WikiWeapons: 3D printed guns for everyone

Andy Greenberg has written a story about the latest development in the world of 3D printed guns: a project to create a set of open blueprints for "Wiki Weapons":

Earlier this month, Wilson and a small group of friends who call themselves “Defense Distributed” launched an initiative they’ve dubbed the “ Wiki Weapon Project.” They’re seeking to raise $20,000 to design and release blueprints for a plastic gun anyone can create with an open-source 3D printer known as the RepRap that can be bought for less than $1,000. If all goes according to plan, the thousands of owners of those cheap 3D printers, which extrude thin threads of melted plastic into layers that add up to precisely-shaped three-dimensional objects, will be able to turn the project’s CAD designs into an operational gun capable of firing a standard .22 millimeter bullet, all in the privacy of their own garage.

“We want to show this principle: That a handgun is printable,” says Wilson, a 24-year-old second-year law student at the University of Texas. “You don’t need to be able to put 200 rounds through it…It only has to fire once. But even if the design is a little unworkable, it doesn’t matter, as long as it has that guarantee of lethality.”

'Wiki Weapon Project' Aims To Create A Gun Anyone Can 3D-Print At Home (Thanks, Andy!)


  1. Possibly not written by an American? It’s .22 caliber, not .22 millimeter. And, yeah, what could go wrong?

    1. It’s for those who find the .9mm to be too much gun (another common typo that is a source of mirth on some firearms forums).

      1. There were actual “needle guns,” early Prussian and French breech loading rifles.  The “needle” referred to the long firing pin used with the early bullet design. 

    2. Well, it is someone at the University of Texas, but that doesn’t guarantee he’s American.  That said, he definately sounds like a Texan.

      Either way, in the video he does say .22 caliber.

      Edit: Also, in the article they specify caliber as well.

      1. When millimeter isn’t stated (9mm, 5.56mm, 7.62mm), caliber is generally assumed to be hundredths of an inch. He made the mistake of assuming people would know 22 caliber would refer to the very popular 22 Long Rifle round – probably the most common round in production today. .22, .223, .30, .40, .45, and .50 are all reasonably common calibers numbered according to hundredths of an inch.

  2. While this technology is probably inevitable, I have to question the wisdom of deliberately hastening its arrival.

    1. Especially considering the speed at which it will force someone to regulate 3D printers in some way (logic of which aside).  Unfortunately I think the regulation will come before the technology becomes financially viable for mainstream use/purchase.


      1. They’ll have to regulate stepper motors, in that case, because anyone with half a brain and a strong interest can build one.

        1. First they came for the socialists,

          and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
          Then they came for the trade unionists,

          and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
          Then they came for the Jews,

          and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
          Then they came for my Stepper Motors,

          and I didn’t worry because I’d already I’d printed my guns.
          I defended myself.

          My Stepper Motors are MY Stepper Motors.

          It’s already too late to stop the proliferation of M4 lower receivers. The files have been posted for a few weeks and widely distributed. All the rest of an M4? You can buy it freely since only the lower receiver is controlled.

        2. As I say, logic of which aside. It’s potentially high profile stuff like this that causes governments to make silly decisions. I won’t guarantee it, there’s obviously plenty of argument against such regulation – but I also wouldn’t be surprised if things like this attract unwanted attention to the technology.

          Also a tool is very different to an automated desktop factory – for what it’s worth.

      2.  I’ll bet you’d be surprised by the number of 3d printers either already printing or being built. There is a brisk market in printed printer component kits (gears, brackets, etc.)

        1. Not surprised, but it’s still something for serious makers – I’m more imaging the future where you have one of these right next to your £30 inkjet – and it can make sandwiches.

