Are 3D Printed Guns Legal? A Global Legal Overview

Are 3D Printed Guns Legal? A Global Legal Overview

In the world of additive manufacturing, 3D printing technology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The ability to 3D print complex parts and products has revolutionized the manufacturing industry, reducing costs, increasing the speed of production, and allowing for greater design freedom. However, with every new technology, there are often unforeseen consequences, and 3D printing technology is no exception. One of the most controversial and heavily debated topics surrounding 3D printing technology is the creation and use of 3D printed guns. These guns are made using a 3D printer, which allows individuals to create working firearms with very little technical expertise or oversight. The proliferation of 3D printed guns raises numerous concerns about public safety and national security, leading many governments to question whether these weapons should be legal or not. Despite the growing popularity of 3D printing technology, the legality of 3D printed guns remains a complex and contentious issue around the world.

What are 3D Printed Guns?

3D printed guns refer to the firearms that are manufactured using 3D printing technology. Instead of using traditional manufacturing methods, such as forging or machining, 3D printed guns are created by layer-by-layer addition of material (plastic or metal) based on a computer-aided design (CAD) file. Some of the common types of 3D printed guns include pistols, rifles, and other firearms. Here are some more details about these types of guns:

  • The barrel and chamber are made of steel or plastic.
  • The lower receiver can be made of polymer or plastic.
  • The upper and lower receivers can be 3D printed and then combined with other off-the-shelf components such as bolts, springs, and barrels to produce a functional firearm.
  • There are various designs available online, including the Liberator pistol and AR-15 style rifles.

It’s important to note that the technology for 3D printing firearms is not new, and designs have been available online for years. There are even websites dedicated to providing instructions and blueprints for creating these weapons. However, as the technology has advanced, so has the complexity and danger of these unregulated firearms. Moreover, the ability to print undetectable firearms using plastic has caused a great concern for governments worldwide.

Regarding the legality of 3D printed guns, it varies depending on the country. In the United States, for example, 3D printed guns that are created for personal use are legal as long as they don’t violate any existing laws, such as those regarding undetectable firearms. However, distributing or selling 3D printed gun blueprints is illegal under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

In countries such as Australia and Japan, 3D printing guns are illegal, and possessing or creating them may result in severe penalties. It’s essential to check the laws and regulations regarding 3D printed guns in your country before attempting to create or possess one.

In conclusion, while the technology for creating 3D printed guns has advanced, the legality of owning and creating them still varies across the globe. It’s crucial to research and adhere to local laws and regulations to avoid potential legal consequences.

What are 3D printed guns made?

The 3D printed guns are made up of plastic parts which make up most of the gun. However, to make the guns functional, some parts are made of metal including the store-bought Glock barrel, hammer, firing pin, bolts, and springs.

The legal status of 3D printed guns in the United States has been a subject of debate for several years. Several legal battles took place, and here is the current status of the 3D printed guns:

Year Event
2013 A Texas-based company called Defense Distributed creates designs for a 3D printable gun and uploads them to the Internet. The US government orders them to remove the files, citing that the weapons are a threat to national security.

2015 The US State Department settles with Defense Distributed, and firearms blueprints are allowed to be distributed online again.

2018 Several State Attorneys General and the District of Columbia initiates a lawsuit to prevent the blueprints for 3D-printed guns from being made available online.

2019 A US federal judge blocks the publication of instructions on how to make 3D printed guns from appearing on the Internet.

2021 President Biden issues an executive order directing the Department of Justice to propose a rule that would put a stop to the publication of 3D-printed gun kits.

It’s interesting to note that the 3D printing of guns accelerated in 2012 when Defense Distributed created a 3D-printed firearm and test fired it. Here are some more facts about the current legal status of 3D printed guns in the United States:

– Several states have passed outright bans on 3D printed guns and require a permit to manufacture firearms.
– The Undetectable Firearms Act (UFA) of 1988, which bans guns that can’t be detected by metal detectors, was updated in 2013 to include 3D-printed guns.
– The legality of 3D printed guns is an issue that still has to work through and abide by the National Firearms Act (NFA) regulations.

