3D printed guns have been growing in popularity and developments recently, allowing people to create more sturdy and reliable gun parts. I decided to write an article about the best material for 3D printed guns, whether it’s an AR15 lower, suppressors & more.
The best material for 3D printing guns is High-Temp or reinforced Nylon. Nylon is a very strong and durable material that can withstand the heat and stresses produced by the gun for a more extended period than other materials. You can also use PLA+ or Polycarbonate since they are pretty strong and has had success.
Keep on reading through this article for more key information about the best material for 3D printed guns, as well as other useful information.
You can also check out my other article 7 Best 3D Printers for Guns Frames, Lowers, Receivers, Holsters & More.
Best Material/Filament for 3D Printed Guns
The absolute best material for 3D printed guns is Nylon, especially reinforced or High-temp Nylon. No other material comes close to offering the unique blend of strength, flexibility, and durability it brings to gun builds.
However, you can print some pretty decent gun components from other materials like Polycarbonate and PLA+. Although these materials do not offer the same properties as Nylon, they are still very good.
Let’s take a closer look at these materials.
Reinforced or High-Temp Nylon
High-Temperature Nylon filament is simply a class above all other materials. It is made of Nylon infused with additives like glass or Carbon Fiber.
These additives increase the strength of the Nylon, making it almost as tough as a regular injection molded part. Also, High-Temp Nylon has incredible temperature resistance and can withstand temperatures up to 120°C before melting.
One great High-Temp & reinforced Nylon is the CarbonX High Temperature & Carbon Fiber Nylon, a specialty filament for applications that require excellent thermal and mechanical resistance, along with being relatively easy to print.
This filament does require higher temperatures than usual filaments, ranging from 285-315°C so you may need to change to an all-metal nozzle along with an enclosure to print it successfully.
All these properties make it the ideal choice for printing long-lasting gun parts. When you use a good High-temp Nylon filament, you can be sure your gun will last longer than other filaments, but the costs can be very premium, with 1KG of CarbonX costing around $170.
If you want a better-priced Nylon filament, I’d recommend going for something like the SainSmart Carbon Fiber Filled Nylon Filament from Amazon.
Sometimes you’ll need to get up to really high temperatures to print Nylon, but with the SainSmart filament, it requires a printing temperature of 240-260°C and a build plate temperature of 80-90°C, but it does have a lesser temperature resistance.
SainSmart also has a Glass Fiber Filled Nylon Filament from Amazon, with a temperature resistance of 120°C. It has 25% glass fiber and 75% Nylon with good dimensional accuracy and low warping.
Nevertheless, using High temp Nylon for your gun builds is still the best option if you can afford it.
Low-Temp Nylon is simply high-temp Nylon without the additional reinforcing materials. Nonetheless, it is still considerably strong and durable.
Additionally, it has very high tensile and yield strength, making it less susceptible to deformation and sudden fracture. Given that gun builds often undergo a lot of stress, this is a very welcome property.
It’s also easier to print than High-temp Nylon. Of course, you’ll still need an enclosure, but you do not necessarily need an ALL-metal nozzle.
A suitable Nylon filament like the Overture Nylon Filament costs about $35.
Thanks to its cheapness and ease of printing, PLA is one of the most used filaments in 3D printed guns. However, most users have discovered that it’s brittle and melts easily due to its low glass transition temperature (60⁰C).
So, most people have switched to a much better version of PLA, PLA+. This particular version, PLA+, is simply PLA with some additives added to improve its physical properties.
It combines all the good features of PLA, like its environmental friendliness, with new ones like improved strength, flexibility, and heat resistance.
As a result, gun parts printed with PLA+ are better and more durable than their PLA counterparts. Although it is not a durable as the Nylons, it is cheaper and should still do a pretty good job.
A great PLA+ filament for printing guns is the eSUN PLA+ Filament.
Polycarbonate is another filament that you can use in printing pretty strong gun builds. It is tough, pretty durable, and has excellent thermal resistance.
Furthermore, it also has incredible tensile strength and rigidity, which makes it able to resist a lot of deformation before giving.
That being said, it does have one pretty significant drawback, it is not easy to print. Polycarbonate requires a high printing temperature and an enclosure to be printed.
So, if you do not have this one in your printer, you’ll have to get an enclosure and upgrade to an all-metal hotend to print a gun from Polycarbonate.
However, the print quality gotten will be worth it, we promise. If you’re looking for a good brand, I suggest going with the GizmoDorks Polycarbonate Filament.
Do 3D Printed Guns Melt?
Yes, 3D printed guns can melt, mainly depending on the material you use to make the guns and the conditions under which you’re firing them. Usually, 3D printed parts like lowers are well insulated from the heat produced in the barrel and chamber. However, heat radiating from these parts can result in the gun melting.
Also, if the gun is placed under direct heat for a while, it can melt, depending on the material you use in printing it.
Top-notch materials like Nylon and Polycarbonate display excellent heat resistance. On the other hand, materials like PLA are susceptible to melting under direct heat.
Check out the video below to see an example of a 3D printed gun melting.
Can You 3D Print a Gun Barrel?
Yes, you can 3D print a gun barrel successfully but they usually don’t last many rounds due high amount of pressure that it requires to fire consistently. Some people have had success with a 3D printed gun barrel with 50 rounds, but others have had the gun explode or not last more than a few shots.
When a gun is fired, the explosion and the expanding gases pushing the bullet out of the barrel produce very high pressures and temperatures. Gun barrels printed with thermoplastic filaments can’t usually handle this for long.
Under these pressures and temperatures, it’s likely the barrel eventually fail by exploding or melting.
One user mentioned that he 3D printed a barrel that takes a liner which was drilled to accept the tip of a CMMG faux cartridge. A 3D printed barrel with a liner on a pistol-length barrel may be okay for some rounds, but a rifle length one would be more difficult.
Another user mentioned talked about a beta on Keybase for a 22lr barrel. They printed the 556 barrel from the reference pack with a few small calibrations and managed to get 50 rounds before it broke with PLA+ filament.
Depending on the material you use in printing them, some barrels might last longer than others. Nonetheless, they are still not an ideal option due to their unreliability.
Check out this 3D printed barrel with a 22 barrel liner.
Here’s a video of the Songbird 3D Printed Pistol with a Nylon barrel. You can check out the SongBird Barrel for Rifled Barrel Liner on Thingiverse.
A police force whose training barrels stopped being produced managed to 3D print some barrels to stop guns from firing while being able to train officers in handling firearms. Check out the video below.
Can You 3D Print Ammunition?
Yes, you can 3D print bullet rounds using an FDM printer. Several users have successfully made rounds out of materials like PLA and ABS. However, this comes with a catch. You cannot 3D print shell casings and primers out of thermoplastic filaments. You can only 3D print the slug or the bullet’s tip.
These 3D printed rounds generally travel slower than their metal counterparts, making them less lethal. As a result, people use them for non-lethal applications like range shooting and non-lethal ammunition for law enforcement.
Apart from ammunition, you can also print gun magazines using 3D printers. One variant called the Menéndez magazines is increasingly becoming popular among handgun users.
However, it is not as reliable as standard magazines, especially when printed with PLA. Also, they need metal springs to work.
3D printed guns are a perfect example of the power of decentralized manufacturing 3D printing offers. Also, selecting a suitable material is key to getting a good gun build.
However, always remember, with great power comes great responsibility. Always follow proper shooting protocols when printing and testing these guns parts.
Good luck and happy printing!