Second Amendment

Gun Control Laws Increasingly Irrelevant as 3D Printed Rifle Receiver Fires Hundreds of Rounds


3D printed lower receiver
Defense Distributed

On Monday, with little fanfare and less comment — primarily because none was needed — Defense Distributed unveiled a 3D-printed lower receiver for an AR-15 that stood up to hundreds of rounds of fire. Succinctly, the video on Youtube was accompanied by the statement, "Does not fail from firing stresses. 600+ rounds." Just as important, and the purpose of all this effort, the group made plans for the receiver available for download by all and sundry at DefCad. Defense Distributed's video and 3D printer plans are a clever and powerful blow to politicians' efforts to restrict Americans' abilities to own the means of self-defense. They may also be a glimpse of a future in which human liberty is largely dependent on an ability to limit the reach of the state through technological innovation and grassroots defiance.

It wasn't long ago that Defense Distributed was getting some ribbing for the quality of its subversive efforts when its first attempt at a receiver fell apart after six shots. Then, the group unveiled a high-capacity rifle magazine that could be manufactured in a home workshop on a 3D printer. They named it "Cuomo" after New York's control-freaky governor. Not so much ribbing.

Now, within months of the initial experiments we have a rifle lower receiver — the legal "gun" part of an AR-15, so far as the government is concerned — that can handle hundreds of rounds and keep going. As Defense Distributed responded to New York Democratic Rep. Steve Israel's announced intention to develop some sort of magical legal blockade to the home manufacture of firearms and magazines, "Good luck."

I'm not a believer that we're tumbling into some sort of dystopian future of totalitarian control. Well, not in the short term, anyway. I'm ecstatic that we've moved in a few, short years from "just say no" to fully legal marijuana in two states and national poll numbers that would support the same policy across the country.

Likewise, expanding recognition of same-sex marriage has given gays and lesbians access to the legal benefits that have been tied to that institution. It also makes them feel more like full citizens rather than a despised minority.

These are excellent developments for personal freedom.

But I can't help but notice that legal marijuana and gay marriage may challenge government officials' prejudices, but they pose no threat to the power of the state. Firearms ownership does. So does privacy. Yesterday's Supreme Court decision in Clapper v. Amnesty International made clear the legal contortions through which the state is willing to go to maintain and extend its ability to spy on us, snooping into our politics, our personal lives and our finances.

In the future privacy, like self-defense rights, will likely depend on our ability to ignore and subvert the state with technological protections including encrypted communications and alternative currencies. Communications services like Silent Circle (and its inevitable competitors) and anonymous or nearly anonymous currencies like Bitcoin may preserve the privacy that the state would like to deny us.

Defense Distributed is an inherently political effort, focusing as it does on the AR-15 rifle that is the focus of government officials' two-minutes hate. No clearer raised middle finger to government could there be in the current gun control debate. But we're going to need more such flipped birds in the years to come — more liberty-preserving innovations that say, "you pass the laws that you want, and we'll render them impotent before the ink is dry."

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  1. Well then, we just need to ban 3d printing now don’t we? If they can make cold medicine a controlled substance, it is hard to see how 3d printing is going to survive the gun control hysteria.

    1. It’s easier to get meth than Sudafed these days…less documentation!

      1. See the pdf I linked below, its how to made sudafed from meth.

        1. Speaking of which, I am hepped up on goofballs sudafed today.

      2. I do that with pain meds. Doctor treats you like a criminal when you need some. I’m like screw it I’ll just go to a bar and find some in 5 minutes.

    2. Go out and get your 3D printers today. Hopefully we’ll get a 3D printer that can make a 3D printer before the ban starts.

      1. You know it is coming. Between gun control and copyright hysteria, there is no way the government is going to let this happen.

        Just think of the horror people having the ability to make anything they want in the privacy of their own homes without any government control gives fuckwits like Tony and Shriek.

        1. Would you say it makes them feel disgusted?

      2. They’ll just outlaw the “precursors” used to manufacture 3D printers: plastic, wiring, screws, screwdrivers, etc.

        1. Why not just get it over with and throw us all in prison. Seems like the easiest route.

          1. They already did. But eventually everyone either graduates from high school or drops out.

      3. Actually, you can. What would slow people down is to ban the control boards. But even that is pretty tough. The source for moving a belt or turning a threaded rod exactly n steps is very easily replicated in Arduino with a motor shield.

