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First working 3D-printed firearm built

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July 26, 2012

One gun enthusiast has successfully built and fired a the first gun using an AR-15 rifle p...

One gun enthusiast has successfully built and fired a the first gun using an AR-15 rifle part made with a 3D printer

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As the technology improves, 3D printers are being used more and more to create a wide variety of objects, some incredibly useful (like skeletal implants) and some just for fun (like custom robot figurines). Here's another - somewhat controversial - example of just how ubiquitous this technology could become: a working gun built using an AR-15 rifle part made with a 3D printer.

The gun maker, going by the name "HaveBlue," constructed the AR-15's lower receiver - which holds many of the gun's main components, including the trigger assembly and magazine well - using a modified design from a gunsmithing website and an older model Stratasys 3D printer. Since the existing design he started with was intended to be made out of solid metal, HaveBlue altered it a bit by strengthening some of the lug holes and adding a trigger guard. He then printed the design with ABS plastic and used a conversion kit to assemble a .22 pistol.

The gun maker first printed the design with ABS plastic and used a conversion kit to assem...

Amidst protests from an AR-15 discussion board that the part would fail and seriously injure him, he successfully fired 200 rounds using the 3D printed lower receiver without any trouble. To test it further, a metal AR-15 upper receiver was attached and a few shots fired with a higher-caliber .223. So far, the part seems to be holding up well and hasn't shown any major signs of wear.

This certainly isn't the first 3D printed gun part in existence, but it could be the first that's been made into a fully working firearm. What's important to note is that under U.S. law the lower receiver of an AR-15 (or any similar gun for that matter) is the component that is legally considered the "firearm." It's the main part that allows the gun to function, and even has the serial number printed on it for identification. Luckily for HaveBlue, making guns yourself isn't illegal so long as you don't sell or distribute them.

Still, with 3D printers becoming more popular and aimed at home use, a person being able to print their own parts for a working gun - particularly the one component that cannot be ordered through the mail - raises a number of issues. As amazing as it is that a 3D-printed gun could withstand firing a bullet, the potential for someone to build an unmarked firearm much more easily means we could see some pertinent new laws enacted in the next few years.

Source: AR-15.com

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things.   All articles by Jonathan Fincher
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25 Comments

I am so very confused..... Couldn't he just of used a CMC machine and made it out of steel with no modification what so ever? Why make something out of plastic that should be made from metal.

That said it is interesting and good work.

Michael Mantion
26th July, 2012 @ 09:47 pm PDT

10 years from now when this tech is in everyone's home.... how on earth are the normal non-gun totting parts of the world going to stop rogue 'gun plans' getting into everyone's hands.... like 12 yr old kiddies printing themselves a nice new toy!

JPAR
27th July, 2012 @ 12:54 am PDT

Even though the gunpowder in the batman shooting case is still fresh someone has the audacity to give people ideas to print out child murdering weapons.

Now every anti gun acvocate will come out of the woodwork calling for a ban for all 3d printers.

@Michael Mantion : The fact that 3d printers are much cheaper than full blown cnc machines and tough polymers have been used extensively in the firearms industry signifyies that 3d printers are becoming more attractive means to discreetly manufacture firearms. It is now possible to make a fullblown working assault rifle given you have the files and machine the metal parts somewhere else and no one would know.

SpaceBagels
27th July, 2012 @ 01:22 am PDT

@JPAR - 10 years from now? You're kidding right? I can bet in less than 2 years you'll have software running on an iPhone interface that allows you to select and print a gun to a sub 1000 dollar printer.

Rocky Stefano
27th July, 2012 @ 03:13 am PDT

JPAR, one could argue that the "normal" gun toting parts of the world are actually "abnormal"!

If a 12 year old has the wherewithal to create a functional firearm using a CAD model, they may very well be the next great inventors of their generation.

That being said, the Feinstein's, McCarthy's, and Brady's will probably go ballistic over this!

Truepatriot Constitution
27th July, 2012 @ 04:25 am PDT

So just remember, order those upper receiver assemblies, now, before someone makes them illegal for mail order.

flink
27th July, 2012 @ 05:39 am PDT

Only government could stand in the way of the full potential of this break through technology (Open source 3D Printing), which has the potential to massively expand wealth creation by the mass of people.

