Defense Distributed

I suppose it was inevitable, in a good way. Some friends of freedom have begun a project dedicated to developing and sharing open-source designs for firearms that can be manufactured with a 3D printer. Read about it here at Defense Distributed.

I approve, of course. I approve of any development that makes it more difficult for governments and criminals to monopolize the use of force. As 3D printers become less expensive and more ubiquitous, this could be a major step in the right direction.

131 thoughts on “Defense Distributed

  1. Somehow, this reminds me of Holocaust Education and Prevention from Cryptonomicon.

  2. Well, aside from it being illegal, I’m skeptical of the current state of the art of 3-D printers and the materials they use, not to mention their cost. But I can see where advancements will be made.

    What about simply acquiring the skills and machinery to manufacture a stripped AR lower, or the serial numbered part of any firearm? Most everything else can be had on line without a NICS check.

  3. I’m actually more interested in what this will mean for gun design. While there are plenty of gunmaking businesses to choose from, and therefore relatively healthy competition, there’s still the cost of tooling a factory for a given form. 3D printing should make the cost of retooling much smaller – the biggest cost by far will be drawing up the plan.

    Is there demand for, say, custom grips? Enough to make them a major selling point for this approach?

  4. It’s not illegal.

    It’s not illegal to make a serialized part for your own use. You will receive a visit from the BATFEIEIO if you try selling said part (or even giving it away in trade or as a straight up gift). US federal gun laws are predicated on the .gov’s power to tax a commercial transaction, which explains the Defense Distributed transaction model. DD isn’t transacting in any material object; rather they are making freely available certain specific information, much like any “free” library does.

    I do think the DD boys and girls (one assumes) are showing a good deal more faith in any governments willingness to comply with the constraints of the US Bill Of Rights than I would have, and here’s hoping I’m just being overly cynical. Caveat investor anyone? Annonymous donations might be in order.

  5. If this becomes widespread, won’t the legislators just change which pieces of a gun are regulated? The high-stress components are a lot harder to 3d-print.

  6. What they have so far is only technically a “firearm” because they’re gaming ATF rules. It’s the regulated part, the AR lower receiver. This technology is a long way from creating any complete firearms. The materials are a problem wrt certain requirements- forex printing a non-bursting barrel…. I haven’t been following the field, but do they even have a printing material strong enough?

    But within its limitations, I like this a lot. Certainly with existing technology you can make regulated parts, or even complete firearms (how are they made now? ;)) but this technology looks to make producing firearm parts easier, cheaper and with a much lower barrier to entry.

  7. They’re going for an entirely 3d-printed model, not just the lower receivers for a standard gun. I’m uncertain of the actual prospects of that. They mention single-shot guns on the site in at least one place; I have to question the usefulness of one of those, unless you want to pull the WWII-resister trick (kill an occupier from surprise with a single-shot gun, quickly grab his entire loadout). Which is great as an asymmetric warfare tactic, but less useful for the ordinary uses of civilian guns.

  8. Premature: Cannot yet be done.

    Most gun components require good steel, which in turn requires subtractive methods. Where plastic can be used, it has to be plastic a good deal stronger than most three dee printers can generate. The recent manufacture of minor gun part on a rep rap printer was a stunt, not a useful part.

    So, you would use an additive three dee printer to make a mold, you would cast the part in high temperature furnace, possibly heat treat the part to make it easy to cut, then a CNC lathe and/or CNC mill to cut the part to precision, then possibly further heat treating to make the part harder, and to give it a rust resistant surface.

    So far so good, except for the gun barrel. No existing lathe or mill can give you a decent gun barrel. You have to build rather large and heavy specialized machinery to make gun barrels.

  9. As to 3-D printing complex objects, I think materials advances like the one described in this Al Fin blogpost offer considerable promise for the Rep-Rap model of printers (the New Scientist link hangs up on an ad for me so I use the post referencing it instead).

  10. Well I think this is a great idea. Despite all the concern about legality; (As if the ATF and DOJ act legally given the current Marxist/Leninist/Muslim Sympathizing/Anti Colonial – Downsize the USA/ Cloward-Piven Manufactured Crisis/ Liberal Progressive/ Racist Democratic President), it will open up new avenues to throw off the yoke of the current government’s oppression and big brother snooping. Cannot wait for this technology to enable ripping out 1911 and 2011 firearms. I am a bit concerned about barrel manufacture; but, as pointed out above there is plenty of non after market stuff for that. The key here is being able to slip the domination of serialized tracking of weapons. Also, it opens up a new cottage industry for gun manufacture. In a way it throws things back to the 17th,18th and early 19th century era of the Artisan gunsmith; but, with the ability to manufacture to an interchangeable parts specification standard for ammunition, sights, etc. I am all for this getting cheap enough to put it in my garage. A great hobby for “Preppers” and organized government haters like myself.

  11. Oh and just one after thought this is exactly how John Moses Browning got his start. Doing it himself from about 14 years old on. I think as a in the garage artisan he did pretty well for himself and for civilization in general.

  12. There is another opportunity here to discourage the gun-banners: create a library of CAD files for commonly broken gun parts for various common weapons. That way, anybody with one of these printers could have an entire parts warehouse on a DVD, and print up parts on demand.

    This would cut off any attempt at back-door gun regulation by trying to regulate the sale of gun parts needed for repair/maintenance of the common models.

    Coil springs are relatively easy to make from the right wire stock, leaf springs more difficult, but I suspect that the commonly broken parts are almost simple – like firing pins, hammers, and sears. While I doubt that the printed part would be as durable as a machined, polished, and heat-treated part, it would keep your gun shooting for a while longer.

  13. “Despite all the concern about legality; (As if the ATF and DOJ act legally given the current Marxist/Leninist/Muslim Sympathizing/Anti Colonial – Downsize the USA/ Cloward-Piven Manufactured Crisis/ Liberal Progressive/ Racist Democratic President), it will open up new avenues to throw off the yoke of the current government’s oppression and big brother snooping.”

    Ummm… wow. Are things really that bad in TeaSA? I’m glad I live in the real-world America, not the TeaUSA fantasy.

    FYI: My country’s elected president is not a racist, but is opposed by a good many fruitcakes who *are* racists and/or radical Muslims.

    Another FYI: my brother Greg decided the USA was becoming less free, so he moved to Thailand, where saying anything negative about the king can get you thrown in jail. Freedom? We seem to have different definitions of the word.

  14. I’ll think that this is more than a gimmick when someone comes up with a way to produce working ammunition on a 3D printer.

  15. I’ll think that this is more than a gimmick when someone comes up with a way to produce working ammunition on a 3D printer.

    I have no idea on the state of ammunition regulation in the US but unless you have to register to buy ammunition, being able to produce working ammunition is more likely to get the technology banned than help.

    Having said that, i wouldn’t be surprised if crossbow bolts are very plausible given current 3d printing technology (my uneducated guess would be strength of the shaft would be the only sticking point). And as one shot weapons go, a hand crossbow isn’t a terrible thing at all.

  16. Post Back to Robin ‘Roblimo’ Miller on Friday, August 24 2012 at 1:28 am

    Yep your Country’s President is definitely all the things I listed and a true Manchurian candidate. And yes things are that bad another 4 years of this idiot and we are well and truly screwed from about 10 perspectives.
    Been to Thailand in two different errors During Vietnam 70-72 and for over a period of years from 2002 to 2009. Yes you show respect for the King just as you would for the Flag here (well I guess some show respect in your so called “Real America”. Thailand is a complicated place. y our simplistic and second hand view is just bull shit like the rest of your observations. The King by the way has dual citizen ship having been born while his parents were attending Harvard. I by the way trust him a lot more than our President. Bottom line he has contended with really tough situations and is fighting off Muslim Insurgency from those bastards in Malaysia. He at least knows and admits where he was born. If he has not passed on yet it will be a sad day for Thailand.

