Building Your Own No-FFL AR From an 80% Complete Receiver, by Nomad

We live in very uncertain times. For some people, myself included, those times of uncertainty include anything from some financial hardship, to total economic ruin. In knowing this simple truth, I am inspired to share my knowledge and expertise concerning firearms preparedness: in particular, the AR-15 platform and a truly inexpensive option to owning one that is on-par with buying a much less versatile bolt-action rifle.

For many of us struggling to make ends meet, an entry-level AR-15 is priced far beyond anything we can hope to afford. Starting at around $800 before background checks, taxes and licensing fees, the total might as well be a million dollars. Add to that the burdening need to oftentimes add some type of reliable optic or sighting system that many entry-level rifles do not include, and most of us are priced right out of the building.

Of course, the Saiga AK74 clone, chambered in 5.56×45 NATO, starting at around $675 , is the more attractive financial option at first blush. But again, taxes, background checks and licensing fees will still put you well in excess of $800. Further, this entry-level rifle’s supplied magazine is limited to ten rounds, with the inferior thirty round magazines from ProMag costing an average of $10 than Magpul’s thirty round PMag for the AR-15. And believe me, if you have ever compared the two, there really is no comparison! So in the end, you are not saving very much money, if any at all, by opting for an inferior Saiga rifle.

So, where do the desperate and perhaps even destitute turn? We know that the engineered financial collapse is starting to really rear its ugly head and unravel before our very eyes, false flag events are coming in rapid-fire succession, and we are desperate to protect our families and ourselves.

Years ago, I would have been terrified. Today though, I do have the answer…

First, before you start on the path I am going to recommend, please check your state and local laws! I cannot begin stress just how important it is that you do so! It will be very difficult to protect your family if you are behind bars. Research and informed decisions will save you a potential felonious headache. So act accordingly, responsibly and proceed at your own risk.

And though I will recommend companies and products by name, I do so not because I am trying to receive free stuff from them, but because I own and trust their reliability with the lives of myself and the lives of my family. I would not mention them if I felt for even a moment that the following products would fail you or yours! And since survival is key to our way of life, and every human life is precious to me, I would much rather point you directly to products that just flat-out work, as opposed to some generic brand that may fail you at the penultimate moment.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 classified the frame, receiver, or lower receiver of any gun — be it handgun, rifle or shotgun — to be the actual “firearm”. It is that portion of any store-bought gun that requires a serial number for registration. The only way around that law, and the BATFE offers clear language on their web site to prove my claim, has been to manufacture your own frames and lower receivers for personal use. Those of us with small machine shops and a machining background have been doing so, legally, for years, but it required extensive knowledge and very expensive equipment.

But now there are 80% complete AR-15 lower receivers…

Traditionally, these lower receivers were 80% complete aluminum castings or forgings that required jigs, a milling machine, a drill press, sometimes a lathe, and perhaps anodizing or painting to complete. If you did not have the aforementioned equipment on hand already, the entire process would have you paying more for a finished entry-level rifle than you would otherwise pay by going through any FFL dealer. The only real benefits were the pride you took in seeing your own creation putting bullets on paper or into game animals, and the anonymity that goes along with not having to register your manufactured firearm.

These days, however, technology has given us the option to go with a jig-less design 80% lower receiver made of polymer over the traditional aluminum, and a set of hand tools that, if you do not have them on hand already, will run you about $75 . That set of tools includes a $10 rotary tool kit that can be purchased from Harbor Freight tools, a $20 3/8” hand drill — also easily purchased at Harbor Freight — a small $25 bench vise from Harbor Freight; a few drill bits and the bur bit needed for fire control pocket shaping.

Honestly speaking, I’m a skeptic by nature, so I have to admit that I balked at polymer lower receivers at first. Why on earth should I choose what I had deemed to be an inferior plastic material over an aluminum casting, when I already had a very nice milling machine, lathe, drill press and the ability to anodize my own aluminum at home? With my equipment, completing aluminum AR-15 and AR-10 lower receivers has always been a cinch. And with a new jig and an 80% aluminum lower averaging out to what I considered to be a very reasonable $175 , why would I even consider switching from a time-tested method?

Well, what made me change my opinion toward polymer was not just its jig-less $65 price tag. True, saving $110 is certainly appealing, but if for instance the buffer tube broke off of the lower, I would have nothing but a piece of busted and worthless junk in my hands.

No, what made my thoughts about them radically change was after watching a torture test video featuring a polymer lower receiver versus aluminum. I gotta tell you, I was impressed! Not only did the polymer variant match its aluminum counterpart in tensile strength and rugged durability, it actually outperformed it. And with the cost of that jig-less polymer lower being the $65 I just spoke of, out the door and delivered to your door, not to mention the light-weight design and extreme ease of the machining process, the transition was an easy one for me to make.

Which brings us to the available options of jig-less polymer lower receivers, of which there are currently two that I can personally vouch for, each costing $65 before shipping: the Poly80, available at, and the EP80, available at I have personally completed both designs. The finish on both of them is excellent, and they function flawlessly. There really is not much difference to speak of between them and they are both a superior option to any aluminum design AR receiver on the market.

