Would you fire an AR-15 made entirely of plastic?

This is a discussion on Would you fire an AR-15 made entirely of plastic? within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Recently, an anti-gun acquaintance of mine shared with me an article from Forbes she described as "very scary." In the article the writer refers to ...

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Thread: Would you fire an AR-15 made entirely of plastic?

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    Senior Member Array KoriBustard's Avatar
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    Would you fire an AR-15 made entirely of plastic?

    Recently, an anti-gun acquaintance of mine shared with me an article from Forbes she described as "very scary." In the article the writer refers to a group that manufactured a standard AR-15, 30-round magazine from plastic using a 3-D printer.

    Gunsmiths 3D-Print High Capacity Ammo Clips To Thwart Proposed Gun Laws - Forbes

    I did some poking around and found a video addressing the feasibility of an all-plastic firearm manufactured by a 3-D printer from "plans" that one could simply download off the web.

    » ?Can a 3D printer make guns?? DEFCAD

    I for one would never fire a 5.56 round through a plastic AR-15, but technology does continue to advance. Thoughts?
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    Senior Member Array palmcoaster's Avatar
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    With the rise of the polymers being used in the manufacturing of lowers these days,I wouldnt be totally against it.

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    Distinguished Member Array Madcap_Magician's Avatar
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    Plastic lower receivers are feasible, but the 3D-printed ones tend not to work for more than a few rounds. IIRC it's because they crack at the rear of the receiver where the threading for the buffer tube is. Obvious 3D-printed barrels and probably gas tubes are out of the question without a machine shop.
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    Senior Member Array kerberos's Avatar
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    Rough number of above 50,000 psi chamber pressure for 5.56...

    Haven't seen a plastic yet that would handle that...

    Maybe NASA has some, but...

    And how much force does it take from a firing pin to ignite a primer anyway???

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    VIP Member Array dukalmighty's Avatar
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    No way a plastic barrel is going to withstand the pressures
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    plastic barrel? Not me. Lets let our commander n' thief try it first.
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    Member Array joshw0000's Avatar
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    Re: Would you fire an AR-15 made entirely of plastic?

    I watched a interested youtube video about making your own gun. It's not illegal to manufacture and own but you can't legally sell it. Kinda scary to think there could potentially be a lot of powerful untraceable guns floating around.

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    Member Array DesignDawg's Avatar
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    That whole "3D printed gun" thing has been blown way out of proportion. As someone involved in a couple of industries that have been using 3D printers for years (decades), I have a better understanding than most on what these things can and can't do. In fact, I'd say most people have only just been introduced to the very idea of a "3D printer" by this very article/video and the hubbub surrounding it. The fact is, 3D printers (or, more accurately, rapid prototyping machines) have been around for a very, very long time, and are already used in the manufacture and design of MUCH (if not most) of the stuff we use every day. Nearly any mass produced product has been designed in a CAD program, and when these designs get to the prototyping stage, the individual pieces (this is an important detail) are often printed on one of these printers. This is the quickest way you can quickly check the fit of pieces to each other and have an actual physical representation in your hand to inspect and discover any flaws, which you can then revise in your designs and print out another. Take a gun, for example: You might have what appears to be a great design on a computer screen, but when you print it out, it feels horrible in the hand, or you realize the trigger placement is unnatural, or a mag release gets in the way of real-world use and could potentially cause accidental magazine drops, etc. These are the types of design issues that have to be discovered with real world objects, and it is much faster, and more cost-effective to be able to version these components as you go with disposable one-off "printed" pieces, as opposed to having to have casts made and injection mold pieces from the casts, etc.
    In some cases, it is not unheard-of to use these printed prototype pieces to actually MAKE the molds for the final manufacturing process. I don't think it's a great practice for may reasons, but it's not unheard-of for some non-precision pieces.