          1. Unfortunately, just like the inkjet next to it, the cartridges will cost 50% more than the printer, and it will flatly refuse to print sandwiches of any type, even if only the pumpernickel cartridge is empty…

  3. What do they need 20 grand for? This is something that you work on at home in your spare time.

  4. “capable of firing a standard .22 millimeter bullet” – that’s a mighty tiny bullet!  (Caliber is fractions of an inch, not of a millimeter.  A standard ’22 caliber’ would be .22 inches)

  5. They still cant print rifled barrels, firing pins, springs or breech faces/slides/bolts out of plastic.

    1. They don’t need to.  All those parts can be purchased online or in stores by anyone.  It is only the receiver (frame, for a handgun) that is legally considered a “gun” and requires a federal background check plus whatever other hoops your state makes you jump through for a firearm purchase.

      Of course it is still illegal to possesses a gun if you are not legally able to purchase one (criminals, the insane, children, etc), so it’s not like Mr Murderer can print up a gun and nobody can do anything about it.  And it’s still cheaper and easier to simply buy a regular old factory-produced gun illegally than it is to print your own, so as excited as people are about this (good and bad), it changes absolutely nothing.  Gun crime will neither go up or down due to this technology, and gun control laws will still not work. Uproar over 3d printed guns is security theater.  This development is a non-issue from every angle.

      1. Then why not just convert the japanese airsoft glocks to accept real glock parts?  those “receivers” are only $50 each and all you have to do to make them work is to insert a sheet metal basket to hold the axis pins needed to add real glock fire control group.  The glock slides fit right on (buy police trade in spares/seizure demils or buy from wolf)

        1. You can.  It’s one of the excuses that the ATF has used for randomly seizing airsoft shipments in customs.  If somebody wanted to do this and they weren’t concerned with reliability (or the thing blowing apart in their hand the first time they fired it), they absolutely could do that.

          But as with 3d printed receivers, it’s cheaper and easier (and safer) to just buy an illegal gun. That’s why nobody bothers to convert airsoft guns and that’s why nobody will bother to 3d-print guns.

        2. Let me know when AirSoft starts shipping replicas from milled stock that’s been properly hardened and tempered, rather than being milled from pot metal ;-)

          1. AFAIK only two of the many brands of Airsoft glock receivers will work for creating a working 9mm. 
            I would not try a 10mm, .40 .45 or .357 sig though someone probably already did it.

      2. I would note that Gun crime probably will change, in that self-inflicted/accidental wounding will probably occur as a result of weak designs/overuse of shoddy plastic materials.  I’d also bet that within 6 months to 1 year after completion of the project the guys behind this will be broke as a result of litigation because  of a “they said it’d be safe” lawsuit.

        1. You’re assuming that more than two or three people would be dumb enough to actually *do* this.  Anybody with half a brain who was unable to purchase a gun legally would simply purchase one illegally.  Anybody dumb enough to make their own out of nowhere-near-strong-enough plastic would probably have ended up injuring themselves with or without this technology.

    2. It can also be drilled and bored by hand. I watched an old guy make a replacement barrel for a .303 Enfield that was created before he was born. It wasn’t a quick process, but it worked well enough for the job. It only needs to work a few times until you can gather enough factory made weapons to support your insurgency.

      The barrel can be made from pipe or bar stock. You should go to instructables and look at some of the projects there for forging and heat treating. Youtube has a nice showing a homebrew jig for making springs:

      There are tens of thousands of home garage machinists and even more professionals. The technology for the metal working is already out there. The only hard part was coming up with a decent lower.

      In the middle east, gunsmithing has been traditionally carried out in open air stalls in markets, in small shops that have little more than a vise and a treadle-powered lathe.

      You probably don’t want to hear this, but honestly, if it comes down to people actually needing to use these to defend themselves, they’ll either die real quick or upgrade with weapons from dead cops.

  6. Given how touchy getting proper filament adhesion can be on polymer filament extrusion type 3d printers, I just can’t see this ending well…

    When it comes to the pressure vessel that is the only thing between my fingers and a deliberately induced explosion I’ll pay extra for a technology that is actually suited to the purpose. Yeah, .22 isn’t all that punchy; but fingers are rotten with important little nerves and ligaments and blood vessels and stuff.

