How Shooters Are Building Firearms with 80% Receiver Kits

Travis Noonan
By Travis Noonan September 13, 2019 07:48

How Shooters Are Building Firearms with 80% Receiver Kits

Every good prepper knows that having a reliable arsenal ready and stocked is critical for protecting yourself, your family, and your property in a disaster or other “SHTF” scenario.

But with the 2020 election cycle is hot n’ ready. That means plenty of politicians are calling for more firearm bans and gun control, so getting your hands on the right firepower (and keeping it) could get a little more difficult in the months and years ahead.

That’s why some preppers are choosing to avoid the local gun store and government paperwork. Instead, they’re building their guns at home from scratch. And they’re doing it legally.

The Rise of the 80% Lower Receiver

Back in 1968, the Gun Control Act cemented a rather unique Second Amendment right into federal law for all Americans: the right to build a firearm at home, unregistered, with no paperwork required.

To this day, the ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) says this is 100% legal:

“No, a license is not required to make a firearm solely for personal use. However, a license is required to manufacture firearms for sale or distribution. The law prohibits a person from assembling a non–sporting semiautomatic rifle or shotgun from 10 or more imported parts, as well as firearms that cannot be detected by metal detectors or x–ray machines. In addition, the making of an NFA firearm requires a tax payment and advance approval by ATF.”

And thanks to America’s free-market capitalism, gun makers and machinists started taking advantage of this. They figured out a way to combine America’s favorite rifle, the AR-15, with an easy-to-build gun making kit that takes advantage of this very law. Enter the 80% lower receiver.

The Building Block for an Unregistered AR-15

Officially called a “receiver blank” by the ATF, an 80% lower is a large chunk of aluminum or polymer that roughly resembles the receiver on an AR-15, which is considered a firearm by law and is regulated by the ATF.

Except this receiver blank is not quite a firearm. Yet.

That’s where you, the savvy prepper and newly minted at home-gunsmith, come in. You’ll need to cut and drill some excess material off your receiver blank and in doing so, you’ll be manufacturing a firearm that you can then use to build a black rifle or pistol at home.

All without the government ever knowing and without any background check or red tape. The whole process is incredibly easy, taking around 2 hours or less with some basic hand tools, which we’ll touch on later.

Why Build Your Rifle “Off the Grid”?

It might be easier to go to the local gun store, pick up an AR-15 or a stripped lower receiver and build it, and call it a day. Except in 2019, buying your gun over the counter could potentially trap you in some legal hot water down the road.

Enter New York’s attempt to force gun owners to register their AR-15s in 2015:

New York banned the sale of semiautomatic firearms they deemed to be assault weapons. The state also required gun owners to register these weapons with the state. This was meant to be for accountability, but really, it was for future confiscation – sorry, “forced buy-back”.

Well, New York’s gun owners did not comply. Nearly one million New Yorkers failed to register their assault weapons, leaving nearly one million Americans now labeled as potential felons.

While a matter of noncompliance with state-level firearm paperwork may seem relatively “white collar” and nonviolent as far as crime goes, it could carry deadly implications.

Two men have been killed for refusing to turn in their guns.

Maryland’s “Red Flag” laws allow any concerned individual to report a gun owner for mental evaluation and temporary gun confiscation. One man was shot and killed after refusing to turn over his weapons to police for just this reason. No due process, no day in court.

Another man was shot and killed in New Zealand just a few months ago for refusing to turn in his weapons in compliance with new gun control, too.

We’re not advocating that any prepper breaks the law or violate firearms codes. Yet in times of turmoil or national crisis, Martial Law is often declared, and your Second Amendment rights may likely be violated.

For example, enforcement went door-to-door after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and confiscated firearms from private citizens as they swept neighborhoods and suburbs.

How the Whole Thing Works

Like we said, it may be technically easier to just buy a rifle at the store, but building one from scratch using a receiver blank is surprisingly simple. You’ll need a few tools to get the job done, including:

  • A drill or drill press
  • A handheld router
  • An 80% jig
  • Drill bits
  • End mill bit.

Picking an 80% Jig

The jig is the most important tool in this project. You can just buy a jig and it’ll include the bits you need. The jig acts like a mini-CNC machine and template, securing your receiver blank and showing you how to cut out the receiver for the trigger parts using your end mill bit.

It also guides you along while you drill the holes for the hammer, trigger, and safety pins with your drill bits. Like we said earlier, the whole process takes less than two hours, even for first-timers. Jigs include written instructions, and some include video tutorials.