    I resent the notion of being called living in a fantasy land seems to me you have not lived at all yet. However if this creep gets reelected well as the Chinese say you will live in “Interesting Times”. With the debt this joker has piled up for the stimulus and MS-NBC and God Damn Wind Mills, Solar Cells and Electric Cars no one wants; we will be about where the Thai living Standard is today. Check your grip on reality. Your President sheesh I do not think you have thought this through.

  17. “I have no idea on the state of ammunition regulation in the US but unless you have to register to buy ammunition, being able to produce working ammunition is more likely to get the technology banned than help.”

    I can see a 3D printer making the brass, bullet, and primer case but the propellants are not really within the purview of what a 3D printer does. You’d have to supply them separately, and therein lies the weakness in the whole idea of 3D printing tech rendering gun controls moot.

    Ammo is the big soft underbelly of gun ownership in the US. Regulation is pretty much nonexistent for usual civilian purposes. There are already calls to ban online ammo purchases, and some states do it already. If that succeeds, I predict that the next target will be handloading. Relative to the number of gun owners, handloaders are a small minority. Many gun owners wouldn’t object if ammo components were banned from the market, because they’ve never needed them.

    My point is this: even if you can make any kind of firearm in a 3D printer, unless you can get propellants to make the ammo, you have a fancy club. Making propellants can be done, but it’s an order of magnitude more complex, not to mention unsafe. I know several handloaders, but I’ve never even heard of somebody making their own gunpowder.

  18. Being able to manufacture your own weapon doesn’t make it legal to yield andor use it?

  19. > I know several handloaders, but I’ve never even heard of somebody making their own gunpowder.

    I have made my own nitroglycerine, and my own nitrocellulose, and still, remarkably, have normal hearing and all my fingers. The stuff that pushes bullets out of a gun is not gunpowder but nitrocellulose with a little bit of nitroglycerine. The primer, however, is harder. Primers are manufactured by a few fairly large businesses, so I suppose that manufacturing them is very hard.

  20. James A Donald: I’d hardly call an AR-15 lower a “minor gun part”; it’s the structural backbone of the firearm.

    Roblimo: Welcome! But don’t forget that many people who oppose the Community Organizer-in-Chief are *not* racists. There’s plenty to oppose just on the basis of his far-left policies.

    Salamandro: You can make and use a firearm it would be otherwise legal for you to possess, without restriction. Selling it gets harder.

  21. From my memory of a description of how they make primers at the Lake City, MO government small arms ammo plant, it’s actually pretty easy. Biggest issue is probably dealing with the much more sensitive compounds in primers (once properly manufactured, smokeless powder is pretty safe stuff, won’t even explode (although that is a rather technical distinction when it’s used to make a pipe bomb)).

    There are a lot of scenarios of bad times were ammo won’t be an issue, factor in that the US civilian ammo market currently produces more than 10 billion (sic) rounds every year and if stored in vaguely favorable condition the stuff is good for many many decades. My father has some big paper casks of Hercules smokeless powder that were bought sometime around WWII that are still good (although you need to be careful about ammo from that era because a lot of it has corrosive primers … not that that would be an issue for plastic parts :-).

    As for national legislation banning any of these sorts of thing, the correlation of forces just aren’t favorable right now, after the excesses of the ’70s through the ’90s guns are being re-normalized in US society. Most of the county, 42 states in all plus many localities in NY and CA, and most of the population, live in de jure or de facto shall issue or better concealed carry licencing regimes, a wave that started with Florida in 1987. And those are all local actions, often with little or no help (or worse) from the NRA.

    After a string of catastrophic defeats for the Democratic party from 1994 (Brady Bill and “assault weapons” ban) to Gore’s loss in 2000 in which gun control was an unquestioned factor (at least by astute analysts like Bill Clinton) the party at the national level has treated this as a new third rail in US politics (e.g. look at the change in voting by Harry Reid in the early part of the last decade, and how he quietly added pro-gun measures to Obamacare).

    Yeah, all that could and very possibly will change some day, but right now we (the pro-RKBA side) are in a “Ride right through them; they’re demoralized as hell” mode. The home 3-D printing and CNC machining efforts that are the topic of this posting are among other things being done just to underline that to our adversaries.

  22. I tend to follow James A donald, here. I was trained as steel & plastics engineer before switching to computers, and its analysis matches everything I’ve learned. With lower machinery, you get lower quality.
    3D printed components are crap in terms of mechanical resistance(because the steel/plastic is manufactured a very unefficient way). 3D printed components are crap in terms of surface quality. From what I know about guns, they have heavy requirements in terms of mechanical resistance, & even higher for surface quality.
    People in the aforementioned Darra Adam Khel are artists, but also have a few good machines. Not as good as what is needed for a long-lasting gun, yet, good enough for making average-quality Kalashnikov. They have lathes & milling machines for cutting steel at the proper shape, with the propoer quality surface. My own training is enough for doing the same. Forging the barrel is another thing(I don’t know well), but the bottom line is that they have some heavy machinery with them.

    If you want to manufacture weapons to defend against a rogue government(or whatever lookalike), you will need a lathe, at least, and preferably a milling machine. Without the lathe, you can’t get a proper barrel surface. And your gun is a crap. Without the lathe, you cannot rifle your gun either. Milling machine is useful for the mechanism pieces. Bigger steel elements make the different between short-lasting & long-lasting barrels. But the absolute minimum to have is a lathe.
    3D Printing is something wonderful. Yet it is not magic, & does not produce perfect pieces. It is very useful for pieces where shape is the important thing(as turbines), but shows a lot of limits when other qualities are needed, especially mechanical resistance & surface quality.

  23. @Jay Maynard “I’d hardly call an AR-15 lower a “minor gun part”; it’s the structural backbone of the firearm.”

    From what I heard at the time this story was current, though, it doesn’t need to stand up to any significant mechanical stresses – it’s mainly significant due to an accident of history that made it, rather than the upper receiver, the part that the ATF cares about.

  24. I suspect a 3D-printed barrel (or stock pipe of some type) could handle gyrojet or other rocket ammunition. Of course, that just makes the “acquiring ammo” issue 100x worse, and raises a whole set of other problems, too.

  25. While hammer forging is good, plenty of barrels are made with other, older less intensive methods (including all the M16 and M4s made for the US; FNH now makes the former, but only uses the 4 hammer forging machines for DoD machine gun barrels and civilian production).

    The gyrojet really sucks for self-defense, you only get max velocity at burnout, which is quite some distance away. Last time I checked the average self-defense range is 7 feet (sic). In general, while the concept sounds cool (Rocket Gun!) the wrong things are cheap (cast aluminum gun) and expensive (ammo … with also a fraction of the shelf-life of conventional).

  26. I love this idea so much it hurts.

    Legal concerns (not that I have any respect for such laws) : if I print an AR15 lower, which is considered by the ATF to be the ‘weapon’ – ie. you need a background check to buy one – do i need to add a serial number to it and register it with the ATF?

    Similarly, if I print a handgun, does it need a serial number?

    Physics concerns : I note that he talked specifically about the 22lr cartridge, which is a lower power round…is it possible, with current printable thermoplastics, to construct a composite weapon capable of containing such lower pressures. If so, we might actually see the first plastic weapon capable of passing through scanners.

    For a shit-or-bust personal defense weapon, I would be perfectly happy to carry a plastic gun that , once all the ammo is fired, is disposable/recyclable.

  27. Jay Maynard,

    One may oppose Obama also on the basis of his lack of implementation of far left policies. Under his watch we’ve seen a prolonging of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, completely unnecessary military action in Libya, the looming threat of war with Iran, more surveillance for “national security” reasons, more debt, more bailouts for the rich, etc. Obama is basically Bush 2.

    That’s why he should scare more on the left: he play-acts at being ultra-liberal while he is really concerned with his own power, very much in the Bush-Cheney mold.

    But he will winn the 2012 popukarity contest, because Romney is a complete derp.

