A blueprint for a plastic gun that can be made at home with a 3D printer has been removed from the internet after intervention by authorities in the USA. The plastic gun successfully fired a 0.380 calibre-bullet, it is believed for the first time, on May 4.
The gun was developed by 25-year-old American student Cody Wilson. After American officials became aware of Wilson’s controversial project last year, he was questioned by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms over concerns he may be in violation of federal law. He was forced to remove the sample files from the website, but not before over 100,000 copies had been downloaded. The company that rented him the 3D-printer also revoked its lease and seized the machine.
However it is widely believed that files containing the blueprints will still be accessible on file-sharing websites.
Technology magazine Wired ranked Wilson as one of the 15 most dangerous people in the world for having created an internet platform that shares the blueprints, potentially allowing anyone to manufacture a working gun from their home. The list put his name alongside those of dictators such as Bashar el-Assad and criminal drug traffickers.
Wilson had been developing the prototype – named the ‘Liberator’ – for a year before successfully firing a bullet from it on May 4. The idea of a plastic gun already existed, but Wilson was the first to create a website – Defense Distributed – that allowed anyone to download the 3D printer blueprints for free. This essentially gives anyone with access to this type of printer the ability to make their own gun.
Plastic guns have gained a reputation for being undetectable; Bruce Willis’ “Die Hard” character, John MacClane, commented that a plastic gun such as a ‘Glock’ can be taken through airport security.
In practice, parts of the gun, like the recoil spring, are made from metal parts. The ‘Liberator’, which is made out of 16 3D-printed plastic pieces, uses only one non-plastic part – a store nail, functioning as a firing pin. Wilson also included a 6-ounce piece of non-functional metal in the body to make it detectable by machines.