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What is an FFL? Is it Legal to Buy an 80% Lower?

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Thinking about picking up a new hobby? Does becoming an AR-15 builder sound interesting?

Let's face it, what is more American than building your own custom firearm? Like most new builders, you're worried about the unknowns around it like: Is it legal to build an AR-15 for personal use? Is it difficult to build an AR-15?

Short answers: Yes, it is legal to build your own AR-15. No, it is easy to build your own AR-15. It's not the days of civil war where you need to forge your own metal to make a barrel that may withhold the blast you send down it! You've found this page with good reason and you are on the right track to becoming an AR-15 builder! The chances are that you've heard of 80% lower receivers, but you're not completely sure of where to start or legalities around them? Well, let’s knock out the basics together!

What is an FFL?

An FFL is defined as – A Federal Firearms License (FFL) in the United States that enables an individual or company to engage in a business pertaining to the manufacturing or importation of firearms and ammunition.

What is an 80% lower? An 80% lower is a term referring to an a lower receiver that has not yet reached a stage of manufacture that meets the definition of firearm in the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). In simplest terms, this means that the part or material you are buying is not completed and still needs special tools and very basic skills to turn it into a complete functioning lower receiver, therefore making it officially a firearm by definition of the law.

Is it legal to buy an 80% lower receiver without an FFL?

Yes, it is completely legal to buy an 80% lower for personal use under the GCA of 1968. This means you can buy and complete an 80% lower as long as you keep it for your own use, do not sell it or transfer ownership of once you have begun to mill out the fire control group.

A private individual producing a firearm for personal use and not for sale or distribution does not need an FFL transfer. This is a great plus for the average American with a family to protect because if the government decides they want to take away our firearms, your AR-15 build is ‘off the books’ since you completed it yourself. However, it is “recommended” by, of course, those who want to control your rights to serialize and/or place special markings or identifiers on your build in case of theft. Sure thing.

How is the 80% turned into a complete lower?

Using an  80% lower jig and instructions we provide with every purchase, the builder (you) mill out the fire control group. Once you mill out the fire control group, your 80% lower now becomes, by definition of the law, a “completed lower receiver”, also known as a firearm. It’s really this simple:

Fire control group not milled at all = 80% lower

Fire control group milled out any amount = completed lower / firearm!

(See image below for a quick visual)

(Photo compliments of: www.ATF.gov)

Hopefully the above addressed the basic legality questions that may have had about becoming an AR-15 builder. Sometimes people hold back from building their own AR-15 because they are unsure of their rights and they don't want to break the law. We want you to dive in and immerse yourself in this fun learning experience that is building your own AR-15 starting with an 80% lower receiver.

To continue your research and build upon your now basic understanding of FFLs and 80% lowers, check out our 80% Lowers FAQs page !

You may now be thinking to yourself, “I’ve never built a firearm! Where do I start?” Well, we have you covered at 80-lower.com as, not only your one-stop builder shop, but we provide the instructions for you to complete your 80% lower yourself! Check out the easy process of completing your own 80% lower receiver here: “How to Complete an 80% Lower."


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