nav search
Data Centre Software Security DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes
BOFH
Lectures

back to article
Defense Distributed starts selling gun CAD files amid court drama

bobajob12 Bronze badge

Cute, but not for long

I happen to think the defendant is a loon, but this sort of case was never going to fly. The Internet, notoriously, interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. Doesn't matter whether the 'censorship' is 'good' or 'bad'.

The really interesting cases will start when people start making these guns and hurting themselves or others. I predict an upswing in hand and facial injuries as the first experimenters discover that machining parts to close tolerances is, uh, quite important if you want that explosive projectile to go in the direction you want.

King Jack Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

3D gun plans have been out for years. I doubt a new wave of idiot will rise up as it's been done before.

Look on YouTube, the videos are 5 years old.

JohnFen Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

"as the first experimenters discover that machining parts to close tolerances is, uh, quite important"

Even low-cost 3D printers can do tight tolerances (mine can handle tolerances around 150 microns, and mine is also nothing special -- more expensive printers can do much better). The issue with 3D printed guns isn't the tolerances, it's the materials. Even the toughest materials available for use with consumer-level 3D printers aren't able to handle the heat and pressure enough to survive more than a single shot.

Lee D Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

Unfortunately, few guns are ever required to survive even the first shot in order to kill someone.

The problem is not that designs exist... you can make a gun out of a bit of tube if you care enough to.

The problem is that you'll never get an accurate weapon, and it'll turn into an even-more-indiscriminate killing tool.

Honestly, if you wanted to "make something yourself", you'd do more damage to the intended target by throwing a dart at them.

JohnFen Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

"Unfortunately, few guns are ever required to survive even the first shot in order to kill someone."

I don't think that's true, unless you're a marksman and/or you're firing a large caliber round.

a_yank_lurker Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

The problem is the barrel stress and poorly made/maintained barrels have been to blow up when fired. To use these plans to make a gun requires access to a machine shop complete with the proper equipment to heat treat the parts. Plus one has to start with the correct alloys. I doubt there it is economically for someone to DIY gunsmithing at home. It would be far cheaper to buy one.

takyon
Devil

Re: Cute, but not for long

Why do you think he's a loon? Perhaps you don't have the equivalent of America's First and Second Amendment rights wherever you live?

Having followed the actions of Cody Wilson for years now, I'd say that a loon couldn't come up with a long-term legal strategy as clever as he has. He is fighting for freedom of speech, and this fight has implications for more than just guns. Think about sharing "dangerous" chemistry or biology plans/knowledge.

I have to applaud EFF for "sticking to their guns" in this case. If people don't want to donate to Wilson (by "buying" these files that are already freely available elsewhere, for example), then they should kick some money towards EFF instead.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

"mine can handle tolerances around 150 microns"

It depends on the area of application but would 1/8 mm count as a close tolerance in small arms manufacture?

Calin Brabandt

Re: Cute, but not for long

I assume that you have a FFF/FDM printer, which are popular with hobbyists. You overstate its capabilities. Sure--it can lay down 0.150 mm layers (z-resolution) but the x/y resolution is far, far worse. Plastic oozing from even the smallest available nozzle orifice (and the smallest ones are slow and unreliable) just isn't very precise and the result is far lower resolution than your stepper motor steps (and the motors are using a somewhat sloppy analog/digital design trick called "microstepping" so don't believe the x/y specs you read as good as gold either). Then you have the problem of plastic shrinkage and warping with cooling. Yeah--and affordable personal 3D printer is good enough for a functional AR lower (usually after a few trials and errors like most anything 3-D printed) but nothing like what you could do with a hobby milling machine.

Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

"mine can handle tolerances around 150 microns"

What have you made with it John?

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

"3D gun plans have been out for years"

And idiots have been making guns out of odd shit ever since they laid their hands on gunpowder or compressed air,

The story is only unverifiable because the people supposedly involved won't say anything about it (+) but in the 1950s at my high school there was a fad for making .22 single shot pistols out of fountain pens which only stopped when a pupil(*) was accidentally shot with one(**) during some horsing during a chemistry class(***)

(+) As in "refuse to confirm or deny". The shooting and subsequent crackdown on dangerous metalwork projects made the local paper though.

