At a Glance: Best AR-15 80% Lower Receiver
- OUR TOP PICK: Flat Dark Earth Cerakoted Billet AR-15 80% Lower Receiver
- MOST POPULAR: Polymer80 – AR-15 80% polymer lower receiver & jig kit
- BEST RAW BILLET: Raw Billet AR-15 80% Lower Receiver
Comparison of The Best AR-15 80% Lower Receiver
Our Top Pick
|Flat Dark Earth Cerakoted Billet AR-15 80% Lower Receiver||
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Our Top Pick
|Polymer80 – AR-15 80% Polymer Lower Receiver & Jig Kit||
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|Raw Billet AR-15 80% Lower Receiver||
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Our List of the 6 Best AR-15 80% Lower Receivers on the Market
If you’re looking to build your own AR-style rifle then you will want to find the best AR-15 lower on the market. To help you construct the very best AR-15 possible, I have reviewed and tested the 6 Best AR-15 80% Lower Receivers.
All the products on this list are from trusted industry manufacturers and use the highest quality materials. I have put together the pros and cons of each product, allowing you to choose the one that’s best suited to you.
Flat Dark Earth Cerakoted Billet AR-15 80% Lower Receiver
The Billet AR-15 80% Lower Receiver from 80 Percent Arms has an ultra-tough design to withstand the harshest environments in any situation using. Made from aircraft-grade billet aluminum giving this receiver excellent durability and strength. The Flat Dark Earth Cerakote Coating is an exact match to the Magpaul FDE color. This lower receiver is only compatible with their Gen 2 & Gen 3 Jig.
A great feature of this lower receiver is how easy it is to reload magazines, thanks to the broached, flared magwell. The fit and overall quality is fantastic. 80 Percent Arms does a great job with all of its products and makes it very beginner-friendly.
- Full mil-spec parts compatibility
- Lifetime warranty
- Threaded Bolt Catch
- Rear take down lug pocket completed
- Great instructions and tech support
- Everything fit a little tighter
- Not compatible with Gen 1 AR-15 Easy Jig & Drill Press Jig.
Polymer80 – AR-15 80% polymer Lower Receiver & jig kit
Polymer80 are specialist in what they do and the value they provide in their products is hard to beat. All Polymer80 lowers are made in the USA and come with a lifetime warranty.
This AR-15 80% lower is very lightweight, weighing just 0.3 pounds. For a polymer receiver, it is pretty durable thanks to its composite solid core design, although still not as durable as aluminum options. It has a reinforced buffer tube housing, an integrated trigger guard, and a stiffened mag well, resulting in a strong and long-lasting product.
If you’re into customization this is the lower for you. It’s available in many colors, including FDE, green, gray, purple, white, neon zombie green, pink, and black. This allows you to construct an AR-15 that truly stands out from the rest.
This 80% lower comes with a complete jig set, which consists of almost everything you need to complete your lower. Some of the tools and parts you will find in this set include a screw bolt, a catch pin, a pistol grip nut, a pistol grip screw, and a dowel pin for the bolt catch.
The jig set also includes one of the highest-rated AR-15 jigs and an end mill for the fire control pocket. Moreover, for drilling, there is a drill bit for the safety selector as well as one for the hammer and trigger pinholes.
Polymer is an easy material to work with and the included jig kit makes it even easier. For that reason, this is one of the best AR-15 80% lowers for novices. Moreover, for a receiver and full jig kit, the price is extremely low, offering the best value for money out of all the lowers on this list and a top choice for builders on a budget.
- Lightweight product weighing just 0.3 pounds
- Available in a variety of colors
- Easy material to work with
- Comes with a complete jig set including a high-quality jig
- A great option for novice builders
- Excellent value for money
- Not the most durable lower on the market
- Some of the detent holes are not completely drilled
Raw Billet AR-15 80% Lower Receiver
Create your own lower receiver with this Raw Billet AR-15 80% Lower Receiver from 80 Percent Arms. This receiver is manufactured from US aerospace grade 6061 aluminum – a more corrosion-resistant aluminum and easier to mill than other alloys.
Raw 80% lowers are not considered firearms by the ATF so you can get this shipped right to your door! No FFL required. Their raw 80% lowers carry a lifetime warranty.
- Rear take down lug pocket completed
- Easy bolt catch installation with a regular punch
- Broached, flared magwell
Check out their 80% AR-15 Jigs
This company does a great job of creating an assortment of products for its customers. This receiver is compatible with their Gen 2 & Gen 3 Jig. Not compatible with Gen 1 AR-15 Easy Jig® & Drill Press Jig.
