[Updated June 2020]
First, let's put all our cards on the table. We here at AR-15LowerReceivers.com may very well be purveyors of truth and dispensers of 2A liberty, but we aren't legal experts. So, before you take what you read here and run with it (especially if you live in California or New Jersey) you will want to check your local gun laws yourself. Make sure you are up to date on any applicable regulations, too.
Sadly, for every day that has passed since the publishing of this article, the gun grabbers have been working furiously to infringe. We do our best to update this article, but we can't always beat the politicians to the punch. Either way, you should find answers to most of your questions here. Let's get started:
What is an 80% Lower?
An 80% lower is a receiver blank, which isn't legally considered a firearm.
You, the firearm builder, must cut and drill certain portions of the receiver blank. This fabricates it to completion. Doing this turns it into a stripped lower receiver, a firearm by legal definition. Your finished, stripped receiver can then be used to build your own AR-15 at home.
Are 80% Lowers (Receiver Blanks) Legal?
As of August 2019, receiver blanks are legal to buy and own in most states, including California.
In Which States are 80% Lowers Restricted or Illegal?
The states currently restricting or directly banning the sale of 80% lowers are California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Washington.
New Jersey A.G. Gurbir Grewal demanded retailers stop selling "ghost guns" to New Jersey residents. Even though receiver blanks aren't considered guns under federal law, Grewal specifically banned their sale and ownership. He also threatened any retailer who didn't comply with fines and legal action.
Washington state also recently passed legislation ( House Bill 1739) banning the sale of "undetectable firearms". That means you can't legally buy, own, and build a polymer 80% lower if you live there. You can still purchase aluminum (forged or billet) lowers.
In September 2019, New York's Attorney General submitted Cease and Desist letters to various companies that sell 80% lowers and gun-making kits. The attorney claimed these kits and products are illegal, and essentially challenged any company that wishes to continue selling to New York residents to a court battle.
Like California, New York hasn't issued a total ban on AR-15s, but they must have a fixed magazine or be "featureless".
California allows 80% lowers and firearm blanks to be sold in the state. Before turning one into a firearm, a California resident first needs to apply for a unique serial number through the California Department of Justice. This state law came about from A.B. 857, a bill that went into effect July 1, 2018 requiring all firearms in the state to have a unique serial number recorded and engraved on the receiver or frame.
Connecticut passed Substitute House Bill No. 7219, Public Act No. 19-6. This bill bans the same, shipment, and ownership of un-serialized 80% lower receivers and gun blanks in the state. Since receiver and frame blanks aren't serialized when manufactured (because federal law doesn't require it, and the ATF doesn't work with 80% manufacturers), this effectively bans the sale of 80% lowers in the state of Connecticut.
Do I Need an FFL to Buy an 80 Lower?
Since receiver blanks aren't considered firearms, they're not subject to the rules and regulations of the ATF. Buying an 80% lower or receiver blank is legally no different than buying a roll of aluminum tin foil online.
Do I need a License to Build my Lower or AR-15?
Per the ATF:"A license is not required to make a firearm solely for personal use. However, a license is required to manufacture firearms for sale or distribution. The law prohibits a person from assembling a non - sporting semiautomatic rifle or shotgun from 10 or more imported parts, as well as firearms that cannot be detected by metal detectors or x - ray machines. In addition, the making of an NFA firearm requires a tax payment and advance approval by ATF."
Does my 80% Lower Need a Serial Number?
Federal law does not require an 80% lower receiver or other firearm blank to have a unique serial number engraved. A homemade firearm (or a completed 80% lower) still does not require a unique serial number if built for personal use by a private individual.
Like California, some states require a serial number to be engraved on your firearm's receiver. Check your local and state laws before buying and building a firearm using an 80% lower or blank.
Can I Sell an 80% Lower I Completed?
However, you cannot build an 80% lower with the intent of selling it. The ATF says that building a gun for sale or distribution makes you a manufacturer. Gun manufacturers are required to be licensed FFLs, which you are not.
But common sense says that our intentions change. If you finish a receiver blank, own it for awhile, and sell it later because you changed your mind about owning that firearm, you're in the clear. But if you buy a bunch of receiver blanks, cut and drill them, and start selling them online as a "Bob's Discounted AR-15 Receivers" (which has happened before), the ATF will probably come knocking on your door with handcuffs in tow.
Use common sense here.
Are Receiver Blanks and AR-15 Kits Going to Be Banned?
You've probably heard rumors about this, so we felt it was important to clear things up.
Rumors exist, but there no active efforts currently being made to ban receiver blanks, 80% lowers, or gun-making kits. A federal bill (H. R. 7115) was introduced to Congress last year, in November.
The bill specifically calls for prohibiting "the sale, acquisition, distribution in commerce, or import into the United States of certain firearm receiver castings or blanks, assault weapon parts kits, and machinegun parts kits and the marketing or advertising of such castings or blanks and kits on any medium of electronic communications, to require homemade firearms to have serial numbers, and for other purposes."
Since being introduced, this bill has laid dormant with no calls for a vote."