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Is This the First Gun Built by a 3D Printer?

by Kyle Wintersteen   |  August 10th, 2012 22
Guslick 22 caliber pistol

The lower of this fully functioning .22-caliber pistol was built by Michael Guslick using a 3D printer. Guslick also built a functioning semi-auto rifle in the same manner. (Photo from The Huffington Post)

The term “revolutionary” gets thrown around way too often in our marketing-saturated culture, but the 3D printer warrants it. Essentially, the machine can take a blueprint and “print” a variety of materials, including jewelry, architecture, automobiles, artificial organs and apparently firearms.

In a move that has gun-control proponents in pants-wetting hysterics, Extreme Tech reports amateur gunsmith Michael Guslick has used blueprints from the Internet to print two different guns, including an AR-15.

For his first test, Guslick, who posts under the screen name “HaveBlue” at the forum AR15.com, attempted to build a .22-caliber pistol using his 3D printer. With an ease that surprised even Guslick, he printed a plastic polymer lower receiver for the pistol, then simply slid a commercial steel upper into position along with the presumed addition of a few other store-bought parts. He put 200 rounds through his essentially homemade gun without issue.

“Everything ran just as it should, magazine after magazine,” Guslick wrote in a blog post. “To be honest, it was acting more reliably than a number of other .22 pistols I’ve shot.”

Guslick then set out to build an AR-15 using a similar process, first printing a 75-percent model for fine-tuning. More or less, he got it right on the first try, noting to the Huffington Post that it “wasn’t that difficult.” The gun worked, but had a few feeding and extraction issues that need tweaking.

Through his work on the pistol and rifle, Guslick has been widely credited for creating the first “3D gun,” a notion he disputes.

“Firearms manufacturers have been doing exactly that for prototyping and testing for many years, and I’m certain many hobbyists have used 3D printed gun parts as well,” he told HuffPost.

But that’s done little to dissuade the panic of hoplophobic Americans. To paraphrase some of the comments from our anti-gun friends, “A man built a gun in his own home? This technology must be stopped or every criminal can just get a 3D printer and build a spray fire military-grade assault rifle!”

Not so fast, says Guslick.

“Though such tools are equally available to criminals as well, I cannot foresee criminals turning to 3D printing as an avenue to obtain illicit arms when the black market continues to serve as a far simpler means of acquisition — and does not require any level of technical acumen,” Guslick told HuffPost.

Given how recently 3D printing technology was developed, there are no laws against what Guslick did. There is speculation that legislation will follow, but how would you enforce a law against printing a lower receiver? Could a 3D printer be designed that would recognize it’s printing a gun? Or could you ban the printing of certain shapes (User “wilNva” joked on the AR15.com forum, “Who will they blame when some nut-job goes postal with one of these illegal shapes?”)? Such laws are doubtful, but let’s face it, politicians have sought to regulate civilian arms through equally dubious means.

The debate is reminiscent of arguments by anti-gunners against commercial firearms manufacture. “If we just quit making guns,” they reckon, “they’d never end up in the wrong hands.” Not only does this ignore the many benefits of an armed civilian population, but it’s ignorant of the number of arms already in circulation. If global firearms manufacture were banned today (perish the thought, not that it could ever be enforced), just think how many years it would take for millions (billions?) of guns to rust away.

The fact is, firearms will always exist, as will a criminal element that breaks laws in order to obtain them. There’s little use in worrying yourself sick over a technically skilled civilian who built his own.

  • Jonathan

    I guess I am a little lost here because I am not an expert with guns. How can a printer make a gun? My printer only spits out paper. Can someone explain this a little better for me?

    • randy

      google 3D metal printing, video's on youtube

    • EdgeGun

      See my post below Jonathan

    • Russ

      An AR-15 style weapon is comprised of an upper and lower receiver (two separate parts). The upper portion is made of various types of metals to accommodate moving parts (the action) and pressures from the firing of the ammunition. The lower receivers are made from a variety of materials; Plastic polymers, metals, or a mixture of both to accommodate the trigger group, safety and other mechanical parts. To keep weight down manufactures are using polymers just as this company/person did in the article.
      So, after he printed his lower receiver out of polymer as the article stated, he was able to “drop in” or attach a commercially made upper receiver to complete his weapon. Generally or I should say legally, a lower receiver has to be purchased from a licensed fire arms deal. Hope that helped!

  • John

    I first hear of 3D printing like back in the 90s; but it was about printing organs not a firearm.

