Editor’s Note: Related tickers: 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD), Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS)
It was only a matter of time. The libertarian-minded folks at Defense Distributed have done what even critics thought was impossible by making and firing a gun whose parts are all made from plastic.
Naturally, those who see the proliferation of guns as a threat to peace and order went ballistic dredging up the thought of criminals opening up plastic-gun-making shops in basements all across the country. Of course, most criminals aren’t following the laws anyway in getting a gun, so those hoops gun buyers jump through are reserved for law-abiding citizens.
Image: Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS)
What Defense Distributed did in effect was remove the dog-and-pony show. The average American citizen who wants to own a gun for personal safety and protection can now do so. It’s no coincidence that Defense Distributed named its gun “Liberator” after the small, cheaply made handgun that was designed to be air-dropped into Nazi-occupied France during World War II.
But plastic guns come with some big caveats.
First, you need to get yourself an expensive, high-end 3-D printer. To print out the gun’s 15 plastic parts — there’s one non-plastic part: a common store-bought nail used as the firing pin — they used an $8,000 secondhand Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) printer, secondhand because the company seized the first one the group leased when itrealized what they were up to.
Next you need to get the specialized materials to print out the different ABS plastic parts, which also don’t come cheap. So for just under $10,000 you can make yourself a gun that you could otherwise buy for $500.
Image: 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD)
That’s why Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (NASDAQ:SWHC) and Sturm, Ruger & Company (NYSE:RGR) aren’t sweating bullets about this development. There are limitations to what the gun can do and hurdles that might be even more difficult to surmount.
Sure, prices will come down over time; 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) makes a consumer version of its printers that goes for around $1,000 and RepRap offers open-source ones for even less, but Defense Distributed had to use the Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) printer because it has patented technology that heats the printing chamber to a certain temperature. The gun maker believes that’s one of the reasons the barrel is able to withstand a round being fired through it without deforming.