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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Department of Terrible Ideas: Now You Can Download Guns Off the Internet

Posted by on Tue, Dec 4, 2012 at 1:29 PM

Oh, man. I was so excited for 3D printing. The idea that manufacturing can become something small and personalized, the way the flow of information was disrupted and redistributed during the rise of the internet, seemed like it would create a huge societal shift. Unfortunately, I didn't think this whole thing through. Wired reports:

A group of 3-D printing gunsmiths have taken another step toward making a gun you can download off the internet. This weekend, the desktop weaponeers took a partially printed rifle out to test how long its plastic parts survived spewing bullets. The result? Six rounds until it snapped apart.

But that was also the point, the group’s founder tells Danger Room. “We knew it would break, probably,” says Cody Wilson, who heads the Wiki Weapon project. “But I don’t think we thought it’d break within six [rounds]. We thought it’d break within 20.”

Here's video of the test:

There's not going to be any way to stop this. Sure, we can pass laws and I'm sure the FBI could probably create some Constitutionally icky software that can detect when you download a gun pattern from the internet, but it's like music piracy, or WikiLeaks. Once someone figures out how to perfect this process, the information will be out there, legal or not. Gun-control laws are essentially meaningless when you can make a gun in your house.


Comments (60) RSS

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Rotten666 1
I'm pretty sure people have been making guns in their own home for a long time. Christ, every kid in my neighborhood knew how to make a bomb out of household materials back in the day.
Posted by Rotten666 on December 4, 2012 at 1:36 PM · Report this
Gordon Werner 2
This was on CSI last week
Posted by Gordon Werner on December 4, 2012 at 1:37 PM · Report this
Making guns slightly easier to obtain is all it took to turn you off 3D printing? Nah, I'm not buying it.
Posted by gloomy gus on December 4, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
theophrastus 4
Not to minimize the caution here. which has definite validity; especially as the technology advances (which it will).

But this example is the printing of the "lower receiver" part only. The rest of the gun is acquired via the usual means.

(I leave it to others to explain the specifics associated with the role the 'lower receiver' part plays)
Posted by theophrastus on December 4, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
The answer isn't gun control. It's having a society than takes care of the people in the margins. Gun violence is a symptom of a greater problem.
Posted by EmilySavesTheDay on December 4, 2012 at 1:45 PM · Report this
diminished 6
gun control laws were always meaningless. much like security theater in an airport, they're only there to make you feel better.
Posted by diminished on December 4, 2012 at 1:46 PM · Report this
sjbrot 7
On the Media actually talked with Cody Wilson (…). Best part is when Bob Garfield asked him about the idea someone might come after him with one of his own guns. "Well, yeah, it’s probably gonna happen, right?" says Wilson.
Posted by sjbrot on December 4, 2012 at 1:54 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 8
Two-bit criminals aren't going to bother making their own gun when they can get them from their friends dirt cheap.

Besides, my dad was building his own guns, cannons, and grenades, and making his own black powder for years. Long before the internet. Guns aren't that complicated.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on December 4, 2012 at 1:57 PM · Report this
You know there are custom gunsmiths who make guns for people, right? Sarah Vowell's dad makes guns in his own home. So do three people within 15 miles of my house.
Posted by MattBernier on December 4, 2012 at 1:57 PM · Report this
I first heard they were working on printed guns about a year ago, I'm suprised you didn't hear about this already.
Posted by BallardBoy on December 4, 2012 at 2:01 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 11
What @10 said.
Posted by Will in Seattle on December 4, 2012 at 2:09 PM · Report this
3d-printed Kevlar, unfortunately, remains unavailable.

Then again, perhaps that's actually fortunate, if mutual assured destruction is the only thing keeping various antisocial elements from playing with homemade guns in public.
Posted by Morosoph on December 4, 2012 at 2:11 PM · Report this
Maybe effective as a one round, disposable derringer-like weapon. But only less powerful calibers (the 5.7x28 FN is not a high-powered rifle round). Anything more powerful would be more dangerous to the shooter than anyone else.
Posted by Westside forever on December 4, 2012 at 2:22 PM · Report this
Some of the coveted AK-47's in the world are made by hand and without electricity in remote villages in Pakistan.

