Why We Build Guns

Gun builders have been legally crafting their own firearms at home for personal use since the birth of our nation.  The advancement of technology (Polymer80 aka “P80” or “80%” AR-15 frames and 3D-printed gun frames) has not only made it easier; it’s also recently brought it to the forefront of the media’s, government’s, and public’s attention.  That can be good and bad.

Biden sets rule banning sale of untraceable DIY 'ghost gun' kits - BBC News
The President (falsely) claims, “Ghost guns, such as unserialized ‘buy build shoot’ kits that individuals can buy online or at a store without a background check and can readily assemble into a working firearm in as little as 30 minutes with equipment they have at home.”

But building your own guns is nothing new.  

Why do you need to build guns?

The anti-2A crowd has glommed onto the so-called “ghost gun” narrative, just as they did with so-called “assault weapons” and more recently, “military grade.”  Rather than use actual firearms nomenclature, these terms are political and fictitious fabrications designed to incite fear in the public.   The media and progressive political machine gin up righteous indignation with their fury directed at lawful firearms-owning citizens instead of criminals.

Never mind that the same anti-liberty factions have intentionally conflated privately made firearms (PMFs) with illegally defaced factory guns (serial numbers removed) – which are used by criminals in FAR higher numbers.  It’s a lot easier to grind a serial number off a stolen or illegally purchased gun than it is to build one that actually works. 

I spent 30 – 40 HOURS (not minutes) on my first build. No kidding. Ask my wife! Sure, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and this build has 1,948 rounds through it without a single malfunction. But, yeah… not “30 minutes.”

Not Even ATF Can Verify ATF’s ‘Ghost Gun’ Claims <— Link

But, I digress.  

Contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good.  With the advent of social media and a 1-second news cycle that is on 24 / 7, information spreads quickly.  Both good and bad.  Some of the bad being misinformation and disinformation.  Like all other topics, firearms are subject to the challenge of distilling truth from fiction – and there is PLENTY of fiction.  

So, why do we build?  I could end this article by simply saying:  Because it’s legal and a constitutionally-protected Right.  Because we can.  Because it’s fun.  It’s rewarding just like building your own hot rod or your own tree house.  The end.   But I can’t just end this article there, now can I?!?

Are 80% frames considered guns or not?

Years ago, in the pursuit of regulating the firearms industry, the Ay-Tee-Eff had to define a gun.  Fair enough, eh?  At what point does a block of steel, aluminum, or even plastic become a “gun?”  The Ay-Tee-Eff determined it to be a frame or “receiver” that is 80% or more completed (to the point of being able to install the rest of the firearm components).  80% was the line.  Not 25%.  Not 50%.  Not 99%.  Eighty percent was the line.  Why 80%?  You’ll have to ask them.  But, that’s how the Ay-Tee-Eff defined it.  As long as we’re all on the same page (and definition), there should be no problems, right?  

80% AR-15 blank
80% AR-15 blank. Is this a gun?

Recently, the Ay-Tee-Eff and the President have decreed that the previous definition (80%) is now moot.  However, instead of CLARIFYING the definition, they muddied the waters.  A lot. 

What used to be not-a-gun (80%) is now a gun if it comes with a jig or instructions.  It’s not like they reset the number to 75% or 50% or 25%. There is no new clear definition.  Now, a gun is whatever they want to call a gun.  As they describe it, “readily convertible into a finished gun.”  

Is this a gun? Is it “readily convertible” to a gun?

With the right tools, anyone can mill a 100% firearm receiver from a “0%” block of metal or plastic.  With a 3D printer, one can fabricate a 100% frame from a “0%” spool of nylon.  With a 3D mill, one can fabricate a 100% frame from a 0% solid block of plastic or aluminum.  A machinist with just traditional tools can transform a solid block of metal into a firearms frame.

3D gun printingAgain, it’s always been legal, whether you use an old school mill and lathe or a computerized 3D printer.  It simply made sense for manufacturers to provide a product for the broader market, beyond those with training in machining.  An 80% frame can be finished with a fairly basic set of tools.  However, contrary to reports, it cannot be done in 30 – 60 minutes.  Not if you want a gun that actually WORKS.  No mill, lathe, CNC, or 3D printer needed with 80% frames.  3D printing and milling is becoming more mainstream and less expensive, while the quality and reliability is increasing.  Gotta love technology, eh?

But, in the end, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to build a gun.  It shouldn’t matter if it only takes 30 seconds!  Debating the amount of time it takes is a DISTRACTION in reality.  It simply doesn’t matter.  Next question!

You’re just trying to avoid buying a traceable gun!

First:  No.  Just no.

The vast majority of builders own more than a few factory / serialized firearms.  So a lack of serial number is not the primary or even secondary attraction.  Most builders are firearms enthusiasts.  Building your own is a natural extension of the hobby… Much like doing your own wrenching if you’re a car enthusiast.

