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80% Lower Receivers Compared (2019)

The AR-15 market is utterly flooded with lower receivers: Billet and forged 80% lowers, ultralight polymer receivers, and unique or one-off lowers (like the AR9 or units from DPMS) that cater to specific rounds like 9mm and .308. There are quite a few available on the market, and trying to compare them all – especially if you’re building your rifle from scratch – can get confusing. We’re reviewing all the modern 80% lower receivers you’ll typically find for the AR platform.

Not sure what these things are? Start here: What’s an 80% Lower?

Types of 80% Lower Receivers

1. Forged AR-15 lower (anodized or raw)

 

The forged 80% lower designed for the O.G. AR-15 platform – whether raw or anodized – is the original receiver blank to hit the firearms market. At $50 to $55, a forged lower is technically the most affordable way to get your hands on an AR-15 stripped receiver, anywhere. You’ll need to invest in the right tooling – including a jig (learn what one is here) and router or drill press – to complete one. This unit is compatible with all retail AR-15 uppers and lower parts kits, whether mil-spec or commercial. Once you’ve cut and drilled this receiver blank, it’s no different from a stripped receiver you’d buy at any FFL.

Build compatibility:

  • AR-15 chambered in 5.56/.223
  • AR-15 chambered in .300 Blackout
  • Can be converted to 9mm, .22 LR
  • Works with all retail AR-15 parts

Features & Specifications:

  • Made of 7075-T6 forged aluminum (mil-spec)
  • Raw or type III hardcoat anodized finish
  • The most affordable 80% lower available

2. Billet AR-15 lower (anodized)

Billet lower receivers are simply upgraded versions of the typical forged units you’ve browsed through. At around $75, billet receivers are more expensive but they return the investment by making the lower parts kit install much quicker and easier: The roll pin fittings for the takedown detent and bolt catch have been replaced with threaded holes:

This unit also ditches the fittings and pins for installing a trigger guard. The guard’s machined right into the receiver from the factory. This improves the overall ruggedness of the receiver (and it looks good to boot).

Build compatibility:

  • AR-15 chambered in 5.56/.223
  • AR-15 chambered in .300 Blackout
  • Can be converted to 9mm, .22 LR
  • Works with all retail AR-15 parts

Features & Specifications:

  • Made of 6061-T6 billet aluminum
  • Raw or type III hardcoat anodized finish
  • Threaded fittings with integrated trigger guard
  • The easiest lower receiver to assemble

3. Billet LR-308 lower (raw or anodized)

 

The AR-15 is arguably America’s favorite rifle, but some shooters want more firepower. The bigger AR-10 from ArmaLite (or the modern SR-25 from Knight’s Armament) is what comes to mind for most, but these military-issued rifle platforms cost thousands of dollars. However, you can build an affordable .308 rifle that looks and performs just like the AR-10 and SR-25 by choosing a commercial .308 80% lower. Available raw or anodized, the .308 lower is patterned off DPMS Panther Arm’s LR-308 platform.

DPMS-308 vs. AR-10 Compatibility

Unfortunately, the commercial LR-308 platform is not compatible with many of the AR-10’s and SR-25’s components. Specifically, the following parts are not interchangeable (and there may be others):

Upper Receivers

The .308 upper receiver you must pair with your .308 lower features a rounded design where it meets the lower receiver and buffer tube housing. The AR-10 and SR-25 uppers feature an acute angle instead, which cannot interface with the shape of the .308 lower receiver.

Barrel Nuts

Even if DPMS and ArmaLite .308 barrels and receivers were compatible, you wouldn’t be able to secure the business end to the fun button mechanics because the barrel nuts are also physically different in size and threads. Pictured left, the AR-10’s internal threads are 1-7/16″ and 18 TPI-3A. The DPMS’s threads on the right measure 1-7/16″ and 16 TPI-2A.

Build compatibility:

  • AR chambered in .308 Winchester
  • AR chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor
  • AR utilizing DPMS .308 components
  • Works with LR-308 lower parts kits
  • Does not work with AR-10/SR-25 parts

Features & Specifications:

  • Made of 6061-T6 billet aluminum
  • Raw or type III hardcoat anodized finish
  • Threaded fittings with integrated trigger guard
  • An affordable alternative to the AR-10, SR-25

4. Billet AR-9 lower (anodized)

Until recently, AR builders who wanted to put together a pistol-caliber carbine, or “PCC”, (a rifle that fires handgun cartridges like 9mm) had to buy a regular AR-15 lower and modify it to accept a handgun magazine and bolt carrier group by installing a “box conversion”. The box conversion would be installed in the magazine well with a new ejector, allowing it to accept a pistol magazine and operate with blow-back recoil. That went out the window with the introduction of the AR-9 lower receiver.

This is a new, proprietary lower that accepts Glock 9mm magazines and an AR-9 upper right out of the box. The mag well is (thankfully) redesigned to fit a double-stacked 9mm magazine properly – gone are the days of an AR-15 lower with that beefy 5.56/.223 mag well sporting a comparatively tiny, skinny lil’ pistol magazine. To ditch the need for a box conversion, the receiver also comes with a 9mm ejector (that lil’ hook thing) installed. You’ll need to buy a 9mm buffer and recoil spring to get your new PCC cycling correctly, but everything else about this lower is standard: It works with retail AR-15 lower parts kits and triggers, and AR-15 buffer tubes and buttstocks.

