Not all 80% lowers are the same. Even though the machining process follows the same rules and steps for every 80% lower (if the caliber is the same), the features, general design, construction, and materials used to build it can vary wildly. So, which 80% lower is right for you? Let’s go over choosing the right lower receiver. We’ll break down the differences between caliber and metal types, as well as features – or lack thereof.
80% Lowers: Billet or Forged?
Each has its pros and cons, but which is right for you? To keep things simple, 80% lowers are made from either 6061 billet aluminum or 7075 forged aluminum. We’ll keep it simple and make some bullet lists so you can see the pros and cons for yourself:
Benefits of 6061 Billet Aluminum 80% Lowers
- Easier to machine
- Can be shaped more aesthetically
- Allows drill bits and jigs to last longer
- More forgiving if mistakes are made
- Lighter in weight than forged lowers
Cons of 6061 Billet Aluminum 80% Lowers
- Metal is softer and dings and dents more easily
- Risk of cross-threading lower parts and bolts is greater
- Billet is more likely to crack or break under extreme use (combat, falls)
- Benefits of 7075 Forged Aluminum 80% Lowers
- Denser and stronger than 6061 Billet
- Can withstand extreme use and hard falls
- Less prone to dents, dings, and finish wear
- Less risk of cross-threading during assembly
Cons of 7075 Forged Aluminum 80% Lowers
- More difficult to machine
- Less forgiving on drill bits and jigs
- Difficult to forge advanced aesthetics
In the end, the biggest consideration you should mull over is machining and assembly. Billet’s easier to machines, forged is easier to assemble and it machines more precisely, with generally cleaner edges and fewer burs. Otherwise, forged and billet lowers are, for the average Joe shooter, on par with each other. Unless you’re operating deep into the Hindu Kush mountains for 20+ months, don’t sweat the other stuff.
Pick up a Premium 80% Lower and one of the best jigs ever, the Easy Jig Gen 2, with all the tooling you need!
80% Lowers: Premium, Serialized, or Standard?
This stuff centers more on cost and goodies. Our premium 80% lowers are great for making assembly easier, thanks to drilled and threaded bolt catch release and rear takedown detent holes. If you’ve never assembled a stripped lower before, well… Those two things, if un-threaded on a basic lower, can cause a serious headache and you might just ruin the finish on your lower if you’re not careful during assembly.
If you live in a not-so-2nd-Amendment-friendly state (like California and New York), you’ll want to check out our CA compliant, serialized 80% lowers. These bad boys ship with the serial number of your choice, the city and 2-letter state abbreviation, the name of the builder (you!) and fire/safe engraved. These are requirements for CA’s silly AB 857 legislation, and other states could adopt it.
Our CA-Compliant Lower Parts Kit includes a CA-compliant buttstock assembly and AR MagLock!
Keep in mind, these two lowers do cost more but they remove some assembly pains and bureaucratic red tape, respectively. Nonetheless, a standard 80% lower is going to display the same top quality and functionality, minus some goodies – but you’ll save some cash.DISCLAIMER: If you are new to the world of DIY AR-15 building, you likely have a lot of questions and rightfully so. It’s an area that has a lot of questions that, without the correct answers, could have some serious implications. We are by no means providing this content on our website to serve as legal advice or legal counsel. We encourage each and every builder to perform their own research around their respective State laws as well as educating themselves on the Federal laws. When performing your own research, please be sure that you are getting your information from a reliable source.