UK Government Announces Raid on 3D-Printed Gun Factory, Uses Parts of the Printer as Evidence


The way the story of an illicit British 3D-printed gun factory played out, and fell apart, told well at the Giagaom site:

Police in the UK city of Manchester have seized a 3D printer and what they have alleged to be 3D-printed gun parts, during a raid on alleged criminal gangs. However, as an eagle-eyed reader has noted, the parts shown off by police are actually spare parts for a 3D printer….


The UK has banned private handgun ownership since the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, so the approach there seems to be more crackdown than curiosity. Greater Manchester Police said on Friday that, the previous day, they had carried out a series of raids in the city. One of those operations turned up a 3D printer that they reckon cost around £1,200 ($1,950), together with what they said they suspected to be a "3D plastic magazine" and a "trigger."

The magazine seems to be part of a filament spool holder and the trigger part of adrive block:

The police said they are now examining the components to see if they can really be put together to make a "genuine device"….In case you're wondering, the street price of a real gun in Manchester is around £100.

According to a statement by Detective Inspector Chris Mossop:

"If what we have seized is proven to be viable components capable of constructing a genuine firearm, then it demonstrates that organised crime groups are acquiring technology that can be bought on the high street to produce the next generation of weapons.

"In theory, the technology essentially allows offenders to produce their own guns in the privacy of their own home, which they can then supply to the criminal gangs who are causing such misery in our communities. Because they are also plastic and can avoid X-ray detection, it makes them easy to conceal and smuggle….

second statement, released after it became clear the parts weren't for guns, took the affair firmly into the realm of farce. After initially stressing that the Greater Manchester Police could not categorically say these were gun parts (the first statement was entitled "Component parts for UK's first 3D gun seized"), Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood continued:

"Clearly the fact we have seized a 3D printer and have intelligence about the possible production of a weapon using this technology is of concern. It prudent we establish exactly what these parts can be used for and whether they pose any threat.

"What this has also done is open up a wider debate about the emerging threat these next generation of weapons might pose…

Some of the more hysterical initial reporting from Guardian and Sky News that took the initial police reports seriously, sent to me by my buddy and 3D printing-as-art-historical-preservation guru Cosmo Wenman, have already been taken down.

Cody Wilson, the apostle of 3D weapon printing and the subject of a profile feature by me in the December issue of Reason (subscribe now!) in an interview with Sky Net was quoted as saying:

I think countries like the UK…where your culture is schizophrenic, scared of itself, post-heroic and is unwilling to deal with the idea that people will have guns again—somehow like it's a feature of

I think that's absurd and I can show you that's disappearing.

I'm saying that your future will have these as a feature irrevocably from now to eternity and this is something that's bleeding into the present.

Wilson had a lot to say when I interviewed him for the Reason feature on the media and government's very real role as essentially the terrorists in this 3D-printed weapon debate.

Through events and reporting like this, and like breathlessly sending reporters on trains with plastic weapon parts, they are trying to create terror in the part of the citizens over a newly available technological opportunity. It's funny to watch, in its way.