3D-printed guns used by Myanmar resistance?

AP Photo/Dita Alangkara

Ever since the military seized power in Myanmar in February of last year, world leaders have frowned and fretted over the human rights abuses that have taken place, condemned the massacre of unarmed civilians, and generally let it be known that those responsible for the coup are Very Bad People who should be punished.

As far as actually taking steps to overthrow the military junta, however, the global powers that be have largely told the people of Myanmar they’re on their own. There has been homegrown resistance from the beginning of the coup, with the coalition of political parties ousted by the coup leaders even calling on citizens to  fight back in self-defense, but given the draconian gun control laws in place in the country, civilian gun ownership is pretty rare.

Technology, however, is changing all that and helping to level the playing field.

Government forces outnumber and out-arm the Myanmar guerillas by a wide margin, and have made use of machine guns, rockets, and tanks over the past year of conflict. The Guerrillas constantly find themselves outclassed by the government’s superior firepower, and have been searching for a means to turn the tide.

After the military showed they were completely willing to be brutal to peaceful protesters, killing some in the street and leaving others to disappear outside the view of the public, some of the people of Myanmar began to seek out arms to protect themselves and potentially even mount a real resistance. Unfortunately, obtaining firearms isn’t easy. So, they did what Guerrillas around the world have practically always done — they made their own.

Making one’s own firearms is a long-held tradition of guerilla fighters. In fact, this was common practice during the revolutionary war, where colonial Americans built rifles in secret to resist the King’s men. However, technology has changed, and instead of building weapons the old fashioned way, now the people of Myanmar have begun 3D printing firearms, specifically a design known as the FGC-9.

We’ve written about the FGC-9, which is a 3D-printed 9mm carbine before (the FGC stands for F*** Gun Control), and given the ease of production there’s no reason why the gun couldn’t be used by groups like the Karen National Liberation Army as well as those self-defense groups that have organized since the military seized power last February, though they’re not likely to be used as the primary weapon of the battlefield. As columnist Travis Pike points out, even before 3D-printing was a thing, resistance fighters in World War II were using weapons like The Liberator pistol; a single shot firearm designed for resistance fighters to use to ambush Nazis and steal their weapons and ammo for their own use.

The FGC-9 will likely serve as a short use weapon as well. That is, until the guerillas can retrieve better weapons, either through external support or looted from the bodies of troops they’ve killed. And to be clear, the FGC-9 appears to be a much better weapon for the job than any Liberator.

This marks the first time a homemade 3D-printed weapon has found its way into a large-scale conflict. It represents a fascinating turn for guerrilla forces now and in the future, with far-reaching implications for practically every military force on the planet.

The only note of caution I’d sound is that the only real evidence that the FGC-9 is currently being used by the resistance fighters in Myanmar are several pictures that have not been verified by any official group on the ground in the country. It’s possible that the images don’t actually show what is claimed, but there’s nothing obvious about the pictures that screams “fake”, and it stands to reason that the People’s Defense Forces would be eager adoptees of the technology, especially while the military junta ruling over the country continues to brutally slaughter unarmed civilians in an attempt to cow the citizenry into submission.