Greater Manchester Police thought they were onto something when they announced “Component parts for what could be the UK’s first ever 3D gun have been seized […] During the searches, officers found a 3D printer and what is suspected to be a 3D plastic magazine and trigger which could be fitted together to make a viable 3D gun.”
Unfortunately for them, it’s vey unlikely that what they found was anything close to a 3D-printed gun. These are what they claim to be a trigger and a barrel.
Most likely, these items are parts of the Markerbot Replicator 2, a popular 3D printer:
Decide for yourself if these are the same or different from the object seized by the GMP.
But “police overreact” is hardly a newsworthy topic, so let us talk about whether 3D guns are something the anti-firearm crowd need to “worry about”.
Unfortunately for them, it is not. Yes, it is technically possible to 3D print a gun. Cody Wilson, founder of Defence Distributed, designed and made the Liberator, a pistol made almost completely out of plastic.
As you can see, its component parts look nothing like the parts seized by the GMP. But even more importantly, even though it can fire a bullet, it is by no means more dangerous than 1950s zip guns.
What the Liberator is is a plastic pipe, made from layers in a 3D printer with bits attached. An actual gun barrel is a strong, quality pipe, made of metal and able to contain high pressure gas. An actual gun has the mechanisms to force a bullet out at extremely high speeds in a predictable trajectory. The energy contained by a bullet fired from a conventional gun will cause serious damage. However, in the “barrel” of the Liberator, much of the gas will leak due to the nature of plastic. The bullet will be slow and wobbly, and will neither travel far nor cause much damage.
In short, the damaging distance of the Liberator is probably close to that of a sharp knife.
I believe that the 3D gun is a message much more than it is a weapon. And I am certainly not saying that in the future, actual real proper guns won’t be somehow printable. While it is fun listening to the anti-gun crowd cry wolf, the day when you can print out a usable weapon against government tyranny with minimal effort has not yet come.