The machine found at the Guadalajara gun lab was a CNC mill made by Hardinge, a New York-based machine tool builder known for its CNC machine tools. There was no price listing for the specific model of vertical machining center on Hardinge's website at the time of this writing, although a third party machine tool distributor has the model listed at $24,500. It's unclear who purchased the Hardinge-brand CNC mill found at the cartel gun lab, and for how much. Hardinge could not be reached for comment despite repeated requests.It's also not clear if the men who worked at the lab had prior machining experience with industrial CNC technology, and if so, whether they were groomed internally for the job or lured to it by cartel operatives promising decent pay. A machinist familiar with CNC gun manufacturing said that operating the kind of rig found at the cartel lab would not require a lot of prior experience, though it would require some expertise. He spoke of a "boomerang effect" where the more complicated a machine gets the more capable it is—and, somewhat ironically, the more familiar the operator needs to be with it.
"My impression is that the bust that happened in Jalisco was fairly isolated"
There is also nothing revolutionary about the technology the men used to manufacture their cache of untraceable guns; people have been milling untraceable firearms in garages for a long time. But that a cartel was dabbling in homebrew gunsmithing in the first place is enough for Najera to take pause."It speaks to us about how these groups have more resources every day, but also a lot about their inventiveness to evade justice at this side of the border and the other," he told me.Mexico's cartels, Najera added, are looking to take full advantage of those resources. Success, for them, is a matter of securing power and influence through a technical and industrial cunning that goes virtually unparalleled among the world's international crime groups. That's why Mexican cartels are building citywide CCTV networks, forcing kidnapped engineers to build secret radio networks, and shipping stolen iron ore to China in exchange for bulk meth precursor chemicals. It's not a question of whether cartels beyond Jalisco can't get their hands on computerized mills to make their own guns, but how far up they're willing to scale."I compare this to the meth labs," Najera said, "because if they can get the chemicals then how many of these machines can they buy?"With additional reporting by Victor Hugo Ornelas and Camilo Salas.*Clarification: Any part, not just the finished lower receiver, that might be used to build a gun in Mexico is itself a firearm per the Federal Firearms Law. H/t Rafael CastilloMore narcocultura from Motherboard:The Drug Cartels' IT GuyMexico Posted a $65,000 Reward for Information on the Drug Cartels' IT GuyBig Brother Narco: Cartels Are Building Their Own CCTV Networks
"I compare this to the meth labs, because if they can get the chemicals then how many of these machines can they buy?"