The most appealing feature of the AR platform is its versatility, which enables users to configure a gun for a particular purpose. Thus, if you want your AR-15 to look classy, investing in a lower receiver is worthwhile.
The lower receiver is the foundation of any AR-15. These seemingly insignificant pieces of aluminum make it possible for an AR-15 to perform to its full potential.
Here’s the list of the best-AR-15 lower receiver on the market:
- Palmetto State Armory (PSA) AR-15 Freedom Classic Lower: Best quality AR-15 lower receiver
- Anderson Manufacturing AR-15 Stripped Lower Receiver: Best budget-friendly lower receiver
- Aero Precision AR15 Stripped Lower Receiver: Best innovative premium lower receiver
- Spikes Tactical AR-15 Stripped Lower Receiver: Best themed lower receiver
- Battle Arms Development Lower Receiver: Best billet lightweight lower receiver
- James Madison Tactical Tactical 80% Polymer Lower Receiver: Best 80% lower receiver
In this guide, we’ll go over why you should get a lower receiver and the various types available. Also, you’ll learn about the construction and the manufacturing process. If you’re an expert though, you may skip this section and go straight to the reviews.
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Why Would You Want to Buy a Lower Receiver Separately?
Purchasing individual parts is the most cost-effective way to assemble a rifle. Many value the ability to select each component based on their preferences. Getting a separate lower allows you to improve the quality of the one that comes with the rifle. Each part has its own unique qualities, contributing to the AR’s performance.
If you don’t like the regular components, selecting the lowers is a good option. You can change the individual parts, often consisting of non-durable materials.
Because of the customizable nature of AR-15, you might look to replace many of its parts. Buying an 80% receiver lets you start a custom build from the ground up and you can save money by shopping online. Plus, you get your own roll mark to show off your new build as your own.
When building with an 80% lower, you avoid additional costs. These are fees that come with branding and distribution channels. Most firearms dealers and Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) charge a 10% -35% markup on retail AR-15s and other firearms. That means you’re paying more than you should. Moreover, you don’t need a background check to get a lower receiver. Not having to file paperwork with the ATF or local FFL will save you time. It’s so simple to get all the other components you need to complete your project.
Other potential savings come from service charges, taxes, and extra costs. You can cut down on these additional costs. Many states impose levies on gun sales of up to 10% or more. Gun purchases in several states are subject to upfront fees, some costing more than $200. This is on top of the costs you’ll have to pay regardless of where you buy the firearm.
Note: Some states have different laws. Before assembling a firearm, check with your local and state regulations often.
What Do You Look for in a Good AR Lower?
There are things you should consider when choosing a good AR lower
- Build: The lower receiver’s structure is quite important. You don’t want to waste money on ineffective lowers that won’t last. We don’t recommend cast because it is weak. You can choose between either billet or forged lowers, which are durable. A polymer is also an option. It is corrosion-resistant and lightweight. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a good mix of both design and practicality.
- Brand: There are many brands that produce high-quality receivers at various prices. Make sure that everything works. Choose a manufacturer that prioritizes quality. That way, the product is more effective and reliable.
- Aesthetics: The appearance of your AR-15 can impact how much you enjoy it. Choose one lower receiver that appeals to you and complements your visual style.
- Durability: Your chief concern should be durability. For instance, pick lowers with high-quality materials. Because you want to ensure that your rifle can withstand the harm that occurs as a result of regular use. Thus, you demand a finish that is free of flaws and discoloration. It should not only look good but should prevent chemical corrosion due to environmental exposure.
The lower receiver houses the fire control group, which is the trigger, sear, hammer, and safety. It also includes a magazine well, which is where the magazine is inserted. The lower is the firearm’s body, and it’s the only part that needs to be registered.
Meanwhile, the revolving bolt and firing pin mechanism are in the upper receiver. The gun barrel and stock are screwed into the front and back of the upper receiver, respectively. You can also mount bipods and other accessories to the upper receiver. Furthermore, without having to complete any legal paperwork, you can have as many uppers as you like.
Two pins go through the holes on the side of the two receiver halves. The front and back connectors are what hold the two parts together.
