May 6, 2013
“Liberator” pistol now works and can be created by anyone with the right tools.
The embedded video above shows the first test-firing of Defense Distributed’s “Liberator” handgun, an almost fully 3D-printed firearm. The only components not made of ABS plastic are a nail serving as the firing pin, and a six-ounce slug so that the weapon can be picked up by magnetometers.
Just last Friday we reported that the pistol would be coming soon to 3D printers near you, as soon as Defense Distributed had tested the device; today we know that “coming soon” actually means “now.”
As reported by Forbes, the first test-firing of the Liberator was done on Thursday, May 2, at a private range north of Austin. The weapon successfully fired a single .380 round through its plastic barrel without any problems or obvious damage, but failed spectacularly when Cody Wilson, founder and director of Defense Distributed, replaced the barrel with an FN 5.7x28mm version and fired the beefier round (which has a much larger amount of propellant than the .380). The pistol promptly exploded.
A firearm works along the same basic principle as a spitball and a straw: a projectile is forced out of a tube via pressure. In a handgun, the pressure is provided by the packed propellant inside of the round, technically called a cartridge with modern weapons. The weapon’s firing pin strikes the round’s primer, which explodes and then sets off the cartridge’s much larger charge of propellant, which also explodes. That explosion creates a massive increase in pressure in the chamber, which propels the cartridge’s bullet out of the open end of the barrel. The barrel needs to be of a certain strength to contain the pressure of the round’s propellant exploding, and that’s where pretty much everyone says plastic printed weapons will fall flat. Even in standard pistols with polymer components, the barrels are always metal.