  7. Two comments above already nailed it.  No one who seriously wants to build a pistol from scratch or has the slightest inkling of the issues involved would ever say “.22 millimeter”.  It’s like saying “the intertubes”; there’s irony involved, or sarcasm, or horrific ignorance.

    Or another agenda.  The Defense Dist faq page includes this:

    “… let’s bring the paternalistic assumptions out into the sunlight. If you’re a modern political “progressive,” there is nothing that can be said to sway you from your social contract literalisms and sense of duty to the cowering masses.”

    Does that sound like a UT law student, the person reportedly behind this?  Or does that sound like a law student trying to make a point by straining irony to the breaking point?

    This is gonna be interesting.

    1. Apparently he actually says .22 caliber gun in the video, and it’s just the writer who doesn’t know the difference.

      That said, skipping around that long video I didn’t hear the size mentioned. But it was a long video and I didn’t listen to all of it.

      1. “… it’s just the writer who doesn’t know the difference…”

        Right you are.

        But for the people who didn’t go back enough levels to understand this, allow me to restate in more detail.  The speaker in the vid supposedly gets it right.  But the Defense Dist web site (which is quoted by Greenburg and re-quoted by BB) has clearly written it as “.22 millimeter”.  That means that someone at the core of this project, with the responsibility for authoring content to go on the web site, still made a mistake so fundamental as to betray the fact that at least someone directly involved in a project to make guns simply knows nothing about guns.

        Ignorance or irony?  I dunno but when I see lots of traffic drawn to a site that hits hot buttons, is the brainchild of a law student, and makes such basic mistakes then I’m forced to consider that things may not be as they seem.

        Now, if this had come from a Texas A&M student instead of one from UT, I might be willing to more charitably assume simple stupidity.  :-)

    2. I generally find it to be a little ironic that self-professed “conservatives” can’t free their minds enough to understand that “progressives” own firearms, too, and often for similar reasons.

      1. Because they think we’re all weak, wimpy pacifist hippie stereotypes or weak, wimpy intellectual nerds. Let them keep thinking that, it’s entertaining when they run into something that doesn’t conform to those stereotypes.

  8. Now, if these were open source plans for printing a steel two-handed battle sword and matching gold scabbard, we’d be all for it.

  9. So let me get this straight…you want to make your own illegal guns, give out the information so others can do so as well…

    And you would like me to help pay for it?  (With all the potential legal and criminal ramifications that would imply)

    Hilarious.  And of course: hell fuck no.  Seems to me this young visionary is basically saying “I would like the ATF to come hassle me and take some of my stuff away’

    This is a excellent demonstration of the important distinction between wisdom and intelligence.

    Finally: “as long as it has that guarantee of lethality.”  A single shot .22?  Hardly: you better be close and you better aim true.  Otherwise: The adversary is gonna come right at cha with a bone to pick.

    (Tell me this is another one of those fake posts to rile up the masses…otherwise this morning just started off with more stupid than usual)

    1. “…you want to make your own illegal guns…”

      WTF?  As this is described, both here and at Defense Dist, nothing about this is illegal.

      1. Do people that make firearms not need some kind of regulation?  Even from the health and safety perspective it seems unlikely that this is totally kosher.

        Edit: Just saw a comment below that explains it is legal. Wow.

        1. It may not be against Federal law to make a handgun yourself but you should check your state and local laws carefully.

      2. Maybe not in your country, but in mine, very much so, and as far as I’m concerned, with VERY good reason. I cannot see how anyone can justify, let alone glorify owning guns in any developed country, but then I’m a european and don’t have to worry about things like cougars carrying off my children from in front of my house!

        1. What country are you in? There are millions of privately owned firearms in Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, and France.

        2.  I have a few acres, with some goats, chickens, a donkey, etc.  If feral dogs were attacking my animals, I would not want to be in a situation where I did NOT have a gun.  My kids consider the animals closer to pets than livestock, and I would not want them to have their pets killed by vermin.

      3. really?  you believe that?  

