The 80 Lower Jig makes building an AR-15 lower incredibly easy – but you gotta choose between using a hand router (like our popular and easy-to-use Port Cable Hand Router) or a standard drill press. Which is better? A drill press provides some serious firepower and precision – is the hand router worth it? Let’s do a quick comparison between the two:
A drill press that’s precise and powerful enough to easily handle an 80 percent lower machine job will likely cost more than a hand router. A good hand router – like the one we recommend – comes in well below $150, making it an easy choice on total cost of your project.
If you wish to invest in a drill press, keep in mind that you’ll need an adapter plate for your 80 percent lower jig – one that allows you to navigate the jig and lower along an X and Y axis, so you can finish the job with the appropriate end mill bit. After all, drill presses were not intended to milling, only for, well, drilling.
Which tool is more convenient depends on your needs. If you’re investing in power tools simply for the sake of building some 80 lowers, we would stick with the hand router. Your drill press will require being permanently fixed to a designated area, or it’ll need to be stored. Does it make drilling out the 80 lower more convenient? Yes, but the router provides overall convenience.
You’d think trying to grip a hand router while you precision-machine a firearm would end poorly. That’s simply not the case. Using our provided jigs, bits, and instructions, you can easily achieve a CNC lathe-like finish on your 80 lower with the end mill bits we provide in our 80 lower jig kits. That means nice, clean edges with no burrs or imperfections. On this versus, the press and router tie for overall quality.
A drill press is designed for making precision-measured holes and punches – not milling like a router can do. You’d be surprised to find that milling with a router is simpler for this project than trying to use a drill press in a three-dimensional fabrication space. The router also spins much faster (around 20,000 to 30,000 RPM) than the drill press, which probably averages between 600 and 6,000 RPM. This makes machining with the press exponentially longer, and more tiring. In our opinion (and from experience) we find the hand router works more consistently, more quickly, and more easily when milling your lower.
So, which should you buy?
Obviously, we’re partial to the hand router. It requires no set-up, it does not need to be permanently affixed to a work bench or desktop, and it provides surprisingly ease of use and control when it comes to milling out your 80 lower.
That’s not to say the drill press is not a huge plus for any 80 lower build. After all, you need to drill some precise holes in that alloy, and drilling into any metal with a cordless drill is difficult. Affordable, quality drill presses can be had for well under $100 – if you’re committed to this project, we do still strongly recommend investing in one.