There are basically 3 kinds of lower receivers: stripped, complete, and 80%. Lower receivers are the one part of an AR15, than carries the trigger group, pistol grip, and the stock or brace. With all these parts and attached to the upper receiver, they form a complete AR15.

Stripped lowers are lowers without all the other parts attached. These lowers are the only serialized part of an AR15. To buy them, you have to go through a licensed dealer.

Go to the dealer and check with him if you can get the lower of your choice shipped there, order it from the manufacturer, have it shipped to the dealer, and pick it up there.

All the other parts have no serial number and can be bought online and shipped directly to your home without the dealer between you and the online shop.

Stripped lowers are nothing more than a piece of aluminum, that can hold all the rest that forms a complete lower. This is your starting point for building your own lower and subsequently your own AR15. You can choose all the parts that you want in the lower as well as the upper. That brings you 2 main advantages. For one, you can choose all the parts that will ultimately be your rifle. Apart from that, you save money compared to buying a fully assembled rifle.

Building lowers is easier and less prone to mistakes than building uppers. Starting with a stripped lower, you can build this part of your future AR15 yourself and add a complete upper. Most of the characteristics of handling, like trigger pull, pistol grip, and stock, are decided by the parts attached to the lower. It makes sense to just build this one by yourself to make sure that you are really comfortably with your rifle. After that, just attach the upper of your choice as one part without building it from scratch. It is less flexible, but maybe easier for a newbie, to just buy a complete lower. They bring already all the parts with them, that form the lower part of your future rifle. That includes:

  •         The Buffer tube plus stock or pistol brace
  •         The Pistol grip
  •         The trigger assembly and safety selector
  •         The trigger guard
  •         The bolt release
  •         The magazine release

There comes the question to mind, why you should buy a complete lower instead of a stripped lower that gives you many options? The answer is easy. You buy a complete rifle; you have to pay the firearms tax. Buying the lower and upper separately avoids that. Furthermore, you get lowers of better quality than you might get in a complete rifle.

Then there are the 80% lowers. These are lowers, that are only partially finished. There are not yet any holes for a trigger or safety selector drilled into them. In most places, it is legal to buy and use them for building your on AR15, but you better check for your specific area.

80% lowers are technically not a firearm. They are not yet ready to form part of a weapon, so you can have them shipped to you directly. However, it is not necessarily a good idea to mess around with them. Be aware when you look for your own stripped lower that you do not order an 80% one by mistake. I am not a lawyer, and I do not intend to give you a legal advice, so do your own research. However, what I understood so far is:

  •         You can build your own firearm for your personal use as long as you are legally allowed to own such a firearm. This applies only for your personal use. You are not allowed to sell them without a license for that.
  •         If you want to build an AR15 for yourself, it is only the stripped lower that have to be shipped through a dealer who holds a Federal Firearms License.
  •         Only the lower is serialized, and you can buy the rest online and have it shipped to your home without going through a licensed dealer.
  •         With a factory new stripped lower, you can build a rifle, pistol, or carbine of any caliber that you are legally allowed to own.
  •         If the lower was used anytime before as part of a rifle, you cannot use it for building your own pistol. What was a rifle, stays a rifle.
  •         For a new stripped receiver, caliber markings are not relevant. Usually, they are marked as “Multi-Cal”.
  •         If you want to build a pistol, contact the manufacturer and licensed dealer to be sure that the lower can be shipped and used for that purpose.
  •         AR15 with barrels shorter than 16 inches or an overall length below 26 inches are legally AR15 pistols.
  •         AR15 pistols cannot have a vertical foregrip attached to them, but you can attach an angled grip.
  •         AR15 pistols cannot have a stock attached to them. What you can attach is a brace.
  •         If you want to attach a stock or a vertical foregrip, you need to build an SBR, a short-barreled rifle. That is a rifle with a barrel length of less than 16 inches and an overall length of less than 26 inches. For this, you need an approval and tax stamp, and you need to pay 200 Dollar. Without this, you are not legally allowed to build a short-barreled rifle.
  •        If your AR15 has a barrel length of 16 inches or more and an overall length of more than 26 inches, it is a rifle, and you can attach a stock and vertical foregrip. You do not need any special paperwork or tax stamp for that.

