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3D-printed 'Liberator' gun fires first successful shot

The gun debate expands to include plastic firearms that can be printed at home, with lawmakers expressing concerns about new technology.

Chenda Ngak Editor / CBSNews.com
Chenda Ngak is CBSNews.com's Science & Technology Editor.
Chenda Ngak
3 min read
A demonstration of test shots fired from a 3D-printed gun called the "Liberator." YouTube/DXLiberty

A Texas man has become the first person to successfully fire a real bullet from a gun created on a home 3D printer. Sound crazy? In fact, the blueprint for the pistol is available for free online for anyone to access. And it's legal.

University of Texas law student Cody Wilson, 25, released a video of a 3D-printed gun named the "Liberator" taking test shots over the weekend. The gun is mostly made of plastic, with the exception of two metal pieces: a metal firing pin and a 6-ounce piece of steel that's required by law under the Undetectable Firearms Act. Of course, the piece of steel that makes the weapon visible to metal detectors, and legal, can certainly be omitted by future hobbyists.

Wilson invited Forbes reporter Andy Greenberg to witness the trial. Greenberg reports that 15 of the gun's 16 pieces were printed by a Stratasys Dimension SST 3D printer -- the metal firing pin is the 16th piece.

If the story is beginning to sound familiar, it's because Wilson made news when his project hit a stumbling block last fall. Stratasys, the maker of the 3D printer, heard of Wilson's plan to print a gun and seized a leased printer from Wilson's nonprofit organization, Defense Distributed. Forbes reports that Wilson bought the Dimension SST he ultimately used to print the Liberator second-hand for $8,000. It's not clear if Stratasys has plans to take action against Wilson for a second time. The company could not be reached for comment.

According to Forbes, Wilson is a radical libertarian and anarchist who wants anyone in the world to be able to download the blueprints for firearms online and print them. Wilson acknowledges his critics' concerns, but is not deterred.

"You can print a lethal device. It's kind of scary, but that's what we're aiming to show," Wilson told Forbes in a previous interview. "Anywhere there's a computer and an Internet connection, there would be the promise of a gun." The blueprint for Wilson's gun is available for download now and can be used by anyone who has access to a similar 3D printer.

The world's first 3D-printed gun (pictures)

See all photos

According to the Defense Distributed Web site, the nonprofit organization's primary goal is to develop fully printable firearms and be a hub, or "wiki," for printable weapons. The group appears to be looking for lawmakers' reaction to its mission.

"This project might change the way we think about gun control and consumption. How do governments behave if they must one day operate on the assumption that any and every citizen has near instant access to a firearm through the Internet? Let's find out," a statement on the Defense Distributed Web site reads.

Lawmakers are paying attention.

Garage gun factory?
Democratic New York Sen. Charles Schumer, at a press conference on Sunday, called for a ban on printable weapons, CBS New York reports. Schumer argues that printable firearms would make it possible for anyone who is otherwise unfit to purchase a gun to print one at home.

"A terrorist, someone who's mentally ill, a spousal abuser, a felon can essentially open a gun factory in their garage," Schumer said to reporters.

Schumer wants to amend a ban on undetectable weapons to include a measure that would extend the ban on components like plastic high-capacity magazines.

"Guns are made out of plastic, so they would not be detectable by a metal detector at any airport or sporting event," Schumer said. "[The] only metal part of the gun is the little firing pin and that is too small to be detected by metal detectors, for instance, when you go through an airport."

Schumer also announced that he and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) are introducing the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act.

This story originally appeared on CBSNews.com.