Rock River Arms LAR-15 safety

Best AR-15 Pistol Lowers

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The lower receiver is the essential piece of the semi-automatic rifle. Regardless of whether you’re building a new AR-15 pistol from the ground up or otherwise seeking to upgrade your existing one. Having a good quality AR-15 pistol lower ensures you get full enjoyment out of your AR pistol. Unfortunately, not all lowers are as good as the sales page claims they are.

For those new to firearms, the lower receiver sits above the pistol grip, holds the trigger and hammer, and has a slot for the magazine. The AR-15’s modular design allows you to upgrade various components to achieve different configurations for different purposes.

In this article, we’ll cover the reasons to go with an AR-15 pistol over an AR carbine or rifle. The differences between an AR rifle lower and pistol lower, and our choices for the top four best AR-15 pistol lowers on the market today.

Top PIck
PSA AR-15 Complete MOE Shockwave EPT
  • Comes with a pistol brace to help stabilize your control over your AR-15 pistol.
  • Forged 7075 T6 aluminum
  • Hardcoat anodized
  • Single-stage, enhanced polished trigger (EPT)
  • Marked “MULTI” for caliber
$210 Shop NowClick to read my review
Best Budget Buy
Polymer 80 AR-15 80% Polymer
  • Built out of polymer, making it incredibly lightweight and also very affordable
  • Unique reinforced polymer design with solid core design
  • Beefed up buffer tube ring and ribbing across the entire upper surface area
  • No-thread design on pistol grip area
  • Stiffened magwell, ultra-light design
$69 Shop NowClick to read my review
PSA AR-15 Complete Classic
  • A good choice if you’re looking for a complete lower receiver ready to install out of the box.
  • Machined from aluminum forgings 7075-T6
  • Hardcoat anodizing MIL-A-8625F, Type III, Class 2
  • 7075 receiver extension, PSA grip in black and standard carbine buffer
  • Un-notched hammer compatible with 9mm use
$160 Shop NowClick to read my review
PSA Stealth Stripped Lower
  • Rugged and quality made by a mil-spec contractor using 7075-T6 aluminum and marked as “MULTI” to accommodate most builds.
  • Forged 7075 aluminum
  • Black hardcoat anodized
  • Multi-caliber
  • Safe/Fire safety markings
$70 Shop NowClick to read my review
ar-15 pistol lowers
Photo source: Attackcopter.com

If you’re currently looking for the best lower receiver for your AR-15 then you’ve come to the right place.

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What Are The Best Materials For An AR-15 Pistol Lower Receiver?

When looking for a new lower receiver for your AR-15 pistol, perhaps the most important factor to consider of all is the materials that it is made out of.

7075-T6 Aluminum

Aircraft-grade 7075-T6 aluminum is arguably the very best material that you can go with for a lower receiver. This is because 7075 aluminum is lightweight while also being incredibly durable. It is very corrosion and rust-resistant and becomes even more so when an additional corrosion-resistant finish is applied to the outside, such as nitride or anodizing.

It’s for this reason that military M4 carbines are built out of 7075-T6 aluminum, which has a tensile strength of 83,000 PSI. Numerous metal-framed handguns are built out of 7075 aluminum as well, including the Beretta 92FS and SIG Sauer P226 pistols.

6061-T6 Aluminum

It may not be as durable as 7075 aluminum, but it’s still an option: 6061-T6 aluminum. Whereas 7075 is generally reserved for higher-end products, 6061 is a more general-purpose aluminum. For reference, it’s commonly used in vehicles and fishing rods and has a tensile strength of 45,000 PSI.

In other words, it may not be as durable as 7075-T6 aluminum, but it’s still respectable. The main reason to go with 6061 aluminum is if you’re on a budget and don’t want to spend the money on a lower receiver that comes with 7075 aluminum.

Polymer

Last but not least, polymers are also an option for a lower receiver as well. Most polymers are lightweight, and they’re also naturally rust and corrosion-resistant. However, they are usually not as strong as 7075 aluminum is. Yes, they can be tough in their own right, and there’s a reason why the frames of most modern service pistols like the Glock or Smith & Wesson M&P or Heckler & Koch USP are made with a polymer material.

But, the big reason to go with polymer over aluminum or your AR-15 pistol lower is if you’re on a budget (polymer is much cheaper than either 7075 or 6061 aluminum). Or if you really want your AR-15 pistol to be as lightweight as it can possibly be.

