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80% Lower Laws and Legal Issues

Posted by Jordan Vinroe on Sep 11th 2019

Building a handgun for personal protection using an 80% lower is not a new concept. But as more restrictions are placed in regards to purchasing firearms, more people are considering the alternative DIY approach lower receivers offer. If you are looking at having a handgun without the traditional headaches of background checks, registration, and serialization, building your firearm is worth considering. So that you have the right approach to building a handgun here is some background information on 80% lower laws to illustrate how this approach can help you meet your firearm goals:

Lower Receiver Definition Basics

If you are not familiar with 80% lower receivers you may wonder if it is even legal to build a firearm in your garage. The answer is yes, though not without some restrictions you should be aware of to avoid legal issues with 80% lower receivers. By definition 80% lower receivers are blank components that can be used as the frame of a gun after some tooling and milling occurs. That modification usually focuses on the main fire control group pocket, hammer/trigger pin holes, trigger pass-through hole, and safety selector holes.

Because 80% lower receivers are just a raw component, they are federally legal to own. Whether it is legal for you to turn them into a working firearm depends more on state and local laws. If you are prohibited from owning a firearm, you are prohibited from building one. You must also build one with the intention of personal use, and not with the intention of selling or giving away.Certain firearm configurations can also be banned locally.

What the ATF Says About 80% Lower Receivers

Many of the laws regarding 80% lowers are based off the definitions put in place by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms. Because they are considered raw components by the ATF, 80% receivers are not regulated by the bureau. These pieces do not meet the definition of a firearm under the Gun Control Act of 1968. So the ATF considers them just to be a hunk of metal until you mill it out for assembling into an actual firearm.

Study State Laws Regarding Lowers

While the ATF’s position on 80% lower receivers answers a lot of concerns in regards to building your own firearm, that doesn’t mean federal laws have you covered. To completely avoid legal issues on 80% lowers it’s important to stay updated on all the laws in your state. Individual states can add to or have completely separate laws regarding 80% lower receivers. One example is that AR frames built from an 80% lower may be regarded as an “assault weapon” in your state, which carries different restrictions than handguns.

Knowing the exact gun laws in your state is also important as you build your firearm. Restrictions may be in place on magazine sizes, collapsible stocks, pistol grips, and more that can all impact the design of your personal firearm. By researching before you begin putting together your firearm you’ll be able to remain in 100% compliance.

Personalizing Your Piece through Engraving

One of the top reasons why 80% lower receivers are popular is because of the few restrictions regarding engraving. Since handguns built from 80% receivers are for personal use, 80% lower laws in most areas mean you aren’t required to have a serial number engraved onto your weapon. That isn’t the case with every state, however. Also, some people still choose to add a serial number to help track down their sidearm in the instance it is lost or stolen.

While it is not federally required that you engrave your finished firearm, many people also see this as a way to personalize their weapon. Since any serial number, engraving style, or coloration that you wish can be used then it is a way to add special meaning to your firearm.

Other Details about Lowers to Keep in Mind

To remain in compliance with 80% lower laws you have to ensure the weapon was not built with the intention of being sold or given away. Beyond that you have to do all of the milling and construction work yourself. In the past, you had the ability to enlist the help of a dedicated machinist for milling and other construction technical issues. Recent changes in the law prevents this. Because not everyone has the skills or tools to mill 80% lower receivers, this measure was done to ensure only serious gun owners take on a DIY firearm build. Also it’s important to know that it is completely legal to have 80% lower receivers shipped directly to your door.

Stay Legal with Every Project

The laws on 80% lowers and their use in building your own firearm are pretty straightforward. As long as you do all of the tooling and other work to transform the receiver into a firearm – and keep the finished weapon just for your personal protection – you’ll be in the clear. But like with any laws, they can change as debates continue. That is why it is important to stay on top of the latest changes and consult with experts like those at JSD Supply. We can help you understand the current information about 80% lowers to avoid legal issues with your next project. Contact us today with your questions so we can help you stay legal at all times.