Tools of modern gunmaking: plastic and a 3D printer

February 1, 2013

30 round magazine opened in FreeCAD (credit: Distributed Defense)

Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York wants to extend an existing law, set to expire this year, that makes weapons that are undetectable by security scanners — like a printed all-plastic gun — illegal, The New York Times reports.

But there are also major technical obstacles to creating an entire gun on a 3-D printer, not the least of which is that a plastic gun would probably melt or explode upon firing a single bullet, making it about as likely to kill the gunman as the target.

In the meantime, Michael Guslick in Milwaukee, Chapman Baetzel in Dover, N.H., and Cody Wilson in Austin, Tex., did something much simpler and, for now, more effective. They printed the part of an AR-15 assault rifle called the lower receiver, the central piece that other parts are attached to.

Then, using standard metal components, including the chamber and barrel — the parts that must be strong enough to withstand the intense pressure of a bullet firing — they assembled working guns.