photoThere’s been much attention paid to controversies about 3D printing guns, as people grapple with the unlimited creative potential that 3D printing brings to the already complex world of firearms manufacturing. Here, we consider 3D printed ballistics. Are you curious how a brass arrowhead with a 3D printed base and sabot (a “mini-arrow”) will do being shot from a shotgun at 15 yard and 30 yard ranges? Well, you don’t need to wonder anymore. Jeff (and Tim) from Taofledermaus have gone ahead and done all of the work on this one, and uploaded a video of the experiment onto Youtube, which has already received over 25,000 views since May 19, 2015. The verdict?  The fact that the arrow’s base and sabot are 3D printed makes it that much more accurate at the shooting range.

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Only a few of these mini-arrow prototypes were ever made, but after the video, gun enthusiasts will wish they could acquire some for their own shooting range experiements. The 3D printed arrow base is designed to evenly distribute energy across the back of the arrow flights.  The sabot is also 3D printed and its purpose is to fill the space inside the gun’s barrel and then guide the assembly straight down the barrel for a clean shot. The brass arrowhead’s g-shock is quite strong, so the 3D printed parts are also there to support it; without the sabot, the shaft of the arrow is likely to break apart upon firing.

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For the first two shots, the target — a gel block reinforced with wood behind it — was set about 15 yards away. With the first shot, a 1 ounce load target shotgun shell was used. For the second shot, a high brass round with even more power was utilized. Both shots delivered great force, penetrating the wood behind the gel block.

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For the last shot, a round wooden children’s table was used at 30 yards away. This was the set up Taofledermaus was looking for, as the distance gave the mini-arrow the ability to function perfectly and do its thing.  The 3D printed base piece smacked into the table wood and shattered, while the dart piece with the arrowhead went straight through the table ending up in the sand behind it.  Quite a powerful shot, I would say.

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Taofledermaus’ one regret about this 3D printed mini-arrow shooting experiment is that so many of the parts were black that it was hard to tell exactly where parts were going once the arrow hit its target. They were, however, able to review the shots on high-def video after the fact.  Taofledermaus has a solution to this problem for next time though: he’ll paint the parts different colors so it’s easy to decipher where parts end up on impact.

What do you think about the potential the 3D printing provides for making custom bullets like this one?  Discuss in the 3D Printed Mini Arrows forum thread on 3DPB.com.  You can watch the exciting video below to see the firing of these bullets.

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