Hobbyist builds working assault rifle using 3D printer
It hasn't blown to pieces yet
Hobbyists have used 3D printers to make guitars, copy house keys, and bring robot dinosaurs to life, but a firearms enthusiast who goes by the handle "Have Blue" has taken this emerging technology into a new realm by assembling a working rifle from 3D-printed parts.
Specifically, ExtremeTech reports, Have Blue used 3D CAD files to print the lower receiver part of an AR-15 class assault rifle – the style of gun the US military has called an M16. The lower receiver is sometimes referred to as the "body" of the weapon, which houses the trigger assembly, the magazine, and the safety selector.
The lower receiver of a factory-produced AR-15 is usually made of metal, typically stamped aluminum. Have Blue made his out of the standard ABS plastic used by low-end 3D printers. He then combined it with off-the-shelf, metal AR-15 parts to complete the weapon.
The next step was to actually fire it. Have Blue started by chambering the gun for .22 caliber pistol rounds, a relatively low-powered ammunition. After firing 200 rounds, he announced to an online AR-15 forum that it "runs great!"
He then re-assembled the weapon to use .223 caliber rifle ammunition and tried again. "No, it did not blow up into a bazillion tiny plastic shards and maim me for life," he said, but the combination of the homemade and off-the-shelf parts wasn't working all that well, causing the gun to jam. Try, try again.
It's 3D-printed plastic, but it works, and it has no license or serial number. (Source: Haveblue.org)
Where this all gets interesting is in the potential legal ramifications of what Have Blue has done. It is legal in most US states to purchase AR-15 style rifles, provided the purchaser is licensed, which involves a background check.
It is difficult to get around the license requirements by purchasing the gun in pieces and assembling it yourself, because at least one piece – the lower receiver – carries a serial number and must always be purchased from a federally licensed arms dealer.
Without the lower receiver, the gun can't fire, so under US law the lower receiver essentially is the gun. The other components are less closely regulated and can be purchased online or from unlicensed dealers.
But Have Blue didn't buy his lower receiver from anyone. He made it himself. Using his method, potentially anyone could assemble a completed rifle from mail-order parts without any government licensing or registration at all.
It may not look like much, but the gun won't fire without it. (Source: Thingiverse.com)
It's not entirely as simple as that, though. First, although Have Blue says he used between $30 and $50 worth of plastic to print the gun, 3D printers that can output items the size of the AR-15 lower receiver are still expensive. But their cost is declining.
Second, a 3D printer cannot print ammunition. But given that accused Aurora, Colorado shooter James Holmes was found to have stockpiled some 6,000 rounds of ammo that he purchased online, the prospect of individuals being able to assemble working, unlicensed weapons using 3D printing technology should give regulators in the US and abroad some pause. ®
Re: Bloody wonderful, dont idiots ever think first?
While I see your point, I find it unlikely that this, by itself, will lead to calls on 3D printers. After all, if it's possible to buy RAL guns with little oversight, it makes little sense to ban a machine that can (among other things) be used to make just one bit of one.
I would find it a lot more likely that the government will start calling for a ban on 3D printers as soon as someone figures out a way to use one to make, say, a copy of a vinyl LP that the Recording Industry Ass. of America has a copyright on. Does that make me cynical?
I don't know about this new fangled 3D printer stuff - but back here in the 19C we have lathes and mills and planars. With this we can build everything from a vickers machine gun to a battleship - hopefully this new metal technology never gets into the wrong hands.
Letter to the editor: Sensationalism is one thing; outright lying is another
Baltimore, Maryland, July 30, 2012
The editorial staff of the Register
Monsieurs et madames:
Of course I am aware that the Reg is a red top, and therefore prone to exaggeration, especially for the sake of an eye-catching headline. It's one of the things I've always enjoyed about your fine publication. But could you please prevent your writers from actually telling flat-out lies in your headlines and your articles?
One 3D-printed component of a firearm, and at that a component which is not subject to the force of a round going off in the chamber -- and a component made of a material which cannot withstand such force, and would immediately explode if anyone unwisely made the attempt -- does not a "working assault rifle" make, nor anything remotely close to same. Nor, given the limitations of the materials which 3D printers can now or will soon be able to work with, does it suggest in any sense that a "working assault rifle" could be produced with a 3D printer, however inexpensive those devices should become.
