Coming Soon: 3D-Printed Handgun

April 24th, 2013

Cody Wilson is pushing forward with the technology to enable printing a firearm at home.

Yesterday, the controversial founder and director of Defense Distributed, a non-profit that he launched to explore the possibility of manufacturing weapons with 3D printers, was in Manhattan to talk at the Inside 3D Printing Conference. After a panel on how copyright affects the 3D printing industry, he confirmed to Mashablewhat he had already hinted at before: that what was once unthinkable — a gun entirely made of 3D-printed parts — is actually right around the corner.

Will it work? Wilson thinks it will, and it won’t be just a one-shot wonder it will be able to fire a few shots before melting or breaking.

Wilson didn’t want to reveal too much about what could become the world’s first fully 3D-printed gun, saying he will make the actual announcement soon. He did reveal some details, however.

The gun will be made of 12 parts, all printed in ABS+, a very sturdy type of thermoplastic. There might be, perhaps, just one small metal part — a firing pin. While Wilson and his team are still designing the weapon, it won’t be a reproduction of an existing firearm, but instead a custom design.

Defense Distributed has been working on this project — dubbed Wiki Weapon — since last summer, but the group initially focused on printing specific gun parts, like lower receivers and magazines. But in the last two months they have moved away from that to go after the bigger prize: printing an entire gun.

If Defense Distributed is really able to print an entire working handgun, the group will be one step closer to reaching its lofty goal of giving every citizen of the world “near-instant access to a firearm through the Internet.” If they do, everybody will then have a chance to print their own gun, in their own bedroom — with just a 3D printer and a blueprint downloaded fromDefcad, Defense Distributed’s search engine and repository for 3D-printable weapons’ designs.

One interesting element of the debate is how others in the 3D printing community are approaching it. By and large, they don’t like guns. That is a given. But they oppose government intervention, as this type of DRM could cripple 3D printing more broadly.

“It’s a very frightening prospect,” said Brian Quan, president of X-Object, a Brooklyn-based startups that distributes consumer 3D printers made by Delta Micro Factory Corporation. “I’m against the idea that someone could stealthily have a weapon that could kill somebody without even being traced.”

At the same time, though, Quan doesn’t think the government should step in. He’s more in favor of an industry self-imposed regulation, perhaps using DRM-style access control technologies, which are used to limit the copy of DVDs.

I am working on an article about the 2nd Amendment and 3D printing. I should have something ready over the summer.