So you’ve picked out an 80% lower and a jig, and you’re starting to look at what else you’ll need to actually finish the job and build an AR-15 from scratch. Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we will talk about tools that will make your life easier when it comes to finishing that jig.
While we won’t talk specifically about them, it should go without saying that you will need a lower parts kit, a buttstock of some sort, and an upper receiver to include a barrel, bolt carrier group, and a charging handle. For the purposes of this article, we will talk only about the tools needed to finish your lower.
1. Bench Vise
This first tool is a no-brainer. Once you have the lower in the jig, you’re going to need a vise of some sort to clamp it and hold it in place while you drill the pilot hole and mill out the receiver.
For the purposes of gunsmithing, a vise that opens 4.5 inches is more than acceptable. You will probably also want some clamps to actually clamp the vise down to the plate of your drill press. Speaking of…
2. Drill Press or Hand Drill
Another obvious one. You’re going to need a drill of some sort to drill the pilot hole in your jig. A drill press is certainly better, but it can be done with a hand drill. No matter which way you do it, ensure that you level out the jig to make sure that your holes are completely straight. You'll also need quality end mill bits for the machining portion. Most jigs come with one, but we recommend stocking up on a few, like our 3-pack of end mill bits, again designed specifically for 80% lowers.
Yes, you will need a router to mill out the lower in a router-based jig. Of course, we recommend the 80% Arms Easy Jig Router, designed specifically for completing 80% lowers at home.
4. Gunsmith Punch Set
With these first couple tools, you should more or less be able to mill out your 80% lower. Now, moving forward into actually building the weapon, you will need some different tools. The first one of these is a punch set.
We recommend a roll pin punch set. If you’re not familiar, a roll pin punch essentially has a little nipple that fits into the detent or whatever pin that you’re working on, to prevent the punch from rolling off of it.
You can definitely make it work with regular punches, but a roll punch set is extremely useful for gunsmithing applications. There are plenty of options available for full gunsmith punch sets.
5. Starter Punch Set
Along the same lines, we would also recommend a starter punch set. A starter punch allows you to put the detent or pin inside of a small cavity and place it in its final destination. This allows you to get the pin started without having to fiddle too much with needle nose pliers or anything else. Simply put the pin in your starter punch, get it started, and then switch to your roll punch. Problem complete.
6. Gunsmith Hammer
So, how are you going to drive in those pins you ask? You’ll need a decent gunsmith hammer with a rubber head. Once again, there are plenty of options out there. They are pretty inexpensively priced. But, they are extremely important to your build. Without the correct hammer, you risk breaking your punches.Painter’s Tape
Ok, maybe this isn’t exactly a tool. But still. This one is underrated, but is extremely important if you are concerned with the cosmetics of your build. Painter’s tape can be used throughout the whole process. Wrap the entire lower before you put it in the jig. Reinforce as you are installing your lower parts kit, to prevent any scuffs on the exterior of your weapon.
As you move through the rest of your build, there are a couple other pieces of equipment that could be extremely useful. A magwell vise block can be extremely useful, as can a vise block for the upper. An AR-15 armorer’s tool may be the single most useful piece throughout the entire build. But, like we said, these are all for the rest of your build. These seven tools that we just mentioned will get you through completing your 80% lower with ease.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.