A student who claimed he was producing props for a university film project has pleaded guilty to making two guns using a 3D printer.
In the first case of its kind Tendai Muswere admitted using the printer to make a revolver and a handgun out of plastic resin at his London flat.
The 26-year-old Zimbabwean national told police he had made the firearms to use as props in a film project for his course at London South Bank University.
Officers came across the 3D printed component parts for the guns while searching his flat for drugs in October 2017, following a tip-off that he was growing cannabis at home.
During the search they found components for a 3D printed gun capable of firing a lethal shot, as well as cannabis plants and evidence of cannabis cultivation.
A search of Muswere’s internet search history revealed that he had viewed videos showing how to use a 3D printer to manufacture firearms which fired live ammunition.
A second raid on his home in Pimlico, in February 2018, turned up more parts for a 3D printed gun.
Scotland Yard said it feared the guns could have fallen into the hands of serious criminals.
Muswere, who had previously lived in student accommodation, claimed not to be aware that the components he had made were capable of being fired and later refused to comment on what his film project was about.
But yesterday he pleaded guilty to two charges of possessing a prohibited firearm and two of manufacturing a prohibited firearm under the 1968 Firearms Act.
Muswere, who was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, admitted producing a plastic Washbear revolver as well as a so-called Hexen Pepper-box handgun – both specially designed for 3D printing.
Southwark Crown Court heard that the firing pin on one of the pistols had been replaced with a more durable copper component and that Muswere had been searching for a replacement metal barrel on Amazon.
Hugh Forgan, prosecuting, said: “He was, at the time, a student. The contentious issue, in a nub, is it is all very well saying you were making a film, but why did you need a lethal weapon? There is no need for a lethal weapon, why had it been adapted?’
John Kearney, defending, asked for a psychiatric report be prepared for Muswere, adding: “It is apparent that despite the fact that he was a student and, as he had asserted, studying film at the time, he does have mental health issues.”
Muswere, who previously studied at City and Islington College and attended the film, cinema and video studies course at South Bank University until 201, was granted unconditional bail before sentencing on 9 August.
He now faces a five year statutory minimum sentence for possession of a prohibited firearm.
Acting Detective Sergeant Jonathan Roberts, from the Central West CID, who led the investigation, said: “Muswere claimed that he was printing the firearms for a ‘dystopian’ university film project, but he has not explained why he included the component parts necessary to make a lethal barreled weapon. We know that Muswere was planning to line the printed firearms with steel tubes in order to make a barrel capable of firing.
“This conviction, which I believe is the first of its kind relating to the use of a 3D printer to produce a firearm, has prevented a viable gun from getting into the hands of criminals.”
The Daily Telegraph has found that in December 2016, 10 months before his arrest, Muswere uploaded onto a 3D printing discussion website a US video which featured the 3D printing of a rifle capable of firing live ammunition.
3D printing involves layering composite materials to create complex shapes and was initially used for manufacturing prototypes, but is increasingly being used for consumer products.
The Washbear Revolver was created in November 2015 by American mechanical engineering student James R Patrick and the specifications published online.
The Hexen pepper-box handgun appeared in 2013 as the first attempt to create a working firearm with a 3D printer.
Muswere was suspended from his studies at LSBU as soon as the university was notified of his offence by the Met Police.
Additional reporting Anna Fullick