Defense Distributed

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Defense Distributed
DD Rings Black
Type of siteOpen source digital publishing
LaunchedJuly 27, 2012 (2012-07-27)[3]
Alexa rankIncrease 147,344 (August 2013)[4]
Current statusActive
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Defense Distributed
DD Rings Black
Type of siteOpen source digital publishing
LaunchedJuly 27, 2012 (2012-07-27)[3]
Alexa rankIncrease 147,344 (August 2013)[4]
Current statusActive

Defense Distributed is an online, open-source[1] organization that designs firearms, or "wiki weapons",[5][6][7] that may be downloaded from the Internet and "printed" with a 3D printer.[5] Among the organization's goals is to develop and freely publish firearms-related design schematics that can be downloaded and reproduced by anyone with a 3D printer.[8][9]

After raising over US$20,000 via a crowd-funding appeal,[5][9] suffering the confiscation of its first 3D printer,[10] and partnering with private manufacturing firms,[11] the organization began live fire testing of printable firearm components in December 2012.[12][13]

Defense Distributed has to date produced a durable printed receiver for the AR-15,[14][15][16] the first printed standard capacity AR-15 magazine,[17][18][19] and the first printed magazine for the AK-47.[20][21] These 3D printable files were available for download at the organization's former publishing site, DEFCAD,[22] but are now largely hosted on file sharing websites.[23][24]

On May 5, 2013, Defense Distributed made public the 3D printable files (STL files) for the world's first fully 3D printable gun, the Liberator .380 single shot pistol.[25][26][27]

On May 9, 2013, the United States Department of State requested that Defense Distributed remove its download links from public availability while it determined if the organization violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Defense Distributed has voluntarily complied.[28][29]



The domain name was registered on June 4, 2012.[3] The website was unveiled in conjunction with an Indiegogo campaign of the same name in July 2012, where the organization asked to receive US$20,000.[5][30] Indiegogo suspended the crowd-funding campaign for a terms of service violation after three weeks, refunding the money raised without offering public comment.[30][31] Defense Distributed continued the appeal on its own website, however, accepting contributions through PayPal and the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, and met its fundraising goal in September 2012.[32]

The organization has been predominantly represented in public since July 2012 by Cody Wilson, who is described as a founder and spokesperson.[7][33]

Defense Distributed lists its members as a mix of students, IT professionals, engineers, and programmers from the United States and Germany.[1]


According to the Defense Distributed website, the nonprofit is organized and operated for charitable and literary purposes, specifically "to defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and affirmed by the Supreme Court, through facilitating global access to, and the collaborative production of, information and knowledge related to the 3D printing of arms; and to publish and distribute... such information and knowledge in promotion of the public interest."[1][11] The website's “Manifesto” link directs users to an online version of John Milton's essay Areopagitica.[34]

The organization’s motivations have been described as "less about [a] gun... than about democratizing manufacturing technology,"[35] In an interview with Slashdot, Cody Wilson described the Wiki Weapon project as a chance to "experiment with Enlightenment ideas… to literally materialize freedom.”[36]

At Bitcoin 2012 in London, Wilson explained the organization as interested in inspiring libertarian forms of social organization and technologically driven inversions of authority.[37]


Main article: DEFCAD

In December 2012, as a response to Makerbot Industries' decision[38][39][40] to remove firearms-related 3D printable files at the popular repository Thingiverse, Defense Distributed launched a companion site at to publicly host the removed 3D printable files and its own.[41][42][43] Public and community submissions to DEFCAD rose quickly,[22][43][44] and in March 2013, at the SXSW Interactive festival, Wilson announced a repurposed and expanded DEFCAD as a separate entity that would serve as a 3D search engine and development hub, while maintaining the spirit of access endemic to Defense Distributed.[45][46][47] The new DEFCAD was deemed "The Pirate Bay of 3D Printing"[48] and "the anti-Makerbot"[47] even before its launch, and provides an index of over 100,000 files.[49]


