With the possibility of 3D printed guns, 3D printed ammo is a unique possibility in the world. Along with innovative 3D gun designs, others designers are exploring innovative projectiles they can print at home.
From gun accessories, shotgun rounds, to whole guns, 3D printers can make them all.
3D printed rounds can be printed in biodegradable filaments, like PLA or coffee . For outdoor shooting ranges, this can help reduce the amount of lead that leaches into the soil. Shooting ranges can provide incentive to shooters who use this green ammo to encourage their use. Ranges can also sell 3D ammo at a low cost to reduce the amount of wear and tear on the firing line.
The military has been experimenting with the lead free M855A1 round to reduce lead contamination at their base shooting ranges. In the future the military should consider 3D printable rounds for training purposes.
Because 3D printed rounds are generally lighter, they also generally provide less compression against the gunpowder when firing. Light rounds generally stay below supersonic speeds. This means that 3D printed rounds can possibly be quieter than lead-based rounds. For crowded firing lines, quieter rounds are always welcome.
Being lead free, frequent shooters can spend time on the range with less exposure to airborne lead. Likewise reloaders will not have to deal with lead contamination from their reloading equipment.
More Lethal Rounds
The catalogs of available projectiles are full of ball, hollow point, armor piercing, and other specialty rounds.
But there is also the possibility of designing new types of projectiles with 3D printing. 3D printed prototypes can be used to make rounds using a lost PLA casing process.
or they can be printed in exotic metal filaments to give them more mass as a 3D printed projectile.
Specialty rounds can be 3D printed as part of a R&D program for any ammo manufacturer.
Less Lethal Rounds
On the flip side of the ballistics coin, 3D printing can be used to develop less lethal round for police and civilian use. Less lethal rounds like bean bags are already used to subdue mentally ill suspects, with others are in development for handguns.
These rounds can be used in shotguns and riot cannons to give police wide options of less-lethal rounds to use.
Being 3D printed, such rounds can also provide a chain of evidence from the officer who fired to a rioter that was hit by the round. You can print a serial number on the round as a watermark. When combined with a log of who checked out the round, the police can use the 3D printed round as evidence in a case.
With public demand for police transparency, having a round that you can trace from officer to suspect can help greatly with transparency and officer accountability.
Range safety may be a factor in favor of 3D printed rounds. Having a lighter mass than lead rounds, 3D rounds travel slower. This lower velocity can result in less ricochet and damage to the range backstop.
Being 3D printed from PLA rounds are likely to fragment on impact, with the shrapnel traveling a limited distance. Compare this to lead rounds which can ricochet all the way back to the shooter (which is something I have experienced at indoor shooting ranges).
3D printed rounds can also cause less wear on the gun. For serious shooters, this can translate to savings in gunsmiths bills and replacement parts. Lighter loads will also be nicer to shoot all day.
In my previous blogs on 3D printing a gun I found that whole 3D printable guns are not practical for any criminal. Given the time and skill required to print and load 3D printed ammo, it is not going to be a security concern anytime soon. Any criminal will just buy a box of any ammo along with their illegal gun from a back-alley dealer.
Currently 3D printed ammo is a novelty in the shooting world. At best 3D printing presents a way for shooters to experiment with new rounds.
DISCLAIMER: Firing guns and reloading ammo is dangerous. Please shoot in a safe manner at a approved shooting range. The information is presented for educational purposes only. Follow all laws and regulations. Consult with a gunsmith before loading any non-factory rounds. Shoot 3D printed rounds at your own risk. 3D-PT is not liable for your shooting actions.