What to consider when looking for a new lower receiver for your AR-15 pistol

Build Quality 

First, you need to make sure that your AR-15 pistol is built out of high-quality materials to ensure that it will last longer and hold up well. As we’ve discussed already, the three very best materials that you can go with are durable polymer, 6061-T6 aluminum, or 7075-T6 aluminum. Any one of these can hold up well against repeat firing, abuse in inclement weather, or falling against hard surfaces.

Stripped vs. Assembled

When choosing a lower receiver, you will always need to choose between going with a lower receiver that is stripped or assembled. As discussed previously, complete lower receivers come ready to go out of the box. While stripped lowers will require you to buy and install additional components yourself.

The best advice to follow here is to think about whether you would rather customize your AR-15 pistol to your specifications. Or if you would rather keep things more simple by installing your lower as soon as you get it in the box. It shouldn’t be difficult to choose between a stripped or complete lower then.

Cost

Last but not least, the cost of your lower receiver matters as well, especially if you are on a budget. The cost of a lower receiver can vary widely. Some complete lower receivers will be relatively inexpensive and only cost a couple of hundred dollars, but the higher-end models can sometimes be just as expensive as a complete AR-15 pistol itself.

The best advice to follow here is to buy the very best lower receiver that you can afford. The more expensive lower receivers are, well, more expensive for a reason, and will either come with features or a level of quality beyond that of the more inexpensive models.

AR-15 Pistol Lowers vs. Rifle Lowers

Physically, an AR-15 pistol and rifle are the same, and depending on the model they should be able to interchange most assembly parts. The functionality between an AR-15 pistol lower and rifle lower is exactly the same as well. 

The one critical difference between a pistol lower and a rifle lower is that the pistol lower is a little bit shorter. And while you can convert your pistol lower into a rifle lower, after you have completed the conversion process you can never reverse it.

Pay very close attention to the description of your pistol lower. If it is saying “pistol only” it means that it cannot be converted into a rifle lower and can only be used as an AR-15 pistol. You’ll need to get an AR-15 pistol parts kit and build it up from there.

The components that you will need to buy for your pistol lower should remain the same between a pistol lower and a rifle lower. First, you’ll need the AR-15 trigger assembly, which includes the trigger itself, the housing, and the springs, and the pins that hold everything in place.

You’ll also need to get a magazine catch assembly, which is where you insert and remove your AR-15 magazines. The magazine catch assembly includes the magazine catch, magazine release button, and the springs and pins that hold everything in place.

Finally, you will also need to get the bolt catch assembly, which is needed to stop the bolt’s travel. The follower of your inserted magazine will push the bolt all the way up.

Top Kinds of AR-15 Pistol Lowers

There are three basic kinds of lower receivers available for an AR-15 pistol. The first is a complete lower receiver, also known as an assembled lower. This means that all of the parts are assembled into the lower receiver out of the box, and the lower is now ready to combine with an upper receiver in order to create a complete AR-15 pistol. In addition, a complete or assembled upper receiver means that you will not need to make any permanent alterations to the weapon itself.

Complete lower receivers

These have all the necessary parts to fire it out of the box. They are considered firearms and will therefore need to be shipped to an FFL dealer.

A stripped lower receiver

This is a receiver where the parts are not assembled into the receiver. The receiver may ship with a parts kit for you to install the parts yourself, or it may not, in which case you will need to purchase each part you need individually. You’ll then either need to install the parts on your own or have a gunsmith do it.

While stripped lower receivers are more of a hassle to put together. They also enable you to create a fully customized AR-15 pistol built exactly to your specifications.

Stripped lower receivers are not considered firearms and can be shipped to your home.

80% lower receiver

The third and final option is 80% lower. An 80% lower is not considered to be a firearm under US federal law and can be shipped directly to your home. You’ll need to invest in a lower parts kit to complete the assembly and build a complete lower to install with an upper.

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Our Top 4 AR-15 Pistol Lowers Picks 

Here’s a detailed look at our top picks for the best AR-15 Pistol Lowers

PSA AR-15 Complete MOE Shockwave EPT Pistol Lower

The PSA AR-15 Complete MOE Shockwave EPT Pistol Lower is a complete lower receiver that comes with everything you need so it’s ready to install right out of the box. It comes installed with a pistol brace to help stabilize your control over your AR-15 pistol. It also comes with a complete trigger assembly, including a trigger that is very crisp and clean to pull.

This lower is built out of high-grade aluminum with a blackened hard coat anodized finish for excellent rust and corrosion resistance that will hold up well over the years. The brace itself is very easy to adjust, and the lower as a whole is compatible with most AR-15 calibers. If you are considering a small caliber, there are AR-22 conversion kits available.

