Category Archives: Future Weapons

When is 42 Smaller than 26? When it’s a Glock!

Matt at Jerking the Trigger has an interesting analysis of a Glock teaser:

I went all CSI on the teaser photo and adjusted the brightness and contrast of the image (below). You can see that the entire outline of a pistol is visible and, if it is to scale with the Zippo lighter shown, it would be roughly the size of other compact, polymer frames .380s on the market like the Ruger LCP and S&W Bodyguard.

Here’s Matt’s adjusted image. You could go Read The Whole Thing™ to see the before and after versions, and much more informed specularion (including in the comments).

Glock-G42-Tease-Adjusted

A Glock 42 that’s a .380 would be big news. A Glock that’s a .380-sized 9mm would be even bigger news. “January” is the least surprising time for a new-gun introduction: the 2014 SHOT Show will run from from January 14-17 at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas. In fact, Glock has been letting the community know that the G41 and G42 are coming at the show.

A guy who attended Glock Armorer recert recently posted the following:

I was doing some ordering for the shop this evening, and found that the new models are already in our distributor’s system.

One model will be the Glock 41. SKU numbers are PG4130101 and PG4130103, which indicate adjustable sights, and a low-cap and hi-cap version. The Glock 41 is more expensive than any of Glock’s other pistols to date; based on the wholesale cost I’m seeing, street price will be $779.95 at my shop. Given that, my official guess is that the new Glock Model 41 is going to be an optics-ready, competition-oriented pistol to compete with the S&W M&P CORE and FNH-USA FNX-45 Tactical.

The other model will be the Glock 42. SKU number is UI4250201, which indicates US-made, fixed sights and a low-capacity (10 or less) magazine. Wholesale price on this is only slightly above the Gen3 models, so street price should be $539.95. I think this is a new single stack .380 or 9mm of some sort.

For those of you not retail-savvy. SKU or “stock keeping unit” is the basic unit of inventory in modern retail informatics. It means the item in its box as will be delivered to a retail customer. What this guy has done is parse the Glock SKUs, comparing them to existing models’ numbers.

Downthread in the same discussion, someone has this alleged data pull:

GLOCK UI4250201 GLOCK 42FS 380ACP 3.26″ FS 764503910616 0 $352.00 $399.00

And one retailer already has this up, although without a picture.

GLOCK 41 GEN 4 45ACP 5.3 AS 13RD GLOCK PG4130103  $645.00 $774.99

 

Glock has been hinting at a competition-ready pistol for some time. If they’ve been hinting at a compact carry Glock, we haven’t seen the hints, but the customers have been bellowing their desire for such for many years now.

If the price of $399 retail and ~$350 street is remotely correct, a number of pocket pistol manufacturers just got a jolt of ice water to the heart.

ATF blows up some guns

kaboom3D printed guns. Well, they blow some up, and they try to blow others up. These four films (one is “above the fold,” and three more are visible if you click the “more” button)  are the product, we read with some alarm, of an interagency group led by ATF reacting to the “threat” of 3D weaponry. Few things could be more chilling to future technology that government agents looking to ban or criminalize it. On the other hand, the Powers That Be tried to ban those noisy, stinky motorcars (or impose “common sense measures” like having a guy walking ahead with a red flag) and became technological roadkill; many 3DP adherents, like Cody Wilson, think that the technology simply can’t be banned — it’s too widespread, too distributed, and too useful. We’re more inclined to see this technological development as orthogonal to the law: the law will treat a 3D printed firearm or firearm part no differently than one cast from ingots, milled from a forging, or sawn from bar stock.

ATF’s statement with the videos does not go into any detail, and does not in itself justify either complacency or alarm. The bureau says, verbatim:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) led a multi-agency working group testing the use of 3-D printing technology in the making of firearms. This test focuses on the Liberator design.

The first is made of VisiJet material, which is the stuff that kids’ Invisalign braces are made from. As you might surmise, material capable of providing slow steady pressure to Junior’s jaws is less suited to containing a .380 ACP shell. So, here’s the Kaboom:

The catastrophic failure of the gun is evident. The barrel shatters, with at least one short length of it seeming to share off along what was probably a manufacturing faultline. The burst casing flies up, spinning; the nail-sourced firing pin dances in a cloud of plastic fragments. It is evident that this material is not something you are well advised to load a cartridge into and put in your hand.

