Skip to comments.The Dot Matrix, Reloaded - How do you ban assault weapons when you can print them?
Posted on 01/25/2013 9:06:34 PM PST by neverdem
Defense Distributed's Cody Wilson
Cody Wilson cheerfully describes himself as a crypto-anarchist. “Crypto” modifies “anarchist” in the sense not that it obscures it but that it points to a means: cryptology, code, communication, and technology as the last, best hope for a radical freedom. You meet a few anarchists, crypto and otherwise, hanging around on the fjords and isthmuses of the conservative continent, and like most of them, Cody is young, quick, bright, and vaguely terrifying. Or rather, what’s terrifying isn’t the dude — he’s quite pleasant — but the simultaneous casualness and precision with which he lays out the plots and provocations, transformations and transgressions he has planned through his Texas-based group Defense Distributed (DD).
The main thing Cody has planned is: Cody’s building a gun. Not just building, but fabricating. Not just fabricating, but digitally fabricating. The design is crowd-sourced. The blueprints are freely shared. And with increasingly available technologies, the product could conceivably be manufactured anywhere.
“We’re at version two of our current magazine,” Cody tells me over the phone from an airport. He’s on his way to Europe, where he’ll try to find allies and raise money for DD. “And we just took delivery of our first AK prototype — the files, I mean.”
“We made a lower [receiver] of an AR-15. It broke after six rounds. We’ve improved it, and now it won’t break until after 60 rounds. We have another, untested version that could be good for a thousand rounds.”
Cody, a law student (who doesn’t particularly want to be a lawyer) at the University of Texas, doesn’t consider himself a “gun nut.” Defense Distributed is building weapons to prove a bigger point.
“We began as an online collective of a bunch of designers with a political question. The Internet is the last bastion of the freedom of information. How can we advance that freedom with real consequences? So we said, ‘Let’s choose a real political weapon, like a gun.’ The firearm itself is such a powerful symbol. I figured I could either write a dissertation about liberty or I could permanently affect its history.”
They raised money on the “crowd-funding” Web platform Indiegogo and shared their goals and progress with supporters through YouTube videos and their website. They started fabricating.
DD’s project is possible thanks to a pair of digital revolutions: the by-now-well-established wikization of the Internet, which has increased by orders of magnitude the way information is amassed, revised, and distributed; and the more recent advent of consumer-grade three-dimensional printers. As an article (for subscribers only) in Foreign Affairs explains, 3-D printing is not a single technology but many, each the descendent of the kind of computer-guided “additive manufacturing” that the industrial world has been using for decades:
Thanks to 3-D printing, a bearing and an axle could be built by the same machine at the same time. A range of 3-D printing processes are now available, including thermally fusing plastic filaments, using ultraviolet light to cross-link polymer resins, depositing adhesive droplets to bind a powder, cutting and laminating sheets of paper, and shining a laser beam to fuse metal particles. Businesses already use 3-D printers to model products before producing them, a process referred to as rapid prototyping. Companies also rely on the technology to make objects with complex shapes, such as jewelry and medical implants. Research groups have even used 3-D printers to build structures out of cells with the goal of printing living organs.
We aren’t quite at the stage of point-and-click endocrine glands, but the relatively rudimentary processes that top-line 3-D printers currently use — such as building objects by superimposing hundreds or thousands of paper-thin layers, all made of the same material — are already giving way to machines that are more assembler than printer. These are quite capable of producing large, complicated objects, using micro-sized molecule clusters of various materials to build, for instance, aircraft parts and circuit boards. We could be just years away from the ability to print off not only basic gun components that have to be assembled but also fully operational weapons.
The idea of crowd-sourced plastic rifles and pistols being zapped into existence, Weird Science–style, in workshops and garages across the nation unnerves Representative Steve Israel (D., N.Y.) — so much so that he’s sponsoring an amendment to the Undectectable Firearms Act in order to regulate 3-D-printed gun components and establish penalties for their private fabrication. But as others have pointed out, such a law would be a nightmare to enforce. Moreover, it would require distinguishing between, say, plastic magazines printed at home and plastic magazines already legally manufactured by a number of armorers across the country. And it would probably have to exempt groups such as Defense Distributed, which Cody says is in the process of applying for a federal firearms license.
