But What About Ammo? 3D Guns Deliver Another Blow to Gun Control

3D Gun proliferation group Deterrence Dispensed, and their motley crew of designers, contributors, testers, and followers, are on a roll. At this point, they’ve figured out how to 3D print quite the arsenal of weapons and accessories. And not just trinkets and novelties. Entirely functional, modern weapons that operate reliably and safely.

The group is over 10,000 people strong and growing. It operates primarily through encrypted chat app Keybase, but other tools are in play too. The files are everywhere and nowhere at once. The projects are freely distributed. It’s open-source. No one is doing this to get rich. They’re doing it to drive the last nails into the coffin of American gun control. And they’re winning.

The Arsenal Grows

The repository of project files available from Deterrence Dispensed allows the at-home user to produce any number of firearms. Famous weapons like the AR-15, the AK-47, several models of Glock, and the MAC-10. Accessories like Glock extended magazines are available. Magazine couplers, holsters, small parts. Even a high-quality, home-built carbine called the FGC-9. All necessary files are easily downloaded over a variety of protocols: LBRY blockchain hosting, dark web onion domains, or shared via peer-to-peer exchange. Guns are printed in the privacy of one’s garage with a $200 printer. [Read the Guide and FAQ to learn how here!]

There’s a full gamut of files to download. Depending on what you’re into, you can print gags like a rail-mounted Narwahl tusk bayonet, or you can print the parts needed to commit a federal weapons crime, like converting your Glock to a machine gun. (See: the ‘Make Glocks Full Auto‘ project.)

A Question Answered

The 3D gun crowd has made advance after advance. But no matter how many steps forward Deterrence Dispensed has taken, there’s always been a nagging question, smugly posed by anti-gunners on Twitter and Reddit. “But what about ammo?” (Bet you can’t make that!) Well, as usual, the anti-gun crowd is wrong.

Prominent designer Ivan the Troll (@Ivan_Is_Back on Twitter) earlier this week released Project WBA. In doing so, he answered the question “but what about ammo?” once and for all.

Project BWA

Project BWA Trailer Video

The release files explain that Project BWA, “explores DIY ammo manufacture under conditions where ammo is regulated, hard to obtain, or simply for hobby interest.” For those not reading between the lines, Project BWA is teaching people in unfree countries to circumvent their government’s laws and produce functional 9mm ammo, in the privacy of their own homes, with common tools or 3D printed components.

Everything You Need

The download for Project BWA includes a colorfully illustrated PDF document with clear instructions. This accompanies a series of videos, walking the user step-by-step, through crafting 9mm ammunition.

Also included are 3D printable files for the user to print the small tools needed to construct the ammo correctly. It essentially removes any real barrier to obtaining 9mm ammunition in countries where such an item is heavily restricted.

The release includes a 3-part video series where one can follow along with Ivan as he produces ammo. The playlist is less than an hour. The videos, combined with the written guide and the 3D printed plans for necessary tools, create a pretty low barrier to entry for the layperson to produce ammo.

Project BWA allows almost anyone with an internet connection to produce high-quality, safe, 9mm ammunition in their home using distributed manufacturing (3D printing) and a little resourcefulness. It’s a big step.

The text guide has a simple dedication:

For all those living under permanent suspicion of their governments,

Seeking a more equal, fair world,

In memory of those who died disarmed and hopeless,

And those who simply enjoy the art and hobby of shooting.

Whether you view Ivan as a hero or as a villain, it’s only fair to at least hear him out. I sent Ivan some questions about the project. See what he has to say below.

Interview with Ivan

Lee: You’re a prolific contributor to the 3D printed guns / DIY community. You’ve worked on a number of high-profile projects like the Plastikov, the ECM barrel making process, Menendez mags, and the Vanguard AR-15 U-bolt enhanced lower receiver.  To the extent you’re comfortable: what is your background, and what motivates you to produce these things?

