Ghost Gunner
October 1, 2014 6:06 PM   Subscribe

Ghost Gunner is a computer-numerically-controlled mill that sells for $1200. Using it, and datafiles from the manufacturer, you can create your own AR-15 "lower receiver". All the rest of the parts necessary can be purchased legally, to permit you to create your own fully-automatic AR-15 with no serial number.

This product is from the same evil geniuses who came up with the design for a single-shot pistol created using a 3D plastic printer last year. They created Ghost Gunner partly to protest gun control laws and partly to make money.
posted by Chocolate Pickle (90 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think part of what they're trying to do is to show that existing approaches to gun control are unsustainable, but I fear that what they're really going to accomplish is to make advocates of gun control to switch to ammunition control instead.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:07 PM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Because what the world needs is more weapons.
posted by ZaneJ. at 6:08 PM on October 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


Surely this...
posted by leotrotsky at 6:08 PM on October 1, 2014


Chocolate pickle: Not so much
posted by leotrotsky at 6:10 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mr. Trotsky -- and then they'll start restricting powder... or percussion caps.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:13 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


“You can have an unserialized toothbrush, and you can have an unserialized rifle,”

It is probably unkind of me to hope that his apparent inability to distinguish between these two items someday bleeds into practical daily usage.
posted by weston at 6:18 PM on October 1, 2014 [49 favorites]


Actually, a correction: It's legal to purchase an 80% completed AR-15 lower receiver, and the Ghost Gunner can do the last 20% of the job, also legally.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:30 PM on October 1, 2014


fully-automatic AR-15 with no serial number

Actually, this is creating a *semi-auto* lower receiver without a number.

What this is getting at is an AR-15 with no serial number, rather than a M-16. If it's using a true 80% AR-15 lower receiver, it's hard to make it fully automatic. Colt spent a bunch of time making sure you couldn't just file a sear and get full auto. Of course, it's also not that hard to extend this technology to starting with a solid billet of metal and milling it into an M-16 lower receiver, which can easily be made to fire full auto. However, if he sold that, BATF would be all over him -- this would be treated as a full-auto kit modification, and they've got plenty of case law behind them to prosecute that.

they're really going to accomplish is to make advocates of gun control to switch to ammunition control instead.

Sure. Power is a low order explosive compound, and while the second amendment allows you to both keep and bear arms, it says fuck-all about propellant.

The sad aftereffect of that, however, is you would kill the model rocket hobby at the same time. Small motors are black powder, larger motors are perchlorate based, but you could easily make gun propellants out of them.
posted by eriko at 6:30 PM on October 1, 2014 [20 favorites]


I want my fully functional M41A and I want it now. I'm in!
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 6:34 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


What is the barrier exactly between semi and full auto? It seems like once it's completing a full cycle on its own (semi) that there's not very much inside that's stopping you from getting continuous fire out of it.
posted by crapmatic at 6:39 PM on October 1, 2014


design for a single-shot pistol created using a 3D plastic printer

What could the purpose of this be other than murder?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:43 PM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


An M-16 in full auto mode fires 700-950 rounds per minute. An AR-15 in semi-auto mode (one shot per trigger pull) is approximately 60 rounds per minute.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:44 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


design for a single-shot pistol created using a 3D plastic printer
What could the purpose of this be other than murder?


Proof of concept. It's single shot because that's a far easier mechanism, and with plastic they're likely irrevocably screwing up the barrel. If you're looking to kill someone, picking up a heater with the numbers shaved is a far simpler proposition.

um, so I've heard.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:52 PM on October 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


What could the purpose of this be other than murder?

Suicide.
posted by pompomtom at 6:59 PM on October 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


This is mainly possible because in the US, the receiver is the focus of firearms law, so that you can buy almost any other firearm part with no restriction. At gun shows, for instance, people have boxes of Kalashnikov bolts. In other countries, like the UK, they focus more on the pressure-bearing parts, like the barrel and the bolt, so you can't play around the law like that, at least not as easily.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:00 PM on October 1, 2014


Hunters must be scratching their heads, looking at their single-shot bolt action rifles, and wondering where all the crazy gun nuts came from.
posted by SPrintF at 7:07 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Materials, prints and a cheap lathe & mill set could do the same 40 years ago. In fact, weapons selling countries did so. Not sure why it's outrageous now.
posted by Mblue at 7:09 PM on October 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Wonderful. I bet I can make pipe bombs or fertilizer bombs pretty easily too. Does this mean we should commercially sell them?
posted by RalphSlate at 7:12 PM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Only hypothetically speaking, of course, a stuxnet-alike to detect and target the relevant embedded control system would be one possible response to "protest" in kind.

As more guns means more violence, this kind of hypothetical act could be considered self defense.
posted by Poldo at 7:12 PM on October 1, 2014


As wealth disparity increases and governments become more suppressive, this sort of DIY tech is what's going to make armed revolution possible.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:15 PM on October 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


A stuxnet-alike can't effect talented machine operators. They just need rotation.
posted by Mblue at 7:22 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hunters must be scratching their heads, looking at their single-shot bolt action rifles, and wondering where all the crazy gun nuts came from.

My guess is hunters who go to sports supplies stores learn where they come from. They're over there in isle 9, loading up on blowguns and poison dart kits for Joey and Billy who are both learning how to live off the land at age 6 and 7.
posted by uraniumwilly at 7:23 PM on October 1, 2014


Full auto isn't really useful outside of military applications; the real danger is idiots who are rich enough to acquire enough ammunition to feed such a monster and stupid enough to think it is useful. They won't be particularly effective against their enemies since it's so hard to accurately control a weapon on full auto, but theyll send a lot of bullets on random trajectories to hit other things, an especially nasty thing in a city. It was the Prohibition era gangsters doing that that inspired the ban.

