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The folks over at Defense Distributed, the home of the Wiki Weapon Project, have successfully fired an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with a 3D-printed lower receiver. They were able to fire off only six rounds before the part failed, but some would consider that a pretty decent outcome considering it’s composed of printed plastic. Now, the entire gun is not printed–just the lower receiver (the regulated part), but it’s a good first step. Regardless of your stance on gun control (or conceptual lack thereof), this project is worth keeping an eye on. [via technabob]

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Adam Flaherty

Adam Flaherty

I make cool stuff and write about other people making cool stuff on If you have something you think I should see, send me a tip.

  • jstults

    That seems to be the weak part: a bit of FEA

  • Tom Sisk

    Terrific! Just what the world needs….the ability to print a firing weapon that can kill/maim at a distance AND blow up in your face!

    • josephjohnston433

      You’re right. Maybe if we ignore it, it’ll go away.

  • Glenn Rice

    “composed of”, not “comprised of”.

  • R Buchman

    Before anyone gets worried about 3D printing working guns, it should be kept in mind that all the actual “shooty” bits – the chamber, barrel, breech, etc – are in the upper receiver, and the one used here is a real one. To put it another way, all the important parts that shoot the bullet are from a real rifle, all in one piece.

    In an AR patterned rifle (which this is) ammunition is loaded into and fired from the *upper* receiver (not the *lower* receiver, which is what was printed here.) The lower receiver is subject to relatively low stresses and is not where any of the actual bullet-shooting part happens. The lower is the stock and trigger and holds the magazine. The upper is the barrel and chamber and all the parts that go BANG.

    People have made working lower receivers out of wood (as opposed to 3D printing one), just to prove it can be done. Build a lower out of wood or plastic (or 3D print one…) and stick a “real” upper on it, and there you go: working rifle.

    This isn’t to diminish how interesting it is to 3D print a working lower; but if you don’t know much about firearms it’s easy to jump to conclusions.

    Also, in the USA it is perfectly legal to build your own firearms. (If you want to sell them then that’s something different, though.)

    • fwkb

      The part that might worry people is that the other parts can be mail ordered or otherwise purchased without a background check, so, e.g. a felon could obtain a gun this way when he normally would need more serious machinery. I am not too worried about it personally because I think it would be much easier to just buy a used rifle from a private owner. Also because assault rifles are so rarely used for crime.

      • Jerry Carter

        A felon would never go to the trouble to 3D print a gun to commit a crime. They’re felons or, if you prefer, criminals with criminal minds. They simply steal from others that which they need. It’s the economics of effort and opportunity. This mode of production favors felons least and liberty minded individuals most.

        • fwkb

          It doesn’t seem to really favor anyone but the hobbyist/experimenter. I guess I don’t know enough felons to make statements about all of them, but I did know two (a little) and neither was a thief. One was a pot smoker who had a coworker who was under pressure by authorities to provide details about where he got his drugs. The coworker knew that this guy was a smoker and asked if he had any to spare. Authorities monitored the transaction and he went to jail for year. That guy was a total hippy and wouldn’t want to touch a gun, legally or illegally. The other had some incident at the Canadian border involving illicit substances. He is a believer in 2nd amendment rights and former CCW permit holder but doesn’t carry now because of the felony. Based on these two guys I agree that felons wouldn’t go through the trouble, but not for the same reasons.

        • iandanger

          Sorry but most guns are illegally purchased, not stolen, because its far easier to straw purchase guns or get them on the secondary market and never register them than it is to find a gun owner and steal from them. If the original purchaser of a gun was held responsible for what happens

          • Jerry Carter

            Well i think that makes the point, don’t you? A fellon isn’t going to 3d print something as I am asserting. Equipment cost being one barrier. And as you rightly point out – straw purchases are illegal and the straw purchaser is as much a criminal as the person they knowingly provide the gun to. Making tools less accessible will not change criminal behavior. Those that aim to misbehave will. The problem isn’t the gun or the 3d printer – it’s the culture that devalues human life.

  • FredB

    A competent home workshop is an arsenal. Pakistani and Afghan craftsmen have been making copies of Western firearms with no more than hand tools for over a century.

    Here is the story of Boris who built an AK-47 from a shovel.

    People have been making guns for over four hundred years. It’s Manufacturing 101.

  • David

    The Email Subject line “3D-Printed Gun …” is a bit alarmist.
    Then the Email text says ” 3D-printed lower receiver”.
    Then it is written on the website, above “entire gun is not printed–just the lower receiver (the regulated part)”
    The rest of it is actual gun parts. Hardly a “3D-Printed Gun.”

    The actual non-printed gun parts survived. The failure is in the printed grip, as in, “The handle broke off.” Hardly a “3D-Printed Gun.”

    Sheet metal and hand tools can become an AK-47 receiver, but there’s still the need for barrel, bolt, etc. just like this example.

    That said, photo or R.F. -activated, nano-particle-reinforced, sintered metal may be the future …. but it will be a while.

    Check Out this rebuttal:
    No, you can’t download a gun from the Internet

    “Summary: 3D printers and home users can build quite a few things, but despite the internet media hype, you can’t print a working firearm.”

