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“Are 3D Printed Guns a Threat?”

“3D Printed Guns are Impossible to Stop”

“Ban Downloadable/Plastic Guns and Bullets”

Unfortunately, most of the media and documentaries on the subject of 3D printed guns skews negative. This creates two unfortunate effects.

First, non-gun people see 3D printed guns as some sort of menace. But, secondly, gun owners see them as a fringe community with no benefit to the average gun owner.

Here’s why that’s wrong:

1. Affordable Gun Parts for Rare or Old Firearms

As I mentioned in my previous blog on 3D Printed Gun Parts for Curious and Relics, 3D printing and modelling makes for cheap and readily available parts. I’ve been using it to model the internals of my Remington Model 11, and print replacement parts for a fraction of what used parts cost.

A great example is the action spring plug and pin, which cost just 8.25 used, without shipping included. A brand new 3D printed replacement costs me just 0.12.

3D Printed Gun Part Models
Action Spring Plug and Pin 3D Model for Remington Model 11.

If 3D printing gun parts and the sharing of files related to firearms is stopped, lovers of older weapons would lose out on a future of cheap and readily available replacement parts. I love old guns, and I love shooting them. Losing out on that ability because limited part availability or general expense of parts would be a huge disappointment.

2. More Ways to Customize Your Gun

3D printing is a revolutionary manufacturing technology primarily because it allows for the cheap creation of one off objects. With traditional manufacturing, you either need to make a mold, utilize CNC machining, or contact a blacksmith for a custom 1 off piece.

All of those options are expensive and mean that manufacturers often need to stick with more universal or standard designs. This is fine, except that everyone has different preferences. Take a foregrip for example, your average gun owner may want to change:

  • Thickness
  • Texturing or pattern
  • Angle
  • Height
  • Mounting system
  • Color
  • Weight
  • And more

But, those options aren’t there, especially when considering affordable foregrips, because manufacturers need to produce them in batches. With 3D printing, you could create a foregrip with different textures, colors, height, weight, angle, etc. at no additional cost.

This results in hyper-customized parts for gun builds that are more personal, helping you perform your best in competition, or just smile when you see it in your safe.

3. 3D Printed Guns Can Be More Affordable

This sort of goes hand and hand with the above, but 3D printing can result in more affordable guns period. At the end of the day, the plastic to print a pistol or rifle frame/receiver is quite cheap. You could print a Glock style for $9 in plastic.

But, let’s say you don’t want to invest in a 3D printer or learn. You may dismiss this point as not relevant, but here’s something to think about. If someone were to get a manufacturers license and begin offering 3D printed receivers and frames, they could do so at prices equal to or less than other options on the market, and offer customization at no additional cost.

3D Printed Guns
Customized Glock 17 Style 3D Printed Lower

This is something I hope to eventually do, if the parts side of Gunny McGunsmith takes off.

4. Innovation Within the Firearms Industry

An additional benefit to 3D printed guns and file sharing is more rapid innovation within the firearms industry. Off the top of my head I know of at least a few exciting new designs happening. These wouldn’t happen if 3D printed guns and file sharing wasn’t a thing, as often they’re collaborative efforts.

The open nature of these files means anyone interested could take a look at designs and begin to reverse engineer how they work, coming up with unique new solutions or simple improvements to existing designs.

I’ve personally shared several conversations with others who upon realizing how easy it would be for me to modify a design started thinking up all sorts of new ways of mitigating recoil, feeding rounds, and designing ergonomics.

And, thanks to the relative quickness and affordability of 3D printing, we can afford to print prototypes over and over until we get it right. Innovating within weeks instead of the months that it’d take via more traditional production means.

Real Life Example of How Quickly New Designs Can be Created Using 3D Printing

A great example of this is the +2 magazine extension for Glock mags I’m currently working on. Thanks to files shared by Deterrence Dispensed I was able quickly develop a new design and then put it to test. Now I’m 8 versions later, but since each version only took me a couple hours to print I was able to come up with a design that should be good to go in under a week!

