The first gun to be created using a 3D printer has been successfully fired in the US.

3D printed gun test fire Defense Distributed
The 3D printed gun is made almost entirely from plastic and fires .22 bullets. (Credit: BBC)

Except for a metal firing pin, the gun is made entirely from plastic and is capable of firing .22 calibre bullets. The gun was made using a 3D printer bought from eBay for $8,000 (£5,140) and was successfully test fired at a gun range in Austin, Texas.

Defense Distributed, the group which created the gun, plans to freely distribute blueprints for 3D printing guns online. Cody Wilson, the group's 25-year-old founder, told the BBC gun distribution was a matter of "liberty":

"I think a lot of people weren't expecting that this could be done. There is a demand of guns - there just is. There are states all over the world that say you can't own firearms - and that's not true anymore.

"I'm seeing a world where technology says you can pretty much be able to have whatever you want. It's not up to the political players anymore."

In order to make the 3D printed gun, Wilson had to obtain a manufacturer's and seller's license from the US bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). So long as they do not contravene the National Firearms Act, 3D printed guns are legal in the US.

However, gun control advocates have already voiced opposition to Defense Distributed. Leah Gunn Barrett, from New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said: "These guns could fall into the hands of people who should not have guns - criminals, people who are seriously mentally ill, people who are convicted of domestic violence, even children."

Victoria Baines from the cybercrime centre at Europol added: "As time goes on and as this technology becomes more user friendly and more cost effective, it is possible that risks will emerge. What we know is that technology proceeds much more quickly than we expect it to. So by getting one step ahead of the technological developments, we hope and believe we will be able to get one step ahead of the criminals as well."

Wilson, however, said the gun was worth producing despite potential risks: "I recognise the tool might be used to harm other people - that's what the tool is - it's a gun. But I don't think that's a reason to not do it - or a reason not to put it out there."

Gun control

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, during which 20 first-grade students were shot and killed, there have been calls for tighter gun controls in the US. However, a proposed assault weapons ban and a bill which would have expanded the background check required before a gun could be purchased have both failed to pass the US Senate.

As well as Defense Distributed, other pro-gun projects have arisen recently in the US. The Armed Citizens Project, created by University of Houston student Kyle Coplen, plans to distribute free shotguns to residents of Tucson, Houston and Chicago. Citizens will only be eligible for a free shotgun if they agree to undergo proper firearms training. The project aims to provide one in four people from selected neighbourhoods with free guns and to then check crime statistics on a regular basis to see if they rise or fall.

"It's our hypothesis that criminals do not want to die in your hallway. We think that society should use that fear to deter crime," Kyle Coplen told a National Rifle Association convention. "We're giving folks the tools with which to defend their life, liberty and property, we're training them how to use the weapons and empowering citizens."