After the stir several weeks ago, the buzz surrounding Defense Distributed's 3D-printed gun has begun to (somewhat) die down. This is probably due in part to Kim Dotcom's removal of the gun's blueprint from Mega and the fact that, frankly, the gun itself isn't much of an immediate threat. But as one potential threat dissipates, just like clockwork, a new one has appeared on the horizon. And any fear creeping up on you with this newest incarnation of the 3D-printed gun might actually be warranted.
While Defense Distributed's heavy-handedly named the Liberator was good for about one (highly expensive) shot before becoming effectively useless, its successor only costs about $US25, can be printed on a consumer-grade printer, and is good for, as the video shows, at least nine rounds — with the potential for many more.
Designed by a Wisconsin engineer who identifies himself anonymously as "Joe" and his creation troublingly as the "Lulz Liberator", the gun is made out of generic Polylac PA-747 ABS, otherwise known as the type of plastic most commonly used in consumer-grade 3D printers. According to Joe, this cheaper material is actually stronger than the ABS plastic used in the much more expensive Stratasys pro printer that Defense Distributed used. Apparently attempts to use the Stratasys resulted in the gun's barrel exploding, which is, generally, not ideal.
Contributing to its sturdier status, the Lulz Liberator also holds a bit more metal hardware than its predecessor: traditional hardware store screws replaced the flimsy plastic printed pins. Then, to make everything good and (arguably) legal, the same piece of non-functional steel placed in the Liberator exists in the Lulz variety, allowing it to set off metal detectors and comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act.
Of course, like you'd expect with any plastic gun, it still doesn't work perfectly. Some of the screws as well as the firing pin had to be replaced over the course of the video, and after every shot, while the ammo cartridge didn't explode, it did expand enough to require some hammer pounding before it was ready to go again. But even with its flaws, the message is clear: much more threatening printed guns are possible — and they have the potential to be dirt cheap.
Unlike Defense Distributed's big coming out though, Joe still hasn't put the plans for his Lulz Liberator online. And his hesitance thus far isn't surprising given the fact that the US State Department forced Defense Distributed to remove their plans, citing export control violations.
Joe doesn't claim anarchist roots like Cody Wilson, Defense Distributed's founder. But he does believe him and Wilson are after the same ultimate goal. According to Joe, "I agree with Cody's idea that this is a perfect fusion of the first and second amendments."
The word "perfect", apparently, being a highly subjective term. [Forbes]