What will be a game changer are guns like the TrackingPoint "Precision Guided Firearms" which use digital tech to turn any n00b into a sniper who can put a bullet through a dinner plate at 1000 yards. It's just a short jump to putting such guns (or more conventional ones) on remote controlled robotic gimbals that can perform snipery without worrying about getting caught or facing retaliation. Those will radically change the security situation for anyone with a public profile in very bad ways.
posted by localroger at 7:31 PM on October 1, 2014 [20 favorites]


eriko: Black powder is a much less powerful explosive and makes a lot of smoke. As I recall, you can't simply re-chamber a weapon with it or modern powder much of the time. I don't know a ton about guns, but there is talk in a lot of the military history books I've read about weapons having problems being rechambered from black powder to modern powder, due to the much higher pressure it creates. I'd think you'd need a lot more black powder to fire the same round, so restricting explosives with a power greater then black powder, but not by much might be a possibility, though I'd want to see a gunsmith weigh in.
posted by Canageek at 7:35 PM on October 1, 2014


As wealth disparity increases and governments become more suppressive, this sort of DIY tech is what's going to make armed revolution possible.

Probably not. Without a forged barrel & bolt, this thing is completely useless, as trying to mill these parts from ordinary steel will lead to the gun exploding in your face if you try to shoot a high-pressure cartridge from it.

What you could make with ordinary tools is more likely to be in a pistol caliber, like a WWII-style straight-blowback submachine gun (e.g. a Sten) or a WWI-style .32 Ruby pistol (also straight blowback), which was actually made by artisan gunsmiths working from home.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:40 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Practically speaking you can't really fire 700 rounds in a minute. Even the biggest magazines only hold 100 rounds, not to mention you'd melt the barrel or blow up the gun at that rate of fire. Fully automatic vs semi-automatic is not nearly the difference it might first appear.
posted by humanfont at 7:41 PM on October 1, 2014


Practically speaking you can't really fire 700 rounds in a minute.

If they're uranium rounds, you don't really need 700 per, don't you think?
posted by uraniumwilly at 7:45 PM on October 1, 2014


out pops a finished weapon.
That isn't true, if it was, the money would stop flowing to weapon dealers.
posted by Mblue at 7:57 PM on October 1, 2014


The only thing that will result in gun control in the USA is minorities getting guns in large numbers.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:07 PM on October 1, 2014 [26 favorites]


Power is a low order explosive compound, and while the second amendment allows you to both keep and bear arms, it says fuck-all about propellant.

Not in so many words, no, but a special tax on ammunition (or its constituents) might not be constitutional in light of Minneapolis Star Tribune Company v. Commissioner, although to my knowledge the idea has never been tested.
posted by jedicus at 8:08 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Welp, it seems that the only real solution is to tightly control and regulate CNC machines and 3D printers.

seriously though, what's to keep major manufacturing concerns from spreading easily weaponized files around to cause a panic thereby controlling their interests?
posted by sourwookie at 8:14 PM on October 1, 2014


Well, you can fire continuously at quite a high rate; you just need a 100 pounds+ water-cooled machine gun (and assistants to keep the gun fed in ammo and water).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:24 PM on October 1, 2014


As wealth disparity increases and governments become more suppressive, this sort of DIY tech is what's going to make armed revolution possible.

I'd like to believe that's a silver lining of this cloud, but one of the reasons I don't like this guy much is that as far as I can tell, there's almost no chance anything he's doing is going to have any practical effect other than making these kinds of arms available to people who the system practically keeps them away from right now (which is a pretty low bar for Americans).

If we're talking about revolution against a modern nation state like the US, we're talking about going up against military organizations that are very well-funded, very well-equipped, and full of a million or so active-duty personnel who think about and train for this sort of thing all the time. On top of that, we have reserves, law enforcement, and spooks. There's lots of them. They've got better gear. This is an asymmetric fight at best.

The good news, I guess, is that there's already plenty of firearms floating around the US, certainly more than we'd need to put one in the hands of every member of a hypothetical rebellion army. But the bad news is that adding more firearms or even the ability to manufacture more firearms is probably just a way to watch the law of diminishing returns at work. Unless we're talking about a truly inspiring number of rebels.

And that's the real key to a revolution, right? Get many millions of people on board so fervently they're ready to mobilize against the state. Persuade some of the military and reserves and law enforcement to defect as well so the establishment isn't so powerul. And not only get them all on board, but sufficiently well-organized that they could act effectively against the existing federal apparatus.

But if we're talking about a movement that has the ability to persuade so effectively that it can persuade millions of people to fight and possibly die -- and organize them well enough to go up against a federal state -- we're probably also talking about a movement that has an order of magnitude *more* of people sympathetic to it, a movement effective enough at communicating and mobilizing that it could probably take power... through participating in elections (bor-ing, as it is).

If a rebellion isn't that effective -- if it has so little influence it can't enlist enough people to have an effect at the ballot box -- chances are pretty good something like the US federal executive branch could squash it like a bug, home manufactured AR-15s or no.

(And this leaves alone entirely the question of whether or not a rebellion could actually address the problems with an oligarchic power structure intelligently and wisely)

Homefab tech is not going to make armed revolution make more sense, unless we come to a day where elections are suspended or elective representatives are completely unresponsive to a formidably organized significant portion of the electorate. I understand we're all frustrated with some aspects of how the system works right now, but as far as I can tell, we're not really there yet, and Mr. Rifle-Tootbrush here is pretty much living out an aspirational-ideological fantasy regarding his work rather than making a real positive difference in the world.

I do think home CNC is pretty cool, though, so there's that.
posted by weston at 8:28 PM on October 1, 2014 [19 favorites]


Welcome to America, here's your gun and your Twinkie. Both will kill you, and both are made of plastic.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:41 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hunters must be scratching their heads, looking at their single-shot bolt action rifles, and wondering where all the crazy gun nuts came from.

