Friday, July 27, 2012

Has technology killed gun control?

There's growing evidence that technology has made political gun control obsolete and irrelevant.  I've written here before about so-called '3D printing', a technology that allows you to build up almost anything you can think of in your own basement if you can afford anything from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for equipment.  Designs for firearms components using this technology are already freely available over the Internet, and have been discussed on firearms forums.  A member of (a.k.a. 'Arfcom') has just built and test-fired his own AR15 lower receiver using that technology.

I have an old Stratasys 3D printer (mid-to-late 90s machine, but works fine) and early last summer I printed a modified version of the lower from (I beefed up the front takedown lugs, bolt hold lugs, and added an integral trigger guard).

I assembled it first into a .22 pistol.

It's had over 200 rounds of .22 through it so far and runs great! To the best of my knowledge, this is the world's first 3D printed firearm to actually be tested, but I have a hard time believing that it really is the first (if anyone can point me to earlier work, it would be much appreciated).

. . .

Last weekend I finally re-assembled a .223 upper and gave it a go.

No, it did not blow up into a bazillion tiny plastic shards and maim me for life - I am sorry to have disappointed those of you who foretold doom and gloom.

However, it is giving me feed and extraction issues. As these issues persisted when I switched over to a standard aluminum lower, my problems appear to be with the upper. I'll give it a good cleaning/oiling and try it with some brass cartridges instead. Nevertheless, yes - a 3D printed lower is entirely usable. My model could stand to have a little more material on the buffer tower, but I'm extremely pleased with how well it's working so far.

More at the link.

3D printing isn't necessary for (or even the optimum solution to) home gun production.  Older metal-working technology is becoming more and more affordable and easy to use.  As Popehat pointed out last year, even regular machine tools can be purchased cheaply and converted to CNC operation.

Bring some steel up to temperatures that you can reach in your basement with an oxy cutting rig that you can buy for less than the cost of taking your wife to dinner and a show then plunge it into cold water, and you've got a nearly diamond-hard object where the carbon atoms have been do-si-doh-ed into proper body-centered cubic alignment . . . and then throw it in a $20 toaster oven from Target and you can relieve some of the internal stresses and create a cutting tool that can slice through regular steel . . . and cut through aluminum like Tipper Gore through the 1st amendment.

The point of all of this being that working metal is not magic, and if more of us saw our dads building mufflers from scratch instead of building bird houses from scratch, the mental block on home-building stuff from metal in modestly equipped shops wouldn't exist).

. . .

So how much does it cost to start cutting metal at home, using all the power of Jacquard, Jobs, and Moore?

If you want to do it right it's still not cheap.

. . . but if you're willing to go small, crappy, and scrappy, the options are there.

If you're content with laying down lines of extruded hot glue, the friends-and-family of the Bng-Bngers will sell you a device.

If you're a bit more roll-your own, you can cobble together your own glue-extruding mess from instructions .

If glue is a bit too shoddy to build with and you want to turn work wood, people are rolling their own machines for about $1.5k.

If you want to take a step up to working metal, that's about $2k . . . or closer to $1k if you already have an old box sitting around that you can install Ubuntu on. (Side note: How did it get so cheap to build machine tools? By taking the labor out of the process and using automated metalworking machines to build automated metalworking machines.

If you really want to carve big metal, you can pick up a 2-ton, full-sized Bridgeport milling machine with a J head off of Craigslist for less than most folks spend on cable TV over the course of a year and follow instructions on how to CNC-ify it.

There's more at the link - it's an excellent article, and well worth reading (as always from Popehat's contributors).

Having worked as a prison chaplain and seen what gang-bangers can cook up in their mommas' back yards, and coming from Africa where home-made and home-repaired firearms are very common, I can assure you that to produce a makeshift, cobbled-together firearm isn't particularly difficult (although some of the quality control I've seen - frequently conspicuous by its absence - leads me to believe that actually firing the damn things might be more hazardous to the shooter's health than to his intended victim's!).  I've personally seen a single-shot weapon made from a length of plumbing pipe, a rusty nail and spring to serve as a firing pin, and a shotgun cartridge.  There are many pictures of similar weapons out there.  There was even a case where a super-soaker was converted into a shotgun!

Today, with high-technology manufacturing solutions becoming cheap enough to be purchased and used by the average backyard mechanic or DIY enthusiast, I think the 'gun control genie' is well and truly out of the bottle.  With a modicum of skill, plus the purchase of a few complicated components from suppliers (which typically cost only a few dollars, and can be stockpiled easily for future use), it's now entirely feasible to produce the functional (if not cosmetic) equivalent of a Glock pistol in one's home workshop.  Provided one has access to ammunition (and home reloading of ammo has been commonplace for many decades), one can build up an arsenal without too much trouble, and supply others as well.

That may be illegal, but it's eminently feasible - and if the authorities try to crack down on the sale of firearms, it will become much more widespread.  That's historically been the case every time authorities have tried to ban weapons.  (It also gave rise to many of the Oriental martial arts, as a means of defense when peasants and others were denied the right to own weapons.)

What makes gun-banners think it'll be any different this time, if they succeed in their objectives?



perlhaqr said...

Rifling is still hard, though. But it's got to be doable. I mean, they were doing it with hand tools in the 1800s.

I really gotta learn more about the metallurgy of that.

Kit said...

I was thinking that if the gun banners really want to prevent crime they ought to ban cars. Freedom of travel contributes to practically all violent crime.

Anonymous said...

Making a tool requires working with your many amongst the people in the West have any experience with that? Tools are magic bought in a store, made in a factory somewhere else. They don't know how to make anything, heck ask them to build a stone hand-axe, see how many blank looks you get. That a gun could be built in a backyard...beyond comprehension.
I couldn't do it. I'll admit it.

SnW said...

Hope it can make magazines.

Hi-Capacity Magazine Ban Sneak Attempt

Joe in PNG said...

The use of tools, machinery, and construction are NOT archaic black arts that need to be instilled from birth, and people who are able to use the same are very common, even in the urban parts of the USA- just check the yellow pages. After all, there is a reason that various home improvement and auto parts stores exist in pretty much every town.

Noons said...

Back in the mid-90s, one of the for-sale houses we inspected here in Sydney had a garage full of CNC and other milling equipment. The owner was an ex-metalworker who collected these things. Some of them could easily be used to make any type of gun short of a battleship cannon! The guy offered to show me a few of them working and I'll never forget how easy it looked. Nowadays, one can buy here CNC-millers made in China for literally less than a grand. All one needs is the metal to work with and the details on how to program the CNC!