Liberator (gun)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Liberator .380
TypeSingle-shot pistol
Place of originUnited States
Production history
DesignerDefense Distributed
DesignedApril 2013[citation needed]
Length216 mm (8.5 in)
Barrel length64 mm (2.5 in)
Height160 mm (6.3 in)

Cartridge.380 ACP

The Liberator is a 3D-printable single-shot handgun, the first such printable firearm design made widely available online.[2][3][4] The open source firm Defense Distributed designed the gun and released the plans on the Internet on May 6, 2013. The plans were downloaded over 100,000 times in the two days before the United States Department of State demanded that Defense Distributed retract the plans.[1]

The plans for the gun remain hosted across the Internet and are available at file sharing websites like The Pirate Bay[5] and GitHub.[6]

On July 19, 2018, the United States Department of Justice reached a settlement with Defense Distributed, allowing the sale of plans for 3D-printed firearms online, beginning August 1, 2018.[7]

On July 31, 2018, President of the United States Donald Trump posted on Twitter about the decision to allow the online publication of the Liberator's files: “I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”[8]

On the same day the tweet was posted, a federal judge stopped the release of blueprints to make the Liberator due to it being an untraceable and undetectable 3D-printed plastic gun, citing safety concerns.[9]

On April 27, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated the injunction and ordered the district court to dismiss the case, holding that Congress had expressly prohibited judicial review of the agency decisions in question.[10] President Joe Biden announced in early April that the Justice Department would issue new rules for ghost guns within 30 days.[11]

Namesake and concept[edit]

The pistol is named after the FP-45 Liberator, a single-shot pistol that George Hyde designed and that the Inland Manufacturing Division of the General Motors Corporation mass-produced for the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II. The OSS intended to air drop the gun into occupied Europe for resistance forces to use.[12][13][14] A project of the OSS (which would later become the CIA), it is thought the Liberator was equally purposed as a tool of psychological warfare.[12] Occupying forces in Europe would have to weigh evidence of distributed pistols as a factor in planning against civilian resistance, which would complicate their strategy and affect morale. However, though used in France, there is little proof that the pistols were ever dropped into occupied Europe in large quantities.[12]

The physible Liberator's release to the Internet can be understood as Defense Distributed's attempt to more successfully execute the historical psychological operation, and as a symbolic act supporting resistance to world governments.[14][15]

Withdrawal of plans and The Pirate Bay hosting[edit]

Digital Liberator pistol by Defense Distributed

Days after their publication, the United States Department of State's Office of Defense Trade Controls issued a letter to Defense Distributed demanding that it retract the Liberator plans from public availability.[16] The State Department justified this demand by asserting the right to regulate the flow of technical data related to arms, and its role in enforcing the Arms Export Control Act of 1976.

However, soon thereafter the design appeared on The Pirate Bay (TPB), which publicly stated its defense of the information. Quoted on TorrentFreak: "TPB has for close to 10 years been operating without taking down one single torrent due to pressure from the outside. And it will never start doing that."[5]

The site would go on to issue a statement on its Facebook page:

So apparently there are some 3D prints of guns in the physibles section at TPB. Prints that the US government now claim ownership of. Our position is, as always, to not delete any torrents as long as its contents are as stated in the torrents description. Printable guns [are] a very serious matter that will be up for debate for a long time from now. We don't condone gun violence. We believe that the world needs less guns, not more of them. We believe however that these prints will stay on the internets regardless of blocks and censorship, since that's how the internets works. If there's a lunatic out there who wants to print guns to kill people, he or she will do it. With or without TPB. Better to have these prints out in the open internets (TPB) and up for peer review (the comment threads), than semi hidden in the darker parts of the internet.

— The Pirate Bay, May 10, 2013


Original copies of the Liberator have been permanently acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum,[17][18][19] and a copy of the gun is on display at London's Science Museum.

Writing in The Register, Lewis Page ridiculed the Liberator, stating "it isn't any more a gun than any other very short piece of plastic pipe is a "gun"", and comparing it with a 1950s zip gun.[20]

The television series How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast) depicts one of its protagonists printing and using a Liberator for self defense.[21][non-primary source needed]

Usage history[edit]

ATF test of 3-D printed firearm using ABS material
ATF test of 3-D printed firearm using VisiJet material

In May 2013, Finnish Yle TV2 current affairs programme Ajankohtainen kakkonen produced a Liberator handgun under the supervision of a licensed gunsmith and fired it under controlled conditions. During the experiment, the weapon shattered.[22][23] It was later found that an error was made concerning the settings of the 3D printer. Printed under the right conditions, the Liberator gun has a lifespan of 8–10 shots.[24]

Israeli Channel 10 reporters built and tested a Liberator with a 9 mm cartridge, successfully hitting a target at a distance of several meters. On June 24, 2013, the reporters smuggled the gun (without barrel and ammunition) into the Israeli house of parliament, coming within a short distance of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.[25]