  28. Just to bang on about my usual thing: 3d printing is one of the most important technologies nascent. It has potential to transform the world as much a the web did, perhaps as much as the computer did.

    However, it probably won’t. Why? Because it is so totally weighed down with patents in a way that early software and computers were not.

    There are technologies out there to not only print in plastic, but in sinterred metals. Technologies that allow the printing of electronic circuits, including caps, resistors, inductors and semiconductors. If it were fully rolled out, it would do to many physical objects what mp3 did to music, or DTP did to publishers. Imagine open source hardware, where you can download not just tivo software, but the hardware it runs on. All you need to make it work is a high density general purpose microprocessor module.

    This gun thing is an illustration of how liberty enhancing unbridled 3d printing is. How much better it could make our lives.

    But it won’t because patents will rob us of that fabulous future.

  29. >>So far so good, except for the gun barrel. No existing lathe or mill can give you a decent gun barrel. You have to build rather large and heavy specialized machinery to make gun barrels.

    Not true. I have the equipment in my hobby shop to make a quite useable gun barrel. Given my equipment, it would be short — I might be able to manage a ten inch barrel. Given a longer lathe I could make a barrel for a long gun. Given incentive to do so, I could make the tools and rifle it.
    Quite possible, but not just a matter of using what I have. On the other hand, at ranges under 25 yards, my smooth bore would be “good enough” . One inch groups perhaps instead of quarter inch groups, perhaps less of a differenced than that. On the other hand, I would get higher velocities from my ammo than if I rifled it, it takes quite a lot of energy to spin up the bullet. Also, it would be less of a problem to use an unjacketed bullet.
    After all, a 1800 gunsmith could make a rilfle barrel, rifle it, make the breachplug, lock and stock.
    I could certainly do the same. I have better steel available, and for many of the tasks, better tools. He would have more of the specialzed tools already working and long experience in how to use them.

    Now, if you want a target grade barrel, a 26″ 18 caliber — and hundreds of them made at a price you could afford to buy — then you need big, elaborate equipment. Having the deep hole drilling equipment with the 3000 psi pumped lubricant through the hollow drill would make drilling the barrel much much quicker and easier. But not required. You can peck drill a hole of indefinite depth, it just takes longer. For a 26″ deep hole, a lot longer, but hours, not weeks.

    Given a supply of primers and powder and incentive to do so, I could have a workable gun in a few weeks, the second one in much less time. It would be safe for the user, and accurate enough for combat pistol range work. Single shot, so you better make that one good.

    Not a problem, just work — and a reason to invest the effort.

    Jim Hurlburt
    Yakima, WA

  30. I am looking for somebody to have a ‘why not do this’ moment and realize that they are trying to make a weapon–not necessarily a gun–that is just as effective as a gun using the materials at hand without the need for the expensive machining of steel. An analogy would be when men stopped trying to build mechanical birds and built airplanes instead.

  31. .22lr is actually a relatively high pressure round; for low pressures look at .38spl or .44spl. Barrels are consumable parts, and, as noted, capable of being machined in quite primitive settings with minimal tools if only adequate accuracy.

  32. I wish Charlton Heston had lived for this day, I would have loved to see him hold up a 3D printer and say, “From my cold dead hands!”

  33. I think the biggest advantage for this process will be that it’s going to, for quite some time, be easier to buy an existing gun in the States than to get access to a 3D printer and build one of these yourself, so by the time one is used in one of our weekly Deadly Mass Shooting, it’ll be fairly widespread.

    Otherwise, I’d expect it to go the way of cryptocurrency and Bitcoin. Yes, Bitcoin exists. No, nobody’s using it for widespread money-laundering. This is not because no one’s had the idea.

    I’m trying to see the shortest regulatory way to maintain the status quo in the face of cheap and easy gun manufacturing. Probably some kind of regulation and tagging of 3D printers, but I could be wrong.

  34. Isn’t it easier to make a hexagonal-rifled barrel rather than a land & groove-rifled one?

  35. Given a supply of primers and powder and incentive to do so, I could have a workable gun in a few weeks, the second one in much less time.

    Powder is theoretically not that difficult – As James A Donald (JAD) pointed out it is basically nitrocellulose plus (this is news to me) a bit of nitroglycerine. Nitrocellulose is no problem. JAD says he made nitroglycerine and still has hearing and fingers (and hands, face, life, etc.). Nitroglycerine is not to be fucked with…. Do you find a fool smart enough to do it right or a genius foolish enough to try to do it safely…

    You can even go back to using black powder – gun powder – I bet a good proportion of us know about potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulphur. The problem is slower burn, requiring longer barrels.

    Primers are much harder, I believe…. but…. wait (this just came to me seconds ago)…. when I was a kid, I chipped/cut the white cordite(?) off the heads of your basic strike-anywhere match… I put a few pieces on the side walk and put a big nail, head down, over it and hit the tip of the nail with a hammer…. the fingers holding the nail hurt and went numb for a while from the shock….

    It seems barrels are the biggest problem. What follows is just brain fluff problem-hacking…..

    But I keep thinking….. the right sort of material solidified around a rod… or maybe steel tube or maybe just paper and… what? silicone?, rubber cement? wrapped around a rod that is then pulled out, given a person a tube with a smooth interior or even made rifled from the start…

    I keep thinking, (this is what has been tickling my creative center)… I keep thinking: wrap it … wrap it with something strong to hold the tube together, but with enough give to keep this strength as the bullet goes by without breaking…. strips of metal screening tightly wrapped around and around? Thin strips of metal? Fiberglass mesh (without the epoxy?)

    Such a barrel would expand as the bullet went by and could easily be bent…. but it could easily be made, even in someone’s kitchen… maybe for use with a good solid bored barrel for the last four to six inches…

    Or, maybe…. the short, good, solid barrel…. maybe steel tube 0.3 inch internal diameter (sorry: “.30 calibre”)… and tightly wrap that with strips of metal screen-door-screen… use a torch to melt solder into the mesh every few wraps….

    I have been sitting here thinking, on the one hand, this is So mickey mouse, but on the other hand, a person could do it over the kitchen sink with stuff from the local home hardware. If a person patented this…. but then realizing, in the world today, a method for making gun barrels at home – this isn’t something you tell the government about…. (The gripping hand would be: I am damn glad I never intend to fly again and will hopefully never find out what sort of “list” I am on… posts like this can’t be good.)

  36. Why mess around with chemistry? For many purposes, an air gun will do the job. Or you could go with electrically-ignited propellants, if conventional ammunition is unavailable.

  37. @Alsadius

    I’ll think that this is more than a gimmick when someone comes up with a way to produce working ammunition on a 3D printer.

    Current state of the art is to purchase an ammunition reloading press, empty brass, gunpowder, primers, and bullets.

    In some parts of the United States, these can be shipped directly to the door of the purchaser. (For a taste, go to a website like MidwayUSA.com, and search for “reloading”. There are reference manuals, reloading presses from two major manufacturers, dies, scales, related equipment, as well as brass/bullets/powder/primer for sale.)

    It can be done, but not with printable materials. (Unless and until we get printable Brass/Steel cartridges. Even then, the ammo isn’t printable unless some sort of quasi-StarTrek-replicator can produce the primer/powder.)

    @James A Donald
    Most gun components require good steel, which in turn requires subtractive methods. Where plastic can be used, it has to be plastic a good deal stronger than most three dee printers can generate. The recent manufacture of minor gun part on a rep rap printer was a stunt, not a useful part.

    I agree.

    I gather that most guns have to handle ~20000 PSI loads for millisecond-long time intervals. Hence, the barrel/firing chamber, and breechface/bolt have to be steel. And most of the supporting mechanism has to be steel or very-high-strength plastic.