The cat's been out of the bag for a very long time. Controlling production is a lost cause.

And precisely why government prohibition of guns, where there is a strong demand, doesn't work. Why ALL prohibitions don't work.

You have to change the demand. That will take many decades in this country. If it's possible at all. Considering a large part of the demand is driven by social inequities we don't seem very anxious to fix in any committed way.
Posted by tkc on December 4, 2012 at 2:23 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 15
@12 You can buy Kevlar off the shelf. It's used in building high-performance composites.

After that, it's a sewing project.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on December 4, 2012 at 2:27 PM · Report this
mkyorai 16
Also, you can't print ammunition. Sure, it's not that hard to get, but it's not like you can just print a gun and go. You still need it to have something to shoot.
Posted by mkyorai on December 4, 2012 at 2:29 PM · Report this
meanie 17
OMG given time and motivation people are allowed to engage in legal activities using technology!

shut down the constitution! Buy extra pearls so you can clutch them harder!

also, continue driving and eating fatty food.
Posted by meanie on December 4, 2012 at 2:30 PM · Report this
mikethehammer 18
Slate did a thing on this a few weeks ago and I seem to recall them projecting a ridiculous total production cost, like $60,000+ for a single unit if memory serves, and I think that was being conservative. So yeah, it's disturbing, but it's not like all the drunken hillbillies out there are gonna be able to take advantage of it.
Posted by mikethehammer on December 4, 2012 at 2:38 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 19
I would be willing to bet just about any idiot could build their own gun using wikipedia: (or if you're really incompetent:
Posted by Urgutha Forka on December 4, 2012 at 2:40 PM · Report this
Ipso Facto 20
I would posit the hypothesis that much of the demand for guns arises from the supply.

It stands to reason that when people believe that their enemies are armed, they're more likely to seek out arms for themselves.

The more guns that are out there in the world, the more people will believe that they need guns to protect themselves, or perhaps to be more effectively dominant, if that is their aim.

With that in mind, measures to limit access to guns can be part of a larger solution.

3D printing guns, or perhaps the molds to cast gun parts out of metal, is troubling, then.
Posted by Ipso Facto on December 4, 2012 at 2:53 PM · Report this
venomlash 21
@19: You can get gunpowder pretty easily. Make yourself a bow and kill a few creepers from a safe distance. Boom, you've got gunpowder.
Posted by venomlash on December 4, 2012 at 2:56 PM · Report this
SchmuckyTheCat 22
@16, metal casting was something I learned in Junior High shop class. a mold + lead + heat = bullet.
Posted by SchmuckyTheCat on December 4, 2012 at 2:59 PM · Report this
More worrying is the potential to print the full-auto sear and trigger for the standard, legal AR-15 to convert it to a Class-III weapon. Unlike the lower receiver, those parts should last a little longer.

Posted by Brooklyn Reader on December 4, 2012 at 3:03 PM · Report this
How many thugs does it take to set up a printer driver?
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on December 4, 2012 at 3:07 PM · Report this
With the technology, as it stands today, this is a total non-issue. Just look into the materials used in the actual printing process (ABS, PLA, PC/ABS, etc...); of course the the parts failed after only a couple rounds. Additionally, you can't be an idiot and hope to model anything useful with a 3D printer. And even if you downloaded a working model, its not just a matter of hitting the print button and there ya go.

Rabble Rousing.
Posted by slnk on December 4, 2012 at 3:14 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 26
That sure is a nice comment you've made there. It'd be a shame if anything hap... sssssSSSSSSSS BOOM!
Posted by Urgutha Forka on December 4, 2012 at 3:15 PM · Report this
@4 The lower receiver is the part of the AR-15 that has the serial number and is considered the essential part of the weapon. It's essential not because it has the serial number, but it has the serial number because it's essential. (Yes, that was probably an arbitrary call, but that's the part the regulators picked, the part you need a license to manufacture.) Every other part is available as an unregulated replacement/repair part.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on December 4, 2012 at 3:19 PM · Report this
Kinison 28
Cant stop this anymore than you can stop people from printing water bongs (highly illegal in some states).

