The “Printed” AR-15: How I Made My Rifle

It’s mine “ghost weapons, or Ghost gun (a term coined by advocates of control over weapons, and picked up by amateurs weapons. it semi-automatic rifle without a serial number that law enforcement agencies are unaware of. And the affection that I feel for her comes from the fact that I did it myself, in the workshop of the WIRED office.

I managed almost alone. I had no knowledge regarding weapons, and the skills in working with tools were no better than those of the Cro-Magnon. At the same time I made a metal, working rifle AR-15. More precisely, I myself did “receiver box“(Lower receiver) – the basis of the design, the part that US laws define as”firearms“. All I needed for the project was 6 hours, an understanding of computer programs at the fifth grade level, a piece of aluminum worth $ 80 and a faceless automatic milling machine Ghost gunner.

Ghost gunner – A $ 1,500 computer controlled milling machine. It is sold by the company Defense Distributed, which advocates accessibility. weapons.

It became known in 2012–2013, when it began printing the first gun on a 3D printer, known as Liberator. And while everyone around was arguing about the political and legislative issues relating to this idea, DD switched from plastic to metal.

Ghost gunner cuts aluminum objects based on a computer model. The first deliveries of this unit started this spring. The DD group wants to make it easier for people to make parts weapons from a material comparable in strength to industrial designs.

I got Ghost gunner in May, when he was handed out to the press sample. In short, apart from a slight hitch with iron, he worked very well. So good that it can serve as a new milestone in the distribution control dispute. weapons, when making untraceable, reliable and deadly weapons sort of semi-automatic rifles It requires very little money and experience.

Wherein Ghost gunner is an evolution of homemade weapons, not a revolution. Gunsmiths have made for years weapon at home, driving receiver boxes under the prefabricated elements of various rifles. Past article about Ghost gunner was full of comments in the vein that everyone who has a drilling machine can make such receiver box in my garage.

I decided that I could not appreciate Ghost gunner, if not try out all the manufacturing methods weapons. Therefore, I aimed at all three ways: using a classic drilling machine, a commercial 3D printer and a milling cutter Ghost gunner.

Ingredients for making AR-15

No one does ghost weapons from scratch. Usually, everyone makes one component that is only legally tracked. receiver box.

The fact is that this is the basis weapons. She holds together the butt, grip, magazine, bolt and barrel. Serial number weapons it is applied on receiver box, because it is the least worn during use weapons. Like a bicycle frame or a computer motherboard, this is the core of the machine around which everything else is hung.

Basically, in the US buy AR-15 not too difficult. But you can make receiver box most, and the rest to buy spare parts, because they are not practically regulated. I ordered all parts except receiver box, from the Ares Armor website, and they didn’t need anything other than the shipping address. They even accept payments in bitcoins.

In addition, you can buy receiver box anonymously – it will be completed by 80%. This is exactly what is needed so as not to fall under the law on regulation of turnover. weapons. There will not be several openings and one notch. At the same time, although the purchase and sale of finished “ghost weapons»Prohibited by law, its manufacture is allowed.

Drilling Machine vs Trunk Box

I have already mentioned that I am not friends with tools. Therefore, this part of my experiment did not go very well.

I rented a drilling machine for $ 250, paid Ares $ 97 for a set of suitable drills and mills, and another $ 110 for a set of steel guides.

Affected by the lack of experience even at the school level. It turned out, for example, that I have inappropriate vice – I had to go through the whole city and buy them for $ 80. Then the drilling was not as simple as it looks in the videos.

I revised the training video, put on gloves and glasses, secured a piece of aluminum and turned on the drill.

At first everything went fine, I felt aluminum dust on my teeth, and I saw how the drill leaves a polished sparkling crater. But then I saw that the vices were shaking noticeably, and because of this, my holes shifted so much that they became almost diagonal.

Then, when I wanted the cutter to make a groove between the two grooves, I found that they turned out to be of different depths, and I did not even notice it. The bottom of the recess began to resemble the surface of the moon. The working drill began to protest loudly, she was shaking like a train ready to get off the rails. Our cameraman, Patrick Farrell, a former bicycle mechanic, watched my attempts from behind his camera with a restrained grin. So we agreed – I had to do everything myself.

It took five and a half hours. After that, the head of the drill fell off. I don’t know if some kind of protection worked, or I just broke the expensive equipment that was rented from the Farel card. I screwed it back in, and after a few minutes it fell off again. Then they explained to me that the drill was not designed for lateral load, which I attached to it, using it as a milling cutter.

Then I gave up. I only had a sad-looking piece of metal, riddled with a maze of curved canals. And my left hand bristled with aluminum chips where the glove rubbed.

3D printing rifle AR-15

I left the drilling machine, went to the editor and got a brand new out of the box Makerbot Replicator worth $ 2,800. Compared with the machine, as if I was transferred to the future in a time machine. I connected the printer, and in a few minutes it was already printing a tiny coffee table.

On The Pirate Bay, I found a fortified circuit. receiver box for AR-15, ready for 3D printing. In the section of the site physibles, which appeared there in 2012, there were dozens of different parts for weapons. I downloaded the blueprint, which in 2013 was made by Defense Distributed, and which they were then forced to remove from the site.

