The thing I like most about the 3D printed firearms community is their creativity. Developing a firearm that functions at all out of plastic is no small task. Developing one that can be fired multiple times without exploding is downright impressive. But a firearm that can only be fired a few times safely is still of limited use. Fortunately somebody is looking at improving 3D printed firearms by redesigning the ammunition instead of the gun:
Michael Crumling, a 25-year-old machinist from York, Pennsylvania, has developed a round designed specifically to be fired from 3-D printed guns. His ammunition uses a thicker steel shell with a lead bullet inserted an inch inside, deep enough that the shell can contain the explosion of the round’s gunpowder instead of transferring that force to the plastic body or barrel of the gun. Crumling says that allows a home-printed firearm made from even the cheapest materials to be fired again and again without cracking or deformation. And while his design isn’t easily replicated because the rounds must be individually machined for now, it may represent another step towards durable, practical, printed guns—even semi-automatic ones.
While it’s not a perfect solution it is promising. If the reloading community invested in this I’m sure it wouldn’t be long before somebody would begin mass producing the necessary steel shells. Another option may be to find an already actively produced steel sleeve that is close the to correct size and develop 3D printed barrels and bullets around that.