The kB! gun is numbered 4 with a I with subscript X. The meaning of these numbers is unknown. The other printed guns in ATF’s released videos were printed of ABS plastic and numbered 2 and 10.

Continue reading

Here’s a Solid Concept: 3D Printed 1911

Solid Concepts of Austin, TX, the company that made this first known 3D printed metal gun, calls it the “1911 DMLS” — the letters stand for Direct Metal Laser Sintering. Here it is put to the test:

3D-Printed-Metal-Gun-Low-Res-Press-Photo-1024x638Most of the gun is made of 17-4 Stainless Steel, but some parts including the hammer, grip safety and mainstring housing are made of Inconel 625, a high-temperature, high-stress alloy commonly used in jet turbine hot section shafts. DMLS can also produce titanium alloy parts, although this technology demonstrator contains none. The grips are composite and were themselves produced by Selective Laser Sintering. Springs and, we believe, fasteners, were the only non-printed parts. All parts were printed to net shape and no printed part required machining (although there was a little hand-fitting and -finishing). The printed parts are visible in the image on the left below.

3D-Printed-Metal-Gun-Components-Disassembled-Low-ResIn Laser Sintering, powdered material is fused or welded into a 3D shape by a computer controlled laser beam. This German-engineered technology is not the province of desktop printing for reasons of power, safety, and cost (“This machine costs more than my college education!” one of Solid Concepts’ well-educated engineers marvels), but costs are expected to come down beginning in 2014 as key patents on the technology expire.

Solid Concepts has a manufacturing FFL but doesn’t intend to join the glutted market for 1911s-with-a-twist. Their remarkable gun is meant to showcase the technology they have mastered and its ability to form fully usable, durable prototype parts. While the firearms industry is an obvious customer, DMLS is already widely used in aerospace and other high-end manufactures. For example, Formula 1 teams jealously guard the technology they use, Racing Engineering magazine reports that every team has used 3D printing for parts in their actual race-day cars. Such early adopters tend to be those entities that can immediately exploit the advantages of a new technology, those for whom a small increase in performance (whether in weight savings, ability to iterate a design, or some other advantage) justifies a large expenditure.

Where Solid Concepts’ additive-manufacturing prowess comes into play is not in series manufacturing, but as a service bureau for would-be gun designers. It’s also extremely useful for anyone working on a firearms accessory or part conceptual design — you can rough it out on your MakerBot or what have you, and then let Solid Concepts produce the durable metal prototype for preliminary testing.

Where Small Arms R&D is going next

It's probably not going to be a disintegrator ray gun. Dang.

It’s probably not going to be a disintegrator ray gun. Dang.

Because the XM248 segment of the story is taking longer than we had hoped, we’re going to go for a practical first down again (an American football analogy, for our overseas readers: we’re going to do something easy, but possible, instead of something extremely difficult). As we’ve been immersed in the surprisingly lively RDT&E world of the 1970s, where weapons systems with roots as far back as WWII and Korea were being uprooted by new technology, we began to wonder, what’s going on today? 

And in the world of small arms, the answer is, surprisingly little. The Army is somewhat satisfied with the weapons that they field now. This is partly because the current suite of weapons is pretty good. It’s also because the Army has other priorities that are higher. Army leaders have said that their problem areas for science and technology are as shown in the slide (source .pdf).

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.30.27 PMYou’ll notice that most of these have no bearing on small arms development. They’re all very serious problems, but with one exception, tinkering with guns isn’t going to solve any of, say, the top ten.

The exception, the place where small arms is going next, is weight reduction. This is nothing new: for 4,000 years infantrymen have bitched about their burden, and for 4,000 years commanders have admitted that the grunts have a point but have done little to alleviate the problem.

There’s a dynamic at work here: when advances reduce the burden, new gear gets stacked on the rifleman (as it did on the fusilier, musketeer, arqebusier, pikeman, or hoplite in days of yore). If the command doesn’t replace the 20 pounds’ respite that science and procurement brought you, the GI himself will, usually with ammunition.

What sort of technology will reduce weapons weight?

The last time it was successfully done, it was done by applying aerospace technology to weapons design. We refer, of course, to the crusade of the original ArmaLite from its Hollywood offices and later Costa Mesa plant, during the long pregnancy of the Space Age in the 1950s. Stoner, Sullivan et. al. drafted a variety of industrial materials and processes for guns that had been little used in the industry before, and never used explicitly for weight reduction as an initial design objective.