- No FFL required.
- bolt catch retaining pin is threaded
- Rear take down lug pocket completed
- Fire / Safe Engraving
- Some shipping restrictions
James Madison Tactical – AR-15 80% Gen2 Lower Receiver
The James Madison Tactical Gen2 lower is one of the most popular polymer AR15 lowers. The 80 percent lower has a black finish and is made with a proprietary high-grade polymer-fiber blend. This makes it lightweight and much more resistant to corrosion than metal lowers.
The construction is great. This mil-spec lower has a pre-machined rear pivot pinhole, bolt release cavity, and buffer tube threads. It has been machined to fit most upper receivers. Furthermore, serrations along the front of the mag well provide a better grip for your support hand and it has an integrated rounded trigger guard for improved ergonomics.
I found the Gen2 80% lower to be thicker than many other receivers. For extra durability, it’s reinforced at weak points and areas that experience a lot of stress, such as the bolt release posts, the upper receiver interface points, and the magazine well. I would say this is the most durable polymer receiver I reviewed, and it even rivals the aluminum ones!
This lower receiver is easy to work with, comes with a jig and helpful instructions. It will best suit AR-15 owners that shoot .223 rounds and it is a great choice for those who want a receiver that is high quality and compatible with all kinds of AR-15 parts.
- Compatible with a lot of upper receivers
- Easy and quick to install
- Accepts most standard lower receiver parts
- Integrated rounded trigger guard for improved ergonomics
- Thick and durable with the ability to withstand stress
- Compatible with .223 caliber AR-15 components
- Includes a jig
- Not the cheapest on the list
- Mill/drill bits not included
- May not be returned once modified in any way
Brownells AR-15 80% Lower Receiver Jig Build Kit
Brownells offer the ultimate kit to easily finish up your lower in the color of your choice. The set consists of an AR-15 80% lower receiver, a jig, a lower parts kit, a mil-spec buffer tube assembly, and a Brownells Aluma-hyde spray in your choice of color.
The lower is made from forged 7075 T-6 aluminum. It’s extremely strong and durable with the ability to take a lot of hits, and therefore, will last a long time. Despite its strength, it’s still light in weight. On top of that, it’s multi-cal and will fit any standard AR-15 upper receiver.
The receiver features a built-in takedown lug pocket for added convenience, plus a built-in broached magazine well. Brownells has an excellent reputation in the gun industry. This particular product comes under their “Guaranteed Forever” return policy, however, this guarantee does become void once you start to modify it.
This is a great option for beginners looking for an all-in-one kit. You can also purchase this as a stand-alone 80% lower receiver with either a black finish or unfinished. For that reason, this is also a good option for AR-15 users who are looking for an upgrade from a default lower, or as an addition to a rifle building project.
- Constructed with strong, durable aluminum.
- A universal receiver that accepts all AR-15 upper receivers
- Built-in takedown lug pocket and broached magazine well
- Complete kit with everything you need
- Comes with an aluma-hyde spray in the color of your choice
- Comes with a lifetime guarantee
- The manufacturer guarantee is void after modifying
Noreen Firearms – AR-15 80% Lower Receiver
Noreen’s 80% lower receiver is machined from a solid piece of billet aluminum, ensuring maximum precision & material quality. It comes unfinished allowing you to finish it to your preference.
Manufactured in the USA, this is high quality and durable receiver which features a broached magazine well and an integral trigger guard. This lower is built like a tank and I found it to be one of the most well-made lowers on the list, having the most accurate dimensions out of them all.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a jig or any tools for the finishing process, therefore, you will need to purchase a jig separately. It’s important to note that it is compatible with the Modulus Arms 80% jig but not with the Anderson jig. Another downside is that there is no rear takedown pocket which makes the milling process a bit more time consuming
- Made in the USA
- High-quality material
- It comes without a finish so offers the ability to customize
- Broached magazine well and integral trigger guard
- Does not come with a jig or any tools
- Not compatible with all jigs
- No rear takedown pocket
Best AR-15 80% Lower Receivers: Top Picks and Reviews
Building your own firearm is a popular pastime for many gun enthusiasts. One of the key components of building an AR-15 is the lower receiver, which is the part of the gun that holds the trigger and magazine. If you’re looking for the best AR-15 80% lower receivers, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll review six of the best AR-15 80% lower receivers available on the market today. We’ll also provide some tips on how to complete the lower build and remain compliant with federal and state laws.