Again, only government can destroy this, and if it happens, it will all be under the guise of "public safety".

Fred Bastiat
27th July, 2012 @ 06:04 am PDT

As a laser-cutter programmer, I tipped off the cops a few times when I thought the parts I was programming looked a bit gun-like.

nutcase
27th July, 2012 @ 07:50 am PDT

3d printing of guns has been covered for over 18 months on the internet. I have been following 3d printing as have many people. the idea of doing it with guns and weapons generally has been around for some time.

while weapons are interesting in some ways, particularly because they can be illegal to obtain in the public realm but possibly to 'print' privately at home----the reality is that there are plenty of great weapons to buy that will perform far better and more reliably than something made of plastic, or pieces made of plastic.

that said PROTOTYPING weapons is expensive and 3d printing for prototyping speciality weapons or weapons modifications for BETA testing at low cost could be a real money make for people in this area who are willing to work with local armories and gun shops, or , if they make it big, with arms manufacturers and sports equipment manufacturers.

HOWEVER. when it comes to moving part machines, there are far more interesting applications for 3d protoyping than weapons. how about engines, motors, pumps, windmills, hydraulics, suspension, the list goes on....

zevulon
27th July, 2012 @ 08:42 am PDT

@Truepatriot Constitution

Joe Mc Carthy would likely have loved something like this. His goal was to purge the US Government of communist infiltrators. He wasn't after communists in Hollywood, despite the constant lies about him that the movie industry and the media keep repeating.

Look up the Venona Project. that was intercepting and decoding communication between the Soviet embassy in Washington D.C. and the USSR. Venona was declassified in 1995 and the decoded documents released revealed Mc Carthy was right and there were even more Soviet agents in our government than he had found. There's still a huge amount of intercepted communications from Venona that have never been decoded. The leftists in our government got Venona shut down to cover their butts so they wouldn't end up in prison for treason.

How about Venona@Home to decode all of the Venona documents?

Gregg Eshelman
27th July, 2012 @ 10:01 am PDT

What I find alarming is how so many people are concerned about how this will make access to firearms easier and that new laws MUST be implemented to prevent this, and likely to the detriment of the new technology. I get the feeling that very few people have any actual experience with guns of any sort whatsoever, leading to comments implying that 'gun toting' isn't 'normal'. In my opinion, it's rather amazing that reliable components of firearms can be quickly, cheaply, and easily made using new manufacturing technologies, and in fact points to a brighter future, not a more dangerous one riddled with illegal guns (which aren't even necessarily more dangerous than legal guns). In any rate, if I can make a gun, it would be fun if nothing else. Also, don't forget that the barrel, carriage, trigger mechanism, magazine, etc. etc. still needs to be made out of metal.

Christopher Benton
27th July, 2012 @ 10:46 am PDT

It won't be "Heavens Door" that the ATF will come a' "Knock, knock, knockin' " on. "We're here to confiscate your "Non-Micro-Stamped-Assault-Printer".

Myron J. Poltroonian
27th July, 2012 @ 02:50 pm PDT

Do a websearch on AR15 and CNC. There are so many hobby machinist doing this on their own home built CNC milling machines that I didn't bother to try and count.

The CAD files for this particular piece of hardware are plentiful. There are some many garage shop gunsmiths out there making/selling their own variants. Here are a few of my favorites, they actual carve zombie logos into theirs, and these aren't made of plastic, these are the real deal;

http://www.zombie-defense.com/lowers.html

Shaun McMaster
27th July, 2012 @ 10:23 pm PDT

re; Christopher Benton

The only thing that still has to be made of metal to have a reliable gun is the wear surface in the barrel.

Slowburn
28th July, 2012 @ 04:00 am PDT

FWIW 200 rounds is not much of a test, especially with a round as recoil-light as .223 Remington. Still pretty cool, though-the AR15 manufacturers tend to inflate their civilian prices nowadays, and this might help mitigate that a bit.

charles222
28th July, 2012 @ 07:20 am PDT

remember the 45 ACP liberator? parts from here and there where no one realized the parts were gun parts. Well, DIY already dreams here. point in fact: silencer mfg. and technology will NOT GO BACK IN THE BOTTLE!