It was radical then, but it’s old hat now. The space age technology of 1960 — forged 7075 aluminum alloy and fiberglass, later molded Fiberite® plastic — is now not too exciting. Even the exotic material of 1960, the titanium structure of the secret A-12 spyplane, is now much more widely used. A few things that are likely to see more use in the years ahead:

  • Aluminum-lithium alloys. Used in F-15 wing skins and Airbus 380 skins. May be too light for gun structures without new processes.
  • Aluminum-scandium alloys. These are already showing up in lightweight pistols.
  • Titanium alloys. These have come downmarket — and small arms systems have gotten so expensive — to be within reach. However, Scandium alloys approach Ti alloy strength, and are more easily machined and welded.
  • Carbon-fiber and carbon-carbon structures. These could reduce the weight of stocks by 50%. ATK, which is no stranger to small arms, has achieved 20-40% reductions by redesigning metallic aerospace structures in carbon composites.

There are even more exotic materials on the horizon. Nanomaterials in particular offer benefits that will probably require complete systems redesign to be fully exploited. Indeed, they’ll probably require new basic research in the nanoscale dynamics of the mechanism inside the gun and the projectile inside the barrel.

Materials have the potential to reduce the weight of ammunition as much as weapons. The low-hanging fruit here is polymer cases. They’re hard to do because brass does a lot more than just hold the case together; so far, plastics have failed miserably at providing the gas seal that brass case obturation does. But a polymer case would get 90% of the weight-savings benefit of true caseless ammunition. Caseless, of course, would get 100% of the potential, which is why the idea won’t die, but as everyone who’s tried to make caseless guns (notably H&K) knows, that extra 10% of potential costs you several multiples of 100% of your original effort.

Another way to reduce ammunition weight is simply to ensure that more rounds fired are hits. Future ways to improve this tend to focus on electro-optical systems, but more mechanical accuracy in the service firearm is possible — and desirable.

Finally, new manufacturing technologies make possible manufacturing with a precision previously unimaginable. Additive manufacturing processes enable the design of parts previously unimagined, including parts with blind hollows inside. (It sounds like this would weaken the part, but most loads are carried on or along surfaces).

The bottom line: we’ll see a weapon again as light as the 6.6 lb. (3 KG) M16A1. But it will have much greater capabilities.

Dueling M25 / XM25 Stories

XM25-in-actionTwo different stories were making the rounds about the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement system — AKA the 25mm smart grenade launcher — recently. One says it’s cancelled and the other says it’s about to be generally fielded: about as  far apart as two tales can get.

Story 1: it has been canc’d due to a February accident.

This is partially true. There was a mishap in which there was a double feed and that caused a primer initiation with the gun out of battery. The soldier was injured, gun destroyed. The Army pulled them all back from theater in early March and sent them back to the manufacturer, ATK (H&K and L3/IOS Brashear have also taken part in system development). The reason for doing this this was: an accident like that was supposed to be impossible, therefore they need to inspect all fielded XM25s. There were, if we recall correctly, three double feed incidents but in only this one was the GI injured (not very seriously), and in one previous one the primer and propellant fired out of battery, destroying the gun with no injuries to the GI. The February mishap happened on a training range in Afghanistan.

XM25

XM25

Prior to the accident, the gun was popular with the troops that carried it. It was hard to point to a specific combat success or even identify a single Talib whacked by it, but its capabilities have been used for suppression and to permit small patrols to break contact and continue mission. The guy who carries the XM25 carries it as his main weapon, giving up his carbine for the exotic ability to put airbursts on defiladed targets in direct fire more rapidly and precisely than mortars can.

This led to the Senate Armed Services Committee, controlled by anti-military liberals, to zero out the gun’s future budgets in a vote which made a big splash of news in June. Here’s the press release from Carl Levin, the thoroughly anti-soldier committee chair, about the wonders of this committee mark-up. And here’s what he says about the XM25, which he calls a “troubled or unnecessary program,” in it.

Cuts $69.1 million in procurement for the XM25, Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) due to system unreliability and an Army decision to reconsider other weapons available to meet its requirement for a grenade launcher system that can fire programmable air burst munitions.