3 Top Picks for Best AR-15 80% Lower Receivers
- Flat Dark Earth Cerakoted Billet AR-15 80% Lower Receiver – This lower receiver is our top pick. It’s made from billet aluminum and has a built-in trigger guard for better grip. It also has an integrated trigger guard, which is a unique feature that helps to eliminate the weak points of the gun. This is a high-quality product that is worth mentioning because of its excellent reputation.
- Polymer80 – AR-15 80% Polymer Lower Receiver & Jig Kit – Our second top pick is the Polymer80 AR-15 80% Polymer Lower Receiver & Jig Kit. This is a great value product that offers ease of use and is an excellent choice for those on a tight budget. It is made from reinforced polymer and has a solid core design that can withstand a lot of wear and tear. The kit comes with a jig and an end mill bit to help with the milling process.
- Raw Billet AR-15 80% Lower Receiver – The Raw Billet AR-15 80% Lower Receiver is another top pick. It is made from billet aluminum and has a black finish that is hard anodized for added durability. The product has great reviews and is a great way to get started with the lower build.
Honorable Mentions for Best AR-15 Lower Receivers
- James Madison Tactical – AR-15 80% Gen2 Lower Receiver – The James Madison Tactical Gen2 Lower Receiver is a great choice for those looking for an excellent reputation. It is made from high-quality billet aluminum and has a threaded bolt catch pin and reinforced buffer tube housing. The lower receiver interface points are also reinforced for added strength. This product is a bit pricier than some of the other options but is well worth the investment.
- Brownells AR-15 80% Lower Receiver Jig Build Kit – The Brownells AR-15 80% Lower Receiver Jig Build Kit is a great choice for those who are new to the lower build process. It comes with a full jig kit and all the basic tools you need to complete the job. The product is made from mil-spec parts and has a flared magazine well for easier magazine insertion.
- Noreen Firearms – AR-15 80% Lower Receiver – The Noreen Firearms AR-15 80% Lower Receiver is a good choice for those looking for the cheapest lower receivers on the market. It is made from billet aluminum and has hammer pin holes already drilled for your convenience. While it is a great value product, it is important to note that it is not compatible with all upper receivers.
Tools Needed to Complete the Lower Build
Completing the lower build requires some specific tools, including a drill press, drill bit, and end mill bit. It is also worth mentioning that it is essential to conduct your research before beginning the build to ensure compliance with federal and state laws. Legal advice may also be necessary, particularly if you live in a state like New Jersey or Rhode Island, where gun laws are more restrictive.
Ancillary Product Recommendation
The All You Need Kit + (5) 80% Lowers by 80 Percent Arms is an excellent choice for those who are new to the lower build process. This kit includes everything you need to complete five lower builds, including five 80% lower receivers, a drill press, and all the necessary tools. This kit is a great value for those who plan on completing multiple builds, as it saves you the time and effort of sourcing all the individual components separately.
All You Need Kit + (5) 80% Lowers by 80 Percent Arms
In my opinion, purchasing an 80% lower with a jig set is the best option as it means you will already have many of the tools required.
80 Percent Arms sells their own All You Need Kit + (5) 80% Lowers which includes:
- The Easy Jig® Gen 3 Multiplatform
- Five 80% Lowers of your choice
- Freedom Router
- Complete Toolkit (with optional upgrade)
Completing the Lower Build
Once you have chosen the best AR-15 80% lower receiver for your needs, it’s time to complete the lower build. The process can be quite straightforward with the right tools and a bit of patience. It is essential to take the time to mill the receiver correctly to ensure that the finished product is up to standard.
The finishing process is another crucial step in completing the lower build. It involves adding the serial number and performing any necessary additional milling cuts to ensure the receiver meets the legal requirements for firearm ownership. It is crucial to follow the federal laws and local laws when completing the lower build.
Importance of Lower Parts Kit and Lower Jig
When building an AR-15 lower receiver, it is important to have the right components. The lower parts kit is one such component that includes all the necessary small parts to complete the lower receiver. This kit is essential to ensure that your lower receiver is functional and reliable. Additionally, using a lower jig can make the process much easier, especially for those who are completing the build for personal use. An easy jig is a popular option for those who are new to the process and want to ensure that the finished product is of high quality.
AR Platform and Reliable Manufacturers
The AR platform is one of the most popular firearm platforms on the market today. It is highly customizable and versatile, making it an excellent choice for those who want to create their own firearm. There are many AR-15 parts manufacturers, such as Matrix Arms and Anderson Manufacturing, with manufacturing processes and excellent reputations. It is crucial to conduct your own research and seek legal counsel before completing a lower build. Compliance with federal and state laws is essential, and a background check may be required before owning your own rifle.
