This could also read, “Man machines gun parts, people freak out.” Hundreds of stories and thousands of comments erupted on the interewebs this week after HaveBlue, a gunsmithing member of the AR15.com forums, posted about printing the lower receiver of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. It’s not the first print of a firearm, the first freaking out (or the last), but it does make for interesting insight on what people assume about manufacturing and more specifically, 3D printing technology.
3D Printed AR-15 Receiver
Unfortunately, HaveBlue’s site where he documents the process is currently down, but he highlights the details of using a Stratasys 3D printer to produce the gun parts via the forum thread:
I have an old Stratasys 3D printer (mid-to-late 90s machine, but works fine) and early last summer I printed a modified version of the lower from cncguns.com (I beefed up the front takedown lugs, bolt hold lugs, and added an integral trigger guard). I assembled it first into a .22 pistol. It’s had over 200 rounds of .22 through it so far and runs great! To the best of my knowledge, this is the world’s first 3D printed firearm to actually be tested, but I have a hard time believing that it really is the first.
He has posted the lower receiver model to Thingiverse, where some people will be surprised to find out that other ‘weapons’ and gun parts are available.
Sites like TNW, DVICE, PopSci and sooooo many others have made it look like some amateur popped a chunk of plastic in an E-Z-bake printer and out popped an entire working gun. Unfortunately these people have absolutely no intelligence, capability to research, understanding of manufacturing methods or for that matter, gunsmithing and firearm regulations. These people might be surprised to find out that people also create other things, make hand-made weapons, use CNC machines for machining gun parts from delrin and gun projects. We’re not to replicators yet, but 3D printing is providing one other method of manufacturing things.
Mark at 3DPrinter.net has a good wrap-up on the story with additional input from HaveBlue in the comments. Hack-a-day also points out key specifics.
The only component of the rifle that can not be ordered online, and requires a background check at a gun store, is the body of the lower receiver (we have to keep saying that this varies state to state). Typically laws allow though for the manufacture of this part without a serial number so long as it is never sold to another individual (again, state laws vary widely).
The thought is that ‘making guns at home just got easier’ and that ‘people without gun licenses — or people who have had their licenses revoked — could print their own lower receiver and build a complete, off-the-books gun.’ That’s true… if you have a the other parts of the gun, the cad file (or have reverse engineered the parts you already have), a 3D printer, the knowledge of how the lower receiver fits into the upper receiver, the knowledge of how to import the file and set up the print to be 3D printed. (To get an idea read the instructions on the AR-15 Thingiverse post.) But perhaps that is what scares some people most–that people have, or could gain, the knowledge of how to create these guns and use them as weapons. Whether it’s printing knives, spears, guns or other objects that could be used as weapons, printing the single part of a gun surely has some people excited and others concerned. What are your thoughts?