What we need is more money to enforce existing laws, but nobody wants this, not even the people who advocate the enforcement of existing laws.
Posted by Kinison on December 4, 2012 at 3:31 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 29
What @15 said. Tailors use it in certain countries to make suit liners with. Not that hard.

But the stuff in your bathroom is still more lethal, if you know what you're doing.
Posted by Will in Seattle on December 4, 2012 at 3:32 PM · Report this
Asparagus! 30

You guys realize you can still buy a handgun for less than the cost of the composites required to do this, right?
Posted by Asparagus! on December 4, 2012 at 3:33 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 31
Big deal. The lower is just the part that many other parts ride on. You can't "print" a barrel out of plastic, nor a lot of other crucial parts that require real strength.

"But there will always be mail order."
-Wes Huntley…
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on December 4, 2012 at 3:44 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 32
@20 The crucial metal parts of real guns are not cast. You cannot make barrels in your garage over a Coleman stove.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on December 4, 2012 at 3:48 PM · Report this
emor 33
Well, sure, it may be a harmless and expensive curiosity now.
Just wait for the brave new science fiction future where brave hacker rebels download contraband gun designs to fight the evil corporate empire.
Posted by emor on December 4, 2012 at 4:08 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 34
This is how it begins: It took me <5 seconds to find gun plans on Pirate Bay for 3D printers.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on December 4, 2012 at 4:19 PM · Report this
You can make a gun that'll shoot six times out of things you can find at home depot for less than a hundred bucks. A gun is a pretty fucking simple thing. A tube, some kind of pin, and something to trigger it with.

Hell you can make a goddamn cannon with an old pipe, a baseball, and some gun powder.

So calm down.
Posted by giffy on December 4, 2012 at 4:20 PM · Report this
@32: I can make a shotgun barrel using a piece of hardened steel pipe. Of course, I can also make an AK receiver out of a piece of flat steel, some nuts & bolts or rivets, and hand tools. Which reminds me, I still have a receiver I need to case harden...
Posted by Tawnos on December 4, 2012 at 4:24 PM · Report this
Paul, get yourself a sun lamp. You are all doom and gloom today!
Posted by goreedgo on December 4, 2012 at 4:39 PM · Report this
Chronos Tachyon 38
I'm not particularly worried by this: you can't print bullets and gunpowder.
Posted by Chronos Tachyon on December 4, 2012 at 4:45 PM · Report this
emor 40

Goddamit! We done got beat again, Sloggers! Shit!

Do you even read the fucking comments, pathetic excuse of a troll? YOU SUCK AT THIS.
Posted by emor on December 4, 2012 at 5:14 PM · Report this
Knat 41
Let's just hope these idiots continue to test out their guns first by putting them right next to their face as they're firing. Darwin will sort them out.
Posted by Knat on December 4, 2012 at 5:58 PM · Report this
As Public Enemy said, Dont Believe the Hype.

It aint easy, it aint cheap, and nimnuts who think they can make a working gun by downloading this are going to be left holding their pants up when a guy with a rock steals their belt.

3D printing is a toy, still, and realistically, usuable, printable guns are probably 15 years down the road, and even then, we are talking a quarter million dollar machine that uses twice the value in consumables as you would pay for a working gun at Cabelas.
Posted by CATSPAW666 on December 4, 2012 at 6:50 PM · Report this
i'm pro-science and i vote 43
Jesus christ. Can these pass through metal detectors? I'm sure they can, even more fun.

Most if not all new technologies seem to be a double-edged sword, I think it's up to good people to push them as positively as possible so that people's imaginations don't get too dark and manifest terrible things that may come of new technology. Ah, fuck, maybe people will imagine terrible things and bring them to fruition anyway..