In an effort to outflank the likes of DD, a zealous government could move to mandate that manufacturers design 3-D printers to leave secret, unique watermarks on every object fabricated, as the Secret Service convinced manufacturers of color laser printers to do in an effort to catch currency counterfeiters. But technological control begets technological revolt: The secret laser-printer codes were discovered and revealed by a digital-rights group in 2005, and their existence prompted a public outcry. Besides, what good is a watermark when a 3-D assembler can assemble another 3-D assembler?
Cody welcomes the attention, as well as the plans to regulate and restrict 3-D weapons fabrication, because they raise his profile and spur the like-minded to join his cause. He calls Representative Israel’s response to the advent of DD “perfect” and compares him to Dostoevsky’s titular character in The Idiot, whose good intentions precipitate the very evils he hopes to avoid.
“They don’t have the ‘control’ they think they do,” Cody says. “The permissive liberal is a myth. They will be willing to chase this through the Internet and cut through every single civil liberty they can in the name of ‘safety.’”
What about the rest of us? Cody sees us as potential allies. “Traditional conservatives love it. I’m getting incredibly enthusiastic e-mails from Red-Staters,” he says. “And I can even get some Occupy people on our side.”
— Daniel Foster is news editor of National Review Online.
You make the printers illegal. Might as well add thoughtcrime.
3-D printer ping
That cat is not only already out of the bag, but breeding more. They’re in an awkward position now, can’t do anything against 3D printing itself without making America the laughing stock of the tech world.
It’s a race to the end, now.
I’ll follow the rules as long as I can.
Everyone has a point where they say “ This is bullshit”.
Society/civilization usually has a consensus that keeps us short of that breaking point.
I think it was 1973 for me.
Simple, you focus on the ammunition, doesn’t matter how many guns you can print if you can’t load them!And it seems like they are already working on this.
This type of technology will be amazing in the medical field. Imagine having your artifical heart valve having a tollerance down to the micron.
You crack me up, brother!
I checked out in the 70’s, but then I had to check back in for a few decades.
I’m ready to check back out of this motel.
However, it doesn't matter, as the ban on so-called assault weapons and high capacity magazines in not serious, it is symbolic, so it is expected that the “bans” will not be effective.
This is the equivalent of a Soviet show trial. This is about image and not about substance.
ABS is tough but is it tough enough? probably not. The real goal needs to be to move to home printers that can print with stronger polymers, polymers comparable to Glock plastic or even home metal printers.
It's also worth noting that the only reason undetectable firearms don't exist is because firearm manufacturers are prohibited from manufacturing undetectable plastic weapons. The home "printer" is less prohibited. An undetectable ABS .22 LR pistol would be incredibly feasible and that is a game changer.
Oh, I'd be happy with a new left kidney to replace the one I mashed up on the mountain during that little accident.
A new spleen might be nice, but I never did talk to the old one, and I'm not sure exactly what they do, but it got mashed and removed as well.
“What about the rest of us? Cody sees us as potential allies. Traditional conservatives love it. Im getting incredibly enthusiastic e-mails from Red-Staters, he says. And I can even get some Occupy people on our side.”
LOl, this dude is all right.
ABS is hard but brittle. Where the buffer tube and hand grip area meets on the lower receiver is a stress point where it commonly cracks and break. One can reinforce the area by thickening it with extra layer of plastic and it must be done in a way not to interfere with the other working component of the rifle. A finished plastic lower with metal pins, hammer, trigger, sear and etc, slapped onto a 22 lr upper, the weapon probably will last. Next problem is the weapon in 5.56mm or larger will heat up the upper and may affect the plastic lower. There are commercial lower made of plastic available at substantially lower price then aluminum/metal ones, but weapon heating up from prolong firing has been known to melt the plastic a bit. IMHO a 22lr rifle with a 3D printed lower is possible, larger calibers may be a challenge due to shock of recoil, heating and stress from prolong usage. 3D printed lower receiver does allow one to bypass gov scrutiny in owning a firearm.
A good idea would be to print a shape that could used make a lost wax or investment mold for casting your part in your metal of choice, especially if the master is made with a low melting point material. Those processes are easy to do and reproduce parts in fine detail. Very little finish machining would be required.