Ivan: “My background and interest are mostly driven by hobby. I enjoy tinkering and doing things myself, and am obviously interested in firearms as well. The two kind of flow together to guide me to interesting projects. While I do now work in additive manufacturing, it’s my development of skills via my hobby that made it so, not the other way around. I’m motivated by lots of things – personal interest, curiosity, spite (I love to prove naysayers and short-sellers wrong). I also love to spurn the hopes and dreams of anti-gunners.”

Lee: Project WBA is a practical guide to producing 9mm ammo using commonly attainable but unregulated materials. It’s especially directed at people living in places like Europe, where governments regulate ammo and related components very closely. Project WBA, when paired with the FGC-9, allows the average EuroCuck to produce their own semi-auto PCC and the munitions for it. In effect, the barriers to being armed are largely removed for anyone in the EU who Googles it. What do you say to the Europeans who would look upon this with horror? 

Ivan: “Hmm probably something like ‘Enjoy paying the taxes that regulating this will cost.'”

Lee: The Project WBA release is of high production value. Clear colorful illustrations and annotations in the PDF. Much higher quality than a lot of “guerrilla field manual” type literature. Is this deliberate? Why?

Ivan: “Yes. While I personally really don’t like documentation very much, I realize that clear, concise, detailed documentation is invaluable to the layman when it comes to doing things themselves. If you start off your tutorial by confusing people or don’t make each step clear, people will get lost, confused, or worst of all, get themselves or others hurt. A visual reference like what the video tutorial provides is critical for helping people realize they are fully capable of things they think are complex. Plus, the more clear I can make things, the fewer people will have to bombard me with FAQs!”

Lee: How difficult is this project for the average person with minimal firearms experience? On a scale of 1-10.

Ivan: “Firearms experience doesn’t really factor in much for this project. If you can run a 3D printer already this is maybe a 3/10. It’s very procedural and hard to mess up if you watch the videos. If you haven’t used a printer before, maybe a 4/10 because you’ll have to learn to get that set up first.”

Lee: Have you figured out a rough cost per round to produce the Project WBA ammo?

Ivan: “Cost depends entirely on where you’re at geographically and where you manage to source your components from. Also the quantities you buy them in. I reloaded mine right around 18 cents a round. That’s more than factory ammo in the US costs [Note: pre-COVID19 panic buying – Lee] but obviously having your powder come from neatly crimped cases that you immediately cannibalize isn’t going to be as cost-effective as just buying powder straight up. But Europeans can’t get powder as we in the US can. I think one of the Europeans I had test things out early on in this project reported he could get rounds made for about 2 bucks each. Crazy expensive by US standards, but far better than nothing.”

Lee: Teaching anyone with an internet connection how to produce ammunition in restrictive jurisdictions is, in a way of speaking, moving the hands forward on the doomsday clock. Some might argue this, almost by default, makes you an accelerationist. Do you view yourself that way? If not, what role are you filling here?

Ivan: “Accelerationism is cancelled since it’s now alt-right to be an accelerationist, so I’m not quite sure how best to describe it. I think there’s a slim chance this leads to a mass shooting, personally I doubt many people actually make ammo since you can’t 3D print the balls it takes to break the law in Europe. If European governments get scared they’ll clamp down which will force them to spend more money which might help to make more people realize the government wastes money on the stupidest shit, but that’s probably wishful thinking as many Europeans think it’s patriotic to pay taxes. I’d like to think I’m just highlighting the fact that there are loopholes worldwide that people can exploit to make ammo, and that regulation of it will always rely more on compliance than actual efficacy of regulation.”

Lee: Deterrence Dispensed has over 10,000 members in the chat on Keybase. Keybase was very recently acquired by Zoom. Zoom is a Chinese multinational corporation that’s open about censoring users who criticize the Chinese government. Zoom, Keybase’s new parent company, is also open about turning over their unencrypted user data to law enforcement in the U.S. Nothing has changed in terms of Keybase yet, but it could happen. What are your thoughts on the acquisition of Keybase by Zoom?

