While some people still view 3D-printed firearms with an air of skepticism, there is little denying that the technology is here and only getting more sophisticated. Amateur gun designers are especially excited—you can sketch out a firearm, print your first prototype, test it, and go back to the drawing board all in one day. However, 3D printing still has its limits.
ABS plastic, the material commonly used to print these new age firearms, is as only as hard as plastic can allow. That means that when fired for the first time, many of these printed firearms often fail in the most extraordinary way: by exploding.
A 25-year-old machinist in Pennsylvania says he has figured out a way to prevent that. Meet the .314 Atlas, a round that is the brainchild of Michael Crumling. Made from 1018 cold rolled steel and safe up to 23,000 psi, Crumling says that this round is tailor-made for 3D-printed firearms. The idea is that the unique construction of the round will contain the pressure of the burning gun powder. Because the bullet lies so far back in the case, the gasses have room to expand and drop to a safer pressure when the gun is fired.
It is a simple idea, yet there was not really a need for it until recently.
“Everybody was trying to make 3D-printed guns function with traditional ammo, which is fine, but that came with a lot of issues,” Crumling told OutdoorHub. “So I thought of a way to make shooting with these firearms a little bit more reliable.”
The manufacture of the rounds is relatively simple, especially with Crumling’s background in machining.
“Well you start with a piece of round cold-rolled steel, cut them to length, and then drill out a primer pocket,” he said. “There’s a few more details but that’s the gist of it.”
The result is a round that has a thick steel shell, in essence creating a “second barrel” for the firearm. However, the process is time-consuming. Crumling estimated that it takes him about 30 to 45 minutes to make just one round, so he ruled out any kind of mass production for now.
“It takes 27 cents per round to manufacture, not including my time,” he added. “I’m doing everything by hand here, and I’m just working out of the workshop in my home.”
But the rounds seemed to work, for the most part. After firing several of his homemade rounds in a recent test, Crumling remarked that there was no noticeable damage to the interior of his 3D-printed firearm. Although the gun did misfire several times, the weapon itself was not damaged as is usually the case with 3D-printed guns.
Crumling added that it is possible for him to make rounds that might reliably operate a semiautomatic printed firearm, but all that will have to wait until he gets more data. Despite his growing fame in the 3D-printing world, Crumling said that he does not have any plans to market the ammunition.
“It’s just a hobby to me,” he stated.
He did however, add that might change if people become more interested in his idea. Crumling is currently working on a number of projects, but expects that he will be refining the .314 Atlas soon.
Image courtesy Michael Crumling