N.R. Jenzen-Jones & Patrick Senft
On 12 June 2022, the Western Australia Police Force (WAPOL) held a press conference to present the first fully functional 3D-printed firearm seized in the Australian state of Western Australia (WA) to date. The gun was reportedly seized on 3 June 2022 from an 18-year-old individual who had manufactured it at his home in the suburb of Bayswater, WA. In addition to the firearm, WAPOL reportedly also found a 3D printer, a suppressor, ammunition, and a set-up to make barrels. Only images of the firearm have been made public at the time of writing (see Figure 1).
The firearm in question is an FGC-9 with a non-standard fore-end. From the available images, the weapon in question appears to be an FGC Mk II model. The stock and grip are both of the Mk II style, as is the enclosed ejector on the left-hand side (visible briefly in some of the available video footage). The FGC-9 Mk I (see Figure 2) and Mk II (see Figure 3) differ only slightly. The FGC-9 (‘F**k Gun Control 9mm’) is a semi-automatic hybrid 3D-printed self-loading rifle (of a type often called a ‘pistol-calibre carbine’), chambered for the 9 × 19 mm cartridge, and designed by Deterrence Dispensed—an online 3D-printing community focusing on firearms design development. The FGC-9 is arguably the most capable craft-produced firearm one can procure at the time of publication. FGC-9 model firearms have recently been documented in Australia, Burma (Myanmar), Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, numerous countries across mainland Europe, and elsewhere.
The FGC-9 stands out from previous 3D-printed firearms designs, in part because it was specifically designed to circumvent European gun regulations. Thus, unlike its predecessors, the FGC-9 does not require the use of any commercially produced firearm parts. Instead, it can be produced using only unregulated commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components. For example, instead of an industrially produced firearms barrel, the FGC-9 uses a piece of a pre-hardened 16 mm O.D. hydraulic tubing. The construction files for the FGC-9 also include instructions on how to rifle the hydraulic tubing using electrochemical machining (ECM). The FGC-9 uses a hammer-fired blowback self-loading action, firing from the closed-bolt position. The gun uses a commercially available AR-15 trigger group. In the United States, these components are unregulated. In the European Union and other countries—such as Australia—the FGC-9 can also be built with a slightly modified trigger group used by ‘airsoft’ toys of the same general design. This design choice provides a robust alternative to a regulated component, but also means that the FGC-9 design only offers semi-automatic fire, unless modified. The FGC-9 Mk II files also include a printable AR-15 fire-control group, which may be what was used in this case, as airsoft and ‘gel blaster’ toys are also regulated in Western Australia.
The gun seized in WA features a fore-end that is not included in the original construction file for the FGC-9 Mk I or Mk II models. The fore-end appears to be similar in design to the ‘FGC9-MKII UNW LS/MS SHROUD’ set, designed by a user known as ‘Untangle’ (Danny Hoogesteger; see Figure 4). This particular fore-end is specifically designed to be fitted over a suppressor, which would accord with police reports of seizing such an accessory. The bright colours of the stock, pistol grip, and fore-end—as well as its polymer construction—lend the weapon an appearance similar to a toy gun. Several journalists and other observers in Australia, a country generally less familiar with firearms than many other nations, commented specifically on its unthreatening appearance, with some likening it to a NERF-brand toy gun.
In tests performed by ARES, an FGC-9 with a craft-produced, ECM-rifled barrel exhibited impressive accuracy: the firearm shot groups of 60 mm at 23 meters, with no signs of tumbling or unstable flight. Further, in forensic tests with FCG-9 models seized in Europe, the guns generally exhibited good durability. One example, described as not being particularly well built, was able to fire more than 2,000 rounds without a catastrophic failure—albeit with deteriorating accuracy. The cost of producing an FGC-9 can be very low, and even with a rifled barrel and the purchase of commercial components, the total price for all parts, materials, and tools to produce such a firearm is typically less than $1,000 USD. As more firearms are made, the cost per firearm decreases significantly. In a 2021 case in Finland, investigators uncovered a production facility geared up to produce multiple FGC-9 carbines. In this case, the criminal group operating the facility had purchased numerous Creality Ender 3 printers—each sold online for around $200. In recent months, complete FGC-9 firearms have been offered for sale for between approximately 1,500 and 3,500 USD (equivalent), mostly via Telegram groups.
Australian media coverage of this incident has contained numerous technical errors. 7 News described the firearms as an “assault rifle”, a term which is generally understood to be applicable only to automatic weapons chambered for intermediate-calibre rifle cartridges. The FGC-9 model seized here was chambered for the 9 × 19 mm handgun cartridge, and is almost certainly incapable of automatic fire. 9 News called the firearm a “semiautomatic assault rifle”—a contradiction in terms—capable of firing “fifteen lethal rounds of nine-millimetre bullets in just a single pull of the trigger”. Semi-automatic firearms, such as the example seized by WAPOL in Bayswater, require a distinct trigger pull (and reset) for each round fired. Even WA’s newspaper of record, The West Australian, described the gun as a “semi-automatic assault rifle”, an error that was repeated by their PerthNow website. These errors appear to stem from some confusion regarding a statement by a WAPOL spokesman, who reportedly said “[the recovered firearm] is a semi-automatic 9mm assault rifle, in essence”.
