3D printed shotgun slugs (suck)

As the 3D printed gun story unfolds, many (including me) have noted that you can't print ammo. However, you can print shotgun slugs on a 3D printer, but they suck:

Heeszel was surprised at the first two. “I didn’t think it would go through the first piece of wood at all, much less hit anything,” he says. But he also called them more of a novelty than a practical bullet. “I thought the thing was kinda lame, but I realize there’s a lot of novelty with the 3-D printed gun, and I thought it was kind of timely. But overall I think they’re kind of crappy little rounds,” he adds...

“I might be a redneck from Tennessee, but I love the technology,” Griffy says. Griffy, who runs a YouTube account ArtisanTony — where he also shows off a printable knife and buckshot rounds — tells Danger Room he printed the slugs more for their own enjoyment. “Because a real gun shooting plastic bullets is more fun than a plastic gun shooting real bullets,” he says. “You have to spend six hours printing a barrel that you’re going to use one time, and it’s not as much fun. It’s more about the enjoyment and the sport. And if you’re having to labor that much, then the enjoyment goes away.”

Griffy says he printed the slugs with a Solidoodle 3 3-D printer — which retails for $800 — using ABS thermoplastic using dimensions from one of Heeszel’s non-printed slugs. Griffy then created the computer-aided design files, converted them to a stereolithography format, and checked the files for inconsistencies with the 3-D printing software Netfabb. He also designed slugs in three sizes. The largest slug takes about an hour to print. The others take about 30 minutes. He also added a lead ball to each slug to give them more weight. The final step was mailing them to Heeszel, who fitted the slugs into hollowed-out — non-printed — shotgun cartridges.

Watch 3-D Printed Shotgun Slugs Blow Away Their Targets [Robert Beckhusen/Wired]


  1. “The final step was mailing them to Heeszel, who fitted the slugs into hollowed-out — non-printed — shotgun cartridges.” – The more important part isn’t printed – the slug’s not the hard part (and he even added lead to that).  The suck is strong with this one.

  2. You can just put a rock in a shotgun if you have a cartridge…or a fork if you feel saucy. Who cares about printing a chunk of plastic and fitting it to a non-printed cartridge.

  3. You know what’s faster and easier?  Open up the top of a turkey load and pour hot wax on the shot, solidifying it into a single mass. This will make a wax slug, which packs a huge punch for the $$.

    1. These guys have actually been putting everything in a slug and seeing what it does. I know this because you watch a lot of different things with insomnia.
      After trying everything the two things they found that transfer the most energy are wax slugs (wax and shot) and also silly putty slugs (just silly putty). Lead dust plus silly putty might be a truly terrifying weapon. Their breakdown of why the wax slug works is pretty good observation.

      1. Yeah, I saw that.  They actually take the shot out of a regular shell, mix it with wax, then spoon it back in.  I’m suggesting use a turkey load, which has bigger shot (and a lot more powder behind it) and don’t pour the shot out.  Just pour the wax IN.

    1. Why on earth use an $800 printer when you can do better with a lathe? Or use a lathe and mill to make the whole gun? There are better tools out there, and have been for years. I guess they’re just not cool enough.

  4. There would be a bit of a story if the actual shell casing was printed (people have had the ability to cast bullets and handload shells using empty brass for forever), I can’t hate on it too much.  Without it, I wouldn’t have found people crazy enough to stuff razor blades, sewing needles, spark plugs and .22 bullets into shotgun shells for fun.

    also, purposefully exploding a shotgun by sticking it in the water with a magnum shell.

  5. First.  This is more important than any of us realize. No leaps in technology just appear useful de novo.  The next logical, lethal (OMG why am I writing this) step is not to design guns that mimic calibre and replicate existing firearms, but to utilize the inherent strengths of the materials.
    Second. Pre-designed frangibility. Baby.

  6. Stone rounds still work just as good as they did against the Christians at Mohács.

  7. Don’t forget to be like the employee of Mr. Charlie, put some salt in those shotgun shells.

  8. The news isn’t the slug, the news is the sheer lack of Robert Beckhausen and Cory Doctorow’s understanding. Do they realize you can’t print brass?

    1. I can think of a lot of ways to print brass.  You could sinter copper powder together with hot zinc gas and you would have brass. Brass is an easily workable materiel  That said the traditional ways of punching cutting and and machining the stuff are probably so much more economical.

      Are you so eager to insult those with an imagination that you have lost your own?

        1. There are widespread historical uses of plastic in cartridge design and manufacture.

          In point of fact, the bulk of the shotgun cartridges that fired those printed projectiles (the entire sides, much of the base) were plastic.

          Plastic is not as strong, and therefore takes more “inert volume” for higher pressure cartridges (rifle, to a moderate degree pistol), and also harder to grab on to with the ejector and remove from the chamber (either a thicker rim at the base, or some sort of insert or add-on is needed).

          The plastic shotgun shells use a thin formed brass rim that usually goes a half-inch or so up the side of the cartridge.  These have come to dominate the shotgun shell market; the older all-metal cartridges are nearly gone now.

          Duplex cartridges using a flat rim or rim + base / extractor groove area and with plastic formed onto that exist for rifle and pistol rounds, though none are particularly commercially successful.

          1. That “you can’t print brass” was not a correct assertion. With a cartridge redesign and careful materials selection you can.

            Cheaper to injection mold that same plastic in bulk, but could print.

  9. He 3D printed a fucking dowel. That’s hilarious.

    I’d laugh at him if I thought he was taking this at all seriously. I’d say he’d be better off getting some wooden dowel stock from Home Depot and sawing it to the right length, but he’s probably already done that just for kicks.

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