Based on original research, “The American Tradition of Self-Made Arms” explains how the Second Amendment protects the right to self-manufacture arms, including firearms commonly referred to as so-called “ghost guns.”

(December 8, 2021) — The Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) announced today a timely new scholarly article on the Second Amendment right to self-manufacture arms, including firearms. “The American Tradition of Self-Made Arms” is based on original research by FPC’s director of constitutional studies, Joseph Greenlee, and traces the right from Colonial America through modern times. 

Greenlee’s article is especially important as litigation on the subject increases due to recent, unconstitutional changes in the law in some anti-rights jurisdictions like Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. The article can be found on FPC’s website here and on SSRN here. For information on FPC’s litigation to protect the right of individuals to self-build firearms, please visit

The Four Parts of “The American Tradition of Self-made Arms”

The article’s first section examines what the Supreme Court has said about protected arms, and emphasizes that all common arms are protected, regardless of how the arm was obtained. For instance, a homemade handgun is protected just as robustly as a handgun purchased at a retail shop. Additionally, courts have repeatedly found that the Second Amendment protects the right to acquire arms, which seemingly includes building arms for oneself. 

The second section focuses on the history and tradition of self-built arms in American history. The art and knowledge of arms-building was highly valued and critical throughout colonial America. When the Americans faced a catastrophic arms shortage during the Revolutionary War, it was domestically produced firearms and gunpowder that secured their survival—which would not have been possible without widespread knowledge of arms building throughout the country. After independence was won, self-built arms contributed to America’s western expansion and its world-changing innovation. In fact, many of the most important arms in history started through self-building, including Colt revolvers, the Henry Rifle, the Spencer Rifle, the Lee-Enfield Rifle, the M1 Garand, and the AR-15.    

The third section explores the history of regulations on arms built for personal use. It finds that, throughout American history, self-building has been almost entirely unregulated until the last decade. 

The article concludes by explaining that the Supreme Court’s Heller decision “established several principles that support the right to build arms for personal use. First, under Heller, any analysis must start with the Second Amendment’s text, which protects the right to keep and bear arms and provides no reason to believe that people must buy the arms they wish to keep and bear. Second, Heller held that the Second Amendment protects the types of weapons that are commonly possessed for lawful purposes, regardless of how those arms are acquired. Third, Heller suggested, as lower courts have recognized, that the Second Amendment also protects the right to acquire arms, which includes building them personally. Fourth, history and tradition—which is used to inform the Amendment’s text under Heller—reveals that Americans have long enjoyed and depended on the unregulated right to build arms since the colonial days. In sum, the right to build arms for personal use is a right protected by the Second Amendment.”

This important article was made possible by FPC’s members and donors. ​​Individuals who would like to join the FPC Grassroots Army or donate to support pro-Second Amendment programs to protect and restore the right to keep and bear arms should visit For more on FPC’s lawsuits and other pro-Second Amendment initiatives, visit and follow FPC on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

About FPC

Firearms Policy Coalition (, a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, exists to create a world of maximal human liberty, defend constitutional rights, advance individual liberty, and restore freedom. FPC’s efforts are focused on the right to keep and bear arms and adjacent issues including freedom of speech, due process, unlawful searches and seizures, separation of powers, asset forfeiture, privacy, encryption, and constitutionally-limited government. The FPC team are next-generation advocates working to achieve the Organization’s strategic objectives through litigation, research, scholarly publications, amicus briefing, legislative and regulatory action, grassroots activism, education, outreach, and other programs. FPC Law ( is the nation’s largest public interest legal team focused on the right to keep and bear arms, and the leader in the Second Amendment litigation and research space.