Friday, May 22, 2015

Firearms Friday: Lower Receivers

Over the year I have come across a variety of lower receivers. Some of them have been high quality while others have been more along the lines of a basic lower. However, in my experience, I can’t say that I have ever had a bad receiver. Doesn’t mean that they don’t exist but maybe, based on the experiences of others, I have just been lucky.

Today, if you go online or walk into a local gun shop, you can usually find a wide variety of receivers to choose from. Just in my area, there are at least a couple of dozen different brands that I can chose from by visiting just a handful of stores. And they vary greatly in price ranging from around $40 all the way up to around $250. This is just for the stripped lower and nothing else.

Of course, this is in stark contrast to the environment that we faced a couple of years ago. For those of you unfamiliar, with the legislative battle raging in Washington, all of the lower receivers dried up and the prices (at most but not all places) on the ones that you could find went through the roof. Basically, you were lucky if you could find one at three times the current price.

But that ebb had given way to flow and there are countless options on the market. However, these movements are cyclical which is why I recommend going to the local shop now and picking up at least one. $40 plus transfer/pics is a heck of a lot better than $120-200 during a panic. If you can, pick up a bunch of them. Not only is it a good item to get while you can but it is a heck of a lot of fun to build a rifle.

The first thing you need to do is get a stripped lower. While you can find polymer ATI lowers for around $40 and Tennessee Arms hybrid lowers for around the same price it is well worth the extra $5 to pick up either an Anderson or Palmetto State Armory forged lower. Polymer and hybrid lowers have their place in light weight builds and sometimes there is some money to be saved during sales but for general builds, especially the first few times around, forged is the better way to go.

Anderson and PSA are quality manufacturers that provide the no frills lowers that just work. The same can pretty much be said for those made by DPMS and Spikes Tactical… which are slightly higher quality but are about double the price. While there many billet lowers on the market I don’t have any direct experience with them so any opinion would be useless. However, given the quality and precision machining of the billet class I would reserve them for higher end builds and those looking to but tens of thousands of rounds through their AR annually. Forged would suffice but billet is made for these roles.

I have heard and read countless opinions from a variety of sources of one company being better than another but, honestly, for the enthusiast there aren’t enough differences to justify the price jump. Polymer has its place and billet lowers have their place, for everything else a basic forged lower will do just fine. No matter what you decide, enjoy the process of building, of creating something with your own hands, and learn from the process. There is no better way to learn about a platform than building a rifle from the ground up. And while you’re at it, pick up a few extra lowers and put them aside for later.