There is also the quite salient point that, under US federal law, it is quite legal to manufacture your own firearms, so long as you never sell them and you are not otherwise prohibited from buying or owning firearms, whether you have a federal firearms license or not. Weapons and components regulated under the National Firearms Act(1) require ATF approval and tax payment in order to be legally manufactured; all other categories of firearms, specifically including this semi-automatic rifle whose barrel is over sixteen inches in length, require neither payment nor approval.
In added light of the fact that the remainder of the firearm was assembled from "off-the--shelf parts", which implies legality of said parts' purchase under the National Firearms Act, Have Blue's manufacture of an AR-15 lower receiver, and his use of it in a finished firearm, is therefore perfectly legal and permissible under United States law, whether it carries a registration number or otherwise.
To imply otherwise, as Mr. McAllister has here done, goes far beyond anything which might even charitably be called "exaggeration", and appears to reach and surpass the point of utter, bare-faced mendacity. Surely this is not the case, and the cause of this blatant misrepresentation of fact is not a lack of anything resembling journalistic ethics on the part of Mr. McAllister, but rather simply that he has failed to detect, much less address, his ignorance on this subject.
I understand that the Reg is a UK-based publication, and that people on the eastern side of the pond mostly have some really strange ideas about firearms and firearms owners. I also understand that someone based in San Francisco, who statistically speaking has probably never so much as laid hands on a firearm in his life, probably has a lot of the same strange ideas.
But would it be too much to ask that you check, or require that your writers check, with someone knowledgeable? In this case it would have sufficed merely to review applicable US federal law, and to read "Have Blue"'s own statement of what he actually did -- and then to represent it honestly, rather than whomping up a bunch of arrant nonsense that makes it sound like any Holmes-alike wannabe with a RepRap in his garage can manufacture automatic weapons wholesale with nothing more than a few kilos of ABS feedstock? I grant, of course, that Mr. McAllister never goes quite so far as to state in his article that this is the case; the implication of same, however, I think could not be made any more clear with any amount of effort.
I would expect this sort of behavior from the Daily Mail, for example, whose authors are frequently known to be extremely tendentious to the point of lying outright in their work, or the News of the World, whose editorial staff is not above blatant criminality in the cause of stirring up scandal. Red top or no, I have always esteemed and respected El Reg as being above this sort of behavior, and in the past I have never had reason to question that esteem or that respect. That such outright falsehoods should pass, without any apparent effort on the part of the Register's editorial staff to redress the error, forces me to wonder whether I should reconsider that esteem and that respect.
I would greatly appreciate it if said editorial staff would revisit this article and, when they find that my statements regarding the article's flaws are accurate, perhaps discuss the situation with Mr. McAllister to the end of modifying the article such that, at minimum, it at least avoids the sort of plain misrepresentation of fact which can only be due either to arrant ignorance or to blatant mendacity.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
I remain, sincerely, &c., &c.
(1) "Machine guns", defined as anything which fires more than one round on a single pull of the trigger; rifles with barrel length under sixteen inches; shotguns with barrel length under eighteen inches; suppressors ("silencers"); explosives, missile launchers, and anything of caliber greater than .50, under the heading of "destructive devices"; "All Other Weapons", an ill-described category including, not all firearms, but rather only such esoterica as smoothbore pistols, disguised or concealable firearms, &c. (Source: 26 USC ch. 53.)
Re: For those w/o time in the military:
Most of formula one is men in sheds bulding the most advanced engines on the planet (some would say)
Top gear put a reliant robin by a bunch of men in sheds strapping precision rocket technology together (granted it was top gear and it failed badly) but it still climbed very high with a car on the side.
NASA's space elevator prize has a leading contender in Washington DC that is an industrial unit.
The three hippies in a US desert that are making petrol from air with the special engine they designed and one day want to market.
At the end of the day "Men in sheds" have built most high tech things in the world, a gun barrel is easy.
My high school has a 3d printer and as a sixth form college it has precision metal working lathes for college courses, I dread to think.
Re: Metalwork class
You're right about the Sten gun.
It was even manufactured in bicycle repairshops in Oslo during WWII, and the Germans were none the wiser.