25-year-old law student Cody Wilson changed the world by firing the world’s first fully 3D-printed gun that he calls the "Liberator." Wilson is the creator of Liberator and the founder of Defense Distributed, a group that says this 3D-printed Wiki Weapon is about “freedom.” The group has made blueprints available via download. In that file, Defense Distributed said, “This is the first DD Liberator release, tested functional on 5/3/2013 and again on 5/5/2013.”
He used a second-hand Stratasys Dimension SST 3D printer, which is about the size of a refrigerator, that he purchased for about $8,000 from eBay. 15 of the Liberator’s 16 parts were printed with ABS plastic. The only metal piece is a common nail that was used as the firing pin. Wilson fired .380 caliber bullets.
It’s not meant to be a print once and use forever weapon. According to Forbes:
Defense Distributed’s goal is to eventually adapt its method to work on cheaper printers, too, like the $2,200 Replicator sold by Makerbot or the even cheaper, open-source RepRap. Even if a barrel is deformed after firing, Defense Distributed has designed the Liberator to use removable barrels that can be swapped in and out in seconds.
Defense Distributed posted two images of the Liberator as well as a video. If you download the blueprints, the Wiki Weapon file has a ReadMe text file in English, but there is another ReadMe document in Chinese. The “zhongdiag.jpg” is labeled in Chinese. The English version explains how to print and “legally assemble the DD Liberator.” The very last line contains a link [pdf] to the ”Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988.” There are 16 CAD .stl (STereoLithography) files inside the DD Liberator folder.
Wilson told BBC, "I'm seeing a world where technology says you can pretty much be able to have whatever you want. It's not up to the political players any more." When asked if he felt any sense of responsibility about what his gun could be used for, Wilson said, "I recognize the tool might be used to harm other people - that's what the tool is - it's a gun."
He told Forbes:
He prefers to think of his Liberator in the same terms as its namesake, the one built for distribution to resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied countries in the 1940s. That plan was conceived in part as a psychological operation aimed at lowering the occupying forces’ morale, Wilson says, and he believes his project will strike a similar symbolic blow against governments around the world. “The enemy took notice that weapons were being dropped from the sky,” he says. “Our execution will be better. We have the Internet.”
Donna Sellers from the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Bureau told the BBC that "the 3D-printed gun, as long as it was not a National Firearms Act weapon (an automatic gun, for example), was legal in the US." Sellers stated, "A person can manufacture a firearm for their own use. However, if they engage in the business of manufacture to sell a gun, they need a license."
But New York Senator Chuck Schumer wants the Liberator outlawed and plans to introduce the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act. In a press conference, he said, “Now anyone, a terrorist, someone who's mentally ill, a spousal abuser, a felon can essentially open a gun factory in their garage. And, the only thing they need a computer and a little over a thousand dollars. No background check and you don't even need to leave your house to make hundreds of these guns.”
The Wiki Weapon adds fire to the raging controversy about guns in the US and Second Amendment Rights. It certainly gives Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) a new meaning. Wilson told Forbes that he has “received more than a dozen death threats, along with many wishes that someone would use his own 3D printed weapons to kill him.”
The "shot heard 'round the world" was used by Schoolhouse Rock to reference the American Revolutionary War, but the phrase represents several historical incidents. Wilson's firing of the Liberator should probably be added to that list. But even if you had the 3D printer and ABS plastic to 3D-print your own pistol, that still doesn’t make ammunition any easier to purchase. The Government Accountability Office is investigating allegations that the Department of Homeland Security is stockpiling ammo. Legislation called the Ammunition Management for More Obtainability (AMMO) Act of 2013 has also been introduced “to enforce transparency” and “to limit federal agencies from stockpiling ammunition.”
The freely available and downloadable blueprints for a 3D-printed Wiki Weapon already changed the "rules" of the gun world. You never know; maybe people will start 3D-printing bullets?