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back to article Hobbyist builds working assault rifle using 3D printer

Hobbyists have used 3D printers to make guitars, copy house keys, and bring robot dinosaurs to life, but a firearms enthusiast who goes by the handle "Have Blue" has taken this emerging technology into a new realm by assembling a working rifle from 3D-printed parts. Specifically, ExtremeTech reports, Have Blue used 3D CAD files …

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For those w/o time in the military:

.223 caliber is better known as 5.56 mm, the standard NATO assault rifle/light machine gun ammunition.

Not sure about US, but here the bolt is serialized as well and I would think much harder to make a durable one from plastic.

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Re: For those w/o time in the military:

The fact that the bolt (or the barrel) can't be made out of plastic doesn't mean that it can't be fabricated by someone skilled in metalwork. I suspect that the reason the lower reciever is serialised is because it is the one piece of the weapon that is of sufficiently complex shape to be very difficult to make in a backyard metal shop.

Things will really start getting interesting the day someone perfects a matter compiler......

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Re: For those w/o time in the military:

The bolt may be serialized as well, but it's easy to obtain without a license or background check...which is the sticky bit, I think.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: For those w/o time in the military:

Only needs to fire once to count as lethal

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Facepalm

All you need is a CNC machine, get it to understand the code and you will be able to produce any piece and shape of metal. Now that would be progress.

Build your own weapons, from start to finish and I doubt it will be long in the making.

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Anonymous Coward

I can see this selling

Well in the USA

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@SoaG (was: Re: For those w/o time in the military:

".223 caliber is better known as 5.56 mm"

Close, but not quite. .223 ammo can always[1] be safely fired in a 5.56 chambered weapon. Not vice-versa.

My question in this whole mess is "why bother"?[2] Getting a federal firearms license isn't exactly difficult, if you're sane and not a convicted felon ... certainly much easier & cheaper than figuring out how to, and then actually printing a receiver. Yes, I know, sometimes it's the journey ... But surely manufacturing replacement 1960s muscle car interior bits & pieces would be far more lucrative, and still provide the same 3D journey?

[1] Actually, that's cannon ... in reality, there are quite a few cheap 5.56 weapons that I wouldn't risk firing my .223 varmint loads with ...

[2] Unless you really want the BATF up your butt with a microscope, that is.

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@LarsG

I have a CNC, and I'm fairly certain I could what you suggest.

But why? I can get what I need/want, firearms-wise.

I have also forged a blackpowder muzzle-loading shotgun (from ore and Walnut to working gun). She's a near replica of the gun that was forged by my Great-Great-Grandfather. They are side-by-side in my gun-case. Manufacturing firearms isn't exactly a 21st century invention, now is it?

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Joke

Re: For those w/o time in the military:

...or mathematical ability...

".223 caliber is better known as 5.56 mm,"

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Re: For those w/o time in the military:

Actually, the reason why the Lower is serialised is because this part (along with some others) determines wether an AR-15 can fire full-auto or not.

Oh, and good luck finding somebody skilled enough in metalwork to build you a working (and precise) barrel. Only a handfull of companies nowadays do that, most gun companies buy barrels from those few, as barrel making is a very complicated piece of work and requires special machinery not readily available....

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Re: For those w/o time in the military:

Most of formula one is men in sheds bulding the most advanced engines on the planet (some would say)

Top gear put a reliant robin by a bunch of men in sheds strapping precision rocket technology together (granted it was top gear and it failed badly) but it still climbed very high with a car on the side.

NASA's space elevator prize has a leading contender in Washington DC that is an industrial unit.

The three hippies in a US desert that are making petrol from air with the special engine they designed and one day want to market.

At the end of the day "Men in sheds" have built most high tech things in the world, a gun barrel is easy.

My high school has a 3d printer and as a sixth form college it has precision metal working lathes for college courses, I dread to think.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: For those w/o time in the military:

This is a common misconception - there actually is a difference between 5.56 NATO and .223

Without going into a long rambling explanation, the main differences are lower pressures on .223 rounds. The 5.56 rounds have military casing, which is thicker, and if you do any handloading, you'll know this reduces powder capacity and increases overpressure. Rifles chambered for .223 have a shorter throat and headspace dimensions. If you chamber a 5.56 NATO round in a rifle chambered for .223, you can damage it badly, and also maim yourself in the process. If you put .223 rounds into a rifle chambered for 5.56 NATO, it will work reasonably well, but won't be as accurate. Hope that clears it up...

