80% lowers take the hassle out of firearm ownership. By purchasing a lower, you can usually circumvent many of the more arduous steps associated with buying a gun. They allow you to build your own firearm from the ground up, saving money and giving you unparalleled flexibility.
Check your state
In most states, you don’t need a license to own an 80% lower, and nor do you need to fill out any special paperwork or seek permissions to build a gun from scratch. This isn’t a uniform law, though, so it always pays to check before taking the plunge for the first time. Some states do prohibit building guns from scratch. Others (like California, for example) fall somewhere between the two poles with a mixed set of legislation. Where 80% lowers are legal; however, you shouldn’t have to worry about serializing them, making the process even smoother.
Check what guns you can build
Even where 80% lowers are fully legal, you won’t be able to build every type of gun from scratch. Laws on certain firearms largely dictate what your 80% lower project can entail. For example, most states prohibit the building of undetectable firearms (anything not easily detectable by security personnel), and the from-scratch construction of an NFA firearm is similarly illegal. That includes certain types of rifles, shotguns, and destructive weapons. Building these devices can land you in serious trouble and might even carry a jail sentence, so it’s always important to check.
Decide what type of kit you want
Generally speaking, there are two ways to build your own firearm. You can opt for a full build kit (which is simpler) or proceed part by part. Full build kits are useful for first-timers because, as the name suggests, they come with all the parts included, ready to be attached to the loader. Not only does this present significantly less of a challenge, but it also ensures that all the parts are compatible with each other, a major issue amongst first-time builders. The alternative is to go part by part. This gives you infinitely more control over the makeup of the firearm (you’ll be sourcing parts individually), but the process is more time-consuming, can be more expensive, and you risk incompatibility issues if you’re not careful.
Amass your tools
Depending on the kit you go for, you won’t need a range of complex or specialized tools. AR-type builds are the more demanding. These will require (at least) a milling machine and a drill press; otherwise, you won’t be able to operate the jig. The vast majority of pistol builds can be completed with just a hand drill. Of course, you’ll also require things like gun oil for lubrication, but it always pays to research tools before you start. If this is your first build, the chances are that you won’t own all the required kit. Make a list and get what you need before you start rather than mid-way through.