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A new kind of bullet could be ammo for the next wave of 3D-printed guns

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But the specialized rounds aren't ready for primetime

One of the biggest hurdles to 3D-printed guns has been fragility: often, but not always, manufactured in plastic, firearms like the 3D-printed Liberator are prone to bursting if not carefully managed. Although it'll fire, the gun doesn't have the support in its frame to handle too many rounds. As Wired reports today, there may be a new — albeit time-consuming — solution.

A way to fire "unlimited" rounds

Machinist Michael Crumling has started hand-crafting lead bullets encased in thick, steel shells, which contain the force from a blast inside of the bullet, rather than transferring it to the body of the weapon. The result, he says, is the .314 Atlas: a way to fire "unlimited" rounds through a cheap plastic weapon — a boon to a DIY gun enthusiasts, and a potential headache for law enforcement.

Crumling's gun was printed on an economical, $400 Printrbot, with a few metal parts added, but that doesn't mean it was simple to make the ammo. Although the materials cost only 27 cents a round and can be fired multiple times, Crumling told Wired, each round takes an hour to make. He doesn't plan to sell the rounds, but he's making the plans available on his website.

The ammo is hardly the first attempt to make a 3D-printed firearm that doesn't go to pieces. A weapon 3D-printed from metal reportedly fires more than 50 rounds, but the cost of creating it was prohibitively expensive and difficult for most. For now, the .314 Atlas rounds could be similarly positioned: if not the answer to the durability problem of 3D-printed guns, a blueprint for enthusiasts' next move.