Cody Wilson and his 3D Printed Liberator pistol.

Cody Wilson and his 3D Printed Liberator pistol.

There has been an ongoing debate over how to deal with 3D printable firearms raging for years now. Granted, it is only simmering for the moment, but depending on the outcome of Cody Wilson’s ongoing lawsuit, and the fact that guns are likely to be a hot topic of debate in next year’s Presidential election, a new political battle could be brewing. While the government and the general public continues to misunderstand the technology, the 3D printing industry continues to brace for the worst; legislation that asks them to do the impossible and prevent guns from being printed. The desire to ban 3D printed guns seems to be based on a lot of inaccurate information about what an entirely 3D printed gun can actually do, which is not much.

The Liberator for instance, the 3D printed gun created by Wilson, certainly isn’t harmless, but it is by no means an especially deadly weapon and probably won’t be for years to come. At the moment it can typically only fire a single shot, and even then is at risk of blowing up the gun rather than successfully firing a bullet. But whatever the final outcome of the debate, it is probably all going to be for nothing, as the real threat, if it could be called one, probably isn’t going to be a 3D printed gun but 3D printed ammunition.

3dp_bronzebullet_closeOne of the more popular regulation proposals currently making the rounds is targeting ammunition rather than actual firearms. The idea of heavily monitoring the sale of bullets, and throwing a significant tax onto them as well, while still controversial, still seems more popular than specific firearm restrictions. But that isn’t going to be very effective when bullets can simply be 3D printed at home. We are realistically more than a decade away from a 3D printable firearm that is going to be as useful and deadly as a traditionally manufactured firearm, however 3D printable bullets are just around the corner.

3dp_bronzebullet_loadingOver the weekend the guys from YouTube channel Taofledermaus tested out some 3D printed shotgun slugs, and they ended up being surprisingly effective. Taofledermaus is a channel that makes videos of a wide variety of weird and oddball rounds being shot from firearms just to see what happens, so they were probably the perfect choice to test out 3D printed bullets. The shotgun slugs were 3D printed for them by a fellow YouTube channel printed them in a bronze filament, which is PLA infused with actual metal powder.

3dp_bronzebullet_waterbottleWhile there have been several attempts to 3D print rounds before, most plastic bullets aren’t very reliable or dangerous, mainly because PLA or ABS are relatively lightweight and fragile. But that isn’t really a problem for bronzeFill 3D printer filament, which is considerably heavier thanks to the metal powder the PLA is mixed with. While the guys from Taofledermaus didn’t expect much, the added weight of the slugs seemed to work and they found themselves more than surprised by the results.

Each 70 caliber slug is about two inches long, weighs about 21 grams, and was loaded into a standard shotgun shell. The guys set up a series of objects to shoot their bronze rounds at, including a jug of water and a large piece of scrap metal. The slugs ended up firing extremely straight and as you can see from the video, they did actually do a fair amount of damage to the targets.

You can see the test firing of the 3D printed bronze shotgun slugs here:

The Taofledermaus guys seemed to be having a lot of fun with their 3D printed ammunition, and it would certainly suck to be hit with one. However I wouldn’t expect 3D printed ammunition to be anything worth worrying about for a few years, especially while traditionally manufactured ammo is still inexpensive and readily available. For now 3D printed guns remain what they have always been, a novelty reserved for gun hobbyists. But this video proves that 3D printed ammunition is a lot more viable as an actual usable product than a 3D printed gun, so if the price ends up rising do to regulation and taxes, this is something that could easily happen now.

What do you think about these shells?  Discuss in the 3D Printed Bronze Shotgun Shell forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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