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View Full Version : How hard is it to finish an 80% lower?


bluebird
05-02-2011, 3:31 PM
Hey guys,

So I figure I will start planning to get my first gun during the summer and I want to build an AR. Since I'm under 21 I figure I have to go to the 80% route.

The problem is I only have a Dremel and some basic tools. I don't have to finish it during the summer (it's gonna take quite a while since I am gonna have lots of school work anyway) but do you think it is possible for a college kid who is not very familiar with machinery to finish an AR lower? Any constructive opinion will be appreciated. Thanks!

(I might go for an AK build if it's 99% impossible, but I would love to look for alternatives)

1lowluv
05-02-2011, 4:13 PM
I imagine you could do it with a dremel, just take your time and use the right bits. It's gonna take a long time!

GSwain
05-02-2011, 4:36 PM
Hey guys,

So I figure I will start planning to get my first gun during the summer and I want to build an AR. Since I'm under 21 I figure I have to go to the 80% route.

The problem is I only have a Dremel and some basic tools. I don't have to finish it during the summer (it's gonna take quite a while since I am gonna have lots of school work anyway) but do you think it is possible for a college kid who is not very familiar with machinery to finish an AR lower? Any constructive opinion will be appreciated. Thanks!

(I might go for an AK build if it's 99% impossible, but I would love to look for alternatives)

considering they make milling jigs and things of that nature, i would strongly recommend not trying to use a dremel. It is supposed to be challenging with a jig and a drill press, i sure wouldnt try it with a dremel but thats just me.

Grumpyoldretiredcop
05-02-2011, 4:48 PM
Doing it with a jig and drill press is indeed hard enough. Did one, it didn't come out very pretty. I wouldn't dream of attempting armed only with a Dremel. Better to find someone who'll let you rent/give you mill time and stand over your shoulder to give good advice when needed.

Wnick308
05-02-2011, 6:18 PM
The drill press and jig was tuff for me but I can't imagine doing it with a Dremel. There is just too much material to remove with a small machine. Cutting it with a mill will only take a few hours from start to finish.

rimfire78
05-02-2011, 6:31 PM
You can use an electric toothbrush if you have enough patience.

rareair
05-02-2011, 6:43 PM
How many 80% lowers will you be investing in during your initial trial & error process with a Dremel?

dspracing
05-02-2011, 6:44 PM
location?

SPaikmos
05-02-2011, 7:22 PM
Dremel! haha....

No, I wouldn't attempt it. It's simply not worth your time. It would literally be akin to mowing your lawn with nail clippers. Save that stuff for fraternity initiation, not your whole summer!

Your best bet is to hook up with someone at a build party, or perhaps an individual that has access to a machine shop and jigs. Or, if you are adventurous enough, get a milling machine off of CL, as it's always nice to have one of those. Tooling to finish off the lower will be a few hundred to get the jigs, bits, etc.

The drill press is doable, but I wouldn't try it.

Surprisingly, I think an 80% is easier and requires less tooling than an AK build. But I haven't done one of those, so I wouldn't know for sure...

MrPlink
05-02-2011, 7:36 PM
It can be done, but as stated already, I hope you have A LOT of time on your hands.

Even with a drill press, it can take several several hours, trust me I found out the hard way. Me and 4 friends made a group project out of it. The drill press method was so tedious we said screw it and bought a combo mill.
Hell, give me enough time with a lathe or mill and I start to wish I had a CNC...

Anyways, I cant find the link, but somebody (not on Calguns) did finish one with JUST hand tools. IIRC he claimed well over 70hours labor into the project. Not worth it IMO, unless you are trying to prove that you can in fact do it.

P.S.

OP, where are you located?
The guy I bought my paperweight from does have a machine shop, and he used to rent it out for such projects. If you are in the Bay Area let me know.

bluebird
05-02-2011, 8:50 PM
I would like to thank everyone for the replies. I really appreciate it.

location?

It can be done, but as stated already, I hope you have A LOT of time on your hands.