    Another tidbit of gun-world lore: most firearms are constructed from a series of components attached to the “receiver” mechanism. If you take the thing apart, American Law considers the receiver mechanism to be the firearm (it must have a serial number on it). The other components (barrel, trigger-group, hammer, firing pin, bolt, grip/stock/sling, sights/scope-mount/scope, etc.) are firearms parts, and can be sold without a background check, FFL, or government-mandated tracking/paperwork.

    The AR design has a lower-receiver and an upper-receiver, and I gather that the lower part is the part that is serial-numbered and considered “the firearm” when separated from the rest of the rifle components. If the lower-receiver can made from a 3D-printed-plastic, and a works-for-a-time rifle can be constructed from “spare parts” made out of steel, then an AR can be manufactured without leaving the usual purchase trail that a firearm (or bare receiver) does. Assuming that factory-quality is not as important as works-for-a-short-time.

    To approach this another way: if home-CNC-machining becomes as available as 3D printing, then gray-market, factory-quality AR rifles become much easier. Thus, killing gun control.

  38. Well, I think Jessica is EXACTLY correct. And I’m not all that worried about the ATF. It’s the Travis County Attorney that most worries me. That office has along an undistinguished history of “making examples” out of people, as well as being active gun grabbers.

    I’ve suggested (strongly) to Cory that he and the gang associate and get backing from NRA or SAF or one of the other large second amendment groups with lots of legal backing. They may just need it as the go forward with this project.

    I’d feel much better about their chances of success (or at least, not being interfered with) if they were in almost any other city in Texas, rather than that little piece of California in the heart of Texas.

  39. Oh, and many of you guys are thinking about rifle bullets. They specifically talk about 22s, and I’m thinking shotgun shells might be a better first target, as I’ve see 12Gage flare guns shoot bird shot without a problem.

  40. ronm0817, you seem to assume I haven’t been to Thailand. I was there in 1971- 1972 more or less permanently TDY from the 504th ASA Brigade. But I have not been to TeaThailand. I’m hoping to visit my brother there within the next year.

    If my country’s president is re-elected, you’ll leave the USA, right? I hope you find happiness wherever you end up.

  41. @ Jessica Boxer on Friday, August 24 2012 at 11:42 am said:

    Technologies that allow the printing of electronic circuits, including caps, resistors, inductors and semiconductors. If it were fully rolled out, it would do to many physical objects what mp3 did to music, or DTP did to publishers. Imagine open source hardware, where you can download not just tivo software, but the hardware it runs on. All you need to make it work is a high density general purpose microprocessor module.

    Ah… basic electronic passive components (caps, resistors and inductors) are essentially 3D printed now as it stands. That is the industry standard method for making surface-mount passives in bulk. Semiconductors require some form of crystal growth (at least initially), so that’s a different ballgame.

  42. I agree with… Ian Argent – air guns – if you want to make guns at home, use compressed air and maybe darts instead of bullets… or maybe not… maybe long barrels and heavy bullets – get a .45 ACP punching effect. In any case, barrels don’t have to be that strong, use strong pipe/tube and tailor your projectile to your barrel.

  43. I see this as a particular manifestation of a more general trend. As the free and uncontrolled world of bits on the internet begins to spill over into the physical world through technologies like 3D printing, molecular manufacturing and nanotechnology, the same freedom and lack of control we see on the net will exist for the first time outside of computers.

    When a guy in an attic with off-the-shelf commodity components can copy an AR-15, or a nuclear bomb, or a deadly virus, or a self-replicating nanobot as easily as he can copy a text file today then any hope that the world’s governments still have of being able to control their populations will completely vanish.

    I think this might be a good thing.

  44. All right – guns.

    1) I have a Marlin .22 “hunting rifle” that is all black, and I have a couple of 25 round mags for it.

    2) I have a 9mm Hi-Point carbine that is black and has all kinds of scary-looking picatinny rails and a red-dot sight. Come to think of it, I have a red dot on my “hunting rifle” too.

    I’m not going to make my own guns, but if I did they’d be muzzle-loading, sabot-firing blunderbusses, essentially small, easy-to-carry mortars. Big, slow rounds, no need for a whole bunch of pressure to fire, can work with black powder instead of smokeless, generally able to fire without close tolerances.

  45. The only ‘government’ that would survive would be the ones that understood that we are not their property to be subjected to ‘population control’. May that illusion die soon…in the minds of ‘governments’ and the sheeple that enable & legitimize them.

  46. FWIW, I saw at the NRA annual meeting in Pittsburgh last year a .50 air rifle capable of punching through a 2×4 being used as the target in demonstration, and being sold as a varmint hunter. The whole thing was no larger than a conventional rifle, and I believe the air supply was in the stock. I don’t know how much shorter you could make the barrel before losing too much muzzle velocity, but, in most places in this country, shortening the barrel is perfectly legal.

  47. @Brian Marshall
    wrap it with something strong to hold the tube together, but with enough give to keep this strength as the bullet goes by without breaking…. strips of metal screening tightly wrapped around and around? Thin strips of metal? Fiberglass mesh (without the epoxy?)

    Such a barrel would expand as the bullet went by and could easily be bent…. but it could easily be made, even in someone’s kitchen

    Sounds like the Swedish/Scottish/Korean “leather cannon”; a lightweight copper barrel wrapped in fiber/rope/leather in some combination, with or without a binder. They were light and cheap, and worked… once or twice.

  48. @Jeremy:

    Semiconductors require some form of crystal growth (at least initially), so that’s a different ballgame.

    Google for inkjet transistors.

  49. (not that they don’t require crystal growth, just that that might be easier to localize than you might think at first glance.)

  50. @Mike E

    Sounds like the Swedish/Scottish/Korean “leather cannon”; a lightweight copper barrel wrapped in fiber/rope/leather in some combination, with or without a binder. They were light and cheap, and worked… once or twice.

    (sarcasm> I am such a great inventor that I keep inventing great things that have already been invented by great inventors (and often killed them) </sarcasm).

    Actually, I thought of an aspect…. if the bullet expanded the barrel as it proceeds down it, it takes energy from the system… best for slow black powder and long barrels… or lots of black powder and a largish relatively heavy shot.

    And now that I have had a look at Wikipedia, I see that there were heat dissipation problems with the leather and rope wrappings. My idea of wrapping with strips of steel screen-door-screen (and maybe filling in all the space with solder in the last six inches might dissipate heat better.

    Nevertheless, while the idea intrigues me, I don't believe I would want to be near one that was being fired – and sure as hell not hold and fire one!

  51. >>It seems barrels are the biggest problem.

    Barrel is a pretty straightforward problem — target quality barrel good for a few thousand rounds ups the bar quite a bit, but short range short life barrel is easy.

    4140 steel is readly available as bar stock, as are low end lathes and milling machines to work it. A big propane torch, some fire brick and a pan of used engine oil will allow you to heat treat it.
    From there it’s just determination to *do* it, and willingness to spend the time to do it right. And learn what a good enough version of *right* is. (good enough for you at the time)

    Barrels are fairly simple, the action for a repeater would be an order or two of magnitude more of a challenge. Same material constraints, need a lot of tough strength, and even more critical size and finish problems. Barrel just needs a straight, smooth, round hole — then perhaps rifled — with a chamber concentric to the barrel, and threads to attach it to the action. In context, piece of cake.

    Home shop cnc stuff is readily available. It does take serious hobby money — although not much if you are thinking speedboats or race cars. It also takes a serious commitment of time to learn how to use them — not unlike programming. The cnc part is actually the least of the learning curve. You have to know what you want to build, and know your machinery, matereials and tooling well enough to do the work. This takes time, many failed parts and ruined tools, and figure on a little blood here and there.

    Again, like programming — the main block is making the commitment to learn it and do it right — and spend the hours to see it through (Like programming, you can do some pretty soon, you never even come close to learning it all)

    Jim

    As with many things, like the martial arts that ESR has been writing about, it won’t be instant gratification. If you are so inclined, it can be very rewarding — it’s pretty cool actually to be working on something for your kid – come to a problem, go make the piece to fix the problem — and go on. Kid (Near thirty year old daughter by now) thought it was pretty cool to be riding a motorcycle with a dad built part.

