The lower receiver is one of the most important parts on any gun. If you have spent any time looking at gun parts, you have probably noticed: lower receivers vary like crazy in terms of price and quality. So how can you know which one to get? Is more expensive always better?
This buyers guide will walk you through some of the most important things to consider when you’re shopping for your next lower receiver.
Here are the best AR-15 lower receivers on the market right now.
Let’s kick this list off with one of the most popular lower receivers out there right now. This is a forged aluminum stripped lower receiver. It is a tough, reliable lower receiver that fits with nearly any good AR-15.
This is the second generation of lower receiver from Aero Precision. It has been improved in two key ways from the first generation: first, a nylon-tip screw lets you fine tune the fit of your lower to any standard AR-15 upper receiver. Second, an increased mag well flare gives the lower a sleeker look, and makes magazine insertion easier.
The lower receiver comes in anodized black. It has a sleek, fairly standard look, and it will fit with all standard AR-15 parts. It’s not the jazziest lower on our list, but it is dependable and won’t give you any trouble in installation or use.
Remember that as a stripped lower receiver, this product will require a firearm license and the appropriate paperwork to purchase.
This upper and lower receiver combo from Seekins is a durable billeted aluminum model. It has a black hard coat anodized finish, and the combined pair will fit with any standard AR-15 parts.
Starting off with this combo set is a great way to start building your custom AR-15. The upper includes a forward assist and dust cover. Features of the lower include SP enhanced bolt catch, an oversized winter trigger guard, bullet pictogram selector markings, and ambidextrous bolt release.
As a billeted aluminum set, there is a unique look to this upper and lower receiver combo. It is a little more expensive than some other options on our list, but remember that you are getting the upper and lower together for the price. This combo is the best way to begin putting together your own customized AR-15.
Anderson Manufacturing is one of the top names in AR-15 parts, and this lower receiver is one of their best. This is a stripped lower receiver, so it is not complete, but ready to be installed with the proper lower kit.
The build of this lower is high-strength forged aluminum, with a hard anodized finish. It’s crazy strong and reliable for the price – which is extremely affordable, compared to a lot of other lowers of similar quality. It isn’t going to scratch or get nicked or dented with time. It is precisely machined for drop-in installation, meaning that there isn’t much work you need to do to get this lower installed on your gun.
The Anderson receiver has a pretty standard look. There are no fancy billeted patterns or engravings on it – but when it comes down to the great price and better quality, do you really need all that? This is just a solid, durable lower receiver, compatible with any standard AR-15 parts.
Let’s step away from the standard for a moment. This lower is designed and produced by Sharp Bros., a company that manufactures creative lowers – and this one is one of their absolute coolest.
The mag well has a spartan helmet design, painted with American flag colors. The helmet is intentionally scratched and marked to look like it has been through battle. The lower itself, though, is not actually going to get scratched up while you are using it – it is made of tough billeted aluminum, totally corrosion resistant, and has an additional hard anodized coat for added durability.
The lower is precisely machined for drop-in installation. It is compatible with all mil spec internal parts and upper receivers, as well as any GI standard issue magazines, or Pmags. The colored flag and helmet shape are cool additions, but what matters most is that this lower is high-quality where it counts. It will fit perfectly with your customized AR-15 without any machining, and it will stand up to all the use you put it through.
Again, remember that stripped lower receivers will require licensing and paperwork for purchase.
This forged aluminum stripped lower receiver is incredibly high quality for the price. It is manufactured by Palmetto, a smaller but still well-trusted manufacturer, and it comes at a steal for the strength and ease of installation.
The forged aluminum is complimented with a black anodized coating, to prevent any corrosion or scratching to the lower. It is machined for drop-in installation, and will fit with all standard AR-15 parts and mil spec uppers. The fire selector is marked with “safe” and “fire” markings.
The low price of this lower does not necessarily mean that the quality is somehow worse than others. It will fit perfectly with your gun, and it will stand up to tons of use without any problems. It is not flashy or customized in any way, which is a big part of why it is so cheap. It also comes from a less prominent manufacturer. All-in-all, if you are simply looking for a straightforward, quality lower, this one will do the job just fine.
Another Sharps Bros. creation, this super sturdy, billeted aluminum stripped lower is the second generation of the same model from Sharps Bros. It is approved upon the last generation with the addition of threaded bolt catch pins. It is also lighter than the previous generation and has an updated design.
As far as appearances go, this is another awesome Sharps Bros. lower. The mag well is molded into a scowling face with sharp teeth – not only does it look cool, but the design also helps to reduce the overall weight of the lower, leaving empty spaces without compromising the durability. It’s a great way to give your gun a unique, customized look.
The lower also features oversized integral trigger guards for improved performance. It is made of rugged billeted aluminum with a black hard anodized coat. It is fully compatible with all mil spec internal parts and upper receivers, so you shouldn’t have any problem fitting it with your custom gun.
To top it all off, this lower is even a little cheaper than some of Sharps Bros. other customized designs. It’s lightweight, tough, performs great and looks cool – what more can you ask for?
This forged aluminum stripped lower receiver is designed and manufactured by Ranier Arms, another big name in the business. This is a fairly basic, dependable forged model, that will fit well with all standard internal parts and upper receivers.
The design of this lower features a flared out mag well, which makes it easier to quickly change the magazine while firing. It also comes with a tensioning screw, to precisely fit the upper to the lower receiver. It is machined for a perfect fit and finished with a hard anodizing black dye, to prevent corrosion and scratches.
