Cody Wilson rushed over to look at the bullet that has just left the ‘Liberator.’ The 3D printed gun is Cody Wilson’s brainchild. He has spent more than a year dreaming of its creation, and dubbed it ‘the Liberator’ in homage to the cheap, one-shot pistols designed to be air-dropped by the Allies over France during its Nazi occupation in World War II.
Unlike the original, steel Liberator, though, Wilson’s weapon is almost entirely plastic: Fifteen of its 16 pieces have been created inside an US $8,000 second-hand Stratasys Dimension SST 3D printer, a machine that lays down threads of melted polymer that add up to precisely-shaped solid objects just as easily as a traditional printer lays ink on a page. The only non-printed piece is a common hardware store nail used as its firing pin.
Upon firing the barrel, which was printed over the course of four hours earlier the same morning and the body of the gun seem entirely unscathed.
Last August, Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas and a radical libertarian and anarchist, announced the creation of an Austin-based non-profit group called Defense Distributed, with the intention of creating a firearm anyone could fabricate using only a 3D printer. The digital blueprints for that so-called Wiki Weapon, as Wilson imagined it, could be uploaded to the Web and downloaded by anyone, anywhere in the world, hamstringing attempts at gun control and blurring the line between firearm regulation and information censorship.
“You can print a lethal device. It is kind of scary, but that’s what we are aiming to show,” Wilson said. “Anywhere there’s a computer and an Internet connection, there would be the promise of a gun.”
On May 1st, Wilson assembled the 3D-printed pieces of his Liberator for the first time. A day later, that gun was tested on a remote private shooting range an hour’s drive from Austin, Texas.
The verdict: it worked. The Liberator fired a standard .380 handgun round without visible damage, though it also misfired on another occasion when the firing pin failed to hit the primer cap in the loaded cartridge due a misalignment in the hammer body, resulting in an anti-climactic thunk.