This latest recovery by Australian police follows the seizure of four FGC-9 carbines during two separate raids in Australia in late May and early June 2021 (see Figure 5), as well as a seizures and charges in February (Sydney, New South Wales) and March (Port Macquarie, New South Wales) of this year. It is clear that the FGC-9 models of craft-produced firearm are spreading across the globe and are increasingly being found in the hands of curious hobbyists, organised criminal groups, and non-state actors in conflict zones. The total number of such firearms in the possession of both individuals and groups is no doubt higher than seizure data indicates.
This article—along with significantly more research and analysis which is not publicly available—is found in the June issue of the ARES 3D-printed Firearms Technical Intelligence Brief. The ARES 3DPF briefing is available to selected law enforcement and intelligence customers. For details, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
With thanks to Ivan T. and others for their contributions to this article.
7 News. 2022. ‘Aussie teen accused of making ‘fully functional’ 3D printed assault rifle in home’. Digital edition: 14 June. <https://7news.com.au/news/wa/aussie-teen-accused-of-making-fully-functional-3d-printed-assault-rifle-in-home-c-7160602>.
9 News. 2022. ‘WA’s first 3D-printed rifle allegedly made inside teenager’s home’. Digital edition: 14 June. <https://www.9news.com.au/national/homemade-guns-was-first-3dprinted-rifle-allegedly-made-inside-teenagers-home/46dc8375-72fe-4e8a-a803-6738c13590b0>.
Jenzen-Jones, N.R., & Jonathan Ferguson. ‘Part I: Defining & Classifying SALW’ in The ARES Arms & Munitions Classification System (ARCS) (Jenzen-Jones, ed.). Perth: Armament Research Services (ARES).
Ferri, Lauren. 2022. ‘Bankstown man charged after police raids uncover massive haul of 3D-printed firearms’. The Australian. Digital edition: 28 February. <https://www.theaustralian.com.au/breaking-news/bankstown-man-charged-after-police-raids-uncover-massive-haul-of-3dprinted-firearms/news-story/a87a09fd2c2f1b24aceb3fb4ac7ddbb3>.
Hays, G., Ivan T. & N.R. Jenzen-Jones. 2020. Desktop Firearms: Emergent Small Arms Craft Production Technologies. Research Report No. 8. Perth: Armament Research Services (ARES). <https://armamentresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/ARES-Research-Report-8-Desktop-Firearms.pdf>.
Hays, G, & N.R. Jenzen-Jones. 2021. ‘3D-printed firearms ‘factory’ in Finland raided’. The Hoplite. 11 June. <https://armamentresearch.com/3d-printed-firearms-factory-in-finland-raided/>.
Jones, Alexandra. 2022. ‘Online firearms trade targeted as Port Macquarie man faces court over 3D blueprints’. ABC News. Digital edition: 7 April. <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-08/3d-printed-firearms-charge/100970876>.
Senft, Patrick. 2022. ‘Deep Dive: The Evolution of the FGC-9’. 3D-printed Firearms Technical Intelligence Briefing. Briefing No. 1 (May). Restricted.
Steger, Sarah. 2022a. ‘Semi-automatic assault rifle manufactured with 3D printer ‘seized by police during raid on Bayswater home’’. PerthNow. Digital edition: 13 June. <https://thewest.com.au/news/crime/semi-automatic-assault-rifle-manufactured-with-3d-printer-seized-by-police-during-raid-on-bayswater-home-c-7146490>.
Steger, Sarah. 2022b. ‘Semi-automatic assault rifle manufactured with 3D printer ‘seized by police during raid on Bayswater home’’. The West Australian. Digital edition: 13 June. <https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/crime/semi-automatic-assault-rifle-manufactured-with-3d-printer-seized-by-police-during-raid-on-bayswater-home–c-7149056>.
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The West Live. 2022. ‘DEADLY 3D-printed gun brings charges for Perth teen’. Podcast: 13 June. <https://omny.fm/shows/the-west-live/deadly-3d-printed-gun-brings-charges-for-perth-tee>.
Remember, all arms and munitions are dangerous. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded, and all munitions as if they are live, until you have personally confirmed otherwise. If you do not have specialist knowledge, never assume that arms or munitions are safe to handle until they have been inspected by a subject matter specialist. You should not approach, handle, move, operate, or modify arms and munitions unless explicitly trained to do so. If you encounter any unexploded ordnance (UXO) or explosive remnants of war (ERW), always remember the ‘ARMS’ acronym:
AVOID the area
RECORD all relevant information
MARK the area from a safe distance to warn others
SEEK assistance from the relevant authorities