In an unprecedented technical feat, the first fully 3D-printed gun has been successfully fired. The gun fired a .380 calibre bullet in Texas on May 4.
Made almost entirely out of plastic, the gun, dubbed “the Liberator”, is the result of a year of trials and errors by controversial group Defense Distributed. The shot fired was a .380 bullet.
The company is led by 25 year-old self-described “crypto-anarchist,” tech enthusiast and gun rights activist Cody Wilson. He told the BBC: “There are states all over the world that say you can’t own firearms – and that’s not true anymore. I’m seeing a world where technology says you can pretty much be able to have whatever you want. It’s not up to the political players anymore.”
3D printing costs are rapidly decreasing. The second-hand 3D printer used on Saturday cost 8,000$ (6,100€). 3D printers work by laying down layers of material, often plastic or melted polymer, that harden to form solid objects.
The Liberator is made out of 16 3D-printed plastic pieces with the only non-plastic working piece of the gun being a common store nail, in lieu of a firing pin. Wilson also included a 6 ounce piece of non-functional metal in the body of the gun to make it detectable by a metal detector, as it is required by the Undetectable Firearms Act.
Defense Distributed benefits from the rapid evolution of the 3D printing technology as well as from the structural and financial support of the Internet. It raised funds online so efficiently that Wilson now claims that 99% of the company’s assets are in Bitcoin, a crypted digital currency, Forbes reported.
Defense Distributed made the Liberator’s CAD files, its digital blueprint, available for download on DEFCAD.org. This platform has been set-up after a top hub for 3D printing took down firearms-related files, a move criticized by Defense Distributed as “censorship.”
New legal challenges
Defense Distributed is no rookie when it comes to printed weapons. Wilson starred in a Vice Magazine’s Motherboard video documentary where he shot several hundred rounds on an AR-15 rifle using a 3D-printed grip, lower receiver and magazine.
A few weeks after President Obama’s push for gun control was shelved by the Senate, 3D-printed firearms are set to create more headaches for gun control activists; a comment on the Liberator’s DEFCAD page says: “Kudos to all involved in this project for making the Second Amendment a physical right. You’re on the right side of history.”
If the ATF, the United States firearms’ regulatory body, grants Wilson a federal firearms licence to manufacture the AR-15’s pieces, two US senators have already called for new legislation banning 3D-printable guns. “A terrorist, someone who is mentally ill, a spousal abuser, a felon can essentially open a gun factory in their garage,” Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in a press conference on Sunday.