3D printed Magazine Extension for Glocks
A few versions of my +2 magazine extension. The top left blue one was v1, and worked in a live fire test, but was the was large and bulky. v1.2 (top right) was shorter but caused the spring angle to be incorrect. I’m unsure the exact version number of the 2 broken ones, but the left one was an earlier version which wasn’t strong enough to fit on standard Glock Mags. The right one was designed spaces for the lock tabs on the glock mags which helped alleviate the issue, but still ultimately broke. v1.8 which is currently installed on the mag was thickend up a bit and no longer breaks, but hasn’t been live fire tested yet.

Even when we take into account the time it’ll take me to live fire test this design, and release a final version (with slightly rounded exterior edges), the whole process from idea to finalization will be under a month. That’s nearly unheard of in product design and manufacturing!

5. Supporting American Manufacturing

Another benefit to 3D printing is that it’s helping to bring manufacturing back into America. Many of these plastic parts that are being designed and printed would have otherwise been made in china where the manufacturing costs would be much cheaper than injection molding and assembly in the states.

This may not bring large factories (and with them factory workers) back to the states, but it’ll certainly help keep money and investment in the states rather than overseas. Why pay a factory to create parts in China when you create parts for cheaper with a small warehouse full of 3D printers and a few technicians to oversee them?

I will admit that most 3D printers are manufactured overseas, so the initial investment in 3D printing (buying the printer) would appear to be funds going out of the U.S. However, one of the most highly recommended 3D printers at the moment is the Ender 3, is only a $200 printer!

That means that the total number of funds going out of the states initially is quite low and quickly offset by the value of the goods produced by the printer itself. I’ve personally used my printer to produce a myriad of goods, gun related and otherwise. These goods in turn save cash that would’ve been spent on goods produced overseas and allows me to have more discretionary income. Income that I’ve invested into this business Idea!

And that’s just on a personal level, if a business bought a chinese printer but then employed an American to oversee the prints and do the post processing, you’d see the investment in America outweigh the small printer price within a week!

6. Supporting Small Businesses

In addition to Gunny McGunsmith, I know of a couple of small businesses setup around 3D printing guns and gun parts. Starting any business is hard, but it’s especially tough to start one which sells a physical good because you typically need to pay for inventory up front.

This usually requires a large investment and is out of the reach of many Americans looking to bring their ideas to market. Luckily, with 3D printing, a person could invest less than 1K and have the essentials for starting a 3D printed gun parts business.

This means that 3D printing guns and parts will result in more small firearms related businesses. That in turn, will give gun owners more options when it comes time to upgrade or repair their firearms.

7. A New Generation of Gun Designers

If I asked you to name a gun designer, chances are you’d name one of the following:

  • John M. Browning
  • Samuel Colt
  • Benjamin Tyler Henry
  • Eugene Stoner
  • John Garand
  • Dr. Richard Gatling
  • David Marshall Williams
  • John Thompson
  • Christian Sharps
  • or Christopher Miner Spencer

Do you know what all of them have in common?

They’ve all died.

We’re past due for a new generation of firearms designers, and 3D printing guns and sharing their files is the key to letting the innovators of this time try their hand at their own designs.

I might be wrong in assuming this, but I’d be willing to wager that most of those within Deterrence Dispensed skew on the younger side. And if we’re able to make affordable versions of today’s designs after only a couple of years, imagine the types of things we’ll be doing in a decade or two!

Conclusion

3D Printing Guns and the sharing of their files is the key to a new era within the firearms industry. All gun owners should be excited for and supporting 3D printed guns as they’ll bring:

  • Affordable guns and parts
  • More customization and options for new mods and accessories
  • A wave of new small businesses for firearms and their parts
  • Renewed Investment in American Manufacturing
  • Faster innovation in the industry
  • A new generation of gun designers
  • And more availability for parts of older and rare firearms