Milling the Receiver and Using the Right Tools
For those completing a lower build for the first time, it is important to take the time to mill the receiver correctly. Deeper milling cuts may be necessary, and using the right tools, such as a hand drill, is essential. Some products, such as billet receivers and polymer receivers, are designed to withstand the milling process and offer good things like high-quality manufacturing and excellent reputation. A stripped lower receiver is a popular choice for those who want to customize their own AR-15.
Gun Control Act and Compliant Lower Receivers
The Gun Control Act regulates the sale and transfer of firearms, including 80 percent lower receivers. It is important to comply with these regulations and conduct your own research to ensure that you are following the correct procedures. There are also companies like Tennessee Arms Company, which offer 80 percent lower receivers that are compliant with the Gun Control Act.
Considerations When Choosing a Product
When completing a lower build, it is important to consider the overall quality, best value, and price point of the product. Companies like James Madison Tactical Gen and Matrix Arms offer excellent products that have a great reputation and are built to last. Other companies, such as Anderson Manufacturing, offer high-quality manufacturing processes that ensure the best choice for your particular needs.
What Makes a Great 80% Lower Receiver?
There are a few factors you’ll need to carefully consider in your search for the best AR-15 80% lowers. These include:
Lower receivers are generally made either of aluminum or polymer.
- Aluminum can be further divided into billet and forged, and into 6061-T6 alloy or 7075-T6 alloy.
- Billet is more of a general-purpose material.
- Billet is usually more expensive than polymer or forged options and can be heavier too.
- Billet is very easy to assemble, and more malleable.
- 7075-T6 is a higher quality aluminum and the most durable material for a lower receiver.
- Aluminum typically lasts longer than Polymer.
- Polymer lower receivers are a relatively new option.
- Polymer is very affordable and normally comes with its own jig kit.
- Polymer is a softer material than aluminum, requiring less effort in the milling and drilling process.
- You can machine polymer components very easily, and the finishing process can be done with ordinary hand tools
80% lowers are generally type II or type III hard-coat anodized which makes them abrasion and corrosion-resistant. Many lowers have other kinds of finishes such as cerakote and duracoat.
There is much debate over whether it’s worth purchasing a lower receiver with a hard-coat anodized finish. When you’re milling and drilling the receiver to customize it, the inner layers of the metal, which are not anodized, will eventually become exposed. This means you’ll need to get the lower receiver anodized after finishing it. Therefore, I believe it’s best to go with non-anodized or simple aluminum 80% lower.
In my experience, I have found most small manufacturers to be hit or miss with 80% lower receivers. This is because these products often lack the precision of stripped or complete lowers.
Because 80% lower receivers need to be drilled and machined to be completed, they must have tight tolerances and precise working points to enable this. To ensure you do not experience any problems when constructing your new rifle, buy from a reputable and well-known industry manufacturer for confidence and peace of mind.
Lastly, you will want to consider the color, design, and any engravings on the 80% lower you’re purchasing to ensure that it matches your aesthetic needs. Some receivers are available in a variety of colors, and some come with a spray-on finish in the color of your choice. Whilst this is not as important as the previous points, the aesthetics of your lower receiver will play a role in your satisfaction with the final product.
Completing a Lower Build for Personal Use
Completing a lower build can be a controversial topic, but it can also be a great way to learn more about firearms and gain a deeper understanding of the AR platform. With the right tools, lower parts kit, and lower jigs, completing the entire process can be an affordable price point. It is important to conduct your own research and seek legal counsel to ensure that you are following the correct procedures and using a particular product that meets your needs.
How Much Time and Effort Does It Take to Assemble an AR-15 80% Lower?
Assembling an AR-15 80% lower is not for first time DIYers. Nevertheless, if you have experience with DIY projects and love a challenge, then you should be able to complete your lower without too much struggle, or time spent.
Here are a few pointers to help you understand what to expect from the process:
- You can convert this piece of metal into a finished receiver by using a variety of different methods and tools, including tools you probably already own, like a drill and a router.
- To finish your lower as easily and economically as possible, it’s best to use a manual end mill or a drill press.
- A precision jig will make this process significantly easier.
- The process will take longer and may also be more difficult with an aluminum lower compared to a polymer lower. This is because of the difference in the hardness of the material.
The complete process of assembling and installing an AR-15 can be broken down into 3 phases:
- Phase 1 is milling the 80% lower.
- Phase 2 is installing the lower parts kit and buffer assembly into the lower.
- Phase 3 is assembling with the upper receiver.
