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Best AR-15 80% Lowers

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In times like these, you can never have too many lowers. Maybe you’re a big DIY-er, maybe you just like saving money, maybe you don’t want the government tracking you – an AR-15 80% lower might be the ticket!

This can be a complex and controversial topic with loads of misinformation out there, but we’ll get things cleared up.

From lowers to jigs to everything else, we’ll help you find the best 80% lower!

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What Exactly Are “AR-15 80% Lowers”?

“80% lower” simply refers to the part of a firearm that is legally considered the “firearm” by the ATF, but has not been machined to the point where the ATF deems it to be a “firearm”.

Clear as mud? Ya, I thought so.

The serialized part of a firearm is the only part that the ATF considers a “firearm”, for the AR-15 that is the lower receiver.

But before it can be legally recognized as a firearm, it needs to be completed. The line between “completed” and “not completed” is very fuzzy and is basically left to the ATF to decide. 

Milling out the trigger pocket, the trigger pinholes, and the safety shelf + safety hole will result in a functional lower.

But as long as it doesn’t cross that line, it isn’t a firearm. It’s a paperweight, scrap metal, a lump of aluminum or plastic, and nothing more.

As such, you don’t need an FFL to process it. An 80% lower can be sent directly to your home with no paperwork.

And as long as you can legally possess a firearm and complete the lower yourself for your own use, it’s totally legal to finish the machine work and build it out.

Doing that machine work is pretty easy, but is a bit more DIY than just assembling a rifle.

Yes. Mostly. For now.

For the vast majority of America, 80% firearms are totally legal. Some states have some really weird rules, California is the worst as far as I know, which makes it very hard to legally complete an AR-15 80% lower, but these are pretty rare cases.

Most state laws have no problem with these paperweights.

However, there is a big push from the current administration to crack down and “do something” about this nonexistent problem.

Some states, again looking at you California, are also passing laws or trying to pass laws about “precursor parts”. For now, those aren’t in effect and are in for a big legal battle when they come in 2023 – but it’s something to keep an eye on.

If you don’t want to deal with the possible headache, you might want to stick to normal lowers through an FFL.

But if you’re a free American and you won’t let the man tell you what to do with your own life, then a few dozen AR-15 80% lowers are a good place to start.

Polymer Vs. Metal AR-15 80% Lowers

Aluminum is the standard for AR-15 lowers. It’s lightweight, cannot rust, and strong. However, while it’s pretty easy to work with, for the home machinist – it isn’t as easy as polymer is.

Polymer is a controversial material for firearms… kind of. Funny enough, when it comes to Glocks, M&P pistols, FN pistols, CZ P10, Sig P320/P365/M17/M18, or any other of a dozen polymer-framed combat handguns, no one questions their usefulness. 

But put plastic in an AR lower and people lose their minds.

To be fair, that’s because historically polymer AR-15 lowers are complete crap. You simply cannot take a standard AR-15 lower design and just make it out of polymer instead. But that’s what most people do.

TNCO Polymer lower, I strongly do not recommend these…

Even the “best” poly AR-15 80% lower that I’ll recommend later isn’t nearly as strong as an aluminum lower.

But if the price is a huge factor or you want to be able to crank out as many as you can or you just want a fun range gun and not an SHTF combat rifle, then polymer is totally fine.

Raw, Cerakote, Anodized, And Spray Paint

Most 80% lowers come in a few flavors: raw, Cerakote, and anodized. Spray-paint is something that you add on your own.

Raw is what it sounds like, no coating. This is technically go to go as is because aluminum cannot rust like steel can. You’ll have one shiny gun, but it still works.

Cerakote is a hard enamel paint that gives outstanding protection and durability, comes in any color you want, and resists flaking or scratching.

Anodization is the standard that the vast majority of lowers have and is mil-spec. Normally done in black, but can be done in almost any color.

Raw Vs. anodized

The problem with these when it comes to an 80% lower is that none of them will truly be complete since you’re having to finish the machine work yourself. 

No matter what you pick, the inside will be in the raw since you just machined it out.

Spray-paint is one option, but not great. Due to the tackiness of spray paint, it can mess with triggers and such if used on the inside of a lower.

Cerakote is a great option and can be done at home, but is better if you let a pro do it.

