Police in Manchester, UK, have made the discovery of what could be the UK’s first ever 3D printed firearm factory, but some claim that the parts are actually spare parts for a printer. However, police believe the parts actually represent the “next generation” of firearms, which can be created by organized crime members and smuggled, with ease, because they can avoid X-ray detection.
However, reports have since emerged that the parts might actually be spare parts for a printer and not a 3D firearm after all and Police may have jumped the gun after suggesting they had found what could be the UK’s first ever 3D printed firearm. The seizure was initially described as “a really significant discovery” and was part of a much-heralded crackdown on organised crime, Operation Challenger, launched by Greater Manchester Police (GMP).
But only a few hours later GMP released a second statement about the raid in which Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said: “We need to be absolutely clear that, at this stage, we cannot categorically say we have recovered the component parts for a 3D gun.” That statement came after the shop owner whose premises were raided proclaimed his innocence. The 38-year-old businessman was released on police bail an hour after answering questions by officers over the alleged “gun” parts. Police raided his model-making shop yesterday, confiscating his 3D printer and a few hours later informed the media that officers had seized what they suspected to be a 3D plastic magazine and trigger which could be fitted together to make a viable 3D gun. But speaking on condition of anonymity, shop owner “Andrew” said the supposed trigger and magazine for bullets were actually parts of the printer, which he uses to make models.
Head of 3D printing firm Revolv3D, Scott Crawford, told PC Pro that he recognised the parts from a 3D printer. “As soon as I saw the picture… I instantly thought ‘I know that part’. They designed an upgrade for the printer soon after it was launched, and most people will have downloaded and upgraded this part within their printer. It basically pulls the plastic filament, and it used to jam an awful lot.”
3D printers use layers of molten plastic to produce 3D shapes of whatever design has been downloaded. The model parts can then be converted to become anything – including, in some documented cases, a genuine firearm capable of firing live ammunition.
The parts were discovered, along with a 3D printer, when officers from Greater Manchester Police executed a series of warrants in the Bagley area yesterday. Police found what they suspect to be a 3D plastic magazine and trigger which could be fitted together to make a viable weapon. If the parts are found to be viable components for a 3D gun, this would then be the first ever seizure of this kind in the UK, police said.
However, in light of the information ascertained, the assistant chief Constable was forced to amend his initial statement only a few hours later: “What we have seized are items that need further forensic testing by national ballistics experts to establish whether they can be used in the construction of a genuine, viable firearm… We will also be conducting a thorough analysis of computers we have recovered to establish any evidence of a blueprint on how to construct such a weapon…Clearly the fact we have seized a 3D printer and have intelligence about the possible production of a weapon using this technology is of concern. It’s prudent we establish exactly what these parts can be used for and whether they pose any threat…What this has also done is open up a wider debate about the emerging threat these next generation of weapons might pose…The worrying thing is for me is that these printers can be used to make certain components of guns, while others can be legitimately ordered over the Internet without arousing suspicion. When put together, this could allow a person to construct a firearm in their own home.”
[Image via +BBCNews]