What if ordinary U.S. citizens could make their own military-grade pistols or assault rifles and forget about buying guns? That possibility has become real in one of the world's first examples of a working gun that uses a 3D-printed part.
Gun enthusiast "HaveBlue" documented how he used an old 3D printer to create the working part of a .22 pistol from a downloaded digital file, according to The Next Web. He first "printed" part of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle — the civilian version of the military's M-16 assault rifle — at some point last summer. He took the next step of using the printed part to assemble and test-fire a .22 pistol this summer.
The 3D-printed gun part, called a receiver, holds the critical bolt, trigger and magazine parts of the gun. Under the American Gun Control Act, the receiver and its contents essentially represent the operational gun.
"HaveBlue" fired off 200 rounds without problems using the pistol, according to his blog post on the AR15 forums. He also tried using the printed receiver in a full AR-15 rifle, but problems in other parts of the gun made it difficult to properly load bullets and remove spent casings.
Assassins or secret agents won't carry around small 3D printers to make their guns on the fly anytime soon. But the 3D printing demonstration does suggest that anyone could someday make high-quality, military-grade weapons right in their own homes with the right 3D printing technologies — a possibly huge headache for gun regulations and law enforcement efforts that focus on controlling firearm sales.
Kurzweil AI points out that Marc Goodman, global security advisor at Singularity University, predicted the rise of 3D-printed guns as a possible issue in a TED talk. That future appears to have arrived.