Thursday, August 4, 2011

Home gunsmithing

Elmo points to a story about a man who prints out a stainless steel stroller part, and wonders when this technology will come to the home. Me, I wonder who will count as the manufacturer if I provide the cad/cam file, materials, & c, and just rent time on the printer, today?

How about if I have the frame "printed" in two halves and then weld them together at home?

Note: this is all for personal consumption, not for resale. Federal law permits manufacture of a firearm by a non-ffl for personal use, I understand.


  1. A heck of a lot of law implicitly assumes that "manufacturing" has at least some token difficulties attached to it. Ubiquitous home 3D printing is going to break a lot of legal assumptions, and we'll undoubtedly see lots of bad attempts to keep things working similar to the status quo.

    If you sent the CAD file for an AR receiver to Shapeways, though, I doubt there'd be much issue. Legally, I see no reason why it would be any different from asking any machine shop to fabricate a custom part to your design: the fabricator is the manufacturer, regardless of who did the design.

    I don't know if there's any case law on asking a fabricator to make a receiver in pieces. It makes sense that you'd be the manufacturer, but wouldn't be at all surprised if a court decided that the spirit of the law called for a ruling the other way around. It's another thought experiment that shows how dumb the regulation is in the first place.

  2. Well, the proprieties around "80%" receivers would argue that making "50%" receivers might or might not be "manufacturing." To be safe, I should job it out to two shops...

    If the print shop counts as the manufacturer, them they need an FFL to print a complete receiver.

  3. I may misunderstand the 80% rule; I thought it referred to 80% of the collected parts of the gun being domestic for determining weather the finished weapon counts as "imported". Is there actually a rule about separated receiver parts?

    Personally, I see little legal difference between you ordering two half-receivers and completing the work yourself, or you ordering a billet of steel and finishing the work yourself. Practical difference, sure. But technically, in both cases you're ordering things that can't be used as a receiver and turning them into something that can be.


    I seem to recall that one of the things that got Cavalry Arms in trouble was that they were putting together their polymer lowers, which were manufactured in left and right halves, in a facility not licensed for firearms manufacture.


Please keep it civil