I strongly do not recommend that you anodize at home. The process is very simple science but can be very dangerous if done wrong. 

Acid, electricity, and a dollar store plastic tub… what could possibly go wrong…

Personally, I get my 80% lowers either raw or anodized. If anodized, I just accept that the inside won’t be coated and I live with it.

Raw lowers I send out for Cerakoting after I finish them so that the color and finish will be even and nicely done.


Best AR-15 80% Lower Receivers

Anderson Manufacturing AR-15 80% Lower

Known for their super cheap complete AR-15 lowers, Anderson also makes an 80% version for a rock bottom price – but they only offer them in raw aluminum.

Since there really isn’t much difference in 80% lowers, getting the cheapest one you can get makes a lot of sense if you plan on coating it yourself or leaving it raw.

There is nothing fancy or special about Anderson lowers, in fact, they are commonly called “poverty ponies” due to their logo and their low price.

But hey, they work. You won’t get any cool-guy points at the range with Anderson, but you can feel good knowing you have more money in your pocket for ammo.


80% Arms

If you’re willing to spend a bit more, 80% Arms is flat-out the best. Not only do they have raw but they also have Cerakote and anodized lowers ready to ship.

Their jig is also the best on the market by far, but more on that later.

Oh, and they have AR-10s and AR-9s, but more on that later also.

Everything about 80% Arms shows they care about their product and never stop innovating, this results in the easiest to build and nicest finished product that you can do.

Plus, the price really isn’t that bad. 


Polymer80

I strongly recommend that you don’t go polymer for a rifle that you place your life on, but for range applications or just to have as many as you can have, polymer is pretty nice.

Polymer80 offers a huge line of plastic options from AR-15s to Glocks to Sig Sauer.

Their polymer blend is very strong and durable, but still super easy to machine at home.

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Best AR-10 and AR-9 80% Lower Receiver

80% Arms

You guessed it, 80% Arms has the best of both. That isn’t surprising since it’s not a big leap from a normal AR-15 lower to an AR-10 or AR-9.

Something that really sets their AR-9 apart though is that the ejector and magazine latch is pre-installed for you. 

Those are really the only annoying parts to do and since 80% Arms does them for you, it’s all downhill from there.

As long as you can build a normal AR-15 lower, you can do one of these.

Best AR-15 80% Lower Jigs

80% Arms Easy Jig 3

Hands-down the best is the Easy Jig 3.

Lots of innovation and design went into this and armed with a router, you can knockout well-made lowers with ease. 

It’s highly reusable so you can build and build and build.

80% Arms even offers options that come with a lower or five and a router as an all you need package!

The downside to the Easy Jig 3? Oh boy, it ain’t cheap.

If you’re just doing 1 lower and never again, this might not be worth it. But if you’re looking to build 3 or more, this makes life a lot easier.

Better yet, go in on it with a friend and save even more. Just remember, you have to do the machine work yourself for it to be legal.

But sharing tools among friends, that’s good to go.

Get with your friends and start your own 80% co-op!


80% Arms Easy Jig 2

Oddly, 80% Arms still makes the Easy Jig 2. It’s not as easy or as nice as the gen 3 version, but it is about $80 cheaper and still totally awesome. Even as the gen 2, it’s the second-best jig on the market.

If you’re only doing one lower, this might be the best bang for your buck.


Anderson Manufacturing 80% Jig

It wouldn’t be Anderson if it wasn’t the cheapest option on the market! Almost half the price of the Easy Jig 2, Anderson’s jig… works.

Not the easiest or the nicest to work with and definitely takes a little more brainpower to use, Anderson’s jig still works.

I found it to be very frustrating after having used an Easy Jig, but I still had a working lower at the end.

If you’re watching your pennies, this is the lowest cost of entry. 


Wrapping Up

Without a doubt, the easiest way of getting an AR-15 80% lower finished is to get an 80% Arms All-In-One kit that comes with an Easy Jig 3, 80% lower, and router.

But if you want to get it done cheap, Anderson has you covered.

Building your own 80% can be a ton of fun and give you a real close connection to your firearm.

Just make sure to take a look at your local laws to avoid anything trouble-making.

Need an upper? Take a look at the Best 6.5 Grendel Uppers, or 7.62×39 Soviet Uppers, and if you’re feeling fancy – the Best Side Charging Uppers!

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