I downloaded the circuit into the printer program, prepared the print and pressed the desired button. I was sitting in the empty edition, it was already dark, and I could not tear myself away from how on the substrate a spare part for materialization gradually materialized. weapons.

Hours after 6 the printhead overheated and she needed time to cool. It took me only one click of a button. Then I left, and, returning in the morning, I found the finished part lying inside the printer.

But, despite the whole fantastic process, the result was flawed. One side of the part was covered with supporting material, which was supposed to prevent the product from spreading before it froze. The process of removing this plastic was long and painful. The same material filled small holes in the part.

Judging by the videos on YouTube, it is possible to print a worker receiver box, which will sustain hundreds of shots. But it turned out badly for me – the specialist in to arms, whom I visited two days later. In any case, I gave up and did not bring this project to working weapons.

Ghost gunner

The new generation of automatic machines is advertised as machines that allow anyone to do anything. But from the very first moments it became clear to me: this car is designed for making weapons.

Ghost gunner It is a black cube with two stepper motors. The device was so heavy that I could barely take it out of the box. There were no funny bulbs or buttons on it, as on Replicator. His appearance matched the strict purpose.

It works either with the GRBL program — a general-purpose open source application, or with the DDCut — a Windows program that was made in DD. TO Ghost gunner attached to the instructions for making receiver box with the help of DDCut.

After installing the program, I found that to make receiver box it was ridiculously easy. DDCut crashed into my 80% finished box, and I just followed the instructions on the screen (and clicked Next 22 times).

For an hour I had nothing to do except to admire how Ghost gunner cut out the item with inhuman accuracy. Sometimes the program commanded me to change the location of the part, tighten or loosen the bolts, change the cutter or clean the chips.

The device worked for almost four hours. But 3 steps to the end of the work, GG ran into a problem. The probe, which was supposed to measure the position of the part, did not work, and the machine stalled. I had to break the agreement and call Cody Wilson, the founder of DD.

At first, he upset me by having to start all over again, and admitted that this was a flaw in the design of the car. But then he came up with a better option – he sent me a file that repeated the instructions only for the remaining steps. And after 20 minutes, I pulled out a sparkling, ideal piece for rifles – warm, like a loaf of bread, fresh from the oven.

Build my AR-15

The part looked much better printed, and incomparably better than the one I cut through with a drill. For expert opinion, I went to the Bay Area Gunsmithing workshop, where two professionals work to arms.

The part I drilled myself, Nathan Rinder, the owner of the workshop, rejected immediately. The holes I made did not fit the other details, and some I never completed. True, according to him, he saw even worse attempts.

He also rejected the printed part. He noted that in the drawing one hole was incorrectly placed, and noticed several other inaccuracies. He explained that this part will require several more hours of work. In addition, the very idea of ​​the plastic part frightened him.

And cut with Ghost gunner item deserved approval. He was not very impressed with him, but he said that it would be absolutely safe to collect weapon, so shoot it.

Over the next hour I gathered in his workshop AR-15.

I looked at the video tutorial and collected weapon. Sometimes Rinder gave me advice, paid attention to the fact that I was trying to insert something with the wrong end, etc. Finally, the last detail clicked into place. My AR-15 was ready.

And then something snapped in my brain. I realized that I had turned a set of abstract details into an object capable of killing someone. Receiver evolved into weapon. I remembered that I now need to think about where I am directing the trunk.

Rifle shooting

After three days at the shooting range I charged AR-15 using a 10-round magazine with .223 caliber cartridges and fired for the first time. A deafening explosion silenced the birds and echoed off the wooden walls when the butt dug into my shoulder. I saw a hole in the target.

“Well, babakhan,” said Rinder.

I shot again, then more, then the store ended, I replaced it, and finished another one. Then there was a misfire – it turned out that the new weapons it happens, it needs to be greased. In general, the gun all morning behaved perfectly. We shot all 40 rounds of ammunition, then shot at a nearby dash where SWAT fighters trained, another 60 rounds. No more misfires.

Getting rid of ghost weapons

The next day I flew home to New York. I decided not to take the collected aircraft rifle. I couldn’t leave her in the WIRED office either – they could qualify as a transfer of ownership weapons without a serial number, that would be a crime. I decided to cut receiver box, but it turned out that according to the law, it must be destroyed by a torch – in order to remove the metal in sufficient quantity so that it could not be repaired.

Therefore, I decided to turn in all three that I made. receiver boxes to the police. When I got to the police station, and explained what I needed, they looked at me with a mixture of boredom and slight misunderstanding. It turned out they never encountered home-made parts. weapons.

The police wrote me a receipt, took the receiver in the vault, and I said goodbye to my “ghost weapon“.

Now Ghost gunner still standing in the warehouse office WIRED. He can at any time make another receiver. DD has already sold over a thousand of these devices – and each one is small and easy to use. weapon factory.


  • option with a drill, including renting a drill, and all the necessary tools and spare parts: $ 1334
  • 3D printer option: $ 3604
  • option with Ghost Gunner: $ 2272


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