After proving the concept in .22, HaveBlue printed a lower to assemble in an operational .223 AR-15 rifle, but reliability was a problem.

Gun made in 3D printer

A working gun has been made using a 3D printer, prompting debate about the technology and casting the doors wide open for backyard gun manufacturing.

However, it’s not there yet. The technology currently allows only some workable parts to be made before being mixed with factory-produced components to make up the complete weapon.

A hobby gunsmith calling himself HaveBlue produced the .22LR AR-15 based pistol to demonstrate what was possible, using resin to make the lower body section (trigger housing etc). When mated with a factory upper, barrel and other parts, the gun safely fired over 200 rounds.

HaveBlue then produced a .223 version but experienced feed issues. Ironically, he subsequently blamed factory parts for this, after substituting components and ruling out his synthetic lower as the cause.

His AR-15 lower is still what he calls a work in progress, and features reinforced sections to add strength. He has gone back to working on a .22-cal prototype before continuing on a .223 model.

“While there are still some details to sort out, it’s pretty clear that making weapons at home using 3D printers from commonly available materials is going to become much more commonplace in the near future,” John Robb, of Australian Popular Science, said.

The Outdoor Channel has approached HaveBlue about doing a feature on his creation.

Three-dimensional printing can not only make basic plastic shapes but produce complex parts, both large and small.

People have made model cars barely large enough to see, guitars, blood vessels, massive sculptures and working machines. Even prescription drugs are mooted.

The success of any printed product relies on the material used to make it and the quality of the printer. There is nothing to say it would not be possible to produce a weapon strong enough to handle centrefire cartridges.

And because 3D printers build up parts progressively, one ‘line’ at a time, a rifled barrel would not be difficult to make.

HaveBlue’s AR lower is posted on Thingiverse, an open sharing platform, and in its current form it does not appear to breach the site’s policies concerning weapons.

The existence of plans like these has been compared with the ready availability of firearm blueprints, not just over the internet but in books.

In either case, few if any jurisdictions ban the plans, but of course manufacturing a gun from them is another matter altogether – and certainly illegal in almost all instances in Australia.

Making a gun in the metal from blueprints is difficult enough to make it a rare thing, even for criminal networks who could tool up for it.

The issue with 3D printing is that criminals may soon have an easy, prolific and virtually untraceable source of guns, even fully automatic ones.

That scenario is still a little way off yet, but 3D printing is a rapidly evolving technology.




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.