Ever since Obama has set his sights on eliminating our 2nd Amendment rights, gun sales have gone through the roof. We now have more privately owned guns in America than ever before, with many gun owners having several to choose from. But if the progressive liberals ever manage to succeed in pushing their anti-gun agenda, every one of those guns is going to be susceptible to seizure.
While there is technically no federal register of gun ownership, all gun manufacturers and sellers are required by law to keep detailed records of gun sales, verifying the purchaser’s identity and doing the background check that liberals keep saying doesn’t exist. Those records must be made available to the police and federal agents, upon request. In addition, the information on who has a concealed carry license is readily available to the same people.
So, in the event of a decision to confiscate guns, it wouldn’t be hard for authorities to find them. Just look at Hurricane Katrina. They declared martial law and confiscated guns during the aftermath and cleanup, making gun owners go to court to get them back.
Hence the rise of the ghost gun. A ghost gun is essentially any gun that is totally off the books. That means that nobody has any record of it. This is accomplished by building the gun without a serial number.
But that’s illegal, right? Wrong!
It’s illegal for gun manufacturers to build and sell guns without serial numbers, but it is perfectly legal for you to build your own gun, without a serial number, for your own use. As long as you do all the work yourself and the gun stays in your possession, the government doesn’t have to get involved and doesn’t have to know anything about it.
So, how does one do that? By starting out with a 80% machined lower receiver or frame. According to the law, this is the only one part of any firearm legally considered to be the “gun.” This part gets the serial number. According to legal definition, the part that’s the gun is the frame. In the case of guns that don’t have a frame, such as the AR-15, the part that the trigger and firing mechanism is mounted into is considered the frame. On the AR-15, that’s the lower receiver.
How to Build Your Own Ghost Gun
Even though the lower receiver is considered to be the gun, it’s not considered to be a gun until it is more than 80% complete. So, if you buy one that is only 80% complete, you can buy it without a serial number on it. No serial number, means that nobody is tracking it. These “AR-15 80% lower receivers” are available online from a number of different manufacturers.
These 80% lower receivers are available in both aluminum (the original material) and polymer. I’ve machined both and prefer the aluminum, even though the polymer is easier to machine. The problem with the polymer receivers is the template you use for them, which is easily destroyed by the same tools you are using to machine the receiver. When I did mine, I cut the trigger group pocket too long, almost breaking through to the pocket for the bolt catch. While it still works, I’m not sure how durable it is.
In order to ensure that everything is truly off the books, you might want to buy your lower receiver using a prepaid debit card (not the debit card for your bank account) and have it shipped to someplace other than your home. The rest of the parts can be purchased from a gun show to keep the purchases anonymous. Since they are not considered to be “the gun,” but only parts, they don’t have serial numbers and don’t require a background check.
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Machining the AR-15 Ghost Gun
For the AR-15, the typical machining that needs to be done, in order to finish off the receiver, is to mill out the trigger hole, the trigger group pocket and drill three holes through the receiver for the selector switch and two pins. The area to be milled out is molded in red plastic on the polymer 80% receiver in the photo. This work would normally be done on a milling machine, but can be done fairly easily on a drill press, with a milling vice.
The photo shows a 13″ benchtop drill press, the smallest size I’d recommend using for this operation. While the work might actually fit in a smaller drill press, some stability will be lost. When you start milling out the trigger group, it will cause a lot of vibration. A smaller drill press won’t be able to handle this as well.
The milling vice is the blue apparatus, bolted to the drill press table. It allows controlled movement in the X and Y directions, allowing you to accurately control the cut you are making in the lower receiver. Two two-flute end mills will be needed as well; a 5/16″ diameter one and a 7/16″ diameter one.
In addition to these tools, a template is an absolute necessity. These templates are available from the same companies that manufacture the 80% lower receivers. The template gives you a guide as to where to drill the holes and where to mill out the material for the trigger pocket.
Not all templates are equal, as different manufacturers have different ideas about how to machine out the material you need to remove. All of them come with two side plates and a number of different top plates. It is in the top plate that you see the most difference. Some have a top plate with a large number of small holes in it, like the one in the picture (right).
The advantage of this sort of top plate is that it allows you to drill a large number of 1/8″ holes into the casting, removing some of the material. This is easier than milling it out with the end mill. The drilling can be continued by using a 1/4″ drill for the second and fourth rows of holes (counting vertically) which will overlap slightly into the other rows. The idea here is to remove as much of the material as possible with a drill, so that less has to be removed with the end mill.
Always use oil when drilling or milling metals. Cutting oils are available for this, but if you don’t have any, then lightweight motor oil or WD-40 will suffice. The oil helps keep the temperature down and lubricates the cutting tool. This will help your drill bits and end mills last longer.