For a beginner, phase one can take between 2 and 3 hours, phase 2 will require 1 to 2 hours and phase 3 will need an additional 1 to 2 hours. That’s a total of 4 to 7 hours. Of course, for those with experience, the process will most likely be much quicker.
Considering these points, the time and effort it will take to complete your own AR-15 rifle will depend on the tools you use, for example, whether or not they are manual or automatic, along with your skills and experience in similar projects.
Tools Needed to Complete Your AR-15 80% Lower Receiver
Before you start the assembly process, you will need to ensure that you have all the necessary tools to complete your lower receiver. What tools you’ll need will depend on whether your 80% lower receiver comes with a jig kit or not.
That being said, some things may not be included in your jig kit which you will probably need. These are:
- A vise
- A drill press
- A hand drill
- Jig screws
- A set of hand files
- Some painter’s tape
- Precision needle files
If you do not have a jig kit, you may find that you already have some of the required tools laying around. In general, here is a list of components and tools that you’ll need for the assembling process of your AR-15.
- Set Screw Bolt Catch Pin
- Dowel Pin for Bolt Catch
- Pistol Grip Nut
- Pistol Grip Screw
- Allen Wrench
- AR-15 Jig
- End Mill for fire control pocket
- Drill Bit for the safety selector
- Drill Bit for trigger & hammer pinholes
- Drill Bit for pinholes & trigger hole
How to Finish an AR-15 80% Lower Receiver
Here is a simplified step by step process to finishing an AR-15 80% lower receiver such as the Polymer80 lower using a drill press and a hand drill. Personally, I think these are the best and easiest tools for beginners to use to get started.
Of course, this process will differ slightly depending on the type of receiver you are using, the material your lower is made from, and the tools you are working with. For example, using a proper mill rather than a drill press will result in a much cleaner overall finish.
Take your time with the process and do not rush. You’ll be glad you paid the additional attention to detail once your lower is completed.
Secure the vise
- Attach the vise to your drill press. Secure your lower to ensure it is held firmly.
- With the jig properly aligned your 80 percent lower receiver, fix the jig tightly into your vice in the standard upright position.
Drill the side holes with your hand drill
- Drill through the marked outside holes on your jig with the relevant drill bit. Specifically, these are specifically the trigger pin, hammer pin, and safety selector holes.
Next drill out the fire control pocket with the drill press
- The way I like to do this is with the plunge cut method. First, make successive dips and drills into the pocket.
- Once you’ve plunge-cut enough, move on to using the action of the cross slide vise, with the drill press, to mill out the sides.
Drill out the trigger pocket
- Take the jig out of the vise and flip it over so that the jig is upside down. Then vise it up in this position. Before you start drilling, it’s helpful to use tape in the vise to keep the guide secure.
- Then, with your relevant drill bit, drill out the trigger pocket. The vise may need to be adjusted slightly to get the full pocket completed.
File it down
- Using a drill press can result in the outcome looking a bit messy. However, you can file it down with a set of hand files to get a good uniform finish.
- Additionally, using some precision needle files will help to smooth out and clean up the finish too.
Stripped Versus 80% AR-15 Lower Receivers
A stripped lower receiver is a serialized lower receiver entirely completed by the manufacturer. If you’re wondering whether you should purchase a stripped or an 80% lower receiver, here are the pros and cons of both, to help you decide what is best for you.
- Stripped lower receivers have been finished on a CNC machine, thereby providing tight tolerances and a precision fit and finish.
- With a stripped lower receiver you’re able to install your lower parts kit straight away without any milling work.
- A stripped lower is subject to all laws covering an FFL transfer.
- This means you’ll be required to complete the necessary paperwork before you can take possession of it.
- An 80% lower gives you the personal satisfaction of creating and finishing your AR-15 build.
- While you won’t be able to install it immediately, completing an 80% lower is not that difficult and can be finished quickly and economically, especially if using a precision jig.
- You can purchase an 80% lower without the need for any FFL fees or paperwork.
- Purchasing an 80% lower will save you a bit of money, both in the sale price and in the FFL fees, however, the price difference isn’t huge.
The choice between a stripped lower and an 80% lower really comes down to how much personal input you would like in the finished product, and whether you want to undertake a DIY project or purchase a lower that’s already finished and is ready to be assembled.
Completing a lower build for personal use is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the AR-15 platform. It is important to consider the manufacturing process, overall quality, and best value of the product you choose. Seeking legal counsel and conducting your own research is also essential to ensure that you comply with federal and state laws. Using a great product like a billet lower, hard anodized billet AR-15, or a polymer receiver can make the entire process a great success. With the right tools and knowledge, you can complete your own AR-15 and enjoy it for a long time to come.