An image of the pistol created by Solid Concepts.

The gun has fired over 600 rounds in testing and 'functions beautifully'

A fully-functioning metal gun has been 3D printed for the first time ever by a firm in the US.

There has been a great deal of discussion and controversy surrounding the 3D printing of guns and now, a metal M1911 pistol has been printed in 3D by Solid Concepts in Austin, Texas, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology.

DMLS, an additive manufacturing technology, works by taking 3D computer-aided design (CAD) data and slicing it up into numerous 2D components. Each component acts as a blueprint for the 3D printer, telling the machine where to sinter the metal material. Every component is sintered, building the gun up layer by layer. For the gun in question, each part was printed using DMLS technology except for six springs.

A video (below) has been released by Solid Concepts which shows the gun being put through initial tests. The firm are now claiming that over 600 rounds have been fired by the pistol and that it “functions beautifully”.

So is a 3D printed metal gun cause for concern? For now, at least, it doesn’t appear so. The 3D printers that are available to the general public are far from capable of printing in metal. According to Solid Concepts, the printers required to carry out such an action can cost in excess of one million dollars. Furthermore, a federal firearms licence (which Solid Concepts has) is needed to manufacture the gun.

And even though the firm has cracked the production of the gun, it currently doesn’t have any plans to sell it. Writing on the official blog, however, Solid Concepts has said that it is “weighing its options for the future” and that any commercially available gun would retail “in the five-figures”.

Keen to clarify the firm’s motives for 3D printing the metal gun, Phillip Conner, the DMLS manager at Solid Concepts said: “When we decided to go ahead and make this gun, we weren’t trying to figure out a cheaper, easier, better way to make a gun – that wasn’t the point at all. What we were trying to do was dispel the commonly held notion that DMLS parts are not strong enough or accurate enough for real-world applications.”