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rickyh7 t1_ivpzk1r wrote

Okay so I’m a senior level engineer in aerospace, an expert 3d printer with a decade of experience, and have been working with and around firearms for nearly 20 years so I’m poised to talk about this. Furthermore I also have a black belt in martial arts so weapons defense and use is something I am also very experienced with.

Long story short, yes you can 3d print a very inaccurate firearm that will shoot once before it destroys itself. Not much more effective than a knife to be frank. At least a knife works more than once.

The other Avenue is the infamous ‘ghost gun’. As it stands in the United States (and much of the rest of the world as I understand it) the lower receiver (holds the trigger and is basically the handle and the frame of the weapon) is the only piece that needs to be serialized and tracked. It is possible to 3d print a lower receiver and have it work. This often requires a specialized or at least very well tuned machine though. It’s easier to make a pistol lower than a rifle as well. The amount of G’s a rifle imparts on the weapon system is immense. On a rifle it will not work for long unless it’s printed out of a material like glass or CF nylon. (Again back to expensive specialized machine). The interesting thing here is all the rest of the firearm pieces can’t be printed ESPECIALLY the barrel. The barrel is an extremely precise marvel of engineering that is hardened to obscene levels and machined to ridiculous tolerances. Plastic will blow up, and even if you have access to a metal printer good luck getting the tolerances acceptable to not cause a host of other issues including but not limited to blowing the weapon up in your hand.

This is mostly a fools errand being pursued by people who have little to know engineering knowledge, 3d printing knowledge, and especially firearms knowledge. At the point someone is 3d printing a firearm that actually works well, they have sank thousands of dollars into the project, and have incredible engineering skills. So much so that they are likely skilled enough to make a metal one on cheap desktop CNC machine. Or buy an ‘80% lower’ which just needs a drill and some patience to turn into a ‘ghost gun’. Or go to the coke dealer on the corner of the bad part of town and buy a firearm with the serial number sanded off.

Anyway if you have questions feel free to ask and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability. But key takeaway, this isn’t nearly as big of an issue as people think


SouthEasternGuy t1_ivsjh8b wrote

r/fosscad makes fully working rifles and pistols all the time from PLA and PLA+ that last for thousands upon thousands of rounds lmao

You don’t need a specialized machine either, most people using DEFCAD files own Creality Ender 3s. Used ones can be found for like 100 dollars. With how common auto bed leveling is, the only tuning really needed is temp, bed, adhesion, and dragging and dropping the files into cura or prusaslicer.

Additionally, when you manufacture a normal gun in the US, you do not need to serialize or register it UNLESS you plan to distribute/sell/transfer ownership to another person and that act requires a manufacturer’s license.

If you want to see how simple and easy it actually is, get into the 3D printing firearms groups or just watch Print Shoot Repeat on YouTube. He makes tons of guns constantly this way.

And for reference, this is all legal in the US because otherwise, 12 gauge pipes would become illegal. Personal use firearms are 100% legal to make, following NFA laws ofc.

For someone who claims to be qualified about this topic, the readily available info out there seems to elude you…

EDIT: Print Shoot Repeat just released a video saying YouTube is forcing him to take down all his 3D printer gun videos lmao fosscad is still a good resource for seeing what can be done, though


rickyh7 t1_ivthmpe wrote

Cool community. New member. Yep I’m well aware it’s completely legal in the US for the most part (there are a handful of states where it’s illegal so be careful) perusing this community I see 2 things that go against your claims. Not very many people specify the type of plastic, PLA and PLA+ won’t last for very long, definitely not thousands and thousands of rounds (most barrels are only rated for 10,000-20,000 rounds anyway, there’s a mill-std that military weapon accessories like scopes only need to be certified to 50,000 rounds which isn’t a lot for a machine gun, civilian standards were even lower). Happy to be wrong but I see no one claiming survivability of thousands of rounds. It’s very tough to tell what plastic is in pictures with only a few exceptions but I expect much of that is PETG. Also looking at the raw print quality I’m certain some of them are from something like an ender but a basic ender doesn’t print nice enough to just work. Those printers are going to be well upgraded and the raw prints carefully cleaned and sanded after. (Again I said specialized like the guy who did an SLS nylon ar lower in the last few days on that Reddit, or well tuned which is still not a trivial task). Basically what I’m saying in my original comment is it’s not buy printer download gun go shoot things. Without a good understanding of printers AND guns you ain’t making something effective which is why I say it’s a fools errand because if you possess both those things AND mal intent, you’re smart enough and resourceful enough to go do something else besides print a gun and use it. I found some data to back this up too claiming 44 3d printed weapon crimes in 2022 (check one of the other comments for the source). Seems governments are waisting a lot of resources on targeting dangerous 3d printers when truthfully this isn’t actually a widespread problem like so many articles are claiming


The_Dirty_Carl t1_iw03p7j wrote

>Not very many people specify the type of plastic, PLA and PLA+ won’t last for very long, definitely not thousands and thousands of rounds

They're using PLA+. PETG is a bad idea for a firearm, as I'm sure you know since this you say this is your area of expertise.