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The trigger group pocket is stepped, so not all of the material is cut out to the same depth. Machining it is usually done in three stages:
- Machining out the trigger slot – This is usually done first, going through the entire lower receiver, from above. The 5/16″ end mill is used for this. A special top plate for the template will be provided for this.
- Machining out the main part of the pocket. This must be cut to a depth of 1.25″. The 7/16″ end mill is used for this. Be careful not to cut it too deep, as the bottom of the trigger group pocket will be less than 1/8″ after cutting. This requires a different template top plate; the one below with the smaller opening.
- Machining out the stepped area in the trigger group pocket. This area only needs to be cut to a depth of .525″. Cutting too deep will make a hole though, just above where the pistol grip is to be attached. You will cut through to the hole for the pistol grip mounting screw, so don’t be surprised when this happens. The template plate with the larger hole (on the left) is used for this.
If you look at the two template top plates in the picture, you’ll notice that the one on the left has paint on the inner edge of the cutout, while the one on the right is missing most of the paint. End mills cut throughout the entire length of the flutes, unlike drill bits, which only cut at the pointed end. So, the end mills will cut the template just as easily as they will cut the casting. This is the problem when doing a polymer AR-15 lower receiver.
However, the depth of the pocket is deeper than the flutes on a standard end mill. So, if you cut out the pocket to almost the full length and width, as you cut it down to the full depth, you won’t damage the template. Then, once you’ve reached the full depth, work your way outwards, until the shaft of the end mill is rubbing on the template. You will know it is rubbing, because it will rub off the paint.
I mentioned earlier that the end mill will create a lot of chatter as it is cutting. You will need to make many small incremental cuts to get to the full depth and width of the cut. Have patience, the smaller your adjustments, the less chatter. Too much chatter could cause you to make a bad cut.
Once the trigger group pocket is cut out to its full dimensions, the template can be removed from the milling vice and laid on its side, to drill out the three holes for the selector switch and pins. If your template has bushings on both sides for drilling, you’re better off drilling these holes halfway through from each side. But if it only has bushings on one side, you must drill it from that side. Make sure that your drill press table is perpendicular to the drill bit and that all chips are brushed off, so that they cannot make the template sit at an angle.
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Finishing the Ghost Gun
Once you’ve finished machining your lower receiver, you’ve finished the hardest part of building the ghost gun. From this point on, everything is assembly. You will need:
- A lower receiver parts kit
- A buffer tube kit
- A stock
- An upper receiver and barrel
- A buffer tube wrench
The lower receiver parts kit will contain all the parts necessary to make the trigger function; such as the trigger itself, the hammer and the selector switch. It also contains a number of pins, detents and springs that are installed in the lower receiver. Other than the stock and the parts associated with the buffer tube, this one kit will have everything needed to make the lower receiver functional. It is easy to install and there are many videos to show you how.
The buffer tube is attached to the back of the lower receiver with a special nut. This requires the one specialty assembly tool you have to have, a buffer tube wrench, which is a spanner wrench. Fortunately, this is an inexpensive tool, usually stamped out of thick sheet metal. If you do not buy this tool, you won’t be able to tighten the nut adequately and the buffer ring will come loose.
To complete the lower part of the gun, the stock is slipped on, over the buffer tube.
You can choose to build or buy your upper receiver and barrel assembly. One nice thing about the AR-15 is the high degree of customization possible with the gun. Most of this is in the upper receiver and barrel. You will need to choose:
- The caliber of the gun
- The length of the barrel
- Whether you want a quad rail or forestock
- Whether you want an upper receiver with a handle or Weaver rail
- Type of front grip you want, if you put on a quad rail
- Whether you want to use gas impingement or install a gas piston
- Types of optics you want. This is the one area with the most options available. You can go with simple iron sights, red dot sights or a telescopic sight. Some people install more than one, such as the EoTech system, which has a red dot sight and a telescopic sight designed to work with it.
- Whether you want to add a tactical light
- Whether you want to add a bi-pod
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Buying a ready built upper receiver is slightly less expensive than building your own. However, if you want to do a lot of customization, that savings will rapidly disappear, as you change out parts. So, a lot depends on the configuration you choose to have.
Even so, buying a ready-built upper receiver and then gradually customizing it as you can is common. This allows you to get your gun into operation quickly, for the least amount of money. Many of the customizations that people do won’t entail removing parts from the upper receiver (assuming they buy an upper receiver and barrel that they like), but rather adding them.
The most common caliber for an AR-15 is .223 or 5.56mm, the original caliber of the M-16. This choice also allows you to use .22 long rifle cartridges in your ghost gun. You will need to buy a kit for this, which consists of a special bolt carrier and magazine, but with that kit, your ghost gun will make a great varmint gun, as well as something to use in teaching the kids to shoot.
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