Monday, January 17, 2022

The Only News I'm Seeing Out of SHOT Show

The only news I'm seeing out of this year's SHOT show that means much to me, is that Defense Distributed has updated their Ghost Gunner 3 in anticipation of ATF outlawing home made guns in the coming months.   The upgrade allows the GG3 to produce full lower receivers from aluminum bar stock that can be bought from any metal dealer, which they're calling Zero Percent Receivers and highlighting with this color web site tagged, "The age of zero has arrived."

The video on the right is a commercial visible here.

The Ghost Gunner concept, and GG3 is really the third version of this machine, is a small CNC milling machine that has been specifically designed to machine bigger and bigger portions of a firearm receiver.  In making a dedicated machine, their emphasis was to make the machine require as little machining experience from the operator as possible.  The user puts the piece that's going to be cut in the machine and backs off while the machine homes itself, finds its starting points and goes through the G-code step by step until a receiver is finished.  The current website says it will produce AR-15, AR-308, AR-9 and 45, an AR00 (a new one on me), Polymer80, and 1911 receivers.  It will also do engraving and other common jobs for light milling machines.  

Let me show you a graphic from their GG3 page and point out something. 

Showing a square bar of aluminum alloy and three more steps in the machining process down in the front, you'll note that none of those have the general shape of the finished receiver shown in the machine behind them and that you're familiar with.  While I haven't seen it talked about explicitly, my conclusion is the work envelope of the machine isn't big enough to cut all of the features on a piece as big as the AR lower in the machine.  Looking around the website, I see that they sell kits of parts to complete your receiver, including one that looks like this:

There are two parts there; the big one appears to be the "lower part of a lower receiver" after it has been made into two pieces so that it fits in the machine's work envelope.  The bottom of that piece, on the table top, is the bottom of what you're familiar with as the receiver.  To produce the receivers they can produce, they could either make the machine bigger and more expensive, or they could redesign the receiver so that it can be done in two pieces and assembled with hardware.  (The other, smaller part is the buffer tube mounting ring, which apparently screws onto the other half.)

There's nothing wrong with doing this.  It might all be in the direction of a good compromise, but the elephant in the room here is that this isn't like any other AR lower on the market.  That means that you won't be able to get parts from any other source for this receiver.  Hopefully, they'll have designed it so that standard drop-in triggers, bolt carrier groups, and all those others will work with this.

Defense Distributed, the company behind the Ghost Gunner machines and all of this is the company originally founded by Cody Wilson.  Cody is still associated with the company, and while I don't know what his official title is these days, he's clearly high on the food chain based on the interactions in this 15 minute video released to be in time with SHOT.  This whole jump into producing firearms from metal bar stock is based on the belief that the rule making proposals BATFE was pushing through last summer are about to become law and the whole personally made firearms support industry is going to collapse while everything is reclassified.  At the time, many joked if they outlaw 80% arms then there will be 75% receivers, and if that doesn't work there will be 70% receivers and so on.  I can see sales being effectively outlawed until parts are reconsidered.

Somewhere in there, it assumes there's some reasonableness in the agency, which isn't a safe bet.  After all, what the whole push seemed to be about was outlawing anything that's convenient.  If buying a Polymer80 "Buy Build Shoot kit" was a problem but buying the Polymer 80 body from one place and the Glock parts from somewhere else wasn't, they just wanted to make your life difficult.  Wilson is jumping over that hurdle by assuming there will be no such thing as completing an 80% lower again.  In which case, get a small milling machine and be prepared to make everything.  I'd like GG3 to be a bit bigger and more powerful, but there's that whole "picking a price point" argument that says the more expensive they are, the fewer people will get one.


  1. So then, one should be able to buy three different 33% receiver parts, a bag of socket head screws and a bottle of Loctite... Video includes "Beto for America" bumper sticker. Is this like a beer commercial? 'Buy our product and slinky women dancers will squirm all over you!' Other video. Did you see the 3D printed fan blade on the fast-turning spindle to cool and blow the chips away? Illuminated Latin book does not look like blueprints or CNC instructions. Who does machining in the dark, shirtless, with no PPE? Wait, there's another woman in costume. Indian chiefest with Dixie flag skirt, MAGA, Fred Flintstone loyal order of the buffalo/January 6th, a soldier or marching band member blindfolded to be shot, is it Village People? Does Charon the ferryman take Bitcoin? I know, this a music video!

    1. The video commercial is among the strangest montages of random images I've ever seen. I see that and go, "and this is supposed to make me want to buy their milling machine?"

      The longer video is far less cringeworthy, but I can see how Cody Wilson might have been behind the short one. He's special, don't ya know? He makes a point to make fun of people who contact them for product support as being boomers who don't understand software, as if everyone in his generation automatically knows how to walk up to their machine, put a piece of metal into it and get it running.

      A company started producing a ready to run out of the shipping container version of my mill, and it's far more capable than GG3 - with the drawback that it takes up more floor space, and will take more knowledge. For all I know, this one is better than mine.
      Automation Technologies G0704.

      The smallest Tormach 440 is still 50% more and has a smaller work envelope.

    2. I bought my Grizzly G0755 700 pound bench mill in 2013 for about $2,200; now it's about $4,400:
      (((4400/2200)^(1/(2022-2013)))-1)*100 = 8.01 % price increase/year

      3 axis Bridgeport & Large Mill kit $1,215

      $2,500 plus PC for a Grizzly G0755 (aka Rong Fu 45) CNC conversion? Hmmm.... A real machinist in the hackerspace has a ballscrew-converted mill, and says it's very usable manually, although you need to keep your hand on the wheel with climb milling etc.

    3. Hmmm.... A real machinist in the hackerspace has a ballscrew-converted mill, and says it's very usable manually, although you need to keep your hand on the wheel with climb milling etc.

      Wowsa! I thought that ballscrews had no holding torque and were only usable with motors that kept them from sliding around. Of course, I'm not a real machinist. I put ballscrews on my G0704 conversion and have never used it without the motors being on.

    4. Your Automation Technologies link had me talking about manual ballscrews with the machinist on Tuesday. The words he used were 'tends to self-drive during climb milling' and 'really improved the feel'. He said he has a DRO on that mill, and I believe he has no CNC motors. This would place the handwheels on the ballscrews directly, which are a coarser pitch than the factory screws. This would make the turns/distance 2-3X more sensitive, but maybe the DRO compensates for this. I suppose you simply lock all the axes you aren't moving. I'll ask him about it the next time I see him.

  2. And they are not wrong about the BATFE. It's all about making it so that people can't make, fix, repair, touch, store, look at, fondle, fold, spindle, mutilate, accessorize, move, shoot, clean, decorate or do anything with guns.

    In a sensible world, BATFE will kick down your door, search your house, find all your guns and explosives and tobacco and alcohol and... sit you down and show you how you can better store and maintain your guns and explosives and tobacco and alcohol, and then leave you befuddled after fixing your door. And a bonus, they won't shoot your dog.

    1. I'll go with the old standby joke. ATF should be a corner convenience store.

  3. One way they'll approach this is by starting to control other gun parts - particularly barrels, uppers, and bolts