July 25, 2013 at 8:45 PM ET
A man who used a 3-D printer to make the first .22-caliber rifle out of largely plastic parts has successfully fired off a shot with the weapon. The homemade rifle subsequently broke, however. Still, the rifle maker — who previously used a 3-D printer to create two ukuleles (yes, ukuleles) — said he will try again.
The rifle creator, named Matt, agreed to a brief interview with NBC News via email but declined to give his last name. The printing of 3-D guns is a relatively new — and controversial — phenomenon, especially in the U.S. following horrific shootings in Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., and Santa Monica, Calif. Some U.S. legislators are pushing laws to ban the printing, and there is software out there aimed at preventing the manufacture of firearm devices.
Matt, who lives in British Columbia, Canada, said he was "inspired" to create the rifle based on the work of Defense Distributed, which last spring released downloadable files for anyone who wants to print its 3-D gun known as the Liberator. Since then, models of the gun pieces have been downloaded more than 100,000 times.
Cody Wilson, the Texas law student who started the non-profit Defense Distributed, shared the video Matt posted on YouTube of the 3-D printed rifle firing on a Tumblr blog. Wilson told NBC News he is "impressed" with Matt's work.
"I know nothing about him other than he's a committed designer who likes to work on these projects," Wilson said. "As far as I know, it's the first 3-D printed rifle that's been tested."
Matt explained his approach in a blog post:
I was originally going to copy and modify the Liberator, but it may be considered a variant of a prohibited weapon up here, so I went with what we Canadian gun owners call a non-restricted rifle of my own design, which means a lot less paperwork and BS to deal with.
He named the rifle "Grizzly," in honor of the Canadian-built Sherman tanks from World War II.
The printing of such weapons requires an industrial-level 3-D printer, something Matt told NBC News that he has access to at the company he works for, which "makes tools related to the construction industry. " He said he was given permission at work to use the 3-D printer, a Stratasys Dimension 1200es. He previously created two 3-D ukuleles using the printer.
Matt said the rifle took him three days to build, and nearly 27 hours to print: 13 hours to print the receiver, 6-1/2 hours to print the barrel, 5 hours to print the stock and 2 hours to print the rifle's "internals," he told NBC News.
On the YouTube video, below, Matt notes that the rifle's barrel "split along both sides" and "the receiver split along the top, but it did fire the round."
Matt told NBC News he is interested in both 3-D printing as well as guns, and that while the rifle he created can't be repaired, "I am currently redesigning it and will try again." Also, he said he is "thinking of trying a violin once I perfect the ukuleles I printed."
This story was updated at 8:45 p.m. ET Thursday.