        If you print a gun and you do something with it the government does not like…soon you are going to tell the court ‘hey, it’s perfectly legal!’

        Hope you have plenty of time and money

        1.  You’re conflating the making of a gun with doing something illegal with a homemade gun. 

    2. As long as you do the work yourself, Americans who can legally posses a handgun, can build one themselves. As long as it follows all the definitions of a pistol. No serial numbers are required but they are encouraged. See Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, an unlicensed individual may make a “firearm” as defined in the GCA for his own personal use, but not for sale or distribution.

      1. That’s interesting information…thank you.  I doubt the criminal classes will begin manufacturing plasti-AKs en-masse


  10. In the 90’s cypherpunks used to talk about crypto and the darknet as metaphorical guns.  Tools which directly empower the individual, and can be used for good or ill.  Now it’s no longer a metaphor.  The crypto is the darknet is the gun, and vice-versa.  Different manifestations of the same ungovernable network.

  11. you still can’t print a structurally sound barrel/chamber.. even for a .22LR cartridge..

    i find this project misguided and the end result is questionable at best.. you’re not going to be the P2P of home firearm manufacturing.. the “lethality” of a single shot .22LR is near laughable.. the idea that develop and distributing a digital file for a “firearm” is going to counteract the UN North American Arms Treaty is also sophomoric..

    it will be a *long time* before you input a file and print an actual functioning firearm that does not require any other processes in manufacture.. as it is, under the BATFE, a receiver is the “firearm”.. so the plastic part of a typical Glock hand gun actually *is* the “firearm” and is regulated by the BATFE.. the AR lower is classified the same way.. as it stands, under these regulations, you are able to print a “firearm” this way.. but, until you produce the other parts, you will have a non-functioning “firearm”..

    there are many other issues with this.. it *is* legal to produce your own firearm for your personal use.. there are certain BATFE regulations on how many you may produce.. over that limit, or for profit, and you are now an arms manufacturer.. what is being done is completely legal, at this point..

    about the firearm-based articles that happen to appear on this site.. if you are going to write about firearms, learn the parts that comprise a firearm and the terms involved.. i.e. “clip vs magazine”, “AK74 vs AK47”, “bullet vs cartridge”… it shows laziness and a bold, and near willing, ignorance of the subject..

    regardless of your emotional/political stance on the subject..

    1.  No one is talking about printing barrels, or if they are, it’s just a distraction. Any half decent machinist can make a suitable barrel from bar stock. It doesn’t need to last forever, only long enough to knock over a national guard armory and steal some factory-made barrels.

    2. ” you still can’t print a structurally sound barrel/chamber.. even for a .22LR cartridge..”

      Yes, you can.  It just has to be thicker.

  12. Is this a big deal? Not really, considering it’s not all that hard to get a firearm legally (hello, James Eagan Holmes) or illegally (hello, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold) and do bad things with it.

    1. Except that there are lots of countries that have stricter gun control laws than the US (I’m thinking of the UK & NZ in my case) and this type of activity would attract a great deal of attention from law makers if it took off.

      1. So what does this do for countries with strict gun laws? I guess it means that you can order the legal gun parts, then fabricate the illegal parts and make yourself a gun without arousing any suspicion right? Point taken I guess. That might lead authorities to crack down… but seems to me they’d have better luck restricting the purchase of other pre-fab gun parts than playing whack-a-mole with websites that give away 3D models. You get one website shut down, another will pop up in its place, likely with mirrored content. Hopefully authorities have by now learned that information quarantine on the net is a fool’s errand.

        Anyway, people can still make zip guns without the need for 3D printing. IF people want to DIY projectile weapons under the radar there is very little stopping them from doing so, rep-rap or no rep-rap

  13. “Only works once” does not sound like a self-defense weapon against the oppressors he claims: International kleptocrats. Not until you can mass-produce competitive armor and weapons. And then what? Fight a civil war of ideas with guns?

