3D Printed Guns: Fact and Fiction

Gun rights advocates keep hearing the same thing about 3D printed guns. They’re untraceable, undetectable, dangerous, fully-capable weapons that anyone can download from the internet.

But whatever the gun control advocates out there will tell you, that’s just… not really what 3D printed guns are.

3D guns are typically not fully plastic.

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A completely plastic gun is most likely to explode in your hand. If you’re lucky enough to have all your fingers, it will be in no shape to take the second shot. Most of these guns are not really functional without a metal barrel and firing pin. The Liberator is an exception, a fully plastic one-shot pistol.

3D guns are not the very first time we’ve had homemade guns on the street.

Anyone with $20 and access to the internet can learn how to build a “zip gun” with a trip to WalMart. However, CCW restrictions haven’t put a stop to homemade guns. It’s hard to imagine any regulations that could keep people from easily sharing blueprints between one another.

A 3D printer capable of reliably printing a Liberator costs more than a typical second-hand street gun. 

Black market guns can be had for as low as a hundred dollars and leave absolutely no paper trail. One the other hand, a quality 3D printer will cost at least a couple of car payments and leave a digital footprint pointing right to the downloader.

Essentially, criminals are not in the market for 3D printed guns. Producing an effective plastic weapon typically requires metal components which will be produced with serial numbers. 3D printed guns are mostly of interest to legal firearm enthusiasts, people who have already earned their concealed carry permit and are looking for custom components to add a personal touch to their favorite weapons. Until 3D printers can reliably produce high quality metal components, many of the concerns surrounding 3D printed weapons are difficult to take seriously.

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