Frank Gaffney saw Levin’s intentions in 2009:

The anti-military chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, has gleefully announced that he intends to strip funds for weapon systems from the budget. Likely consequence: the armed services will be unable either properly to “reset” the equipment and capabilities that have been used so intensively over the past seven years or be prepared for the next conflict. History teaches that such a posture invites foreign aggression and costs far more than is saved through short-term and short-sighted cuts.

Well, Levin is who he has always been. Can’t change that. And our democratic processes have put him in the driver’s seat on the Senate side of the military budget. So expect things to be cancelled and money to be redirected to redistributive activities. Can’t change that, either.

But this cancellation is not all that it appears. Note that, due to the snags attendant to the mishap and its investigation and any required design remediation, production in FY 14 wasn’t going to happen anyway. So this is a kind of typical Washington sham cut. Funding for RDT&E is still in place.

Thanks to Levin’s cut, there have been numerous news stories in the general and trade press — some of them just this month — declaring the gun dead. (We’re told one was in the dead-tree Aviation Week, but we can’t find it online. But the budget is far from finished, the Senate is only one house of a bicameral legislature, and who knows what strange chaos will come out of the inevitable conference committee. After all, it’s not like any of these guys are any good at budgeting.

Story 2: It’s about to go to general issue.

Now recently, the story has burbled up that the XM25′s type classification and general production and fielding was imminent. Like the above story, it’s partially true. Here’s an example of this story at The Firearm Blog, which was a snippet of a much more comprehensive article at SOFREP. And here’s a similar one at Defense Tech, and one at Military.com.

All of those stories (and a number of their clones) are rewrites of an Army press release from 9 Aug 13, that the original writers did not link to for whatever reason. (TFB actually excerpted and linked the SOFREP article, which seems to have gotten the PR through the military.com rewrite, but added lots of SOFREP’s own content). Here is the Army release so you can read it yourself, rather than us too rewriting and inadvertently transmogrifying it somehow.

Our take on it is a little different than these other respected journalists and bloggers, after going back to the Army release.

The Army said something rather different from “imminent”. They said that a year from now they may be able to go to LRIP and produce 1,100 of these things and field them to infantry and SOF. The combat units would not have them until 2015. The Army press release was 9th August, and is clearly the source for the Military.com and Defense Tech posts (they both use the quotes and attributions in the release).

So what we have here, with the best intentions, is a kind of journalistic game of Telephone with the message getting distorted a little as it’s passed along.

Low Rate Initial Production is essentially a production shakedown phase. Right now, the XM25s have been built by hand, and each very short run of prototypes has been different than the one before as both the gun and ammo makers & system integrators, ATK, and the electro-optic system makers, L3, respond to troop surveys and comments, and react to incidents, deficiencies, and maintenance difficulties. It’s one thing to make a gun in the lab, something else to make something your techs can take to the flat range and shoot, and then it’s a whole new world of hard to make something you can issue to your median Army rifleman. (Especially if your intent is to issue it to the next 11B when this one turns it in).

XM25 at a technology display.

XM25 at a technology display.

As you might imagine, being gun guys, something crafted individually by hand is crazily more expensive than something built in series production, even if the whole process is distorted by the cost-plus inflation escalators built into defense procurement regulations. So one reason the Army wants to move this along towards production is to make it “affordable”: which in this case means $35k for a gun and $55 per round. The current costs are more like mid six figures per gun and four figures per round, but then, there have never been more than a dozen or so of these hand-crafted prototypes in the field so far.

So for several reasons, LRIP is a big step up from hand-crafted prototype guns and craft-brewed ammo. At that point, you know the GI isn’t going to break it by looking at it, you’ve got the identified failure modes out of it, and you have a design that’s stable enough you can commit to producing hundreds or a thousand of. They’re not saying they’re at this point now, but they say they expect to be at this point in a year, in August 2014, which means the LRIP will happen mostly in the 2015 budget (which kicks off 1 Oct 2014). The budget the Senate is grandstanding over is the 2014 budget, which runs from 1 Oct 2013 to 30 Sep 2014.

The Army brass sniffs a little at the soldiers’ nickname for the gun: the Punisher. So who’s out of touch here, the guys who carry the thing and hope to punish the enemy with it, or the deskbound officers that fret that “punish” connotes images too atavistic for “staffs, distinguished and doddering generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their general’s bowel movements or their colonel’s piles….”

