Report of working 3D printed gun

Popular Science's John Robb reports on a person who claims that his 3D-printed pistol can successfully fire live ammunition, though not with total reliability. The same person then went on to print a working AR-15 rifle (this is a substantial advance on last year's account of a 3D printable AR-15 automatic conversion kit. This event has raised something of a crisis for Thingiverse, the online repository for 3D printable meshes, which is contemplating whether it will host files that can be printed into "weapons."

An amateur gunsmith, operating under the handle of "HaveBlue" (incidentally, "Have Blue" is the codename that was used for the prototype stealth fighter that became the Lockheed F-117), announced recently in online forums that he had successfully printed a serviceable .22 caliber pistol.

Despite predictions of disaster, the pistol worked. It successfully fired 200 rounds in testing.

HaveBlue then decided to push the limits of what was possible and use his printer to make an AR-15 rifle. To do this, he downloaded plans for an AR-15 in the Solidworks file format from a site called After some small modifications to the design, he fed about $30 of ABS plastic feedstock into his late-model Stratasys printer. The result was a functional AR-15 rifle. Early testing shows that it works, although it still has some minor feed and extraction problems to be worked out.

A Working Assault Rifle Made With a 3-D Printer


      1.  Stealing this from a comment on the BB post Cory mentioned….


    1. Given that (in the US regulatory context) the whole ‘novel’ aspect of it is that it makes it trivial for you to print the part of the gun serialized and treated as a weapon for sale/shipping purposes, probably nobody.

    2. I believe that having idiots blow their own faces off is worth far more than the chilling effect of American style litigation ruining any opportunity for innovation.

  1. When you outlaw automatic weapons, only criminals and makers will have automatic weapons. Incidentally, the makers will be criminals, too, but they’ll have automatic weapons.

    1. Misread that as “atomic”, but really, makers making themselves nukes can’t be too far off.

  2. Well at least we are some ways off from printing of centrifuges. Hopefully society is able to evolve along with reprap technology and things like bio bricks rather than imploding. Ether way thing is going, good night and good luck.

  3. So how much of the gun is he making?  It looks like there are some metal parts there, is he taking some smaller rifle and replacing the moving parts to make it automatic?

    1. Lower receiver. For BATF-only-knows reasons, that is the part that is treated as ‘the AR-15’ (ie. it carries the serial number, is subject to whatever sale and transfer restrictions are in place, and so forth). The rest of the parts are just accessories, albeit necessary ones.

      1. I suspect the thinking is that without one, the other parts are just a stack of, well, parts.

      2. So to put this in terms a non-American can understand, this is less like making a bicycle frame and bolting on store-bought wheels and pedals, and more like just making the gear shifter?

        1.  The bicycle frame would most align with the lower receiver in the bike/gun analogy.  It’s the part that holds all the other parts together.  To some extent, this is the case with all guns, but the AR15 is different because it is modular to a degree which no other design has since achieved.  It was developed in 67′ I believe, as the M16.

          M16 = Army machine gun
          AR15 = civilian version, semi-automatic/1 shot per 1 pull of the trigger)

          Because of it’s mod’ability, hobbyists and commercial entities alike have taken to “hacking” it.  Building their own versions of parts to change certain qualities.  This is why it’s the most popular rifle in America.  As a person who is familiar with both the cycling “Make” scene and the hobby AR15 “Make” scene, I can say that the similarities between the communities are uncanny, as far as innovation and creation go anyways.

          1.  BTW, current models of the M16 used by the military are also non-auto (1 pull=1 shot).  The ability to fire on auto (or 3-round burst, another mode of the old M16s) was mostly just a waste of ammo.

        2. As a non-American I understand very little of this conversation, very little indeed. It mostly just freaks me the fuck out.

          1. You seem to have the impression that all Americans are super-knowledgeable gun experts, these people are just gun enthusiasts. I’m American and have no idea what’s going on either.

  4. This is ridiculous, the most important part of a gun is the barrel, which is really the single piece with the most precision manufacturing required, not to mention the material has to have excellent properties to not melt, deform or outright blow-up during firing.

    This sounds like a guy had an AR-15 gun barrel lying around and basically printed all the rest of the gun from plastic. This is a FAR cry from “being able to print your own gun”, since you would still need to have a precision-machined rifled barrel, not to mention other bits and bobs that cannot be made out of plastic (high temperature bits like the gas cylinder, high strength/stiffness stuff like springs and the locking bolt) and are absolutely *crucial* for the proper operation of the gun.

