Complete Your AR-15 at Home with Defense Distributed’s Personal CNC Mill


Cody Wilson made global headlines last year when he produced the first working 3D-printed pistol, which he called the “Liberator.” The files for the single-shot pistol were downloaded more than 100,000 times before the US Department of Defense locked his website and removed the files. That did not stop other 3D-printing pioneers from exploring what the technology could offer the world of gunsmithing, and numerous designs for firearm parts, accessories, and even whole guns surfaced in the months afterwards. Wilson, however, has been relatively quiet. Now the former University of Texas law student is once again making headlines with a new design: a personal CNC mill.

Offered at the price of $1,200 (a $999 option for early adopters quickly sold out), the miniature CNC mill is offered online by Wilson’s company Defense Distributed. Wilson, who is known for naming his designs after issues in the gun control debate, has dubbed his new product the “Ghost Gunner.” The name is a reference to a bill in California that would have required that homemade or otherwise self-assembled guns be registered (the bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown on Tuesday). While the Ghost Gunner can perform a variety of functions, Wilson and his company are highlighting its ability to “complete” what are referred to as 80 percent AR-15 lower receivers. Eighty percent lower receivers require additional manufacturing to turn into functional AR-15 parts, but are not legally considered firearms until they are complete.

“As shipped, Ghost Gunner can manufacture any mil-spec 80% AR-15 lower receiver that already has the rear take down well milled out. Lowers with non-mil-spec trigger guards that are otherwise mil-spec are also compatible,” states Defense Distributed’s website.

Very little CNC knowledge is needed the run the device. To complete something like an 80 percent lower, all a user needs familiarity with is click-and-point software (as well as some 3D-printing basics). The box-shaped device—built out of A36 steel and 305 stainless steel—uses a drill bit to carve into whatever material is fed into it, whether it is wood, polymer, or aluminum. Wilson told Wired magazine that the ability to mill objects out of metal is what really separates the Ghost Gunner from almost anything else on the market.

“Typically this has been the realm of gunsmiths, not the casual user. This is where digital manufacturing, the maker movement, changes things,” he said. “We developed something that’s very cheap, that makes traditional gunsmithing affordable. You can do it at home.”

It is also totally legal. The completion of an 80 percent lower receiver for personal use is completely within the law. The Ghost Gunner is also drawing interest from the tech crowd, many of whom see the potential in a personal CNC mill.

“What’s cool here is that the price of a CNC mill capable of doing this just dropped from tens of thousands of dollars to $999 seemingly overnight,” wrote one reddit user. “Give this technology 5 years, and we’ll all have desktop CNC mills for $300 bucks [sic]. There is a lot to get excited about here.”

You can see the teaser video for the Ghost Gunner below:

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