A Japanese man printed and assembled five copies of the Liberator, and on or about April 12, 2014, he uploaded video evidence of his possession of the weapons to the internet. Authorities arrested him on May 8, 2014, and found that at least two of the copies possessed lethal power.[26] Cody Wilson, a founder of Defense Distributed, stated on the incident that the man "performed his work in the open, without suspicion, fear or dishonor".[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Greenberg, Andy (May 8, 2013). "3D-Printed Gun's Blueprints Downloaded 100,000 Times In Two Days (With Some Help From Kim Dotcom)". Forbes. Archived from the original on April 8, 2023. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  2. ^ "US government orders removal of Defcad 3D-gun designs". BBC News. May 10, 2013. Archived from the original on April 12, 2023. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  3. ^ Biggs, John (May 6, 2013). "What You Need To Know About The Liberator 3D-Printed Pistol". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on March 26, 2017. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  4. ^ Hutchinson, Lee (May 4, 2013). "The first entirely 3D-printed handgun is here". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on August 1, 2022. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Van der Sar, Ernesto (May 10, 2013). "Pirate Bay Takes Over Distribution of Censored 3D Printable Gun". TorrentFreak. Archived from the original on April 26, 2023. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  6. ^ "The 3D printed gun scare never actualized". The Outline. January 27, 2017. Archived from the original on April 8, 2023. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  7. ^ Uria, Daniel (July 19, 2018). "Justice Department settlement allows sale of 3-D printed gun plans". UPI. Archived from the original on July 30, 2018. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  8. ^ Holpuch, Amanda (July 31, 2018). "Trump queries 3D printed guns – which administration helped make available to public". The Guardian. Archived from the original on April 8, 2023.
  9. ^ "Judge blocks the release of blueprints for 3D-printed guns". CNBC. August 1, 2018. Archived from the original on April 9, 2023. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  10. ^ "State of Washington v. U.S. Dep't of State" (PDF). United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. April 27, 2021. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 7, 2023.
  11. ^ Iovino, Nicholas (April 27, 2021). "Ninth Circuit Lifts Ban on 3D-Printed Gun Blueprints". Courthouse News Service. Archived from the original on April 9, 2023.
  12. ^ a b c Hagan, Ralph (1996). The Liberator Pistol. Target Sales. ISBN 978-0-96544-963-2.
  13. ^ Melton, H. (1991). OSS Special Weapons & Equipment. Sterling Pub Co Inc. ISBN 978-0-80698-238-0.
  14. ^ a b Greenberg, Andy (May 5, 2013). "Meet The 'Liberator': Test-Firing The World's First Fully 3D-Printed Gun". Forbes. Archived from the original on April 17, 2023. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  15. ^ Slowik, Max (July 1, 2013). "3D Printing Community Updates Liberator with Rifle, Pepperbox and Glock-Powered 'Shuty-9'". Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  16. ^ Greenberg, Andy (May 9, 2013). "State Department Demands Takedown Of 3D-Printable Gun Files For Possible Export Control Violations". Forbes. Archived from the original on April 14, 2023. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  17. ^ Fairs, Marcus (September 15, 2013). "V&A museum acquires first 3D-printed gun". Dezeen. Archived from the original on April 9, 2023. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  18. ^ "V&A museum to display printed gun". BBC Online. September 15, 2013. Archived from the original on April 17, 2023. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  19. ^ Lee, Felicia (September 16, 2013). "3-D Printed Gun Goes on Display at London Museum". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 10, 2023. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  20. ^ Page, Lewis (May 10, 2013). "'Liberator': Proof that you CAN'T make a working gun in a 3D printer". The Register. Archived from the original on April 8, 2023. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  21. ^ "If You Are the Smartest One in the Room, You're in the Wrong Room". How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast). Season 1. Episode 6. May 31, 2019. Netflix.
  22. ^ Richt, Jyrki (May 14, 2013). "Toimiko 3D-pistooli? Katso video" [Did the 3D gun work? Watch the video]. Yle Uutiset (in Finnish). Archived from the original on April 12, 2023. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  23. ^ Richt, Jyrki (May 15, 2013). "'Liberator' 3D-printed handgun fails after single shot in Finnish test". Yle Uutiset. Archived from the original on April 28, 2023. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  24. ^ Mearian, Lucas (May 30, 2014). "Lab tests show 3D printed guns can be useless -- and dangerous". Computerworld. Archived from the original on November 9, 2022. Defense Distributed has demonstrated its Liberator 3D printed gun successfully. The gun, however, has a limited lifespan, and it typically fails after eight to 10 shots.
  25. ^ Lerer, Guy & Even, Uri (July 3, 2013). תחקיר חדשות 10: אקדח יורה מטרים ספורים מראש הממשלה [News Investigation 10: Gun fires a few meters from the Prime Minister]. Nana 10 (in Hebrew). Archived from the original on July 6, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2013.
  26. ^ "Man busted for possessing handguns made with 3-D printer". The Asahi Shimbun. May 9, 2014. Archived from the original on July 28, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  27. ^ "I have often been asked who the first person to be arrested for 3D gun printing would be". WikiWep DevBlog. May 2014. Archived from the original on January 31, 2019. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

External links[edit]