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View Full Version : Newbie 80% AR15 lower selection, is there a difference?


LTC-J
10-15-2012, 7:20 PM
Pardon the newbish questions here. Search phrases such as "best 80%" didn't net much:o

Short version, what should I look for when looking at 80% AR15 lowers? Or is there any "real" difference between various shops?

Longer detailed questions:

Is there noticeable difference between materials? Any ones I should avoid?
Should I get one that is anodized? Is there anything during the machining process that would destroy the anodizing?
Very rarely did I see any of the lowers advertized by caliber. Is it assumed that an unlabeled lower will be 5.54/.223? Is a 7.62x39 a custom problem(debating this to "match" the SKS)?


I've noticed the prices vary all over the place and nothing jumped out at me on why some were up to $50 more than others:confused:

SocomM4
10-15-2012, 7:26 PM
I think there is a group buy going on for billet 80s . 105 bucks with ano. They work with any caliber a 100% will work with, and differences being mainly cosmetic. The same member hosts the machine party too.

Only thing I really look for is style and that the reciever extension hole is pre threaded.

killathrilla
10-15-2012, 7:26 PM
...

Akers
10-15-2012, 7:38 PM
Look at the forging markings.

That being said, good luck with Tactical Machining, and Nathan is a great guy and has good customer service. I also like Colfax tactical (under a new name since their move out of CA).

LTC-J
10-15-2012, 8:33 PM
I think there is a group buy going on for billet 80s . 105 bucks with ano. They work with any caliber a 100% will work with, and differences being mainly cosmetic. The same member hosts the machine party too.

Only thing I really look for is style and that the reciever extension hole is pre threaded.

SocomM4, do you recall who was doing the group buy and location?

On the caliber, is the caliber listed on the stripped lowers just for identification purposes?

Word on the street is that there r only 4 manufacturers for the commercially available lowers (dont know if that is true but anywayz)
I love the spikes lowers..they are great quality and thier custom designs r really cool imho

I just looked at spike's site and they don't offer 80% lowers :/ I'm looking at the "wise ***" markings on one... "club", "arrow" :p

Look at the forging markings.

That being said, good luck with Tactical Machining, and Nathan is a great guy and has good customer service. I also like Colfax tactical (under a new name since their move out of CA).

What do you mean by forging markings?

Speaking of forging, is it better to find the billet versions or forged?

gun toting monkeyboy
10-15-2012, 8:41 PM
There are some other differences. The Quentin Defense lowers are billet lowers that require a slightly different set-up when you put them on the machine. The last build party I went to had a couple of small shims that they used to line them up right in the jigs. But some of the other machine shops that run build parties won't let you use QD lowers. Their lowers are also made of 6061 aluminum instead of 7075 like most of the others, including mil-spec. It is not as strong as the 7075. But in a lower receiver, that hardly matters. Several companies use 6061 for both AR15 and AR10 lowers and uppers with no ill effects.

There is also a guy that sells "80% lowers" on gunbroker. Rogh, or something like that. The problem with his is that he doesn't have a letter from the ATF stating that his lowers are 80% lowers. And he has milled out a little bit more than the other companies that do have letters normally do. So some of the shops that run build parties won't allow his lowers to be finished on their machinery. Check with your local build party site before you buy one.

TM is probably your best bet. They use 7075, and their lowers are very good quality. And they fit the standard jigs. They seem to be the industry standard that other 80% lowers are judged against. And they are very reasonably priced.

As for the anodizing, it isn't just there to color the receiver. It protects the surface from corrosion as well as hardening it to cut down on how much it wears. When you machine out your lower, the anodizing on the outside of the receiver should be just fine. But the areas you mill out will be raw aluminum. Some people don't worry about it because the lower doesn't do that much. If that isn't an issue for you, you can leave it raw and call it good. If you want it anodized inside the milled area, you would probably be better off getting one that is raw to begin with, and then get it anodized yourself when you are done.

I have done both QD and TM lowers, and they both turned out just fine.

-Mb

LTC-J
10-15-2012, 9:26 PM
gun toting monkeyboy,
Thank you VERY much for the detailed explanation. The heads up about QD lowers is VERY much appreciated. I would definitely intend to find a build party in Sacramento or San Jose once I figure out what I'm building:o

On the anodizing, do you think the "missed" spots are any concern? And is it just standard anodizing or is there some special phrasing I'd need to state when getting done?

This does beg the question about engraving... is there any special considerations when getting the engraving done?

I would "assume" the process from 80% with no anodizing would be something like:

Machine work
Engrave Work
Anodize


At this point, it would be just the same as a stripped lower and regular AR build steps would apply.

projectalpha
10-15-2012, 9:55 PM
Make sure whomever you buy it from has an ATF determination letter as well.

gun toting monkeyboy
10-15-2012, 10:42 PM
gun toting monkeyboy,
Thank you VERY much for the detailed explanation. The heads up about QD lowers is VERY much appreciated. I would definitely intend to find a build party in Sacramento or San Jose once I figure out what I'm building:o

On the anodizing, do you think the "missed" spots are any concern? And is it just standard anodizing or is there some special phrasing I'd need to state when getting done?

This does beg the question about engraving... is there any special considerations when getting the engraving done?

I would "assume" the process from 80% with no anodizing would be something like:

Machine work
Engrave Work
Anodize


At this point, it would be just the same as a stripped lower and regular AR build steps would apply.