(*) now a prominent retired local medic and parent of one of my classmates

(**) Supposedly by my 1980s 4th form chemistry teacher(++)

(***) This was a school where we made ammonium triiodide booby traps under adult(?) supervision and where a teacher(+++) split the school swimming pool open using a "substantial quantitity" of sodium wrapped in newspaper during a demonstration (it was eventually paved over after 15 years of failed repair attempts)

(++) Yes, it was the kind of school where ex-pupils returned after university PhDs to teach chemistry... and other things.

(+++) Not the same teacher. This guy was mad as a box of frogs (in a good way) and inspired a lot of people to take up science careers. He was (of course) also an ex-pupil.

joeldillon

Re: Cute, but not for long

Or you're at point blank range.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Cute, but not for long

@ A_yank_lurker and "It would be far cheaper to buy one"

True but when you buy one you are then then bound to the weapon assuming that the vetting doesn't ban you from purchase, weapons you can make are anonymous and without any vetting.

How many criminals and loons already pay more for weapons simply for the anonymity and bypassing of "gun control"

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Cute, but not for long

The point about barrel stress is a good one, but unfortunately is slightly besides the point. Many gun components can be bought and sold in the USA without any restrictions whatsoever. IIRC, the sticking point for building your own AR-15 out of spare parts is obtaining a lower receiver, which is strictly controlled (it's the piece that carries the gun's serial number). This is the only piece you actually need to fabricate yourself in order to obtain your own unlicensed AR-15 with no documentation trail.

I'm no gun expert, but I have my suspicions that the receiver isn't subjected to the stresses that the gun barrel is subjected to during firing, and therefore a CNC-fabricated version may be good enough to last for a while - e.g. the duration of a mass shooting.

ivan5

Re: Cute, but not for long

@Alan Brown

That was then. Today's culture requires that all kids be wrapped on cotton wool and bubble wrap so the nasty world doesn't intrude. Actual learning about how things work by doing and being taught to think are now anathema to the liberals. Children must be brainwashed into correct thinking, anyone with independent thought is considered a deviant and must be drugged into submission.

jelabarre59 Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

Ask the French Resistanca about the "Liberator" pistol. Cranked out in large numbers from stamped parts, with the clips essentially built-in, then air-dropped over France. They didn't need to last long, just long enough to kill some members of the invading forces, then take *their* weapons.

Always an important part of defending your liberties is the ability to make things very difficult and painful for the enemy.

Eddy Ito Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

How many criminals and loons already pay more for weapons simply for the anonymity and bypassing of "gun control"

Not as many as you'd think. Most criminals don't pay that much for guns since they're typically stolen so the acquisition cost is zero. According to this article much of the price depends on the history of the gun. For instance if it's been used in a murder it has a lower price than a "clean" gun and straw bought guns will necessarily cost more than stolen guns. I'd guess that given the price differential that straw bought guns have it is likely that they are primarily used by well funded gangs and only reach common circulation once they're "dirty".

JohnFen Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

"Sure--it can lay down 0.150 mm layers (z-resolution) but the x/y resolution is far, far worse."

No, I was talking about x/y tolerances. With the things I design and print, I achieve 0.15mm tolerances in those dimensions routinely. I can get even tighter tolerances if I take the time to tune the printer immediately before the print, and print more slowly than usual.

JohnFen Silver badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

I've made all sorts of thing that require such tolerances, but primarily I make cases for my electronics and robotics projects. I need the tolerances for those to be tight in order to make them snap-fit without slop.

J. Cook Bronze badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

THIS.

People were making 'zip guns' in high school shop class for longer than I've been alive (40+ years) and looong before the internet was around.

And for what it's worth, people are *still* making functional (and safer!) firearms using materials commonly found at most hardware stores, using tools bought from the same place.

J. Cook Bronze badge

Re: Cute, but not for long

@ Anon, re: AR-15 lowers

The lower receiver houses the fire control group (trigger assembly), magazine well, grip, and stock. the Upper receiver is what handles all the pressure, and what the barrel fits into. (most people building an AR rifle buy completed, barreled upper assemblies, IIRC.)

While I didn't build my own AR style rifle, I did assemble one from parts purchased from a couple sources, including a 'stripped' lower receiver (which had to go through the same channels as if I was buying a fully completed, functional firearm) from a reputable manufacturer.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Cute, but not for long

@ J. Cook

Thanks for the response, seems I wasn't too far off.