Even with a drill press, it can take several several hours, trust me I found out the hard way. Me and 4 friends made a group project out of it. The drill press method was so tedious we said screw it and bought a combo mill.
Hell, give me enough time with a lathe or mill and I start to wish I had a CNC...

Anyways, I cant find the link, but somebody (not on Calguns) did finish one with JUST hand tools. IIRC he claimed well over 70hours labor into the project. Not worth it IMO, unless you are trying to prove that you can in fact do it.

P.S.

OP, where are you located?
The guy I bought my paperweight from does have a machine shop, and he used to rent it out for such projects. If you are in the Bay Area let me know.

I'm located at Davis, CA.

The problem is I move very often (just moving around town once a year, probably) so I can't buy too much stuff.

I can drive down to Bay Area if I can actually get it done (with supervision of course, otherwise I can't get it done LOL)

But if I have no choice and I can actually get it done by hand tools I wouldn't mind spending the time (maybe like an hour a day LOL)

I hope to do it next month when I leave the dorms (when I'm free).

Please give me all the info you have. Thanks again!

r6raff
05-02-2011, 9:05 PM
I would love to see someone who has done an 80% lower with a dremel. They would have to be one bad *** mofo with a ton of time on their hands. I wonder if anyone on CG has ever done that, I would love to hear how long it took and how many bits and lowers he went through until he received a finished product.

OP, There are guys here who would allow you to come to their shop with a CNC machine and use their pattern and push the button (Which by law you have to do yourself, can't have someone do it for you, but I could be wrong, just something I remembered hearing)... for a fee of course. I can't remember who I talked to about a year back but he told me like 100-150, I cant remember. I wanted to make some custom lowers for myself and my brother but never got around to it. Post in the gunsmithing or run a search, I bet you can find someone who can assist you

MrPlink
05-02-2011, 10:57 PM
Op,
contact calgunner "Woodey"
His shop is in Santa Rosa, so not too far from you.

supertrooper
05-03-2011, 3:01 AM
i cant see doing a 80% for a first gun being a good idea. unless you build alot of lowers dosent the cost of specialty tools outweight the cost savings? have you tryed asking your parents to buy a stripped lower and doing a interfamily transfer? my friend and his sister got there handguns that way when they were 18 or 19.

SPaikmos
05-03-2011, 8:10 AM
The guy that helped us out charged $100 for the first lower, then an hourly rate to use the shop. Very reasonable IMHO, as it's a win win for everyone involved. Yeah, it's $100, but doing it with a dremel will probably take tens of hours. I don't know what bit you were planning to use, but any of the grinding wheels will probably create a ton of sparks too. I can't imagine this would be fun at all.

If you have connections to UCDavis, I'm sure there's a machine shop you could access. Local high schools might have facilities as well. Just gotta dig around and search!

HK Dave
05-03-2011, 8:15 AM
I imagine you could do it with a dremel, just take your time and use the right bits. It's gonna take a long time!

ROFL.....

This is a BAD idea.

TiMe_1
05-03-2011, 10:24 AM
Can someone please explain to this AR noob what the purpose of an 80% lower is? I dont understand it LOL

bluebird
05-03-2011, 10:37 AM
The guy that helped us out charged $100 for the first lower, then an hourly rate to use the shop. Very reasonable IMHO, as it's a win win for everyone involved. Yeah, it's $100, but doing it with a dremel will probably take tens of hours. I don't know what bit you were planning to use, but any of the grinding wheels will probably create a ton of sparks too. I can't imagine this would be fun at all.

If you have connections to UCDavis, I'm sure there's a machine shop you could access. Local high schools might have facilities as well. Just gotta dig around and search!

I actually graduated high school in Davis but the shop teacher left so I don't know the new teacher...