This technology is only going to get more advanced, it is just a baby right now. Bigger & faster 3D printers, more detailed ones, capable of printing more materials / taking more and more filaments
Posted by i'm pro-science and i vote on December 4, 2012 at 7:14 PM · Report this
Ipso Facto 44
@42: You might be a little behind the times there -- Solidoodle is an entry level 3D printer that goes for $500. I don't know if that printer is precise enough to make a gun, but a "quarter million dollars" is surely an overestimate for one that is.
Posted by Ipso Facto on December 4, 2012 at 7:44 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 45
" Gun-control laws are essentially meaningless when you can make a gun in your house."

Now you are starting to understand.

A gun is a very, very simple machine. In the event of a total ban the easier guns to make tend to be the ones we would most desire out of the hands of criminals.…
Criminals do not follow the law by their very nature.

That is how you shoot a rifle. The cartridge itself is held between the proof tested and Magnetic Particle Inspected (in a quality barrel) chamber and a proof tested MPI leaving the shooter in no danger. Even if for some reason the cartridge went KABOOM the AR15 design funnels the blast out of the Magazine well away from the shooters face.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on December 4, 2012 at 7:52 PM · Report this
Ipso Facto 46
Here's some kind of ego-wanking press release video by Cody Wilson, the college kid leading this group.

It looks like this kid has some serious narcissistic tendencies and just wants to play with expensive toys and get his name in lights for a while.

Honestly the video looks like he's trying to reenact one of those cliche scenes from a sci-fi movie where the mad scientist first begins to hatch his ominous plan. It's quite unintentionally funny, really. (That background music sounds an awful lot like the soundtrack to the movie Sneakers.)

He lists a few platitudes about the benefits of 3D printing in general, but doesn't make a meaningful case for why the ability to print guns would ever be a good thing.

"Defense Distrbuted as a project I think is about the preservation of human dignity, in a world of accelerating humanity. It's about collapsing the distinction between digital information and material goods. And ultimately it may be about hat original salvific promise of the free Internet."

Huh? C'mon, this is a performance art project, right?

Posted by Ipso Facto on December 4, 2012 at 8:13 PM · Report this

3D printing doesn't bring anything new to the table, really.
Posted by doceb on December 4, 2012 at 8:29 PM · Report this
Strangersmostbenigninconvenience continues to lower the bar in what counts as trolling, is it goating?
Rich kids might print off a 'zip gun' but in all honesty what's preventing them from poison blow darts? It's a non issue. The only irritating thing is that the worst troll on earth keeps trying. Dude, you're basically the Chone Figgins of Slog.
Posted by CbytheSea on December 4, 2012 at 9:41 PM · Report this
This "3d printing of a gun" is sort of like saying, "Hey! I made a 3d print of a steering wheel. I made a working car!" Sorry, no barrel out of your 3d plastic printer, no bolt, no upper receiver, no firing pin...etc..etc.

Paul, you should know better.
Posted by randoma on December 4, 2012 at 10:30 PM · Report this
This dumb post has been bothered me all day. Listen, this project is a stupid, and anybody who has actually used a 3d printer knows this. The 3d printing thing is just a red herring, a stunt. I could download the same model and carve it out of a block of steel on a benchtop CNC mill. In fact, I know people who have done exactly this. They are not brain-damaged football players. They are machinist nerds.

Paul's post reads like a fellow who has cancelled his free 30 days with AOL over his concern that people can be anonymous on the internet. We have some technology. It can do some new stuff. We're still counting on you to NOT put gasoline in your super soaker.
Posted by courner on December 4, 2012 at 11:06 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 51
@36 Yes, all from steel made and mostly shaped elsewhere. My point was simply that you can't use internet files to print a plastic mold and make barrels, firing pins, etc. out of pot metal. Some high-strength materials are need for some parts, which require real (if not terribly high tech) skills to fabricate.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on December 5, 2012 at 6:28 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 52
BTW, here's most of what you need to add to make a complete gun from your printed "lower."…

Notice the large piece of cro-mo steel forming the barrel? You can't make that in your computer lab, kidz.

For only 200 bucks, you can go over to Big 5, buy a Marlin .22 semi-auto rifle, and be shooting people TODAY. In an hour. The .22LR is not a powerful or stylish cartridge, but I'm not volunteering to be shot with one. It has killed a lot of humans.