One more thing…

We would call attention to one more thing that has not been highlighted in the other stories: the XM25 is back in action in Afghanistan, with the Army reporting five guns in the field.

 

Liberator Down Under

Australian Police printed Liberator.

Australian Police printed Liberator. NSW Police via the SMH.

In this case, though, it’s not legal. Unlike the US, where anyone with the tools and skills can legally build a gun for personal use without infringing the law, things bees diffren’ in Oz:

“It is an offence to make, an offence to possess and an offence to use,” [New South Wales state Police Commissioner Andrew Scipone] said.

“Everyone is really concerned this weapon is undetectable. One has been smuggled on the Eurostar train in Europe and there is now a major security review,” he said.

Well, what are you going to do about it? You can’t stop the signal, but it sounds like the Bronze are going to try. One thing they are going to do, is disparage printable guns:

“Make no mistake they will kill at both ends,” Mr Scipione said.

Back to the drawing board? Or at least, to the options menu of the printer.

Back to the drawing board? Or at least, to the options menu of the printer. NSW Police again.

That’s because their test model blew up when fired. As have, to be sure, a number of US-printed guns, although usually the only loss is the barrel and the remainder of the gun still works with a new barrel.

What they may not have noticed, or may have noticed but not wanted to tell the Sydney Morning Herald, is that the international 3DP community is developing things at a rapid rate, rendering objections like this moot. The only people tinkering with this now are early adopters, techies, and fiddlers.

We couldn’t get this video (from which the photos are drawn) to embed, or to run in some browsers, but it’s at this link (and we got it to run in Chrome).

http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2k5c3

3D Printed Gun: Mashable Mini-Documentary

Recently we’ve been featuring occasional prints of the Liberator (and will also have other 3D printed guns soon-ish). One of the Liberators we showed you was printed on the 3D Systems Cube in blue plastic. We didn’t name the guy who did it, but he’s Travis Lerol. The website Mashable did a nice mini-documentary in which they interview the media-happy Cody Wilson, and accompany Lerol to the first attempted live fire of his Liberator. Travis, an Air Force vet, comes across as an engaging geek (along with the Liberator and several AR-15 lower iterations, he’s printed a scale-model TARDIS, from the übergeek TV series Doctor Who).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=Spm_zrjedzk

“There’s definitely a learning curve with it,” Travis says, as a crew captures the poor welcome he gets from the range crew, and the troubles he has with his printed gun (no further spoilers; watch the well-done video).

The producer and interviewers from Mashable seem to have taken themselves out of the picture to a greater extent than other sites do when they give Defense Distributed and its earthly works the ZOMG GUNZ!!11!!!1!!! treatment. (We’re lookin’ at you, Wired). To some extent that’s an illusion: of course the director made his mark on what we see, we only see what he shows up. But this definitely gives Cody and Travis a chance to tell their own tales in their own words.

Another printer experimenter built a 3/4 scale Liberator on a Solidoodle SD2, but due to scaling (and other) issues and problems, it’s non-fireable. The SD2 is a low-cost, entry-level printer that has a reputation as a bit fiddly.

Designers in “real” gun companies have had 3D printing for 10+ years, but they’ve used it for rapid prototyping. Neither most professional engineers nor the makers of the technology could (or can) really see where it’s going. Today’s 3D printer is about where 1986′s LaserWriter and 300-baud modem were. None of the visionaries then, Jobs and Gates and Sculley and those guys, nor the pundits, most of whom are forgotten now, could have seen where that first ozone-stinking 300 dpi black-and-white gadget and the little box that made funny noises on the phone line would take us. Entire business models have been born and died in the intervening decades, and other business models that have endured for centuries (think newspapers) are flailing.

While the incumbents in various positions of power try to stamp out Defense Distributed, and prop up various big firms with business models that have been erased by the disintermediating effect of the internet, the internet teems with ever more releases of novel gun components. From the point of view of the State Department’s “Department of Defense Trade Controls,” this is villainy that must be crushed. But they’ve just bought themselves a game of perpetual transnational whack-a-mole, and this will go as well as attempts to stamp out software piracy, music bootlegging, drugs and poverty have gone. Or as well as the classic example of all time: the Volstead Act.

