Dec.14, 2012

The 3D printed plastic gun has been an extremely hot topic - many people commented in our previous post "US Congressman urges lawmakers to renew a federal ban on 3D printed guns". Among all the comments, I like the most what Red_Blue says:

To understand this development, you need to understand US gun laws. While there is no conceivable technology know to make parts strong enough to handle the chamber pressures of a firearm (basically the barrel and the breech closing mechanism, in the AR that is the bolt and the bolt carrier) from non-metallic printable materials, these parts are unregulated.


Only the lower receiver (which was made in this project) is regulated, mostly because it holds the trigger mechanism which determines the type of action (fully automatic "legal machine gun" or a self loading or semi-automatic).


So if you can make the lower receiver yourself, you can buy the other unregulated parts outside of legal gun control. I suspect this will lead to attempts to regulate more firearm parts.


In other parts of the world, more essential parts are regulated, numbered, tracked and licensed. Typically the parts you cannot get past government control are the barrel and the breech closing mechanism, the so called "pressure bearing parts". The anti-gun nuts would love to close that "loophole" in US gun legistlation, to be able to regulate more essential firearm parts, because regulating just the receivers or frames is no longer effective.


There have been a lot of so called "free gun" or "rogue gun" projects, which aim in making very easy firearm building instructions, that will allow building of effective self defense firearms with typical home shop tools and home depot materials. The 3D printer is basically a cheaper version of a 3D CNC mill, which are becoming more affordable each year. With a small CNC you can easily make the breech closing mechanism, which leaves only the barrel to be acquired from other sources.


Earlier free gun projects and blueprints tended to use much simpler technologies, such as laminated metals, folded and riveted sheets, sawing instead of cutting operations, etc. With these plans you can make effective long range weapons with access to barrels and effective short range weapons (shotguns, smoothbore = unrifled guns) with access to standard steel tubing.


However, probably the easiest method of controlling effective firearms availability is the control of ammunition. It's much more difficult (and hazardous) to make smokeless gun powder and especially primers for modern cartridges than the firearms themselves. Strictly controlling complete ammunition and primers would be enough to bring the level of technology attainable with easily home manufactured weapons back about 150 years to black powder and primerless ignition.

Yesterday CNN made an interesting video: Can 3D printers make plastic weapons? Check it out here.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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