Carrying 800 rounds into the woods not only makes me stronger, I also save money on what the butcher charges to grind the meat down.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:48 PM on October 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


There are people in this world who get off on pissing other people off, and Cody Wilson is one of them.

I'm a bit bummed because we could use a really well-designed, decently priced open source CNC machine with a good spindle. Maybe if it's any good and they really do open source it we can fork it. :P
posted by phooky at 8:59 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


This machine doesn't seem very consequential. Quick googling suggests a cheap 80% AR lower is $70 - $80 (plus the machine) and a finished lower is $50 - $75.

There's the no paperwork angle, but that's only handy for the convicted felon who doesn't mind leaning a paper trail, has over $1300, a nonthrifty DIY ethos, and the opportunity to assemble a rifle.

I suppose a home machine shop is getting cheaper, so that's cool.
posted by The Gaffer at 9:14 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Full auto isn't really useful outside of military applications; the real danger is idiots who are rich enough to acquire enough ammunition to feed such a monster and stupid enough to think it is useful.

I could afford to buy a fully automatic weapon, but I couldn't really afford to buy enough ammunition to shoot it more than once in a great while. As a hobby they are outside my means, and I'm several levels above broke.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:15 PM on October 1, 2014


Arguing about this particular gun is missing the point, imo. How long until you can print out a full auto gun at home?

Let's say we come up with realistic ammo control (crazyland, here), and it passes congress (supercrazyland, now), how long until someone makes a rail gun you can print at home? Or some other workaround of ammo control?

How long until an untrained person can make a serious (triple digit death count) weapon at home?

I'd bet money it's in my lifetime (before the year 2070 or so), and I'd bet money there's no good proposals on the table to stop it. I don't even know what those proposals would look like. As it becomes cheaper and easier to change the world around us through technology, there are going to be people who desire to change the world around them through killing lots of people.

This gun is nothing. Think about this gun's equivalent in the year 2024.
posted by DGStieber at 9:18 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why would you even need or want a "fully automatic" rifle anyway?
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:19 PM on October 1, 2014


to permit you to create your own fully-automatic AR-15 with no serial number.

This statement is untrue. The description should be corrected.

From the linked site:
Semi-automatic firearms, including the AR-15 lower receivers, are generally legal to manufacture for private individuals per US federal law Title 18 do not require serialization or other maker's marks. [Emphasis mine]
The device allows you to take an "80% complete" lower receiver and mill out the missing holes to produce something that will work with an AR-15 parts kit. What you end up with is a semi-automatic rifle.

If you were to take that, and then do the further milling and add the additional parts to make it into a full-automatic rifle — also known, legally, as a "machine gun" — you're looking at up to 10 years in Federal prison.

Producing a full-auto machine gun is a separate operation, both mechanically and legally, from drilling the final holes in an 80% receiver. The latter is a straightforward connect-the-dots operation that any moron can do with some basic machine tools (just a drill press, in some cases) and leaves you with a civilian-legal AR-15; the device in question here lowers the barrier to entry for this process somewhat, but not significantly. The former is absolutely illegal, has been for decades, and the ATF routinely sends people to prison for it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:23 PM on October 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Why would you even need or want a "fully automatic" rifle anyway?

I heard they have this new tactic, called "walking fire". You carry your rifle at the hip. Take two steps, fire; take two steps, fire. That ought to keep the enemy cowering in his trench!
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:25 PM on October 1, 2014


This machine doesn't seem very consequential. Quick googling suggests a cheap 80% AR lower is $70 - $80 (plus the machine) and a finished lower is $50 - $75.

I may be wrong, but IIRC it's illegal to sell a finished lower. That's why people sell the 80% lowers.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:26 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


So I know the surface issue here is gun control, but I kind of think the real issue here is how we define "things" in a world where manufacturing technology is becoming miniaturized and commodified.

I have a co-worker who may the only sane gun nut around. Shooting is his big hobby. He told me that you could buy full-auto conversion kits much the same as this receiver - you buy a partially completed metal object and then you mill it into the final form. Except that the shops would have a pre-programmed mill you could "rent" for a few bucks with the CNC program already in it. So to acquire an illegal item you buy a legal item, walk 5 feet and then push a button to turn it into the illegal one. basically the same thing we have here. (yes, I realize this is now illegal. He knows it very well. It was apparently not at the time. I'm not an expert)

It's like the philosophical joke of when does Grandma cease being Grandma - if you deconstruct a gun, when does it cease to be a gun? Even if Congress makes these 80% receiver blanks illegal eventually you devolve it into a blank block of aluminum and at that point it's pretty hard to make metal blocks illegal. The machine is ultra-specialized (it only accepts one input and has one output), but again, at what point does a generic CNC mill become a gun factory?

I think it's still a long time until personal-scale manufacturing gives mass manufacturing any real economic challenge, so I'm not going to lose any sleep about shooters running around with these things. There are already millions of weapons circulating the US and a handful more doesn't make any difference.

also...

Why would you even need or want a "fully automatic" rifle anyway?

Yes. I don't know much about guns, but don't worry about "fully automatic" or "assault" rifles. Full-auto guns are only good for wasting ammunition and "assault" rifle is meaningless. I can assault you fine with a hundred year-old .22 or 12-gauge.

The real issue here is that there's a whole new angle to the epistemological question of "what is a gun?"
posted by GuyZero at 9:28 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Well, a gun is not a receiver. That's a silly definition. A gun is a device for shooting a missile out of a barrel. A receiver is just a component, and sometimes a fairly simple one (essentially a piece of tubing with some metal welded onto it in the case of the Sten). Other components are harder to manufacture, for instance barrels and bolts, at least in the case of rifles (which have more powerful cartridges). In fact, that is why we have proof marks: a mechanism to make sure that the pressure bearing parts of a weapon aren't likely to explode in the user's face, implemented in various weapons-producing areas, such as Lièges in Belgium or Birmingham in England.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:44 PM on October 1, 2014


I may be wrong, but IIRC it's illegal to sell a finished lower.