Overall

The PSA MOE Shockwave is a solid choice for a complete AR-15 lower and delivers a lot of value for the money. It’s durable, built to mil-spec standards, nicely finished, and comes with a nice and crisp trigger and adjustable brace.

Pros
  • Has a smooth mil-spec grade trigger
  • Brace is very easy to adjust
  • Durable
  • Compatible with several different calibers
Cons
  • Expensive

Polymer 80 AR-15 80% Polymer Lower Receiver 

The first lower receiver that we will take a look at is the Polymer 80 AR-15 80% Polymer Lower Receiver. As the name clearly suggests, this lower receiver is built out of polymer, which is lightweight and also very affordable in contrast to aluminum. Polymer is also durable, but aluminum is also undoubtedly more so.

This is also an 80% stripped lower receiver, so you will need to purchase and install any other components yourself in order to transform it into a complete upper (for example, you’ll need to add a trigger of your choosing). The good news is that this lower is compatible with most mil-spec AR-15 parts kits and is easily customizable.  

Overall

All in all, the Polymer 80 is one of the best choices for a polymer lower receiver for your AR-15 pistol. It’s durable, lightweight, easily customizable, and fully compatible with numerous different AR-15 parts kits. On the other hand, it’s not quite as durable as a lower made out of aluminum, and as a stripped lower you’ll need to purchase and install additional components yourself, which will add more cost.

Pros
  • Compatible with several different AR-15 parts kits
  • Very lightweight
  • Durable polymer construction
  • Easily customizable
Cons
  • Not made out of metal, so not as durable as aluminum
  • As a stripped lower receiver, you will need to purchase and install the additional components yourself

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PSA AR-15 Complete Classic Pistol Lower

The PSA AR-15 Complete Classic Pistol Lower is a good choice if you’re looking for a complete lower receiver ready to install out of the box that is also an excellent value. The fact that this lower comes with a classic mil-spec look like what the military uses for their M4s may also be appealing to you.

This lower includes a trigger assembly with an incredibly clean and crisp trigger pull and a buffer tube that is compatible with most AR-15 pistol braces. This is because the buffer tube itself is just a standard carbine buffer, which means that it will work with most mil-spec AR-15 braces as well.

Overall

The high-quality aluminum build combined with the hard coat anodized finish also ensures that this lower can withstand abuse in inclement environments and deliver years of dependable use. However, it’s worth noting that this lower receiver is also not compatible in the state of California, so that could be an issue depending on where you live.

Pros
  • Compatible with most AR-15 pistol braces
  • Very durable and solidly built
  • Trigger is very crisp and clean to poll
  • Durable aluminum build
Cons
  • Not compliant with the laws of California

PSA “Stealth” Stripped Lower

The PSA Stripped Lower is manufactured to mil-spec standards by a mil-spec contractor using 7075-T6 aluminum and is labeled “MULTI” to accommodate most builds. It has a black hard-coat anodized finish per MIL-8625 Type 3 class 2 and is proven to be durable and long-lasting. So, if you want an AR-15 lower with unrivaled quality and value, this lower is for you. The fire selector is marked “Safe” and “Fire”. This is a “high shelf” lower so it is very nice to use.

This lower is simple to use and install. So it is beneficial to use to upgrade your AR-15, and it is very nice to have. PSA lowers are suitable for all builds and will not cause any problems. It has been tested, and it has passed standard testing. Everything is made in the United States by PSA. It has a proven track record of longevity and durability. In terms of both value and quality.

Overall

The PSA Stripped Lower is well known for its value, toughness, and dependability. This item is inexpensive when compared to other lowers on the market today. With the advantages that this lower has, it is unquestionably worth a try.

Pros
  • With safe/fire safety markings
  • The value and construction are excellent for the price
  • Durable
  • Made in the U.S.
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Cosmetic flaws/ blemishes

Final Thoughts

And that concludes our list of the top four best lower receivers for an AR-15 pistol for 2021. The lower receiver is the part of the AR that enables it to function as a gun in the first place. So if you want to upgrade your existing AR-15 pistol or build a new one from the ground up it will be of the utmost importance to ensure that you go with the very best lower that you can.

Now, if you’re wondering what would be my top pick? If you got the cash then buy the PSA AR-15 Complete MOE Shockwave EPT Pistol Lower. It has a smooth mil-spec grade trigger and is Marked “MULTI” for caliber. And for the best budget buy, go with Polymer 80 AR-15 80% Polymer Lower Receiver, which is only $68.99. We hope this article has helped you to make the right decision. Enjoy and keep yourself safe out there! 

Which one is your favorite AR-15 Pistol Lowers? Make sure to share your experience with us in the comment section

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