Last year, we caught wind
of a one-man operation called Defense Distributed
run by Texas law student Cody Wilson that was developing a 3D-printable handgun. At the time he was thwarted from prototyping the weapon as the company that leased him the necessary 3D printer
, promptly reclaimed the printer. Even so, plans for 3D-printable gun parts such as ammunition magazines and receivers were proliferating online; 3D printer manufacturer Makerbot
noticed this trend and purged all gun-related blueprints
from its Thingiverse database.
The Liberator - Image credit: Forbes
In response to Makerbot’s takedown, an undeterred Wilson launched his own online repository for 3D-printable weaponry called DEFCAD, and according to Forbes, he is close to releasing schematics for a plastic handgun.
The weapon, which he calls “The Liberator”, is comprised of 16 fully printable ABS plastic parts; the only metal parts are a single nail used as a firing pin and a six-ounce piece of steel so it can ostensibly be detected by metal detectors.
Defense Distributed can also now make and distribute handguns legally; the group apparently acquired a federal firearms license. It’s also interesting to note that Wilson has a sufficient 3D printer on hand now--a Dimension SST from none other than Stratasys.
By dint of the fact that the metal piece is included as a technicality and not part of the actual structure of the gun, one imagines that nobody will bother putting it in. Thus, Mr. Wilson has developed an undetectable handgun that is designed to shoot standard handgun rounds of different calibers (you can print a variety of barrels to accommodate various calibers) that will not have a serial number nor any way to identify the gun’s owner.
For those who imagine that bullets will still set off metal detectors, we’d simply reference the film “In the Line of Fire” (released in 1993 and starring Clint Eastwood). In the movie (spoiler alert), John Malkovich’s character slips a tiny plastic handgun through a metal detector by keeping the plastic parts separate (he puts the thing together blind, under a table) and hiding the gun’s springs and bullets in a rabbit’s foot keychain.
In any case, Congress is reacting to these developments. New York congressman Steve Israel is leading the charge to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act to help curb the distribution of some of these plastic gun designs and also expand it to include aspects not previously covered in the law--such as the aforementioned ammo magazines and lower receivers. Israel may have a big challenge ahead of him, though, as he’ll certainly face the typical opposition from gun rights proponents and other groups in addition to figuring out a way to make the language of the law cover all aspects of a rapidly developing market.