Cody Wilson, a 25-year-old University of Texas law student and founder of the non-profit group Defense Distributed, invented a 3D-printed handgun made of ABS plastic whose only metal is its firing pin. The group tested the gun–and it passed.
He named it the “Liberator,” after the single-shot pistol air-dropped in Europe during World War II, and the group made the plans available for download. Wired reported that Wilson used a single .380 caliber bullet. He does have barrels in 9mm and .22 in the works, but the design needs to be more stable. It is not perfect and Wilson thinks it is too big, but it is easy to fire. The gun was built with an $8,000 Stratasys Dimension SST 3-D Printer.
“The design is based on two to three features that worked first. We had been testing barrels for almost two months, and we used the barrels and ABS that worked,” he told Wired. “We used 60 to 70 different springs, not all separate designs, but just trial and error. We cannibalized a spring off a toy on Thingiverse, a wind-up car toy.”
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) told reporters 3-D printed handguns should be banned.
“Guns are made out of plastic, so they would not be detectable by a metal detector at any airport or sporting event,” said Schumer. “Only metal part of the gun is the little firing pin and that is too small to be detected by metal detectors, for instance, when you go through an airport.”
Schumer said the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, which expires next year, should be updated to include printable gun magazines. Defense Distributed possesses a federal firearms manufacturers license, but only after Wilson was sought out by the ATF.
“There’s no reason for a rifle receiver or a magazine to be, quote unquote, detectable,” Wilson says. “And to make this even worse, they’ll say: we’ll it’s okay for manufacturers to make an undetectable receiver, but it’s just not okay for you to make it. It’s an attempt to regulate some gun parts under the guise of security.”