So far 3D printers have been used to make guitars, keys, shoes and other items, but now one firearms hobbyist has used the technology to build a working rifle from 3D-printed parts.
The creator goes by the handle "Have Blue" and used CAD files to print the lower receiver part of an AR-15 class assault rifle, which is the M16 style gun used by the US military. The lower receiver is often referred to as the "body" of the weapon which also holds the trigger assembly, the magazine and the safety selector.
The lower receiver is usually made of metal, whereas Have Blue made his from the standard ABS plastic used by lower-end 3D printers. Taking this he combined it with off-the-shelf metal AR-15 parts to complete the gun. He has uploaded the schematic to Thingiverse as well.
To make the gun actually fire he started by chambering the gun for .22 caliber pistol rounds, which are relatively low-powdered ammunition. Have Blue fired off 200 rounds and told the world online that it "runs great!"
Taking it one step further he then re-assembled the gun to try to use .223 caliber rifle ammunition and tested it again. "No, it did not blow up into a bazillion tiny plastic shards and maim me for life," Have Blue said, rather the gun was jamming.
Legal Implications and beyond
So what are the legal implications of what Have Blue has done? It is legal in most US states to purchase AR-15 style rifles, provided the purchaser is licensed and a background check is involved.
The lower receiver carries a serial number and must be purchased from a federally licensed arms dealer. This makes it difficult to get around the license requirements by buying the gun in pieces and assembling it yourself, at least when not using a 3D printer.
That's exactly what Have Blue did in this case. He made it himself, meaning potentially anyone could assemble a rifle from mail-order parts without government licensing or registration.
At least as of now its not as simple as it may seem due to cost restrictions and the ability of 3D printers to print objects like the lower receiver's size. These type of printers are typically pretty expensive, at least for the time being.
Long term changes may be necessary to prevent this ability, starting with the 3D printers themselves. It is often possible at least with regular printers to trace the type of printing back to the printer, which could then potentially lead you to who printed the device. Another idea would be placing restrictions in the software or on the printer itself, so that certain types of 3D printed objects are blacklisted. Although, as we know it's pretty easy to get around software restrictions. You could even take this a step further beyond gun control topics and look at the manufacturing aspects of what 3D printers may do to the industry in general. If you have the option of using a blueprint to print an object or assemble objects you would normally purchase from a company this could potentially have an impact on the manufacturing market as well. Either way, this isn't the last we will hear about this topic or those like it. 3D printers will usher in the ability to print very cool objects but also controversial ones as they become more popular and less expensive in the coming years.
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