Lot of people have thousands of rounds through their printed firearms. Not just .22LR either. Google the Amigo Grande, a .308 rifle. Will they last as long as steel or aluminum? Nah. But they're well beyond where you think they are.

>Those printers are going to be well upgraded and the raw prints carefully cleaned and sanded after. (Again I said specialized like the guy who did an SLS nylon ar lower in the last few days on that Reddit, or well tuned which is still not a trivial task).

There's some sanding involved of course, but lots of people are using completely stock Ender 3's. There are people who go benchy -> glock frame.

>Basically what I’m saying in my original comment is it’s not buy printer download gun go shoot things.

It pretty much is though, and the barrier to entry is dropping week by week.


C0rvex t1_ivqpdfb wrote

You don't need a very specialized printer for CF/Glass nylon. An ender 3 ($100-200) with an all-metal hotend ($25) and a hardened nozzle ($10) will print nylons just fine. Now if you want continous strand stuff like markforge it'll cost you $5-10k, but you're only getting a slight increase in strength from that.


rickyh7 t1_ivqpwdv wrote

Print them sure, print them with enough accuracy to actually work with a firearm no. Enough sanding might get the job done but it won’t work reliably for long if at all

Edit: little more explanation, the holes and alignments need to be just right for the trigger group and the slide rails are the hardest parts. They’re fairly small but need to be very smooth and induce very little friction (for a pistol) on a rifle it’s a little different since the moving parts are in the upper sans the trigger group. Even then the threads have to come out pretty darn nice for the buffer tube and accuracy on the mag well especially where the hammer goes is really important. Can it be done? Sure, are you going to have to be a pretty darn good understanding of mechanics to get it done? Absolutely. Now we’re back to someone who has the skill to 3d print a weapon with the current state of technology probably has the skill to do it other more effective ways


C0rvex t1_ivqw3vw wrote

Good points, getting the tolerances right are much harder than "buy a printer, press print on gun, have working gun" that many of these articles imply.


Wheream_I t1_ivsfnt0 wrote

It’s like… you can make an AK47 with stamped steel and a mill. It’s such a basic gun.


Wheream_I t1_ivsfbbg wrote

I just went and looked at my S&W M&P 2.0 and woulda look at that. The polymer “lower” (lowers don’t apply to handguns, only rifles like the AR15) isn’t serialized, but the metal slide is.

This is because the polymer “lower” only houses the magazine, the trigger, and some basic stuff. Everything that makes the gun go bang is on the metal slide


rickyh7 t1_ivsh5c1 wrote

You’re right I should have been more clear. It’s a lower in a rifle, and a frame on a pistol. Functionally they serve a similar purpose and neither of them have the equipment that makes a gun go bang (just trigger, mag well, some pins maybe springs). Regardless, per ATF 27 CFR 478.92 the serial number must be conspicuously marked on the frame or lower receiver of the firearm (US only not sure for rest of the world). What you’re seeing on the M&P 2.0 might be the rest of the required markings which can go on the slide but there is still a serial number on a metal piece which is embedded in the frame on the right side of the gun just below the slide! If you take the slide off that piece will stay behind


Wheream_I t1_ivskg78 wrote

Holy shit you’re right… just noticed it on the frame in a TINY window, next to what looks like a QR code, separate from the slide. How tf did I NEVER notice this??

I always thought the ATF considered the slide as the pistol, but I guess they consider the receiver the pistol. That’s surprising to me


HighPlains_oath t1_ivynzzg wrote

You and the guy above have the same avatar so I was super confused for a second hah.

Frame is the firearm, or at least whatever holds the trigger, I am sure the atf has some legal nonsense that specifically defines this, but that is mostly it. You can buy after market slides all day long.

Though, some pistols, like one of the sigs. Actually use a "chassis" as the legal identifiable part. It's not the "grip" portion of the pistol per se, but instead they have a separate mechanical assembly that holds the trigger and slide rails, independent of the grip. this fits into the polymer grip of the sig. That's about the only pistol that I know is a bit different


SouthEasternGuy t1_ivzul20 wrote

People use this law to their advantage by having 1 lower receiver or frame that they like but buying many different uppers/slides for their pistol or rifle. This way, they can have very different setups for whatever they feel like shooting but officially owning just “1” gun


microChasm t1_ivu66j1 wrote

I second this. Go ahead, let the criminals print these up and test them and see how effective they are and how reliable.

At least a few of them will be taken out of action.

Gun laws are for control. Criminals run outside of control so it doesn’t even apply to them.

With any emerging technologies that get better over time, there will always be a balance where the use or effect will be investigated, tested etc. There are curious people out there that will think outside the box 📦.

That’s when law enforcement pops up and complains about it and wants to control it because they can’t or don’t want to think hard enough about it to suggest ways of dealing with it from a societal perspective.


