NEWS FLASH: Homemade, Plastic Firearms Have Already Been Invented

Metal Detectors From the 1980’s Don’t Cut it in 2023

Since 1988, firearm technology has come a long way, and 3D printing hobbyists have discovered new ways to make firearms at home with plastic and nylon. Single shot pistol designs such as the Liberator[i] and Songbird[ii] have minimal metal use in their design (i.e. a nail for a firing pin, a thin metal liner for the barrel, or a round of ammunition). Law-abiding printers of these firearms voluntarily comply with the archaic Undetectable Firearms Act by inserting metal into the grip of the firearm—a step a criminal or a terrorist could easily skip.

The Undetectable Firearms Act requires firearms have at least 3.7 ounces of stainless steel in order to be detected by a metal detector from 1988.[iii] This dated legislation does not accurately represent current security and detection techniques or modern advancements in firearm technology. Reauthorizing through the National Defense Authorization Act is not only irrelevant to our military’s funding but is also a vote against the future of the Second Amendment and providing Americans with the best possible tools to defend themselves and their communities.

Modern Technology Doesn’t Rely on Metal Detection

BODY SCANNERS—Since the introduction and passage of the Undetectable Firearms Act in 1988, there have been numerous advancements in security technology that make its requirements unnecessary. Detectors have become more effective at detecting smaller objects without relying on metal, like the millimeter wave scanners[iv] you see at the airport that reflect electromagnetic radiation and Computed Tomography (CT) Scanning machines. There are also touchless thermal[v] and image-aided[vi] weapons detections systems. These methods do not even require the presence of metal to detect an object.[vii]

X-RAY MACHINES—Current technologies like thermal imaging, backscatter X-ray, and millimeter wave scanners pick up the images of plastic guns. Security screeners use different viewing modes and image enhancement features to look through and contrast packages and airport luggage. Polymers are now detected commonly.[viii]

Metal Requirements Stifle Innovation & Development of Firearms Technology

The current market for firearms is moving towards lighter and smaller firearms in order to meet the demand of more and more people concealed carrying firearms today. Handguns that can be carried in the pockets or on a pair of gym shorts such as the Sig Sauer P365 or the Ruger LCP provide citizens a discreet option to defend themselves in any situation. The Ruger LCP has a weight of 9.6 oz, while the P365 is around 18 oz. The 3.7 oz of detectable steel prevents the customer from receiving the best possible tool to defend themselves but for arbitrary regulations.

Congress Should Invest in Effective Security, Not Ineffective Gun Control

Requiring firearms to meet archaic standards of metal detection technology from the 1980’s is pure feel-good security theater. Reauthorizing the Undetectable Firearms Act will not keep anyone safe from criminals or terrorists intent on doing harm. Only law-abiding gun owners and hobbyists will obey this weak, ineffective, and outdated law. On the other hand, if Congress wants to help bolster security at a sensitive location, it ought to invest in and prioritize modern detection technology.

[i]The Liberator – the world’s first 3D printed handgun”. Victoria and Albert Museum in London. NOTE: File available on request to Gun Owners of America’s Federal Affairs Department.

[ii] Coetzee. “Songbird, A Mostly 3D Printed Pistol That Appears To Actually Work”. Hackaday. September 28th, 2016. NOTE: File available on request to Gun Owners of America’s Federal Affairs Department.

[iii] Public law 100-649

[iv] City of Bloomington Minnesota. “How it Works: Airport Body Scanner”. YouTube. June 4th, 2014.

[v] Evolv Technology. “Touchless Security Screening with Evolv Express®”. YouTube. September 2nd, 2022.

[vi] Evolv Technology. “Weapons Detection System Demo | Image-Aided Alerts | Evolv Express®️”. YouTube. August 27th, 2020.

[vii] Radiation and Airport Security Scanning,

[viii] Autoclear LLC. “Autoclear X-ray Security Scanner Training Video – Basic Operation”. YouTube. August 11th, 2017.