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Trollface

If you do a quick search you'll see loads of CNC programs for receivers

mostly developed in the US rather than China or India. Who says manufacturing is all going offshore?

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Anonymous Coward

@Jake

"I have a CNC"

Why does that not surprise me in the slightest?

For the record, and with the obvious exception of any technology built after 1998, is there anything you don't have?

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Re: For those w/o time in the military:

a rifled barrel is not easy

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FAIL

Barrel

I wonder whether J. Random Lunatic really cares much about "precise". How precise do you need on full auto at a range of ten yards?

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Anonymous Coward

@jnievele 06:30,,,Re: For those w/o time in the military:

Not true in many ways.

Yes if you want a very good and expensive barrel or an unusual calibre, that is accurate over a long range there are a few specialist companies that make them.

However the "Saturday night special" as they were called back in the 70's and 80's, as used by crooks don't need very good barrels. These can be made by any semi-skilled machinist anywhere with quite basic tools, in the same way they have been made for centuries. No high tech required at all.

As for the receiver being the most complex part, that's not true, most modern military rifles are made from cheap stamped steel and plastic, and have been since the 1960's. It is certainly no harder to create than making the bolt/firing pin/trigger mechanism and cutting a precise breach to within a thou or two...

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Re: For those w/o time in the military:

No - building *accurate* barrels is hard.

If the MythBusters can build a cannon out of gaffer tape then I'm sure someone can craft a musket barrel out of steel.

It doesn't need accuracy, just the ability to withstand about 10 seconds of full automatic fire before jamming.

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Re: For those w/o time in the military:

It doesn't need to be rifled to be a lethal weapon at closer ranges.

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Re: Re: For those w/o time in the military:

Not just complex machinery, but also high-grade steel, which not everyone can come by easily. The lower receiver is also much less stressed than the upper receiver (which includes the chamber) or barrel, and the lower receiver can therefore be built up from folded metal (the AR-15 range are famous for introducing the idea of aluminium in the lower receiver to reduce weight). Personally, I always thought it would be a better idea to stamp a serial into barrel, upper and lower receivers, and wouldn't add massively to the cost of production.

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Re: For those w/o time in the military:

".223 caliber is better known as 5.56 mm"

Incorrect. 5.56x45 is actually .224 caliber. Aside from having a slightly different casing dimension, it operates on a higher pressure. Loading a 5.56 into a .223 weapon might work, but you run a serious risk of destroying the firearm in the process. .223 works no problems in a 5.56 weapon however.

The bolt is not serialized here in the US. Only the lower receiver is. That's because the lower receiver is recognized, by the BATFE, as the firearm itself (the upper and other parts are not, just the lower receiver).

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Rubbish!

"All you need is a CNC machine, get it to understand the code"

I love computer geeks who honestly think like this.

No, you have to be able to run whatever type of CNC machine it is (in this case a milling machine of some sort) manually without f*cking up the workpiece, the tool or the machine tool itself. You can run a 3d printer on simple jobs just from a drawing, but subtractive machining is a bit more skilled, even if you have a computer to turn the handwheels for you.

That is why CNC machining is such an interesting hobby and such a well-paid professional field.

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Re: Barrel

Accurate enough to avoid having the bullet spin out of control, or better yet, spin at such a rate that causes it to fragment in the air. As can happen with overspin on lighter bullets.

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Stop

Re: I can see this selling

It's illegal to sell. In the USA a license is required to manufacture firearms.

But I see 3D printer manufacturers putting in safeguards to prevent this sort of thing, the same way that the chips in printers and scanners sold in Europe are programmed to recognize and therefore not scan or print money.

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Happy

@jake re. "Actually, that's cannon .."

Actually not. Cannons fire much larger loads and are so heavy that they have their own carriages.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Rubbish!

