To be honest, this isn’t a super big accomplishment from a structural standpoint. The lower receiver in an AR design is not heavily stressed. A Google search will reveal many stories of successfully constructing the lower from cheap Home Depot wood, HDPE, and other comically irrelevant materials.
But the lower still holds some important stuff together and needs to be accurate and rigid. So the task is indeed a challenging use of the manufacturing process. And although failure of the lower would not be especially catastrophic, haveblue wisely assembled a 22 caliber conversion in his printed-lower firearm which only shoots the plinking 22lr cartridge instead of the intermediate rifle .223 caliber typical to an AR.
Well done haveblue. You replaced a moderately important aluminum part in an AR with a 3D printed plastic one.
Then The Internet Went Crazy
The internet picked up on haveblue’s build blog and went bat-shit-crazy with wild inaccurate assertions like First working 3D-printed firearm built, The world’s first 3D-printed gun, and A Working Assault Rifle Made With a 3-D Printer.
3D printed Firearm??? No: he printed a lower receiver… one part. The firearm was not printed, the receiver was.
Assault Rifle??? No: #1) Assault is a verb. Haveblue shot at dirt; that is not assault. #2) The gun fired 22lr bullets. ‘Assault rifles’ do not use 22lr unless you are assaulting crows or rats. It is a firearm, or a gun… not an assault rifle.
Worlds first??? Please, no way: 3D printers have been around for over 2 decades and countless gun manufacturers and accessory designers have used them to make gun parts. A gun with one rapid prototyped part has undoubtedly been fired before. In fact, I have a contact at an unnamed manufacturer of gun accessories who told me they 3D prototyped a full replacement stock and re-body for a gun. They put more than a few rounds through it. And, mass-wise, this manufacturer’s 3D printed gun part was of a much higher percentage of the final gun’s mass. So arguably, it was more of an accomplishment.
But then the Internet got Even More Retarded
As if the above articles were not insipid enough, other articles about haveblue’s toilings have been published with deep anti-gun undertones: 3D Printing Gone Askew: Man Prints Assault Rifle At Home, 3D printed assault rifle – is it time to be afraid?, and The world’s first 3D-printed gun is a terrifying thing. Their assertions are absolutely ridiculous. How/why is this situation terrifying, scary, or anything to be concerned of? The construction of a gun at home is not illegal- nor should it be. At home gun fabrication is also not terribly difficult; many people have constructed a custom firearm at home, and many of those guns have had much more power and practical application than haveblue’s.
Ronnie Barrett engineered and build the first ‘shoulder fired’ semi-automatic 50 caliber in his garage, and he turned that experimentation into an extremely profitable business which now supplies guns to the US Army to fight in their wars around the world (an impressive feat regardless how you might feel about such wars).
Assult Rifle Firearm was Not 3D Printed
Only one part, the lower receiver, was 3D printed. The upper receiver: original metal part. The barrel: original metal part. The ammunition magazine: original metal part. The bolt and bolt carrier: original metal parts.
Haveblue’s gun didn’t simply materialize out of thin air from a computer model. Although the BTAF considers the lower receiver to be the serialized (and therefore central) part in identifying an AR-style rifle, guns fabricated at home do not even require a serial number, so the point is moot. Additionally, the lower receiver is by no means the most important functional component. Many other parts went into haveblue’s gun which required complex, accurate, and expensive manufacturing.
Furthermore, the lower receiver was not printed ready-for-use. As documented in his blog, haveblue 3D printed the lower receiver then he needed to remove support material (a ‘very time consuming activity’), manually hand-file important geometry, thread certain holes, drill/ream other holes to the proper diameter, and even repair cracks he caused by drilling.
I’ll wrap this up before I rant too much. Haveblue’s activities were an interesting but not particularly revolutionary use of a 3D printer. And the ability to print these type of parts should not be the least bit concerning or dangerous: the terrorists will not get us because 3D printers can make a firearm lower receiver. Raise a glass to haveblue’s hard work, and best of luck on your own projects… be them firearm, 3d printed, or otherwise.