Tribal police say "Smith & Meth-son" no laughing matter

image from Meskwaki Nation Tribal Police Facebook page

If you needed any more evidence that Joe Biden’s proposed rules on home-built firearms aren’t going to make a lick of difference to criminals, look no further than the latest firearm confiscated by the Meskwaki Nation Tribal Police in Iowa. The DIY gun has been dubbed the “Smith & Meth-son” by officers, though a post by the police department says that the firearm is no laughing matter.


You can get a look at the gun for yourself courtesy of a short video the department posted to its Facebook page on Monday, where the department also shared that it was recovered from a man previously convicted for both distributing cocaine as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The breech-loading pistol features some unusual design options, including a quarter dollar that’s part of the firing pin and an LED flashlight mounted to the barrel of the gun with a metal band. The Meskwaki Nation Tribal Police haven’t said what caliber of ammunition the home-built gun uses, but there appears to be two .410 gauge shotgun shells loaded in the gun in one of the pictures posted to the police department’s Facebook page.

No 3D printers were used in the making of this gun, and there’s no 80% receiver to be found on the firearm either. Instead, it seems like everything from spare change to common items found in your local hardware store (or maybe just your junk drawer) were used to assemble the firearm.

The idea that targeting unserialized guns would actually stop criminals from illegally acquiring or even making their own is absurd on its face, and the “Smith & Meth-son” is yet another reminder of the fact that it’s utterly impossible to ban our way to safety, whether we’re talking about blocking sales of completed firearms like modern sporting rifles or making it illegal to possess certain gun parts.

The term “zip gun” has been used to describe the sort of janky handgun found in Iowa since the 1940s, long before 3D printing or “buy, built, shoot” kits were ever a thing. People have been making basic firearms out of household objects for decades now, and I doubt that’s going to change regardless of what the law says.


One of the most common (and reliable) methods of constructing a zip gun is to attach a door bolt to a wooden handle having a barrel made from a section of steel tube securely taped to it. Elastic bands are tied around the handle of the door bolt to act as a striker. The weight of the heavy door bolt behind the cartridge prevents it from flying back too fast and rupturing upon firing, a factor adding to the user’s safety. Where commercial ammunition was difficult to obtain, a common method was to obtain .22 starting pistol ‘crimp’ blanks and combine them with an airgun pellet to produce a round with similar power to .22 short.

Another simple model which according to police reports at the time began turning up in large numbers in New York City used nothing more than a length of car radio antenna, a nail, a rubber band and two pieces of tape. The large nail slides into the back portion of the antenna tube and the tip is filed to the correct shape to successfully set off a round of .22 rimfire. Alternatively, the metal shaft of a screwdriver may also be used, the chisel edge already being well suited. A slot the length of a .22 cartridge is filed across the middle of the antenna tube to allow loading of a round into the oversized front ‘barrel’ section. A heavy rubber band is cut and both ends are taped at the front of the tube, the middle looped around and tapped to the back of the nail head in order to provide enough force to strike the cartridge. When fired the cartridge often jams in the rear of the slot and will take impressions matching the nail and the tubing.


When you can build a gun out of a car antenna, a nail, a rubber band, and some tape, it’s downright silly to think that we can put a stop to criminals making their own firearms by banning unserialized 80% receivers, but then again, logic has never been the most compelling part of the gun prohibitionists’ argument. Emotion is what drives their debate, and I suppose there’s something comforting about believing that violent crime and the heartache it generates could all be solved with a piece of legislation.. as long as you don’t think too hard about the failed history of gun control, advances in technology, and the fact that even in places where gun ownership is largely banned criminals still have no trouble getting (or building) a gun of their own.


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