Moving on to the completion phase…

Completing one of these lower receivers is really as simple as removing the white plastic from the fire control pocket, smoothing the ridges to blend with the walls; drilling a 5/32” hole for the trigger and hammer pins; and drilling a 3/8” hole for the safety selector switch. Lastly, widening the trigger slot by 1/4” toward the front and a 1/4” to the rear of the lower receiver to match the trigger base is all that is needed to have a stripped lower receiver, ready for assembly.

Should you have questions or doubts, many Youtube videos are available that will give the layperson key visual completion instructions and tips to seeing the project successfully through. So if you are inexperienced, watching a few of them will certainly help ensure that your finished lower looks professional and performs flawlessly. If you just remember to take your time, you will not only likely enjoy the project, you will also take pride in seeing its completion through to actual service.

I would be remiss if I failed to add that a drill press will aid in drilling the hammer, trigger and safety selector holes straight, but by using an inexpensive level — which almost every hand drill of today already has embedded above the trigger grip, saving you a couple of bucks — a hand drill will more than suffice if you are steady and patient.

(As a side note, I strongly recommend getting a set of number and letter stamps, which can also be purchased from Harbor Freight Tools for an additional $10 , to stamp your own serial number on the completed lower. Though the BATFE does not require a serial number on personally manufactured firearms, some police officers are ignorant to this simple fact. Should such an officer demand to inspect your rifle, you can avoid a whole heap of inconvenience and awkward questions with the simple expedient of adding a serial number. Trust me, I have been there! So this is your chance to learn from my mistakes.)

Now that you have a completed and anonymous lower, the only thing left to do is to select a carbine or rifle kit. Palmetto State Armory (PSA), DPMS, CMMG, J&T Distributing, Del-Ton, and a whole host of other companies have good quality entry-level parts kits available. Naturally, some are more expensive and of marginally better design.

But since we are pinching pennies, every ounce of copper is at a premium, and reliable function is of paramount importance, I strongly recommend going with Del-Ton. I own Del-Tons, and not only would I stack them up against any rifle kit on the market, I would and have stacked them up against much more expensive rigs and handily outperformed a number of them. And since Del-Ton is one of the least expensive and best designed kits of the list of quality options, it is a no-brainer as far as I am concerned.

The fit and finish of Del-Ton’s kits are outstanding, and the form and function is no-nonsense and flawless. The upper receivers are already fully assembled and head-spaced. The lower parts kits include quality components. The buttstock and buffer tube are mil-spec and snug-fitting.

If you are looking for an excellent and very inexpensive option for a rifle that can not only feed your family should the need arise, but surely defend the lives of you and your family, you really need look further than! I do not work for Del-Ton, I just recognize rugged quality when I see it and am not afraid to advocate for it…

(Another side note: Del-Ton currently has a 4-6 week lead time on their rifle and carbine kits, with some of them being currently out of stock. But trust me, their price and quality are definitely worth the wait.)

Now, the only addition we need to make to have a very serviceable rifle or carbine is an AR-15 multi-tool to assemble your chosen rifle or carbine kit — Tapco features one on for around $10 — and the addition of a removable rear sight or carry handle.

As far as the rear sight goes, E-Bay has many flip-up and carry handle options for under $20 every day of the week. But be warned: some of the rear sight solutions on eBay are very cheap, flimsy, and will not take a whole lot of abuse, so upgrading to a Magpul M-BUIS rear sight for another $30 is something I think you should strongly consider, if you can find the extra cash in your budget. If you simply cannot spare the extra $30, the [mainland Chinese-made] NCStar flip-up is less expensive and suitable alternative at an average price of $25, compared to the $50 Magpul sight.

(Note: If you are unsure about assembling your rifle, Youtube is again your friend, with a countless array of instructional and how-to videos. It really is a very straightforward process and valuable knowledge can be gained by watching them if you lack AR-15 experience).

So for a quick recap: we have spent about $75 on tools and drill bits, if you did not have any one of them before, $480 on a base-model Del-Ton rifle or carbine kit; $65 on an EP Armory 80% lower receiver; $12 dollars on a Magpul 30 round PMag magazine; $20 for a rear sight and $10 for an AR-15 multi-tool. This brings the grand total to $662.

Keep in mind that your $662 is for a complete rifle that also guarantees your anonymity by avoiding tedious, expensive and unnecessary background checks. In addition, should the illegal violations of our Second Amendment rights through gun registration and confiscation continue to spread from Connecticut, California and New York, you will be completely — and legally — under the radar. Remember to thoroughly research your state and local laws!

I know that almost $700 is a heck of a stretch for folks struggling to just put food on the table in these wickedly uncertain economic times, believe me I do. But if you value your lives and the way you and your family live those lives, it is something that everyone should try to fit into their survival budget. You have to ask yourself not if you can afford to take the plunge, but whether or not you can really afford not to…