Tuesday, August 6, 2013

3D printed Liberator pistol at DEFCON

I was walking down the halls at DEFCON, and saw this:

That, of course, is Defense Distributed's Liberator 3D printer pistol design.  OK, thought I - this will be an interesting presentation.  Indeed it was.

Unlike most of the DEFCON sessions, the presenters said that photographs were welcome, and the entire session was on the record.  They explained that this was an important discussion, and so were waiving the typical DEFCON "if you see sumd00d with a camera, punch him" unwritten rule.  They also said that the media was welcome to sit in.  I introduced myself as a gunblogger and asked if I could interview them, and they kindly agreed.

@seanwayne and Dallas were the tag team presenters.  They had printed a modified Liberator pistol and brought it (via commercial air) to Vegas.  Sean is an infosec consultant and FFL manufacturer who (I was astonished to hear) read my blog every now and then.  Dallas was more incognito, but was the guy who convinced me to sit in on the session in the first place.  Both have concealed carry licenses.  Both have relationships with the Feds, and see one of their missions as helping to educate law enforcement on printable guns.

The first thing that struck me was their story that the TSA was cool with them flying with the pistol (obviously, checked like any other firearm.  The airline was definitely not cool with it, and their experience at the airport went something like this:

Dallas (at the check-in counter, with Liberator pistol): I'd like to declare and check a firearm, please.

Airline drone: What on earth is that?

Dallas: It's a plastic pistol.  I'd like to check it, please.

Airline drone: You can't fly with this!

Dallas: Of course I can.  It's a firearm; I need to check it.

Airline drone: I'll have to call the TSA.

TSA agent arrives.

TSA Agent: Hey, cool gun!

Of course, you need to treat this like any firearm, which means making sure you're not flying through Mordor^H^H^H^H^H^H Chicago or New York.

Education is something both of these gentlemen spend quite some time on.  Dallas talked about the time he gave a presentation on 3D printing and firearms to a group of lawmakers.  The two congressmen were OK with it, but the State legislators were pretty concerned.  The implication is that the risk of silly new laws may be more from local rather than national bodies (as we see with Colorado's moronic limit on magazine capacity).

The same applies to law enforcement, according to them.  Local LEOs are a problem, but their experience with the Feds is that once educated, they're moderately cool with the situation.

Sean is a gunsmith and manufacturer, and repeatedly told the audience that printing one of these is entirely legal, but selling it was the express lane to 5 years minimum at Club Fed.  He mentioned that he didn't have a problem with some laws that have been proposed, for example having your name engraved on any pistol you make.  I'm not sure how that would help with people determined to abuse the technology.

One of the problems they had when they proposed giving the session was that DEFCON was in a cassino.  The Nevada Gaming Commission and the cassino raised eyebrows.  The solution was that some of the pieces were printed in a scaled up size (the ones shown in green plastic).  Even if someone wanted to assemble the gun, it wouldn't fit together.

This was an interesting perspective on the whole printed pistol thing, and I was kind of surprised to see that the Feds were cooler about it than the local guys.  I'd have expected the reverse.  Sean and Dallas were quite clear that people can be educated about the issues, if you want to try.  That seems like quite a worthwhile effort.

I also got a chance to see a Liberator up close, and it reinforced my view that I absolutely don't want to shoot it.  The gasses from the chamber leak out the hole where the trigger protrudes, and so you might burn your hand even if you were wearing gloves.  Ouch.  Gives renewed meaning to the expression "kills on one end, maims on the other".

Of course, 3D printing is in its infancy, as their presentation clearly pointed out.  This technology is rapidly evolving, and likely one day will become ubiquitous.  Their biggest concern is not someone like you or me printing one of these, but a 15 year old kid.  Immature judgement combined with readily available technology is likely a volatile cocktail.

Thanks to Sean and Dallas for a very informative (and often times surprising) overview of this technology.  I am continually surprised by the intersection of computer security and firearms - maybe 80% of the security guys I know carry concealed.  This talk was a natural for DEFCON.


Divemedic said...

Seems to me that printing the gun in a shotgun caliber would be safer, what with shotgun chamber pressures being much lower than pistol pressures.

i am covertress said...

This is an update to the ongoing progress with 3D printed weapons.

“The Grizzly” Fully 3D Printed Rifle now in version 2.0

Includes video and file download links.


I'm with you, B... "ouch." Too dangerous to shoot. - c

Dave H said...

I'm not too surprised that the feds aren't getting bent out of shape over this. They understand their own rules pretty well, and can see the guys making the guns do too. The local authorities are probably less well studied in federal law, and busy with other concerns besides the legality of firearm manufacturing.