Can a 3D Printer Make a Working Gun?

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Can a 3D printer make a working gun? Yes, but the 3D printers that can make a working gun are extremely expensive. 3D printed guns are prone to shatter because they are made of plastic. Moreover, the plastic shells of these guns are not as durable as traditional guns. The number of bullets that 3D printed guns can carry is very limited as well. 

Most 3D printed guns can only accommodate 1 or 2 rounds and need to be reloaded manually. The most important thing to remember is that these guns can be inaccurate when fired. So, do 3D printed guns offer any benefits?

Theoretically, a plastic gun could bypass any metal detector. The bullet of plastic guns could penetrate the skull of a person. Assassins who need to fire a one-shot gun could benefit from 3D printed guns provided that they take out their target on the first shot.  

Are 3D Printed Guns Illegal? 

Any gun that could bypass metal detectors is deemed illegal under the Undetectable Firearms Act. In theory, 3D printed guns are included in this category. Users are asked to insert some kind of metal in plastic guns so that it will be detected by a metal detector. Printed guns could still function without a piece of metal, so this choice is optional from a functioning point of view. 

3D printed guns pose security risks because they are untraceable. These guns don’t have the serial numbers to where law enforcements can determine the current or previous owner of a certain weapon.

Untraceable weapons, oftentimes, are also called ghost guns. 3D printers don’t require users to pass background checks before manufacturing guns. This means that even those who are not allowed by law to purchase firearms such as the mentally ill and minors could own a printed gun. 

3D printed guns may broaden the loopholes that exist regarding firearm ownership. Individuals are already allowed to produce guns at home only for personal use as long as they meet certain conditions for detectability and parts. Unlicensed guns, however, can’t be sold legally.

The Difference between 3D Printed and Home-assembled Guns

Home-assembled guns are legal as long as you use gun parts that are legally offered on the market. These guns are already 80% completed, and you only need some tools to assemble the gun and finish the parts. Defense Distributed, a U.S.-based group, has designed a rifle lower receiver for the AR-15 that can be produced with a 3D printer. The 3D printable receiver can last more than 650 rounds. 

Assembled guns are metal, so these weapons are more accurate and durable than guns produced with a 3D printer. It’s also simpler and cheaper to buy and assemble parts. Criminals are unlikely to choose 3D printed guns over metal firearms due to their potential costs, hassle, and unreliability. It will be easier to steal or put a gun together at home. 

However, as technology advances, 3D printing will most likely quickly improve in cost and quality. This means that more reliable and cheaper firearms will be produced in the future using 3D printers. 

Dangers of 3D Printed Guns

Perhaps people are not afraid that 3D printed guns can work. What they fear is the fact that it’s easy to make a 3D printed gun at home without anyone’s knowledge. Countries around the world have stringent laws regarding gun control. Those who own a gun should register it. People are afraid that unstable people and criminals will be capable of making guns at home using a 3D printer and using it to commit crimes.  

Desktop 3D printing can’t produce high-quality firearms at the moment, but this could change in the future. Metal 3D printing is becoming more accessible and affordable, increasing the possibility of making higher-grade weaponries as well. 

3D printing could result in factories manufacturing cheap firearms for criminals. However, 3D printing a gun in metal is extremely expensive. Criminals would rather find weapons through other methods. What should be feared is not the printed gun itself, but the fact that anyone can produce firearms unchecked as long as they have a 3D printer. 

Should You Use a 3D Printer to Make Working Guns? 

It’s easy to produce plastic guns with the right desktop printer and 3D files, but homemade 3D printed guns are not reliable when functionality is concerned. These guns could put the user in danger as well. The parts of firearms produced with soft PLA may deform or bend after firing. Guns made with ABS could blow up in the hands of the shooter when fired. 

There are hybrid 3D printed guns that are made of thermoplastics and traditional metal components. Theoretically, these guns should provide better functionality than weapons made from ABS. However, building hybrid 3D printed guns is expensive and impractical, especially for those who have a limited budget. 

PLA and ABS are not ideal for making guns. ABS is usually used to produce plastic 3D printed guns, but it’s possible that you can fire only one shot before the gun fails or breaks. This is because most thermoplastics can’t withstand the power that comes from firing a bullet.

Metal 3D printing can be used to make working guns, but these kinds of prints are expensive. Going to the black market is easier and cheaper than printing guns in 3D. A metal firing pin is also required to make a 3D printed gun functioning, so this would at least quell the fear that printed guns would be able to bypass metal detectors. 

3D printed guns that are made of thermoplastic are ineffective, so these weapons are not worth printing. You don’t have to be afraid of 3D printed guns. Traditionally manufactured guns are more lethal and easier to get in many regions of the U.S. than printed weapons. 


So, can a 3D printer make a working gun? The answer is yes, but there are some risks that you need to be aware of. You should also be prepared to spend a lot of money if you want to buy a 3D printer that can make a working gun.  

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