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  #1  
Old 05-02-2011, 3:31 PM
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Default How hard is it to finish an 80% lower?

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)
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Old 05-02-2011, 4:13 PM
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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!
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Old 05-02-2011, 4:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebird View Post
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.
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Old 05-02-2011, 4:48 PM
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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.
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Old 05-02-2011, 6:18 PM
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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.
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Old 05-02-2011, 6:31 PM
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You can use an electric toothbrush if you have enough patience.
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Old 05-02-2011, 6:43 PM
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How many 80% lowers will you be investing in during your initial trial & error process with a Dremel?
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Old 05-02-2011, 6:44 PM
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location?
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Old 05-02-2011, 7:22 PM
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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...
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Old 05-02-2011, 7:36 PM
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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.
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Old 05-02-2011, 8:50 PM
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I would like to thank everyone for the replies. I really appreciate it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dspracing View Post
location?
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrPlink View Post
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!
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  #12  
Old 05-02-2011, 9:05 PM
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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
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  #13  
Old 05-02-2011, 10:57 PM
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Op,
contact calgunner "Woodey"
His shop is in Santa Rosa, so not too far from you.
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  #14  
Old 05-03-2011, 3:01 AM
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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.
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Old 05-03-2011, 8:10 AM
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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!
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Old 05-03-2011, 8:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1lowluv View Post
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.
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Old 05-03-2011, 10:24 AM
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Can someone please explain to this AR noob what the purpose of an 80% lower is? I dont understand it LOL
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Old 05-03-2011, 10:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SPaikmos View Post
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 =(
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Old 05-03-2011, 10:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TiMe_1 View Post
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.
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Old 05-03-2011, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by supertrooper View Post
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)
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Old 05-03-2011, 10:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebird View Post
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?
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Old 05-03-2011, 10:53 AM
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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)
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Old 05-03-2011, 12:36 PM
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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/s...d.php?t=364513
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Old 05-03-2011, 12:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TiMe_1 View Post
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....
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Old 05-03-2011, 12:42 PM
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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.
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Old 05-03-2011, 12:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SPaikmos View Post
....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
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Old 05-03-2011, 12:57 PM
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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.
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Old 05-03-2011, 12:57 PM
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Finishing a 80% with just a dremel would be crazy lol.
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Old 05-03-2011, 1:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Antisocial View Post
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.
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Old 05-03-2011, 1:37 PM
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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?
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Old 05-03-2011, 2:01 PM
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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.
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Old 05-03-2011, 2:04 PM
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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
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Old 05-03-2011, 2:27 PM
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But do you have to voluntarily register it?
Nope
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Old 05-03-2011, 2:28 PM
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http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...d.php?t=341581

here's a good recent thread on the topic.
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Old 05-03-2011, 3:18 PM
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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!
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Old 05-03-2011, 3:45 PM
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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.
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Old 05-03-2011, 4:44 PM
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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
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Old 05-03-2011, 5:08 PM
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Quote:
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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.
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Old 05-03-2011, 5:32 PM
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No paper trail....no serial number. That's why.

It just feels good to roll your own.
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Old 05-03-2011, 6:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AR-15 Rep View Post
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!
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