Not in most states. They're common as dirt outside of CA/CT/NY/NJ/MA/MD (and not really uncommon in some of those states either). Generally run about $90 plus transfer fees. You can pay extra for different materials, lighter weight, fun colors, whatever. They're made by licensed manufacturers (many of them also do defense production), serialized, and sold for not much more than the unserialized blanks; they're basically a commodity product.

The "stripped lower" is legally the firearm, but it's one of the least complex parts mechanically or metallurgically on the AR-pattern rifle. It doesn't deal with a lot of mechanical stress, or have to tolerate a lot of heat, etc. So it's inexpensive. But it doesn't wear out, and it's what holds all the other parts together, so it makes some sense that it's what the serial number (and legal definition of a "firearm") attach to.

As far as the DIY angle, it's pretty much a no-free-lunch situation. Taking the stripped lower and turning it into a functioning rifle will still run you a few hundred bucks at the very least, even if you shop around and order everything online from the lowest-cost supplier. It's like building a PC: when you add up the cost of all the parts and put some reasonable value on your time, it's not really that much cheaper, so the people who do it tend to be interested in the process or want something custom.

Again, an AR-15 lower is (by definition, pretty much) semi automatic. If you make it into a full-automatic, you've basically created a black market M-16 receiver, which is illegal as hell. It's the difference, in firearms terms, between Sudafed and crystal meth.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:46 PM on October 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Materials, prints and a cheap lathe & mill set could do the same 40 years ago. In fact, weapons selling countries did so. Not sure why it's outrageous now.

The fact that a person can make anything that can be manufactured has not escaped people's notice over the years. What's changed is the amount of time, effort, and skill required for an individual to build something. There's a big difference between a month of a skilled artist's time vs. just pressing a button.

Fortunately we're not quite at the just-press-a-button stage, but you can see it from here. This is a good time to figure out a reasonable public policy when certain laws that virtually everyone agrees on (private ownership of grenades and bazookas are non-starters even with the NRA) become trivial to break.

And speaking of grenades, if you practiced you could probably throw six or seven into a darkened theater and be out the door before they started going off. Won't that be fun.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:53 PM on October 1, 2014


Ghost Gunner is an insane group, adding even more potential insanity to a fast-becoming-insane culture of guns in America. Frankly, I see Ghost Gunner as a terrorist organization, because they will ultimately - as the technology evolves - enable thugs, nutcases and other violent types (including terrorists) to more easily gain access to weapons that will kill more innocent people, and terrorize more Americans.

It boggles that the AG isn't all over this, and that they would let the jerk-offs who run this goofball company manufacture a weapon that can outmaneuver gun control laws. Of course, our Congress, corrupt to the core in taking filthy lucre from the senior NRA leadership and their overlord gun manufacturing companies (two more terrorist groups), just stands by and watches.

America is fourth in the world in death by gun - after Thailand, Colombia and Nigeria.

And lest anyone think I'm overusing the word "terrorist", think about how significant parts of many large American cities are practically ruled by gun-wielding thugs who make the lives of the innocents around them a living hell. That's terrorism; a particular kind of terrorism that has social roots, but is made palpable due to the easy access to deadly firepower.

Sad.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:05 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


And speaking of grenades, if you practiced you could probably throw six or seven into a darkened theater and be out the door before they started going off. Won't that be fun.

You could do that now with sticks of dynamite or the like. Or if you actually wanted to kill a bunch of people you could chain the doors and set it on fire. Generally what prevents mass casualty situations isn't that they are particularly hard to accomplish but that very few people are awful human beings who want to cause mass casualties among innocents. Really, can't you think of a half dozen ways to kill a whole bunch of people pretty easily without trying all that hard? That's pretty scary but it's true.

I mean, any time you walk down the street you're trusting that none of the people you pass by are going to turn around and stab you in the back. And they don't! Not because they can't; they could easily do it. But because they don't want to.

That's not to say we shouldn't take reasonable steps to do what we can to make these things harder. But when it comes down to it what keeps you safe isn't the law, it's that most people don't actually want to cause harm to you.
posted by Justinian at 2:40 AM on October 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


What is the barrier exactly between semi and full auto?

Stopping.

It's very easy to build a system that will keep firing once you pull the trigger. It's harder to build a system that will keep firing while you pull the trigger *and then* stop when you let go of the trigger.

There was a link to a series of WWII or just after training films on how firearms work, staring with a single shot and building up to an automatic weapon, but I'm thin on time and a quick search didn't find them. Basically, you need a set of parts to fire the weapon, a part to keep firing it, and a train of parts to switch that part in-and-out. The AR-15 receiver is built to not have room for the extra parts.

Early on, there were some AR-15s made that literally needed nothing more than a little file work to become full auto, but BATF jumped on them hard, and selling a weapon that takes a trivial amount of effort to become a full-auto weapon is treated the same as a full-auto weapon. You need to do the paperwork, pay the taxes, and register the weapon.

Fun Fact: You *can* own hand grenades! However, each grenade is treated as an individual weapon, so each one gets its own tax stamp, registration, etc. -- and boy howdy, everybody will pay attention if you start that train of paperwork. At least with a full auto machine gun, you pay the tax once.
posted by eriko at 3:44 AM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


because they will ultimately - as the technology evolves - enable thugs, nutcases and other violent types (including terrorists) to more easily gain access to weapons that will kill more innocent people

Since this thread is making it obvious evolution of technology is not going to be stopped, you'll need to approach it from the other direction, and make sure society has less thugs, nutcases and other violent types (including terrorists).