There are two types of aluminum alloy used in the construction of the lower receiver, which are 6061-T6 and 7075-T6. These two differ when it comes to strength and corrosion resistance. Here’s a look at the specs:
|Tensile Strength||45,000 pounds per square in (psi)||83,000 psi |
|Yield Strength||73,000 psi||73,000 psi |
|Shear Strength||73,000 psi||73,000 psi |
|Elongation||73,000 psi||73,000 psi |
|Brinell Hardness||73,000 psi||73,000 psi |
Should You Get 6061-T6 or 7075-T6 Lowers?
By comparing their numerical designations, the difference between 6061-T6 and 7075-T6 is obvious. When it comes to yield and tensile strength, the 7075-T6 outperforms the 6061-T6. But the 6061-T6 receivers are more corrosion-resistant than 7075-T6 receivers.
Furthermore, 7075-T6 lower receivers are of exceptional quality. These can be found in the aerospace sector, maritime craft, and road construction. As a result, it is proven to be both lightweight and long-lasting. Yet, it is also costly.
When it comes to constructing the two aluminum alloys, 6061-T6 is almost always preferable than 7075-T6. This is due to the reduced tensile strength and hardness of 6061-T6. It’s less difficult to shape and produce. As a result, it’s a low-cost option for the majority of AR-15 lower receivers.
If you were to ask me to choose between the two, I’d go with 6061-T6, which is excellent. What is the reason for this? To begin with, lowers built of 6061-T6 are resistant to corrosion. Second, when exposed to a specific environment, it has a high level of resistance. Finally, it is within many people’s budgetary constraints.
Aluminum Manufacturing Methods
Aluminum is lightweight, sturdy, and affordable. Because of its lower density, it is lighter, stronger, and easier to form than most other common metals. Thus, it’s an excellent material for AR lowers.
There are three primary ways to make AR lowers:
- Cast: In this method, molten aluminum is poured into a mold. Then, the craftsperson waits for it to cool completely before it sets. The casting method is the least desirable. This is because the mold and melt temperatures determine the thickness of the skin. As a result, it is the most vulnerable method of producing aluminum products.
- Billet: To begin, you’ll need solid aluminum blocks that are ready to carve. This is where customization comes in. In comparison to casting, this method of molding AR lowers is more durable.
- Forged: In this process, you use compressive forces to shape the aluminum to the desired form. Compression increases the strength of aluminum. As a result, the AR lowers built with the forged aluminum process are the strongest.
Since the early 20th century, synthetic materials became an option for manufacturing firearms. Colt experimented with polymer designs in the late 1960s. But it never progressed beyond the testing stages.
However, polymer lowers have grown in popularity. One of the firms that makes polymer lowers is New Frontier Armory.
Let’s determine if polymer lowers could be an option for you.
- High corrosion resistance
- Low cost
- Lightweight/high density
- Cannot withstand extremely high temperatures
- The machining process could take quite some time
- There is very little structural rigidity
Polymer pieces could never withstand the same abuse as aluminum frames can. But they are a good alternative. Nowadays, AR-15 owners are looking for ways to reduce the weight of their rifles. A polymer receiver weighs about 1.5 pounds less than an aluminum receiver. That’s a lot of weight to shed just by changing your receivers.
Furthermore, one significant advantage of a polymer over metal is corrosion resistance. Polymer receivers are also much easier to make. This means it’s less expensive.
I’ve seen many reviews that state using a polymer lower receiver isn’t a good idea. They are thin and prone to breakage. So, I’m not going to argue too much with that. Yet, often, the use of polymer appears to be a viable option.
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Types of Lower Receiver
- Stripped lowers: This piece of metal is a firearm, according to the FFL. As a result, it is necessary to register it. Stripped lowers are a component to which all other lower receiver parts can be attached. Furthermore, the main advantage of purchasing a stripped lower is the increased versatility.
- Complete lowers: You can also get a full lower receiver for quick assembly. It comes with the lower sections fully attached. This is ideal if you’re short on time or a novice AR builder.
