No, Greater Manchester Police Haven’t Seized “The UK’s First 3D-Printed Gun”

The police’s press department may have got a little trigger-happy.

1. According to the news today, Greater Manchester Police have seized the UK’s first 3D printed gun.

Greater Manchester Police

That’s a picture of a suspected 3D printed trigger for a gun, released by Greater Manchester Police.

2. They stumbled on it while carrying out raids targeted at organised crime. GMP said in a statement:


“As part of Challenger, the largest ever multi-agency operation to target organised criminality in Manchester, officers from Greater Manchester Police executed a series of warrants in the Baguley area on Thursday 24 October 2013.

During the searches, officers found a 3D printer and what is suspected to be a 3D plastic magazine and trigger which could be fitted together to make a viable 3D gun.

It they are found to be viable components for a 3D gun, it would be the first ever seizure of this kind in the UK.

The parts are now being forensically examined by firearms specialists to establish if they could construct a genuine device.”

3. That lead to loads of headlines like this:

5. Take a look. It’s a “spring-loaded arm to squeeze the filament” in a printer.

6. Yep. That’s definitely the thing GMP are calling a “trigger”.

 

7. And that “magazine”? It’s a filament spool holder:

 

8. So the GMP’s “3D printed gun” actually seems to be “3D printed parts for a 3D printer”.


And in any case, even if they had been genuine gun parts, “a couple of 3D printed components for a gun” really isn’t the same as “a 3D printed gun” or a “gun factory”.

Certainly, it’s a world away from the nightmare scenario suggested by GMP’s Detective Inspector Chris Mossop to Sky News: “In theory, the technology essentially allows offenders to produce their own guns in the privacy of their own home, which they can then supply to the criminal gangs who are causing such misery in our communities. Because they are also plastic and can avoid X-ray detection, it makes them easy to conceal and smuggle.”

That may come true at some point, but at the moment, entirely 3D printed plastic guns that are both reliable and dangerous are closer to myth than reality.

9. Update: Greater Manchester Police are now backtracking rather rapidly in a new statement.


Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said: “We need to be absolutely clear that at that this stage, we cannot categorically say we have recovered the component parts for a 3D gun. 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.”

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