It seems that the only aspect of actual control over AR-15s is in the measures used to document the supply of lower receivers, whether that be as a stripped part or in the form of a complete weapon. So the concern about CNC designs being made available to allow anyone with the appropriate equipment available to make as many of them as they want is a real one.

Of course, whether you think this is important or not will tend to be coloured by the individual's support for gun control in general, which might explain why this case is generating so much debate. From a non-US viewpoint the prospect of making these weapons readily available seems completely crazy, but it's not my circus.

I do at least understand how the US came to this position, i.e. why the 2nd amendment exists in the first place. Even the 2008 SC judgement that consolidated the free for all that people assumed the 2nd represented makes a certain kind of sense - any other decision would have deprived a lot of americans of the guns they already owned. Never going to fly.

Mark 85 Silver badge

He's more concerned about downloadable files for CNC machines

Like that will stop anyone. There's more CNC mills* in the US than this guy apparently thinks there are. I suppose banning them will be the next attempt?

*There's probably more "hobby" CNC mills than commercial ones. By that, I mean in private hands in someone's basement/garage/home workshop than the commercial ones used by industry.

JohnFen Silver badge

"There's probably more "hobby" CNC mills than commercial ones"

Could be. In my area, there are four machine shops that have CNC mills. I personally know more individuals who own their own CNC mills than that. I (and my friends) are hardly representative of the general population, but I suspect we're pretty typical for those in the "maker" community.

Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

This isn't really distributing cad files for any CNC home machinist.

He sells a machine which is only made for machining the restricted part of an AR15 and the files to run it.

It's like in Iraq war when Matrix Churchill claimed they were just selling machine tools - when their own DRM prevented them making anything other than the artillery shells there were programmed for.

Or when during prohibition the vineyards would sell kits of concentrated grape juice with the warning "do not add contents to x lbs of sugar and y gallons of water and keep in a warm place for t days because an alcohol beverage will be produced"

takyon

Ghost Gunner

The "Ghost Gunner" can make other stuff (it is described as "general purpose"), and other CNC mills can do the exact same thing. It was just user-friendly for the purpose of creating lower receivers out of unfinished "20% lowers". It may have been overpriced and thus should be considered partly a donation to Wilson.

The products that Wilson sells earn him money to fund the legal fights that inevitably ensue. The end goal is to get a favorable Supreme Court ruling.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Ghost Gunner

"The products that Wilson sells earn him money to fund the legal fights that inevitably ensue. "

Will it also be able to fund him when the inevitable happens: someone is killed or injured by one of these weapons and he gets sued to oblivion?

Alan Brown Silver badge

"In my area, there are four machine shops that have CNC mills."

In 1998, ONE of my customers in a town of 75k people had 12 CNC mills and was steadily buying more as expansion permitted.

As he explained it - the more he had, the more readily they were instantly available for (lucrative) contract work - and when they weren't doing contract work they were loaded up with 50mm stainless steel rod, profitably turning out automotive towballs if they only did that 6 hours per day, let alone running 24*7*365 less downtime for maintenance.

On the one hand a full blown 3 axis CNC mill is overkill for making towballs. On the other hand that's only what they were doing when they weren't otherwise occupied.

I'll warrant there are a lot more shops like that around the world now than there were 20 years ago.

David Gillies

Magical thinking

It's legal to make guns in the US. Always has been. You can build your own 3-axis CNC machine for $1000 or so, and mill a lower receiver or a trigger group to a few tens of microns tolerance. It's well within the capabilities of a hobby machinist to rifle his own barrels. Steel of a suitable grade for a gun barrel is available mail order. There are hundreds of people with maker channels on YouTube who have the requisite skillset to manufacture a firearm, which means thousands or tens of thousands total. How many guns are made by hobbyists a year? Unknown, but certainly a lot. How many have been used in the commission of a crime? If the number isn't zero, it's as close to zero as to make no difference. The intersection of the set of people who make guns and the set of people who use them to commit crimes is the empty set, as near as dammit. The people who make Viking battleaxes and two foot-long Bowie knives in their home forges aren't driving round on mopeds stabbing people.

Lawyers and politicians trying to stop hobby firearms manufacture are either ignorant or disingenuous. Claiming that gun crime will be lowered if gun blueprints are restricted is magical thinking.

