We’re not saying it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Gun rights are understandably a touchy subject these days. Some don’t wish to entrust their sole protection to government rules and regulations. God knows Washington’s track record on managing anything makes that understandable. At the same time, it’s way too easy for unstable people to get their hands on weapons and something has to be done to stop them.
The days of Sandy Hook and shooting up theaters must end. Americans agree on this point, though we’re pretty bitter over how to prevent it. Still, regardless of where you stand on the issue, the world’s first 3D printed metal handgun may be enough for us to agree the gun control lobby is in trouble.
While 3D printed guns are nothing new — the plastic Liberator debuted earlier this year, though it barely survived its first test shot — this latest prototype from Solid Concepts is a game-changer and a real troublemaker for anyone hoping to restrict gun laws. We’ll explain more as to why in a moment, but first…
Solid Concepts is a US-based additive manufacturing firm that assists the firearm industry in research and development. Recently the group took a .45-Caliber M1911 pistol and recreated it using the 3D printing process.
According to the company’s blog, their creation is forged from more than 30 components printed in stainless steel and an alloy called Inconel 625. It also possesses a selective laser sintered (SLS) carbon-fiber and nylon hand grip that helps complete the look and the sturdiness of the final product. “We’re proving this is possible,” said Kent Firestone, a Solid Concepts VP. “The technology is at a place now where we can manufacture a gun with 3D Metal Printing.”
Firestone added that the point of the project was “to prove quality and suitability of 3D-printed parts for real-world applications, and even its superiority over traditional techniques,” adding that the printed parts were “less porous than cast parts and could be made more complex than machined parts.”
“The whole concept of using a laser sintering process to 3D Print a metal gun revolves around proving the reliability, accuracy, and usability of 3D Metal Printing as functional prototypes and end use products,” Firestone said. “It’s a common misconception that laser sintering isn’t accurate or strong enough, and we’re working to change people’s perspective.”
Consider our perspective changed. The company’s resident gun expert has squeezed off 50 rounds (and counting), hitting a few target bulls-eyes from more than 30 yards away.
The firm chose to build the 1911 45ACP firearm because the design is in the public domain. Firestone also noted that Solid Concepts does not intend to produce a live gun for the consumer market, thus withholding cost of production on the weapon.
However, company representative Alyssa Parkinson, in comments to Fox News, noted that the “industrial printer we used costs more than my college tuition (and I went to a private university). … And the engineers who run our machines are top of the line; they are experts who know what they’re doing and understand 3D Printing better than anyone in this business.”
“We’re doing this legally,” Firestone added. “In fact, as far as we know, we’re the only 3D Printing Service Provider with a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Now, if a qualifying customer needs a unique gun part in five days, we can deliver.”
Before we continue on why this is a bad thing for the gun control lobby and a mixed bag for gun owners, here’s the M1911 3D printed metal gun in action:
A Shot To Gun Control
Solid Concepts, to its credit, is artfully staying out of the political aspects of their creation. As Scott McGowan — a second company VP — noted in comments to the Upstart Business Journal, “The intent wasn’t to build a gun for sale. It was a technology proving exercise.”
Reiterating Parkinson’s comments, McGowan played up the fact that the printer used in the process costs around $750,000. He also noted that it can produce “one to three” of the M1911 pistols per day. A similar model sells for about $1,000 on the Smith & Wesson website, UBJ noted.
Those costs make the machinery impractical at this stage for the average user, and the company has no interest in making the gun (or plans) available for sale.
With all of these factors keeping the Solid Concepts breakthrough from going any further, you might be slow to think of the news as a shot to the heart of the gun control lobby. But here’s why you’d be wrong.
First, This Is Just The Beginning.
As one commenter on the company blog noted, “I have been telling people for years that 3D printing will eventually revolutionize not just manufacturing, but possibly… prototype manufacturing,” adding that “as with all technologies, the price of the equipment will eventually come down, and the quality of the end product will continue to get better.”
He’s correct. The $750,000 printer cost will not stay that way forever. What’s to stop a group of gun enthusiasts from pooling their resources, buying the type of 3D printer needed, and then figuring out how to do things for themselves? That’s unlikely with guns still legal and readily available, but it’s not unfathomable that it could start happening in response to perceived violations of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
And the bad thing for those believing the right to ownership and accessibility of a firearm should be monitored and regulated? All these types of guns will be off the grid.
Secondly, This 3D Printed Metal Gun Will Make A Huge Industry Even Bigger.
The sporting arms and ammunition industry has a revenue impact of around $33 billion each year. Considering the 220,000 full-time Americans that are employed by these companies, the economic impact is even greater. With more simplicity, there will be a growth in companies, jobs, and opportunities.
With so many livelihoods depending on the industry, it will only get tougher for gun control supporters to put the genie back in the bottle.
Finally, This Technology Will Rally The Gun Lobby.
The current cost to reproduce Solid Concepts’ results is astronomical. No average Joe can afford it. But you know who can afford it? Drug cartels.
We’ve spoken to local and federal law enforcement officials regarding the sale and distribution of narcotics such as crystal methamphetamine in the past, and according to our sources, the profit margins are enormous. When a single ounce of crystal meth can accumulate close to $20,000 (or more) in profits, it’s pretty easy to purchase a higher grade 3D printer and put it to use.
This ease of accessibility to what would be essentially untraceable firearms is likely to keep people at the NRA and the pro-gun lobby willing to fight to the death for their Second Amendment rights, and that’s not a good place to be if your intention is to further restrict access to the average citizen.
Solid Concepts, gun control hopefuls, and politicians can try to shrug off the long-term effects of the world’s first 3D printed metal gun, but nothing spreads faster than information and accessibility once a new frontier has been conquered and the floodgates are open. The fact that it has become possible to use a 3D printer in the creation of a gun that is virtually indistinguishable from any other is all you really need to know to realize where this is headed.