Can you 3D print a gun in USA?

No, it is illegal to export a 3D printed gun without a license from the U.S. Department of State. 3D printed firearms are primarily produced with a 3D printer and can be classified by the type of 3D printers used: plastic or metal. More information can be found on Wikipedia’s page about 3D printed firearms.

Legal Status of 3D Printed Guns in Other Countries

The legal status of 3D printed guns in other countries varies widely. Here are some examples:

  • European Union (EU): The EU considers 3D printed guns illegal and has implemented strict gun laws across all member states.
  • Japan: While Japan has not explicitly banned 3D printed guns, the production and possession of firearms are heavily regulated, making them virtually illegal.
  • Australia: 3D printed guns are illegal in Australia. It’s a criminal offense to manufacture or possess 3D printed firearms.
  • United Kingdom (UK): In the UK, 3D printed guns are considered firearms and are illegal under current legislation.

It is important to note that the legal status of 3D printed guns may vary depending on the circumstances, and the laws may change over time. Additionally, there are already websites where you can purchase a 3D printer that can produce a firearm.

The UK National Ballistics Intelligence Service has sourced and tested 3D-printed firearms. One such firearm, a 3D-printed replica of the Liberator, a single shot handgun concept, was successfully test-fired in 2013. The gun was made from ABS plastic using a Stratasys Dimension 1200es 3D printer sold for around $10,000. The website has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department for taking down its 3D printer gun design files, citing that this act was a violation of their First and Second Amendment rights.

Can I legally 3D print a gun?

Currently, in the United States, it is legal to 3D print a gun for personal use as long as it is not intended to be sold or transferred and meets the basic requirements. However, a license is required if you want to manufacture firearms for sale or distribution. There are websites and products available for 3D printed guns, but it is important to note the legal implications and safety concerns before pursuing this.

Potential Dangers of 3D Printed Guns
While the legal status of 3D printed guns continues to be a controversial issue, there are also significant potential dangers associated with them. Here are some of those potential dangers:

  • Lack of traceability: 3D printed guns are made without serial numbers or other identifying marks, making them much harder to trace once they’re out in the world.
  • Increased accessibility to criminals: The ease of printing 3D guns makes them much more accessible to criminals, who’d otherwise have to purchase firearms through legal channels or on the black market.
  • Safety risks: Many 3D printed guns are made from plastic, which can be less durable than traditional metal firearms and more likely to malfunction or explode during use.
  • Potential for bypassing security measures: 3D printed guns may be able to slip past metal detectors or other security measures that are designed to detect traditional firearms.

It’s important to recognize the potential dangers associated with 3D printed guns and to consider the implications of these firearms being more widespread. While some individuals may see 3D printed guns as a way to bypass regulations or as a form of self-defense, there are risks to consider.

Additionally, steps are being taken to try and regulate or limit access to 3D printed guns. The US government has expressed concerns about the proliferation of 3D-printed guns and has attempted to block their distribution in the past. Services like Google Drive and Amazon have also refused to host designs for 3D-printed guns.

What are the cons of 3D printing guns?

According to a firearms expert, even the best 3D-printed guns may only fire a few shots before blowing up in the user’s hand due to design or printing defects. Therefore, the lack of quality control and potential danger of these firearms are the major cons of 3D printing guns.


In conclusion, the legality of 3D printed guns remains a hotly debated topic around the world. While the technology that allows for the printing of handguns and other firearms has advanced, the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern their use and distribution have not necessarily kept pace.

Although 3D printed guns are not necessarily illegal in the United States or other countries, there are risks associated with their production and use, such as their lack of traceability and their potential to increase accessibility to criminals. The risks they present are further compounded by the fact they are essentially unregulated, allowing gun enthusiasts to experiment with designs and materials that could make the firearms more efficient and deadly.

While the future of 3D printed guns is uncertain, governments and policymakers must address these risks and concerns to keep communities safe. This may involve the implementation of tighter gun legislation to ensure that dangerous individuals cannot access these weapons. Ultimately, it’s essential that we prioritize safety over the unregulated access to technology that can produce these 3D printed guns.