How feasible is building a gun?
April 22, 2007 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Recent MeFi threads have suggested how easy it is (or not) to build a gun. The comparison to dynamite or ANFO is made, frequently, in these sorts of discussions, supposedly to illustrate another "weapon" which is in the public corpus but largely outlawed. [more inside]
posted by avriette (34 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
But where are the open source guns? Or even schematics for guns? It seems that the more exotic guns (or just guns in name) are actually easier to build than the comparatively simple chemical propellant guns.

Even working with dogs, conducting electronic warfare, and improvised explosives (defeating thereof, improvised nuclear devices...) may be better documented.

I realize that some of these links are repeats (but I think this is a fair use of aggregation), that some of them are mefi-referencing (thus perhaps making it appropriate for meta), some are kooks, and some are even slightly spammy. My original intent was to make an Ask Mefi thread, "where are the open source guns, if building a gun is just that easy?"

I then decided I could do the research myself, and that it was topical and relevant, as we're spending so much time discussing gun control. Artw, you should be pleased that I believe this is and appropriate place to discuss gun control.

Unfortunately, while we have open source cars, open source nuclear weapons (of a sort), and so on, plans for guns are actually few and far between. Why this is, and whether it's a good thing, is left as an exercise to the reader.

This is my first post, although I've been reading Mefi since, I think, 2001. Please be gentle.
posted by avriette at 12:29 PM on April 22, 2007

It's also "an" appropriate place. Feh.
posted by avriette at 12:30 PM on April 22, 2007

posted by smcniven at 12:33 PM on April 22, 2007

Oh brother, this'll be "MeTaed" in no time.
posted by davy at 12:34 PM on April 22, 2007

And, guns in name only. Sigh. I did preview, I promise.
posted by avriette at 12:35 PM on April 22, 2007

You know, I think we need more discussions on gun control here. They go so well.
Right, Wendell?
posted by miss lynnster at 12:39 PM on April 22, 2007

I like how you tied together some previous things to make something new.
Guns are truly a loaded topic, no pun intended.
posted by Dizzy at 12:40 PM on April 22, 2007

Guns are truly a loaded topic, no pun intended.

Bullshit. The pun was so intended.
posted by Alex404 at 12:43 PM on April 22, 2007

I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they think you're crude, go technical; if they think you're technical, go crude. I'm a very technical boy. So I decided to get as crude as possible. These days, though, you have to be pretty technical before you can even aspire to crudeness. I had to turn both these twelve-gauge shells from brass stock, on a lathe, and then load them myself; I'd had to dig up an old microfiche with instructions for hand-loading cartridges; I'd had to build a lever-action press to seat the primers - all very trick. But I knew they'd work.
-Johnny Mnemonic - William Gibson

posted by porpoise at 12:46 PM on April 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

On the off chance that this escapes derail, there may not be open source guns but self-assembled guns are far from uncommon. I can't find a definitive answer, but I suspect that the Colt 1911 is out of patent protection, and this would support that. Also, even current guns can be self-made (and remain unregistered) if they are less than 80% complete when sold.
posted by Skorgu at 12:54 PM on April 22, 2007

Puns don't kill, people do.
posted by Anything at 12:54 PM on April 22, 2007

Bullshit. The pun was so intended

Take it back! Take it back now! *points shaky home made gun at Alex404*
posted by nola at 12:57 PM on April 22, 2007

Actually, linked off of my first link is CNC Gunsmithing which seems to be pretty close to an open-source AR-15. This page shows milling the AR-15 lower receiver (the only part that is considered a 'gun' by the ATF) from billet stock. Of course he's using a half-million dollar CNC machine to do it, but them's the breaks.
posted by Skorgu at 1:00 PM on April 22, 2007

Don't forget to steady that home made gun on your walker first, nola. Always works for me.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:07 PM on April 22, 2007

"Recent MeFi threads have suggested how easy it is (or not) to build a gun."

*extends index finger with thumb raised at 90-degree angle*

posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:36 PM on April 22, 2007

"They say he carved it himself, from a bigger gun."
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 1:48 PM on April 22, 2007

Huh. I'm always interested to see people trying to apply "open-source" ideals to physical engineering. On the one hand, it seems like a wonderful idea — but on the other hand, like Skorgu's last link demonstrates, you can't just download the latest build of a car or a gun. I guess if I had the equipment and the inclination to build guns on it, I'd be grateful to anyone who'd made reliable instructions available.

(And really, it's a pretty new thing that everyone's got access to a computer. Maybe in The Future everyone will have a bitchin' machine shop too and we'll be praising these guys' foresight. Who knows?)
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:58 PM on April 22, 2007

BANG! This post is dead.
posted by caddis at 2:21 PM on April 22, 2007

Unless guns are actually banned, there really isn't much incentive to make them from scratch. It's much easier to take existing guns, and modify or customize them. The exception to this is zip guns, which are so easy to make that they are very accessible. See also. However, you have to be an idiot, and/or felon, and/or have no contacts who could sell you a hot gun to want to build one.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:04 PM on April 22, 2007

I prefer my handmade guns to be made of soap. You can threaten people and get clean at the same time. Very handy.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:15 PM on April 22, 2007

BrotherCaine, I was going to mention zip guns. Zip shotguns were popular in parts of the world too poor to afford actual weapons. The kinds I've seen didn't even have triggers, they nestled two pipes inside each other, and they were fired by sharply pulling the inner pipe onto a fixed firing pin, usually a nail.
posted by maxwelton at 3:26 PM on April 22, 2007

"I have a gub."
"Excuse me, what is a 'gub'? I'm going to have to get the manager to initial this."
posted by Dizzy at 3:36 PM on April 22, 2007

Again: I'm sooo frigging old.
posted by Dizzy at 3:39 PM on April 22, 2007

You might be looking at the wrong guns. Shitty Sten gun ripoffs (and the Sten is kind of a shitty ripoff to begin with) were made in basements by partisans and resistance members in Poland during the Nazi occupation.

Super accurate? No. Flashy? Definitely not.

But they're more than adequate for urban combat in all respects and the basic stats of the gun (full auto 9mm with 30 round magazine) are almost exactly the same as the much fancier and more expensive bread-and-butter of modern SWAT teams.

The other type of gun commonly made by enthusiasts are custom-built variants of the Remington 700. Everyone uses these or variants thereof for basic high-accuracy hunting and sniping rifles - from the USMC's M40s to the guy at making them out of his garage. He also happens to run a site on building your own Remington 700-based rifle, but you have to pay the $10 site membership fee to view that page.

Between those two weapons, you've got something adequate for urban combat, and something sublime for woodland combat. AR-15 and AK clones can be done by small shops, sure, but manufacturing assault rifles as a general class of weapons should - due to engineering tolerances if nothing else - be handled by professionals. Note that manufacturing is different than assembling.
posted by Ryvar at 4:45 PM on April 22, 2007

Scratchbuilt AR15 receiver
posted by Tenuki at 5:24 PM on April 22, 2007

Guns can't be that difficult. Kirk built one out of raw materials which were just scattered around in under 45 minutes, and he had the extra pressure of being chased by Godzilla jr.

... I'll get me coat.
posted by kaemaril at 5:48 PM on April 22, 2007

A competent gunsmith is basically a competent machinist. Any machinist with a mill and a lathe could build a functional and reasonable accurate firearm -- the books are out there.

The limitation here is "competent, lathe, mill." You're not going to find gcc compiling you a 1911 anytime soon.
posted by eriko at 6:43 PM on April 22, 2007

It was called a Gorn, damn you.
Show some respect.
posted by Dizzy at 7:49 PM on April 22, 2007

I hate myself.
posted by Dizzy at 7:50 PM on April 22, 2007

Apt natural. I have a gub.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:29 PM on April 22, 2007

Gun, shmun. With some "acoustic" hand tools and materials from a building supply store you can build your own seige weapons. Wal-Mart sells slingshots for about 5 bucks, and in Rwanda the Hutu militias found machetes quite useful (~$8 in the garden supplies section). No self-respecting psycho killer NEEDS a firearm.
posted by davy at 10:24 PM on April 22, 2007

Word, davy. I'll defend my home with a slingshot any day. Provided I'm using actual shot. You'd best leave now.
posted by dreamsign at 1:56 AM on April 23, 2007

> It was called a Gorn, damn you.
> Show some respect.

I know what it was called, thanks.
But to me it will always be Godzilla, jr. That's what I called it when I first saw it as a wee nipper back in the early seventies, and it's still good enough for me.
posted by kaemaril at 5:42 PM on April 23, 2007

This is only going to get more interesting when 3D rapid prototyping printers become more capable... and cheaper.

Then you will be able to download and print the latest model H-K.

May you live in interesting times...
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:44 AM on April 24, 2007

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