    This just sounds like a sensationalist story and headline to me, to be honest. 

    1. This little bit of the gun is the only controlled part, however. Everything else you can buy online, no restrictions no waiting. In California, for instance, you’d have to wait 10 days for that little insignificant piece (though you’re probably better off with non-AR15’s in California). So legally you are printing the gun, then tacking on accessories. 

    2.  Not really. For reasons not within the ken of those not infected by the vile disease of bureaucracy, only the Lower Reciver is considered a “Gun.” Everything else is no more illegal to buy, own, ship through the post and what have you, as it would be to do the same with a wrench, or an MP3 player.

      Also, as for precision machining – eh, I suppose. But any competent fitter and turner would be able to run one off pretty easily, at least, with polygonal rifling, rather than traditional rifling – after all, that’s what a gunsmith is, a Fitter and Turner with a specialization in firearms. All you’d need would be a lathe, maybe a good drill press, the appropriate measuring tools(which a F&T would have available), and some mildly exotic drill bits, like a Polygonal drill bit. Hell, all you’d need for traditional rifling is a Progressive Broaching bit, or just cut them by hand with the appropriate machine tool.

      Sure, not exactly in-your-garage kinda stuff, but not the hardest thing in the world to learn, either.

      1.  Well, yeah, but if  a guy has access to such machinery and has the will to acquire and learn to do all the stuff to make the barrel, he could probably finish the job and make a whole semi-auto gun as well, (maybe even a fully-auto one, albeit a very crude design) without the need for any of this fancy 3-D printing. So in that respect I think it’s still a bit sensationalist, although hearing about the Lower Receiver stuff that is a bit more worrying.

        1.  Of course. But there is a difference between machining a barrel – relatively simple skills, even if you do have to be very exacting with your final work – and making an entire firearm.

          Believe it or not, compared to that, buying, assembling and using a 3d printer is the much easier option, compared to manufacturing an entire AR-15 from scratch, which is decidedly non-trivial, even given all the appropriate tools.

          As for the tools required for making a barrel – the vast majority, I could drive down to the nearest tool supplier and buy them straight off the shelf. The hardest part would be acquiring the appropriate tools for the rifling, you can’t exactly pick up polygonal bits or progressive broaching bits from your local mum-and-dad’s hardware shop – but that would still be a simple matter of ordering them from the appropriate tool supplier. You and I have access to the tools required.

          As for the knowledge of how to do so, a little harder, but you can still learn easily enough – Hell, I’m not a F&T, and I could teach you the basics necessary in a weekend or two, though you’d probably want to practice some before you actually tried to run off a barrel.

          THAT SAID, making an extremely crude semi-auto isn’t the hardest thing in the world. It requires a little know-how, but it’s easy to learn stuff, providing you can find a design. The problem with 3d printing one, however, is that you still need some metal in there – the plastics and methods used currently don’t stand up very well to the forces involved in a single shot, let alone any sort of semi-auto or automatic fire.

          I’ve no doubt we’ll be at the point where this is not an issue quite soon, however.

          I refuse to make a judgement on the headline being sensationalist, I’ll be honest with you.

          On one hand, it’s not really sensationalist – He printed a major component of the firearm, without which it wouldn’t be a gun, and he printed the only part considered to actually be a firearm, by law.

          On the other, it is – most people, when they see the word “Gun”, they don’t think of the legal definition of what is and is not a firearm, they think of the whole thing, muzzle to stock. Or, in some cases, “Bad end” to “Good end”. Or less bad end. Some people are odd like that.

          And of course, these points of view depend entirely on how much you know about firearms and firearm law, and really, your philosophical standpoint on the matter of when something is one thing or another. Therefore, I feel unable to say, or at the least, it would be unfair for me to make a firm declaration one way or the other.

          1. What if you didn’t go to all that trouble to machine the barrel and clone a nice gun?  What if, instead of an AR15, you dumbed it all down and made a spray gun that used, say, a stock piece of barely-machined steel pipe with pipe threads on one end and you just screw that piece of shit into the receiver.  Just a thought…  a fully printable gun could be had for a LOT less work than this repro.

  5. As is typical these days when mainstream journalists write about firearms, the linked article got all the important stuff wrong. HaveBlue only printed one part of the gun, the one part that the US Government regulates as a firearm. This is the part that is interesting (and too subtle to be used to generate pageviews). The law is structured around the idea that if you are making this part, you are making it to sell, and if you are going use this part in a completed weapon, you will have acquired it from someone else. Printing one at home upsets the expected order.

