The Liberator: The First 3D Printed Gun
Click, Print, Shoot! Unimaginable as it may sound, Cody Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas has made it possible. Wilson created the world’s first entirely 3d printed gun and named it “The Liberator” as a homage to the one-shot pistols designed to be air-dropped by the Allies over France during its Nazi occupation in World War II. The Liberator is a single-shot pistol that has to be manually unloaded and reloaded- just like its namesake. Fifteen of the gun’s sixteen functional parts are made of plastic and the gun’s body can be printed overnight. Cody Wilson, a radical libertarian and anarchist created an Austin-based non-profit group called Defense Distributed, with the intention of creating a gun that anyone could fabricate using a 3D printer.
The gun was tested on 2 nd May 2013, on a private shooting range. The Liberator fired a .380 handgun round without visible damage. Wilson used a $8000 second-hand Stratasys Dimension SST 3D printer in order to create The Liberator. Defense Distributed released the plans of the gun on the internet on May 6, 2013. Three days after the plans were released, the United States Department of State demanded that Defense Distributed must retract the plans from public availability. However, the plans were downloaded over 100,000 times within those two days. Later, the design even appeared on The Pirate Bay and the plans for the gun remain available across the internet even today. Original copies of The Liberator have been permanently acquired by The Victoria and Albert Museum and a copy of the gun is on display at London’s Science Museum. Click here to see how it worked.
While the production of The Liberator is a technological breakthrough in the world of 3D printing, it has had certain devastating implications for the security forces across the globe. The Liberator has indirectly created a subculture of 3D printed gun enthusiasts. After the creation of Liberator, in the same month, a gun enthusiast in Wisconsin produced a working firearm at a far less cost than The Liberator.
Two months later came the first fully 3D printed rifle built by a Canadian gunsmith. A Japanese man built five copies of The Liberator in 2014 before the authorities arrested him as at least two of the copies possessed lethal power. Israeli Channel 10 reporters built and tested a Liberator and smuggled the gun in the Israeli House of Parliament in June 2013. The legality of 3D printing a gun in the United States still remains unclear and the ambiguity of the law leaves the efforts to place restrictions on gun designers ineffective. However, this is being seen as a logical evolution of the 3D printing technology by many and its legal as well as political implications remain unclear. However, one thing is definitely clear “ 3D printing has made gunsmithing easy.”