And a lot more squirrels. Which I hear are tasty.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on December 5, 2012 at 6:50 AM · Report this
Bruce Garrett 53
Gun-control laws are essentially meaningless when you can make a gun in your house.

Swell. So now can we have a conversation about why this country is so damn violent, that doesn't involve getting into an argument about gun control?
Posted by Bruce Garrett on December 5, 2012 at 7:57 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 54
Somehow I am not worried that people may be able to print their own untraceable, barely-useable guns for ridiculously high prices, when they can already get an untraceable, highly useable gun in any major city for under $500. This does not even touch on the fact that you can only print out a part of the gun.

I can do more carnage with a 4 dollar, untraceable gallon of gasoline than anyone could do with an poorly aimable, unstable, low capacity zip gun.

The pearls can go unclutched for now.

Posted by Theodore Gorath on December 5, 2012 at 8:23 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 55
@13 The 5.7 x 28 is a VERY high pressure round, as pistol cartridges go. It would be about the worst possible choice for a home-made gun.

If you were going to make a plastic derringer, a low pressure cartridge with roots in the black-powder days, like a .32 S&W, would be a LITTLE less suicidal.

Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on December 5, 2012 at 8:24 AM · Report this
Knat 56
@41: I'm aware that's how you hold a rifle, thanks. After all, that's why there's the smooth, angled surface on the left side of the stock for you to press your cheek against, so you can look down the sight/scope.

What I meant was that if you're testing a new device - in this case, one whose whole point in being is to make an explosion to hurl a projectile at supersonic speeds - you probably don't want it anywhere near you, should something go awry (as these guys expect). Though I was not aware that this particular weapon was designed in such a way to mitigate any injury in such a scenario. Thanks for the info.
Posted by Knat on December 5, 2012 at 9:44 AM · Report this
#44- I own a machine shop. I make actual working things from metal every day.
The cheap 3 D printers are suitable for making cereal box prizes, nada mas.

A decent 3D printer these days is more like 30 grand, not five hundred.

But the fact remains- even a usable plastic gun like a Glock requires lots of metal parts. and 3D printers are currently not able to make metal parts good enough. And the 3D metal printers of today cost a lot more than the ones that print plastic.

It will be a long long time before printing parts from metal is cost competitive with stamping, forging, and machining. You can buy a gun, new, for under two hundred bucks.
Posted by CATSPAW666 on December 5, 2012 at 10:36 AM · Report this
Ipso Facto 58
I'm with @50 -- this whole thing is a stupid.
Posted by Ipso Facto on December 5, 2012 at 12:44 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 59
Del-ton, Not chrome lined, 1 in 9 twist, 4140...Yuck

Here is a far better Dissipator for the money…

It is really too bad the BCM doesn't make a dissy, I would be on that shit like white on rice.…
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on December 5, 2012 at 5:30 PM · Report this
Captain Wiggette 61
Gun-control laws are essentially meaningless when you can make a gun in your house.

Gun-control laws are essentially meaningless already when you live in a country with more guns than people.

Hysterics about someone printing a gun given this reality is a waste of perfectly good hysteria.

I mean, how many people work at The Stranger? And none of you can spend 10 seconds googling? None of you has been AWAKE the last several decades? Washington state has long had among the most lax gun laws in the country. Any one of you could walk into any number of sports stores and gun shops and walk out with a loaded firearm. And you actually think people are going to fuck around BUILDING their own guns to circumvent our nonexistent 'gun control' laws?

Give me a fucking break.

It's already an open-carry state. Anybody can strap a loaded .45 to their belt and walk around downtown, whenever they feel like it, no license or anything. If you're going to freak the fuck out about guns all the time, at least spend some time educating yourself on the matter. Sheeeeesh.
Posted by Captain Wiggette on December 6, 2012 at 11:03 PM · Report this

Well said. This whole thread is ridiculous.

I'll never understand my fellow liberals' visceral (and irrational) fear and loathing of firearms.
Posted by CPN on December 7, 2012 at 9:55 PM · Report this

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