When we start to look at AR15 lowers, you will find very fast that there is a wide range of prices. They can be as low as 50 Dollar or less or as high as 200 Dollar or more. How is this possible? More importantly, do you have to worry and which one is best for you?

You will also find out, that most of the lowers are made of aluminum. This makes them light, cheap, and strong. However, aluminum is not the same as aluminum. In lowers, there are two types used. You can have it in 60 61 dash T6 or 70 75 dash T6. What is the difference? The 60 61 is more resistant to corrosion while the 70 75 is almost twice as strong. It is also more expensive. In reality, the difference is of lesser importance. If you want peace of mind, go with 70 75. It takes more abuse. If you need to save money, go with the 60 61.

Next comes the process in which the aluminum becomes the lower. It can be cast, in which the molten aluminum is poured into a mold and extracted after it cooled down. Problem is that his will create a loose crystalline structure and a week lower.

As billet aluminum, you have one block from which the lower is milled. It`s a little bit like sculpting your weapons part from metal. The aluminum stays solid during the process so that you get a stronger lower.

The strongest lowers are from forged aluminum. There, the aluminum is hammered in what you get as a lower. This presses the block of metal in the chape that it must have. This compresses the material and increases its strength.

5. Palmetto State Armory

Our first candidate is from the Palmetto State Armory. There you find a range of complete lowers. You can build any type of AR15 with them. Besides the complete lowers, you can also find limited editions of stripped lowers. They are not necessarily cheap, but also not overly expensive.

4. Anderson Manufacturing

If you are on a tight budget, you can go with Anderson Manufacturing. There you can get stripped lowers for as little as 40 Dollar and complete ones for just 120 Dollar. And the good news is: They are forged and thereby really strong.

From my experience, they are very reliable. I can put in a nice trigger assembly and do not worry of my AR15 goes bang once I squeeze the trigger. The price is low, but that does not mean they are of low quality. For most hobby shooters and for most self defense uses, they are quite fine. There are only a few situations, like permanently shooting competitions, that warrant a higher priced model.

3. Aero Precision lower

If you are willing to pay more for a cool logo, you can have an Aero Precision lower. I have used one to build an AR15 pistol for my wife. The lower comes in at around 90 Dollar, is made of 70 75 dash T6 forged aluminum, and it is running fine. I added an upper with a 10.5 inches barrel, an angled foregrip, and a red dot and magnifier combo. With a nice brace, she going wild with it, and it is her absolute favorite.

2. Battle Arms Development Lightweight Lower

If you want to build your AR15 for competitions with a lot of running or as a survival rifle, you might want to save some weight. Here, every ounce counts. The Battle Arms Development Lightweight Lower might be a help if you are willing to invest some more money.

With a price tag of 269 Dollar, you get a lower that looks truly futuristic. The real advantage, however, is the weight. It comes only at 6.84 ounces. Compare that to a lower of Anderson with 10.88 ounces, and you know, why you put in this money.

1. F1 Firearms

A little less cost for a little bit more weight at 9.4 ounces is the F1 Firearms lower. You have to cash out only 230 Dollar, and you get a really cool look. The receiver is made of billet aluminum, so you get the most precision. This allows a smooth function and gives you the edge in any competition.

Summary

This is just a small selection of all lowers out there. You can find your own stripped lower, complete lower, or even try yourself on an 80% lower. In the end, it is what you want, that counts. You want a budget rifle or pistol? You want a firearm for precision shooting? You just enjoy plinking, or you are into serious self defense or even prepping and survival? All of these factors affect your choice.

When we consider the sheer range of lowers that is on the table, you can get what you want as a newbie as well as an expert. As a newbie, go for the easiest and maybe even cheapest solution for a complete lower. That way, you cannot be too wrong. Get a feel for what you really need and choose a better fitting lower with the experience you made.

If you are an expert, you know yourself what you are looking for. Compare prices, do not believe too much what you are told. Use common sense and come to your own conclusion. In the end, you will always have the option to buy another lower to complete your rifle if your last choice was not perfect.

With that being set, it is your time to start or continue the journey into AR15 builds to come to the rifle or pistol that suits you best.

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