It’s legal to 3D print your own guns.
That’s right. According to federal law, you can make your own guns at home with a 3D printer as long as they have metal parts to them. That’s because the concern is that guns without metal components could easily be slipped through metal detectors in government buildings, large venues, or even though the TSA check point at the airport.
This is a pretty cool option if you have a ton of money and want to start a hobby of making your own firearms. So how much does it really cost to 3D print your own guns? Let’s break it down with some realistic averages on cost and a little bit on the history of the first 3D gun.
The First 3D Printed Gun
The first 3D printed gun that actually fired bullets was created in 2013 by Cody Wilson, who founded the open resource Defense Distributed for home-based gunsmithers out of Texas. The gun he created was a single shot pistol called the Liberator, which fired a .380 caliber bullet. Unfortunately for Wilson, the entire gun was made out of plastic in a machine that he bought for an estimated $8000, second hand.
The first two times he test it, the gun stayed intact. On the third try the gun exploded into a thousand little pieces. Bummer.
Wilson has also made a Liberator with some non-functional steel in the body so that it complies with the Undetectable Firearms Act. He continues to raise funds for Defense Distributed even though his company is pretty controversial.
So Can You Make Your Own Guns in Metal?
Getting a printer with the capabilities to create a metal-based gun is going to be expensive. Then you need the skills and knowledge to actually print the parts to create the gun. Everything is very precise so that the weapon actually functions correctly. Not an easy task.
Generally speaking the price for a metal 3D printer is between $50,000 to $1 million. Plus, buying kilograms of metal powder costs between $300 to $600. You typically need five times the volume of the powder to create one part. It’s a pricey endeavor indeed — not exactly what a home hobbyist or would-be gunsmith could have access to at home. If you do have an extra $99,500 laying around, you could purchase the Metal X 3D Printer from Markforged. Maybe if you win the lottery, right?
Obviously, the ability to print your own firearms from home is simply a dream for amateurs with an average income. However, the technology has advanced pretty quickly — so this may not be the case in the future. For now, however, it might be best to grab your guns the old fashioned way.