If you follow the firearms industry even slightly, you know that gun laws are continually changing. Every year, senators, members of Congress, and local government pass new legislation barring the use of or the purchase of some types of firearm, accessory, or magazine. How is one to keep up with the never-ending change? What about lowers? Are 80% lower receivers legal?
In most states, yes, 80% lowers are legal.
WHAT IS AN 80% LOWER?
First, before we dive into the legalities of 80% lower receivers let’s determine precisely what an 80 lower is or isn’t.
To put it plainly, an 80% lower is a receiver blank. It is not legally a firearm — more of a hunk of metal — because the key components have not yet been drilled. The drilling is up to you. Once you receive your new lower, your job is to cut and drill the blank until it becomes a stripped lower receiver. Once you’re done you’ll have it all; safety pinholes, trigger and more.
WHICH STATES RESTRICT 80 LOWER RECEIVERS?
It is legal to purchase and own a receiver blank in most states, with a few exceptions. For more on this subject, please read our guide on 80 lower receiver laws in the US.
NEW JERSEY: Attorney General Gurbir Grewal sought to cease sales of “ghost guns” in New Jersey. As we previously mentioned, an 80% lower is not yet a gun, though. Still, Grewal banned their sale and ownership and threatened retailers with fines and legal consequences if they refused to comply.
WASHINGTON: Washington passed House Bill 1739, banning the sale of what they call “undetectable firearms.” If you live in the state, the bill prevents you from buying, owning, or building a polymer 80% firearm, though aluminum is still on the table.
NEW YORK: In September 2019, the Attorney General of New York sent out Cease and Desist letters to manufacturers and retailers making and selling 80 lower receivers. He claimed they were illegal and threatened court battles with each. As of this time, the New York State Senate passed S.7763-A/A9903, the Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act which bans the sale and ownership of an 80% lower receiver.
CALIFORNIA: California allows the purchase and use of 80% lowers, so long as you apply for a serial number via the California Department of Justice. Your unique number is registered and engraved on the receiver or frame of your AR-15.
HAWAII: In June 2020, Hawaii banned the sale of 80% lower receivers by enacting HB 2744. This bill prohibits the manufacture or purchase of parts for the purpose of assembling 80 lower receivers with no serial numbers.
CONNECTICUT: Since Connecticut enacted H.B. 7219 all 80% lower receivers must have a serial number obtained
from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection engraved on them before they are manufactured.
As laws and regulations constantly evolve, we recommend checking your local and state laws before attempting to buy an unfinished lower.
80 Lower FAQs
These are common questions that most people will ask when getting into building their own guns at home with 80 percents.
DO I REQUIRE AN FFL?
No, an FFL is not required to purchase an 80% lower or build an AR-15 from a receiver blank. As the blank is not yet considered a firearm, it does not follow the same rules and regulations set forth by the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).
DO I NEED A SERIAL NUMBER ON MY 80% LOWER?
Again, no, not in most states. According to federal law, an 80% lower does not require a unique serial number even if you finish constructing an AR-15 from the blank.
In some states, such as California, they require you to serialize your firearm’s receiver. You’ll want to check local and state laws before finishing your build.
CAN I SELL AN 80% AR-15?
You cannot construct an 80% AR-15 intending to sell, according to the ATF, if you build a firearm intending to sell to the public you become a manufacturer. At that point, you must become a licensed FFL.
However, if you own your AR-15 for some time, but later on decide to sell, that’s okay. Simply put, do not buy several receiver blanks, finish the build, then sell them to your neighbors or the general public. The ATF will crack down on you quickly and they won’t be kind enough to issue a warning. You’ll probably walk away in handcuffs.
WILL THE GOVERNMENT BAN 80% LOWERS?
Honestly, there is no telling if or when the federal government will ban the sale or manufacture of 80% lower receivers. It is improbable, despite the incessant rumors spreading online. However, certain states are constantly pushing for unfinished lowers and other components to be banned on the state level which has already happened or begun to be legally implemented in six to seven states.
OTHER TYPES OF 80% FRAMES
While most legislation focuses on the AR-15 — the boogeyman of firearms — it’s not uncommon for DIY builders to construct their own 1911, Glock, or Sig Sauer P320. You can find 80% frames, or blanks, for each one of these.
We fully expect more models to become available as, 80% frames especially, the market continues to grow across the country. If you’re at all concerned with the legalities of owning or building an 80% firearm, you’ve done well by researching the topic. Do yourself a favor and double-check local and state laws before you wind up on an ATF list.
START YOUR NEXT LOWER BUILD WITH 80% ARMS
If you’re ready to build an 80% firearm of your own, consider our 80 lowers available today!
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers. The above information is not intended to be legal advice. Please do your own research, consult a lawyer, and do not rely on the above information.