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.