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What is an 80 Lower?

When building an AR-15 from the ground up, there are numerous options to choose from – especially when it comes to choosing a lower receiver. When you start your research, you may find some literature about “80 percent lowers” and begin asking yourself, “What is an 80 lower?” 

There are many important considerations to be made when you begin your AR-15 build. The course of your research is going to or is already littered with important decisions. Deciding whether or not you want to start your build with an 80 lower is a vital decision. It is no secret 80 percent lowers are growing in popularity. If you are not familiar with the difference between an 80 lower and a stripped lower, let us explain:

What is an 80 Lower?

  • An 80 lower is an 80% finished lower receiver (unfinished)
  • An 80 lower requires the builder to complete the last remaining areas of the lower receiver
  • The fire control group is not completed on an 80 lower
  • An 80% lower receiver is not considered a firearm by the BATF
  • Do not require a copy of a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to purchase

Black 80% Lower Fire/Safe Engraved An 80% lower receiver is an unfinished lower. Meaning it is approximately 80% finished (hence “80% lower”) in the overall milling process. 80 lowers do not require a copy of a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to purchase, but do require the builder to “drill and mill” the lower in order to install the fire control group (AKA: Trigger Pocket).

Although there are federal and state regulations pertaining to the manufacturing and distribution of firearms, the BATF does make exceptions for the 80% lower receiver. An 80% lower receiver is not considered a firearm by the BATF and if used for personal use, the purchaser is permitted to complete the lower without serialization.

According to the BATF: “Individuals manufacturing sporting-type firearms for their own use need not hold Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs). However, we suggest that the manufacturer at least identify the firearm with a serial number as a safeguard in the event that the firearm is lost or stolen. Also, the firearm should be identified as required in 27 CFR478.92 if it is sold or otherwise lawfully transferred in the future.”

Using A Stripped Lower Receiver

A stripped lower receiver is a serialized lower receiver completed entirely by the manufacturer. It is subject to all laws pertaining to a Federal Firearms License transfer and will require the necessary paperwork before the purchaser can take possession of the lower receiver. Stripped lowers also provide the AR-15 builder with a lower that is finished on a CNC machine, therefore providing tight tolerances and precision fit and finish. With a stripped lower receiver you will be able to immediately install your lower parts kit without any finish work.

Completing An 80% Lower On Your Own

If you’re the DIY type and possess a drill press, an 80% AR lower receiver can be finished quickly and economically — especially if you choose to use a precision jig. With the 80% jig the entire process can be done effectively and efficiently. For more information on how to complete an 80% lower see: How to Complete an 80 Lower.

The 80% lower provides the AR 15 builder with the personal satisfaction of having had a hand in the overall finishing of the AR-15 build. Once you mill out the lower, your next step is to install the AR-15 lower parts kit.

80 Lower vs. Stripped Lower: Price Comparison

When it comes down to dollars and cents, the 80% lower receiver will save you a few dollars and the FFL transfer fee. Depending on how much you value a sense of accomplishment, the 80% lower may or may not be your primary choice. Between spending $54.99 for an 80% lower and $79.99 for a stripped lower, the savings are minimal.


Choosing between an 80% lower and a stripped lower really comes down to if you want to embrace the challenge associated with a ‘do-it-yourself’ project or purchase a lower that is already finished and is ready to be assembled. If you are ready for the challenge, our 80% Lower & Jig Combos are a crowd favorite for getting started on an AR-15 build! 

For more information on 80% lowers and stripped lowers please feel free to contact us.


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