    • Adam Flaherty

      This is a solid proof of concept. Yes, it’s just the lower receiver, but it shows progress towards the ultimate goal of the project. Ever hear of a zip gun? I don’t think they’re trying to produce something that can get through airport security, but rather something that can easily be reproduced, more accurate, and less lethal to the user.

      • David

        Reply to Adam:
        Making a single, non-stressed part of a highly stressed mechanism is hardly solid proof of concept for a “3D-Printed Gun.”
        Zip guns have metal strong enough to take tens of thousands of PSI. This does not come close.
        What they’re trying to easily produce in its ENTIRETY is way yonder.

      • Nicholas Allen


        You have just turned the corner from Journalist to biased writer. You are defending your own story from logical and experienced rebuts. These replies come from your readers who are your only judges after the editor who chose you to, “UNBIASEDLY REPORT ON A STORY”. Now you are now defending the future capability of 3D printing and it’s politics for this one story. Get over it it, is is a bad story you wrote! You are not a soothsayer, just some one with inside need for 3D printing to enter the limelight so you can have more stories (income). Stop. Re-read these intelligent replies and acquiesce to your palsy report on a fringe insanity. Call it what it is, a Flash Headline meant to deceive.

        Please, as an owner of a Printrbot LC Plus and prototyper from way back, protect me from the ire of ignorant power readers and inform them only of the wonderful possibilities that can change their life for the better. Gun stories, particularly in light of recent events, are off limits to empty ‘Glam Journalism’ like this non-story. It broke, it didn’t work even as the simplest part of the machine! Duh!

        3D printers make millions of items well so you report on one BAD sub part of a BAD idea. BAD STORY! Your editor deserves a refund!

  • robert

    Um… its not ALL been made with a 3d printer so the claim of a homemade 3d printed fireable weapon are still invalid. You hear that nice metalic CLICK when he loads the first round? Metal… not printed.

  • Tim Dolan

    Not sure what all of the fuss is about. If you have a Mill you can make real parts. Not done too often because it is expensive and anyone with the skill doesen’t need the problems that come with illegal gun construction.

    Guns, Mills, 3-D printers are all tools. Without a human to use or abuse these tools, like all other tools, just sit there.

    • Jerry Carter

      ” illegal gun construction.” Where, in which country? Perfectly legal in the US.

    • g2-25edfa3d742cab814c3471b0393de3d9T

      Yeah, I don’t get where this “illegal gun construction” thing is coming from. Nonsense.

  • wielsucker

    Leave out that last sentence and you’d avoid this moronic ill informed comment war.

  • Robert

    “Defense Distributed”

    I love the euphemistic way people like to use the word defense sometimes.

    • Arnold

      The AR platform is pretty ideal for home defense. Would be better so if the ATF would let you cut the barrel down to about five inches.

      • David

        The powder type and charge is usually designed to burn within a full length barrel. If the barrel is short, especially way-short, much of the burn will be external. “Muzzle Flash” can locate the shooter (you) and temporarily blind the shooter (you). Muzzle blast can temporarily deafen the shooter (you). Plus the projectile will not have total normal energy.
        (Since the M16 “Eats where it poops.”, it should not effect cycling … until it gets filthy.)

  • Gunther Kirsch

    I feel as though this opens up a new market for inovation and design, regardless that it is for weapons. It is a new door for innovative makers to break the chains that multi-national-military-industrial-conglomerates have been shackling the market with every since Colt. I’d rather Joe Shmo make a profit off war than Halliburton or Lockheed. This is what making is all about no? Breaking into and freeing the market so it becomes accessible to everyone. As far as some gangsters or terrorists getting a hold of this ability, they already have (as said in a comment previous). Crime organizations have far more productive and accessible options for manufacturing and obtaining weapons then even a 3D printer could offer.

  • feasuh buchanon

    i just want to learn how to make something, anything, before i die. how come some people are so adept at making stuff, and some are so inept at it?

    • Arnold

      It’s mostly desire. You have the desire, so you’re most of the way there. As long as you pay attention and keep trying through failures (which happen to all of us of course) you will learn more than you ever thought possible.

      And try for originality, redesign something or bring up an idea from scratch. Being at the computer kills my creativity. think long and hard about the design of something and manipulate it in your mind until you like what comes out.

      Like most stuff, patience and the willingness to learn are many times more important than skill.

      frivcm at gmail , com

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  • JoJoMaker

    Ummmm…. hey wiki weapon. Thanks. I’d love to see kids with a gun and not a soldering iron. I mean gosh, “making” right, even if it kills us. Its totally a good idea to get people hooked on 3D printing thru guns (or making for that matter). I wonder what new and creative things the next generation of makers will think up.

    • JoJoMaker

      But its all about “sticken it to da man” and “exercising your rights” right?

    • Jerry Carter

      Proven fact – boys like dangerous things. If you find a boy interested in making a functioning fire arm just for the sake of the challenge, I’ll show you a future successful tool and die maker, machinist, craftsman or engineer. Don’t sell kids short just because the tool they make does something wicked cool with chemicals and high-tolerance parts. Baseball bats are used to off people far more often than guns anyway.

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    Rwanda is a small country with many problems!

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