The QD lowers are actually very nice. Don't get me wrong. Just make sure the place where you are going to go to do the build actually has the jig set up for them. And I have NO problem using a 6061 lower. Especially not one that has been anodized. It just isn't one of those parts that wears out. My main AR pistol has one.

I believe that you are looking for "Type III" anodizing. I don't like the "missed" spots, but that is a matter of personal preference. I know a lot of guys that don't care. It just bugs me.

And yes, your list is the right order. I know a couple of the build places have the ability to do the engraving themselves. At least one of the ones that doesn't do it has an engraving shop right around the corner.

And yes, once it is anodized, you are good to go. Aside from the fact that you can make it into a pistol, it is just the same as any other lower at that point.

-Mb

SocomM4
10-16-2012, 12:10 AM
Pretty much the main reasons people do it is fun, making a pistol , not requiring registration , and personalized markings.
Price wise it's not going to save you any money over a
Stripped lower in a shop. There are Members doing design for laser engraving that are incredible .

Laser work.
http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=459860

Lowers
http://mobile.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=603729

BranNutz
10-16-2012, 12:11 PM
I just finished a QD lower last weekend. For an AR15 it's alot more expensive to make your own lower. On the flip side making an AR10 lower seems cheaper than buying retail.

The AR10 80% was $155, the machining was $85 and engraving was $75.

The AR15 80% was $105, the machining was $65 and engraving was $75. So your looking at $170 minimum and $220 if you want it engraved for a stripped lower, when you can buy one in the store for $60, is a bit steep.

The one of a kind engraving and non registration make it worth it to me though.

Here is a quick and dirty picture of my pistol lower I just completed, looks better in person.

http://imageshack.us/a/img22/8590/20121014010640.jpg

SocomM4
10-16-2012, 2:24 PM
^^ Nice looking lower, I want to do a billet one but the trigger guard , I just can't get past it. If it was more octagonish like some of the other enlarged guards I'd be all over it.

Jason_2111
10-16-2012, 2:30 PM
gun toting monkeyboy,
Thank you VERY much for the detailed explanation. The heads up about QD lowers is VERY much appreciated. I would definitely intend to find a build party in Sacramento or San Jose once I figure out what I'm building:o

On the anodizing, do you think the "missed" spots are any concern? And is it just standard anodizing or is there some special phrasing I'd need to state when getting done?

This does beg the question about engraving... is there any special considerations when getting the engraving done?

I would "assume" the process from 80% with no anodizing would be something like:

Machine work
Engrave Work
Anodize


At this point, it would be just the same as a stripped lower and regular AR build steps would apply.

You're more than welcome to bring your Quentin Laser 80% or TM style (forging based) 80% to one of our monthly builder workshops. Our fixtures handle both just fine.

For the sake of logistics, I'd strongly suggest changing the order that you do things though:

Step 1. Get your 80%'s (A lot of places selling them have back order issues. Sometimes QL gets them to you fast, sometimes you wait 2 months. Shop around and compare... but make sure they have a letter of determination from the ATF.) (Just avoid Rohg Arms.)

Step 2. Get your 80% engraved with all of the cool-***-stuff that you like. Take your time on your design, and get it all mocked up before going to the engraver.

Step 3. Optional Anodizing - When it's still an 80%, anybody in the world can do the anodizing.... no FFL needed. If you go to "Joe's Plating Service" to get your anodizing, just make sure you get Type III Hard Ano... otherwise it will be a soft coloring that will not wear well. Also, make sure they hang it by the pistol grip screw hole with a stud... otherwise you'll have bare spots where the wire touched it.
(Step 3 is optional... you can do ano later if you want it black inside, or you can do paint/DuraCoat/CeraKoat/etc after machining without needing to anodize first. Anodizing before cutting will give you a silver insides... some folks like that look.)

Step 4. Find a build party, and finish your lower into a firerarm.

Step 5. Optional Anodize - Problem here, is now it's a firearm and not just an 80%, so you have to find an anodizing shop that has a class 7 FFL. (like USAnodizing.com). Or you can do paint.

Step 6. Build that sucker out, go shooting, then post pics of your handy work to brag. ;)

LTC-J
10-16-2012, 7:36 PM
Jason,
Thank you VERY much for the reply.

Your steps were something that crossed my mind after reading a post this morning about "once machined, it is a "weapon"":o In fact, I think it was your build party post reference above:o

With the engraving, how difficult is it to figure out the layout for the safety related items? Obviously, no hole for reference:p

FWIW, the 80% appeals to me from the build and custom engrave standpoint.

smittty
10-16-2012, 8:36 PM
This appeals to me too but I really want an 80% 1911, does anyone know where to find one these days?

Jason_2111
10-18-2012, 2:41 PM
Jason,
Thank you VERY much for the reply.

Your steps were something that crossed my mind after reading a post this morning about "once machined, it is a "weapon"":o In fact, I think it was your build party post reference above:o

With the engraving, how difficult is it to figure out the layout for the safety related items? Obviously, no hole for reference:p

FWIW, the 80% appeals to me from the build and custom engrave standpoint.

You gots ta measure. ;)

The easiest way is to grab an existing lower and a set of calipers, and measure everything.

LTC-J
10-18-2012, 6:33 PM
You gots ta measure. ;)

The easiest way is to grab an existing lower and a set of calipers, and measure everything.

Or even easier is a VaderSpade one and not screw it up:o Hopefully he is good to go for your Nov build party:p