- 80% lowers: Unfinished lower receivers are not yet considered firearms. They lack the holes drilled for a trigger as well as a safety selector. However, if you have the time and money to construct your own AR, an 80% lower is a fantastic choice. Additionally, it’s both worthwhile and satisfying. You can buy one online and have it delivered to your door.
6 Best AR-15 Lower Receivers
PSA AR-15 Freedom Classic Lower
Palmetto State Armory is my pick for best quality AR Lower. It’s known for its high-quality AR-15 components and firearms. This company manufactures complete rifles as well as upper and lower receivers.
PSA reduces the cost of construction by utilizing more advanced aerospace manufacturing technology. Its goal is to provide the best forged MIL-SPEC lowers available. These forged lowers are made of 7075-T6 aluminum, which is a high-quality material. The finish is black hard coat, and the fire selector has a label of “safe” and “fire.”
You can use PSA lowers for any builds and experience no issues at all. It usually sells lowers made of aluminum forged 7075-T6. So, the lowers are strong and long-lasting. But, don’t panic if you see some cosmetic blemishes. There may be forging marks and slight color variations in the paint coat. Yet, this will have no effect on its functionality.
It also has a fantastic customer service team. Shipping may take up to 10 to 15 days to arrive at your door these days. Some claim to have received their order after a week, so fingers crossed.
PSA produces everything in the United States. It has a good track record for durability and longevity. The company delivers an unrivaled product in terms of value and quality.
- Forged 7075-T6 aluminum
- With safe/fire safety markings
- The value and construction are excellent for the price
- Made in the U.S.
- Excellent customer service
- Slow shipping
- Cosmetic flaws/blemishes
Anderson Manufacturing AR-15 Stripped Lower Receiver
My top choice for the best low-cost AR lower receiver is from Anderson Manufacturing. This brand produces the best budget AR lowers you can get. Its stripped lowers cost around $49 and the complete lowers cost up to $120. In other words, Anderson is as low as you can go while still being confident that the rifle will function effectively.
Anderson AR-15 lowers are built of high-strength 7075-T6 aluminum to Mil-Spec. As a result, it has remarkable longevity and improved range performance. These lowers are entirely made in the U.S. Moreover, Anderson lower receivers are machined carefully, resulting in a rock-solid component. Such lowers are great as a starting point for any build.
The Anderson lowers have a fairly standard appearance. My only criticism is their huge roll mark. Others say it is ugly, and I won’t disagree, but given the low price of these lowers, it shouldn’t be a big deal.
For the value, these lowers are strong and dependable. They are very inexpensive when compared to lowers of comparable quality. They aren’t susceptible to being scratched or dented over time. Although it’s cheap, its lowers are definitely not junk.
- Forged 7075-T6 aluminum
- Hard-coat anodized finish
- Very affordable
- Huge roll mark
Aero Precision AR15 Stripped Lower Receiver
For innovative premium lowers, the Aero Precision is my brand of choice. This manufacturer has a well-deserved reputation for making high-quality AR-15 components and rifles. Aero lowers are one of my favorites because they have a nice design. They’re made of forged aluminum 7075-T6.
These lowers start at roughly $90 and increase up from there for a reason. When it comes to improving its lowers, the company is very creative. The Gen 2 improvements include an upper tension screw and a wider magazine well flare. That upper adjustable tension screw helps ensure a tight fit to any AR-15 upper receiver. The flared magazine well allows for easy magazine insertion. The finish is black anodized with “Cal Multi” marks. As a result, these characteristics create a more streamlined appearance.
From a variety of builds, I’ve seen very few manufacturing faults in the aero. Everything is in fantastic shape and of the utmost quality. These lowers are a touch pricey, but they are a slightly elevated option.
Based on my research, there have been issues with anodizing. The texture isn’t always consistent. It’s tough to maintain the same anodizing standard throughout time for most manufacturers. If I had to choose, however, I’d choose the smoother texture every time.
- Machined from 7075-T6 forged aluminum
- Works well with standard AR15 build
- Increased magazine well flare
- Upper adjustable tension screw for a tighter fit
- Anodizing not perfect
- Bit pricey
Spikes Tactical AR-15 Stripped Lower Receiver
Spikes Tactical is my best pick for themed lowers! Its aim is to encourage people to create the AR of their dreams. It features a big range of themed lowers if you’re searching for something different. You can get a spider-themed lower, spartan-inspired lower, or a lower with no logo at all. The colors and designs are truly one of a kind. Whatever you choose will surely be a good match for your AR-15 build.
