Twenty years ago, who would have thought 3D printing would be possible? Technically, 3D printing has been around for a while, but it’s never been commercially available until recently. The widespread availability is great news for people who enjoy creating their own parts. Even if it costs a little more to make a part than to buy one, using a 3D printer is fun.
A 3D printer is capable of printing just about anything as long as you have the right materials, the right machine, and a proper file. Considering the freedom to print items in your own home, it’s no surprise that people have been printing firearms parts. Is printing firearms parts legal? Are there benefits? What are the drawbacks? Keep reading to find out.
Buying a complete pistol vs. building a pistol
Most gun owners choose to buy complete pistols because they’re easier and faster to obtain. Background checks don’t take long to complete, and it’s an effortless purchase. On the other hand, hobbyists sometimes buy complete pistols, but they also buy parts to build their own guns.
True firearms enthusiasts enjoy building their own pistols. Many choose to build AR pistols because they’re versatile and can be highly customized. However, it’s not unheard of for people to buy a complete pistol just to make customizations. Many of those customizations are now made with 3D printed parts.
Although 3D printed gun parts are popular, there are pros and cons to printing vs. buying your parts.
Pros to 3D Printed Guns
- Full control
When printing firearms parts at home, you have full control over the part. If you can alter the design correctly, you can create it however you want. If you have the money and the right printer, you can create metal parts. If not, plastic works, but it just won’t last as long.
- Printed parts can be cheaper
Most of the time, you’ll find 3D printed parts to be cheaper than buying pre-made parts. You can save a lot of money this way if you’re building an expensive firearm or multiple, cheaper guns. However, you may only end up saving $50 or so after materials. The amount of money you’ll save just depends on your project.
- You can print ammunition
Remember when ammunition disappeared off the market and cost more than $1 per round? The ammo market isn’t back to normal yet, but prices are still pretty high. If you’re looking for a cheaper way to shoot in your backyard, you can print your own bullets.
Just don’t try to bring 3D printed bullets to a range – they probably won’t allow it, unless it’s a private range. However, you can shoot whatever you want in your backyard shooting pit or range.
Cons to 3D Printed Guns
- Your gun might look like a toy
When printing parts with plastic, and depending on the design, your 3D printed gun can end up looking like a toy. Maybe you don’t mind. However, it will be a problem if you leave your gun lying around for others to find. In this sense, owning a 3D printed gun requires extreme diligence to ensure children and unsuspecting adults don’t accidentally discharge your weapon.
- Your gun might look like a non-lethal weapon
In the UK, a 3D printed firearm could have even more serious results. UK gun laws require that blank-firing pistols have a lightly colored upper receiver. This is also a common color combination for pepper ball guns, which usually have brightly colored uppers. If you print a real gun with bright colors, like this FNS .40 S&W, someone might think it shoots blanks or pepper balls and end up hurting someone.
- You can’t print every part
If you’re looking for a way to create a gun entirely with your 3D printer, that’s probably not going to happen. Chambers and barrels are difficult to print. However, you can print just about every other part.
- 3D printed guns might soon be regulated or banned
Heavily restrictive firearms legislation is being passed across the U.S. and proposed nationally. For example, the Biden administration is seeking to ban all AR and AK firearms among many others. 3D printed guns have been in the government’s sights for a while and are on the chopping block.
There’s no way to know if 3D printed gun parts will end up completely banned or heavily regulated, but it’s a likely scenario in the near future.
Enjoy your printed parts while you can
There’s no telling when printed gun parts will become regulated, so enjoy printing them while you can. If legislation is passed, you can always buy a complete gun from your local dealer.