3D Printing a Gun Pt.1

3D printed gun
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3D Printing a Gun Pt.1
4.83 (96.67%) 6 votes

Ever since I started 3D printing, I have been interested in the possibility of 3D printing a gun. As a young adult I was a firearms instructor at a Boy Scout summer camp. There I learned how keep cheap .22 rifles and Remington 870 shotguns working.
3D printed guns are a hot button topic for gun control advocates. The government is struggling with how to classify them, with Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed fighting for his 1st and 2d amendment rights to host the files for the Liberator pistol.
Even though the files for the Liberator are officially removed from DD’s website, they can be found on any light or dark web file sharing site. Other 3D printers are freely making and sharing the digital files for 3D printable guns. Groups like FOSSCAD are actively 3D printing and testing their gun designs.

Semi-auto possibilities

Recently Popular Science published an article about a 3D printed semi – automatic machine pistol. This gun fires 9 mm rounds with a 9 round magazine.


This Shuty-MP1 is advertised as 95% 3D printed, with major metal components coming from store-bought Glock parts. The barrel, hammer, firing pin, bolts, and springs are all metal. The store bought parts do not require any form of registration.
The Shuty – MP1 is built on an AR-15 lower receiver. As a 3D printed lower it does not require registration with the government.
This gun is actually a combination of different technologies. It combines the Glock pistol parts with the AR-15 lower in a package that can be mostly 3D printed. Derwood could only fire 18 shots before the barrel mounts started to melt.


While this gun may appear scary, it is more a thought experiment and engineering challenge then gun. With current materials, 3D printed guns simply do not have the strength or thermal properties to take the abuse of firing.

However, that does not mean some are trying to advance 3D guns.
Defense distributed recently had a bounty hunt for the Mark Forge 3D printer.


This printer has had a long wait list, and the company blocked DD from ordering their printer. The Mark Forge is unique because it can 3D print in Kevlar, fiberglass, carbon fiber or Nylon. All of which would be stronger materials suited to 3D print a gun with. A while latter, DD did pay out the bounty for the Mark 1 printer.
3D gun enthusiast are waiting for DD to publish the files for a Kevlar or carbon fiber gun.

My project, PM522 Washbear .22 LR revolver

I wanted to see if the 3D printed gun was as radical or dangerous as hyped. I should point out here that in the USA it is legal to make your own homemade gun as long as you do not sell it. I have passed the state background checks to own a firearm in Colorado.


When I looked for a gun to 3D print, I decided on the Washbear due to its simple design. Unlike the Liberator with its single shot barrel, it was a revolver that would be more enjoyable to shoot.

Finding the Files

When it comes to finding the digital files for 3D printed guns, I can see why gun control advocates are scared shitless. It took less than a minute of searching in google to find the digital files.
Due to ITAR restrictions, 3DprinterChat is not allowed to publish the digital files for any gun, and I will not share them either.

3D Printing the Washbear Demo

Before I go head on into a firing version, I wanted to do a demo print to see how the gun actually prints. This version is a non-firing proof of concept demo.

washbear 3D gun

Partial 3D printed Washbear revolver, featuring the frame, grip and trigger

The demo is printed with 10% infill instead of the recommended 100% solid infill. I know if I print these parts solid as recommended, it will take a week at least to 3D print this gun. It is not printed in ABS or Nylon as recommended. These are not materials I have printed in yet, nor do I have them on hand to print. I do not have any intention of firing any type of round out of this demo piece.

Time Crunch

It has taken 2 days so far to print the grip, frame, and some smaller parts. I’m still not finished with everything for the gun. This print is with the quickest draft print quality I can do on my printer.
The main problem I’ve hit so far is the fit of the parts. The design for the gun was made with very tight tolerances. The Washbear was really designed to be 3D printed on a high end SLS type 3D printer, not a hobby grade FDM printer.

3D printed gun

Partial printing of a 3D printing gun

All the parts are about 0.05 mm too big to fit. In just trying to dry fit the pieces, I can tell that I’ll be spending a lot of quality time ironing, filing and sanding to get them to fit.

Already this 3D printed gun is taking far too long for any criminal to seriously consider it. I’ve purchased guns from a store and passed the background check in 10 minutes, which is 1/10th of the time it takes to 3D print some of the small parts for this gun.

Assembly

If anyone is afraid of a gun being ready to fire off the build plate, you need to quit smoking the Colorado pot. I have not finished all the parts yet after 2 days. It will take another half a day at least to sand and smooth the parts enough that they will function. The final assembly into anything close to a function revolver will take a couple more afternoons at this pace.

Reflection

If I was a nefarious criminal, a 3D printed gun is not the way to go. If I wanted a illegal or untraceable gun, I’d go to a dark city alley and buy it out of the trunk of some dealers car.

It has taken two days to 3D print so far and that is for the demo version. This gun so far has been a test of my 3D printers’ capabilities. I still have not made a complete demo. My next post will hopefully cover all the assembly into a working demo.


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Comments 6

  1. Profile photo of Greg

    As a 3D printing enthusiast I have to point out that posts like these often cause unintended harm to 3D printer owners and users in general.

    Lawmakers that are trying to restrict access to devices such as 3D printers use posts such as this to justify either an outright ban on 3D printers or trying to force DRM to prevent the capability of printers to print anything they do not have full control over.

    Normal printers such as inkjet have software built into their firmware and drivers to prevent the replication of currency, and have done for a very long time. These same devices also print hidden codes onto printouts so each page can be tracked down to an individual printer, and often an individual user.

    Already companies are complaining that damaged parts can be replicated at home, or toys can be duplicated.

    How long before “You’d never steal a car” becomes “A torrent file containing 3D files for printing a Mustang costs Ford an estimated $780 trillion”?

    • Profile photo of Stan Baldwin

      Congress will ultimately fail in regulating 3D printer files. In order to restrict them they have to know that they are being traded. That would entail a new form of domestic surveillance that the American people would revolt over.

      The Open Source movement at the heart of 3D printing makes DMR irrelevant and archaic. There is no justification for banning 3D printers, as they are manufacturing equipment like a CNC lathe.

      3D printing can’t produce money, which desktop papers printers can, so we don’t have to worry about regulation from the Secret service there.

      As for encoding a printer ID #, that will not happen. We don’t require engraving for CNC milled parts that ID the mill, so the legal precedent is in place. if the coding is required, 3D printers will just melt the code down. I can’t see how you could code a 3D printer without noticing or interfering with a 3D print.

      We should be able to replace car parts and make our own toys. Car parts are expensive and going to the dealer is expensive, when we can print a similar part for pennies. The point of 3D printing is to be self reliant and to cut the tyrannical ties manufacturers have over our consumer mindset.

      3D printing is revolutionary in its ability to let the consumer make what they need in house. This is what we did as a society before mass-production, and there is no reason we can’t return to that now.

      Companies can adapt by selling digital files as well as the physical objects. The idea of copyright in the digital age is archaic. If you look at the music industry, they are decimated by file sharing and digital media. but the truth is the digital files are out there when published, and will be shared no matter what.

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