Build compatibility:

  • AR-9 chambered in 9mm Parabellum
  • Works with Hybrid G-9 bolt carrier group
  • works with factory, aftermarket Glock magazines
  • Does not work with 9mm Colt SMG magazines
  • Works with retail AR-15 lower parts kits

Specifications:

  • A better alternative to box conversion
  • Made of 6061-T6 billet aluminum
  • Type III hardcoat anodized finish
  • Factory-installed 9mm ejector
  • Integrated trigger guard

5. Polymer AR-15 and .308 lowers

Nylon-based polymer has played a critical role in the development of modern firearms. SMGs, popular handguns like the Glock, and now, even rifles are being built from this ultralight (and ultra-strong) material. A few years ago, Polymer80 introduced their own take on the AR-15 and its related receivers with high-strength, nylon-poylmer 80% lowers. These units weigh a fraction of a billet or forged unit, coming in at around 0.3 pounds. For their light weight, they’re proven to work just as well handling 5.56, .223 and even .308 cartridges.

Like a factory Glock frame, these polymer receivers are made using intense heat and pressure in a process called injection molding. The nylon polymer is melted, forced into a receiver mold and allowed to cool. This creates a receiver that’s incredibly dense and uniform in molecularity, lending its high strength-to-weight ratio. The polymer receivers are easier to cut and machine than a unit made from aluminum, too. Because of this, the 80% jig required to complete the lower is included, as is the tooling. The jig is disposable, making the kit very affordable. If you don’t already own an 80% jig or the tooling needed to complete this project, the polymer jig-and-lower combo will be the most affordable way to get your hands on everything you need.

Build compatibility:

  • AR-15 chambered in 5.56/.223
  • AR-15 chambered in .300 Blackout
  • Can be converted to 9mm, .22 LR
  • Works with all retail AR-15 parts

Features & Specifications:

  • Made of composite, solid-core nylon polymer
  • Easiest lower receiver to cut and drill by hand
  • Most affordable lower and jig combo overall

80% 1911 and Polymer Pistol Frames

The laws that govern making a gun from scratch technically allow you to build any conventional handgun or long rifle, if the finished firearm isn’t an NFA item, an AOW (any other weapon), destructive device (DD), or other restricted firearm, like a Class III machinegun. That means you can legally build most handguns from a receiver blank – or in this case, a frame blank – just like you would an AR-15 with an 80% lower.

Here are some honorable mentions that fit in the category:

1911 Handgun Frame (raw or anodized)

The AR-15 is America’s favorite rifle, so it only makes sense that a DIY-from-scratch option was made available for America’s favorite handgun: The 1911. It’s not officially called a “lower” since the frame of the 1911 handgun is considered the firearm, though many still refer to it as such. The 80% 1911 frame (as it’s officially called) is, however, made from the same stuff, billet aluminum. The aluminum construction ditches the 1911’s original (and heavy) steel frame, which also makes cutting and drilling the frame much, much easier.

The frame is completed in similar fashion to the AR-15’s lower: The barrel seat must be cut, as do the slide rails (compared to the cutting the fire control cavity for an AR-15). You’ll also need to drill the hammer and trigger pin holes (again, just like an AR lower), completing the frame. Once finished, the 80% frame’s compatible with regular 1911 parts from any manufacturer. This provides a huge advantage: You can part together a quality gun and custom pieces without the high price tag and extra fees from premium names. Complete build kits that include all the parts to finish your 1911 are available, too.

Build compatibility:

  • 1911 Commander chambered in .45 ACP & 9mm
  • 1911 Government chambered in .45 ACP & 9mm
  • No 1911 Officer 80% frame is currently available
  • Completed frame is compatible with all retail parts

Specifications:

  • Made of 6061-T6 billet aluminum (weighs 50% less)
  • Can be completed with a hand drill (frame cutter supplied with jig)
  • Most affordable way to own a custom or “top-tier” 1911

Polymer Pistol Frame (compatible with Glock)

Glock’s handguns are arguably the most popular series of pistols bought, sold, and owned by shooters across the globe. It only makes sense that, given its polymer construction and success, an 80% DIY kit be made available for it – so that’s exactly what Polymer80 did. Although these 80% frames can’t legally be called Glock frames since they’re not actually made by the Austrian manufacturer, they’re every bit as compatible and functional.

The typical poly pistol frame kit works – you guessed it – basically the same way the 1911’s and AR-15’s 80% units work. You’ll need to drill the trigger and locking block pin holes, cut the slide rails, and cut the barrel block with a jig and bits. Since we’re again working with polymer, the frame you choose will include a disposable jig and the tool bits required to cut and drill it. You guessed right again: You only need a hand drill to finish this frame, and you can use a pair of snips with hand files or a Dremel to finish the slide rails and barrel block. Of all the 80% lowers and frames on the market, this kit arguably constitutes the easiest gun to build at home.

Build compatibility:

  • PF940C compatible with Glock 19/32 components
  • PF940v2 compatible with Glock 17/34 components
  • PF940SC compatible with Glock 26/27 components

Specifications:

  • Made of composite, solid-core nylon polymer
  • Easiest 80% pistol frame to cut and drill by hand
  • Most affordable pistol frame and jig combo

Summary

By now, you should have a pretty good idea of what 80% lowers are available, and which one you might like to build. We recommend you next learn about the important “other half” of this project before getting started by reading our intro guide to 80% jigs. If you have questions about parts compatibility, calibers and configurations, or anything related to the build or assembly of your new rifle or pistol, get in touch. You can call or email us! We build guns from the very parts we sell in our spare time, so we’re happy to help.

Summary
80% Lower Receivers Compared (2019)
Article Name
80% Lower Receivers Compared (2019)
Description
This quick reference guide provides a list (with compatibility & specs) of all the 80% lowers and 80% frames available in today's at-home gunsmithing market. This guide covers the AR-15, AR9, AR's chambered in .308, and handgun frames.
Publisher Name
https://www.80lowerjig.com/
Publisher Logo

DISCLAIMER: If you are new to the world of DIY gun 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. At 80Lower Jigs, 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.

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