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Gutenberg’s Rifle: The Downloadable Firearm Is Almost Real

Defense Distributed clears a hurdle in its race to be the first to print a working firearm.

by
Bryan Preston

Bio

March 25, 2013 - 6:41 pm

“The unstated assumption is that you wanted to do 3D printing so you picked guns,” he replies. “It’s the exact opposite. We imagined a world of liberalized access to firearms. So the question is, ‘Why 3D printing?’

“This was a project with a political goal. Yes we know that there are things like CNC milling and there are gun files already online, but the idea was to take a technology, celebrated by these people-power, mostly skewed liberals, ‘Oh it’s the new revolution in manufacturing!’ Take their precious technology, make guns with it, and show them, yes, it is revolutionary, and in fact that has more meaning than you think it means.”

The 3D printer community, he says, is still not willing to come to grips with the consequences of their “magic devices.”

“We think if those devices mean anything at all, then they mean things like what we’re doing,” Wilson says. “The fact that you would be able to have something specific that someone doesn’t want you to have, a tool of perhaps massive and devastating consequences.”

“I hope that this is a politically challenging project. I want it to be,” he says. “But I wonder if it is. Most of the politicians that we’ve gotten to react, have reacted simply because they don’t enjoy people being so contemptuous of them.” Wilson smiles and continues: “So if anything, this project simply teaches contempt for the petty despots in Washington.”

He says we’ll know how subversive his project is when it prints its first gun. “Barring imprisonment or indictment,” Wilson laughs and says he thinks he could have the first printed assembly within a month. That timeline depends in part on an add-on to his FFL, for which he has applied.

Wilson has approached the printing of guns with intelligence, a sense of humor, and openness. Prior to Defense Distributed, he had no background in engineering, 3D modeling software, or physical printing. He and his team have created their software models by hand. Their process has been one of trial and error, with failures and successes posted to YouTube. One such test, a lower that broke after firing only a couple of rounds, was branded by media and many observers as a failure, but Wilson views it as a success.

“I think it shows a dedication to the project and an openness behind it. We’re not just putting up the successes of the project,” he says, then takes a sharp turn. “But in a sense I still think it was a success. Look, here’s one of the first printed lowers out there, on video, getting shot. And all we did was take a file that someone else designed on Thingiverse. Put it up in a rifle configuration and shoot the thing just to show people what it would do.”

So Cody Wilson has a Thomas Edison streak, believing that perspiration and failure plus persistence can lead to success. He is very hard-working, engaged on the printing project every day, seven days a week. The question of what Cody Wilson is — rebel, inventor, or performance artist — permeates our entire conversation.

After posting that video, Wilson says, the “drive-by media was done with the story.” He attributes the term “drive-by media” to Rush Limbaugh. Wilson is an avid consumer of alternative and conservative media, and allows that he’s a fan of The Walking Dead and comedian Russell Brand. At another point, though, he calls television a tool of the state meant to make us tired. There are no TVs at all in the apartment in which we met.

Within a month of the “failure,” he says, his printed lowers and magazines were withstanding far more punishment at the range. He says he has fired hundreds of NATO 5.56 rounds and .223 rounds without breaking his current lowers.

Defense Distributed had been working on printing guns months before the Sandy Hook killer claimed the lives of 27, including 20 children. Wilson says that his group knew immediately that an assault weapons ban and magazine limits would become hot political issues, so they moved quickly.

“We knew as soon as Sandy Hook happened that the AWB would be an important political football again, so we got onto it. We were like, what can we do right now with this technology? We thought magazines, no problem.” He says the “no problem” slowly to emphasize how easy it would be and has been. “And the first magazine was going to be named after Feinstein too, in honor of this effort of hers to take away our rights. But, [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo got there first with his law, and it’s so ridiculous. He did it in such a petty way. They did it so quickly, against all the ostensible traditions of American liberalism and openness. So I decided to name the first magazine after him.” He later handed me a functional Cuomo magazine. It’s light and tough. Made from plastic, it could probably last forever in a landfill.

“It’s a permanent monument to his ridiculous effort to ban, impede our rights as Americans,” Wilson says. “I hope it permanently affects his legacy. I tell you one thing, the man wants to be president of the United States.” Wilson laughs at the thought. “He’s made a permanent enemy of most red staters who pay attention. He’s not going to be president now, so he did the damage himself.”

In case you’re wondering, no, Wilson isn’t looking for your vote and he’s not running for office. He isn’t trying to make friends or please anyone. He’s trying to “punch back.”

