3D Printed Ammunition

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3d printed ammo

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 to whole guns, 3D printers can make them all.

Environmental Advantages

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

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.

Criminal Threat?

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.

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  1. biake says

    I first saw 3d printed ammunition on http://printedfirearm.com Thanks for sharing this awesome article!

  2. Josh says

    As an officer, and many in my family are, I am all for these 3D bullets. Though to be honest, I do not know of any cops who are rogue, as suggested in the media. And for us honest ones, we have no problems with having any traced back to us. and yes, there are some situations that require quick action, and there have been instances of unnecessary injury or death, so this would definitely be ideal to cut down on that. Informative post here. Good job on it.

    1. 3D-PT says

      Thank You Josh W for your service! Also, thank you for your comment.

  3. Ryan says

    Very interesting and informative article. However, I am still concerned about the criminal aspects of 3D printed guns and ammunition. Despite it likely costing more time and money to print than buying a gun and ammo illegally, would using a 3D printed gun and ammunition not allow for much greater anonymity to the more savvy criminal?

    1. Stan Baldwin says

      Buying ammo is already easy to do anonymously from any walmart or gun store. Combine that with gun show and personal sales and ammo is anonymous once it leaves the factory. It is not until the round is fired that the gun leaves traceable forensic marks (Primmer and riffling) on the bullet and cases.
      The only criminal benefit would be in producing prototype rounds or molds to cast your own bullets. 3D printed ammo is currently as much an engineering challenge like the 3D printed guns themselves. Bear in mind you still need a primer and projectile to have a working bullet. The military has experimented with “caseless”ammo in the past: In the future it may be possible to reliably print more components of a bullet, but the podwer and primer will be a limiting factor for most home 3D printers.

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