It’s also important to point out that, contrary to popular belief, serialized factory guns bought from gun dealers are not “registered.”  Only a few states in the country require gun registration.  However, many argue that Ay-Tee-Eff Form 4473 is a type of registration. 

Just as private gun sales are a bulwark against the prying eyes of the government, so are self-built firearms.  Being traceable is of dubious value, as a gun serial number can only be traced back to the original sale between a federally-licensed dealer and the first buyer.  After that, the trail goes cold if the gun has been bought and sold privately since the original sale.

Why build a gun when you can just buy one?  And probably cheaper!

The short answer is that it’s not a dichotomy of one over the other.  

On some gun forums, Glock owners get snarky with their advice, “Just buy a Glock!”  They can’t understand why anyone would spend time and possibly more money to build a Glock-clone that can be a bit problematic in the early stages of the build and when testing for function.  Many new builders have issues.  There is a learning curve.  “Just buy a Glock!”  the fanbois mindlessly repeat.  The assumption is that we’re building a Polymer80 INSTEAD of buying a factory Glock pistol.  Nay.  ‘Tis false.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, but many builders DO own factory Glock guns.  Usually multiples.  I do, going back many years.

The point is that a Polymer80 pistol is not intended to replace or substitute in any way for a factory Glock.  While it is based on the Glock mechanics and parts, it is a different animal.  It’s the PROCESS of building your own gun and then the satisfaction that comes with the resulting functional firearm.  Simply put:  It’s a lot of fun, and it’s rewarding when the gun works just as reliably as a factory-made gun.  Plus, each build can be variously-outfitted and uniquely yours. 

Gun BuildingWe don’t build P80s or AR-15s to save money over store-bought factory guns.  Home-built can be more expensive in the end. 

If you work hard to keep costs down, it’s possible to be slightly cheaper than a factory gun.  But, if we’re going to build a personalized gun, it’s likely to be more expensive than a factory store-bought gun.  Possibly a LOT more expensive.  Ask me how I know!

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

As I mentioned, the attention to the hobby can be good and bad.  The good is that it has drawn many more to the hobby.  It’s growing.  The bad is the same as what happens with most media attention to firearms.  They deflect the blame for crime away from the criminals and point the finger at law-abiding firearms owners and enthusiasts.

PS… There is an organization that hosts an annual competition for gun builders of all types.  It’s held in March in St. Augustine, Florida.  How cool is that??  It’s called the “Gun Maker’s Match.”  <— Click on the link for more info!


  1. If the govt. took our SEMI-AUTO SPORTING RIFLES or even JUST THE AR-15, WHAT EXACTLY COULD WE POSSIBLY USE IN THE CASE THAT THE GOVT TRIES TO TAKE CONTROL AMD WE NEED TO DEFEND OURSELVES AS THE 2nd Amendment states?!?! DO u honestly think BIDEN would accept his security team to ONLY CARRY PISTOLS AND A 12ga!?!?
    I also love the fact that you pointed out about how this whole thing started simply because the ATF and the government didn’t approve how much time it took, and the difficulty level it was in order for us to enact our God-given rights!? Most people don’t realize that that’s really what it boils down to is that it has nothing else to do with other than the government disapproving the popularity, quickness, and ease for us to act on our rights!!

  2. Lets see. I can say what I want when I want. Yea I know about the politically crowd but really they have no power to stifle me. No power to regulate religion or the media. Military can’t just use my house. Protected against unreasonable search and seizures too. Protected against self incrimination too. Right to a speedy trial and to face my accusers. Lawsuits are covered too. And there are lots more that ensured voting rights and ended slavery among other things. All these rights are exercised daily by the American public. Yet as has been seen that non of these rights would have lived had it not been for the 2ND amendment. You have people including very high ranking politicians who would gladly destroy the 1st amendment IN DIRECT VIOLATION TO THEIR OATH OF OFFICE!

  3. If not for all the “Attention Seeking Media Whores,” dead set on doing WHATEVER it takes to get social media attention REGARDLESS of how STUPID & RECKLESS it could be, shooting off P80’s with drum mags and switches out the window while driving down public streets & ALL OTHER SORTS OF SIMILAR STUPID SHIT while trying to claim what you’re doing is legal!!!!???
    I also dont understand why NO ONE ever questions the fact Biden wants to ban 80’ers SIMPLY BECAUSE OF HOW QUICK AND EASY YOU CAN MAKE THEM!? As well as HOW IS BIDEN going to try to DISARM LAW ABIDING CITIZENS after ARMING THE TALIBAN WITH OVER $7MILLION in ACTUAL WEAPONS OF WAR!!??
    Anyways, great write up i really enjoyed it!

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