  14. The only place 3D printing is going to head with this type of bone-headed idea is bone-headed regulation.  Just one person needs to get hurt or killed with a 3D gun for the media to kick up a storm about it, then the politicians will pass heavy handed laws to prevent a repeat occurrance.  Worst case scenario is that home based 3D printers over a certain size will be banned and/or anything you want to print will have to be submitted to licensed printers that check for illegal designs.  Or perhaps home 3D printers will only print things that have been pre-approved.

    I’m all for the freedom of being able to print whatever you like, but it seems like it’ll be only a matter of time before a few individuals with no sense of responsibility ruin this activity for everyone.

    1. Except one of the primary goals of several 3d printer projects is the ability to use the printer to produce the majority of the parts needed to make additional printers, and otherwise use COTS pieces (stepper motors, etc) for the remainder.

      For another view on regulation of rapid prototyping machines, read Cory’s story Printcrime at

  15. Too much ignorance here. I can make a simple pistol in my home workshop in less than an hour. I don’t have a 3D printer just standard wood and metal working tools. High school students made zip guns in shop back in the 1940’s and 50’s. This is just more gun hysteria. BTW .22 cal has nothing to do with mm.

    1. But to whip up a functioning gun, you need a workshop. Or at least, a hacksaw, some source of heat, a source of materials like pipes…

      Makers have long been able to make things. But makers, though they don’t realize it, are a special breed, and constitute a tiny minority, so small that they can fly under the radar as hobbyists.

      People with printers, on the other hand, are basically *everyone*. People with access to 3D printers will soon (20 years, tops) be in that same group.

      Getting a fully-functioning firearm that *anyone*, even the completely unskilled, can make at the press of a button, really is the death knell for firearms regulation. You can’t regulate something which doesn’t even exist until it’s needed.

      At that point, regulating the ammo feels like a much easier problem.

  16. Has anybody killed anybody with a 3D printed knife yet?  How about a club?   And I don’t mean, join the club. I mean a 3D printed club that someone was beaten to death with.

    1.  Thus far I think only 2D people have been killed with 2D printed knives.  I don’t think anyone’s extended it to 3D yet.

  17. Interesting new kind of trojan suggests itself.  Someone could put a CAD file out there and say it lets you print a working gun.  Printer actually produces a gun that won’t fire.

  18. Interesting idea.  Few things, though…

    First problem is see is that, in the USA, pistols can not have a smooth bore, they must be rifled.  IIRC this was to keep short barreled shotguns from being called “pistols” instead of  “shotguns”.  There is a $200 tax on making a smooth bore pistol, and it’s due no even if you make one for yourself.  

    I wonder if they could print a very thin, plastic, rifled, barrel, that fits into a common sized piece of metal pipe.   That may help with the OMG-this-thing-will-explode!!!!!ness.  Although .22LR is only, what, 24,000 psi.  I’ve seen plastic inserts for flare guns to allow the use of 12 gauge flares in 25mm flare guns, maybe something like that could work here.  

    Just had a thought.  A lot of older .22 pistols are made from quite crap metal.  Like cast zinc and such.  This is why dry-firing .22s is not a good idea, as the crap metal will get messed up.  I wonder if the best use for this project would be to make plastic molds that metal parts can then be cast into.  hmmmmm…

    During WWII the US developed a pistol called the Liberator. 
    It was a single shot .45acp caliber smooth bore pistol made in the millions and intended to be airdropped all over occupied Europe and Asia.  It was made from stamped sheet metal and cost $2 to make.  The idea was that a citizen of an occupied country would go up to an Axis soldier, shoot him with the Liberator, and taking his weapon(s).  

    I’m not sure that I’d want to use a .22LR pistol for that role.  

    I would think a knife would be better, since you have to get into bad breath distance anyway.  Heck, print plastic knifes with scoring on them so that they can be broken off in the body, like a good prison shank.  Then you don’t have a bloody knife you have to explain.  

    I’d think that the main problem with the Wiki Weapon Project is that, well, let’s say you are in Syria, and the .gov is coming to kill you, and you don’t have a gun, so you fire up your RepRap and make one.  Whatcha gonna shoot out of it?  Where are you going to get ammo?  

