Friday, September 9, 2011

Technology Is Amazing...

SCI-FI sends in this interesting article:

AR-15 Magazine Follower by crank

This is a basic AR-15 magazine follower. It fits any USGI magazine. NOTE.... This is NOT currently an anti-tilt follower and this is a work in progress. I am implementing anti-tilt functions that will be in the next revision, plus a few other changes to make it "beefy" and a magazine spring catch. The current one feeds and functions well, I put 100 rounds down range with it, no jams.... YET. Also in the works, is a whole printable magazine and spring.

It's a magazine follower for an AR-15 magazine made by a 3D printer. This is the future, folks. Not flying cars, not colonies on the moon; but a printer that can whip up gun parts on demand. I love living in the modern age with Al Gore's intertubes!

SCI-FI had a few questions from the article:
1) I am assuming that you (not YOU, per se) printing your own ammo magazines would be subject to the same laws as a "OEM manufacturer"... true?

2) If you could, what would you use this technology to create (within the law, of course; although feel free to theorize that you lived in a free state like NH, too)...

3) Considering that they can "print" stainless steel and titanium, what parts of the weapon would you absolutely NOT trust as a 3D-printed part (ie, MUST be stamped/milled metal).....?
I responded thusly:
Actually, Sebastian over at Snowflakes in Hell has been working on exactly this project - "printing" his own pistol magazines. I dunno how far he's gotten in the process; last time I checked he had some rough prototypes but nothing "finished".

To the best of my knowledge, there are no laws regarding the manufacture of feeding devices, only on the ownership of some types in certain states. Smith & Wesson manufacturers new > 10 round magazines in Massachusetts, so state law certainly isn't the issue. And you - as a private citizen - might not be subject to the same laws as OEM. They could be worse - as in, since you're not a large corporation giving big donations to politicians you're up shit creek; conversely, since you're (theoretically) not offering them for sale, you might be in a better position.

What would I make? Well, for starters a shitton of VEPR mags... :) Outside of MA, I'd be interested in seeing it it were feasible to make a drum magazine for the AR-15/AK-47 pattern rifles - as well as the Ruger 10/22. Drum magazines are ridiculously expensive - while you can get a USGI 30 round magazine for an AR-15 pattern rifle for ~ $10, a 90 round Beta magazine goes for close to $300. AK-pattern rifles are a little better, with 30 rounders selling ~ $20 and 75 round drums for $150, but it still doesn't make financial sense to spend the cake on a drum.

If we're talking firearms, that's a bit more tricky - especially getting into MA law. Since the Approved Firearms Roster only applies to guns purchased from an FFL, theoretically I could "print" anything I could find the specifications for. There is, of course, the not-inconsequential matter of whether or not "printing" a firearm would make one a manufacturer; I am fairly certain the ATF would agree that if one were to "print" something that could be used as a firearm that an FFL would be needed.

Naturally, this opens a can of worms - is simply having one of these 3D printers sufficient? A 3D printer and plans? This is a case where technology is outstripping the laws, and things can get REALLY ugly when that happens - one need witness the debacle of so-called "ballistic fingerprinting" to know that when technology gets too advanced, lawmakers get REALLY stupid...

I think I'd want the barrel at a minimum to be forged rather than "printed", but I really don't know enough about either process - 3D "printing" or gun making - to make an informed decision. I'll bet Wally would know...

So, Wally - or anyone else - what is the secret to life are your thoughts on 3D-printing a firearm?

That is all.


Anonymous said...

I don't know about real-world stuff, but I see a great story or even novel plot centering on a crime in a gun-unfriendly state involving a printed firearm and a slick lawyer (combine as your personal inclination moves you).


Bubblehead Les. said...

The Japanese in WW2 made a 10 round Garand that took Stripper Clips. There's an example in the NRA Museum. Now if somebody could set up a CNC Machining Cell and make those receivers....

Freiheit said...

I see the real innovations coming from finding fundamentally new firearm part designs based on the manufacturing technology.

For example printing a perfectly round, rifled bore is probably not practical. Printing an oblong spiral barrel might be. I don't know the term but these barrels do exist, they're slightly oval shaped and the oval 'turns' as you go down the bore which spins the round. Might be easier to print that and finish it than to make a rifled bore.

The first step with this kind of tech is always prototyping. Theres a thread going on right now with some bloke making a part for a .22 conversion to make it play nice in a full auto lower. He's doing it with wood. Printed parts would let that get prototyped and tested faster.

From there one-off custom parts can be made. Things like custom grips would be my first bet. Shape it to the shooters hand or make a size between large and medium. Expensive, but still cheaper than making a whole mold for one part.

TXGunGeek said...

Actually Jay, Per fed law, you are allowed to "make" a firearm for yourself without an FFL. State may have something to say about you possessing it but to manufacture, Feds do not require lic if you are making for yourself and it is not a title 2 firearm.

Gunnutmegger said...

I am very curious about the physical properties of the material used to "print" the follower.

Will it hold up to the same abuse that a regular follower endures? Will it wear at the same rate?

3-D printers, like any other printer that uses liquefied or liquid-suspended media, must balance the quality of the end result versus the needs of the printer itself to function reliably. And anyone who has owned an inkjet printer has probably experienced a clogged nozzle or a gummed-up print head.

TJIC said...

I started my company,, after reading Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon". In there one character is working on a "HEAP" project: Holocaust Eradication And Prevention. The idea is open-source gun design that can easily be built in a home shop.

That's what got me interested in metalworking, why I bought a metalworking lathe, why I bought some DVDs, and how I started renting them.

Gun control is dead, it just doesn't know it yet.

In 30 years we'll all be printing up our own guns with tools we buy off of

the band-aid bandit said...

Assuming that the .gov doesn't make it a no-knock, shoot your chihuahua takedown worthy crime to posess the products. I got a feeling Big Bad Coakley will send a strongly worded letter or two to shut down the at least make it so that they won't ship to MA

Dave H said...

BATFE says right on their web site that an FFL is not required to build a sporting firearm for one's own use:

Most of the information pertains to assembling a gun from an imported parts kit, but it's just as applicable to making a gun from your own cast, forged, stamped, or printed parts. In fact, some of the rules about restricting the number of imported parts used (so-called 922(r) compliance) don't apply since homemade parts are by definition domestically manufactured.

You still need to mind you're state's restrictions. Otherwise I'd be cranking out 30 round PSL mags.

PT said...

They sell 80% AR15 receivers with the proper jig to finish them on a $500 Asian mini mill or even a sturdy drill press. That's how some guys in California get around their list of banned brands. No FFL needed for shipping.

As already mentioned you don't need a FFL to manufacture firearms so long as they aren't a MG. I've made a m1919a4 using this technique. I have a Sten parts kit waiting in the wings as well.

Wally said...

Sorry I have been so far behind on my blogreadin'.

Another week and I'll have fled PRM and life will be much better.

Anywho, under fed law, you can manufacture firearms *for your own use* without a FFL.

The article links to a process of printing using a polymer. I have done lots of it, and it works well. Polymer can very easily be turned into steel using the investment casting process, again I've done tons. Literally.
Frex, many AR15 parts are produced using this process. Hammer, trigger, bolt hold open, rear sight apperture, etc. In fact many AR mfgs used this method to even make the AR lowers, and the benefit of the process is you can run most metals easily. So there are some Sturm stainless AR lowers, and there are some bronze ones by another manufacturer whose name escapes me.

There is 'ink jet' printing technology out there that does print metals or ceramics and lots of other neat stuff.

As to what constutes "naughty knowledge", by ATF standards, if they can take your stuff and make it fire full auto after spending 8 hours in a fully equipped machine shop, it's illegal. The standard is set to be overly broad by design. While this is actually a very clear critera, it's quite stupid. It is possible to build a subgun from scratch in less than 8 hours, and a common firearm like an AR could be illegally converted in perhaps 30 minutes.

But 3D printing is real, and it is a tremendous asset in producing some parts that are not easily machined, or not worth the cost of tooling for machining.