TheWildLifeFilms t1_ivyk3s1 wrote

As someone who’s not an engineer I was able to design, draw& print most of the components for a M202 Rocket launcher and the only off the shelve parts I needed were a carbon fiber & aluminum tube. It’s fully functional and the rockets themselves are going to be a mix of printed parts and composite materials . I also had a Fliegerfaust printed mostly in 3d printed metal and worked great

The barrier to entry is constantly getting lower and the advancements in design are greatly increasing


Toridog1 t1_iw008ce wrote

That information is all very out of touch with the current state of 3d printed firearms. While the barrel is still the crucial part holding them back, there are many 3d printed guns which require no registered parts such as the FGC-9 and can be built using regular pipes and springs from a hardware store inside a 3d printed frame


ehhh_yeah t1_ivqsgpt wrote

Yes but a person of sufficient knowledge with mal intentions (or just a deeply rooted libertarian streak like Cody Wilson) could invest thousands of hours into developing it, then release the design and any necessary build/assembly instructions to the internet to be available for the rest of the existence of the internet. That’s the concern.

Plastic lowers are already a thing, and they tend to be fiber filled as you mentioned. With the right understanding of relevant materials, concepts, manufacturing techniques, and familiarity with a certain MSR platform, it wouldn’t take long for a competent individual to design a tactically relevant printed lower. Someone with a remedial understanding who already owned an upper/bcg/etc could probably iterate their way to something effective, assuming the first few attempts don’t fatally fail. If said individual was banned from owning firearms, that right there is the incentive to spend the time making one.

-another aerospace engineer who’s printed a lot of stuff


rickyh7 t1_ivqvtop wrote

Now I think that goes down a very different path here than the article describes of restricting engineering software or 3d printers as a whole. And that’s at least attempting to restrict the availability of the files themselves because you’re right that’s certainly a risk. The article did mention the FGC-9 which is fundamentally exactly that. (As a weapons guy I’m interested in giving it a shot since I’m in a place where that would be completely legal, see if it’s actually any good).

I think that’s where a lot of people get stuck, someone with the right understanding and experience in materials is usually required even if they do get the files. Now I’m not saying no one out there with mal intent has that, what I am saying is it’s not exactly common so it goes back to the risk profile. Go after the 44 cases of 3d printed weapon arrests in the world in 2022 (according to no idea how legit that number is so take it with a grain of salt but I suspect it’s quite small) or go after the 10’s of thousands of weapon crimes that are happening with illegally acquired firearms. That’s really why I think it’s a fools errand. Besides I suspect if you were to serialize barrels, the one piece that could not be 3d printed and can barely be machined by an expert machinist, the problem of 3d printed firearms goes away entirely.


ehhh_yeah t1_ivrcbrg wrote

So, moving past the small arms application, the other larger and more lethal applications that they’re worried about are probably drones and light duty “missiles”. Ukraine has pretty effectively demonstrated that a basic quadcopter can drop grenades. I recall reading somewhere that they’re printing the latch mechanism and have probably played around printing stabilizer fins for said grenades.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to start printing chassis’ or parts for literally anything. Yeah you’d need to incorporate a much deeper design understanding of things like mechanical and aerospace engineering, but there are skilled engineers all around the world living in areas under ITAR export restrictions from the west. Give them a printer and some high performance raw materials and you’ve got yourself some control surfaces and a camera gimbal for a loitering munition.


rickyh7 t1_ivs4mem wrote

Now THAT is a very hard thing to do, and also an area of interest for me and my friends. Check out a guy named Joe Barnard at BPS space on YouTube if you want to see exactly that in action. Requires a wicked amount of electronics and coding experience thought. To make it dangerous you also need to know how to mix explosives which is already a common watch item anyway. Restricting printers won’t fix that though because anyone smart enough to do what you are saying can make a printer from scratch


Ange1ofD4rkness t1_ivs6st3 wrote

Sounds like what I keep trying to tell people as well. I may not have your experience, but I have been 3D printing for years. No way would I EVER print a barrel.

I also had a friend who said the lowers would suck, with him never having luck with plastic like lowers in the past.

Also any metal based printer is going to be SUPER expensive, and dangerous (as they usually need proper ventilation). And like you also point out, you need to have a well calibrated machine. Not something a simple Ender 3 will do (I belt my taz 6 could, but even then, I question how well it will produce the quality needed)


SouthEasternGuy t1_ivzudtt wrote

The majority of modern firearm designs use polymer lowers. r/fosscad has them all the time and they work great

A barrel should be printed but you can just get a metal pipe from Home Depot…


Ange1ofD4rkness t1_iw0f16z wrote

A metal pipe? You do realize the machining and accuracy that goes into the production a barrel right? They are literally perfect, as the bullet must travel down them perfectly (no bouncing around)


SouthEasternGuy t1_iw0gaws wrote

A pipe that is durable enough and has added rifling to it is an effective barrel. Those of us on r/fosscad do it all the time and thats what a majority of the rebels of Myanmar have been doing when actual rifle barrels have not been available. And no, lol barrels are not "perfect" lmao