Drill press. Vs. Router

There are two types of jigs to consider: Drill press jigs and router jigs. As their names imply, these two types of jigs will determine whether you buy a handheld router or use a drill press (or milling machine).

No matter which type of jig you buy, the machining steps are the same:

#1. Secure Your 80% Lower in the Jig

How Shooters are Building Firearms with 80% Receiver KitsSetting up the receiver blank and jig is easy. Most jigs consist of three plates: Two side plates with drilling templates, and one (or more) top plate with drilling and cutting templates.

Once the lower is secured in the jig, you’ll need to secure the jig to your workstation. A simple tabletop vise is recommended. If you’re using a drill press or mill, you probably already own a vise.

#2. Drill the Fire Control Cavity Pilot Holes

How Shooters are Building Firearms with 80% Receiver KitsWith the assembly secured and ready for work, you can start by drilling the pilot holes for the fire control cavity.

We’re using a drill press in this photo, but you can even use a handheld drill. The jig’s top plates are made of reinforced steel, and some even include high-speed drill bushings.

These reinforced holes and bushings align your drill bit for you, eliminating the need for a drill press.

#3. Cut the Fire Control Cavity

With your pilot holes drilled you can swap out your drill bit and handheld drill for your end mill bit and router or drill press. The pilot holes removed the bulk of material inside the cavity, so finishing up the final cuts with the end mill should take minimal effort. Most jigs include a depth gauge. This gauge will help you measure how far down you need to drill and cut with your bits.

How Shooters are Building Firearms with 80% Receiver Kits

Simply tighten the bit in your router or press at the correct length using the gauge, and begin cutting.

Your finished fire control cavity should look like this. You may need to use different templates provided with your jig to cut different parts of the cavity, like the shelf where your rear takedown pin goes.

#4. Drill the Hammer, Safety, and Trigger Holes

How Shooters are Building Firearms with 80% Receiver Kits

This part’s simple. Simply orient your receiver and jig so you can make vertical holes with your handheld drill or drill press. The side plates on the jig show you where to drill your holes.

With all holes drilled and aluminum debris cleaned up and removed, your finished receiver should look something like this:

How Shooters are Building Firearms with 80% Receiver KitsOnce you’ve finished machining your blank, it’ll be classified as a real firearm. More importantly, it’ll be a functional stripped receiver that you can use to complete an AR-15 build at home. These finished receiver blanks are identical to any factory-made lower receiver.


More shooters and preppers are choosing to build their firearms and survival weapons at home, “off the grid”, using receiver blanks that aren’t traced by the ATF. These blanks are 100% legal to use, though some states have certain restrictions. Always do your homework first. Building your rifle using an 80% lower receiver allows you to keep your weapon unregistered and private in your collection.

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Travis Noonan
By Travis Noonan September 13, 2019 07:48
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  1. Tallmtnman September 13, 14:29

    Every place I try to buy a 80% receiver it must be shipped to a FFL dealer. If I have to register the receiver an off the books build is not off the books.

    Reply to this comment
    • jarhead June 12, 14:45

      Have you tried buying polymer 80 receivers from either the polymer 80 company, or from places like Midway? I bought a polymer 80 kit from midway and it shipped straight to my house within 4 days.

      Reply to this comment
  2. PB- dave September 13, 16:00

    In the beginning of the article it states no license is needed. HOWEVER be aware of all the rules before you go down this road, and before you start. Yes you can build a firearm for your personal use, but only one of that exact type, and it has to have an specific permanent ID , and needs to be built to legal arms specifications, etc…… Many things to consider before chopping away on a block of metal 🙂 Do the research to avoid troubles down the road……

    Reply to this comment
    • michael carey September 14, 00:38

      there is no license requird-period. you can make as many as you want. there is no id number need ever! they are for your own use–no sale-no giving away and atf wont ever know about it unless your stuiped and tell p[eople about it. The 80% blank is called by theATF a chunk of metal NOT a gun.

      Reply to this comment
      • PB- dave September 14, 13:44

        You are correct, no license required. And unless you have some local requirement, you wouldn’t need to register it. Point I was trying to make, if it’s built correctly it can be transported and used at a public range and be fully legal. If not built correctly, that same 80% hunk when finished could be a felony just for possession?