        1. I printed my own control board. NBD.

          1. Well, technically I “etched” it.


      There are always ways to route around the laws.

      1. Sure there are. And doing so makes you a criminal. So it is a double bonus, control plus criminalizing more of the population.

        1. Of course. But we are all already felons, so whats a few more?

          1. You’re out of your mind. It’s not like some criminal bent of robbing a bank or killing someone is going to violate gun control laws and obtain a firearm illegally.

  2. fully legal marijuana in two states

    Um, no. Federal law still applies, so marijuana is not fully legal anywhere.

    1. It is on the Moon.

      Just sayin’.

      1. Not for Americans.

        1. At the moment, the Moon isn’t under the jurisdiction of any nation or group of nations.

          1. Which gives me an idea. The astronauts who go to Mars should rendezvous with prostitutes with illegal drugs on the Martian surface. Then broadcast the whole thing live back to Earth.

            1. I’d watch.

          2. Over the last several years, a number of executives from online gambling companies have been arrested in U.S. airports and charged with felony violations of U.S. gambling, racketeering and money laundering laws, even though the executives were citizens of and the companies were incorporated in countries where online gambling is legal.

            I guess the secret would be not coming back to the US after smoking pot on the moon.

            1. You’re in fucking space, man. Why would anyone come back? The goal is to get away from this bullshit.

  3. But I can’t help but notice that legal marijuana and gay marriage may challenge government officials’ prejudices, but they pose no threat to the power of the state.

    Gay marriage EXPANDS the power of the state.

    1. There is nothing more libertarian than using force of government to change the definition of a word.

      1. I sure am glad keeping one government definition of marriage is automatically more libertarian than changing that government definition.

    2. B.s. A government action is needed to change it in the first place, yes, but it no more expands the power of the state than keeping the current definition would.

      This isn’t a fight between the use of government force vs. the absence of it, it’s a fight between two competing uses of government force. There’s no reason that keeping the current one is somehow superior to changing it.

      1. The problem is people lump in the non-discrimination ordinances that have popped up in several places along with gay marriage. Making gay marriage legal provides more options for more people and is a good thing, requiring people to bake cakes for a gay couple or face threat of lawsuit tramples on people’s rights. They’re two separate issues, but opponents of gay marriage harp on the latter to prevent the former.

        1. opponents of gay marriage harp on the latter to prevent the former.

          Or maybe some of us harp on the latter to prevent the latter. Ever think of that?

          Meanwhile proponents harp on the former and deny the latter by mocking anyone who brings it up.

          1. Exactly.

            I have been pushing for over 20+ years for separation of marriage and state.

            Even worse than the gay marriage laws are the no default divorce laws. That was a huge state power grab, by redefining marital contract terms.

            An even bigger power grab was the state licensing marriage at all, of course.

            1. Hey, I’m with you on scrapping secular marriage and allowing people to contract their relationships as they see fit and allow religious communities to define marriage as they see fit. Until that happens, I would prefer to see the government’s definition be as broad in scope as possible.

              Sarcasmic, I don’t doubt that you are against non-discrimination ordinances that force photographers to work gay weddings. I’m absolutely against them myself. When people argue against gay marriage on libertarian grounds, they tend to argue that those ordinances prove that gay marriage is anti-libertarian. I was purely pointing out that those are two separate issues.

              1. I see SSM as two different issues. One is legal protections for couples, and the other is forced acceptance by putting government force behind the definition of a word.
                When I saw the supporters saying that redefining marriage was the only way to achieve equivalent legal protections, and that the only reason to oppose it is bigotry, my bullshit detector went crazy.
                That was when I withdrew my support for SSM, because I cannot ally myself with people who use intellectually dishonest arguments and are disingenuous about their goals.

                1. I think that’s an unfortunate, but understandable response. I’m regularly bothered by the positions that pro-SSM activists take up, but the fact remains that eventually I’ll want to settle down, and there are complexities in the law that mean I cannot effectively order my legal affairs the way a straight couple can. My mother was a staunch opponent of gay marriage until she started doing financial services in a heavily gay community (she’s a conundrum wrapped in riddle), she’s gotten so frustrated with the problems she’s seen that she’s significantly softened her position.

                2. Right, because the anti-SSM people are notoriously intellectually honest, aren’t they?

      2. Only darius has it correct. The government had no business having a hand in the definition of marriage in the first place.

        Everyone else’s biases are showing.

  4. Someone get DiFi to her fainting couch!

    (Really though….Ravel? Please.)

  5. Have they released the 3D printing plans for a drop in auto sear yet?

    1. Those probably need to be made out of steel to function.

    2. Nope, but if you’ve got the CAD drawing of one, I can print you a male mold to make one out of metal.

      1. MIM FTMFW.

    3. Those only fit in the earliest civilian ARs.

  6. How long ’til these guys are rounded up and prosecuted for “substantively” selling unnumbered receivers and being “unlicensed” arms manufacturers?

  7. I’m not trying to rain on their parade. It’s a hell of an achievement, and the only way to go from here is up.

    But this is a lower. Not an upper, and certainly not all the little bits of steel that need to be made to get a functioning rifle. It’s a lot more useful as a way to show how impotent the feds are then as a way to actually make an AR for yourself.

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong though, my understanding of this is that the lower receiver is the only part of the rifle that requires a background check to purchase. The barrel, upper receiver, etc. can be purchased without background checks.

      1. For now, yes. How long do you think that will last if you can print the part they regulate?

        1. How long do you think that will last if you can print the part they regulate?

          Hopefully long enough for me to stock up on barrels, upper receivers, etc.

          1. You should check out their DEFCAD forums. Lots of good ideas on how to start expanding the components which can be 3D-printed.

      2. You’ve got it right. That’s why they’re focusing on lowers right now. The ultimate goal of the project is to make all components (except maybe barrels, firing pins, etc) 3D-printable.

  8. Political ramifications aside, this is the coolest thing I have ever seen. I always worry that I’ll be like 97 and on my death bed right before we come up with like teleportation or consumer cybernetics, so I’m pretty damn psyched that we can now PRINT EFFING GUNS while I’m in my 30s.

    1. Cornell printed an effing ear last week.

      1. The story yesterday on printing meat was fucking incredible. We may live to see the day when you can throw some grey goo into a machine in your kitchen and have it give you Kobe beef or sushi grade tuna.

        1. I seriously doubt it.

          1. I would have too until I read that. These guys seem to be getting pretty damned close.

        2. This would be fucking awesome assuming the grey goo less expensive than buying Kobe beef or tuna.

          1. It would be. Producing inert materials is a lot cheaper than growing a cow.

            1. No bullshit, eh.

              1. Ah, you did something there – and saw it, I did.

      2. Cornell printed an effing ear last week.

        Where does this part go on an AR-15?

  9. But this is a lower.

    The big deal (as you may already know) is that this is what has a serial number, and must be, if purchased, transferred through an FFL. Everything else is available over the counter.

    1. It is also important to note that it is legal to build your own gun. And it only needs a serial number and some other identification marks if it is sold to someone.

      Of course, the kind of gun is as restricted as any commercial gun; you can’t make machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, etc, and this varies by state.

      There are also quantity limits, beyond which they start getting nervous.

      1. and when the BATFEIEIO gets nervous they borrow tanks and helicopter gunships. Or they stomp cats to death. Or shoot naked guys in the head over flea market knickknacks. Or they just bankrupt you and throw you into prison.

      2. Well, it needs a serial number, some other identification marks AND approval from the ATF (Don’t you need an FFL to transfer firearms you’ve made?).

        For personal use and no transfer, it is completely legal to make your own.

  10. I am wondering if a low pressure round could be concocted that can be fired in a rifle made entirely on a 3d printer. It is conceivable to manufacture cartridge cases on this thing as well. Perhaps design one that uses some common object such as ball bearings for projectiles. All you would need then is powder, which can also be made at home.

    I dont know anything about these printers and the medium they work in. What plastic do they use/ can use?

    1. I am wondering if a low pressure round could be concocted that can be fired in a rifle made entirely on a 3d printer.

      This may not be necessary if someone can convert this 3D metal printer for home use. But I suspect the laser used to melt the metal powder used for “printing” doesn’t come cheap.

      1. I looked into this awhile ago. The Nd fiber lasers that they’re using are absurdly expensive (think high five to low six figures). You might be able to do just as well with a high-power (100W+ CW) CO2 laser which hospitals throw away all the time. Or it’s relatively easy to build one. This is probably well beyond the abilities of most people, however.

    2. I got a fix for you.

      Why does 3D printing help the SLS? It turns out that these light-weight plastic components actually handle the stress of a high-speed launch better than some heavier, welded materials.

      Probably not overpressure, but still.

      1. All of this printing (selective laser sintering) is done with metals because of their vastly superior engineering properties. The only reason you get better technical marks from printing rather than machining is that printing can be done in an extremely controlled environment (temperature control, inert gas, etc) and you can produce shapes that you couldn’t do with machining. But you’re starting with materials that have the engineering properties to withstand the abuses you’re talking about.

        Generally, plastics aren’t going to do as well because they simply aren’t as good. They’re brittle, they have low shear modulus, etc. There are a few plastics that might work for such purposes, but they’re generally extremely expensive engineering blends.

    3. At this point you might as well build a pipe rifle or zip gun. Not exactly difficult, especially if you have access to or know how to make ammunition (also not difficult).

  11. Just got a “promotion”. Quote marks because instead of 35 hours a week at this job (I’ve got two plus my independent stuff) I will be working….29 hours a week. I got a raise, but that pretty much leaves me running in place. So I’m working slightly fewer hours, and making slightly less money. Maybe I’ll use that spare day to drive up to DC and assassinate some of these slaver fuckheads.

    1. Wait, wait. FedGov is trying to get away from Obamacare?

      1. I work at a state university. Of course they all love Obamacare, and support the mission of getting everyone health insurance…..just not, you know, their actual employees. In general, they’re big fans of Obamacare. But when it comes down to actually putting people who work more then 30 hours a week on the insurance…well…..that’s really expensive.

        Seriously, if progressives held themselves to their own standards, I wouldn’t hate them so much.

        1. I still would. Holding of everyone else to their standards is the source of my hate.

    2. I know you’re joking about the last part but it’s not funny.

      1. It’s not funny ha ha that’s for sure. Just met with the new boss. I started a couple months ago 30 hrs at dollars an hour. I was told this promotion would be a bump to 40 hours at 9 an hour. Instead I got promoted to 29 hours at 10.50. So I’m going from 270 a week to 300, instead of going from 270 a week to 360.

        Oh, and of course there is no provision to waive my newly minted “right” to health insurance. Which I do not need or want. That extra sixty bucks a week I could find a use for though. We’re at the point now where some nutjob managing to nuke DC would be a good thing.

        1. I fantasized that the meteor that recently flew by earth would hit DC and destroy it. I told someone about that fantasy and they said they had wished the same thing.

          1. The twist? They probably wished it for the exact opposite reason as you.

  12. There is nothing special about stereolithography. It has been around for 30+ years and there have been hardly any new developments in this technology. The current hype is driven by one company (DDD) and we’ve seen this same bubble 10 years ago and again 20 years ago. People love the concept – without realizing the inherent limitations of the technology.

    Have a look at this video from 1989 Good Morning America:

    Here we are, nearly 25 years later, and 3D printers are not much better than back then. And they’re not much cheaper, either.

    PHYSICS is still the reason why you can’t make a gun with your 3D printer. And this isn’t going to change any time in foreseeable future.

    1. You mean, not counting the gun they printed that this article is talking about, right?

    2. Most home 3d printers are not stereolithography machines.

      As far as the AR15 goes, the gas tube, barrel, firing pin, and probably the bolt (if not the entire BCG) would have to be metallic. Also, I’ve heard talk about plastic springs, but I’m dubious. So those are a probable, in the metal-only category, too.

      More realistically, an AK-47 can be made in the average highschool machine shop. Or in caves.

      A single shotgun can be made with a pipe, some strike anywhere matches, and black powder from fireworks.

      However, that’s the bare minimum ? what will never go away. We can only get more capable from here.

  13. Farmers who have a $50,000+ prize bull on their property are the only ones that need an automatic weapon; rustlers often beat the farmer down and sell the bull for thousands. The small home owner needs only a handgun to chase away the youngsters that want his plasma TV and attractive wife.

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