I don't want to finish any lowers on school properties because a lower is considered as a firearm (I believe) and schools don't like firearms.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I guess I'll figure it out later since I have a midterm in 30 minutes =(

bluebird
05-03-2011, 10:38 AM
Can someone please explain to this AR noob what the purpose of an 80% lower is? I dont understand it LOL

80% lower is an incomplete lower that is not considered a firearm. You need to finish it yourself. No paperwork is needed.

bluebird
05-03-2011, 10:39 AM
i cant see doing a 80% for a first gun being a good idea. unless you build alot of lowers dosent the cost of specialty tools outweight the cost savings? have you tryed asking your parents to buy a stripped lower and doing a interfamily transfer? my friend and his sister got there handguns that way when they were 18 or 19.

Well...my parents currently live overseas (please don't ask me why)

TiMe_1
05-03-2011, 10:51 AM
80% lower is an incomplete lower that is not considered a firearm. You need to finish it yourself. No paperwork is needed.

OK, so no paperwork lets you do..? Have a rifle/pistol off the books?

Lc17smp
05-03-2011, 10:53 AM
I have been looking at buying this http://littlemachineshop.com/3900 for a few other projects I'm doing but am also interested in doing a 80% lower. Those who have done one is this a decent option? (Will be slow, I understand)

Paper Boy
05-03-2011, 12:36 PM
You could try asking around you would be supprised how many people might have a drill press or access to a mill. Or you can buy a cheap harbor freight drill press... I have yet to hear of anyone actually finishing one with a dremel.

http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=364513

rareair
05-03-2011, 12:42 PM
OK, so no paperwork lets you do..? Have a rifle/pistol off the books?

DOJ keeps records of ownership on pistols only. Ownership records of Long rifles aren't kept by the CADOJ or BATFE, unless of course they are registered as SBRs, AOWs etc....

r6raff
05-03-2011, 12:42 PM
OK, so no paperwork lets you do..? Have a rifle/pistol off the books?

Correct, as well as completely circumventing the 10day wait. You can buy the 80% lower today and walk out with it, get it completed and use it that same day (if you have access to cnc machine or whatever else.)

I think the biggest pro is the fact that you can personalize the lower as you like. You can make the selector positions say whatever you want, the rollmark, whatever. I haven't done one yet myself, but I plan on it as soon as I can. I have some cool ideas and designs for the roll mark and whatnot.

rareair
05-03-2011, 12:43 PM
....I don't know what bit you were planning to use, but any of the grinding wheels will probably create a ton of sparks too. I can't imagine this would be fun at all.

AR lowers are usually constructed of Aluminum, no sparks to worry about

Antisocial
05-03-2011, 12:57 PM
The legal age to own or purchase a rifle is 18. from what i have read, if your purchased a stripped lower, it is registered as a long gun (rifle) unless otherwise requested.
Assuming your 18, and are otherwise legal to own a gun, I would recommend saving yourself the hassle of an 80% lower and purchasing a stripped lower, and building your AR from that point.
In order to purchase a handgun, you must be 21.

JayBeeJay
05-03-2011, 12:57 PM
Finishing a 80% with just a dremel would be crazy lol.

r6raff
05-03-2011, 1:18 PM
The legal age to own or purchase a rifle is 18. from what i have read, if your purchased a stripped lower, it is registered as a long gun (rifle) unless otherwise requested.
Assuming your 18, and are otherwise legal to own a gun, I would recommend saving yourself the hassle of an 80% lower and purchasing a stripped lower, and building your AR from that point.
In order to purchase a handgun, you must be 21.

A stripped lower is actually classified as "Other/Receiver" and has a minimum age requirement of 21. I know it sounds crazy but thats the truth. The only way someone under the age of 21 can buy an AR pattern weapon is to buy it fully assembled. Even a completed lower with buttstock, fcg etc... is still not considered a rifle and requires a minimum age of 21.

TiMe_1
05-03-2011, 1:37 PM
DOJ keeps records of ownership on pistols only. Ownership records of Long rifles aren't kept by the CADOJ or BATFE, unless of course they are registered as SBRs, AOWs etc....