JohnFen Silver badge

Re: Magical thinking

"The intersection of the set of people who make guns and the set of people who use them to commit crimes is the empty set"

I agree entirely. I'm a USian who is very much in favor of gun control -- but this particular effort strikes me as a stupid waste of time that doesn't address the gun problem even a little. People who want a gun to commit a crime are not going to make one -- that's a lot more time and hassle than just buying one on the street or at a gun show.

takyon
Black Helicopters

Re: Magical thinking

Hypothetically, if you have background checks and other gun controls in place, the CNC mill becomes a viable way of getting around gun control. Some people would not make it past strict background checks. Make using the CNC mill as user-friendly as possible, and anyone can make a gun as long as they have that $1,000 and can watch a couple of tutorials.

It's not a threat right now because it's far easier and cheaper to just go out and buy a gun, or buy a gun from a private seller who doesn't bother with any checks. Just like how not too many people have trouble getting cannabis in this country despite it being a Schedule I controlled substance (this was true even before the recent wave of state recreational and medical legalization). I don't think the lack of a serial number is too relevant either.

Richard 12 Silver badge

Re: Magical thinking

The UK has very (perhaps excessively) strict firearms controls, and it turns out that people do occasionally try to reactivate or even manufacture firearms for criminal enterprise.

Whenever they succeed, they are found and shut down relatively quickly, primarily because the strict gun controls mean that firearms crimes are incredibly rare.

An illegally imported firearm is probably much harder to trace than a home-made one, as it's likely to be one of a much larger batch.

Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

Re: Magical thinking

But banning hacksaws is the only way to prevent bank robberies with sawn-off shotguns

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Magical thinking

"But banning hacksaws is the only way to prevent bank robberies with sawn-off shotguns"

Close but no cigar. Banning shotguns would be another way. If you don't have a shotgun to saw off your hacksaw is harmless.

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Magical thinking

"Just like how not too many people have trouble getting cannabis in this country despite it being a Schedule I controlled substance (this was true even before the recent wave of state recreational and medical legalization)"

The more interesting unsaid part of that paragraph is that in areas where legalisation has occurred, access to cannabis by underage users has pretty much been completely cut off - vendors do NOT wish to risk their licenses (unlike your average illegal street dealer who doesn't care), people have found they're less exposed to being aggressively marketed (or "gifted"(*)) substances they don't want AND they know what they're getting in terms of actual strength. (interestingly, actual honest to god stoners seem to be getting decent assistance with their mental health problems too)

(*) One of my friends was a victim of "unwanted extras" being laced into his purchase. The dealer thought it was funny. My friend didn't - he and 3 people ended up in ER with major panic attacks thanks to an unwitting dose of "P" and not knowing WTF was happening.

The average violent criminal is an opportunist who picked up a gun for $100-200 or less. They're not going to have the time or patience to setup a 3D printer to do this shit - and in countries with stronger gun controls there's already a cottage industry of underground gunsmiths making illegal weapons from untraceable parts for those who want them. They may buy a 3D printer to make things faster but the average thug is still going to go to his local armourer for a weapon, not try and make it himself - apart from anything else, a gun is no use without anything to fire and ammunition sales are usually also controlled/monitored with batches being traceable.

This is mostly a free speech issue but married to the US 2nd amendment penis extension fanaticism and people wanting to be the next Timothy McVeigh/Unabomber floating around you have a potentially explosive mixture.There's a valid point in there (thought crimes and censorship) but it's all pretty muddled up. and the more extremely the US waltzes into outright authoritarianism the more extreme the voices on the other end become too.

Eddy Ito Silver badge

Re: Magical thinking

in areas where legalisation has occurred, access to cannabis by underage users has pretty much been completely cut off

Actually, not so much in Cali. Granted that's largely a byproduct of Cali politicians' odd way of thinking they're in for a monetary windfall but fail to understand that large taxes on the newly legal product means it winds up costing more than the going street price so there isn't much incentive to switch to the legal vendors. Now the cops are really just acting as armed tax collectors.

Of course in Cali where gun control laws are some of the tightest in the nation it already creates a profitable opportunity for a cottage industry. Heck, it's so lucrative it seems everyone from politicians to police are in on the gun running. It does make one wonder where all the police's missing guns are going.

Chris G Silver badge

In general I am pro gun, I like shooting, did military training and have spent many a Sunday morning shooting pigeons and bunnies, however, I think this guy is a prize dyed in the wool fuckwit.

