

  • KoyoteTan

    I made my Slamfire shot gun for only about $18 using an AK import thumbhole stock for the stock

  • Franivelius

    I want to download the plans for building this pistol. Anyone could give me a link?

    • Emil Evenås

      Did you get the link? 😀

  • SD

    …and still no SU-15 upper.

  • Nicholas C

    Would this be considered an open bolt design? I thought those were banned by ATF unless you have a preban one?

    • Giolli Joker

      Maybe not having a magazine helps.

    • Anon. E Maus

      If it doesn’t have a magazine, it’s just a slamfire gun, like a Cobray Terminator

  • gunsandrockets

    Why bother with making a cartridge gun for spoofing buyback efforts? Make a simple muzzleloader instead. Fewer legal traps that way.

  • gunsandrockets

    That’s pretty cool looking for something so basic. I love the idea of the kit project too.

  • Mmmtacos

    Maybe one of the wise men from TFB can chime in, but how is this not considered an open-bolt design, and thus illegal by… uh, design?

    • De Facto

      I think as long as there is no magazine involved (i.e. single shot rifle/pistol) it’s kosher. I am not a lawyer and I may be talking out of my @55. Open to correction.

      • Mmmtacos

        Seems a little iffy, older shotguns like the Winchester 1897 and Ithaca 37 were slam-fired and had magazines (Ithaca just decided to stop making them slam-fire, IIRC, they didn’t do it for legal reasons other than possible liability).

        Looking it up the best I can tell is semi-autos can’t be open-bolt according to an ATF ruling in 1982. So magazine doesn’t matter, method of operation does.

    • Laserbait

      It’s really no different than a single action revolver that has the firing pin on the hammer.

  • noob

    nice looking. a lot nicer looking than the original ww2 liberator pistol

  • BryanS

    I’d buy that frame as an interesting.. umm… “conversation piece”

  • jerry young

    This just shows creativity and how if guns are banned people will just make new ones from next to nothing, ban the gun we build new ones, ban ammo we will make our own, ban gunpowder it can be made at home too, this is where it all started someone had to make the first gun you can ban the gun but not the knowledge

    • DataMatters

      Exactly! I keep using this argument with antis–every semi-automatic weapon in use today is at least 100 year old technology. Wrap your head around that for a second. It can never be banned out of existence. Never.

  • Ron Walsh

    I am really hoping he offers a kit with at least the frame part of the pistol. I figure the rest should be fairly easy to fabricate.

  • DataMatters

    If this is not a joke it infuriates me in how many resources are wasted on such a project. I am equally infuriated whenever a gun is cut up, melted down, or otherwise destroyed. If humanity wasn’t so wasteful we would be a lot further ahead!

    I had the same revelation while attending a gun show years ago–all that WWII era crap that was made. The number of Mosin Nagants, K98 Mausers, and even M1 Garand rifles that were produced is mind-boggling. There is almost a never ending supply of them even now! It was insane what was done to fight stupid wars. And it is equally idiotic why we put up with idiot liberals who want to “buy back” guns they never owned in the first damn place!

  • Mike Lashewitz

    Hey do it the American way!

  • Stephen Paraski

    Make it.

  • Garden City Thinker

    If you’ve got the cash to do it a better form of protesting buyback programs is to set up a booth near them offering more than they do. Usually what they’re giving people is less than half the value of the gun, so if you’re a licensed firearms dealer you can outbid them and then sell the guns you buy for a nice profit. Or, a variation on the same idea, get your gun club to pool their resources and divide up the guns you buy and you can all get new guns for way less than they’d cost to buy any other way (and, since it’s a private sale, it’s legal in most states so long as each member of the gun club is only buying one or two. Of course that assumes the law around private sales hasn’t changed in the 10 years or so since I last had reason to check into it.)

  • Emil Evenås

    Yea butt i live in norway… 🙁

    • Franivelius

      Plans are probably digital

      • Emil Evenås

        Yeah butt its not legal in norway 🙁

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