  52. Since we have a lot of people on Esr’s blog paying attention to the subject of weapons and self-defense. I have a possible threadjack. I’ve recently gotten hooked on the idea of sailboat cruising. The obvious behavior when you start something new is to read up on it, books, internet, etc.. Well, a significant percentage of material I’ve read have recommended against having any firearms on board. Having the political slant that I do, I find myself unable to easily accept their conclusions. The ocean is still a frontier, a gun is still a useful tool when any form of law enforcement is only months away. Their best argument is that guns are more trouble than they are worth, as when you put into many foreign ports outside the U.S. the customs officers essentially have free reign to search your boat for contraband. Obviously, with the U.S. being one of the few countries with guaranteed protection of rights to own guns, this poses a significant issue if a customs officer in most any other country finds a weapon on your boat. There are other reasons, but this seemed to be the strongest one imo.

    Anyone here have any thoughts, or experience in this matter? Again, apologies for the threadjack.

  53. >>I gather that most guns have to handle ~20000 PSI loads for millisecond

    Not sure off the top of my head on the milliseconds, but a high power rifle cartrige will hit pressures of 50K+ A 44 magnum will be right up there someplace, although probably for a shorter time. Shotgun might be down around the 20K level along with the lesser pistol loads.

    The 223 cartrige used by the( M15? – 16?) is going to be up at the high end for pressures, at or near the 50k.

    Jim

  54. @Patrick Maupin

    Yeah, I was stopping short of suggesting that 3D semiconductors/silicon/germanium die were impossible. I was simply saying it’s a different beast. I know of at least one way you could “3D Print” a transistor if you have existing crystal, but it’s still a different process entirely than producing passives in bulk. I don’t know of any theoretical or practical method of 3D printing a microcircuit, except perhaps for a Focused Ion Beam… but really, do you want to spend 1 million hours building up your ASIC transistor by transistor? (FIBs are not fast, and are highly specialized instruments)

  55. Kid (Near thirty year old daughter by now) thought it was pretty cool to be riding a motorcycle with a dad built part.

    She’s right. That is pretty cool. :)

  56. If you cannot make a particular gun part with a 3D printer but require a different tool, wouldn’t it be natural to ask whether the 3D printer can print the tool? If so, problem solved. How much of a well stocked tool inventory can a 3D printer already make?

  57. >>if home-CNC-machining becomes as available as 3D printing

    At this time home cnc is much more available than 3d printing. All it takes is money and time. Actually, far more time than money to get good at it.

    The reprap class of printers are slow, and lay down a fairly weak plastic material. Improving either one tends to lose on the other. The industrial ones I’ve glanced at, were slow, very expensive and required significant processing of the output part for a sinitered piece.

    Not to say it isn’t a very worth while project, but 3d printing with photosetting resin is even slower, what little I’ve read is a few thousanths of build up per pass. Sinitered metal powder is going to be slow to lay down, and probably either quite expensive to make or not as strong as solid metal — most probably some of both.

    For prototyping, it’s a very good trick. For production, it’s way to slow and expensive. For one off stuff, skiping the manufacturing world, there will have to be orders of magnitude improvements in materials (or material deposit methods) and speed.

    Still quite worth while, but not something that will replace buying stuff in the foreseeable future.

    My cnc shop could make most parts that will fit into the work envelope — not very large, I would struggle to make a rifle. But, I could if I wanted to bad enough.

    Jim

  58. @ ESR – “I approve of any development that makes it more difficult for governments and criminals to monopolize the use of force.”

    Extensive game theory modeling has been directed at discerning the probable modality of tyranny evolution in the United States. In almost every scenario, firearms and ammunition restriction precede mass detainment. Interestingly, firearms prove to be most useful for self-defense and have very little utility in opposing large-scale government sponsored oppression.

  59. I only had a couple of hours of sleep last night, so I don’t know how coherent this is going to be….

    One aspect is that there are all kinds of data, but basically any kind of data structure can be stored in one kind of physical memory and then pulled out again.

    Can this work with physical stuff? Prototyping in plastic, sure, but real things are made of many different kinds of stuff – plastics, metals, structural parts, electronic stuff (conductors, insulators, resistors, etc.), moving stuff, springs, foam, hard covers, soft covers, lasers, detectors, colors, fluids… can all this be delivered by a single machine? Is there a way to bring all this into… uh… one or a limited set of domains?

    Making parts out of one or a few plastics and/or metals: maybe. Making physical stuff in general the way we make stuff in data in general…

    One or more centuries from now, who knows. But this isn’t something that is going to happen just by venture capitalists throwing money at a problem. The problem is that phsical stuff is vastly more…. diverse than data is.

    Data includes music, accounting and images.

    Physical stuff, just around home, includes phones, duct tape, strucural steel even at the scale of inches, motors, windows, …. Ida know, man…

  60. Response to: Robin ‘Roblimo’ Miller on Friday, August 24 2012 at 3:04 pm said:
    “ronm0817, you seem to assume I haven’t been to Thailand. I was there in 1971- 1972 more or less permanently TDY from the 504th ASA Brigade. But I have not been to Thailand. I’m hoping to visit my brother there within the next year.”

    So it seems we have similar experiences and very different conclusions about the current Imposter President. I am very surprised; but, not that surprised. It is a free country for now. At least for a while. Your welcome to your opinion of course; I extend to you good will and sincerely hope that things do not turn out the way I think they will. Unlike Clooney and Affleck I do not plan to leave if President Barry gets reelected. I do plan to start working as hard as I can to prepare for the worse; and, you should too. Things will get a lot worse before they get better. Glad to see that you own and have guns on hand. If you live in the shadow of the Northeast or California you will need them. So this site is about the technology not about the politics, so enough for now.

  61. Actually, the revolutionary thing is not posting the plans for a gun online. They need to post the plans for making a 3D printer.

  62. LS: 3-D printer designs – in fact, complete specifications – are on-line all over the Net. The on-going development of 3-D printers is an open-source collaborative process.

    The designs are specified to be built by 3-D printers, rather as C compiler can build itself. Certain components (motors, mainly) have to be acquired, but an increasing proportion are printable.

  63. I am still short on sleep, but more rational than when I posted my last comment. I see that my last comment was vaguely coherent but off-topic in a weird way. I should NOT be doing this when I am that tired. I apologise.

    ESR’s original post was about making guns. This is a very interesting concept because individual gun parts can be all one material and making guns has all sorts of aspects in relation to society.

    My last comment was about the most general case – machines that can make… almost anything. I have read a couple of science fiction stories about this concept. I think is is sort of like nano-tech that can build almost anything – it is still science fiction and likely to stay that way for a while. Over time, who knows… but at this time, the problem is that physical objects in general are very different than data in general.

    Data can represent almost anything, yet still be stored in the same physical memory. Physical stuff is not like that – it can include multiple moving parts, each potentially made of multiple materials, interacting in multiple ways.

    The short version is that when I posted my last comment, I was too tired to realize that I shouldn’t have posted it.

  64. TomA, could you supply a pointer to that research?

    I think Syria is a sufficient clue that hand weapons are not a sufficient recourse against a government which is willing to do an all-out attack against its “own” people. General availability of hand weapons *might* have prevented the Rwandan massacre, but I don’t think the US is anywhere near something like that. On the other hand, my faith in my ability to predict is rather limited.

  65. I don’t believe you have to worry about full-up military attacks on anti-government civilians in the US any time soon. Not for long, anyway.

  66. Nancy Lebovitz,

    If tyrants have launch codes for the Big Portobello, or the keys to the vault containing the world’s last known samples of smallpox, there’s very little that personal firearms can do.

    And don’t think they won’t use it because they don’t want to ruin their Glorious Empire with radioactive fallout. A real tyrant would be willing to settle for a not-so-glorious empire that he’s still the emperor of: see the Kim family in North Korea. Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.

