We live in a brave new world where cars wash themselves and a customized 3-D figure of your very likeness can be bought for just under US$100. It’s also a world where anyone can literally download 3-D printer plans for automatic gun parts–which, depending on which side of the barrel you’re standing on, might not be such great news.

But while printing off a full assault rifle still isn’t quite within the realm of possibility, it looks like you can use a 3-D printer to make a revolver strong enough to fire actual bullets. Which, in Japan at least, is completely illegal. One 27-year-old Kanawaga resident found this out the hard way when he was arrested this Thursday for doing just that.

Yoshitomo Imura, a 27-year-old employee at the Shonan Institute of Technology in Kanagawa Prefecture, was arrested on May 8 for possession of deadly weapons in violation of the Swords and Firearms Control Law.

According to officials, Imura downloaded plans for the guns off the Internet and used a 3-D printer in his home to make the weapons. Police confiscated five guns last month, in addition to 3-D printers and computer equipment. Two of the firearms were deemed to have lethal capabilities since bullets fired from the guns were able to penetrate over ten layers of plywood.


While one would assume that it is common knowledge that guns are highly regulated in Japan (though not completely banned as many might think), it turns out that police discovered Imura’s illegal activities after he posted videos of the weapons being fired on YouTube. Imura is claiming that he had no idea printing weapons capable of shooting live ammunition was illegal, though we’re not too sure how believable that defense is. On the other hand, Imura seems to be willing to accept his fate, saying that if the police considered them real guns then he would have to be arrested.

Imura admitted to the crime almost without hesitation when confronted by the police in the almost comically direct conversation below:

“If you’re asking if I had possession of the hand-made guns, then I confess to it.” – Imura
“So, you admit that you were in possession of the hand-made guns.” – Police
“Well, I guess there’s really nothing else I can say.” – Imura
“Fine. We’re done.” – Detective

This is the first such case in Japan, though with the steady rise of 3-D printers and an obvious abundance of gun plans on the Internet, it may not be the last. At least we can take comfort in knowing that no one’s come up with a way to print bullets. Yet.

You can get a look at the guns actually being fired (apparently with blanks) and Imura himself in the video below. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the guns are almost entirely made out of resin, which would make them difficult for security officers to detect with standard security devices like metal detectors. Imura linked to the video, which was produced by 3DPI.TV, a YouTube channel dedicated to 3-D printing, from his Google Plus account on March 27. Something tells us that this isn’t the kind of publicity Google’s looking for right now.

Imura bragged on Twitter that he was the first person to develop a 3-D printed revolver capable of firing real bullets. He’s been widely quoted by the Japanese media as writing, “I will challenge this society which puts restrictions on guns to fight for the freedom to have weapons.” He also apparently wrote, “Even if we can’t get rid of the Swords and Firearms Control Law, I will spread plans for pistols that can be quickly made with 3-D printers.”

One of the most commonly quoted tweets by Imura is below:

“We should advocate to the government for Japanese women to have the right to carry handguns for self-defense. There are stupid people who say that they should learn martial arts before relying on guns, but people who do ballet or modeling can’t do martial arts as it would change their bodies and make them unable to work. People use hunting rifles to kill bears. Weak women need guns to kill men.”


Apparently Imura loves maids as much as he loves guns:

Look at all of these amazing maid dolls! I have to catch up–I can’t lose! <-What the hell am I saying? LOLOL


Obviously, opinions about Imura and guns made with 3-D printers are going to vary widely, though so far the reaction in Japan seems to be mostly a mixture of confusion and fear.

Sources: NHK, 47 News, ANN, TBS News, TBS News YouTube, Twitter, YouTube, TV Asahi News
Images: YouTube