Legal status[edit]

Defense Distributed is a pending 501(c)(3) federal tax exempt organization, and not a weapons manufacturer.[7][11][13] The organization operates to publish intellectual property and information developed by licensed firearms manufacturers and the public.[11]

Cody Wilson has a Type 7 Federal Firearms License (FFL), however.[50][51]

Legal Issues[edit]

Stratasys confiscation[edit]

Learning of Defense Distributed's plans in 2012, manufacturer Stratasys, Ltd threatened legal action and demanded the return of the 3D printer it had leased to Wilson.[10] On September 26, before the printer was assembled for use, Wilson received an email from Stratasys suggesting that he might use the printer "for illegal purposes".[10] Stratasys immediately canceled its lease with Wilson and sent a team to confiscate the printer the next day.[10][13] Wilson was subsequently questioned by the ATF when visiting an ATF field office in Austin, Texas to inquire about legalities and regulations relating to the Wiki Weapons project.[10]

The Undetectable Firearms Act[edit]

Defense Distributed's efforts have prompted renewed discussion and examination of the Undetectable Firearms Act.[7][51][52][53] The Liberator pistol was cited in White House and Congressional calls to renew the Act in 2013.[54][55]

International Traffic in Arms Regulations[edit]

Letter from the United States Department of State to Defense Distributed (May 8, 2013).

On May 9, 2013, The United States Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) directed Defense Distributed to remove the download links to its publicly accessible CAD files.[56] The State Department's letter, likely prompted by the Liberator Pistol, referenced § 127.1 of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), interpreting the regulations to impose a prior approval requirement on publication of Defense Distributed's files into the public domain.[57] This pre-publication requirement has been noted to suffer from constitutional infirmities, and may interfere with individual rights protected by the First and Second Amendments.[58][57]

Peer to peer torrent sites continue to host torrents of Defense Distributed CAD files.[59][28][29]


Defense Distributed has received both strong praise and criticism. It has not been endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), which to date has offered no public comment on the organization or its activities. Defense Distributed has been obliquely endorsed by the Gun Owners of America (GOA).[60] Critics[who?] have accused the organization of endangering public safety and attempting to frustrate and alter the US system of government.[61][62]

Commenting on Defense Distributed’s frequent theatricality, Aaron Timms of Blouin News described the organization as performing “the greatest piece of political performance art of [the 21st] century.”[63]