  67. Jeremy, I believe that if the vessel is Documented, it is immune to normal search and seizure – ie. it is sovereign U.S. territory. This was the case back in the 70′s – who knows what the situation is now. I’ve heard both sides of the gun argument re boats, but if I was cruising, I’d carry at least a 12 gauge wrapped up in the bilge. And yes, a flare gun is lethal at short range.
    Printing is neat, but the real deal with weapons is cnc machining. I’m sure there is already code for 1911 frames and m-16 lowers – just not freeware yet.
    Cabelas sells quite nice percussion cap rifles and pistols through the mail – even to California.

  68. Agreed. Once one of these bad boys falls within the ten-kilobuck price range and can be built at home, then and only then will distributed firearm parts construction be realistically feasible.

    It’ll happen. As everyone here keeps harping on, lathes and mills are just too useful and capable of things that 3D printers aren’t, to be ignored or overlooked by the personal fabrication industry.

  69. James A Donald said, Premature: Cannot yet be done. Most gun components require good steel, which in turn requires subtractive methods.

    There are additive methods for steel; EOS, 3DSystems and Arcam all make machines for additive metal fabrication. Would you prefer 17-4 or 15-5 stainless or how about A6 tool steel? Fancy Titanium? Check out this post about the many, many additive fabrication options. It’s not just squeezing icing and ABS. The big problem with the materials from the hobby ABS/PLA printers (or even the professional ones from Stratasys) is the lack of inter-layer strength.

    Alsadius said, I’ll think that this is more than a gimmick when someone comes up with a way to produce working ammunition on a 3D printer.
    I haven’t seen ammunition yet, but these guys are 3D printing hybrid rocket fuel grains.

    el slapper said, 3D printed components are crap in terms of mechanical resistance(because the steel/plastic is manufactured a very unefficient way). 3D printed components are crap in terms of surface quality.
    Incorect. Additive direct metal parts can have “equivalent to wrought” material properties. The metal parts have a surface finish about like a sand casting out of the machine. You do have to do additional finish machining just like you would for a sand casting. I guess you could call that “crap”. From where I sit, that seems pretty good (oh btw, much less wasted material than either casting or CNC from a big block).

  70. I make 3D printers (RepRap family) for a growing part of my living. I run a smallish CNC router. I am working to push forward what is possible in open source manufacturing.

    RepRap is a diverse and very vigorous open source hardware community. We’ve pushed the state of the art performance very far and fast: 10x faster, 10x more precise, and 5x cheaper in the last 3 years (although you can’t quite have all three at once). We’re working on printing low melt metals, and ceramics (amongst other things).

    Sure, for the finest finishes, and the most accurate parts, you need subtractive processes. Once you have a 3D printer (even a small printer that only prints plastic), making (bootstrapping to) any other machine becomes _much_ easier. RepRaps are the closest that we currently have to automated build tools for machines, and they’re getting more capable all the time. Owning one is already like having an infinite mechano set that includes all the parts that you can imagine. RepRaps are substantially self manufacturing, which is why they’ve come so far so fast.

    While there are plans around for all sorts of self-build CNC machinery on various scales, no projects that I know of that have much traction, as yet. I expect to see that change in a big way as we get better at bootstrapping from small plastic parts to larger, more rigid parts. I suspect that casting epoxy granite into molds assembled from 3D printed parts will be an important technique.

    Regarding 3D printing strong materials, I was recently in negotiations with a Chinese company that makes printers that print titanium alloys that are stronger than their cast counterparts. They were targeting manufacture of direct use parts for aerospace and F1 racing. Sadly they were too fixed on closed source software to take advantage of (of fund the extension of) the excellent and directly relevant software work currently being done in the RepRap community, so we parted ways. I tried hard to persuade them, but didn’t manage to bring them round.

    The significance of their product is that with enough laser power you can print top performance metals. Steels wouldn’t be any harder to print. Are semiconductor lasers showing exponential price/performance improvement? I’m not sure.

    I foresee the development of automated general purpose manufacturing systems, assembled from modular CNC additive and subtractive machines, part assembly systems, and material handling, all in one ‘microfactory’. See http://www.cubespawn.com/ for a beginning of this. One great thing about these is that as they improve they become increasingly self-manufacturing. This is a technology that is inherently freedom promoting, in the same way that OSS is.

    Of course they will be able to make complete guns. That is likely to be a mere footnote to the impact they’ll have on society. :-)

  71. @Rich Rostrum: I was (obviously) unaware of the progress that has been made already. When will we be able to 3D print $100 bills? (That would give a person much more power than printing guns.)

  72. > The significance of their product is that with enough laser power you can print top performance metals. Steels wouldn’t be any harder to print. Are semiconductor lasers showing exponential price/performance improvement? I’m not sure.

    Semiconductor lasers are not showing exponential improvement. Big, efficient, high power lasers are probably going to have to be free electron lasers, which are starting to approach star wars capabilities and laser launch capabilities – but at prices that only a government that has little concern for taxpayers can afford. Even the cheapest free electron laser is surrounded by a purpose built building and babied by a large team of scientists – which makes it not only not very useful for hobbyist printers, but also not very useful for shooting down enemy missiles. Before we can see a free electron laser that a hobbyist can afford, we will first have to see a free electron laser that grunts can use to destroy enemies, and we are not yet seeing that.

  73. @ Nancy Lebovitz – “could you supply a pointer to that research?”

    Start here – http://www.citeulike.org/group/582/article/369557

    Game theory modeling is most useful as a aid to analysis and decision-making, and is not fundamentally a methodology for accurate prediction. If frequently generates non-intuitive insights in the arena of complex chaotic interactions.

    The Unites States system of governance is not now a tyranny, and may never become one, but there are non-trivial probabilistic modalities that may lead to this outcome.

  74. Wiki Weapons A & B will most likely be declared ‘AOW’

    Nah. WW-A is a training aid, and not a firearm at all. WW-B is a composite handgun.

    Also, so much of the ATF definitions hinge upon being a “manufacturer” – meaning the production of arms *for sale*. I wonder if this new model of blueprint distribution would evade this under scrutiny.

  75. You guys can keep your 3D printed guns…I was at the NRA museum today and there were awesomely beautiful guns there. Oddly, the only contemporary gun that stood out as one I would like to personally own was the Sig P210 “Confederatio Helvetica” made for the 700th Swiss Confederation anniversary. Beautiful bluing.

    http://www.nramuseum.com/the-museum/the-galleries/robert-e-petersen-gallery/handguns/sig-sauer-p210.aspx

    There were quite a few from the ’20s and ’30s with wonderful etchings I would love to own too. I’d hate to shoot em tho’.

  76. @Nigel: Ah, but after 3D printers get reallly good, you’ll be able to own a perfect replica of any gun in that museum.

    Imagine a future world where every duck hunter has a Purdy…

  77. Pingback: Underground Man

  78. > I wonder if this new model of blueprint distribution would evade this under scrutiny.

    The First Amendment will keep the knowledge in circulation, but that’s not that meaningful. I can (and do) have full blueprints for the AR-15 lower and upper. *Making* one (machining one from a forged aluminum blank or slug) is where I would cross the line of the law.

    When the AR-15 (not the M-16, but it’s civilian cousin), was initially brought into production, the BATF was all over it. They did NOT want a gun that could be transformed into a full auto by swapping a few parts out, no matter how tightly regulated those parts were. So, the interior dimensions of an AR-15 are different than those of an M-16. The receiver walls are thicker, so the space where the trigger group and other action parts go is smaller. Parts from an M-16, and particularly the fully-auto sear and trigger group, (collectively the Fire Control Group), will not fit. In particular, there has always been an extra hole in the lower for the fire select switch on the M-16 that is missing on the AR-15.

    If you have the correct (correctly machined) lower receiver you can purchase a drop in auto sear such as this one http://www.quarterbore.com/nfa/dias.html.