  • Fred

    This is very cool technology, but you can't print component you need to build a gun. To flip out over a lower receiver is silly. Besides, the equipment used to do this is exceptionally expensive and difficult to operate. Using 3D printers to build guns is like saying you're going to hire the worlds greatest brain surgeon to lance a blister. The criminal element just isn't going to invest when there's an easier way.

  • TJ Moon

    A 3d printer is limited to certain types of materials. A plastic polymer printer cannot produce metal objects and a metal printer cannot produce objects like springs or rifled barrels. Whilst there is a danger of someone producing modified parts to make a semi-auto into a fully auto, the technical/mechanical acumen needed is serious, and not much different to someone using a lathe, router and drills.

  • JohnnyBK

    The reason they are freaking out about making a lower with a "printer" is that the lowers are what are registered in most states. You can buy uppers without an FFL, but the lowers are regulated. Funny thing is that it's impossible to "print" a bolt or barrel, so they really should have gone the other way in regulating AR type rifles/pistols. But it is true, these printers are expensive, require an intelligent person who is dedicated to getting it right, take many hours or even days to print complex parts, and still requires parts like springs, barrels, firing pins, etc. to complete the build. Hell of a lot easier to pay someone to pick up a firearm in a state that has no paperwork involved.

    • Alan_T

      Bingo Johnny , you nailed it !

    • BJC

      Agreed and very good point. I've often wondered why the lower section of an AR type weapon has to be transferred thru an FFL and not the upper. I bought a Volquartsen LLV for my Ruger Mark II witch is basically the upper section and it had to be transfered thru an FFL holder. Law makers sometimes you have to just wonder WTF.

      • Wolvie

        Because the part that has the serial number is the part that is considered to be the "firearm".

        If this was not the case, then the government could try and list all parts of a firearm as "the firearm".

        How would you like to go through an FFL to get springs, barrels, grips, roll pins, etc?

        So while the law may look silly when you are applying it to an AR platform, remember that the AR design is more the exception than the rule.

        Simply stated, the part that is stamped with the identifying serial number is the part that is considered to be the firearm. Any parts that are not integral (i.e.: not permanently affixed) to the stamped part are not considered "firearms" in their disassembled state.

        Just a bit of trivia…this rule is why you cannot mail-order barrels for a Ruger Mark pistol. Ruger stamps the barrel on this model, so the barrel is considered the firearm while the frame is not. Kind of reversed from the AR situation.

  • mjorin

    Is there any validity to this or are we dealing with urban myth? Has the ATF raided this fellow for manufacturing without a license? Has he been jailed for having a lower w/o it being serial numbered? Sounds like a bunch of hogwash! How about strength of materials? Can it print a sandwich? What a waste of time! Do you have to have a leprechaun run the machine while you ride your unicorn over a rainbow?

    • EdgeGun

      Funny post – but misguided

  • Joseph

    It is perfectly legal for someone to build a pistol or rifle for personal use, no license or permits needed.

    Now if you decide to sell it , that's another story. No full-auto either without an FFL/SOT

    • Alan_T

      Well ………………. it is legal to build , BUT it still has to have a registered serial number with the FFA even if you don't sell it , to remain legal .

      • eric10mm

        Almost. It IS legal to make your own Title 1 firearm (non-NFA) at home. It IS legal to sell it (as long as in the eyes and opinion of the ATF you are not engaging in the "business" of "dealing", however they interpret that this week). And you are NOT required to put a serial number on it NOR are you required to "register" it.

  • fred haferkamp

    the most interesting conversation ive seen on the net. from a retired cop THANK YOU

  • Jeepers Creepers

    C + R x L + 9 = T(W).

  • Alan_T

    I think it's wonderful progress . The hopolophobes just don't understand , they all seem to think that there is some sort of black magic involved in the manufacture of firearms ( I suppose out of a mixture of fear and ignorance ) . Any reasonably competent machinist with access to materials , mills , drills and lathes ( oh MY ! ) and a working set of blueprints or a model can make a gun ( and there are hundreds of thousands [ millions ? ] of competent machinists ) . My 92 year old father is an " all – around , precision machinist " and even though I'm not a machinist , I have access to everything I'd need and I could probably slap something together if I absolutely had to .

  • Jsanchez

    3D metal printing should lower the cost of a gun by half the price I like the idea

  • EdgeGun

    Here's a link to an investment article about "3-D Printing" to learn more about this amazing technology. I have no vested interest in the company at this link, just thought it would be helpful for us to learn more especially since at least one person was unsure of what this type of printing entails.
    http://individual.troweprice.com/public/Retail/Pl…

  • Jack Lundin

    Gotta love technology…Isnt this what America was built around.

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