This lower is a little more expensive than other standard forged lowers out there, but it is very high-quality and guaranteed to last for a long time. It also has a sleek, simple design that will look great with any customized gun.
The last lower receiver on our list is another awesome, second generation creative billeted piece from Sharps Bros. Inspired by the iconic A-10 Warthog aircraft, the mag well of this lower is molded to look like a snarling warthog. The effect is a rugged, unique look that would be perfect for anyone building a “showroom” style gun.
The look is one thing, the quality of the lower is another. Fortunately, like all other Sharps Bros. products, this lower receiver is as functional as it is flashy. Precisely machined for drop-in installation, it is compatible with all standard mil spec internal parts and upper receivers. It also fits with all GI standard mags as well as Pmags. It has an oversized integral trigger guard and a beveled magazine flare for easy magazine changes.
As a second generation model, this lower receiver has been tested, reviewed and improved upon. The second generation puts more emphasis on performance over design than the first.
What To Look for in a Lower Receiver
Again, AR-15 lower receivers come in a huge variety of costs and makes. You don’t need to get the most expensive lower receiver out there to have the best quality, but you should have an idea of what you are looking for.
Here are some of the factors that set lower receivers apart, so that you can have a better idea of what is going to work best for you.
Stages of Finish: Complete, Stripped and 80% Lower Receivers
Lower receivers can be bought and sold in three different stages: complete, stripped or 80%. The type you buy will make a difference in the legality of it, how customizable it is and how easy it is going to be to install on your gun – not to mention the price.
A complete lower receiver is – exactly like you are thinking – completely assembled. That means it includes the magazine catch, grip, trigger assembly and sometimes even the stock, depending on the manufacturer. A complete lower receiver is ready to install on your gun exactly as it is.
Because it is complete, and makes up a large part of your firearm, you do need a gun license to purchase a complete lower receiver. It also will be marked with a serial number, and all the legalities of buying a complete firearm will apply. They are also, obviously, going to be more expensive than their stripped and 80% counterparts – but you won’t need to buy anything else to complete assembly, so the price might be worth it, depending on the gun in question.
A stripped lower receiver is more of a middle-stage part. Most of the AR-15 lower receivers you find on the market are going to be stripped. They come with all the necessary holes and slots, so installing them is still fairly easy, especially with a lower parts kit.
Stripped receivers, like complete receivers, will be serialized, and all the legalities and paperwork that come with buying a gun will apply.
Then there are 80% receivers. You might also hear them referred to as ‘unfinished’ or ‘blank’ receivers. These are gaining in popularity recently. They do not need to be serialized; there is no license or paperwork necessary to buy or sell one. They are also a whole lot cheaper than a complete or stripped lower receiver. The downside? You are going to need to customize the lower receiver to fit your gun yourself. If you don’t have any gunsmithing or machining experience, an unfinished lower receiver is not going to do you much good.
The way your lower receiver is made also makes a big difference.
Most lower receivers these days are made from aluminum, but there are three main ways to manufacture the aluminum. You will generally find lower receivers made of cast aluminum, billet aluminum, or forged aluminum – all of which will make a difference on the overall quality and appearance of the gun.
Cast aluminum lower receivers are manufactured by pouring aluminum into premade casts. Lower receivers made this way are usually going to be cheaper, because the process takes very little effort, comparatively – but they are also going to be much weaker than billet or forged aluminum receivers.
A cast aluminum receiver will still be strong enough to be perfectly safe when you use it, but it won’t have quite the same sturdy feel as some others.
Billed aluminum lower receivers, on the other hand, are much stronger and much less uniform than cast aluminum. The process involves starting with a whole piece of aluminum and shaping it down into a lower receiver. This allows for a lot of creativity in the process. If you care about the appearance of your gun, a billeted aluminum lower receiver is going to be the way to go.
Finally, forged aluminum is the strongest type of manufactured lower receiver. Forged aluminum receivers are made by machine-pressing the aluminum into shape. The result is a sturdy, heavy lower receiver that is going to stand up better than any to the test of time.
Performance vs. Design
One last note before we go into the best lowers on the market: a lot of lower receivers out there have a much fancier look than others.
A creative design on the mag well of your lower will look cool, and give your gun a customized, unique flare – but there is some danger to getting distracted by cool designs. You might find yourself paying a lot more for the same or even lower quality. Unless you are designing a showroom gun, you should always value function over form. Our advice is to stick with a simple, high-quality lower receiver that will do its job well and not corrode or wear down with time. Not to mention, more intricate designs are almost always going to cost you more.
That said, we will go over some lowers on this list that combine a unique design with great performance. If that’s the case, and you want to give your gun a custom look, go for it. Just remember that it won’t be quite as friendly on your budget.
After seeing some of the best AR-15 lower receivers on the market in 2019, consider what is going to work best for your needs.
Again, our advice is that simple and high-quality is generally the best choice. When you are designing your own gun, it’s easy to get carried away with big ideas and intricate designs – but remember that a top-quality receiver that will perform well and fit with the rest of your gun is what matters most.
It’s also important to remember that every single one of the lowers reviewed on this list require appropriate licensing and paperwork to purchase. If you are planning to order your lower online, there are a few ways this can be handled. Some manufacturers allow you to fax or email your firearm license and proof of identification to complete the sale. This will generally take a few days to certify, but it will make it possible for you to order the product online – this is helpful when you have your eye on a real specific, custom piece.
In other cases, it may just be easier to find where the lower is sold in your area and purchase it in person.
Whether you chose a simple forged or intricate billeted lower receiver, make sure it will fit with the rest of your AR-15 parts and stand up to long-term use in the field.