OK so what keeps someone from buying one of these 80% lowers and turning it into a pistol? Wouldnt that be illegal?

VaderSpade
05-03-2011, 2:01 PM
OK so what keeps someone from buying one of these 80% lowers and turning it into a pistol? Wouldnt that be illegal?

Nothing, it's legal as long as you build it as a single shot. You can convert it later.

r6raff
05-03-2011, 2:04 PM
Nothing, it's legal as long as you build it as a single shot. You can convert it later.

But do you have to voluntarily register it? I would think so, I have never looked into what is entailed with an 80% lower for an AR pistol.

I would think you would have to build it as a single shot, get it registered and then you are free to convert it to a mag semi. But I know nothing of this shade of 80% lowers, so please correct me if I am wrong

VaderSpade
05-03-2011, 2:27 PM
But do you have to voluntarily register it?
Nope

torquefliteterror
05-03-2011, 2:28 PM
http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=341581

here's a good recent thread on the topic.

1lowluv
05-03-2011, 3:18 PM
ROFL.....

This is a BAD idea.

Haha I never said it was a good idea, just said it could be done. You could chissel the whole thing out if you had the time and patience!

AR-15 Rep
05-03-2011, 3:45 PM
There have been more than one customer that has finished a 80% lower with a dremel. They used the jig set, vise, and another plate on top of the jig to keep it straight. They cut a hole in that extra plate for the dremel to ride on and adjusted depth by the insertion of the bit in the dremel and the plate on top. It took a while but they said it worked. There may be more that they did but a little common sense and it can be done with patience.

HK Dave
05-03-2011, 4:44 PM
Haha I never said it was a good idea, just said it could be done. You could chissel the whole thing out if you had the time and patience!

ROFL true. :P

rareair
05-03-2011, 5:08 PM
OK so what keeps someone from buying one of these 80% lowers and turning it into a pistol? Wouldnt that be illegal?

That is one of the primary uses of an 80% receiver. From all the 80% being sold, the percentage is high that the builder's intent is to build it into a pistol.

Why would a person buy an 80% receiver, go through the process of completing the build via end mill/drill press/Dremel only to build a rifle? It would just be cheaper to buy one of the countless receivers available for under $100

But to build an AR pistol is an entirely different thing. A civilian can not buy a stripped pistol receiver to build, ala an AR lower. That route is reserved only for FFL07 holders & Law Enforcment Officers. Why? I have no iea.

The 3rd option is to buy an already completed AR pistol.

email
05-03-2011, 5:32 PM
No paper trail....no serial number. That's why.

It just feels good to roll your own.

bluebird
05-03-2011, 6:27 PM
There have been more than one customer that has finished a 80% lower with a dremel. They used the jig set, vise, and another plate on top of the jig to keep it straight. They cut a hole in that extra plate for the dremel to ride on and adjusted depth by the insertion of the bit in the dremel and the plate on top. It took a while but they said it worked. There may be more that they did but a little common sense and it can be done with patience.

Hi AR-15 Rep,

Do you have any detailed instructions on this? If the tools aren't too expensive (exclude the jig) I might be interested in it.

Thanks!

Table Rock Arms
05-03-2011, 8:27 PM
I have been looking at buying this http://littlemachineshop.com/3900 for a few other projects I'm doing but am also interested in doing a 80% lower. Those who have done one is this a decent option? (Will be slow, I understand)

It would pretty easy to finish a lower with that machine. I would recommend doing some test projects first, but with a small amount of practice, it is pretty simple. One thing to consider is cost of tooling. You will be in it for more money than the cost of that machine if you actually plan to do any machining.

Ryan

bluebird
05-03-2011, 9:37 PM
It would pretty easy to finish a lower with that machine. I would recommend doing some test projects first, but with a small amount of practice, it is pretty simple. One thing to consider is cost of tooling. You will be in it for more money than the cost of that machine if you actually plan to do any machining.