    Heck, not to go all Dukes of Hazard (or Hunger Games I guess), but what about a bow?  You can make one out of locally found materials just about anywhere, they are quiet, and lethal, and while it does take some practice, at least that practice can be done indoor and quietly so as not to alert the authorities.  Also, it’s a good way to get food if you need food.  hmmm…crossbows are easier to learn to use, and require less strength, so perhaps plans on how to make crossbows would be better? 

    Another thought: can you use a RepRap to make a cnc metal cutting mill?   Then use that mill to make the pistol (or rifle or shotgun) out of metal.  Of course then you’d need drills and end mills and cutters and such, I guess the advantage of making a pistol on a RepRap is not needing all that extra tooling and jigs and such.  

    1. Man, you’re thinking too much.  A garotte could solve ALL of these issues, and there are pianos EVERYWHERE.

  19. 3D printing isn’t well suited to making several important parts of the gun (firing pin, barrel), partly for reasons of achievable tolerances and partly for reasons of materials strength. And for those who say that the barrel can be easily made from bar stock by anyone with a workshop, I disagree: a proper barrel needs heat treating and rifling, both of which are somewhat specialized operations. Though it’s true that a barrel for a shitty smoothbore pistol can be made pretty easily…
    Anyway, I will be a lot more impressed when designs for original weapons are created for use on 3D printers – something that takes advantage of their special peculiarities rather than trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. Firearms are highly effective weapons in some contexts (long range, cheap ammunition, quickly lethal) but they also have a host of drawbacks. Noisy; coats user in nitrate residues; easily recognized and detected…

  20.  I see Neal Stephenson’s HEAP gun from Crytonomicon – designed to be ultra-simple to produce for community defence to avoid another holocaust (by a fairly nutty dude, but that’s par for the course).

  21. “You don’t need to be able to put 200 rounds through it…It only has to fire once. But even if the design is a little unworkable, it doesn’t matter, as long as it has that guarantee of lethality.”
    Exactly the same concept as the FP45 Liberator – you only need one shot and the element of surprise… 

  22. Downloadable shooters. 
    Of course. No matter how many well intentioned makerspaces are open to the public, I fear this new technology will show up on the mainstream radar first via the usual culprits. Sex and violence.This reminds me of the mainstreaming of the internet. Remember when we realised,  that anyone could download the ‘Anarchist Cookbook’ fram anywhere on the internet? And so we did? Network games and 3D graphics were driven by the desire for strangers everywhere to shoot each other in the face.Web video was driven by a seemingly universal desire to see hard porn and video of people getting injured. Webcams are everywhere now, – but they used to be dirty spyholes used by pedophiles to cyber-rape children as soon as you plugged them in. In 2012 we’re familiar with the concept of camwhores, but who is actually making video calls to loved ones?
    I guess we should brace ourselves for the 3D equivalant of sitting on a photocopier.
    Or instead of leaked nude shots from a mobile – groupies with hidden scanners will upload bootleg CADs of celebrity genitalia.

    As far as guns go – they are out there already, but bullets should be hard to get and really expensive. 
    Like Chris Rock said:

    1. I’ve made my own ammo. It’s slightly less time consuming and complicated than making a cake from scratch.

  23. This is really starting to bother me deeply. I personally feel that 3D printing could solve half the world’s problems. It could economies not be as dependant on imports, for example. Why pay for some ugly cup from wal*mart when a better one could be printed?

    Part of a device broke? Replace the part with a duplicate.

    Your child’s new lightsaber toy fell to pieces? It’s fine, you already printed two more.

    The number of things we could customize, and personalize. It would be liberating, expressive, artistic, technical, and it would be shared by so many people.

    And all the media thinks about is the negative side. At the rate things are going I expect governments to start banning 3D printers. 3D printers were an answer to a positive future I always looked forward to. Guess that just went out the window. I wish people would share all the great things 3D printers have already done.

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