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Should You Buy or Build an AR Lower Receiver?

Deciding If You Should Buy or Build an AR-15 Or .308 Lower Receiver

Because of their sheer adaptability, the AR range of weapons are understandably some of the nation’s favorite weapons. Whether you choose the AR15 or the .308/AR10, you have a huge number of replacement and alternative parts that you can use to build up gun that meets your specific requirements.While many parts can be simply taken off the shelf and replaced on your AR base, some need a little work to truly make them a cohesive part of your rifle. The lower receiver is such a part, and the debate about making one versus buying one rages on.


The lower receiver is regarded as the main part of a firearm, in that it integrates other components by providing the housing for internal action components such as the bolt, firing pin, extractor and trigger mechanism, and has attachment interfaces for connecting (or receiving) other main components such as the barrel, stock and magazine. Receivers are available as aftermarket parts in a range of materials, but one of the most intriguing aftermarket parts is the unfinished 80% lower receiver, which requires the user to complete the remaining 20% themselves.

Despite the work – and extra cost of tooling – associated with 80% lowers, they remain very popular because they allow the gun enthusiast to really customize their weapon to their own standard. In fact, building an AR using an 80% lower is so popular that they are fast becoming the standard component in customized guns. The fact is that 80% lowers are available to suit ant needs or budget, and with polymer versions available too, you can get colorized lowers if you want a really (visually) loud gun.

People like 80% lowers because it gives the real enthusiast a feeling of having achieved something special with their rifle. Gun owners like to tinker, and finishing off an 80% lower is technical enough to give the amateur gunsmith a good feeling about building their weapon. Being a technical exercise, in order to finish off your 80% lower, you need a couple of tools to make a good job of it. Accuracy is highly important to be able to finish off your lower, so you need the right equipment, and that means having a proper jig and a god quality stand drill to get holes and slots in the right places.

So, some may argue that an 80% lower is fine for a .223 AR15, but would you really want to use anything other than a professionally made receiver for bigger round, like a .308 in an AR10? Most 80% receivers are made to specific industry standards, and that is strong enough to take the power of bigger rounds, even under sustained firing rates. Even if you are using the biggest rounds, and on semi-auto mode, your custom made 80% lower is more than beefy enough to put up with the pressure.

Detractors also point out that an 80% lower becomes more expensive because, although it may be cheaper to buy than a fully-completed lower receiver, you then have to spend some on tooling as well as invest an amount of time in doing the actual work. This argument is actually quite spurious since once you have the tooling, you can make as many lower receivers as you like, and often gun enthusiasts enjoy making at least one more custom gun, so your tooling will end up well used.

There is also another reason why you might choose to use an 80% lower receiver too. Many are concerned that some parts of the political establishment are once again making noises about gun control, and there is a growing risk that control can be a precursor to confiscation. An 80% lower isn’t considered to be part of a firearm – because it’s not finished – and bears no serial number, whereas a finished off-the-shelf lower receiver is a serial-numbered part and traceable. This means that an 80% lower can be used to create a private and secure gun.

If you want the easy life, then buy might want to consider just buying an already built AR, but if you want to add a personal touch, or truly make a gun your own, you should definitely consider making your own 80% lower receiver route.