Sunday Slant: 3D printable gun, a genie best kept in its bottle?

We now have driverless cars, smart homes, smartphones, and wearable computers. What next, printable guns?  Well…yes! Photo: Forbes

TEXAS, May 4, 2013 — Twenty-five year-old University of Texas law student, Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, says his company has developed the world’s first 3D-printed handgun. The gun, which is comprised of sixteen pieces, is called “The Liberator”; and with the exception of the firing pin, is made from Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), a common thermoplastic.

It is designed to fire standard handgun rounds, using interchangeable barrels for different calibers of ammunition.

The gun was printed using a Dimension SST printer from 3D printing company Stratasys. However, in October of last year, Stratasys seized a printer it had rented to Defense Distributed after the company learned how its machine was being used.

In March, Defense Distributed obtained a federal firearms license making it a legal gun manufacturer. The company also included in its design, a six ounce chunk of steel to be inserted into the body of the liberator to make it detectable by metal detectors in order to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act.

According to its website, the specific purposes for which Defense Distributed is organized are “to defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, through facilitating global access to, and the collaborative production of, information and knowledge related to 3D printing of arms; and to publish and distribute, at no cost to the public, such information and knowledge in the promotion of the public interest.”  

The company plans to promote its agenda by releasing the 3D-printable CAD files for the gun to its online collection of printable gun blueprints at, where anyone who can afford the formidable price of a 3D printer, will be able to download and print the gun, legally or not, with no serial number, background check, or any other regulatory restriction.

“You can print a lethal device,” Wilson told Forbes last summer. “It’s kind of scary, but that’s what we’re aiming to show.”

In staunch opposition to Defense Distributed’s agenda is Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY), who issued a statement calling for an extension of the Undetectable Firearms Act, as well as clauses dealing specifically with 3D-printed gun parts.

In a press release on Friday Representative Israel said “Security checkpoints, background checks, and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser. When I started talking about the issue of plastic firearms months ago, I was told the idea of a plastic gun is science-fiction. Now that this technology appears to be upon us, we need to act now to extend the ban on plastic firearms.”

I surmise that in the coming months there will be a lot of discussion (arguments) about the viability of a gun made from ABS or other plastics. There will be gun experts both pro and con who will stake out their positions as to the effectiveness of such a weapon. Constitution experts, both pro and con, who will chime in as to whether such a weapon is protected under the second amendment, and fear mongers on both sides who will push their agendas on a divided populous.

But whatever happens, one thing is for sure. The “genie” is out of the proverbial bottle. 3D printed handguns are here, and they are here to stay.

Well, that’s my slant, leave a comment below, and tell me yours.Google

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Derek Crockett

Derek Crockett is a retired Engineering Technician with a love for technology, and industry experience ranging from the production of printed wire boards to the manufacture of semi-conductor production tools. Derek is a resident of Copperas Cove, Texas, and has worked for many of the world’s leading technology companies such as Solectron, Samsung, AMD, and Applied Materials. He now writes technology related news articles and reviews at


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