    1. when mainstream journalists write about firearms

      No kidding. About 10 years ago the San Francisco Chronicle had a story from Afghanistan, including a mention of someone’s “300-millimeter pistol.”

        1. When I read it at the time, I imagined a Tex Avery character reaching into his coat and whipping out a battleship-caliber handgun.

    2.  Well the lower receiver (the part considered the “gun” for legal purposes) for an AR-15 is a fairly complex shape.  OTOH the receiver for a Sten SMG is well within the capacity of an average machinist.  The “right sideplate” (the part considered the “gun” for legal purposes) for the m1919 Browning or a Vickers machine gun is basically a flat sheet of metal with holes drilled in the appropriate places.  So the idea that some “maker” can make the part of the legally controlled part of the gun is nothing new.

      1.  I think it’s an issue of size and complexity. It’s a complex part, and it’s able to be made with zero skill. The size is also an issue, too. A Browning 50 cal. would tend to draw attention.

  6. you really only need a gun to work once to make history. with the ease of acquiring a high accuracy barrel (cabela’s can overnight you one) all you really need is a pointed hammer and a scope, and you have a sniper rifle.

    i’m guessing that “have blue” might be doing this just to raise some ruckus.. not for any useful purpose. as has already been noted, all you need is a working bridgeport and you can make yourself a “real” ar-15 lower receiver out of steel or unobtanium or what-have-you.

    why don’t machinists do it all the time? for 90 bucks a pop..? because it’s illegal. should we support making illegal (and most definitely sub-par thus dangerous) gun pieces with a 3d printer just because we can?

    personally, i feel like this is akin to a master machinist turning out pipe bombs just because it’s easy.. total waste of time and material, complete lack of inventiveness or thought, and an invitation to the penitentiary. 

    1. Hate to put the brakes on your misinformation train, but it is absolutely without a doubt legal to manufacture a semi-automatic rifle in your garage for personal use. Selling it is another issue of course.

      People do it all the time, the only thing interesting about this attempt is that a 3D printer was used. There are entire hobbyist machinery communities dedicated to milling Upper and Lower receivers at home with special jigs.

      1. you are right, of course, according to the ATF it is legal to manufacture firearms. however, in the Gun Control Act of 1968, it states:

        “18 U.S.C. § 922 (v) (1) It shall be unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon.”

        and under the definition of “Semiautomatic Assault Weapon,” we find “(4) Colt AR–15”

        and then, this, many pages later, which i didn’t see until now.. heh:

        “The reference to semiautomatic assault weapons in § 924 (c)(1)(B)(i) was repealed when the semiautomatic assault weapon provision ceased to apply on September 13, 2004.”

        so yeah, we can thank gdubs and the NRA for that, i guess. the mistake wasn’t intentional. i haven’t really kept up on the GCA since the neocons turned us back into a world-police military culture.

  7. The way the law works a machinist can’t make one and sell it without falling under Federal law and requiring all sorts of paperwork.  A private party, on the other hand, can make a gun for their own use without registering it or getting a license.  For instance the bend-your-own AKM receiver blanks.

    This makes it possible to create a modern rifle at home without learning machining skills or buying an expensive CNC setup.

    1. creating a modern rifle is great.. but i’m not sure how this particular instance is different than me ctrl+c’ing this story, ctrl+v’ing it on my own blog (not that i have one..) and claiming it as my own.

      i’m all about innovation. guns? sprinklers? banana peelers? aircraft? whatever. imagination + technical know-how is awesome on every level. if someone wants to make their own gun, and it’s better for whatever purpose than anything else out there, or even if it sucks but still works, more power to them. whether or not they should be making it out of plastic is a bit of a catch for me, but whatever ticks your tock. 

      my problem is that this fellow has chosen to copy something illegal, to copy it out of a stupid material for the intended use, through a relatively low-tolerance process, and (i believe) to do it with the intention of creating a few minutes of controversy.

  8. From the actual forum where HaveBlue posted his findings this was more of a ‘I wonder if I can’ experiment that actually worked. The link is here – – and it does clearly state that it’s just the lower (without which you’ve just got a barrel and accessories) but it’s interesting all the same. 

    The real point of all the fuss was that someone has done it for (possibly) the first time. 