        Reply to this comment
        • michael carey September 15, 03:38

          PB-dave in reading your reply, i realized we are both saying the same thing.. ifit is not an AR15 exactly it will get you in trouble. yes your right it can be used by you everywhere legal. Have good day!!

          Reply to this comment
  3. Glenn Jacobs September 13, 16:15

    Yes, by all means we should write a comment. Every word will be traced back to us and indicate our interest in this.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Pubbin September 13, 16:16

    Wow! now you will need to get the rest of the rifle. It has been a few years since basic (decades even.)

    Reply to this comment
    • Claude Davis September 13, 17:19

      Yes, you need to get the rest of the rifle, but none of the other parts are considered to be a firearm by the ATF. That means there’s no paper trail on purchasing them. An 80% lower lets you build a working AR15 without making a firearms purchase at any stage, so if anyone does start trying to confiscate registered firearms this one won’t be on their list.

      Reply to this comment
      • Raven tactical September 14, 14:43

        Whatever you do……DO NOT BUY POLYMER LOWERS FOR THR AR PLATFORM’S. Unless you want a 22lr trainer it’s a waste of money.

        The 4473 isnt registration so unless your in a communist state nobody technically knows what you have.

        I pick up Anderson’s lowers for 30 each. They work well and built guns for others with them.

        Reply to this comment
        • jarhead June 12, 14:55

          Form 4473 might not be registration, but atf doesn’t do away with them like they said either so they still know you have some type of weapon. Used to work in a pawn shop and the agent from ATaf who came in and checked our books every 6 months told us they store them inside some .mountain in west virginia for “safe keeping”…

          Reply to this comment
      • Wannabe September 15, 17:38

        There is always a paper trail. It’s called a credit card. Every purchase can be tracked. Bought movie tickets the other day and they did not show up on my email so we called the theater and they said just bring the card you made purchase with. When we got to theater they just swiped our card and the tickets showed up in their system and viola. There is always a paper trail. This is why they are trying to weed out cash. Everything can be tracked if aithoritiies want to. Remember the mark of the beast? Can’t even get food unless you have this number?

        Reply to this comment
        • left coast chuck September 16, 18:51

          Sometime soon after he was sworn into office Roosevelt went off the gold standard and made it a federal crime to hold gold except for gold in jewelry. I don’t know if it went before the supremes, but in 1964 we also abandoned the silver basis for our money. It used to say “Silver Certificate” on bills and was redeemable at banks for actual silver dollars.

          When I was overseas, we regularly had occasions when Military Payment Certificates (monopoly money with which service personnel were paid) had to be turned in for a new issue. If you turned in “an excessive amount” you could be certain that you were going to have an intense session with ONI or CID. After a certain date all MPC of the old issue was no longer valid. Always created panic out in town to get rid of the old MPC.

          With that history, it wouldn’t be much of a switch for the goobermint to declare all current forms of cash invalid and to have it turned in for “new currency” with a dollar limit for such transactions.

          Welfare payments are all electronic. I could be incorrect, but I believe all goobermint checks are now electronic. Certainly folks who receive goobermint checks on a regular basis are strongly encouraged to have electronic deposits made to a bank account. All the better to track you, my dear.

          Take something back to Costco and you don’t need a receipt all you need is your Costco card. Everything you ever bought there can be called up. Do you belong to the regular grocery customer “club”? All of your grocery purchases can be called up. I have heard that if you sue some grocery stores and have a record of making alcoholic beverage purchases, you will be questioned about those purchases during pre-trial deposition.

          With subpoena power (and under the Homeland Defense Act, subpoena power was greatly enhanced to the extent it probably caused our founding fathers to spin in their graves) the goobermint can look at all those records.

          As someone suggested, face to face and cash only — until cash becomes illegal.

          Reply to this comment
  5. Morae September 14, 06:04

    I just got through listening to: Survival MD. However, I’m very interested in making a purchase. Is there a hard copy? How can I put this on my bookshelf if its ONLY a Digit copy?

    Reply to this comment
    • Claude D. September 16, 07:35

      Hi Morae,

      Thank you so much for your interest in Survival MD.
      I have just send you an email. Please check your Inbox.
      God bless,

      Reply to this comment
  6. TheSouthernNationalist September 14, 14:47

    I looked into doing this a couple of years ago and by the time you add in the cost of everything you need to make a rifle, you will have spent about double the cost of just buying the rifle straight out from the gun store.
    I do like the idea of no paperwork but you can always “sell your rifle” or “accidentally drop if in the lake while fishing” if someone were to come asking about it

    Reply to this comment
    • jarhead June 12, 15:00

      Only partly true. I recently built 2 rifles, a 6.5 creedmoor and a .50 beowulf, and came out hundreds under what they cost in store. You just have to look harder for the parts, as in it’s usually cheaper to o buy a complete upper than to piece build one.

