How Legitimate and Game-Changing are 3D Printed Guns?

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3D Printed Guns are Newsworthy but Are They Viable?

This is a guest post by Brian Prowse, whose bio is at the end of the article.

In a recent article online, Jeremy A. Kaplan wrote the following for Fox News, “While early models based on firearms designer Cody Wilson’s plans backfired or fired only once before breaking, the latest test appears to prove that homemade plastic guns are viable — and that the Internet may have dramatically changed how we look at regulating the trade in arms.”

Mr. Kaplan was writing about the recent controversial subculture of 3D printed firearms, and Cody Wilson, founder of a non-profit called Defense Distributed, is a central figure in that 3D printed gun controversy. Wilson’s Defense Distributed is a hyper-libertarian, “crypto-anarchist” organization committed to the distribution of open source firearm and firearm-mechanism plans, mainly plans that allow for the 3D printing of guns.

Cody Wilson Wiki Weapon 3D Printing

Like any other controversy, the 3D printed firearms debate has gone through periods of waxing and waning. Its water-cooler buzz peaked shortly after Cody Wilson produced public plans for the lower receiver of an AR-15 assault rifle- one of the AR-15’s most important and more-regulated segments- and for higher-capacity magazines. Wilson did so in response to the national consideration of assault rifle (and magazine capacity) bans or restrictions which followed the Sandy Hook school shooting.

That controversy waned, however, when virtually every one of the 3D printed weapons either exploded or failed during or after the first shot. In fact, a video (below) by Defense Distributed shows Wilson firing his ostentatiously-named Liberator once and turning dramatically toward the camera as likewise dramatic music swells. However, he only fired the Liberator once because small parts inside the printed pistol had been destroyed by the shot.

The crux of the Fox News story involved a Canadian man, identified only as “Matthew”, who purportedly fired fourteen .22 bullets through the 3D printed rifle he named “The Grizzly 2.0”. So, if the video (below) of Matthew firing The Grizzly 2.0 fourteen times is legitimate, and there’s no reason to believe it isn’t, has that “dramatically changed” the nature of the American arms trade?

As compelling as the story is that anyone can make guns at home, the 3D printed gun phenomenon won’t dramatically change the greater gun dynamic, for the moment at least.

For starters, it’s not so clear that the Grizzly 2.0 test does prove that plastic guns are “viable”.

It is no mean feat for most people to find a 3D printer and download the Defense Distributed gun design, and moreover, 3D printing the gun components is both time consuming and costly. With those components, building the gun presents its own challenges.

Keep in mind that it’s been months since 3D firearm plans were produced and released to the public. Since then, virtually all of the guns produced, even by those who specialize in their production, have been fragile or faulty enough that a rifle firing 14 shots of the lowest commonly available bullet-caliber has made news.

That’s not necessarily the fault of the 3D printers nor the 3D printer user. The fact is that fortified metal alloys is simply better suited for the stress of exploding bullets than plastic is. Gunsmiths, both licensed and illicit, have known this for years. That’s why the illicit gunsmiths who have produced hand-made guns, often called “zip guns”, virtually always did so with sturdier materials than plastic.

3D printed gun zip gun

I mention the production of zip guns because there is absolutely nothing new or revolutionary about people building their own firearms. In fact, it’s still a thriving underground industry. So as it stands, the 3D printed gun and gun-part printing subculture will likely have little effect on the national firearm landscape.

With the easy access most Americans have to guns, the money, trouble and time dedicated to the production of a 3D printed firearm could be spent on simply buying a gun that’s tremendously more reliable.


About the author: Brian Prowse is a writer and self-proclaimed tech geek. When he’s not blogging for tech sites like, tinkering around with graphic design or traveling, Brian enjoys selflessly sacrificing his time to play with the coolest new gadgets on the market.


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2 Responses to How Legitimate and Game-Changing are 3D Printed Guns?

  1. […] How Legitimate and Game-Changing are 3D Printed Guns? Me gusta leer al respecto, aunque aquí falte considerar que "descargar e imprimir" lo cambian todo de alguna forma. […]

  2. […] able to access 3D printers has already caused controversy in the US following the announcement of printable handgun blueprints online. The handgun, which would have been made from plastic if successfully produced in this way, could […]

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