You Wouldn’t Download A Gun… Would You?
Austin, Texas-based nonprofit Defense Distributed has a goal to make the world’s first fully-3D printable gun and create a wiki repository for firearm blueprints and gunsmithing knowledge. It seems that it’s made large strides toward that goal by demonstrating a 3D-printed “lower” that could fire more than 600 rounds.
A “lower,” or lower receiver, is the part of a firearm that houses all of the operating parts. Under U.S. law, this crucial component is what the legal definition of a gun is, as the rest (the barrel, sights, butt, etc.) is important but technically only aids in the bullet’s firing. Plus, anyone with the knowhow and a machine shop can make a barrel. But the rest—the firing and trigger mechanisms—is the hard part.
This development changes all of that. In a video demonstration, Defense Distributed shows its “lower,” based on the AR-15 design, connected to the rest of a traditionally-manufactured barrel and accessory group firing-off rounds with ease.
“This is the first publicly printed AR lower demonstrated to withstand a large volume of .223 without structural degradation or failure,” Cody Wilson, founding member of Defense Distributed said. “The test ended when we ran out of ammunition, but this lower could easily withstand 1,000 rounds.”
Its first test ended in failure, with the lower cracking after just six rounds. The company bounced back quickly and now has a substantial improvement into a working product on par with traditionally-manufactured firearms.
The CAD file for the lower is already available for download, both on its website and through BitTorrent. This begs the question, is it legal? In the US the answer is yes, for now. But it does open up a can of worms across multiple political debates. What kind of copy protection will firearms and other manufacturing industries try to push on the emerging 3D printing spectrum? What’s the point of “assault weapon” bans if you can now just torrent a gun alongside a copy of Avengers? Even if tough laws on both fronts hit the books, will it really matter in an age where the full weight of several of the world’s largest governments and commercial interests have done almost no damage to online piracy?
For now 3D printing is outside of the household price range, but advocates of the technology say that the costs are rapidly falling. If that’s the case, we might soon take a look at the MPAA’s famous anti-piracy ad telling us that we wouldn’t “steal a car” in a whole new light.
I want more stuff like this!