Texas company makes metal gun with 3-D printer

Doug Gross


(CNN) — A Texas company says it has made the first metal gun using a 3-D printer, taking the debate over people’s emerging ability to create their own firearms to a new level.

Solid Concepts, a specialty manufacturing company, said in a blog post it has fired more than 50 rounds from the handgun, even hitting a few bull’s-eyes at more than 30 yards.

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The pistol is a version of an M1911, a handgun designed by John Browning and first used widely in the latter stages of combat stemming from the Philippine-American War. It’s built from 33 mostly stainless-steel parts and has a carbon-fiber handgrip carved with a laser.

“The 3-D-printed metal gun proves that 3-D printing isn’t just making trinkets and Yoda heads,” the company said in the blog post.

Solid Concepts went out of its way Friday to point out that producing the metal gun isn’t meant to advance a trend that worries law enforcement and some politicians. As 3-D printers become more widespread and affordable, some envision a near future in which criminals can crank out untraceable weapons without having to leave their homes.

“Let me start out by saying one, very important thing: This is not about desktop 3-D printers,” Alyssa Parkinson, a spokeswoman for the company, wrote in the blog post.

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The metal gun wasn’t a move toward making firearms with a 3-D printer cheaper or more accessible, she wrote.

Basic 3-D printers, such as the MakerBot Replicator 2, can be bought for around $2,000. But Solid Concepts used a specialized, high-end printer whose cost would be out of reach of most people.

“The industrial printer we used costs more than my college tuition (and I went to a private university),” Parkinson said. “And the engineers who run our machines are top of the line; they are experts who know what they’re doing and understand 3-D printing better than anyone in this business.”

Solid Concepts wanted to show that 3-D printing is more than just hobbyists churning out plastic doodads — it’s a viable option for serious commercial use.

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“It’s a common misconception that 3-D printing isn’t accurate or strong enough, and we’re working to change people’s perspectives,” Kent Firestone, a vice president at the company, said in a statement.

In May, a nonprofit group, also from Texas, stirred far more controversy when it posted a video of the live firing of a plastic handgun created with a 3-D printer.

Cody Wilson, a 25-year-old self-described anarchist, posted instructions on how to make the gun online through his nonprofit group, Defense Distributed.

Those instructions were taken down after the U.S. State Department sent the group a cease-and-desist letter. The group’s website was shut down shortly afterward.

Solid Concepts is a licensed firearm manufacturer. It said one use for its new capabilities with 3-D printers may be selling replacement parts for handguns.