Dark web experts are concerned about the emergence online of 3D printing kits that allow criminals to make untraceable handguns at home.
A report by Australian National University researchers, prepared for the Australian Institute of Criminology, has listed DIY handgun patterns and kits as the next trend to watch as dark web vendors look to sell weapons devoid of the unique serial numbers required on legally manufactured firearm frames.
“We were surprised how much self-help material there is available,” Professor Roderic Broadhurst, from the ANU Cybercrime Observatory, said.
“There is kit available for cutting frames for weapons. It is like selling a pattern for a dress; you can then make the main piece of the firearm using 3D printing but without the unique serial numbers required on legally manufactured firearm frames.”
The discovery of hybrid metal and plastic 3D printing components and kits is also alarming as it will make the production of firearms easier and cheaper, according to professor Broadhurst.
“3D printing is getting better and we are definitely seeing a higher class of products; it used to be thought plastic would be too brittle but they are using harder plastics,” Professor Broadhurst said.
“It’s like standing on a piece of Lego – these pieces will not break.”
The ANU study tracked dark web markets between July and December 2019 and found 2,124 weapons for sale.
Of those, there 1,497 handguns, 219 rifles, 41 submachine guns and 34 shotguns.
The most common categories were handguns (70.5 per cent), followed by rifles (10.3 per cent), ammunition (3.7 per cent), submachine guns (1.9 per cent), explosives (1.7 per cent), shotguns (1.6 per cent) and accessories (1.1 per cent).
Alongside decommissioned military weapons and ammunition, there were also fake weapon advertisements by law enforcement agencies.
Professor Broadhurst said the access Australians had to a variety of untraceable ‘ghost guns’ was concerning.
Conventional handguns are most popular on the dark web with vendors offering stealth packaging to Australia.
Glock semi-automatic pistols, a type of handgun manufactured in Austria, comprised 57 per cent of all handguns sold.
“There are lots of Glocks available. They are the standard law enforcement side arm and you see them in action movies,” professor Roderic Broadhurst said.
“They are trendy, slick and popular with gangsters and law enforcement. We think they are popular on the dark web because they can be stripped down to their parts and sent through the post in pieces.
“The prices of these Glocks are roughly the same price as the offline equivalent but they are not registered or their serial numbers have been wiped off; it theoretically makes them untraceable.”