'Maybe I'll go to Hell, but I think it's a good thing' says plastic Liberator gunsmith Cody Wilson
3D-printed pistols, Bitcoin, government and more
Interview For a man some perceive as an audacious libertarian who puts untraceable weapons into the hands of criminals, Cody Wilson is a surprisingly ordinary fellow, albeit one who gets quite animated about 3D-printed guns, Bitcoin and "crypto-anarchism".
At an event organised by the Adam Smith Institute in London, the 26-year-old spoke at length about the origins of his firm Defense Distributed, which last year revealed the plans for the Liberator 3D-printed pistol.
“After I published the Liberator on May 6, 2013,” said a grinning Wilson, “a State Department mole told us the Obama administration was saying: 'How do we put an end to this?' The Department of Homeland Security was practically sitting on top of our servers."
Regular Register readers will recall the worldwide hype-gasm over the Liberator, culminating in El Reg spelling out how the flimsy plastic contraption would never work.
“That's propaganda, actually,” Wilson told us after his speech in the capital. He said the prototype guns – including the one made by Australian police that exploded on its first test shoot – were made from the wrong type of plastic.
“They made it from PLA [polylactide] plastic, not the spec in the plans. It was built to fail,” he insisted to us. “If you build it out of ABS [acrylonitrile butadiene styrene] plastic, it does not explode. In fact you can shoot it eight, nine or ten times and then the barrel cracks. Then you replace the barrel or cease firing.
“I recognise why they [the authorities] did it. I'm not even mad about it; this is what government has to do. But it's a great way of raising interest in what we do.”
Wilson thinks the anti-3D-printed-gun “propaganda”, particularly from the US government, was issued hand-in-hand with criticism from the established firearms industry.
“You can't have open-source firearms, I mean, think of the quality control,” he said sarcastically. “Don't you want a safe gun?”
Fighting his naysayers was exasperating, Wilson said. One particular figure, he said, told him the Liberator's "no good as a gun because you can't aim it that well”.
“Jesus Christ," sighed Wilson. "At this point it's a semantic game.”
Perhaps because of his anarchist leanings, Wilson has faced resistance from corporations, not just governments and agents: he claims one 3D printer maker recalled its device after learning that he intended to build Liberator pistols with it.
Confessing to his “naïveté” at the time, he told The Reg: “Even though I'd signed the contracts, I got a phone call from a general counsel saying: 'When can we pick up the printer?' It was clear at this stage I'd have to give the whole project up, so I called all the mainstream media.”
Wilson pointed out that after hundreds of thousands of copies of the Liberator blueprints were downloaded before the US authorities shut down his site, nobody's yet been shot with one. Not for want of trying, as he recalled: “This guy wrote in the Telegraph before the Liberator came out, 'If they do make this I'll even let Cody shoot me with this gun because I'm so confident you can't make it'.”
Others are less accommodating. In the Q&A session after the London talk, held last week, a rather bewildered chap from the Wall Street Journal asked why Wilson wasn't focussing his efforts on bringing down repressive regimes such as China, rather than enabling domestic production of unregistered firearms.
“We pitched Defense Distributed as a US thing. [The Liberator] is a ridiculous gun – nobody will use it for a revolution – but it expresses the potential of a gun," replied Wilson. "Also, nobody was killing each other with Liberators after the plans came out. That original gun, in the idea sense, is already out there and can't be stopped.
“A bunch of Chinese people told me: 'We're printing these in China as fast as we can'.”