Walt Stawicki
28th July, 2012 @ 04:50 pm PDT

you don't even need a computer assisted cutter (CNC) if you look up 80% lower receiver online you you can pickup a mostly finished die-cast receiver for $80 bucks

Facebook User
29th July, 2012 @ 09:03 pm PDT

There are much better ways to reduce gun (and other) violence than the kind of gun control that limits people who are willing to put the time and investment into making their own, even if technology drastically lowers both requirements. This is cool technology, but not really something that even might increase gun violence as I see it.

Charles Bosse
2nd August, 2012 @ 02:11 pm PDT

"Somewhat controversial"? Why? This is more anti-gun nonsense. You can't build a totally operational gun in a 3D printer and likely will never be able to do so. While printing a receiver is interesting that is only one part of a gun and without all the other parts which MUST be made of steel (like the barrel and bolt) it's no big deal.

This reminds me of the hysteria and warnings about "plastic" guns and how they could get by airport X-ray machines. The people who made those claims didn't bother to tell anyone that the barrel, bullets and other working parts are still made of metal and are easily seen on X-ray.

maak
22nd August, 2012 @ 11:16 pm PDT

maak, The only part of an AR-15, for example, that is licensed is the lower receiver. Everything else, including the barrel, upper receiver, bolt group and trigger assembly can be bought online without an ffw holder being involved at all. The lower receiver is not under any particular stress since it really just holds all the other parts together. As long as the upper is made out of aluminum and the barrel and bolt carrier assembly are steel the lower could be carved out of wood for all you care. I've seen these things made by glueing plastic together. Obviously it's not ideal for any kind of real combat use but it will certain work.

Daniel Steward
3rd December, 2012 @ 04:08 pm PST

At Metal Storm we made many of our gun parts using a 3D printer - and these were not tiny little .223 calibre weapons but 40mm grenade launchers with one hell of a kick. Take a look on youTube at the Metal Storm 3GL being fired - that shows how good 3D printing has become.

Ljfinn
17th December, 2012 @ 05:43 pm PST

This makes it obvious that "gun control" laws, banning this and banning that, are never going to work. For proof, look at Mexico -- which has ferocious gun-control laws -- and the worst violent-crime rate in the western hemisphere.

The solution to violent crime lies in exactly the opposite direction, the system used in Switzerland, which has the lowest violent-crime rate in the world. That method is to train all citizens with firearms, from early childhood, then draft them into the military on graduation from high school, train them thoroughly, then send them home with their military guns and have them qualify at using them twice a year thereafter. Consider too that, according to the FBI, every year Americans use guns to prevent crimes at least 1,900,000 times. It's true that the only prevention for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Whatever stupidity the government comes up with, this cute little printing system guarantees that there will be at least some good guys with guns out there.

Leslie Fish
16th January, 2013 @ 02:53 am PST

misleading headline ... people assume you mean that the ENTIRE gun was printed ... barrel and all ...

Jeffrey J Carlson
7th February, 2013 @ 12:28 pm PST

@Jeffrey J Carlson: This one was not printed entirely, however as they have stated the law defines the part that was printed as the gun. That makes this not a false headline just one overlooking innuendo and connotation.

For those arguing 10 years before this is "mainstream" I have to say work like this could happen on a sub $1000US printer in 2 years or less. By the time 10 years from now arrives we will see laser sintering and vapor deposition 3d printers producing the metal parts on sub $5000 machines, and possibly on one that is easily affordable by an "average" user.

VirtualGathis
26th March, 2013 @ 08:17 am PDT

Personal weapons manufacturing isn't waiting on 3D printers to make guns. You can make explosives, chemical weapons, and ,yes, guns from scrap you see every day. Ever read the anarchist's cookbook? If 3D printers are getting cracked down on then logically ammonia, bleach, aluminum and rust should face tighter laws. If someone wants to make a weapon they'll do it regardless of surrounding laws. The laws just fuel the innovation of makeshift weapons.

Zeroo Ragnarok
8th May, 2013 @ 08:51 pm PDT
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