Open source software advocate Eric S. Raymond has endorsed the organization and its efforts, calling Defense Distributed "friends of freedom" and writing "I approve of any development that makes it more difficult for governments and criminals to monopolize the use of force. As 3D printers become less expensive and more ubiquitous, this could be a major step in the right direction."[64][65]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "About Us". Defense Distributed. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Defense Distributed". Defense Distributed. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Whois Search Results:". Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  4. ^ " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d Greenberg, Andy (August 23, 2012). "'Wiki Weapon Project' Aims To Create A Gun Anyone Can 3D-Print At Home". Forbes. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  6. ^ Bilton, Nick (October 7, 2012). "Disruptions: With a 3-D Printer, Building a Gun With the Push of a Button". The New York Times. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d Doherty, Brian (December 12, 2012). "Disruptions: With a 3-D Printer, Building a Gun With the Push of a Button". Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  8. ^ Hobbyist builds working assault rifle using 3D printer
  9. ^ a b Poeter, Damon (August 24, 2012). "Could a 'Printable Gun' Change the World?". PC Magazine. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Beckhusen, Robert (October 1, 2012). "3-D Printer Company Seizes Machine From Desktop Gunsmith". Wired News. Retrieved October 4, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d Hotz, Alexander (November 25, 2012). "3D 'Wiki Weapon' guns could go into testing by end of year, maker claims". The Guardian. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  12. ^ Beckhusen, Robert (December 3, 2012). "3-D Printed Gun Only Lasts 6 Shots". Wired. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c Greenberg, Andy (December 3, 2012). "Here's What It Looks Like To Fire A (Partly) 3D-Printed Gun (Video)". Forbes Online. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  14. ^ Beckhusen, Robert (February 28, 2013). "Watch the New and Improved Printable Gun Spew Hundreds of Bullets". Wired. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  15. ^ Farivar, Cyrus (March 1, 2013). ""Download this gun": 3D-printed semi-automatic fires over 600 rounds". Ars Technica. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  16. ^ Biggs, John (March 1, 2013). "Defense Distributed Prints An AR-15 Receiver That Has Fired More Than 600 Rounds". TechCrunch. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  17. ^ Greenberg, Andy (January 14, 2013). "Gunsmiths 3D-Print High Capacity Ammo Clips To Thwart Proposed Gun Laws". Forbes Online. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  18. ^ Franzen, Carl (February 7, 2013). "Defense Distributed Unveils New 3D Printed Gun Magazine ‘Cuomo’ (VIDEO)". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  19. ^ Beckhusen, Robert (February 8, 2013). "New 3-D Printed Rifle Magazine Lets You Fire Hundreds of Rounds". Wired Danger Room. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  20. ^ Ingersoll, Geoffrey (March 8, 2013). "3D Printing Company Names AK-47 Magazine After Gun Control Congresswoman". Business Insider. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  21. ^ Branson, Michael (April 8, 2013). "Defense Distributed Releases Printable AK Magazine". The Firearm Blog. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b Bilton, Ricardo (February 19, 2013). "3D-printing gun site DEFCAD now attracting 3K visitors an hour, 250K downloads since launch". VentureBeat. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Defiant Pirate Bay to continue hosting banned 3D printer gun designs". 10 May 2013. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  24. ^ Ernesto. "Pirate Bay Takes Over Distribution of Censored 3D Printable Gun". TorrentFreak. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  25. ^ Greenberg, Andy (May 5, 2013). "Meet The 'Liberator': Test-Firing The World's First Fully 3D-Printed Gun". Forbes. Retrieved May 7, 2013. 
  26. ^ Morelle, Rebecca (May 6, 2013). "Working gun made with 3D printer". BBC News. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  27. ^ Hutchinson, Lee. "The first entirely 3D-printed handgun is here". Ars Technica. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  28. ^ a b "3D-printed gun blueprints pulled from Internet, at request of State Department". CBS News. May 10, 2013. Retrieved May 10, 2013. 
  29. ^ a b Nozowitz, Dan. "U.S. State Department Tells Defense Distributed To Take Down 3-D Printed Gun Plans". Popular Science. Retrieved May 10, 2013. 
  30. ^ a b Roy, Jessica (August 23, 2012). "WikiWeapon Campaign to 3D-Print Your Own Gun Suspended by Indiegogo". Betabeat. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  31. ^ Martinez, Fidel (August 27, 2012). "Indiegogo shuts down campaign to develop world's first printable gun". The Daily Dot. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  32. ^ Greenberg, Andy (September 20, 2012). "3D-Printable Gun Project Hits Its Fundraising Goal Despite Being Booted Off Indiegogo". Forbes Online. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  33. ^ Brown, Rich (September 7, 2012). "You don't bring a 3D printer to a gun fight - yet - Yahoo! News". Retrieved October 6, 2012. 
