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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
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After Johannes Gutenberg printed the Bible in 1455, launching the era of efficient printing, the effects of the invention of the printing press spread quickly. Within a few years, the printing press had spread all across Europe and by 1533 to the Americas. Science, art, literature, education, faith, politics, media, and entertainment were all changed forever. Kings and kingdoms could no longer contain information or keep it out of their domains. Now fast forward to the world wide web and the possibility of designing an object in software in Austin and pushing a button to print it — make it real –  it in New York. Or, if there is a 3D printer available there, Damascus or Tehran or Beijing.

3D printing really could change everything about manufacturing and the marketing and distribution of goods and technology. The prices of 3D printers are coming down, as their speed and capabilities leap forward. Jim Kor’s Urbee 2 brings the printed car nearer to production. Another group, RepRap, is working on building printers that replicate themselves. Wilson is aware of RepRap’s potential ramifications for his own project, as Defense Distributed races toward the printing of a working firearm.

In the not too distant future, printed guns may be available for as little as $50 apiece, just a download and a button push away from everyone who wants one.

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Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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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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