If someone shot him with one of his download products, I would appreciate the irony.

takyon
FAIL

oath.wav

He's fighting for our First Amendment rights. Are you?

DryBones

If that happened, he should have bought a lotto ticket.

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/08/27/3d_gun_injunction/

Shove off, nobody actually up to no good is going to do this. It's a hobbyist/maker thing.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: oath.wav

"He's fighting for our First Amendment rights."

AKA the right to get shot. Why would anyone want that?

Velv Silver badge
Flame

Re: oath.wav

He's fighting for our First Amendment rights. Are you?

With rights come responsibilities. You may think you need the right to distribute these files, but you also have a moral responsibility to ensure the safety of your fellow citizens. If he was a Muslim distributing the files would he still have the same rights? What if it was instructions to make a dirt bomb or nerve agent to kill a city would you stand by his "first amendment right"?

tom dial Silver badge

Re: oath.wav

"If he was a Muslim distributing the files would he still have the same rights?"

If he were a *US Person* and a Muslim, then yes, he certainly would have the same rights - as required by the first clause of the same first amendment.

MeowMix69

Absolute Moron

What an idiot. Not only is this a gross violation of gun safety laws, but this will 100% directly contribute to deaths and this absolute wanker will 100% get sued into the ground when it happens. America. Get me the fuck out of here.

takyon
Thumb Down

Re: Absolute Moron

"gross violation of gun safety laws"

Citation? It's legal to make your own guns in America. It's free speech to share blueprints, plans, codes, and knowledge in America. You could draw up a hydrogen bomb design and share that if you want. Since the United States v. Progressive, Inc. case (concerning the hydrogen bomb) was dropped, nobody has been prosecuted for doing so.

"this will 100% directly contribute to deaths"

Maybe not for a long time, or at all. Printed/milled guns are currently a niche pursuit. It's easier and cheaper to just go buy a reliable gun. And it shouldn't be hard to find someone who will sell one to you, no questions asked. And as long as the Second Amendment remains intact, there will be ways to acquire a gun.

"this absolute wanker will 100% get sued into the ground when it happens"

Or, bolstered by the many donations he's received as well as sales of CNC mills, merch, etc., he will take on any legal challenges, which will be promptly thrown out due to having no standing. Just like when people try to sue the gun store. Except Wilson's hands are even cleaner than that. He is just providing information, not guns.

"America. Get me the fuck out of here."

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/us-citizenship/Renunciation-US-Nationality-Abroad.html

Calin Brabandt

Re: Absolute Moron

Yes--please leave!

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Absolute Moron

" It's legal to make your own guns in America"

As long as you register as a gunsmith. There's even a well-established procedure to do so.

In other countries the rules may be quite different.

Is It Me

Re: Absolute Moron

My understanding is it is completely legal in the US to make your own guns as long as you don't sell or give them away.

I think giving them to someone in your will is the only legal way to transfer ownership of a self made gun.

Slow Joe Crow
Black Helicopters

Re: Absolute Moron

Actually outside of the horrible cesspit of New Jersey it is completely legal to make your own guns for personal use in the US. A Federal Firearms license (FFL) is only required if you are making guns for resale. In that case you generally need an FFL 07 manufacturer's license but may be able to do onesy twosey production on an FFL 01 dealer or gunsmith license.

On the subject of making, it's actually much less work and cost to follow the widely available US Army improvised munitions manual to build a slam fire shotgun or 9mm pipe pistol with bits from the local hardware store. 3D printing is a novelty for the moment and all the pearl clutching and First Amendment violating is just a desparate attempt by ati gunners to fan hysteria.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Absolute Moron

They've been reading 'Makers' by Cory Doctorow...

Much though Governments and other control freaks might wish it, you cannot uninvent firearms.

A lot is being made of 3D printing, in plastic, but 3D in metal does exist. As for CNC mill's, who needs them, mandraulic mill's will do the same job, slower, but they will, as the Police discovered near Newbury a few years ago, the latest case in Sussex appears to have been CNC mill equipped though.

GrumpyKiwi Silver badge

Good on him

He's fighting the gun-control equivalent of the "teaching abstinence is better than teaching sex-education" crowd.

It doesn't matter how much they stick their fingers in their ears and chant "la la la, I can't hear you", the horse has left the stable, gone for a walk, found a new owner and been re-registered under a new name. No amount of bolting the stable door can change that.

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing