The $1,200 machine that lets anyone make a metal gun at home


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When Cody Wilson revealed the world’s first fully 3D printed gun last year, he showed that the “maker” movement has enabled anyone to create a working, lethal firearm with a click in the privacy of his or her garage. Now he’s moved on to a new form of digital DIY gunsmithing. And this time the results aren’t made of plastic.
Wilson’s latest radically libertarian project is a PC-connected machine he calls the Ghost Gunner, that can carve digitally-modeled shapes into polymer, wood or aluminum. Sold by Wilson’s organization known as Defense Distributed for $1,200, it is designed to create one object in particular: the component of an AR-15 rifle known as its lower receiver.
That simple chunk of metal has become the epicenter of a gun control firestorm, reports A lower receiver is the body of the gun that connects its stock, barrel, magazine and other parts. As such, it’s also the rifle’s most regulated element. Mill your own lower receiver at home, however, and you can order the rest of the parts from online gun shops, creating a semi-automatic weapon with no serial number, obtained with no background check, no waiting period or other regulatory hurdles. Some gun control advocates call it a “ghost gun.” Selling that untraceable gun body is illegal, but no law prevents you from making one.

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Exploiting the legal loophole around lower receivers isn’t a new idea for gun enthusiasts—some hobbyist gunsmiths have been making their own AR-15 bodies for years. But Wilson, for whom the Ghost Gunner is only the latest in a series of anti-regulatory provocations, is determined to make the process easier and more accessible than ever before. “Typically this has been the realm of gunsmiths, not the casual user. This is where digital manufacturing, the maker movement, changes things,” he says. “We developed something that’s very cheap, that makes traditional gunsmithing affordable. You can do it at home.”

Defense Distributed’s controversial creations have included 3D printable plastic magazines and lower receivers for AR-15s as well as an entire 3D-printed pistol he called the Liberator. Wilson he says his switch from 3D printing to milling metal makes the ubiquitous creation of usable, lethal weapons one step more practical.