Zip guns, or homemade guns, have been around for a while but now they are getting easier to make, and easier to hide.
An example of a zip gun was one made with tubing, and a welded on endcap that holds the screw firing pin.
Tutorials from as far back as 2010, showcasing how to make the makeshift gun, can still be found online.
Now, zip guns are mostly plastic and can be made by a 3D printer.
Police in Bethel haven’t specified what type, but did confirm that a zip gun was used in a murder suicide that happened in March, where 56-year-old Thai Pham killed his brother-in-law before shooting himself.
“You need a little barrel, a bullet, you need something to strike the center or rim of that bullet for it to go off and you hold on, it's a zip gun,” said Wolcott Police Chief Edward Stephens.
That simplicity concerns Stephens.
With decades of experience, he said he has seen the zip gun evolve from something he said was ineffective and possibly harmful to the shooter, to something a lot more sophisticated.
“Before, they were roughly made. Pieces of pipe, some type of trigger action,” he said.
But now, making one is as simple as a click of the mouse, and access to a 3D printer.
Some printers go for less than $1,000, and many more are found in libraries or even specialized copy stores.
“It's very quick, there's no skill involved. It makes all the choices for you,” said Dr. Edward Moore, an engineering professor at Central Connecticut State University. He said a 3D printed gun can be made overnight.
“People are able to directly download the finished files off the internet, so they don't even need to know that. It takes me 3 to 5 minutes to set up a print,” Moore said.
A Texas man posted blueprints for a pistol online. In two days, it was downloaded more than 100,000 times before the state department made him take it down.
Without giving step-by-step instructions, Moore described with disconcerting ease, how one could be made.
“It would probably be printed in multiple pieces so they could lay it more flat. It's something to be concerned about, there's no doubt about it,” Moore said.
Because the gun is plastic, the heat and pressure of firing will affect the gun’s durability and accuracy, but they’re still a lot more precise than they were before, and a lot more appealing because of the way the guns can fly under the radar.
“The laws right now, make it so they have to have metal in the guns, but enforcement is difficult,” Moore said.
Stephens said he gives his officers daily warnings.
“I want them to be vigilant, take the extra time to search people, it's a very dangerous job, which they're aware of now,” Stephens said.
“This is something the experts need to get together on and figure out because technology is racing ahead, and kicking the can down the road is not the right approach,” Moore said.
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