  34. ^ "Want a Free Download of a Semi-Automatic Rifle? Print One!". March 3, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  35. ^ Brown, Rich (September 6, 2012). "You don't bring a 3D printer to a gun fight -- yet". CNET. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  36. ^ "Should We Print Guns? Cody R. Wilson Says "Yes" (Video) -Slashdot". Retrieved October 6, 2012. 
  37. ^ "Bitcoin2012 London". Retrieved October 6, 2012. 
  38. ^ Maly, Tim (December 19, 2012). "Thingiverse Removes (Most) Printable Gun Parts". Wired. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  39. ^ "MakerBot pulls 3D gun-parts blueprints after Sandy Hook". BBC News. December 20, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  40. ^ Pepitone, Julianne (December 20, 2012). "3-D printer MakerBot cracks down on blueprints for gun parts". CNN Money. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  41. ^ Limer, Eric (December 21, 2012). "There’s a New Site Just for 3D-Printed Gun Designs". Gizmodo. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  42. ^ Bilton, Ricardo (December 21, 2012). "Fighting ‘censorship,’ 3D-printed gun designs find a new home". VentureBeat. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  43. ^ a b Robertson, Adi (December 21, 2012). "3D printed gun enthusiasts build site for firearm 3D printable files after MakerBot crackdown". The Verge. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  44. ^ Klimas, Liz (January 9, 2012). "Website to The Blaze: People Rushing to Download Online Blueprints for 3D Printed Guns". The Blaze. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  45. ^ Greenberg, Andy (March 11, 2013). "3D-Printable Gun Project Announces Plans For A For-Profit Search Engine Startup". Forbes Online. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  46. ^ Farivar, Cyrus (March 11, 2013). "3D printing gunmaker forms company to flout copyright law, à la the Pirate Bay". Ars Technica. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  47. ^ a b Bilton, Ricardo (March 11, 2013). "Expanding beyond 3D printed guns, DEFCAD is officially the anti-MakerBot". VentureBeat. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  48. ^ "'Pirate Bay' for 3D printing launched". BBC News. March 12, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  49. ^ "". DEFCAD. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  50. ^ "US grants first license to sell 3D-printed guns". Daily Mail. March 18, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  51. ^ a b LeJacq, Yannick (December 10, 2012). "Defense Distributed’s ‘Wiki Weapon’: U.S. Congressman Steve Israel Offers First Legislative Challenge". Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  52. ^ Hsu, Jeremy (December 10, 2012). "3D-Printable Guns Face Federal Ban". Mashable. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  53. ^ Brown, Rich (December 10, 2012). "The Undetectable Firearms Act and 3D-printed guns (FAQ)". CNET. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  54. ^ Pérez, Evan (November 15, 2013). "ATF tests show 3-D guns lethal as metal detection law expires". Retrieved May 16, 2014. 
  55. ^ Schmidt, Michael (November 28, 2013). "Law Limiting Plastic Guns Set to Expire". The New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2014. 
  56. ^ Preston, Jennifer (May 10, 2013). "Printable-Gun Instructions Spread Online After State Dept. Orders Their Removal". The New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2014. 
  57. ^ a b Morris, Kevin (September 27, 2013). "The Liberator: Cody Wilson's armed for a free speech battle". ValleyWag. Retrieved May 16, 2014. 
  58. ^ Goldstein, Matthew (June 15, 2013). "Department of State Confirms Prior Approval Requirement for Electronic Exports to Public Domain inCase of 3D-Printable Gun". Thomson Reuters Practical Trade & Customs Strategies (Thomson Reuters) 2 (11): 3–6. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  59. ^ Greenberg, Andy (May 9, 2013). "State Department Demands Takedown Of 3D-Printable Gun Files For Possible Export Control Violations". Forbes. Retrieved May 10, 2013. 
  60. ^ Rosenwald, Michael (February 18, 2013). "Weapons made with 3-D printers could test gun-control efforts". The Washington Post. 
  61. ^ "The 15 Most Dangerous People in the World". Wired Danger Room. December 19, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  62. ^ Morozov, Evgeny (March 16, 2013). "Open and Closed". The New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  63. ^ Timms, Aaron (March 29, 2013). "The future of 3D printing might be scarier than you thought". Blouin News. 
  64. ^ Raymond, Eric (August 23, 2012). "Defense Distributed". Armed and Dangerous. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  65. ^ Kopstein, Joshua (April 12, 2013). "Guns want to be free: what happens when 3D printing and crypto-anarchy collide?". The Verge. 

External links[edit]