Free Guns for Everyone: Printable Plastic Firearms

Cody Firing Plastic Gun

Less than a week remains before Cody Wilson releases the files that will allow people to literally print their own guns at home.

Early this coming week, Cody Wilson will be releasing the open-source, 3D-printable CAD files that will allow people to print plastic guns in their homes without background checks, permits, or even serial numbers.

Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas, founded a non-profit group called Defense Distributed as an “effort to create freely available plans for 3D printable guns.”

The specific purposes for which [Defense Distributed] is organized are: To defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, through facilitating global access to, and the collaborative production of, information and knowledge related to the 3D printing of arms; and to publish and distribute, at no cost to the public, such information and knowledge in promotion of the public interest.

While the project may be in the name of freedom and constitutional rights, open-source plans for untraceable, undetectable guns could make it possible for every responsible NRA member, gun-wielding criminal, or curious teenager to create illegal weapons from home.

“You can print a lethal device,” Wilson told to Forbes journalist Andy Greenberg. “It’s kind of scary, but that’s what we’re aiming to show.”

Indeed, it is scary to think of the possible effects that these 3D-printable weapons could have on society. If or when the government finds a way to make these guns legal, then what? Will it make illegal distribution even easier as well?

Of equal concern is how the public as a whole could see some huge changes as a result of legal plastic guns. If gun manufacturers are able to produce plastic guns at a fraction of the cost of metal guns, we are sure to see a drop in gun prices, which could affect the number of guns that enter the market legally and affordably. These lightweight counterparts could mean more people carrying guns, for their own safety or just because they can. Teenagers will have greater access to guns, and with young men statistically more prone to violence and suicide, we could see the number of gun fatalities spike.

Legalizing the printable guns will not guarantee safety in their design or the materials used to make them. Guns may enter the market from less-than diligent manufacturers that have the potential to explode in one’s hand—and this is not just a concern for criminals who buy or make them illegally but for any gun enthusiast.

This may become a bigger problem overseas. Defense Distributed intends the CAD files for the guns to be available freely online, but while the U.S. Constitution may guarantee us the right to bear arms, what extra dangers and consequences could countries with much stricter limits on gun possession, such as China, Germany, or the United Kingdom, face when the plans reach the internet?

As the day for the files’ release draws nearer and the prototype for “the Liberator,” the plastic pistol Wilson created, has already been successfully and legally printed, the company’s U.S. political opponents are gunning hard for the plans to be banned before they hit the internet. New York congressman Steve Israel issued a press release Friday: “When I started talking about the issue of plastic firearms months ago, I was told the idea of a plastic gun is science-fiction. Now that this technology is proven, we need to act now to extend the ban [on] plastic firearms.”

UPDATE 5/6/13: According to the website, the files have been officially released. 

Watch the gun being fired here:

H/T for video: Mashable

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About Abigail Ortlieb

Abigail is a graduate student at Emerson College in Boston. While she pursues her MA in electronic publishing and writing, she works as a freelance writer and editor and writes for the browser-based game, Alteil.


  1. AnonymousDog says:

    You do realize that, right now, it’s legal for adult non-felons to make guns (from metal) for their own private use, and that published blueprints are available to do so? The 3-d printing technology just makes it a bit easier, but probably not much cheaper.

    I think the author is searching for things to be alarmed about.

  2. I have owned guns for a long time. I have made guns from many kinds of material. Let me share this: You guys are being punked by a 100% scam artist.
    No plastic material in existence can cope with even 25,000 pounds per square inch pressures: which is generated by a moderately powerful handgun cartridge. These fools like to show you an AR lookalike. In real life, ARs operate at around 60,000 PSI.
    This is BS squared. No more, no less.
    Oh by the way. It is pathetically easy to make a working gun out of metal. You know, that stuff that surrounds everyone in modern life.
    I must be incredibily idealistic to keep explaining this.

    • Actually- from what I’ve seen it is the lower receiver of an AR derivative that is in play in their movies..
      The liberator, as was the original is designed at a single use and ive no doubt it will fire a 380… 20 some years ago their were dual shot 40 cal firearms disguised as beepers…
      This plastic stuff is,essentially, zip gun technology… I could run the same gun up with a drill press, pipe, inner tube and a nail.
      Sooner, than later, low cost CNC mills & lathes will come to the market which will enable one to run up steel uppers and barrels. Now that will make it interesting…
      There is another issue at play here which is making me pause & ponder- you can’t have both Anonymous and WikiLeaks and stifle this technology…

    • Valter V says:

      @Rum: “This is BS squared”

      Yep, I thought the same.
      A “plastic” gun? Really, PLASTIC?
      It’s quite likely it would blow up in the holder’s hands… perhaps not on the first shot, but with several, yes.

      I think it’s far easier building a kind-of-a-gun with some metal pieces…
      but that would likely blow up in user hands as well, unless it’s made by someone with good know-how.

  3. I think it’s apt that right now, the quote of the day on Wikipedia is from Søren Kierkegaard who said, “Sin is in itself separation from the good, but despair over sin is separation a second time.” There are more people with better talent working on making printable organs.

    • Printable organs? That’s incredible! I haven’t heard of that until now–very cool.

      • Yeah, they were able to print a rat kidney and transplant it into a rat successfully. There are people also working on bionic ears that can hear a greater range than what we can naturally. Engineers have been able to make custom prosthetics for small children born with crippling diseases. So when I really look at this one guy and his gun, I don’t see how vile it is in concept, but how crude it is in design. Really, it’s tacky by comparison. So while there may be considerable darkness out there in the world, in this one technology, there are good people doing so much more. So I am not afraid.

  4. Brave new world. Also: plastic guns will go through metal detectors, undetected.

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