Uh-oh, this 3D-printed metal handgun actually works

While firing a round with earlier plastic models of 3D-printed guns has proven difficult, this metal model has already shot 50 rounds successfully.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
Solid Concepts has come up with a 3D-printed metal handgun. Solid Concepts

While the first known 3D-printed gun has been more-or-less dismissed because it can't reliably shoot, a new 3D-printed firearm has now been invented -- and it has no problems firing a round. In fact, it appears this handgun can fire dozens of rounds without a hitch.

What's the difference between the two? Instead of plastic, the new gun is made of metal.

The 3D-printed metal gun is made by the Texas-based 3D-printing services company Solid Concepts. The company used a laser sintering process to create the gun and powdered metals for the firearm's material. The weapon's design is based on a classic 1911 handgun and is made up of 33 different stainless steel and Inconel components, along with a carbon fiber filled nylon handgrip.

While Solid Concepts boasted that its gun has already "handled 50 rounds of successful firing," the company said its goal was more to prove that 3D printing with metal can be successful.

"We're proving this is possible, the technology is at a place now where we can manufacture a gun with 3D Metal Printing," Solid Concepts vice president of additive manufacturing Kent Firestone said in a statement. "And we're doing this legally. In fact, as far as we know, we're the only 3D Printing Service Provider with a Federal Firearms License. Now, if a qualifying customer needs a unique gun part in five days, we can deliver."

The first known 3D-printed gun was made by another Texas-based outfit called Defense Distributed. The gun, called the "Liberator," is made entirely of plastic, except for a nail used as a firing pin and a six-ounce piece of steel designed solely to allow the gun to be detected by metal detectors. A spinoff 3D-printed rifle dubbed "The Grizzly" also recently hit the scene.

The Liberator can be instantly downloaded and anonymously printed by anyone who has access to 3D-printing technology. While the gun debuted amid much fanfare, it has since been said the firearm rarely works.

While the software is more-or-less readily available, the Liberator needs an expensive high-end 3D printer for the finished product. The same is true for Solid Concepts' firearm. According to a company blog post, their printer costs more than private college tuition, which could be a barrier to entry for some criminals.

The reason Solid Concepts believes its gun is successful is because it has "less porosity issues than a investment cast part and better complexities than a machined part." And, the gun's barrel is capable of seeing chamber pressures higher than 20,000 psi every time it's fired.

"It's a common misconception that 3D Printing isn't accurate or strong enough, and we're working to change people's perspective," Firestone said.