This would, amongst many other things I cannot begin to list here, involve excellent and freely available mental health care, excellent and freely available education and information on as many subjects as possible, a transparent and accountable government, and decent income for everybody (so there's too much to lose for most people to contemplate crime), a judicial system geared towards rehabilitation instead of revenge and punishment, etc...
posted by DreamerFi at 4:09 AM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


In the last few days MeFi has covered Hershey Bars, American Football and now Guns. Doing a good job addressing the things I find most perplexing about the US!
posted by sobarel at 4:27 AM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


In the Good Ole Days: "Papa says it won't hurt us!" (Harper's Weekly, April 16, 1904)
posted by elgilito at 5:09 AM on October 2, 2014


eriko, are you thinking of this? (Excellent introduction anyhow...)
posted by Harald74 at 5:24 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


There's the no paperwork angle, but that's only handy for the convicted felon who doesn't mind leaning a paper trail, has over $1300, a nonthrifty DIY ethos, and the opportunity to assemble a rifle.

Just a thought experiment: If someone buys one of these machines and a lot of 80% receivers and gun kits, and then offers to sell people a kit and 80% receiver while at the same offering them to "rent" time on their CNC machine (basically just having the buyer pressing the "start" button so technically they are creating the 100% receiver), would that be illegal?
posted by ymgve at 5:38 AM on October 2, 2014


You could do that now with sticks of dynamite or the like.

There was a big dynamite theft here a little while back, about a truckload or so. It got a little coverage at the time and then there has been nothing in the news since, though I've optimistically hoped that there has been an intensive super secret investigation happening. (More likely there is a report on file in the sheriff's office and meanwhile the explosive has long since been sold to biker gangs across the border in Canada or something equally unsavory). I know several people with permits for storing and using dynamite and I think it would be easy to get hold of small amounts if someone was really motivated.

By the same token, these "print your own" guns and gun parts are interesting as proofs of concept, but it's still easier and cheaper to swing by the hunting goods store on my way home and buy a legal gun -- we are a ways off from this having a lot of real world relevance.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:39 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


How long until an untrained person can make a serious (triple digit death count) weapon at home?

April 19, 1995
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:13 AM on October 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


Tossing in a datapoint regarding the whole "auto vs semi-auto" discussion.

My almost-uncle (the engagement to my aunt fell apart) had a side business doing some custom work in the firearms field. Simple machining and bluing for the most part. But he was also licensed to own fully automatic weapons. I think it's a Class III license with all the tax stamps and such you had to get along the way). Anyway, our family farm is *way* out in the country and, for the most part, is surrounded by other members of the family for 100+ acres around. He'd go out there and test fire weapons into the hillside, even fully auto ones sometimes. Long story short, someone driving by or something heard the fully auto weapons fire and, sure enough, here come the black SUVs and very serious gentlemen asking to look around and see paperwork. Which he had and presented, or he'd be incarcerated in a big way. This is on a farm where hunting and, to a lesser degree, target or trap/skeet shooting is common and well accepted even.

I guess I'm just trying to give an example of one difference between semi-auto and fully-automatic weapons. Namely that if you use one of the latter, even legally and way out in the country on your own property, you can expect folks to take notice and authorities to show up. Folks, at least in his experience, can and do tell when someone is firing in full auto, which is a good thing.

Also, I don't have hard numbers but the cost of the tax stamps he paid for each class 3 weapons transactions was ungodly high. Those weapons, at least from what I heard from him, are mostly investments-slash-collector circle jerking due to the fact that only weapons made before the cutoff date decades ago can be owned by private citizens and transferring them costs of that much.

Folks talking about modifying sears to 'easily' produce fully auto weapons are making a valid point but, from what I've heard, it's really a crappy and hackjob modification that leads, in most cases, to a firearm that may fire one, two, or twelve times per trigger pull, that is to say that it's unpredictable. Hell, in certain weapons even a worn from long usage sear can produce multiple firings from a single trigger pull. To illustrate how serious folks take fully auto weapons, I've even heard of folks getting noticed by officials for isolated incidents of worn sears causing those extra back-to-back shots to be fired at a shooting range or what have you. That and I completely believe those upthread that say AR-15 design is not favorable for this type of conversion as well. Actually I've only heard of sear-tampering in reference to small-caliber rimfire models, the classic Ruger 10/22 specifically but it may well be a bigger thing than I'm aware of.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:31 AM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


I know several people with permits for storing and using dynamite and I think it would be easy to get hold of small amounts if someone was really motivated

Apparently this was a common thing when my dad was younger and the country was more self-sufficient, agri-centric, and just more lax with rules in general I suppose. We even stumbled upon a SLYT video about an older gentleman telling a story about some dynamite he had. Do recommend.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:41 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


this sort of DIY tech is what's going to make armed revolution possible

Does that make any sense? An ideologically motivated rabble with homemade assault rifles vs. the average police force with post-military hardware and any training at all sounds like a recipe for disaster. Never mind when the actual military gets involved.

The other problem with this idea is that it's basically saying "Let's abandon any hope of making politics work and rush the castle with torches and pitchforks! Who's with me!" Hasn't the last 400 years of Western history been about learning better methods of resolving issues? I know it's not easy, and it sometimes takes a long time to accomplish anything, but I find the suggestion that armed revolution is the next step kind of discouraging.
posted by sneebler at 7:25 AM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


This has been a fascinating thread on the subtle yet meaningful differences between semi and fully automatic weapons.

It kinda takes away from all my anxiety about millions of weapons in the hands of strangers I scarcely trust.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:43 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, if it makes you feel any better, an average marksman could probably kill MORE people with a semi-automatic assault rifle than fully automatic, especially if their victims were not bunched together. Fully automatics, as mentioned before, are more difficult to control and and tend to waste bullets. With a semi-automatic it's easier to manage recoil and quickly re-aim for the next shot.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 8:03 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


60 rounds per minute on semi-auto? Cookie clicker taught me that I can do 60 rounds in 3 seconds.
posted by plinth at 8:07 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


picking up a heater with the numbers shaved is a far simpler proposition.

um, so I've heard.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:52 PM on October 1 [5 favorites +] [!]