As we say, the market always equilibrates. Or as a fictional character once said, “You can’t stop the signal.”

Liberator-tje – Neutered Netherlands Liberator

Netherlands-capgun-Liberator-tjeThe Dutchman behind this project, Dave Borghuis, wants us to know he’s not a wacko bird like those “scary and crazy” US-ians.

I am not a gun nut, i find it scary things and crazy how the USA handle the gun laws.
Check your own local laws BEFORE printing any part of the Liberator-tje.

Just to make it clear that he’s an enlightened European from a nation that stood against the Nazi menace for over half a week (four days from invasion to capitulation in May 1940, followed instantly by more collaboration than resistance), he makes it clear that his Liberator is an enlightened, European, non-combatant Liberator.

In the Netherlands any gun is strictly forbidden unless you have a licence. To prevent any problems with dutch law I (zeno4ever/Dave Borghuis) modified the files so its impossible to shoot any bullet with the printed gun. I checked this with someone that has some insight in Dutch law regarding gun laws and the modifications I made should make it legal to print the gun in Netherlands. Be sure to check your own local laws if you want to print this Liberator-tje.

via Liberator-tje – TkkrLab.

Netherlands-capgun-Liberator-on-printerIn fact, his version is a cap gun. (That’s what the little ring in the top photo is — toy-gun caps, Euro style). But we’re probably being too hard on Dave. As he says elsewhere, he’s not interested in guns, he’s interested in printing 3D objects, and so he should be welcomed as another part and branch of the revolution. He did, indeed, print a locally adapted Liberator, even if it is a gelding, and he promises to make his revised (spayed and neutered) files available to the public, probably on his blog given the fact that the State Department has sent its Panzers to occupy DefCad for the time being. (Interesting if nonpertinent factoid: SecState John F. Kerry is, like the last Panzer-emitter, of Austrian descent).

After all, the Dutch may not have materially slowed the entire German war machine down, but one individual Dutchman fired a shot that took German paratroop general Kurt Student off the board for some very critical months of the war. A small nation in a tough continent has to live within the bounds of possibility.

Dave is also the first one we know of to have printed the Liberator on his particular machine, the common (well, to the extent any 3DP is common) RepRap Prusa i3. True, his is a cap gun, but it’s — you’ve been hearing these words from us a lot — a proof of concept.

Dave also made (we think; please correct us if we’re mistaken) this excellent animation of Liberator assembly. So we’re grateful for that, even if he thinks we’re “roondweg idioot” over here, which you can probably figure out even if you can’t grok Nederlands.

We’re also grateful to Dave for pointing us to this classically hand-wringing article by Cory Doctorow in the Grauniad. Doctorow argues that because Guns are Bad we need to find a way to ban 3D printing of them without, you know, banning 3D printing. It’s typical Doctorow, a tech lover losing out to his inner fascist, and as good an explanation as any as to why we haven’t been back to his site in about four years.

In the home-manufacture revolution, it’s From Each According to his Ability, and To Each According   to his Liberties.

A Formation of Liberators

It seems like the verdict is in State Department’s attempt to do to DEFCAD what the DOJ is doing to the Associated (with terrorists!) Press and the IRS is doing to just about anybody who voices a word of criticism. And, while the East German judge gave the tactic an inexplicable 9, the Free World judges have some other things to say about USG’s attempt to stamp out 3D printing of gun parts.

Let’s start with a Liberator rendered on an older 3D Systems Cube, which is kind of like the Easy-Bake Oven of 3D printers.

 

Liberator printed on a 3D Systems Cube.

Liberator printed on a 3D Systems Cube.

Liberator rendered on a Printrbot [stet].

Liberator rendered on a Printrbot [stet]. Click any of the pictures to embiggen ‘em.

Then we’ll have a look at the way one comes out from a Printrbot. The Printrbot is even less expensive that the Cube, and doesn’t need high-$ proprietary feedstock, but it’s more complicated to set up. You can buy it as a complete printer or a kit, and there’s even a portable, battery-powered version.  The smallest and simplest Printerbot kit (which you couldn’t build a Liberator on) sells for only $300.

Then, there’s the Lulzbot from Aleph Electronics. (Lulzbot? Who names these things, quasi-literate third graders?) The guy doing the Lib on the Lulzbot did his in a bright red plastic — perhaps for the Lulz. There are a number of different Lulzbots available, including some pretty high-end hardware for a hobby printer.

lulzliberator3

Liberator as rendered by a Lulzbot.