Furthermore, this company specializes in high-quality forged 7075 MIL-SPEC receivers. They also sell fully assembled rifles. Meanwhile, accessories and additional AR components are its best sellers.
At the time of writing, Spikes Tactical has 10 complete lowers available. Each with a variety of configurations ranging from $270 to $735. It is depending on whether you will go with the enhanced or standard lower parts kit. There are also 20 stripped lowers of different styles and configurations.
Lower spikes have a Type III anodized finish. The term “Type III” simply refers to a hard coat. Hard coat finishes are extremely tough and long-lasting. Also, they can withstand corrosion and discoloration. These lowers have increased wear resistance. You can also repair worn aluminum and do your own anodizing if something damages the surface.
Although a little bit pricey, Spike’s products are well made and of decent value. Above all, it delivers on its promises, so its lowers are worth considering.
- 7075-T6 forged receiver
- Variety of themed lowers
- Hard coat anodized finish
Battle Arms Development Lower Receiver
Battle Arms Development (B.A.D.) is my choice for the best billet lower receiver. This company has a solid reputation for producing high-quality products. It is well-known for its high-quality computer numerical control (CNC)-machined 7075-T6 billet aluminum lower receivers. Billet lowers aren’t as strong as forged lowers. But they’re durable enough to work with almost any AR platform. If you’re thinking about trying billet lowers, B.A.D. is the best billet lower manufacturer on the market.
Moreover, B.A.D. lowers designs and logos are laser-engraved. These lowers have pictograph safety markings and multi-caliber marking for build versatility. When it comes to other features, a flared magazine well for faster reloads is also included. Additionally, pins and set screws are included for simple assembly.
If you’re looking for a lightweight lower receiver for your build, they’ll have what you’re looking for as well. The B.A.D. lower receivers, such as the BAD556-LW Lightweight Billet Lower Receiver, weigh 6.84 ounces. Compare it to Aero Precision’s 8.61-ounce , and Anderson’s 10.88-ounce lowers. Imagine, a lot of weight loss just by switching lowers!
Even if you get these lowers for around $269, including the pin and set screw. it’s still a lot of money to spend on a lower. However, if you’re interested in lightweight design and developing a lightweight weapon, this is a great lower receiver for you.
- Durable anodized finish
- Easy to install bolt catch pin set
- Lightweight design
- Laser engraved logo and design
- Not as durable as forged aluminum
James Madison Tactical 80% Polymer Lower Receiver
James Madison Tactical (JMT) is a top-notch company that sells 80% lower receivers. It set the standard for the best AR 15 80% lowers, and it ensures the reliability of its products. The company’s 80% lowers are made to MIL-SPEC and made of fiber polymer materials. They are durable and corrosion-resistant.
JMT has made some big advancements with its lowers. The strengthened housing is one. Additionally, buffer system threads, front pivot pin holes, and a bolt release chamber have all been pre-machined to accommodate common AR parts. It also includes webbed magazine wells developed specifically for Magpul mags.
Moreover, as mentioned previously, 80% lower receivers do not need to go through the background check process. Note, however, that if this lower has been altered in any way, it cannot be returned. Even slight changes to the product will be rejected by the manufacturer.
If you’re building your AR project from scratch, JMT 80% lowers are a good place to start. It has step-by-step instructions for you to follow, and its product is ready for final machining into a complete lower receiver.
- Enhanced features
- Doesn’t require a background check
- Strengthened housing
- Need a little machining work
The Final Word
If you want a more stable lower receiver, we recommend the Aero Precision AR15 Stripped Lower Receiver. If you’re working on a project involving many AR-15s, the Anderson Manufacturing AR-15 Stripped Lower Receiver is the way to go.
Remember, your AR-15 lower receiver should be tough, long-lasting, and of high quality. Always consider the materials, manufacturing process, and brand’s reputation, when selecting the best lower receiver.
For more lower content read our guides to: