Civil Liberties

That 3D-Printed Handgun You've Been Waiting For Is Here


3D printed handgun
Michael Thad Carter for Forbes

Remember when Defense Distributed's Cody Wilson promised to unveil an entirely 3D-printed handgun made of ABS plastic with the firing pin its only metal part? Well, he's apparently done it. Forbes's Andy Greenberg was given a sneak peek of the result, and it looks and appears to be quite an achievement. If all goes well, the plans will be unveiled at next week.

Writes Greenberg:

Eight months ago, Cody Wilson set out to create the world's first entirely 3D-printable handgun.

Now he has.

Early next week, Wilson, a 25-year University of Texas law student and founder of the non-profit group Defense Distributed, plans to release the 3D-printable CAD files for a gun he calls "the Liberator," pictured in its initial form above. He's agreed to let me document the process of the gun's creation, so long as I don't publish details of its mechanics or its testing until it's been proven to work reliably and the file has been uploaded to Defense Distributed's online collection of printable gun blueprints at

All sixteen pieces of the Liberator prototype were printed in ABS plastic with a Dimension SST printer from 3D printing company Stratasys, with the exception of a single nail that's used as a firing pin. The gun is designed to fire standard handgun rounds, using interchangeable barrels for different calibers of ammunition.

Some people have asked why you would bother to print a gun like this when you can purchase a stronger, more durable gun made from traditional materials. The answer should be obvious: This is an exercise in political theater, to demonstrate that technology is empowering individuals by stripping governments of the ability to enforce restrictions. Yes, you can make guns in a host of ways, including the similarly advanced technology of CNC machines. But 3D printing is a hot and increasingly accessible technology that has been specifically called out by the president. To use it to so easily defeat restrictions (or outright prohibitions) is to demonstrate the limits of the coercive power of the state.

Update: Rep. Steve Israel proposes an impotent ban on plastic homemade guns and ammunition magazines.