We talk a lot about how creating AR's your lower receiver with an 80% lower compared to buying a stripped lower receiver at the local gun store. But is it really worth it? What are the benefits of choosing a Stripped AR-15 lower receiver vs. an 80% lower? Let’s compare cost, convenience, quality, and the legalities of the two!
Stripped lower receivers - Starting at $130
Stripped lower receivers have come down in cost, but are they a better buy than an 80 lower? The cheapest stripped lower we could find rang out at about $50. But this doesn’t include Federal and State sales taxes (10% or more) or Federal and State background checks fees (ranging from $15 to $100).
If you want that cheap $50 pricetag, you’ll have to buy online. That means paying firearm shipping costs (usually $30 or more), insurance (usually $5 per $500 value), and FFL transfer fees (averaging $30).
Once you’ve paid all those costs, you’re probably spending $135 or more. Keep in mind, this is for a bottom-tier stripped lower receiver with best-case-scenario fees. Some anti-gun states require high firearm ownership application fees, tacking on $100 or more with paperwork.
80% lowers - Starting at $70
The 80 lower is a wonderfully affordable alternative because it’s not considered a firearm. No state or federal agency can tack on all those nasty nickels and dimes. An 80 lower is only considered a firearm once you machine it into a functional, stripped lower receiver yourself. That brings us to our next topic!
Stripped lower receivers - Starting at $65
The obvious benefit of purchasing a stripped AR-15 lower receiver is found in the build requirements: A stripped lower receiver is already finished, ready to accept a lower parts kit. A Classic Lower Parts Kit starts at $65 and will include all the components necessary to assemble your stripped lower into a complete lower.
Aluminum 80% lowers - Starting at $100
If you decide to use an billet or forged 80% lower for your AR build, you'll also need to invest in an 80% lower jig. Eighty percent jigs start at $100. Although this initial investment brings the build cost up more than a stripped lower, you'll have your 80% jig available to you for future builds! Most (if not all) 80% jigs are reusable and their individual parts can be replaced. Let's face it, you're going to want more than one AR-15 after you finish that first build.
If you don't have a handheld router or hand drill at home, you'll also need to visit the local department store. If you need a router or can't borrow one, we recommend investing in the Porter Cable 6430 Handheld Router. This is the router favored by most jig companies and AR builders.
Polymer 80% lowers - Starting at $35
The polymer 80% lowers we offer (like the G150 Phoenix) can be had just for $75 and most include their own 80% jig and tooling! You’ll only need a router or Dremel and drill, which can be had for $35 to $50. If you want to keep things cheap, you can even finish your polymer lower with hand files and hand tools!
Before we hit this topic, a smaller disclaimer: We’re not lawyers and nothing we explain below should be taken as legal counsel. Gun laws also change frequently. Always check your local, state, and Federal laws before buying or building a firearm.
Laws Governing Stripped Lowers
The AR-15 stripped lower receiver is a well-established firearm. Most State and Federal laws spell out quite clearly the legality of owning a stripped lower receiver. To purchase one, you’ll need to submit to a Federal background check (and likely a state background check).
At the time of this publication, no states have enacted a “blanket ban” on the sale or ownership of the AR-15 stripped lower receiver. You’ll still need to adhere to state or local laws when using one to build a rifle, SBR, or pistol. Some states have banned certain features and configurations.
Laws Governing 80% Lowers
The 80 lower is often mired in legal uncertainties because individual states have laws dictating their use. Currently, there are no states that have banned the purchase or ownership of 80 lowers because they’re not considered firearms. It is currently legal to own an 80% jig and machine and finish an 80 lower (transforming it into a firearm by definition) in all 50 states.
Before building an 80 lower, though, you’ll need to check your local and state laws. States like California have enacted legislation that dictates how you can build an AR-15 with an 80 lower. If you live in the “Golden State”, you’ll have to submit an application to the California DOJ requesting a serial number for your 80 lower.
Completing your AR build
Once you’ve purchased tooling and confirmed you’re operating within the law, the stripped AR-15 lower and the 80 lower become one and the same. Once machined, an 80% lower is no different in form, function, or legality than an AR-15 stripped lower receiver.
Both are formed from the same material (billet or forged aluminum, or polymer), and both are equally compatible with retail AR-15 components, accessories, and calibers.