    If its registered it will cost you around $10,000. If you obtain or make one, it’s illegal but only around $100, if that. If you get caught with an unregistered auto-sear (or a correctly-converted to full-auto AR-15, or even an incorrectly transferred M-16), you face a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine, and permanent loss of your right to ever own a gun or vote again.

    @Jay Maynard: Manufacturing “Any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive;” means that the firearm fits the BATF’s definition of “any other weapon” (AOW). All weapons classified as AOW are NFA firearms, and as such, well, read it yourself:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Firearms_Act#Registration.2C_purchases.2C_taxes_and_transfers

  79. To understand AOW, you have to realize that the original version of GCA’34 was supposed to put handguns under AOW. There’s a clumsy legislative patch that makes “handguns” not AOW – which was then updated in GCA ’68

    (29) The term “handgun” means -
    (A) a firearm which has a short stock and is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand; and (B) any combination of parts from which a firearm described in subparagraph (A) can be assembled.

    This post has a good writeup. Note that by putting a forward grip on a handgun it becomes AOW, essentially because the BATFE says so.

  80. Fair enough. I guess I haven’t seen enough of the WikiWeps – either version – to know whether they have features that make the AOWs. I had imagined they’d be handguns, without, I guess, a lot of justification.

  81. To clarify, my bit about “printing ammo” above was meant as a general mockery – ammunition requires chemical energy that simply isn’t present in the plastics and metals used for 3D printing. And yes, in the modern US you can easily get ammunition or reloading materials, but in the modern US you can also easily get guns. If the country changes to the point where a 3D printer-based insurgency is a sane approach, it’ll probably have banned free ammo selling long before.

    (That said, the article on using the tech for rocket fuel is interesting, thanks)

  82. We all know where this is going to end up.

    3D printers will be regulated, controlled, and of course taxed.

    Much as is the case with certain diesel engines today, it’s possible that you will have to register and declare the intended use of a 3D printer before you can legally buy one. As for things like the RepRap, well, as soon as it gets precise enough to make vital gun parts, the sale of its own vital components will be subject to intense government scrutiny.

  83. Actually, this whole thing has been explored pretty thoroughly by SF authors. Just google ‘matter duplicator’.

    Earlier, I mentioned the possibility of counterfeiting money. This might eventually lead to a government ban on all cash transactions. That has got to be a big blow to personal freedom.

  84. Building a coil gun would avoid many of the barriers others have mentioned above. It would also be far more practical for anyone who intended to oppose the government guerrilla style, because you could recharge them instead of needing to secure and transport chemical propelled ammo, and you’d have the option to reuse ammunition, or make new ammo out of scrap metal with simple hand tools.

    You’d have other barriers to cope with, of course, but once you did, the end result would be far more compelling.

  85. Yeah, but as far as I know, hobbyist coil guns are outperformed by hand-pumped air guns right now as far as muzzle energy goes.

  86. How much coil gun does it take to produce 450 joules of muzzle energy (.45 ACP range), and how big is it? And is that with a projectile of any reasonable weight?

  87. Well, let’s see….450 joules is 450 watt-seconds. If your coil gun fires one round per second, your power supply will have to supply 450 watts. (Note completely unrealistic assumption of 100% efficiency.) This will mean a current drain at of about four amps from the wall socket if you try this at home, and a drain of 40 amps from a car or truck (you’ll need a special, heavy-duty alternator).

    Of course, you would want to project something a bit heavier than a .45 slug, which would require still more power….not very practical to take on the government with. The US Navy is hot and heavy into rail guns, but they can power them from the energy resources of a big warship. You can’t.

    It’s like gasoline vs. electric cars. A gallon of gasoline, or a few grains of smokeless powder, simply contain much more energy than the electric alternatives of the same size.

  88. That coil gun has approximately the same muzzle velocity as a slightly out-of-spec regulation paintball gun. IE, it performs at the same level as a hand-pumped airgun with significantly more mass and expense.
    Air rifles were used militarily – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girandoni_Air_Rifle, and for a modern variant, see the Career Dragonslayer. http://americanairgunhunter.com/dragonslayer.html shows a picture of a boar taken at 35 yards with one. Now, that last is NOT hand pumped, and is fully as mechanically complex as any firearm. But, it doesn’t require any easily-regulated infrastructure for ammunition, and I suspect it would be easier to manufacture such a weapon with home tools.

  89. That coilgun looks like a promising start, but even with a 5 gram bullet (at 77 grains, heavy by 5.7mm/.223 standards), that’s 25 joules of energy, in a package that’s a pain to use as a rifle – never mind a handgun. Seems like there’s much more work to be done.

    A needler has advantages in design, to be sure, but there’s a reason that larger bullets and higher muzzle energies are favored: they do much more damage at the target end. A needle is not very likely to kill or incapacitate unless *very* precisely placed.

    Within the realm of possibility, certainly, but needs an order of magnitude more energy to even be in the right ballpark.

  90. If I read the atf’s publication on manufacturing nfa firearms correctly, the WikiWeapons are exempt from the registration requirement because they are not meant to be used: they are for research and experimentation. Mind you, their copies are meant to be used, but the folks at WikiWeapons aren’t dealing with that.

  91. I personally am less concerned with the legality of what there doing than the availablity of the wikiweapons. As a member of the US Armed Forces, I am horrified by what these naive FOOLS are doing. Once they complete the CAD file and upload to the internet, any wacko that can afford the Mojo 3D printer that DD used on the video featured in the article on yahoo will be able to make UNTRACEABLE weapons. It doesn’t matter if they only fire once or not. There will now be an unlimited supply of weapons available for some depressed kid to take to school, a terriost group to use to hijack a plane, or a paramilitary group to use to attack people, the KKK to use against black people, or any other fuckhead out there that uses guns agianst others. I am truly horrifed but how NAIVE these college students are. Yeah, freedom of information is great and all, but these CAD files are going to disappear just like the Anarchist Cookbook did and for the same reason. They are just too dangerous to be available like this.

  92. James, any argument based in the scarcity of weapons is doomed, because weapons are not scarce. The ability to print them from files floating around the Internet in no way changes that.

    And who said the Anarchist Cookbook has disappeared? A quick Google turns up a PDF. (Which I did not download.)

  93. Yes, but James Roberson’s comment is exactly the sort of excuse that the government will use to justify complete ‘net surveillance in our dystopian future. Along with the ban on cash, I’ll add a prediction of a ban on all removable computer media. (I’m sure that Hollywood will help agitate for that one.) Someone else has already predicted the licensing of future 3D printers; I’ll add a prediction that they will have mandatory logging of everything they make, with periodic uploads of same.

  94. >Someone else has already predicted the licensing of future 3D printers; I’ll add a prediction that they will have mandatory logging of everything they make, with periodic uploads of same.

    I am hardly one to underestimate the controlling instincts of bureacrats, but I think the odds on either of these outcomes are very low. The First Amendment arguments against such restrictions write themselves.

    >I’ll add a prediction of a ban on all removable computer media.

    Not this, either. It would piss off too many Fortune 500 firms.

  95. I don’t know which side this ends up on – but color printers generally microprint their serial # onto output, and either scanners or printers (I don’t recall which) supposedly detect the specific color green used in US currency and don’t scan/print it properly – both due to voluntary manufacturer intiatives…

  96. >I’ll add a prediction of a ban on all removable computer media.

    Not this, either. It would piss off too many Fortune 500 firms.

    How so? The firm I worked for removed floppy drives from company computers years ago in an attempt to stamp out virus infections and employee game-playing. (The guys brought spare drives in from home.) In modern times, why do companies need thumb drives, etc.? Surely the media companies would like to end all sneakernet swapping of their content?

  97. >Surely the media companies would like to end all sneakernet swapping of their content?

