As the title says many people wonder if they need an FFL to buy an 80% lower receiver. The good news is the answer on this question is clear.
No you do not need an FFL to purchase an 80% lower receiver. You can order one online, and have it shipped directly to your door, no questions asked. If you are new here this may seem self-explanatory. It’s not really a gun, and cannot fire, so why would it need an FFL? A traditional lower receiver, one milled and complete, does require an FFL, even though by itself it is just a chunk of metal.
What is an FFL
Before we dive in super deep into the ins and outs of AR-15 receivers let’s go ahead and cover what an FFL is. We’ll be using the term often. An FFL is a Federal Firearms License. There are several different kinds of FFLs, but the most common form of a license holder is a gun store. Anyone is the business of manufacturing, receiving, and selling firearms needs to have a Federal Firearms License. If you buy a gun online it needs to go through an FFL.
The reason why an 80% lower does not need to be shipped to an FFL is because it is considered to be a chunk of aluminum and not much more. The Gun Control Act defines a firearms as, (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon.
An 80% lower does not meet that criteria since the fire control unit is not milled, it cannot be readily converted to expel a projectile. The most an 80% lower can do is hold a magazine in place. This means you can receive an 80% lower in normal mail, to your front door without issue. You can also mail one out yourself to another non FFL holder.
When is an FFL required?
An FFL is required to ship and receive any AR-15 receiver that is more than 80% a receiver. More specifically an FFL is required whenever any work has been done to mill an 80% lower receiver and you plan to ship, transfer or sell it. For example if you drill a single dimple into the fire control cavity it is now considered a firearm, and an FFL would be required should you wish to ship, transfer or sell the now weapon. It seems silly, but the ATF takes this quite seriously.
So if it is a true 80% lower, without even a single dimple drilled into the fire control group area, it does not require an FFL. If the receiver is complete beyond 80% in any small way it would require an FFL.
From 80 to 100
To turn an 80% lower receiver into a 100% lower receiver you have to go through a wide variety of steps. You’ll need to mill out the fire control group with one of a few different methods. Then you’ll need to drill out holes alongside the receiver to fit the fire control group and safety selector. After that you’ll apply a lower parts kit, a buffer assembly, stock, and complete upper receiver. Then you actually have something that can expel ammunition. Diving into an 80% lower is incredibly rewarding, as long as it is down legally.