  9. he should try modeling the barrel and printing it with a metal 3d printer. and any of the other parts.
    for everyone poo-pooing at this, its a first step and a very nice first step, cut some slack. and being that we know the next step (a fully 3d printed gun) is certainly likely its a nice time to discuss the impacts of emerging technology on law enforcement.
    plastic guns have been made in the past, they arent meant to be able to shoot a lot of shots they are meant to be able to get past a metal detector and shoot one or two shots. the ability to print off a plastic gun leaves some question about the police’s ability to stop assassins and it also brings up the simpler question of at which point does this all just become silly? some loon shoots up a crowd or starts sniping from a tower, or assassinates a public official and everyone starts screaming like this is the first time they have realized that bad shit happens.
    sometimes in life you can be out doing nothing bad to anyone and get shot and die, just like that. no grand reason, no chance to say goodbye, put you affairs in order, you just die. and you can be going along and for no good reason someone you love could die. we live in a world where one motivated person can change the world, or at least turn your life upside down and no amount of legislation will stop that.

    1. I haven’t read about plastic guns, except for the media scare many years ago, regarding the Glock 17 I believe.  Which, as it turns out, does not exist.  Do you have any info about real plastic guns that have been made/used/documented?  btw, we’ve always lived in a world where one motivated person can end your life or the life of a loved one.  Life is quite fragile, and when it’s over you die!

  10. Gee, I guess 3D printing is a two-edged sword.  BTW, has anyone tried to 3D-print a working two-edged sword?

  11. Am I the only one who noticed that he acquired said model from a CNC  gun website…

    So given if he had access to a high end CNC machine he could have just “manufactured” a metal one.  So the complaint here isn’t the fact that the design is floating around for people to make, it’s the fact that now more people could have access to making a cheap plastic version of it. 

    Damn I can’t see the forest for all those trees.

    1.  You can buy a hunk of aluminum that is shaped very closely to a lower receiver and mill out all the parts that aren’t a lower receiver.  Or you can cast your own if you’ve got access to a forge (hooray for makershops!).  This is legal unless you are a person who cannot legally possess a firearm (criminal record, certain mental health issues).

      I’m not sure if this printing blueprint requires additional machining or not (I would assume it does because a completed lower receiver has some complex cavities), but either way, I’m guessing that 3D printing your own gun isn’t going to be the easiest way for a bad guy to get a gun for many many years.

      But yea, I agree that this is certainly going to be causing some very interesting legal discussions in the near future.

      1.  A CnC milling machine would be a lot more expensive, and if the model is wrong, you can have flying metal work. Jammed up goop in the printer is a lot less dangerous.

        1. A CNC machine is not necessary.  You can pick up a great starter end mill for about $1500 (including bits, collets and bench).  Ask me how I know :)

          I’ve read reports that the cartels in Mexico have been setting up machine shops to build guns.  I would guess that even a small criminal enterprise could start doing that with only a small up front investment.

  12. the desktop fabrication definitely is the next revolution, but creating weapons still is no good idea… 
    yesterday i found a cool mobile multitool for desktop fabrication:

  13. This seems not much of a so-called game changer.

    It is interesting, but as some readers likely know, we can buy 80 percent complete lower receivers by mail and with a few – at least to my former 8th grade self – basic tools, complete the LR easily.

    It’s not that hard. The rest of the parts, lock stock and barrel can be legally and easily bought by anyone. The printed lower receiver is an interesting proof of concept, but I don’t really see how being able to print in plastic or CNC machine a metal lower will contribute to any sort of increase in gun proliferation.

    To me, machining, printing or buying a lower receiver online sounds like great fun, a nice project. NTL, there are more effective means of obtaining firearms.Of course, in I dunno, seven, ten or whatever years it might be easy to fabricate a chemical projectile firearm at home – perhaps ammo should be better regulated.

    If you wish to find an example, Google lower receiver blank

  14. Would you mind explaining why you called last year’s 3d printable Lower plans by KingLudd “automatic conversion kits”?  Cory, you fucking don’t know what you are talking about sometimes.

    EDIT: Sorry for that, it was the end of a long day and I just reacted to this post instead of thinking and trying to contribute something positive to the discussion. I’m genuinely surprised that you would have a headspace where it makes sense for you to call that thing an “automatic conversion kit”.

    Thing is, the M16 rifle is a solved problem, and the design and blueprints are out there for anybody to see. All it takes to turn an AR15 (semi-automatic) into an M16 (full-auto capable) is the knowledge of the part and an end mill to cut away some material (and of course the criminal intent to do so). You can make the other parts yourself or 3D print them or something.