Ryan

Hi Ryan,

Are you saying that the tools needed for finishing an 80% are more expensive than the machine itself? Thanks.

savs2k
05-03-2011, 9:48 PM
You guys now have my attention. Hey vader they say its a nono to use a dremel. Im actually thinking if I wanna do this just because i can. Using a dremel is a crappy idea but it's an idea none the less. It's more then possible but it's getting the holes straight that will be a bit hard to do without a press/mill. I would really suggest that you (bluebird) don't attempt it because it'll probaly turn out badly for you unless you have alot of 80%'s to waste.

You need to keep this in mind bluebird.. The 80% is $100. The jig is what 200 now a days? If you don't have a press I doubt you have a vice. Doing this with a demel you still need a drill press and GOOD condition drill bits. You will need a micrometer to measure your high low spots to check the tolerance since it'll be uneven as hell. The average person with a decent amount of tool knowledge on a drill press with the correct tools will take a few hours. Your way is 300+tools plus a few days and one cramp hand

bluebird
05-03-2011, 9:51 PM
You guys now have my attention. Hey vader they say its a nono to use a dremel. Im actually thinking if I wanna do this just because i can. Using a dremel is a crappy idea but it's an idea none the less. It's more then possible but it's getting the holes straight that will be a bit hard to do without a press/mill. I would really suggest that you (bluebird) don't attempt it because it'll probaly turn out badly for you unless you have alot of 80%'s to waste.

You need to keep this in mind bluebird.. The 80% is $100. The jig is what 200 now a days? If you don't have a press I doubt you have a vice. Doing this with a demel you still need a drill press and GOOD condition drill bits. You will need a micrometer to measure your high low spots to check the tolerance since it'll be uneven as hell. The average person with a decent amount of tool knowledge on a drill press with the correct tools will take a few hours. Your way is 300+tools plus a few days and one cramp hand

Savs2k,

Sounds like now I can either only get a complete rifle or a .22 or shotgun then:chris:

savs2k
05-03-2011, 10:15 PM
eh if you really need the help with tooling we all have the stuff here. You should ask for help using someones garage with tools rather then ask for help completing the job with a dremel. I have the tools but not the time right now sorry.

savs2k
05-03-2011, 10:16 PM
actually you should ask a mod to move this over to gunsmithing. It'll be more use to you there.

bluebird
05-03-2011, 10:43 PM
actually you should ask a mod to move this over to gunsmithing. It'll be more use to you there.

It's okay. I won't start this project until summer.

Norcal Industries
05-03-2011, 11:18 PM
contact seesm here on the board. hes up in auburn and helped me with my first 80% build. hes got a mill and tons of tools to do it right. still took me an hour and a half with the mill. i cant imagine how long it would take with a dremel.

r6raff
05-04-2011, 1:47 PM
contact seesm here on the board. hes up in auburn and helped me with my first 80% build. hes got a mill and tons of tools to do it right. still took me an hour and a half with the mill. i cant imagine how long it would take with a dremel.

Thats who I was talking with about doing my 80% lowers, he's an awesome guy.

Seesm
05-23-2011, 7:09 PM
Thanks for all the kind words... Let me know if I can help!!

a1fabweld
05-23-2011, 7:38 PM
I bought my 80%er 5 years ago and still haven't found the time to finish the damn thing. It's just to easy to buy one I guess. Maybe someday?

MrPlink
05-23-2011, 11:25 PM
I bought my 80%er 5 years ago and still haven't found the time to finish the damn thing. It's just to easy to buy one I guess. Maybe someday?

Dont, because then you will find thats its easy to just keep milling and milling, then you end up with a mountain of lowers, so you you end up with a mountain of uppers... You dont fully understand the "disease" until you actually get behind a machine that allows you to create the object of your obsession.

Give me your 80%, theres no hope for me, but you can still save yourself ;)

DannyInSoCal
06-02-2011, 6:27 PM
Anyone milling 80% lowers in SoCal...?

Please drop me a PM if you don't want to raise your hand here...