3D Printed Guns Should Be Legal, But Are They Safe?

By Jason Hanson published on in Legal, News

There is an ongoing debate in the news related to 3D printed guns. This argument started years ago — when Cody Wilson first shot his 3D printed gun in 2013. Once Wilson had developed the plans for his gun, he wanted to share them with the world. He planned to do this through his company called Defense Distributed.

3D Printed Gun

Over the last few years, Defense Distributed and the U.S. State Department have battled back and forth over the legality of 3D printed guns.

His goal was to create a website where people could download and share blueprints for do-it-yourself gun manufacturing. Once the federal government caught wind of this, they immediately shut down the website based on export regulations to censor technical information. (Yes, that sounds like a load of crap to me too.)

Over the last few years, Defense Distributed and the U.S. State Department have battled back and forth over the legality of 3D printed guns. However, in July, the U.S. State Department settled a legal case and allowed Defense Distributed to go ahead and release the 3D printing plans online.

The problem is once this issue was settled, 19 states sued the State Department and Defense Distributed in an attempt to stop the release of the blueprints. As of the time of this writing, a judge has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the publication of the blueprints.

What’s All the Fuss?

As the name implies, a 3D printed gun is a gun made mostly of plastic from a 3D printer.

Now, the key word is “mostly” because the gun still requires a firing pin and a piece of metal.

The purpose of the piece of metal is to ensure the gun complies with the U.S. Undetectable Firearms Act.

Essentially, it is a federal offense to “manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive” a firearm capable of defeating airport metal detection. However, I realize most criminals probably don’t care about following the law.

Now, you may be wondering what the big deal is about 3D printed guns and why some people are so against them. Well, even though the gun requires a firing pin, you could technically hide the firing pin and the small piece of steel separately. Then you could carry the gun and walk right through security checkpoints.

And since these guns are homemade, they don’t have a serial number. They are basically “ghost guns.” Also, people wouldn’t have to go through a background check to get a 3D printed gun like they would if they were buying a regular firearm from a retail location. Anyone could simply print one in the privacy of their own home.

The reality is a 3D printed firearm is definitely not the easiest way to get a gun. Plus, the majority of criminal lowlifes aren’t going to have the means (or the patience) to 3D print a gun.

What I mean is if a responsible gun owner wanted to build a firearm, they could simply go the 80% receiver route. In other words, simply buy a receiver that is about 80% of a working receiver. You only need to use a drill press or hand tool to finish the remaining 20%.

Finally, 3D printed guns aren’t dependable and can easily fail. The plastic simply isn’t strong enough to withstand the explosion caused by a firing bullet.

In fact, many people have tried to develop plastic guns only to have them explode upon firing. So, while I love guns and fully support 3D printed guns, they’re just not quality or sophisticated enough at this time.

I have no doubt they will be in the future. But right now, I wouldn’t trust one with my life if someone was kicking down my front door at 3 a.m.

What’s your take on 3D printed guns? Should they be legal? Would you shoot one? Share your answer in the comment section.

Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. To get a free copy of his book, visit www.SpyEscape.com.


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Comments (15)

  • Tom L.


    When I was a kid you could order a rifle or a pistol through the USPS delivered to your door with no checks, no tracking and no ID. Now we have all of these qualifications we have to make before we can buy a gun and there are still criminals that get them anyway. What is the point of all of the gun laws if they don’t apply to the criminals? Legal gun owners are not the problem and never have been. Catch, Prosecute and Sequester the criminals and the gun issue will solve itself.


  • Brett Girman


    A few key facts here are though the firearm may be rendered undetectable to metal detectors via omitting the metal plate (which I know is illegal), you cannot 3D print ammo. You also only have ONE shot with such a thing before you are pounced upon. I don’t see this as a realistic means of anything. Yes it is kind of cool but highly impracticable for ANY scenario. I don’t see criminals rolling up somewhere with 30 of these in a bag. Sorry, nice try.


  • Claude


    i think adding steel filings to the plastic would solve the problem of being undetectable. Also might solve the strength issues as well


  • Steven Johnson


    A slight error in the article. While you could hide the firing pin (a nail), the only way to legally print this gun is to: 1) print the hollow handle first, 2) permanently epoxy 8 oz (I think) of steel into the handle, 3) print the rest of the gun. Any deviation from this procedure makes the gun illegal. So, no, you cannot remove the steel to hide the gun from detectors.


  • wolf ryet


    I think it is pretty obvious what is going on here. The gun is useless as is. However it is a tool to test out the government system on new technology.If the government sees a threat to itself, it will work to remove your right to it. This is an attempt to shake out the system for when the technology is workable before real money is invested . Like the arm brace that was given a green light and then shot down after all the investment and expense of manufacturing.


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