On July 8, an assassin killed former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with a homemade firearm. The assassination jumpstarted discussions in the media about how easy it is for an individual to learn how to build their own weapon.There is a wide variety of privately made firearms, also known as ghost guns. Some are difficult to assemble and build, and some can only be used for a single shot. For a person who cannot legally procure a weapon, ghost guns have become a very accessible option. Ghost guns obviously have neither serial numbers nor identifying markings, so they are very difficult to track.It is possible to order ready-made ghost guns or kits for self-assembly on various clear-web platforms. It is also possible to download blueprints and construct a gun using a 3D printer. Prices for these options range between $30-$500.
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However, the clear web sites usually ask for the buyer's personal information, such as payment details, and delivery address, making it relatively easy for law enforcement to track a buyer. That’s not an ideal situation for a criminal, so some threat actors have turned to anonymous underground forums, markets and dedicated Telegram groups to discuss, but and sell, blueprints, gun kits, prepared guns, and information on other ghost gun topics.
Prepared Homemade Guns
Homemade guns can be made or obtained in various ways. An individual can buy separate parts, assemble a complete gun, download blueprints, and use a 3D printer.
Alternatively, they can purchase a homemade gun from an actor skilled in producing them, like in the example below, in which an actor offers for sale a 3D-printed imitation Glock 17 for $25. per unit. The actor describes the parts of the gun and explains that payment is in crypto only.
3D printed Glock 17 for sale
Furthermore, in the example below from a Telegram group, an actor offers a homemade gun for sale for $500. However, there is no information about fabrication and production levels, though there is a brief description of the gun’s properties, magazine, bullet size, and the material used.
Ghost gun offered for sale
Blueprints and Tutorials
Building a homemade gun is not as difficult as one may think. The dark web hosts video tutorials showing the full building process, blueprints with a 3D view of all parts of the gun, lists of materials needed, and much more. Purchasing this information can cost between $5 to $40.
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In the example below, an actor from a known underground market mentioned he would post five video tutorials with a 3D view of all gun parts. The actor even offers a sale at $30 for the first five buyers.
The actor even has a disclaimer stating that cannot be held responsible for the use or construction of the product: “I will not be held responsible for harm or damage caused by the usage of the above information.”
3D Glock 17 blueprints offered for sale
Here is a different example of homemade gun blueprints for sale. Note that the actor offers a simple guarantee stating that the finished product was tested and the functionality is perfect.
3D printed gun blueprints offered for sale
The example below shows an actor sharing links to free 3D gun model sites for free.
Free 3D gun model
Production and manufacturing level
Our research shows that threat actors like sharing general information about homemade guns, such as links to markets where one can buy and sell ghost gun information, instructive links on best usage, and how to get a hold of their own products. In this example, we can see the entire process of a 3D homemade gun production, pictures, explanations, and the results of each process.
Building 3D gun
Building a 3D gun
The finished product
In most countries, it is illegal for a civilian to carry or own a gun without specific licenses and certifications. This means that authorities can easily identify gun owners. Because guns are registered by a serial number or other means of identification, it is relatively easy to track a gun that has been used with criminal intent.
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Homemade guns – or ghost guns - enable people to avoid these regulations. And their numbers are growing: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recovered approximately 20,000 homemade guns, or ghost guns, in 2021, most of which were homemade on 3D printers. It is estimated that the number of ghost guns manufactured in the United States rose tenfold compared to 2016.
Since 3D printing is becoming more widespread and advanced, we anticipate that these weapons will continue to increase in numbers and sophistication. And the built-in anonymity of the dark web provides the perfect venue for anyone to acquire a ghost gun, or to obtain the information needed to build one.