What You Need To Know About The Liberator 3D- Printed Pistol

Posted: May 7, 2013 in Guns

20130507-084329.jpg. Now that we have confirmation that the Liberator 3D-
printed pistol can be fired without destroying the body,
let’s address what this means for 3D printed weapons
and, presumably, homemade weapons in general. Does the pistol work? Yes, it can be fired at least once without damage to the body of the gun or the
person at the trigger. Andy Greenberg at Forbes has
seen the gun fire multiple times and the video above
shows one shot. Is it a real pistol? No. This is more of a zip gun than a pistol. Zip guns were improvised firearms made of
tubes, rubber bands, and nails. Kids fool-hardy
enough to shoot one (this cohort included my own
father who showed me how to make them) were
promised a second of hair-raising and potentially
deadly excitement when they made zip guns out of pipe and rubber. To fire one, you fitted the cartridge
into the pipe and pulled back on the nail attached to
the rubber band. If it hit the charger properly the bullet
would fire. A similar thing is happening here: a spring-
loaded nail is hitting a cartridge. The barrel of the gun is threaded but I wouldn’t expect
this weapon to be very accurate. Think of this gun as
a controlled explosion generator. It uses a very
small .380 caliber bullet which is deadly, to be sure,
but quite small. Could I print one? Yes. You can easily download the 3D-printable files from DEFCAD.org (here is a
private mirror) and if you have a 3D printer you can
easily print any of these parts. The creators built this gun using the Stratasys
Dimension SST 3D printer, a high-resolution printer
that works similarly to the Makerbot but offers a far
finer and more durable print. This printer has a layer
thickness of .25mm, however, which the Makerbot
can easily match. Would I print and fire this using on my Replicator? No.
I’m far too risk averse. I asked multiple 3D home
printer manufactures and none would comment
specifically on firearms, so there is no implicit or
explicit promise of safety. Will someone try to print it on home equipment? Yes. Is this legal? Yes, but I’m no lawyer. It is a legal, homemade firearm and those have been made in
basement workshops for most of this century. In
most cases, a Federal Firearms License is mandatory
to begin making or manufacturing weapons. For
example, anyone building this gun would be a
“Manufacturer of Destructive Devices, Ammunition for Destructive Devices or Armor Piercing Ammunition.”
Anyone can apply for this license, thereby making the
manufacture of this thing legal. For decades,
however, the need to license was a minor barrier to
entry into what would be a non-trivial process. The
tools and materials necessary to build a real gun in your basement were expensive and it made economic
sense to legally safeguard your home workshop. The
manufacture of a 3D-printed weapon, however, is
trivial, and can be built by anyone with an investment
of $8,000 or so for a Stratasys printer or, for the less
risk-averse, a home 3D printer that costs about $2,000. It is also designed to comply with the Undetectable
Firearms Act of 1988 because it contains a small
block of steel. From the print instructions: How to legally assemble the DD Liberator:
-Print (ONLY) the frame sideways (the shortest
dimension is the Z axis). USC18 922(p)(2)(A)*: “For
the purposes of this subsection (The Undetectable
Firearms Act of 1988) – the term ‘firearm’ does not
include the frame or receiver of any such weapon;” Thus, you can legally print ONLY the frame entirely in
plastic, even without 3.7 ounces of steel.-Once the
frame is finished, epoxy a 1.19×1.19×0.99″ block of
steel in the 1.2×1.2×1.0″ hole in front of the trigger
guard. Add the bottom cover over the metal if you
don’t want it to show.-Once the epoxy has tried, the steel is no longer removable, and is an integral part of
the frame. Now your gun has ~6 ounces of steel and
is thus considered a ‘detectable’ firearm. So now you
can print all the other parts.
It is, in short, legal to make a gun and this is a gun. Can this be stopped? No. What’s next? The cynic would say we will soon see the first murder with a 3D-printed gun. The cynic will
also say that this will cast 3D printing in an entirely
new, more sinister light and could affect the home
printing industry dramatically. The cynic would also
expect a great deal of messy legislature to come out
of this that will, depending on which side of the gun debate you fall on, “get these off the streets” or
“infringe on our rights.” A cynic would also say that the entire Defense
Distributed agenda is an example of trolling that will
eventually do more harm than good. The cynic would
also say that a harsh government crackdown would
also be equally silly. A nuanced approach is absolutely necessary. The non-cynical would find this to be more a proof of
concept than a real manufactured weapon and say
that it was bound to happen eventually. 3D printing
has made manufacturing trivial. This is a logical
evolution of an entrenched industry and a centuries-
old product. Gunsmithing is not a new hobby. However, it just got much easier.


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