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Cody Wilson: troll, genius, patriot, provocateur, anarchist, attention whore, gun nut or Second Amendment champion? 

The Arkansas-born 25-year-old has been peppered with labels since he started printing his way into the gun debate, and he's clearly earned a few of them.

Defense Distributed's Liberator pistol is, on balance, a fairly piss-poor excuse for a gun.

While the world's first wholly 3D-printed firearm is somewhat gadget-beautiful — its components made of ecru plastic except for the nail used for a firing pin and a six-ounce block of steel glued into the frame in order to adhere to the Undetectable Firearms Act — it has a look that would probably send industrial designer Raymond Loewy into an epileptic fit: stubby, chunky, with all the charm of a plastic toilet brush handle blow-molded in Shanghai. The thick, 3-inch barrel, chambered for .380 caliber pistol ammo, is unrifled, which means at any range further than you can throw it underhanded, it's mostly just a point-and-pray noisemaker. Because the ABS plastic barrel refuses to remember its shape after firing, deforming a bit more every time you run a bullet through it, the barrel can survive around eight shots before you're basically holding a fragmentation grenade.

There's been a lot of hand-wringing in the media and political arena over the idea of a printed gun falling into the wrong hands. Hypothetical mental patients and kids printing out guns in their bedrooms come up a lot. While a printed gun is clearly a problem for countries with strict gun control like Japan and the United Kingdom, in America, where you could probably go a long way toward filling the Potomac from source to sea with the perfectly functional guns already out there, there's a whole lot better chance that Little Johnny is going to know where Dad keeps his Glock than that he's going to go through the tedious, day-long process of printing himself a single-shot plastic gun if he gets a mind to plug his rival for Little Jenny's affections. A Saturday Night Special it ain't.

So what is The Liberator, exactly, if not a reliable firearm in the commonly accepted sense? It's clearly the first of something: the Wright Flyer of a maybe more worrisome future, especially as technologies to 3D print in metal alloy come online and grow cheaper. It's also a real-world "troll," an intentional and calculated provocation, designed to simultaneously gig the bear of the U.S. government while ruffling the feathers of the maximum number of people, from gun control advocates to hobbyists who see 3D printing as nothing more than a fun way to make Etsy-ready broaches and dust-catcher tchotchkies.

Arkansan turned Texan Cody Wilson, 25, enjoys the provocateur role of his Defense Distributed collaborative in Austin. The philosophy-spouting Wilson's clearly been reading his P.T. Barnum along with his Friedrich Hayek. The story of every project Wilson's been involved in — from the printed (and serial-numberless) AR15 lower receivers that first got his name in the paper, to the high-capacity magazines Defense Distributed started printing during the post-Sandy Hook assault weapons debate, to the Liberator pistol, to the Dark Wallet Bitcoin project he's currently working on — begins with his and his colleagues' efforts to attract as many calls from the likes of New York Times and Der Spiegel as possible.

You can understand why reporters love him. Wilson's a quote machine: smart, argumentative without turning shrill, prone to grinning out slogans. Sure, you can call that being an attention whore, or you can call it gaming the age of the 15-minute attention span. We live in the era of "Pics or it didn't happen," and whether you're with him or not, Wilson's had his picture taken many, many times since starting on his quest to upset the national apple cart on the subject of gun control. Too, Wilson grew up on the Internet, and the first rule of being heard on the Internet isn't to shout the loudest, it's to figure out a way to get everybody else to do the shouting for you.

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