Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

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    Tennessee Jed
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    Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Tennessee Jed on Mon Jun 22, 2015 1:08 pm

    I've never been much of an AR fan, but have played with the notion of getting one several times over the last few years.

    I just got an e-mail saying that Brownell's is offering Anderson Manufacturing stripped AR lowers for $42.99. Wasn't that long ago when stripped lowers were going for 3 times as much, and I'm starting to think it might be wise to get at least one AR lower soon, with the rumblings of gun control once again looming on the horizon.

    My question is, is there much difference between stripped lowers?

    If I were to get an AR, I'd prefer to build it myself, making careful decisions every step of the way, and probably looking to put together a light weight, no-nonsense AR.

    I'm still not completely sold on AR's (being more of a lever guy), but a really good price on a lower that costs less than taking the family out for dinner is making this look pretty attractive. Thanks.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Charlie Foxtrot on Mon Jun 22, 2015 5:23 pm

    I'll try TJ:

    http://www.andersonrifles.com/  Their claim to never need lube and <gasp> nano-technology leaves me a bit concerned: it trips the BS Filter.  However, the reviews from Buds Gun Shop http://www.budsgunshop.com/catalog/product_info.php/products_id/80707/Anderson+AR-15+5.56+Stripped+Lower+Receiver+AR15A3LWFOR seem pretty positive.

    The joy about ARs is that there is an mil-spec document that you must meet to call it an AR-15. If the manufacturer is competent, one lower is just about the same as another. One difference may be the materials: I prefer forged over billet, and certainly over the composite/ plastic. That being said, I wouldn't buy a DelTon on a dare.  Anything Remington would worry me - although I did buy several BushMaster lowers. However, if they don't work, Brownell's will stand behind them.  

    However, there seems to be a big quality difference in Lower Parts Kits. Daniel Defense, CMMG, and Gisele are thought to be very good.  

    Another thought, if you are getting your first AR, you might want to go with an entry level complete rifle so you can see how the platform should feel and function. You don't have to invest in the tools or the time to build the firearm. The S&W M&P-15 Sport and the Ruger AR556 come immediately to mind. I was looking to build a pink AR for the Princess, but found I could buy a complete AR from S&W for less than I could buy the parts separately.

    I've got the M&P Sport. Through ~400 rounds it's been dead solid reliable and accurate. $600 just about everywhere. I'm also planning on a DMR build that will probably set me back $2.5 - 3K (maybe more) before I'm done (optics included.)  

    I do believe that everyone should have an AR. The type is too useful and too prevalent to ignore. Especially in these crazy times.  

    Dev's also got some insight to the platform. Let us know if we can help.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Tennessee Jed on Mon Jun 22, 2015 5:50 pm

    Thanks CF. Interesting thought about the first being a built model. I've been looking at both the S&W Sport and Ruger AR 556 as potential candidates. Good to know that others think that's a sound method.

    One thing I've learned as a new-to-me 1911 owner is, there are times when spending some extra to get all the features you want, up front, has merit. My particular 1911 came at a ridiculously low price, and I don't regret getting it. However, it's easy to see how things that seem small, like sights or a grip safety you like, can quickly add up to more than one would've spent initially.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Cornmastah on Mon Jun 22, 2015 6:53 pm

    TJ, one of the things to consider about building your own (lower) and then throwing on an upper of your choice instead of buying a prebuilt one is the fact that you will learn and know the gun inside and out.  Like if something doesn't work right, you will be able to troubleshoot/fix it because you will know how it all works.  Building a lower isn't difficult at all--and can be rewarding.  There are tons of youtube videos that can help.  My vote would be to go ahead and build one (at least the lower half).  If you build it, you can get it just the way you want.  Modifying a basic version, ie: changing out the rail system etc..., will end up costing you a little more in the long run than if you just build it the way you like it.  One thing I would recommend doing is a real cheap replacement piece that makes charging the gun easier, especially with a scope.  I just replaced the charging handle latch on 3 of my friends' AR's this week.  replacement latch
    I do think you will enjoy the process, and enjoy the gun as well.  AR15's are very handy rifles.  As far as lowers are concerned, Anderson lowers work just fine.  No need to spend tons of money on the stripped lower receiver.  Just don't buy the plastic ones--get an aluminum one.  I have owned/used/still own Rock Rivers, Anderson, Palmetto State Armory, Spikes Tactical, CMMG, LAR, Alexander Arms, etc...  Seems like they all work the same.  The lower parts kits, however, are not all created equally.  Some have better triggers, some are made a little better, etc...  Also, when considering optics, think about what you want to do with the gun.  If you want to reach out a bit, don't be afraid to throw a scope on it--it will surprise you how well these little carbines shoot.  My main .223 AR15 can quickly and easily hit plates from 50-400 yards with an inexpensive Nikon p223 scope.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Devereaux on Tue Jun 23, 2015 1:25 am

