[VIDEO] How 3-D Printed Guns Evolved Into Serious Weapons in Just One Year

For WIREDAndy Greenberg writes: A burgeoning subculture of 3-D printed gun enthusiasts dreams of the day when a lethal firearm can be downloaded or copied by anyone, anywhere, as easily as a pirated episode of Game of Thrones. But the 27-year-old Japanese man arrested last week for allegedly owning illegal 3-D printed firearms did more than simply download and print other enthusiasts’ designs. He appears to have created some of his own.

“With the Liberator we were trying to communicate a kind of singularity, to create a moment…”

Among the half-dozen plastic guns seized from Yoshitomo Imura’s home in Kawasaki was a revolver designed to fire six .38-caliber bullets–five more than the Liberator printed pistol that inspired Imura’s experiments. He called it the ZigZag, after its ratcheted barrel modeled on the German Mauser Zig-Zag. In a video he posted online six months ago, Imura assembles the handgun from plastic 3-D printed pieces, a few metal pins, screws and rubber bands, then test fires it with blanks.

 “…The broad recognition of this idea seemed to flip a switch in peoples’ minds…We knew that people would make this their own.”

— Cody Wilson

cad-3d-guns-660x386

The Reprringer, a tiny, 3D-printable revolver that fires .22 calibre ammunition. Image: FOSSCAD

It’s been a full year since I watched the radical libertarian group Defense Distributed test fire the Liberator, the first fully printable gun, for the first time. Imura is one of a growing number of digital gunsmiths who saw the potential of that controversial breakthrough and have strived to improve upon the Liberator’s clunky, single-shot design. Motivated by a mix of libertarianism, gun rights advocacy and open-source experimentation, their innovations include rifles, derringers, multi-round handguns and the components needed to assemble semi-automatic weapons. Dozens of other designs are waiting to be tested.

The result of all this tinkering may be the first advancements that significantly move 3-D printed firearms from the realm of science fiction to practical weapons.

“With the Liberator we were trying to communicate a kind of singularity, to create a moment,” says Cody Wilson, who founded Defense Distributed and hand-fired the first 3-D printed gun in May, 2013. “The broad recognition of this idea seemed to flip a switch in peoples’ minds…We knew that people would make this their own.”

Even as the DIY community has refined and remixed 3-D printed guns, it’s left legislators and regulators in the dust. Congressional efforts last year to place restrictions on printed, plastic weapons within the renewed Undetectable Firearms Act fell flat. That said, the legality of 3-D printing a gun in the United States remains unclear, which explains why most of the gun designers contacted by WIRED declined to comment or wished to do so anonymously.

Despite that legal ambiguity, it took only weeks for digital gunsmiths to improve upon the first fully 3-D printed gun. Defense Distributed printed the first Liberator in May, 2013, using a second-hand refrigerator-sized Stratasys 3-D printer it bought for $8,000. Later that month, a gun enthusiast in Wisconsin riffed on the Liberator to produce a working firearm for far less, using a $1,725 Lulzbot printer with less than $25 in plastic. It fired eight .38-caliber bullets without damage.

Two months later came the first fully 3-D printed rifle, built by a Canadian gunsmith identified only as Matthew. The gun, which he calls the Grizzly, fires .22-caliber bullets. In the video below, it fires three shots. Another clip, since pulled from YouTube, shows him hand-firing it 14 times. Wilson calls the Grizzly the “best, first improvement on the Liberator.”

The Grizzly, like the Liberator, requires removing the barrel to load a new round after each shot. But less than a month after Matthew unveiled the Grizzly, another gunsmith who calls himself “Free-D” or “Franco” test-fired a five-shot derringer revolver he calls the Reprringer. It shoots low-power .22-caliber rounds. Though the tiny revolver isn’t entirely 3-D printed–it uses 8mm metal tube inserts in each barrel and several screws–its metal components seem to allow for a far more compact design, making the the Reprringer the smallest working 3-D printed gun publicly tested…(read more)

WIRED


4 Comments on “[VIDEO] How 3-D Printed Guns Evolved Into Serious Weapons in Just One Year”

  1. […] Pundit from another Planet For WIRED, Andy Greenberg writes: A burgeoning subculture of 3-D printed gun enthusiasts dreams of […]

  2. […] – [VIDEO] How 3-D Printed Guns Evolved Into Serious Weapons in Just One Year  – […]


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