When Defense Distributed created the first 3D-printed "Liberator" pistol, it did so on a professional-grade Stratasys printer well out of the reach of most would-be weapon makers. The prohibitive cost, among other things, made the gun seem more like a proof of concept than a revolution. But according to Forbes, another hobbyist has taken things a step further, making a working version of the Liberator on a relatively low-end 3D printer.
An engineer, identified only as "Joe," has apparently made a version of the Liberator on a consumer-grade Lulzbot AO-101 printer, which sells for $1,725 — less than a quarter of what Defense Distributed's Stratasys cost. In a video, the gun is fired nine times, and Joe says he could have gone longer if it hadn't gotten dark. "People think this takes an $8,000 machine and that it blows up on the first shot. I want to dispel that," he told Forbes. "This does work, and I want that to be known."
Making 3D-printed guns is still relatively risky business
That said, his description of the process underscores that making a gun, even with a 3D printer, is hardly "click, print, shoot." Joe and fellow gunsmith Michael Guslick first printed a version using a more expensive Stratasys machine; the barrel exploded on firing. The barrel on the second, Lulzbot-printed one was much more resilient, and Joe says it was still intact after firing eight shots, though it was swapped out on the ninth. Overall, the gun's components remained intact, but he says it misfired several times, and the cartridges needed to be pounded back into shape with a hammer after each shot. The firing pin and the metal screws holding it together also needed to be replaced midway through.
Like the original pistol, Joe's gun (which he calls the "Lulz Liberator") isn't going to automatically cause guns to proliferate across the country. Simply buying a gun would be easier and cheaper for many people, and amateur gunsmiths can already create homemade pistols with more readily available tools. But this is yet another step towards achieving the goal that Defense Distributed and others have set: democratizing the weapons-making process.