    TJ. Note the theme that runs through the above comments. Lowers are a commodity. Cheap is good. Avoid what was said above. Widners (?sp) has LRB's from time to time that are excellent and cheap. These are the people that make THE best M14 competition frame - complete with a rear lug.

    If you go this route, look for the individual parts. You will find a "parts kit" that has everything, but you will end up with extra stuff that you don't use as you go to something "better". I am a HUGE FAN OPF Geissele triggers - have them on all 3 lowers. They come in the expensive version (about $200 +), or the "cheap" version (about $170). The difference is that the more expensive one is individually proofed and serialized. But the process is the same.

    The overall process isn't cheaper, but the parts you put in are what you want. So, you get the ambi safety you want, you put in the bolt release and a MagPul extension (very handy IMO). You can even put in differing springs to hold the two main pins (and idfferent pins to make it a bit easier to pull down without snagging). You can get the pistol grip you want (and you won't want the "stock" one). You can get a bit crazy and get the Vltor 7-positioin tube, associated spring and buffer, and stock, vs the more common (read cheaper) adjustable one.

    I think the SINGLE most important thing on building a lower is the trigger you use. See if you can try a couple before springing for one.

    You will need roll pin starters and punches - straight and roll pin. There is a nifty set of springs by Badass I believe, complete with magnets to aid in their installation (and thus the avoidance of lots of invective).

    I bought 2 complete uppers and build one from scratch. The uppers were Sig 516 piston and YHM DI. The build was a Vltor upper with a Wilson .300 BLK barrel and a YHM freefloat handguard - which I would not use again as it is rough on your hand. I use either YHM or Troy BUIS that pop up; they are metal, vs the MagPuls which are plastic. When (if) you go about getting parts, get extra pins and spring and a couple tubes and roll pins for them. These are things that can and do go bad on the range and are handy to be able to replace. If you're untra- super- paranoid about reliability, pin your block and flash; if you're like me, don't bother. I don't think it adds much other than hassle.

    Go back and find the thread I think I started that ran pages and pages. All KINDS of things brought up there. Buy a couple of the lowers - they are a commodity, and you will be able to retrieve your money whenever you want.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Cornmastah on Tue Jun 23, 2015 9:46 am

    I agree with dev, the most important parts of an AR are the trigger and barrel. Even if you want to wait on the trigger(so you can save money, or get by until you try a bunch to know what you want), there are a few things you can do to make a stock trigger feel half way decent.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Devereaux on Tue Jun 23, 2015 10:04 am

    Cornmastah wrote:I agree with dev, the most important parts of an AR are the trigger and barrel.  Even if you want to wait on the trigger(so you can save money, or get by until you try a bunch to know what you want), there are a few things you can do to make a stock trigger feel half way decent.

    Short of simply a little polishing, I am personally leery of "trigger work" by at least me. This is too touchy a part to mess up. I know from numerous 1911 triggers I have seen that it is easy to mess it up without (a) the knowledge of how it is to be done, and (b) the right jigs to do it on. So, eg, I don't think anyone should be messing with a 1911 trigger (actually sear/hammer) without the jig to do it right.

    I know Geissele spends a lot of time and effort in not only the engineering of the trigger but the manufacture of it. So maybe I'm just a Fraidy Cat, but I tend to not mess with triggers, aside from simple stuff like messing with the 3-finger spring tension on a 1911. Even then you'd best know when to install a light weight trigger bow. And if you're doing that, you ought to be stoning the trigger bar runs. No sense installing a light trigger in a gritty raceway.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Devereaux on Tue Jun 23, 2015 10:07 am

    Corn, me sense is that in lowers, the critical item is the trigger. In an upper, the critical itemS are: barrel, frame, and free float handguard. Maybe the last is just the nerdy part of me, but it seems if you are installing anything more than a run-of-the-mill barrel it deserves a good frame to hold it and a free float hand guard to allow it the full accuracy potential.