Ivan: “It’s not like there’s actually a presumption of security with any public channel on any platform, and given the nature of my work it’s not like expecting private channels on platforms you don’t control to be private is a good idea either. I’m sure zoom will be more friendly with law enforcement when it comes to keeping tabs on us, but I doubt they need much help with that anyway. I hope zoom won’t kill off the Keybase app (they could totally make it into a Discord competitor/killer, it’s got so many amazing features), but they’ll have to find a way to monetize it eventually.”

Lee: You’ve also been repeatedly banned or kicked off of most major social platforms like Twitter or Reddit. What are your thoughts on these platforms? Why do you keep coming back to them?

Ivan: “If you want to spread a message, you don’t go to the middle of the woods and shout it to the birds; you go to the crowded streets and shout it to people. The self-described ‘free-speech’ alternative sites have really insignificant userbases and you can’t really reach a big audience with them. Reddit and Twitter have good-sized userbases, are laid out in a manner that helps your ideas reach new people pretty easily (Twitter moreso than Reddit), and even in the event of a ban, it doesn’t take long to rebuild a following (especially on Reddit where followers don’t really matter at all).

“Early on, the bans were scary since they were literally caused by Senator Bob Menendez writing letters to the CEOs of the sites and having them censor me at his demand (despite my not being in violation of any expressed terms or rule of the sites). Now it’s just a matter of making another account, a new email address, the same old BS.”

Lee: You’re working on a 3D printed Browning Hi-Power frame. Why did you choose the Hi-Power to specifically?

Ivan: “I chose the Hi-Power because I snagged a kit for 300 bucks, which is pretty darn cheap considering the prices used BHPs go for. They are classic firearms (maybe even better than the 1911), they look cool, and I wanted to experiment with printing frames for things that originally had steel frames (and to experiment with hammer-fired guns).

“Plus I wanted to take on the controversy of the alloy-framed Hi-Powers the Canadian military claimed failed really quick. And after taking the project on, I’ve found that a BHP with a printed frame is lighter than a G17, has the same length as a G17, and with modern Mec-Gar mags has a capacity of 15 rounds in a G19-length grip. It’s kinda like a G19L that is lighter, hammer-fired (MUCH better trigger than a Glock), and about 100 times cooler than a Glock. If BHP kits could commonly be had for 400-ish bucks there would be a market for polymer-framed BHPs if the frames could be made for ~100 bucks.”

Lee: Police have been turning up “ghost guns” with what seems like increasing frequency. This in recent months has been seen in both the U.S. and now Canada. What are your thoughts on this? How do you see this playing out legislatively?

Ivan: “The US will ban 80% receivers if Biden wins. If he doesn’t, they still might ban them if Dems get both parts of Congress. Their sights aren’t really on printed stuff yet. The fact that printed stuff is a 0% approach keeps it from being easily swept up in a ban on ‘unfinished receiver parts’ or ‘parts meant to be turned into firearms’. Canada is hard to predict. I think there’s plenty of people who will turn in only receivers when their ban comes to buyback, and I’m sure plenty of those parts kits will be resurrected.”

Lee: The United States is going through a period of significant civil unrest. Tensions are high, and firearm sales are at record levels. Distributed manufacturing and DIY firearms seems like it might add fuel to the fire, or empower marginalized groups to be self-determined, depending on which lens one looks at this through. To you, what role would 3D guns and related products ideally play — if any — in the near future here at home? 

Ivan: “I’d like to think that 3D printed guns continue to become a permissionless means of obtaining hard power, just like bitcoin does for financial power. I don’t know if they actually will. There’s going to be a battle to get 3D printed guns normalized and get people’s misguided opinions corrected. But with enough effort, I think they could get to the point that the gun industry would realize that selling parts kits for 3D printed guns is a market worth their defense when it comes time for 3D printed guns to be targeted for a serious ban.”

A big thanks to Ivan for taking the time to answer my questions and fact-check my summary of his project. You can find Ivan’s and his work at the following places:

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