Let’s 3d Print a Gun – Part 1


I am a Machinist. I also am a hobbyist 3d printer. So I had been thinking about doing this for a while.

While I’d rather craft a masterwork heirloom quality side iron in machine shop, that would take time and effort I could rather spend goofing off. While 3d printing is a fair bit easier.

I keep seeing some of the ignorant masses freaking out over the idea of someone 3d printing a firearm. They don’t think about how anyone will some steel tubing, a drill press and a hack saw could make a submachine gun. They don’t think about how any machine shop could easily pump out weapons. They just fear about someone 3d printing a gun in their house.

It is perfectly legal to make firearms for your self. Now if you plan on selling them for a profit, you require licensing to keep from running afoul of the law.

When I was learning to become a Machinist, I read that machining is the slowest and most expensive way to make anything. 3d printing was not common at that time. 3d printing is very slow. But it is very cheap. Decent 3d printers can be purchased in a couple hundred dollar range allowing you to produce all sorts of things you can imagine or design. Parts to be printed have to be decided with 3d printing in mind, you can’t just print anything, much like how you can’t just carve any shape out of a block of wood. The materials and processes have limitations.

There are many different styles and technologies of 3d printers. A $200 hobby unit is going to be laughable in comparison to a half million dollar industrial machine. Most commercial 3d printers for home use work like a glue gun. They feed from a spool of plastic (like thick fishing line) and lay down melted layers of plastic that rapidly cool and make up the part.

There are countless websites that go into all the fine details of 3d printing, so I will omit that here.

So, what will we need to to do print a gun?

At first, it seems like we could just find a model someone else made and print it off:

For example, someone designed this nifty little single shot pistol. Shown with the left side plate removed.

Or maybe the double barreled shotgun version of the single shot liberator, called “The Baby Biden”?

Well, we run into a little problem.

Maybe it is a big problem.

There are all sorts of pre-designed questionable mostly plastic zip guns all over the interwebs.

We can’t just make one because we have one of those non-nonsensical gun control laws on the books banning “Undetectable Firearms”.

That punk pulled a Glock 7 on me, you know what that is? It’s a porcelain gun made in Germany. It doesn’t show up on your airport metal detectors and probably costs more than what you make in a month.

Quote from the documentary, “Die Hard 2”

Turns out politicians and the ignorant public being scared of so called “ghost guns” is not a new thing.

The “Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988” requires pistols be pistol shaped and have at least 3.7 oz of metal.

Who came up with 3.7? Once again, our guns laws are stupid.

The Pen Pistol is only legal because it is “Pistol Shaped” WTF? There are several for sale on Gunbroker, this picture is taken from a current auction https://www.gunbroker.com/item/831423021

So unless we fall under the exceptions of being a federal government agency or a licensed manufacturer, we need to use a design that had a chuck of metal in it, and is pistol shaped. Well, unless we want to make rifle.

Fortunately, there are free designs out there that fit those criteria. Let’s look at those next time.


  1. I’m looking forward to your take on this, Howard. I am not interested in 3D printing a pistol given the state of the art, but I would like to 3D print some magazine bodies.

    I tried googling around for what 3D printer was best to do that, but I came up empty.

    • With respect to AR15 mags, I don’t think your average 3d printer would printer a magazine body strong enough to work or last long with how thin the mag walls are.
      Not to mention the layer lines would provide more friction potentially leading to more malfunctions.
      Resin printing might be significantly better for this purpose, but that is going to cost more and be more complex to set up.
      I personally don’t believe hobby 3d printers are not good for precision or parts that need higher durability. Not yet. But what fun would it be if we let that stop us.

      • Interesting.

        I’m interested mainly because I’d like to have a source for standard capacity mag bodies before any bans. I started shooting in the middle of the last ban, and that 10-round limit was a real buzzkill.

        And of course, if you have a source for them before any ban, then who is to say whether the mag body in question was produced before or after a ban? I wouldn’t know anything about that though.


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