    You have a bunch of AR's. ?How you see this.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Devereaux on Tue Jun 23, 2015 10:14 am

    Also, I get the sense from at least my experience that assembling an upper is trickier than the lower. There are a couple little things like which direction the pointy parts of the "bumpers" go in the lower, a subject that doesn't seem to be covered or emphasized very well in many of the instructions out there. But tensioning a barrel nut is harder. And often takes weird tools; there is no universal nut wrench (unfortunately - be a lot easier if there were). Torque seems to be apply the minimum torgue then increase it until the holes line up for the tube. Not exactly a "measured" process.

    But then, putting together a nail-driving AR is really mostly assembling, not gunsmithing. Only rifle I know of that you can do that to.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Cornmastah on Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:06 am

    Devereaux wrote:
    Cornmastah wrote:I agree with dev, the most important parts of an AR are the trigger and barrel.  Even if you want to wait on the trigger(so you can save money, or get by until you try a bunch to know what you want), there are a few things you can do to make a stock trigger feel half way decent.

    Short of simply a little polishing, I am personally leery of "trigger work" by at least me. This is too touchy a part to mess up. I know from numerous 1911 triggers I have seen that it is easy to mess it up without (a) the knowledge of how it is to be done, and (b) the right jigs to do it on. So, eg, I don't think anyone should be messing with a 1911 trigger (actually sear/hammer) without the jig to do it right.

    I know Geissele spends a lot of time and effort in not only the engineering of the trigger but the manufacture of it. So maybe I'm just a Fraidy Cat, but I tend to not mess with triggers, aside from simple stuff like messing with the 3-finger spring tension on a 1911. Even then you'd best know when to install a light weight trigger bow. And if you're doing that, you ought to be stoning the trigger bar runs. No sense installing a light trigger in a gritty raceway.

    Yes, I am talking about polishing. A little polishing can sometimes make a lot of grit in a trigger disappear.

    Devereaux wrote:Corn, me sense is that in lowers, the critical item is the trigger. In an upper, the critical itemS are: barrel, frame, and free float handguard. Maybe the last is just the nerdy part of me, but it seems if you are installing anything more than a run-of-the-mill barrel it deserves a good frame to hold it and a free float hand guard to allow it the full accuracy potential.

    You have a bunch of AR's. ?How you see this.

    Sorry, yes, I was assuming that a free float handguard/rail would be used, whether that be a quad rail, round free float tube or whatever. I am not a fan of the plastic handguards for more than one reason--look & feel as well as accuracy. Purpose of the AR will determine what handguards/rail should be used.

    Devereaux wrote:Also, I get the sense from at least my experience that assembling an upper is trickier than the lower. There are a couple little things like which direction the pointy parts of the "bumpers" go in the lower, a subject that doesn't seem to be covered or emphasized very well in many of the instructions out there. But tensioning a barrel nut is harder. And often takes weird tools; there is no universal nut wrench (unfortunately - be a lot easier if there were). Torque seems to be apply the minimum torgue then increase it until the holes line up for the tube. Not exactly a "measured" process.

    But then, putting together a nail-driving AR is really mostly assembling, not gunsmithing. Only rifle I know of that you can do that to.

    This as well. That is why I usually recommend people build their own lower and then buy a completed upper which is already built exactly how they want it.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Cornmastah on Wed Jun 24, 2015 1:57 am

    TJ, where'd you go?
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Tennessee Jed on Thu Jun 25, 2015 8:18 pm

    Sorry, I got caught up in the details you guys gave. Very solid advice guys, thank you.

    Still haven't decided what to do, but am leaning towards a self-build. Either way, I think I need to go ahead and buy a reasonable lower, regardless. Mighty cheap investment, considering the way the winds are blowing in DC right now.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Charlie Foxtrot on Thu Jun 25, 2015 10:49 pm

    Aero-Precision lower $55 if bought 3 or more!  http://shop.doasales.net/AERO-PRECISION-MULTICAL-LOWER-RECEIVER-X15.htm

    Aero Precision Gen II lower $65 3 or more:  http://shop.doasales.net/AERO-PRECISION-MULTICAL-LOWER-RECEIVER-GEN-2-APAR501101.htm I don't know what the Gen 2 dif is - but I'm going to find out! (lower/ Upper tensioning screw & a flaired magwell.)