WELL PAID??? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Excuse me while I fall off my chair choking to death on 1/2 a cup of coffee

A top of the range CNC guy will cost you about £15/hr, About 30K/yr or so.

For that you'll get someone with 5 yrs+ experience, more likely 10+ yrs of machining stuff with milling machines/lathes/ 5 axis machining

You'll get a CAM package experience, usually MasterCam , but sometimes one of the lesser used CAM packages

Tooling and fixturing experience, A whole artform in itself

And if you are very lucky, someone who can talk to the loading robots too.

Looking at the ads next to this forum , I can see Sys admin and Sys tech ads for £35K plus .... do they need 10 yrs worth of training/experience?

Remember in my game one mis-placed minus sign and a £300 000 machine tool becomes £2K of scrap metal.

All for less than 30K a year

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Anonymous Coward

Obligatory Response

I'll give you my printer when you take it from my cold, dead hands!

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Black Helicopters

Re: For those w/o time in the military:

Under U.S. Federal law a firearm constructed at home with 80% of the work being done by the individual does not have to be registered with the BATF. In the case of the AR-15 series of rifles the lower receiver (the part with the serial number on it) is classified as the Firearm. Neither the Bolt nor the Bolt Carrier have a serial number. So yes this is a legal firearm. Also the reason the lower can be made of Aluminum or Plastic is that there is no stress on the lower. I own a plastic lower and like it very much.

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Re: For those w/o time in the military:

Wrong. Replacement barrels are very easy to come by. At least here in the US anyway.

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Unhappy

@Simon Ball - - Re: For those w/o time in the military: - CNC anyone?

"Things will really start getting interesting the day someone perfects a matter compiler......"

It's much simpler than that.

A reasonably modern numerically controlled CNC machining centre could fabricate most of the weapon with the right programming, and CNC machines are commonplace today.

Someone's only got to program and distribute the M-code program to all and sundry and even inexperience machinists could turn weapons out. Frankly, I'd be surprised if it's not already happening.

After all, how do you think that manufactures make such weapons in the first place? Right, on CNC machines of course!

Seems to me, no matter how much law there is, those with evil intent will find a way.

BTW, 3D printers of the quality capable of producing that weapon probably cost about the same as an average sized CNC machine, so saying that CNC's are out of the reach of all but the most sophisticated probably isn't true anymore. For example, an employee with an M-code weapon design on disk/USB stick could probably run the CNC after hours or on the back shift without being observed. Disconcerting really, but such devious uses inevitably evolve as byproducts when equipment reaches a certain quantum of sophistication. As they say, "you ain't seen anything yet, mate, this is only the start of the beginning".

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Mushroom

Re: if you're sane and not a convicted felon...

...some would say you fail the former criterion immediately upon application for said licence...

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Stop

Actually... 5.56 != .223

Yes, the actual bullet is the same, and they are mechanically interchangeable, but a 5.56 round is not the same as a .223. The 5.56 is a higher pressure round.

http://www.humanevents.com/2011/02/15/223-remington-vs-556-nato-what-you-dont-know-could-hurt-you/

The same applies to 7.62 vs .308, but back in my army days a lot of 7.62 fell off the back of army trucks for use in .309 hunting rifles.

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Big Brother

Re: good luck finding somebody skilled enough in metalwork

With all the CAD/CAM kit going these days, it does not take much effort to build the relevant tools.

Bottom line, somebody with enough time, money and a reasonable amount of knowledge can build any firearm they feel like.

the improvements in IT and manufacturing tools is merely making the time and money part a much lower barrier to entry.

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Re: For those w/o time in the military:

In the US, the bolt, upper and lower have serial numbers on it.

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FAIL

Building Guns.

I should point out that human-kind has a long history of hand fabricating guns, some of which have been fairly sophisticated. It does not take complicated tools to create a gun, just time and a certain amount of care. If one wishes to stamp out dozens of them as quickly as possible, then, yes, machines make it possible...

Another point made in the story is that little remark about the gun jamming. That is a Bad Thing, because if one is in a position where firing the weapon is a good idea, one does not want it to jam!