These “guns” were all in addition to the ones that Defense Distributed rendered on Stratays printers (over Stratasys’s objections and attempts to impeded and thwart their users), and in addition to the one rendered by some contractor for the chumps at the Daily Mail. (It’s a steady job, but they wanna be…). And these are only the ones already posted to the DEFCAD forums. There are more who are just making, and testing, but not boasting.

Before you do this thing, you need to familiarize yourself with the laws as well as the technology.  (Technology, unlike the law, tends to get more user-friendly over time; so procrastination is your friend on the tech side. Law side, not so much).

Your gun needs to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act (which means it needs to have 3.7 oz. metal in it) and it needs to be a Title I firearm, not a Title II weapon. If there is no rifling in the barrel, a handgun is a Title II Any Other Weapon (zip gun) and is subject to the National Firearms Act of 1934 — which requires you to get a license and a tax stamp before hitting “print” on your WhateverBot. The license requires, among other things, your fingerprints and the papal blessing of your local chief of police or sheriff; the tax stamp sets you back $200.

Some taxes are not really about raising money. (Economists call them Pigovian taxes, from one of their drear cohort who described them long ago, one Pigou).

lulzliberator1About the technology: there are limits to the stress-bearing ability of printed plastics, and it’s considerably less than the same plastics, injection-molded (at least 20% less, for ABS). This is because the plastic is deposited in layers and is not homogeneous like injection-molded ABS would be. See, for example, the Liberator receiver close-up on the right (you can click to embiggen). You can see the layers (if you’re an engineer, you can see the stress risers!)

By the way: don’t tell Chuck Schumer or Steve Israel, but you can bypass most of the problems with a printed gun by printing it to common PLA plastic and then using the PLA part as a pattern for a mold. Add a couple of wax sprues and risers and embed the whole megillah in a plaster-sand mixture. You then melt the PLA out, and cast metal in. (Same as a jeweler’s lost-wax process, but on a necessarily larger scale). One of the real applications for these printers is in printing casting patterns (indeed, some are optimized to print wax — for just this reason).

Breaking: 3D printed pistol works, files downloadable

It’s done. And tested. The first publicly available 3D-printed firearm. The two parts not printed are the firing pin (a roofing nail) and the grip screw. (A standard AR part. You can also substitute an AR grip for the printable grip). Here are the pieces:

liberator_1

 

And here is the video of a successful test-firing with a single .380 ACP round.

Note the following:

  1. There is risk here. ABS plastic in its various permutations is not an optimal gun barrel material. While the .380 version fired successfully in both tethered and human-fired (in the video) tests, there have been several breakages, and a 5.7×28 FN version blew itself up, with no injury reported. Build this, lanyard-test it. And we’d recommend lanyard-testing Job One to destruction, so that you can set a retire-by round count. 
  2. There is another kind of risk here, too. Cody Wilson’s prototype at Defense Distributed was made by a licensed manufacturer, and incorporated a metallic block for compliance with the Undetectable Firearms Act. As a smoothbore weapon in pistol size, this design risks classification as an Any Other Weapon (a legal term of art) under the National Firearms Act. Every NFA violation is a 10-year felony, and the BATFE prefers to pursue backyard tinkerers than organized criminal syndicates… when they’re not actually arming the criminals.
  3. The process of 3D printing (just like any other kind of manufacturing) has a learning curve. You can expect to have teething problems, issues, and yes, print failures.
  4. Expect the usual suspects to panic (they were already panicking over youth rifles; this should send them right over the top). But it’s pure information they’re trying to fight here. They can’t stop the signal. They’ll still try, but it’s a forlorn hope.

Here’s the DEFCAD release on “the Liberator.”

Here’s the download link (it will redirect to MEGA formerly MEGAupload — another thumb in the establishment’s eye).

Here’s the link that will let you download the whole collection of DEFCAD data. (Important note: at this writing, the current version, 4.2 “Saito,” has everything but the Liberator pistol files). It will go to MEGA and may only work with Chrome browser.

We recommend you take this freely available data and distribute it widely.

CWCID: Ars Technica.

You do realize we have just seen history made, right?

Update 1920R: here’s a story at geek.com with some more details.