The Myanmar civil war has seen an increase in the utilization of 3D-printed guns.

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The power of 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is truly remarkable. With this innovative technology, it is now possible to create complex parts and components without the need for large-scale manufacturing facilities. Imagine being able to print virtually anything out of plastic, from simple objects to even firearms.

Yes, you read that right. 3D printing has advanced to the point where it is possible to assemble firearms using mostly 3D-printed parts. While traditional firearms are typically made up of a combination of metal and polymer components, the emergence of 3D-printed guns has revolutionized the way weapons are manufactured.

This development has had significant implications in the context of the Myanmar civil war, where resistance against the military junta is in full swing. Myanmar, located in Southeast Asia, has a long history of internal strife and conflict. After gaining independence from Great Britain in 1948, the country fell into the control of a military coup led by General Ne Win. Despite the establishment of a democratic government in the 2000s, the military continued to hold significant power, often resorting to violence against ethnic minorities.

Under the government of President Aung San Suu Kyi, elected democratically, the military carried out brutal attacks on ethnic minorities, forcing tens of thousands of people to seek refuge in neighboring Bangladesh. However, in 2021, the military seized control once again, imprisoning Aung San Suu Kyi and igniting a civil war. This reignited conflict led to widespread protests, demanding the release of the president, and the subsequent violent suppression of these protests resulted in an estimated 23,000 deaths within 14 months.

In the face of this violent regime, the anti-junta rebels have found themselves at a significant disadvantage. The Myanmar Armed Forces, also known as the Tatmadaw, possess a formidable arsenal of tanks, artillery, and fighter jets, making it challenging for resistance fighters to combat them effectively. Moreover, access to modern firearms is extremely limited for civilians-turned-rebels.

This is where 3D printing has come to the rescue. In early 2020, a German-Kurdish gun designer known by the pseudonym JStark1809 designed and released the blueprints for the FGC-9. This innovative firearm, named as an abbreviation for “F**k Gun Control” and chambered in 9x19mm, is designed to be manufactured primarily using 3D-printed parts. Only a few critical components that bear high pressure need to be machined from metal, a relatively simple process. Even the barrel, 4.5 inches in length, can be rifled using electrochemical machining. The magazines for the FGC-9 can also be 3D-printed.

What makes the FGC-9 particularly appealing for the anti-junta resistance is its affordability and simplicity. With a total cost of under $500 (excluding the price of the 3D printer itself), and a completion time of around 1.5-2 weeks, this firearm became a game-changer for the resistance in Myanmar. Desperate to arm tens of thousands of fighters, many of whom had no prior firearms experience, the People’s Defence Force and various ethnic minority groups turned to the FGC-9. Its affordability and ease of production made it accessible to those who otherwise would have been unable to acquire firearms.

Training and combat operations now involve the use of these 3D-printed guns, with some rebels replacing them with captured weapons from the battlefield whenever possible. However, the FGC-9s continue to play a significant role in resistance formations, arming fighters and ensuring that every willing individual is equipped to fight against the oppressive regime.

The story of the FGC-9 in the context of the Myanmar civil war highlights the transformative power of 3D printing. This technology has allowed even those with limited resources and in challenging circumstances to access weapons capable of challenging heavily armed military forces. It exemplifies the resilience and ingenuity of the anti-junta resistance, who have found an innovative way to level the playing field and protect themselves in the face of overwhelming adversity.

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