Thoughts on Ghost Guns

How hard is it to build a gun?  A friend explained to me that an AR-15 is basically a lego set for adults.  I kind of think he’s correct – virtually any individual, with something approaching average ability and willing to follow directions, given all the parts and less than a Benjamin’s worth of tools can put an AR together and expect it to work.

On a ghost gun, the question is, on a ghost gun, how hard is it to do the final 20 percent that hasn’t been finished on the 80 percent lower.  I haven’t done one – but I have a feeling that it could be done with my drill press, my dremel and a few files . . . but it would probably be easier with a computer controlled mill.

The thing is, guns aren’t all that complicated.  John Shields managed to build a rifling machine on the Pacific coast, as the  Lewis and Clark expedition overwintered, to re-rifle Clark’s .36 caliber rifle.  They hadn’t hauled a whole lot of tools across the Rockies with them, but Shield took that brief winter to bring every gun back into condition.

While it may seem out of line to link John Moses Browning with a ghost gun, this 1893 patent for the simplest single-shot 22 I’ve ever seen, does show a rifle that could be made at home.  Winchester bought the patent, but never produced the rifle.  Since it lacks any sort of receiver, and was never built, it may be the real ghost gun.

Fundamentally, a home-built gun is a question of how much risk you’re willing to take.  SAAMI recommendations limit shotgun ammunition to 12,500 psi.  The .45 Colt automatic is loaded for 21,000 psi chamber pressure – far above the 14,000 psi of the old Colt Peacemaker.  Modern rifles go up past 55,000 psi.  There is more room for error with less pressure, more risk with more pressure.

Philip Luty ( ) designed a submachine gun made exclusively of plumbing parts.  After he demonstrated it’s functionality to British police, he spent a couple of years at the Queen’s room and board.  His page and plans show that it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of tools and supplies for a guy with time on his hands.  Nothing that particularly appeals to me – full auto wastes ammunition, smoothbores aren’t particularly accurate, and spending time in federal prison isn’t on my bucket list.  The picture shows why the name BSP-9 is abbreviated from “British Standard Pipe.”

The FGC-9 came out on line about a year ago.  It’s had enough time for the second version to be released.    It’s set up for a 3D printer, and described as “ Like the MkI, the FGC-9 MkII is made entirely out of unregulated commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components using EU law as a compliance benchmark.  Anyone living in almost any non-permissive space can complete an FGC-9 build, including people without gunsmithing experience, or those who’ve never touched a gun. Using metric hardware to help with worldwide parts availability, and with a comprehensive manual and troubleshooting guide containing hundreds of IKEA-esque picture references, it’s never been simpler to make a reliable semi-automatic firearm from scratch at home.”  The designer is IvanTheTroll –

The aptly named Ghost Gunner ( ) is a CNC milling machine designed to complete an 80% receiver for someone with no experience.  Full price for the unit is $2,120, so it looks to be a bit expensive if you only want to make one or two guns at home – though perhaps it might not seem so high to someone from a much larger family.  After all, John Moses Browning grew up in a family of 22 kids.

Hopefully, this gives a bit of perspective to the ghost gun legislative proposals.  It seems kind of like shutting the gate after the horse has escaped, but I don’t always see things the same way as politicians do. 

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