A "heater" with the numbers "shaved?"

Is that for when some tomato with gams that go all the way up gets mixed up with some no good fly by night gunsel who won't take a solid rap to the snoot for an answer?
posted by stenseng at 10:47 AM on October 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


I may be wrong, but IIRC it's illegal to sell a finished lower. That's why people sell the 80% lowers.

It's not illegal to sell a finished lower. People sell 80% lowers because you don't have to put a serial number on the lower until it's finished. Thus, 80% lowers, especially bought in cash, are essentially untraceable.
posted by corb at 11:11 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The idea of armed revolution against the US government is an adolescent power fantasy that will never happen. It is terrifying watching people promote weapons like this with no regards to the consequences of the dangerous world they are creating.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:15 AM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is another thing that's taken as an article of faith - that small arms could never prevail against the US Army. Well, it prevailed in Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam just fine. It generally prevails, as a matter of fact, because it's really hard to win an occupation, and particularly hard to win against asymmetric guerilla tactics.

I mean, if you want to argue that there should never be rebellion, or that those people suck, that's one thing. But to argue that they're crazy because such a thing could never possibly succeed seems foolish. All anyone needs to do is continue long enough that they decide the juice isn't worth the squeeze.
posted by corb at 11:22 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Waco. Ruby Ridge. There's several others. Armed rebellion against the US government just isn't going to happen, and thinking otherwise is mental masturbation.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:27 AM on October 2, 2014


corb: It generally prevails, as a matter of fact, because it's really hard to win an occupation, and particularly hard to win against asymmetric guerilla tactics.

It's not an "occupation." The military forces are already here, made up of our citizens. They're defending their own country.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:29 AM on October 2, 2014


One might also mention a certain war in the 1800s. A war that was between two actual armies. The government prevailed.

And I think they might be slightly better armed and trained now, to say nothing--as tonycpsu pointed out--of defending their country against traitors.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:32 AM on October 2, 2014


There can be a hell of a big difference between whether something happens and whether it succeeds. So can armed rebellion happen? Absolutely. Is it likely to succeed ? Well that depends on way more factors than anyone can count with any certainty.

But arguing that armed rebellion can't succeed here because it so far hasn't is like arguing you are immortal because you haven't died yet.

None of which should be taken as a call to rebellion. Rebellion is a guaranteed path for destruction and sorrow but it also has to be on the table as a last resort for the people.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 12:41 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Violet Cypher: None of which should be taken as a call to rebellion. Rebellion is a guaranteed path for destruction and sorrow but it also has to be on the table as a last resort for the people.

Yeah, except to the target audience for something like this, it's the second resort after "vote Republican."
posted by tonycpsu at 12:45 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


And yes, I'm exaggerating a bit with that, but if you think this isn't preying on people who are frustrated because there's a Kenyan Muslim usurper in the White House now, you're delusional. Stoking fires of rebellion has become a go-to political tactic instead of the last resort kind of thing it should be.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:47 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, armed rebellion hasn't been an option for the people of the USA for decades. Outgunned, outmanned (if, as mentioned above, you could organize a group large enough to be a credible threat to the US armed forces plus police forces, you'd have what's called a political party and be able to effect change that way much more easily, cheaply, and without cost to human lives), fighting against people defending their own country (a situation which didn't exist in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan). Plus the NSA & FBI more or less guaranteeing detection and suppression.

Sure, maybe some total idiots could try. But the only way that'll end is with them dead or in chains, unless one posits a coup from within the military.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:50 PM on October 2, 2014


Also, armed rebellion hasn't been an option for the people of the USA for decades. Outgunned, outmanned

I disagree with this assumption. First we need only consider how heavily armed the american population is. To realize that it could happen easier here than in other countries like say Libya. Now I know that the US is not Libya. But it does show that a relatively poorly armed populace can quickly defeat a better armed domestic military on home soil given the right motivations. So Outgunned is a pretty difficult argument to hang your hat on.
As for Outmaned. Not even close. The CIA world fact book indicates that the US alone has 140 million military eligible people. The US has standing military and reserves of just over 2 million so double that for police and make it 5 million available domestic combat forces (Which I am assuming means every single us troop and police officer back on home soil which is not feasible) That leaves 135 million available for combat. If assuming that rebellion manages to sway just 10 percent of the population to it's side that is twice the available current forces to the side of rebellion. That would be a huge problem. So it is possible.

I just want to reiterate that rebellion is horrible idea. And so long as the population of an area feels they can get adequate redress of grievances by working inside the system they will generally not engage in it, but if people feel that they are being abused and cheated and that they can not get redress inside the system they will rebel. I for one think that would be a sad day for everyone and I hope I never see it.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 1:27 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


If assuming that rebellion manages to sway just 10 percent of the population to it's side

I think that's a really big assumption to make.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:35 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am confused by that. Are you arguing that there is no condition or set of conditions capable of motivating 10% of the us population to rebel?

I mean you could argue that it is unlikely to happen any time soon and I would most likely agree with that. But that is arguing "is it likely" versus "is it possible". I am stating that it is possible and that the conditions necessary to favor the rebellion are not that difficult to imagine.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 2:04 PM on October 2, 2014




Well, okay, sure there's probably some set of conditions in the far future that might impel the American populace to go get shot by the government, but those conditions don't exist now, nor will they for the foreseeable future.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:10 PM on October 2, 2014


First we need only consider how heavily armed the american population is.

