By Robert Beckhusen | Wired
Designing gadgets with desktop 3D printers is nothing new. But until now, no one has ever used an at-home thermoplastic machine to help build a pistol. For one of the nation’s gun lobbies, it’s about time.
The firearm in question is a .22-caliber rifle developed by Wisconsin engineer and amateur gunsmith Michael Guslick. Using his Stratasys 3D printing machine and blueprints downloaded from the internet, Guslick successfully printed the lower receiver — or frame — of an AR-15 rifle and turned it into a gun. He also shared the results on his blog.
“People have been making firearms at home since before America was a country,” Dudley Brown, executive vice president of the National Association for Gun Rights, tells Danger Room. “And not only does it not make it dangerous, it makes America safer. It’s where most of the innovation came from. John Moses Browning built guns out of his basement. We’re still using them.”
Neither Brown nor the NAGR condone building firearms illegally. But at-home plastic gun manufacturing raises some thorny legal and regulatory questions, and has some worried it could undermine attempts to keep America’s guns under control. Managing the flow of solid weapons is one thing. How do you control a digital pattern that people can use to print guns in their living rooms?
Note that Guslick didn’t manufacture the entire weapon using the printer. The rest of the rifle is assembled from commercial off-the-shelf parts. Guslick provided a photo of an earlier pistol model — seen above — to Danger Room, which shows a printed thermoplastic lower receiver, and a commercially bought metal upper receiver, barrel, grip and magazine. And of course, Guslick didn’t manufacture the ammo either. But as metal and ceramic materials become available for low-end printers, it could become possible to one day print an entire gun.
Legally, however, Guslick did print a firearm. Well, maybe. Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, the receiver is what determines whether or not a gun is a gun. No receiver, no gun. For the nation’s gun lobbies — pro- and anti-gun — that may present a problem.
Michael Guslick’s printed AR-15 rifle: Photo courtesy of Michael Guslick