The Weekly Reload Podcast

'Ghost Gun' Pioneer Cody Wilson on How He Makes AR-15s From Blocks of Raw Metal

January 31st, 2022

Cody Wilson joins the show this week. He is the founder of Defense Distributed and one of the main innovators in homemade guns. His Liberator 3D-printed gun brought him to prominence years ago and he's continued to push the boundaries of what's possible in simplified gun-making with increasingly-common technology.

In fact, he and his company have even focused on making some of that technology more common. Defense Distributed is now selling the third iteration of its "ghost gunner" mill. The miniaturized CNC machine can finish AR-15 receivers from blocks that are about 80 percent finished.

And, now, it can do even more. It can actually take a raw brick of metal and turn it into a part necessary to make a receiver. They call it a zero percent lower.

I saw the mill in action at SHOT Show 2022 and Cody describes the inspiration behind the latest project. The ATF has proposed a federal rule change that would expand its authority to determine what constitutes a firearm receiver and, therefore, who would have to obtain a license to make and sell them alongside serializing the guns and keeping records on who buys them. The new rule would allow the agency to determine a wide scoop of unfinished gun parts are "readily convertible" to finished receivers, but the agency said it does not plan to try and regulate raw metal blocks.

That's the point where Wilson said he saw an opportunity to get ahead of the regulation even before its finalized. And the zero percent project was born from that idea. Now, the company has successfully created and rolled out a design to consumers.

Still, Wilson faces significant legal battles across the country over state and federal attempts to block either the manufacture of personal firearms or even block sharing plans for how to make them. He provides an update on the state of the multiple lawsuits Defense Distributed is still embroiled in.

He also addresses why he decided to retake such a public-facing role at the company after he pled guilty to a crime resulting from him paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl, especially given the concerns unserialized guns are often used by criminals. Wilson said being the public face of the company is dangerous and he wasn't willing to have others take his place in that role.

Plus, Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman and I discuss San Jose's first-of-its-kind attempt to force gun owners to pay an annual tax and acquire liability insurance.