And we've demonstrated in Iraq and Afghanistan that Democracy flows from the barrel of a gun. I mean, those Republicans with guns are all about Democracy and Freedom, right? It's simple cause and effect.
posted by sneebler at 3:07 PM on October 2, 2014


Common liberal fears about this technology: Whacko ultra-conservatives will use it to manufacture auto- or semi-auto weapons in large numbers, spiking gun murders upwards.

Realistic threat from this technology: A very few DIY enthusiasts will use it to make a very few weapons, and the uptick will be in deaths and amputations by guns made from inferior materials (or ever-so-slightly out-of-spec) by the same DIY enthusiasts, who don't pretest the first umpteen shots from a distance.

The first time I ever shot, a gun that hadn't been fired in a Very Long Time was brought forth. We were all moved back by my friend's father, who proceeded to fire the first round in the newly-cleaned gun with his left hand - on the assumption that if anything went wrong, he wasn't as likely to lose his good hand. THAT is the kind of care these few DIYers won't take.

Those who want guns in this country can buy them cheaply. Serial numbers can be easily removed, and TV's trope of comparing the rifling marks can be defeated simply by reasonably educated gun users.

This is a red herring technology. In fact, I'd rather Waco-like nuts had these weapons than commercially produced and tested ones.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:15 PM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


(if, as mentioned above, you could organize a group large enough to be a credible threat to the US armed forces plus police forces, you'd have what's called a political party and be able to effect change that way much more easily, cheaply, and without cost to human lives)

This isn't really how revolutions need to work.

To start with, those military and police forces are drawn from the citizenry. It's easy to gin them up against fighting foreigners, but it's actually much tougher to get them to act against their own citizens - particularly in areas they view as their "homes." Police, which remain local, are also generally much more sympathetic to the views of the citizens nearby. For example, look at the police chiefs who have already signed on and publicly sworn to resist any orders for gun confiscation. In such cases, it's highly unlikely to be "police fighting citizens." It's going to be police deciding whether or not they want to fight citizens, which is going to depend on what the citizens are really disrupting. Or..how hard are they fighting citizens? Are they going to do their all and risk getting shot in the face, or are they going to go on "search and avoid" missions?

Now add to that the fact that all of their families are in the combat zones, because the combat zones are everywhere. Are they going to risk leaving their families alone? Who are they going to put first, when chaos comes crashing down? Will they have to worry about retaliation? Will they need to worry about plans to get their families out and keep them safe? Where will they evacuate to? Where will have room?

Now keep in mind the military has its own culture and its own priorities and loyalties, and really doesn't actually like attacking its fellow citizens all that much - particularly citizens from their own areas that they feel are like them. Their officer cadre is largely rural, from the South and West - which is not strange, as rural and suburban areas are overrepresented in the military overall.

So a rural revolution, if such a thing were to come - and again, I make no bones about its morality or lack thereof, I am merely talking about practicalities - could count upon a heavily armed group of rebels, with police and military forces likely to melt away. They would only need to overcome committed opponents, not apathetic individuals who just waited for things to end. The American revolution itself was supported by less than half of the population, yet was ultimately successful - because roughly half the colonists took no part in it. They would be able to melt into the rural surrounding areas easily - but would only need to attack large urban centers that would be easy to target and hard to guard.

Ultimately, such a revolution would undoubtedly not succeed in completely overturning the United States. Critics are right - it would be exceedingly difficult to take some of the more entrenched areas. But what they don't understand is that that would not be necessary. For those rebels who simply want to be left alone, free of tyranny, a withdrawal is as good as a victory. They would only need to make certain areas too difficult to handle or govern effectively, and they could have enough of a victory. After some ten or fifteen years, when the taxes required to sustain such a war - in the middle of an economically damaging war - grew too crippling, a full withdrawal and accomodation might have been achieved.

The Civil War had clearly demarcated lines and a formal government. A pure revolution would not.

Again - I'm not saying this is necessarily either desirable or moral. But it is not sheer madness to think of, at least.
posted by corb at 4:22 PM on October 2, 2014


Armed uprisings in the 20th and 21st century have been nothing but pointless horrors for affected residents. Can anyone name a place where this was anything other than a complete disaster in recent history?
posted by humanfont at 4:41 PM on October 2, 2014


For those rebels who simply want to be left alone, free of tyranny, a withdrawal is as good as a victory. They would only need to make certain areas too difficult to handle or govern effectively, and they could have enough of a victory. After some ten or fifteen years, when the taxes required to sustain such a war - in the middle of an economically damaging war - grew too crippling, a full withdrawal and accomodation might have been achieved.

This withdrawal will never happen. Fort Sumter notwithstanding the Civil War happened because of Northern rhetoric and action toward preventing the South from just being left alone, free of what it considered tyranny. The Northern government had no particular hatred of slavery, but it had a great big hardon about its own sovereignty and everyone knew it.

You want to find some terrorists? I know some people who use high-tech robots to bomb people indiscriminately with very little consideration as to whether the people they're bombing are guilty of anything. I know people who've thrown people in prison by the thousands, sexually abused them, and taken trophy photographs of the sexual abuse. I know some people who have trained assassination squads and given military training and hardware to civilian police. I know people who have not just looked the other way but given money and arms to the people actively and violently trying to overthrow legitimate democratically elected governments.

Do you think such terrorists would shirk at loosing the full fury of their power, even including nuclear weapons, on their own recalcitrant so-called citizens? Do you really think the heirs of Appomattox would just walk away from a Rubicon between themselves and rebels who had taken their land, who were compromising their position in so many ways on the global chessboard? Heinlein was a fucked up dude in a lot of ways but he saw with dead clarity that the US would nuke its own cities if necessary in the 1950's. He may have been a stopped clock but that was one of the two times that day he was right.

