Every AR-15 builder knows the pride and satisfaction that accompanies the selecting of your gun’s components – including the lower receiver. Each piece you choose contributes to the AR-15’s modularity, function, and helps to optimize the AR-15’s unique operating system.
With the lower receiver being the very foundation on which you will build your AR-15, it’s important to consider the overall dynamics of the lower receiver you will be purchasing.
While the marketplace is saturated with AR-15 lower receivers; each offering a different logo and individual features, here is a quick buyer’s guide when shopping for an AR-15 lower receiver.
AR-15 Lower Receiver: Buyer’s Guide
No matter if this is your first AR-15 build or you have built several AR’s, thinking ahead can help you achieve a finished product that will fit your needs. Whether you’re building an AR-15 for varmint hunting, predator hunting, target shooting or personal protection, consider the following before buying your next AR-15 lower receiver.
1. 80% Lower Receiver vs. Stripped Lower Receiver
While an 80% lower receiver may seem somewhat intimidating at first, don’t let it be. 80% lower receivers are growing in popularity among AR-15 builders, due to the process of completion being very simple and straightforward.
With just a drill press, drill bits, end mills and a Dremel tool, most anyone who possesses DIY skills can complete their own 80% lower receiver in a short amount of time.
With an 80% lower receiver (as long as it is for personal use only) there is no need to do an FFL transfer, ATF Form 4473, or serialization. 80% lowers can also be shipped directly to your residence. These are just a few reasons why so many AR-15 builders are choosing to build on an 80% lower receiver.
On the other hand, a stripped lower receiver is serialized from the manufacturer, requires an FFL transfer, and the sale must be accompanied by an ATF Form 4473. A stripped lower receiver will arrive ready to be assembled and require no finish work by the purchaser.
2. Price Points
While some billet lower receivers will cost considerably more, try to determine the cost versus benefit before purchase. Unless there are additional features you desire, such as an ambidextrous magazine release, a standard Mil-Spec lower will function just the same as a more expensive one.
Also, remember that price point does not determine quality. Quality should be determined by critical data, positive reviews, warranty, and the reputation of the manufacturer.
3. Billet, Forged or Cast
While there are numerous opinions regarding the manufacturing processes of various AR-15 lower receivers — times have changed. Whether you’re considering a billet, forged or cast lower receiver, remember today’s manufacturing process have become more technologically advanced, this in turn has allowed manufacturers to produce some of the best AR-15 lower receivers ever placed on the open market.
No matter what type of material the lower receiver you’re considering is manufactured from, be sure to check with the manufacturer and see if they can present you with critical metallurgy test results. This will insure your lower receiver will stand up to whatever operation or purpose you have in mind for your build.
4. 7075, 6061 or a380 Aluminum
Personal preference will play a part in what lower receiver you choose. If you prefer one type of aluminum over another — that’s your prerogative. Remember when choosing a lower receiver to ask the manufacturer for data regarding their material. Each manufacturer should be able to point you to specific metallurgy tests that back up their claims.
With so many technical resources available to the consumer today, it’s rather easy to sort through marketing fluff and find solid answers to your questions. If you have questions regarding 7075, 6061, or a380, be sure to ask. We’ll be glad to answer any questions you might have regarding our manufacturing processes or the materials we use.
5. Product Warranty
Don’t forget to make sure the manufacturer offers a product warranty with their lower receivers. In the event there is an issue with your lower, you need the confidence of knowing your lower is backed by a warranty that won’t leave you with an inoperable firearm.
For instance, Vision Armory offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all products. If for some reason you’re not satisfied or in the unlikely event there is an issue with your product, we guarantee it — and we’ll make it right.
No matter what type of performance you want from your AR build, a little homework done today can save you a big headache tomorrow. Knowing you have a quality foundation to build on can offer peace of mind and a firearm that offers outstanding performance.
Once you have chosen your AR-15 lower receiver, check out “Building an AR15: Choosing an AR Upper Receiver – Part 1” to continue adding the necessary components of your AR build.
Be safe, have fun and support the Second Amendment.