Every year at SHOT Show, fun new tools and technologies are launched. The Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade show is a giant event centered on recreational shooting and hunting gear, but it also has become a place for police and military equipment to be demonstrated. And while there are a lot of very cool new gadgets this year, like tiny thermal scopes for less than $2,000, or brand new pistols from brand new manufacturers, the most interesting technologies I read about this week weren’t actually announced at SHOT Show.
Delta P Design has begun selling a brand new titanium suppressor, which is made entirely on a 3D printer. There are other companies, in America and New Zealand, who have been creating suppressors with 3D printers, usually out of titanium or inconel superalloys, but the Brevis II has a new design that makes the most of this manufacturing technique. First, it is extremely small, only 3.7 inches long. DPD is utilizing a mysterious interior design that replaces the traditional baffles with some new structure, probably something that couldn’t be created any way other than 3D printing.
This also makes it extremely light, weighing less than 10 ounces, and made entirely in one piece, with no joins, bolts or welds. Despite the small amount of metal that it is made of, it is able to contain the blast of a high-pressure rifle round. This tiny suppressor isn’t going to set any records for quietest silencer ever made, but it is incredibly impressive how quiet it is considering that it is smaller and lighter than most muzzle brakes. It is so unobtrusive that it’s almost like adding a flash suppressor to a rifle, rather than a fully capable sound suppressor.
Interestingly, shortly after reading a review of the Brevis II, I got an email from the 3D printing service Sculpteo, announcing that they were offering a new titanium printing capability. Their new machines use direct laser sintering to create a solid object, rather than the older carrier method which involved tiny crumbs of metal loosely stuck together in a much weaker form than you would need for real metal machine parts.
(Of course, before you design and print your own suppressor, remember that there a lot of hoops to jump through before you can legally manufacture or possess one. In 1934, Congress passed the National Firearm Act, which created those hoops for anyone wanting to own an automatic weapon, short-barreled weapon, or silencer. Gangsters had famously been using Tommy guns and sawed-off shotguns prior to this legislation passing, and believe it or not, they continued to use those weapons for murder and mayhem even after the NFA passed.
Suppressors, on the other hand, haven’t really been used in violent crimes. Not in the 1930s, and not today. Every year 15 or 20 people are charged with unlawful possession of silencers, but cases where that silencer was attached to a gun used in a crime are terribly, terribly rare. That hasn’t stopped the BATFE from cracking down on lawful supressor ownership, of course. Hopefully, our current legislators will pass the Hearing Protection Act, which would remove silencers from the NFA and allow you to begin printing your own.)
The other cool technique I read about was a method of rifling a barrel using electro-chemical machining. This is the exact opposite of electroplating, since the electrical current is removing material from a metal surface instead of depositing it, but it is just as precise and just as fast. Weaponsman described it as being very much early experiment, but very impressive. It would be equally suited to mass production or home tinkering. After all, you can make a uniformly rifled steel barrel (without affecting its heat treating) in just minutes with only a 12v battery charger and a bucket of salt water. Extremely impressive.
Obviously, there was a lot of neat stuff at SHOT show, like endless variations of AR-15s, and endless polymer-framed striker-fired non-Glock pistols, and other examples of gear honed by several incremental revisions to reliable, if bland, perfection. I just tend to be interested in the more experimental stuff, like a new type of weapon sight, or new features in hearing protection, or a new way to carry extra ammo.