      Reply to this comment
  7. Lonesome Dove September 14, 16:23

    Unfortunately, this website is a “paper trail”. So is the purchase if done on the Internet. Your credit card is a “paper trail”. Sending a check for materials is a “paper trail” through the government agent called a bank. Phone calls are a “paper trail”.
    To think that the suppliers of that chunk of metal are not monitored may be naive.
    The only way to have something completely private and non-traceable is to purchase in person and use cash. Now the only weak link is the person(s) you are purchasing material from and hoping this person is trustworthy and confidential.

    Reply to this comment
  8. left coast chuck September 15, 02:54

    The ATF is not interested in catching real bad guys. What they are most interested in is tripping up guys who don’t know the law and stumble into situations that cause them to meet new friends in some federal “correctional” institution. I love the newspeak. The LA County Jail is called the Peter Pitchess Correctional Facility. Pitchess was a former sheriff in LA County. Naughty boys are in detention at the PP Correctional Facility.

    I won’t call attention to the post but one of the folks who post to this list has admitted to committing several felonies. I am sure he didn’t mean to and was just trying to be a good guy. It’s very important what one posts to these lists. It can easily come back to bite you later on.

    At our local gun club range, a fellow I didn’t know was shooting an M-1 carbine and I engaged in casual conversation with him about it. I am sure he didn’t know me from Dick Tracy, but he admitted to me that although the carbine he was shooting was semi-auto only, he had all the parts to convert it to a full auto model. I didn’t say anything to him. Perhaps I should have warned him about having such discussions with a stranger, even assuming that because I was a member of the club I was not a law enforcement officer. We have quite a few l.e.o.s in the club and while some of them are quite sympathetic about stupid gun laws, others are equally convinced that strict gun laws are the answer to crime. I am confident it would not bother them one iota to bust a club member for violation of gun laws. Possession of unpermitted machine gun parts is a federal felony. In the PDRK one cannot possess such parts even if one holds a permission slip from the feds. It is a state level felony. Prosecuting attorneys love those types of crimes because the news media is always eager to show that another “gun nut” is off the streets and will show up for the perp walk and the display of the “arsenal” and “thousands of rounds” of ammunition.

    Reply to this comment
  9. theeye September 16, 07:09

    I saw this article after receiving in my email a couple of advertisements for vids on how to make your own AR15 as well as AK47. I really like the idea of this and I know that as an ex-Army Armorer/Technician (45G). I worked on everything from handgun to M1Abrams, I believe I possess the skills to do this safely. That being said I know longer have all the special tools and devices that were required to fully build and maintain one. There are all kinds of factors involved in this. Proper Chamber Seal, Chambering, Fire pin Gap, Trigger pull, etc. those all take special tools. Now what about testing? We had special facilities for that. Safety? Are you gonna chance you did it right the first time and have that weapon in your face? Its one thing to rebuild a factory reciever and weapon accessories its another to build one from scratch. Just my thoughts on it. I am thinking seriously about it thought, with the way things are now. All I have are hunting rifles and couple pistols but am seeing how things are changing day by day. It may be time to up the ante so to speak lol. Well thats just some musings from an ex military weapons technician folks. Take it or leave it if you choose to build please be safe. Godspeed, MAGA, WWG1WGA

    Reply to this comment
    • Raven tactical September 16, 12:20

      Building a ar15 isnt rocket science. The 80 percent lowers are mostly done and if people can knock it out with a hand drill.then that’s decent..

      I would thought you might of mentioned head space gauges and barrel straightness.

      Pick up some ar15s now it’s never going to get cheaper then it is.

      Reply to this comment
  10. jarhead June 12, 14:50

    BTW, to the person who wrote the article, since the law changed in 1986, the common person can no longer build a NFA firearm at all. It has to be bought from a class 3 dealer and you will pay dearly for it, prices are 3000+% higher than they were before the law changed. An M16 In 1984 could be bought for as little as $800, now they’re $12,000+. But, while you cannot build an NFA weapon, you can get approved by atfe and still build a suppressor at home, but as I said, only after you get approval.

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