While this was an interesting thing to do, it is not as if this is going to allow untraceable AR-15s to flood the market because the criminals are cranking them out on printers. Perhaps one day, when the 3d printers are capable of printing with metal, it may be a problem, but, that is not going to happen anytime soon. The folks that mis-use guns will continue to get them the old-fashioned ways: illegal mass purchases from manufacturers, hijacking shipments, smuggling in weapons from countries where it is even easier to purchase weapons, etc.

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Re: @LarsG

Time to wake up. You can get these things easily now but they will be clamping down on assault rifles and tear gas sales at Wallmart in the aftermath of Aurura.

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Re: Rubbish!

Yes exactly. You have to have a plan to shape the metal, not just know what shape you want to end up with.

A 3D printer simply builds layers and layers of 2D.

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Re: I can see this selling

Don't be daft. They put codes in money to tell the printer not to print it. Who's going to put codes in gun part drawings to stop them from working?

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Devil

Re: For those w/o time in the military:

"a rifled barrel is not easy" - Oh yes it is. Very fucking easy.

In terms of repeatability of the fired rounds grouping accurately at predetermined target ranges, from;

a) The same barrel and or;

b) A group of barrels made by the same maker the same way.

And most killing is done at short to modestly short ranges.

But it's possible to have a not very good barrel group reasonably accurately, where most of the shots land 3 meters to the left at 100 meters...

Just dial the scope in....

Watching videos of the 3 and 4 and 6 inch smoothbore cannon with the round balls on Youtube - they are placing fairly accurate shots at human sized targets, like a mile away or more.....

And smoothbore guns......

The only real differences are incremental improvements, in the bores, the ammunition, the rifiling and propellants, that give flatter trajectory, better targeting, higher accuracy at greater ranges....

While a really really good barrel and overall gun for say a sniper, may in fact be a fabulous piece of work, not many people are shot by snipers in the workplace, or at night clubs, or in criminal acts or in reprisals by people with sniper rifles....

Even a shit gun with a shit barrel will do nicely thankyou.

But a really good barrel, is actually fairly straightforward to make.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "How hard" it is to make a barrel / accurate barrel

Interesting discussion above but all ultimately moot as barrels are available off-the-shelf and are not regulated.

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Re: For those w/o time in the military:

"Only needs to fire once to count as lethal"

Only needs to blow up in your face once to be counted as lethal too

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Alert

F**king Hell

That is all I can say.

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Black Helicopters

Since the part is usually made of amuminium...

...I can theroetically have a post-grad in the materials-engineering unit here at work print up a more hardy one for me tonight. Ouch!

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FAIL

An AR-15 is more or less a M-16 but it's not fully automatic which is why it's not called an M-16.

He didn't build a working assault rifle solely out of a 3D printer either because quite frankly a plastic gun won't work for long at all (if at all). His appears to mostly metal and it jammed. I'd like to see him do it with an all plastic gun.

But even this is liable to get himself in trouble and give governments an excuse not to allow us to have 3D printers.

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What a whiner. Oh we may not be allowed to have 3D printers because we might be naughty. Grow up.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Whiner

Hmm, but experience does tell us that what he decribes is indeed quite likely to happen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "a plastic gun won't work for long"

Tell that to the Austrians - Glock have been making guns entirely out of composites with only a metal or ceramic barrel for about 30 years.

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MIc
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I love the obligatory statistics on how many rounds have been amassed. 6000 rounds is not that many rounds when you consider that you can use up 200 in a day at the range and that they remain usable for a long period of time. Any hobbyist will buy up a large amount for a price break.

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Linux

Buy in bulk.

If you could get ammo at Sam's Club or Costco, having 6000 rounds doesn't sound all that extreme. It would not be the first sort of thing people bought by the case just to save a buck.

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Mushroom

Bloody wonderful, dont idiots ever think first?

Cant anyone see what this guy has done?

Why dont ID-10-T folks ever think first, all he has done is give governments a reason to regulate 3D printing.

No doubt some senator will grab onto this and use it as a 'wont you think of a kids' thing to pass restrictive legislation against homebrew £D printers like the RepRap, which they will they try to force on the world no doubt using threats (probably such thingsa like cutting off countries who dont agree to regulation from US banking institutes etc)

Goddamn it

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