Cody Wilson is well-read and extremely well-informed on current events and culture. He’ll move from quoting Hannah Arendt to Michel Foucault to the American Anti-Federalists seamlessly. He says he believes in fundamental political equality. Progressives, he says, don’t believe in that, despite what they say.

“This is the fundamental problem with progressives and perhaps American socialism in general: ‘We believe we can achieve equality through programs of inequality.’ Specifically political, but that applies to economic as well,” he says. He believes that it’s utopian to think that the democratic system can lead to the outcomes that either progressives or conservatives desire.

His view of government and big media: “I wanna starve this beast.”

The process of printing a gun is key, and Wilson says: “We’re doing things right now that you wouldn’t believe.”

Interview done, it’s time for show and tell.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (43)
All Comments   (43)
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if we don't founder on our own stupidity and allow the criminally insane to continue to rule over us, the youngest among us may some day use similar concepts as 3-d printing in far away places like moon or asteroid bases. this could be done to aid in their very survival as they do things like mining and processing ore and precious gems. science is progressing exponentially in many fields. even seemingly mundane devices we take for granted, like elevators, often take on new life as they merge with other seemingly unrelated innovations to someday produce systems like the space elevator. a device that shows potential in greatly simplifying space travel. mating unrelated systems to produce who knows what is called thinking outside the box. the future of our species could be great and we are obviously approaching our 'warp engine' (star trek ref.) moment where we burst the shackles of this earth and reach outward to save our species from extinction. unfortunately, we have the cancers of stupidity, socialism, greed, lust for power and progressiveism driving us in the opposite direction. i believe we are on the cusp of this 'warp moment' in our development. commenters here are right. there are very dark entities that appear to be running the show, and doing a very poor job of it as they attempt to enslave us. hopefully we can bring the youth into the future with a real grasp of what a real education is, and break this stranglehold the dullards appear to have over us.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Those that say/state that you can't 'print' a barrel or components strong enough to handle the firing of a cartridge may be right. BUT who say's it has to be a cartridge? We are a rather inventive species. Given the opportunity we will overcome the obsticles that presented themselves 20+ years ago for 'rocket' projectiles. THAT will really annoy those that would subjugate us.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So you advocate firing rocket rounds out of a plastic barrel? Really?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Who says you can't load your own ammo and make it lower power than standard store bought ammo? It won't work as well, but you're saving $300 - $1000 on the price of the gun.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is only a matter of time until 3-D printers are able to build metal parts as well. Bloomerberg and FrankenFeinstein can take a flying leap at a rolling doughnut.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So far the one things it can't do is make springs and that is a small dealio.

If you count, it is probably less than a dozen and they are fairly cheap and very available, I think Amazon has about all of them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Springs. And barrels. And bolts. And firing pins. Among other things.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've worked in the printing industry for over 20 years, and I've seen first-hand the evolution of laser and inkjet printers. They have absolutely turned the printing industry upside down. I also have a little experience with mechanical typesetting machines. I remember shooting negatives in a darkroom and stripping them up on a light table to generate color separations for offset printing on a press.

Today ordinary people can produce sophisticated printed materials in their own homes with commercially available computers and printers. I assure you, 3D printers will revolutionize manufacturing in ways we can scarcely imagine. This technology is still in its infancy. There is even talk of using them to make replacement human organs.

I'm sure there were plenty of people in 1910 who considered the airplane to be a novelty, and never thought it would ever be competitive with steamships and railroads as a serious means of transportation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"There is even talk of using them to make replacement human organs."

Exactly. And it's beyond the 'talk' stage. ;-)

organovo.com
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A few news stories have floated around about certain street gangs, particularly in the Southwest, using skill machinists to produce AK-47s and other guns. So it seems the liberals will have to ban not only these printers but also lathes and other tools that can make guns and other weapons.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Big Sis can always buy up ammunitions with your tax dollars. Gov Cuomo can limit you to use ammunitions that don't exit, 7 rounds magazine.

You have to print your bullets.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
During WWII, the US Government dropped single-shot, stamped sheet metal bolt-action .45 ACP pistols containing two rounds of ammunition over Europe with the philosophy that if dissidents were armed, even with minimally effective weapons, they could kill their oppressors and then take the oppressors' arms and ammunition. It's not a bad philosophy. Improvising firearms is not that hard. Nor is the manufacture of nitrocellulose propellant. Heck, the US Army has Field Manuals from the Vietnam era that teach how to manufacture black powder in battlefield conditions. When the people WANT weapons, they'll get them.

