The Liberator 3D printed handgun has been shown firing live rounds by its makers, who have uploaded the files to allow anyone to create one.
Creators Defense Distributed have called it the “dawn of the wiki weapons”, and the files were reportedly downloaded more than 100,000 times in the first week.
The pistol, intended as a close-range self-defence firearm as well as a showcase of what can be done with modern technology, is assembled almost entirely from plastic parts made in a three-dimensional printer.
The only metallic part in the single-shot gun is the 25mm roofing nail that acts as the firing pin, although of course the ammunition is standard brass, copper and lead.
The smooth-bore barrel of the Liberator can be swapped so that the rest of the gun can be used to fire more shots, but it’s not known how many rounds the chassis can take before the stress weakens it enough to fail.
Photographs show the Liberator after firing on a frame, with fouling visible in the action. Some photos show components that have failed.
However, the video below shows one of its creators firing shots, indicating his faith in the strength of the final version.
Defense Distributed has posted a series of downloads for various 3D gun parts, and say they have had more than 800,000 downloads and gone through over four terrabytes of data transfers.
The technology is developing rapidly, not only as 3D printers become more readily available but as talk of gun bans increases, especially in America.
The potential for both criminal and legitimate uses are clear, and debate over the subject is strong, but there’s no indication of how printed guns could be prevented or effectively regulated.
Legislators in several US states as well as the federal senate are already moving to outlaw 3D printed guns; an ATF spokesman has confirmed it is currently not against the law for a US citizen to manufacture a firearm, only to sell it.
Existing laws in Australia essentially ban people from making guns of any kind, but criminals here have often been found with home-made firearms.
File sharing site Thingiverse opted to stop hosting files for 3D gun parts, prompting Defense Distributed and others to create their own online libraries that people can access them free of charge.
UPDATE: Defense Distributed say the US State Department, citing potential violation of export laws, has demanded it remove the files from download sites, and DD says it will do so. However, the files have been loaded onto other sites beyond DD’s control.