    But the thing is, to call that thingiverse project a “automatic conversion kit” means that you aren’t thinking like a maker, after all, why would you print a semi-auto Lower Receiver and then “convert” it? Why wouldn’t you just print a full-auto receiver? The capability is certainly there. And you know as well as anybody else that suppressing information or access to information is not effective nor is it ethical.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but I read a lot of ignorance and political undertones in your summary for this post. Undertones which should be at odds with your worldview.

  15. Great, more ammo for politicians to censor the web, and control technology in general. “Now they can use the internet to cause physical harm!” they’ll say. :<

  16. comments on the original article over on PopSci went full retard in a hurry.  You have been able to do this for a long time (homemade rifles).  Look up ‘bending’ a lower receiver for an AK.  sheet metal and a wooden form.

  17. This is a big nothing story, as others have said, all he printed is a “lower”.  You can pick up an 80% lower (not a gun) off the net and use a drill press to turn it into a 100% lower (a gun) if a few hours.  Or you just drive to your nearest good gun store and walk out with a lower for 90 bucks. I’m fortunate enough to have 2 nationally respected AR manufacturers within a 30 minute drive. 

  18. This is possibly of more interest to countries other than the US where there is strict gun control. The ability to print some of the parts, even though not as good as the original, will naturally make the creation of guns for neferious purposes easier. Not much you can do about it, technology will always advance.

  19. Stop vectoring misinformation.  The guy didn’t print a gun, he printed an AR lower receiver, a part that bears almost no stress.   It’s *legally* interesting, because the lower receiver is the serialized part which defines the gun so far as the ATF is concerned, but the lower receiver doesn’t bear the stress of firing the gun. 

    But I guess “guy prints plastic part” doesn’t carry as much significance.  This like like claiming a guy made a ‘working 3d printed car engine’ when what he printed is a water pump. 

    1. Thank you. More like “guy printed water pump housing”. As with much of this new tech I had assumed that this was done long ago and was old news. .. Still, it would be cool to make your own accessories, right now I have to machine this stuff.

  20. I’m waiting for the inevitable…

    These guns are made from plastic stock…
    Toy guns are made of plastic…


      1.  I heard you can buy machine gun conversion kits for nerf guns at gun shows.  I even saw a video where a mayor sneaked into a gun show and bought one…

  21. Gentlemen,
    As long as Afgan and Pakistani people in the Khyber Pass makes automatic AK47s and Colt1911 clones with hand tools only, no electric machinery at all, I think we all should just calm down. This “printing thing” is splitting hairs as far as illegal arms production is considered.

  22. Well, I have no interest in owning a gun.  I can conceive of a circumstance where I might, but it is highly unlikely right now.

    This will first be used by criminals to make untraceable, single use guns.  That will be a problem.

    Since taking away guns doesn’t seem to work, and arming everybody certainly doesn’t work, I guess the only solution to preventing all this insane violence is to try to address all the social roots of the violence.  Sure, it conflicts with the toddler level view of things – bad people do bad things – but it actually works and has been proven to work repeatedly.

    I’d way rather spend money on top quality schools than on supermax prisons.  And it is a choice.

    1.  “This will first be used by criminals to make untraceable, single use guns.  That will be a problem.”

      I suggest you Google ‘zip gun’.  My grandfather’s generation used to make them in shop class when the teacher wasn’t looking.

    2.  I find it hard to believe that most criminals are going to use a 3D printer to make a gun when it’s a lot easier and cheaper to just buy a gun with the serial number filed off (which doesn’t tie a bullet to the specific gun anyways).

  23. Wake me up when someone post plans for printing medication. That’s when the governments will truly freak-out.

    1. I guess that you could consider Papaver somniferum and Cannabis sativa plants to be drug fabrication units.

      1.  It’s all about control.  We can’t have the common man feeling ok about making himself feel good all on his own.  Only properly licensed and approved methods of feeling good are moral, everything else is illegal and those brown people down the street probably do it anyways.

  24.  Under the interstate commerce clause of the US constitution, I’m sure 3D printers could be outlawed because they interfere with federally regulated economies.

    For fucks sake, the Supreme Court of the US held in the 40’s that it is illegal to grow and use your own wheat because that means you aren’t buying wheat from wheat farmers – who participate in a federally regulated economy – therefore you would be harming a federally regulated economy.

    Granted, we all know that the SCOTUS was just fucking insane during that time, but I can only imagine the ruckus that 3D printers would cause in this context.

  25. Wow – that’s awesome. I wonder what part he 3D printed. I figure it is the LOWER as the upper looks all aftermarket. The lower is what the ATF considers as a gun. I got to get my friend to stop messing around 3D printing rockets and to make me something useful ;o)

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