    Sure they would, but the big corporate customers for removable drives don’t give a shit what the media companies want. What they know is that if they lose the capacity to use removable media like CD-ROMs and thumb drives, running their data centers (and other in-house IT) will become significantly more difficult. Therefore, any such bid by the media companies will meet the same fate as Microsoft’s “Trusted Computing” power grab – and for much the same reasons.

    Actually, I think sneakernet swapping is no longer even on the RIAA/MPAA’s radar. Nor should it be. Nobody bootlegs with removable media anymore, not when they’ve got BitTorrent clients to do it with.

  98. Sure they would, but the big corporate customers for removable drives don’t give a shit what the media companies want. What they know is that if they lose the capacity to use removable media like CD-ROMs and thumb drives, running their data centers (and other in-house IT) will become significantly more difficult. Therefore, any such bid by the media companies will meet the same fate as Microsoft’s “Trusted Computing” power grab – and for much the same reasons.

    The solution that Canada and some European countries have employed is to tax all general-purpose removable media and give the proceeds to the various content industries. If they can tax it, they can restrict it. More to the point, if the Fortune 500 needs something, it will be available to the Fortune 500 but not necessarily to end users. The right combination of government regulation and private market segmentation can keep writable optical media and removable flash media priced out of consumers’ hands and/or unavailable through consumer-facing retail channels. The same goes for general-purpose computers.

  99. The airgun is an interesting thought. You could start with something like a potato cannon assembled mostly out of standard plumbing gear (those can have high-subsonic velocities, and the exotic types can get supersonic), and 3D-print discarding-sabot ammunition…

    Wouldn’t even be semi-automatic, and would be heavy, but I bet you could build a respectable rifle that way.

  100. @ krygny>Well, aside from it being illegal,

    @esr> It’s not illegal.

    @James T. Kirk> While the printed AR-15 lower may be legal, the Wiki Weapons A & B will most likely be declared ‘AOW’, and are thus illegal to manufacture without a) registering as a manufacturer, and b) paying the $200/gun ‘makers tax’.

    Apparently it’s illegal:

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/10/3d-gun-blocked/

  101. >Apparently it’s illegal:

    Er, no. This was some corporate drone going off half-cocked. It is not illegal unless or until the design is declared ‘AOW’, and thus Wilson probably has grounds for a breach-of-contract lawsuit if he cares to pursue it.

  102. Agent Smith: But Mr. Anderson, what good is a gun model, if you are unable to print?

  103. @esr> Wilson probably has grounds for a breach-of-contract lawsuit if he cares to pursue it.

    The types of clause(s) that would have been invoked here are the contractual bread and butter of any company. Guess how many sites/games/etc. have clauses stating they can ban you at any time for any reason.

    Even with a machine shop at your disposal, a gun, even a simple one of decent quality and reliability is a complex proposal.

    I own a 4-axis CNC mill, and a CNC lathe. I don’t have the necessary equipment to make the barrel. I plan on buying an AR-15 barrel blank and making a replacement barrel for a gun I own. I’d also like to build a gun from scratch, less the barrel of course. None of those are simple short term projects.

    If you want to see what’s actually involved in making ONE-PIECE of an AR-15, read this:
    http://www.cncguns.com/projects/ar15lower.html

    Keep in mind, he doesn’t show creating the tool path from the model, which is not only a huge amount of work, but also requires software that runs 5 figures.

    Everyone thinks CNC or 3D printing is a magic bullet, and once you have a machine you can make anything with ease. That is false.

    However, it’s illegal. I agree with the posters above who say so.

    Creating an all-plastic gun that could be legitimately argued is “undetectable” would be in violation of The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988. This was a law that was passed in the wake of the panic that accompanied Glock pistols becoming a thing, as there was a large misconception both in congress and the public that Glocks would not show up on a metal detector or X-ray device.
    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d100:H.R.4445:@@@L

    Here’s some copy pasta from thomas.loc.gov:

    H.R.4445 Latest Title: Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 Sponsor: Rep Hughes, William J. [NJ-2] (introduced 4/21/1988) Cosponsors (17) Related Bills: H.R.2845, S.2180 Latest Major Action: 11/10/1988 Became Public Law No: 100-649. Jump to: Summary, Major Actions, All Actions, Titles, Cosponsors, Committees, Related Bill Details, AmendmentsAbstracts SUMMARY AS OF: 10/21/1988–Senate agreed to House amendment with amendment. (There are 4 other summaries) (Senate agreed to House amendment with an amendment)

    Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 – Amends the Federal criminal code to make it unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm: (1) which is not as detectable as the Security Exemplar (after the removal of grips, stocks, and magazines) by walk-through metal detectors calibrated and operated to detect the Exemplar; or (2) of which any major component, when subjected to inspection by x-ray machines commonly used at airports, does not generate an image that accurately depicts the shape of the component.
    Defines the term “Security Exemplar” to mean an object that is suitable for testing and calibrating metal detectors and is, during the 12-month period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, constructed of 3.7 ounces of stainless steel in a shape resembling a handgun. Directs the Secretary of the Treasury, at the close of such 12-month period and at appropriate times thereafter, to promulgate regulations to permit the manufacture, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, transfer, or receipt of firearms that are as detectable as a security exemplar which contains 3.7 ounces of stainless steel or such lesser amount as is detectable in view of advances in state-of-the-art developments in weapons detection technology.

    States that no provision of this Act shall not apply to: (1) the manufacture, possession, transfer, receipt, shipment, or delivery of a firearm by a licensed manufacturer for the purpose of examining and testing such firearm to determine whether it would be prohibited by this Act; and (2) any firearm which has been certified by the Secretary of Defense or the Director of Central Intelligence as necessary for military or intelligence applications and is manufactured for and sold exclusively to military or intelligence agencies of the United States.

    Permits the conditional importation of firearms for the purpose of examination and testing to determine whether the importation of such firearms will be allowed under this Act.
    Provides an exemption from such prohibition for any firearm possessed in the United States before the enactment of this Act.
    Provides criminal penalties for violations of this Act.
    Prohibits the Secretary from authorizing the importation of undetectable firearms.
    Directs the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct research to improve the effectiveness of airport security metal detectors and airport security x-ray systems.
    Directs the Attorney General, the Secretary, and the Secretary of Transportation to conduct studies to identify available equipment capable of detecting the Security Exemplar while distinguishing innocuous metal objects.
    Repeals such prohibition ten years after the effective date of this Act.
    Also, the law was re-authorized in 2003.
    If this 3d-printed gun is truly all-plastic, it very likely violates this law.

  104. I think many of you have missed the point. It will be illegal to have software. The software police will be looking in your iphone for a gun. All the particulars of the gun will be worked out at some point and the materials placed in the printer. The government will want to control the software and make it illegal for certain programs to be in your posession. Somebody will get his/her name on bill that makes certain types of software illegal. Stratsys(sp) and this big mouth guy should have proceeded quietly. Too much attention. At least take the thing out of the box and play with it before you start bragging and STFU.

    Star Trek did it again. Whatever you want is right inside a little hatch door in your room. “Computer! Steak and Eggs and Smith and Wesson.”

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  107. @Jay Maynard

    That coilgun looks like a promising start, but even with a 5 gram bullet (at 77 grains, heavy by 5.7mm/.223 standards), that’s 25 joules of energy, in a package that’s a pain to use as a rifle – never mind a handgun…

    …larger bullets and higher muzzle energies are favored: they do much more damage at the target end.

    For short distance, how about tethering the needle to a battery. It only takes 100ma to kill and very low voltage once inside the body perhaps a few joules. Silver can be extruded into hair fine wires. Perhaps the battery could be distributed around the belt.

    A new spin on “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”.

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  109. The final nail in the coffin for ESR’s respectability. I knew he was a jerk, but now I know he’s a jerk who supports making weapons of mass murder available without restriction.

    Dear ESR: Please reconsider your support for mass murderers. Thank you.

  110. Mr. Cherlin, please reconsider your support for non sequiturs. Thank you.

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