There is no way to outgun the US government. Gandhi's genius was seeing that shame was a much more powerful weapon but I'm not sure it would work on these assholes. I am sure there is a point at which it doesn't matter who has been elected to what high offices, the machinery has already been set in place to ensure continuation of the State. Haha I almost typed the word "Republic" there, but it wouldn't be that any more, would it? If it is that even now.

If you want to see the future of a rebel America, look at 1970's Chile, 1980's Nicaragua, or today's Iraq. A few AR-15's on the loose are nothing when tanks are rolling through cities. Sure you can get an enemy crew with an IED or a soldier with a lucky sniper shot now and then but the occupation only ends when the money dries up.

For occupation of a country's own soil the money will never dry up. The government will take it all first. The elites might eventually be starved of funds but the citizens, rebel and loyal all the same, will literally starve first.

It might be possible, with millions of casualties, to unseat the assholes who think they are masters of our universe. The problem is that new assholes will replace them, probably worse assholes who don't even pay lip service to the rule of laws we've taken for granted for 200 years. That is what has almost always happened throughout recorded history. It's hard to even consider the US much of an exception what with the whole slavery and eventual Civil War thing that followed our revolution.

The future might be grim, but the problem cannot be solved with guns. Those will just bring more problems than they can ever solve.
posted by localroger at 7:04 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


You want to find some terrorists? I know some people who use high-tech robots to bomb people indiscriminately with very little consideration as to whether the people they're bombing are guilty of anything. I know people who've thrown people in prison by the thousands, sexually abused them, and taken trophy photographs of the sexual abuse. I know some people who have trained assassination squads and given military training and hardware to civilian police. I know people who have not just looked the other way but given money and arms to the people actively and violently trying to overthrow legitimate democratically elected governments.

These "terrorists" are a plurality (or close enough) of US voters. As heinous as all these things are, they weren't performed by some hidden cabal -- they were open policy decisions, or pretty foreseeable consequences of open policy decisions. Whatever founding American precepts they violated (and I think there are many) "democratic rule" wasn't one of them.

Do you think such terrorists would shirk at loosing the full fury of their power, even including nuclear weapons, on their own recalcitrant so-called citizens?

It's the "so-called" part that's the critical thing. The part of the electorate that will tolerate this sort of thing runs on tribalism -- as long as the recalcitrant citizens are still considered "citizens" this won't happen. Convince enough people that they no longer part of the tribe, sure, anything goes. But doing that on the basis of domestic geography (rather than existing tribal identifiers like race or religion) seems like a pretty tough sell.
posted by bjrubble at 10:22 AM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


humanfont: Armed uprisings in the 20th and 21st century have been nothing but pointless horrors for affected residents. Can anyone name a place where this was anything other than a complete disaster in recent history?
The Warsaw Ghetto Battle resulted in a loss, but a glorious loss which afforded the Jews involved the chance to fight back and kill a Nazi or two, first - arguably far less disastrous than simply being rounded up and sent to the camps.

On the winning side, La Resistance provided vital information to the Allies, especially in preparation for D-Day.

But, yes, most are disastrous failures, or simply horrifying massacres.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:34 AM on October 3, 2014


These "terrorists" are a plurality (or close enough) of US voters.

Unless a plurality of US voters belong to the military and are employed as police, no, these terrorists are people who nominally work for US voters. However, as a practical matter, every year it becomes more apparent that they really work for a cabal of oligarchs, and they spend much of their time ignoring the laws that US voters like to think rein them in.

As for the heinous things being open policy decisions, such things as the use of torture and extraordinary rendition, universal surveillance, distribution of military gear to podunk police departments, and civil forfeiture procedures that make a mockery of due process were all slipped in while The People weren't looking and entrenched as SOP before anyone but a few wacky activists noticed.

The part of the electorate that will tolerate this sort of thing runs on tribalism -- as long as the recalcitrant citizens are still considered "citizens" this won't happen.

C'mon, it's already A-OK in many places to shake you down, violate your fourth amendment rights, and even shoot you if you're the wrong race, not wealthy enough, or uncooperative. All it will take is a solemn announcement by the media that $CITY is infested with $BAD_PEOPLE and if the citizens aren't loyal enough to their government to turn them out, then they will just have to share in the $WELL_DESERVED_AWFUL_FATE. It's a time honored tradition going all the way back to the Romans.
posted by localroger at 3:37 PM on October 3, 2014


If someone buys one of these machines and a lot of 80% receivers and gun kits, and then offers to sell people a kit and 80% receiver while at the same offering them to "rent" time on their CNC machine (basically just having the buyer pressing the "start" button so technically they are creating the 100% receiver), would that be illegal?

Uh, previously, from the last time we had this discussion on the blue.

It's pretty thin ice. The ATF is all over the 80% receiver thing, and they are best described as having the gentle touch of the FBI combined with the sense of humor of the IRS. People get arrested for finishing lowers and selling them (or making them for other people, which is almost indistinguishable) pretty regularly.

The situation today seems to be that if the 80% lower and the rental of the machine shop equipment occur as two separate, arms-length transactions you are probably okay. It's sketchier if you sell both at the same time; there are companies (almost all in California, where the legal supply of non-DIY AR components has dried up) that will sell you an 80% lower at the same time that you rent the machines to finish it, and they (apparently) haven't had the Party Van roll up yet. I sure as hell wouldn't want to be standing in one of them on the day the ATF decides to collapse that particular grey area into its constituent black and white legal states, though.

The people selling polymer lowers with special-colored inserts showing you exactly where to drill thought they had a cute business model too, until they didn't. Cleverness gets you nowhere.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:36 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nevermind, the place that was selling 80% lowers and running the machine shop definitely had the Party Van show up.

The point remains: anything that seems just a bit too clever to be legal probably isn't.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:45 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Kadin2048: The point remains: anything that seems just a bit too clever to be legal probably isn't.
Barring activities by banks, of course.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:41 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


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