Violence problems are largely cultural. Children of traditional two-parent (male and female) households are typically incarcerated at much lower rates than the progeny of noncommitted, promiscuous persons.

With the ease of improvising weapons, it's not LAW that prevents us from doing so. It's typically a moral recognition that rendering obedience to the law is the right thing to do. Absent that, it's recognition that it's more profitable to obey the law. Restore the nuclear family (cradle of the law-abiding), and you restore the peaceful nature of society.

The up-side of abortion (IF there is one) is that the promiscuous elements of our society are gradually aborting themselves out of existence. We may see the restoration of a religious United States yet. Law of unintended consequences.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Precisely.

This is the larger Truth that Wilson's efforts reveal, whether intentionally or not.

If we don't act to restore the moral sanity of our culture - a sanity that has been actively attacked by the left through its corruption of our institutions - an increasing, and eventual critical mass, of individuals will simply leverage advanced technologies as they become more readily accessible... toward narcissistic, lawless, anti-social ends.

When you teach a kid from kindergarten that morality is "relative", and subject only to the limitations of their own personal version of reality, you engage in socially suicidal behavior. The "progressive" left has been doing exactly this for decades, and we see the result in generational, pathological dependency on the State, coupled with a narcissistic entitlement mindset that will shift to violence and outright class warfare when the money starts to run out.

Whining about and criticizing the left's behavior and lack of critical thinking skills - which comprises 95% of so-called "conservatives" activities - is not going to achieve what's required to avoid this outcome. Without alternative institutions to supplant those currently corrupting our culture and society, the U.S. will go the way of ancient Greece, Rome and not-so-ancient Europe and the U.S.S.R.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is nice to see the naysayers out in force...

It is understandable that folks may not be able to see the possibilities of any given technology. But it only takes one Edison, Tesla or Einstein to lead the way. One day all of society will benefit from the efforts of people like Cody Wilson.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
SpaceX already uses 3D printing to make *titanium* components for their Falcon 9 rocket system -- http://www.evergreenmuseum.org/spacex-a-side-trip/

It's definitely happening in the real world. As a technical professional who avidly follows this technology's evolution, I can attest that both laser sintering and printing of metallic structures is happening, and there are some pretty amazing breakthroughs in academic labs right now that should allow for printing of computers and other complex systems in a couple of years. Harald, the technology already exists to make barrels, bolts, springs, etc. It just hasn't reached consumer grade. Plenty of academic labs are working on new precursor powders. It's a material problem now, rather than a technical one.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I stand by my comment about high-strength materials as used in guns. Titanium and stainless-steel produced by 3-D printers need further processing, requiring machinery and processing not something to be done in your home basement.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sure a hammer-forged, chrome lined rifle barrel would be preferable. But if you can print a $20 barrel that is fairly accurate and good for 200 shots before it cracks or explodes, why bother to go through a bunch of government rigmarole and spend a few hundred on the better barrel? Especially in times like these now when almost all good guns are unavailable?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It will be a long time, if ever, before high-strength materials needed in guns will be printable. Not likely in this century. Forging and heat treatment of steel is required, and simply not possible with plastics.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Er...3D printers don't do metal. Check your 'plastic' Glock before getting over-excited.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
From my understanding they can/will do metallic and ceramic substrates. It's only a matter of time. There are also carbon materials that withstand huge pressures and heats.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Er... Not that long ago, men could not fly faster than sound. Not long before that, men could not fly - period.

It's not long since there were no 3-d printers. What they can do today will undoubtedly be surpassed tomorrow.

And even now, the metal bits could be turned out by back street garage workshops. Quality will only improve.

I can remember clearly, not that long ago, that I was expected to teach undergraduate computer science students that it was impossible to make a CPU that processed faster than 100 MHz.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oh, steady there. 3-D printing likely has a useful future but that's no basis for fantasizing about a handy tool to reorganize matter much like StarTrek's transporter room only smaller, manipulating the molecular glues that hold it all together -- 'it' being 'the universe'. All those alchemists weren't wrong, just early, right? Meanwhile, you use lousy analogies that establish exactly zip.

None of which is to deny that the rate of tech change is accelerating (certainly seems to be, and may continue to do so despite naysayers who can't handle Moore's Law). In theory we can also see the logic of Kurzweil's Singularity -- but the world ain't linear so it won't work out that way. And whatever happens, it'll take a while -- a lot longer than you or I have got.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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