3D-printed guns ‘a growing threat’ in UK after cops raid London ‘factory’

Britain’s streets are in danger of being flooded with 3D-printed guns.

While conventional firearms have been comparatively hard for criminals in the UK to obtain, advances in 3D printing technology mean that most of the components for a quite sophisticated automatic weapon can now be produced in small home “factories”.

One such gun-making facility was raided by officers from the Metropolitan Police's Specialist Crime Command on October 7.

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A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “We believe this is one of the largest seizures of 3D printed firearm components ever in the UK.

“The components were found during a raid at a home in north west London on Friday, 7 October.

“The raid was part of an operation involving officers from the Met’s ‘Operation Viper’ team, who lead on developing firearms intelligence.”

Commander Paul Brogden added: “This operation demonstrates how we continue to relentlessly target those who attempt to put lethal firearms on the streets of London.

“We found a large number of components that could be used to create weapons and believe 3D printed firearms were being manufactured to sell. This highlights how the emerging threat of 3D firearms continues to evolve”.

The first 3D-printed weapons were basic weapons intended as demonstrations of the technology. An organisation called Defence Distributed uploaded blueprints for a basic pistol that could technically be made by anyone with a 3D printer and a few easily-sourced metal components.

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Defence Distributed later unveiled plans for a 3D-printable AR15-type assault rifle.

Since then, the technology has rapidly improved. A spokesperson from the National Crime Agency [NCA] warns that the latest generation of 3D-printed guns is "credible and viable”.

3D-printed gun enthusiasts, mostly based in the US, create and share the plans for these firearms to thousands of followers on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

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The NCA's Matthew Perfect, head of the the National Firearms Targeting Centre, told the BBC that the latest 3D weapons are "stuff that you definitely, definitely wouldn't want to see on the streets in the UK".

"These are automatic weapons,” he added. “These are weapons that are capable of multiple rounds of discharge”.

He says that with current technology, only 90% of the weapon can be produced by a 3D printer and certain key components, such as the barrel – and of course the ammunition – still have to be made from metal.

However a Texas company, Solid Concepts, used an industrial 3D printer to create an all-metal copy of the classic M1911 Colt pistol in 2013, and it’s only a matter of time before this deadly technology trickles down to the consumer.

Christian Goblas, a ballistics expert at the University of Rouen in France, said that 3D metallic printing could become affordable in the next decade — which could make home-made weapons more durable and reliable.

Peter Squires, a professor of criminology and public policy at the University of Brighton, said the threat of 3D-printed guns is growing more rapidly than experts expected.

He added "I'd certainly anticipate more of this, the technology is out there … and the software and designs are available on the web."

Experts also fear that terror groups are turning to 3D printing to create untraceable weapons.

In September, Icelandic police said they had arrested four people suspected of planning a “terrorist attack”, confiscating several 3D-printed semi-automatic weapons.

Stephan Balliet, a 27-year-old neo-Nazi fanatic killed in the German city of Halle in October using a 3D-printed gun.

A video that Balliet made during the showed him repeatedly struggling with weapon jams.

At one point in the clip, the gunman can be heard saying: “At least I’ve demonstrated how useless improvised weapons are".

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