American based Organisation Defence Distributed is at the forefront of a drive to produce 3D printable guns. They describe themselves as aiming to “defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms” and have to date produced an AR-15 lower receiver and the world’s first fully printable handgun named “the Liberator”. Twenty five year old University of Texas Law student Cody Wilson heads the organisation. Although a self proclaimed gun enthusiast, the project for him isn’t only about guns, its about the wider debate on open source material and a political ‘Shift-Age’ bought about through the internet. He is a crypto-anarchist using printable guns as a vehicle to drive a debate on regulation in a digital age.

Wilson has been Printed AR-15 Lower Receiverdeveloping printable blueprints for magazines, silencers and other gun parts since July 2012. His first major project was to print an AR-15 lower receiver, the only part of the semi-automatic rifle that requires a license. US citizens could order the other gun parts (barrel, stock etc.) without a license, print the free lower receiver downloadable CAD file and assemble the same rifle that was used in the recent Sandy Hook school massacre. Unregistered and unchecked a ten year old could do this with the help of his parent’s credit card.

The lower receiver printed in ABS plastic initially could only withstand being fired about ten times before breaking. After tweaking the design several times Wilson developed a lower receiver that could withstand being shot over 600 times.

Wilson’s next project was to create the world’s first fully printable gun, which was completed and released at the beginning of May 2013.  The comically yet scarily named ‘Liberator’ was available to download on Defense Distributed sister-site DefCad an online repository for their downloadable gun parts.

‘The Liberator’ consists of fifteen files that require assembly upon printing. The only part that cannot be printed is the metal firing pin, a common nail that can be purchased in any hardware store. Under US law it is legal to manufacture your own firearm however it must be detectable by a metal detector, to avoid legal issues Wilson inserted a steel rod into the body to comply with the regulations. ‘The Liberator’ is a full-blown firearm and although only capable of holding a single bullet it is possible to use it multiple times. Under UK law it is illegal to manufacture your own firearm and therefore The Liberator is illegal to print and own.

The file was downloaded over 100,000 times in the two days it was available for download on the DefCad website. It was subsequently ordered offline by the State Department of Defense Trade Controls along with nine other printable gun parts; “until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information”. Despite this the file has spread onto numerous file-sharing websites such as the Pirate Bay as well as the site Mega and is now freely circulating the Internet.


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