You don’t have to ‘print’ a gun. Any descent metal worker can manufacture an automatic rifle in the matter of a few hours. A simple metal working shop and a schematic is all that is needed.
Time to develop 3D printed firearms that can also use 3D printed ammunition, of which probes the area of caseless ammunition.
Print your own ammo? Quite possible and opens up the imagination of new designs.
In Brisbane Australia there is a company that makes Metalstorn firearms, I have a resume ready for them, the next level of high rate of fire weapons.
Exactly. That's why I'm already working on an ammo printer. So far they look great but they don't make that 'bang' noise. Yet.
Soviet Union tried to regulate copiers. How did that work for them?
Plastic pistols have been around for decades. The change in the game is now anyone can have one, not just James Bond.
This cutting edge technology has scared the wits out of every statist in the world. That is why Fineswine and her fellow travelers are rushing their vain attempt to put gun control on the fast track.
The government will not be able to keep up with the next generation of armaments. Everyone better be armed in order to survive.
If a 3rd “Red Dawn” remake ever came out I can imagine millions of printed new versions of a Liberty Pistol being made in occupied areas. Used to capture an enemies weapon.
I bet some video games will have these soon.
The progressives must be losing a LOT of sleep lately about letting the 3D printers escape control.
“If a 3rd Red Dawn remake ever came out I can imagine millions of printed new versions of a Liberty Pistol being made in occupied areas. Used to capture an enemies weapon.”
The enemy will carry to you the weapons you need to defeat him - Mao Tsetung
“...without making America the laughing stock of the tech world.”
I’m sure our “betters” won’t mind trying.
Do you put it past our politicians to try anyway?
When guns are declared illegal only criminals will have printers!
The feds will have to pry my printer from my cold, dead hands!
Freedom of the press!
Absolutely not. They’ve been busy banning drugs for 50 years, and banning poverty for just as long....
Exactly. Which is why various government agencies are buying up huge amounts of bullets, create a shortage in the market.
Finally some good news!
I have a question, though. Don't gun barrels have to be specially heat-treated and/or extruded to withstand the explosive force of a gunshot?
Centralized controls always work out great.
A recent CSI-NY episode had a 3-D printed gun in it. It delves into your question. I don’t know about the veracity of the details though.
I do find the hoopla to be a bit ridiculous myself.
Let’s think about this. How do you make guns normally? You machine them.
Is there some limitation on machine tools? No. Is there some limitation on machinist training? No. Is there any shortage of firearm plans in circulation? No.
Heck, most machining systems these days are CNC anyway, so the user doesn’t really have to be that talented a machinist. Yes, you can’t just hit a button and eventually something is spit out, and yes you need a few different machines, but BFD.
People are just paranoid about these printers because they are easier to use. However they are expensive, which essentially is the same barrier to entry as having your own machine shop. The only difference is the latter requires some training.
Agreed. People freak out about everything new.
“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
I saw some of this on TV. What they did was create a false crisis wherein the Space Shuttle was having machine trouble while in space. The only way to fix the problem was with a special wrench they didn’t have. The Shuttle was in contact with NASA which had one of these 3D faxes. The Shuttle had a 3D polymer printer. NASA had the machine read the dimensions of the wrench, fax the 3D image to the shuttle which then printed it. The new wrench was fabricated out of powdered paper with space-age polymers. It was usable for the purpose intended- not as good as a metal wrench but perfectly useful in the short run.
If Red Dawn ever gets remade, the American government will be the enemy.
There are already 3d printers on the market which print in sand + binders to be used for sand casting.
The "firearm" is the part with a serial number on it. In the case of the AR-15, it's the lower-receiver frame. The barrel, springs, trigger group, etc are unregistered and can be purchased anonymously for cash. So all you have to fabricate is the frame, and buy the other parts.
Everyone has a point where they say This is bullshit.
I wonder how many people, out where I'm at in Flyoverland, are at or just before that point.
Almost everyone I talk to is pissed. Totally unexpected people approach me for advice on firearms purchases. Strange times.
Yes. Longtime peacelovers are arming themselves.
I’ve been similarly approached. I give my usual best contrarian advice.
Depends what you want to do, how big you want to do it and from how far away.
The general answer to your question is “yes”.