    What these things are and aren't: They are NOT machines that can spit out fully-manufactured machines. If your gun has 50 moving parts in it, you would have to print out 50 parts and assemble them by hand. Also, the makeup of these printed pieces is anything but durable. There are different materials available, but in general, what these things do is lay down a fine powder and then harden it, thin layer by thin layer, either with a solvent or a laser or some other means. Hell, some of them lay down a layer of cornstarch and harden it layer by layer by printing with water! That's an extreme case, but in any event, there is very little structural integrity in any part that is made without pressure by building up thin layers. In general, the pieces are very brittle and have surface imperfections (an overall roughness, or banding akin to rock layers in a mountain face). These imperfect surfaces can sometimes be sanded, but out goes any precision when that technique is employed. A magazine is about as simple as any gun part can be. So many people, in the recent uproar about inflated prices on them, have said, "hell, you could MAKE these things. There's nothing to them!" --And that's true. Also, they are relatively low-stress items, and don't have to be extremely precise. So, sure, you could make one with a 3D printer. --But not with a spring inside it. And the follower would have to be made separately, etc. It's not like you can just download a file, turn on the printer, and out comes a finished mag. --And even if you could, think about the difference in complexity between an AR-15 and the mag that feeds it. You DEFINITELY can't print a full-function gun. Not even close. However many working parts there are in an AR-15: you could print every one of them separately, but then you'd still need to make casts from the ones that need to be made of metal, and use them to manufacture the metal parts. You'd still have to source the springs, screws, etc. These are all the things you already have to do. In other words: you still have to be able to manufacture an AR-15, even if you have a 3D printer. Furthermore, there's nothing about 3D printers now that's fundamentally different from 3D printers in 1994. There have been some advances, sure. But they still do the same thing they've always done: prototype pieces and components. They don't somehow override the laws of physics and make plastic suitable for the chamber of a rifle. Nor do they print out assembled products. They simply print out a physical representation of a piece that can be used to make a mold, or to inspect something in real life. The uproar about this article/video is about 2 things for me: First, the way in which the DefDist guy presented his little "test" was confrontational and misleading. It played on the ignorance of the general public about 3D printing. It's a parlor trick. Most of what he says is misleading or very incomplete, and the implications that are presented are a stretch. It really comes across as a "can't catch me" kind of taunt. Second, the other side is using the video as a way to scare people. "Oooooh, look how scary! I hear you can download these plans and print an assault rifle for cheap! 20,000 people have already downloaded the plans!" What great ammo for gun grabbers, no? Only problem: it's just not true.

    I'll leave you with this: the concern/brag I've heard a lot (it's a concern or a brag depending on which side it's coming from) is that you could never get rid of guns because we can use these things to keep making them. Well...yes and no. You COULD use a 3D printer to design a full gun, and use it to rapid prototype out the pieces that could then be used to make molds to manufacture the real pieces to assemble a gun. After all, this is exactly how "real" gun manufacturers do it now. But you don't, because you can't right? However, you know what you could also do that's cheaper, and doesn't require a 3D printer at all? Make molds from an existing gun. After all: if you're going to have to make molds to be able to manufacture a gun from materials that are strong enough, what's the difference between a part that was printed off a 3D printer and one that was molded at a Smith & Wesson factory? Not much. This 3D printer stuff is much ado about nothing.

    Ricky
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    No I would not fire a gun with a plastic chamber and barrel
    “You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.”

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    Senior Member Array KoriBustard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DesignDawg View Post
    What these things are and aren't: They are NOT machines that can spit out fully-manufactured machines.
    Ricky
    I have some limited knowledge of 3D printing as a marketing consultant (not an engineer) to the printing industry. I don't know of any material types usable in modern 3D printers that would be appropriate to gun manufacturing. But as I say, my background is in marketing not engineering or CAD. Thanks for your detailed post on this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrBuckwheat View Post
    plastic barrel? Not me. Lets let our commander n' thief try it first.
    But it must be Magna-Ported first.
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    I have a plastic Thompson sub-machine gun that I fired when I was 9-10. Does that count?
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    Member Array niks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldVet View Post
    I have a plastic Thompson sub-machine gun that I fired when I was 9-10. Does that count?
    Bang,Bang,Bang. Gotcha-did not-did too-did not-did too.

    Sorry, brings back memories

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    Member Array joshw0000's Avatar
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    Re: Would you fire an AR-15 made entirely of plastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by niks View Post
    Bang,Bang,Bang. Gotcha-did not-did too-did not-did too.

    Sorry, brings back memories
    Or...

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    If GLOCK made it, I would.

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