    Aero Precision has a very good rep
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Charlie Foxtrot on Fri Jun 26, 2015 10:04 am

    Lower Parts Kits (LPKs): Been reading some un-love on the DPMS LPK. In short: their Remington roots ring true. Avoid at all costs. Very cheaply made parts - very poor QC.

    Lot of good noise: http://www.brownells.com/rifle-parts/triggers-parts/triggers/ar-15-enhanced-military-style-triggers-prod53928.aspx At $65, it's said to be by far the best value in a trigger.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Cornmastah on Sat Jun 27, 2015 2:50 am

    I've also had no issues with my cmmg lower parts kits or rock river parts kits.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Devereaux on Sat Jun 27, 2015 6:36 pm

    Charlie Foxtrot wrote:Lower Parts Kits (LPKs): Been reading some un-love on the DPMS LPK. In short: their Remington roots ring true. Avoid at all costs. Very cheaply made parts - very poor QC.

    Lot of good noise: http://www.brownells.com/rifle-parts/triggers-parts/triggers/ar-15-enhanced-military-style-triggers-prod53928.aspx   At $65, it's said to be by far the best value in a trigger.

    As soon as you say "best value trigger" it implies NOT the best, just good for the price. But triggers are not all that expensive, so investing <=$200 for a really BEST trigger seems eminently appropriate. You ARE building this puppy; it's not "store-bought". ANYONE can get a store-bought weapon.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Tennessee Jed on Wed Mar 30, 2016 6:00 pm

    Yeah, it's been a while, but I've made up my mind to finally join the rest of the free world and get an AR.

    I'm trying to keep the price bargain basement. Since this will be my first AR, I figure I'll learn the platform and if I love it, will get or build something better later. For now, it will simply be a range gun and a truck gun (another reason to keep the price low). I'd like it to be lightweight and fairly simple, I will likely not shoot it beyond 100 yards. Might use it at a small local training class now and then.

    Right now, Kentucky Gun Co. has the S&W Sport II on sale for $560.

    https://www.kygunco.com/smith-and-wesson-mp15-sport-ii-556-rifle-112891

    The upside is this is a good price on a lightweight rifle that has some pretty good reviews, and I trust the S&W customer service. The downside is that it's a 1:9 barrel, and carbine length gas system, but I'm not sure that's really such a big deal.

    Alternatively, Brownells is running a sale on the Aero Precision AC-15 for $600.

    http://www.brownells.com/rifle-parts/receiver-parts/receivers/lower-receivers/ac-15-5-56mm-16-mid-length-rifle-prod82606.aspx?avs%7cManufacturer_1=AERO+PRECISION

    The upside is the 1:7 barrel and mid-length gas system, Downside is I've not been able to find any reviews on the rifle and I don't know what to expect from Aero for customer service.

    Another possible contender would be the Ruger AR 556.

    What do you guys think? For an AR newbie who isn't sold on the platform and wants a lightweight low cost rifle, what would you choose? Thanks for your help.

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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Cornmastah on Wed Mar 30, 2016 6:50 pm

    Are you considering at all to build it or piece it together? Or just looking at prebuilt AR's?

    A couple places to look:

    Palmettostatearmory.com

    Radicalfirearms.com

    slickguns.com
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Tennessee Jed on Wed Mar 30, 2016 7:07 pm

    Leaning heavily towards just buying this one. However, I have looked at some options at Palmetto, for piecing together an assembled lower with an assembled upper. I understand that their blemished lowers are a good idea, and if one is getting a pre-assembled upper, it's best to get the FN manufactured barrel and PSA's "premier" line.

    Would you trust a PSA premier-line upper?
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Cornmastah on Thu Mar 31, 2016 12:06 pm

    I have one of PSA's FN barreled uppers and it has run flawless for me for the last several years.  With the Nikon p223 scope, I can transition from 100-200-300-400-500 yards relatively quickly using the BDC and hit the steel plates set up at each of those distances.  The gun is accurate enough for me and has been very reliable.  Blemished lowers work fine.  As long as the lowers are milspec, I haven't noticed any sort of real performance difference or anything like that.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Tennessee Jed on Thu Mar 31, 2016 12:19 pm

    Thanks Corn, I really appreciate your help.

    I decided to take the easiest path. I went to a local gun store and looked at a few AR's. I liked how the Sport 2 felt, and found a handful of negative things said online about the Ruger (mostly about the charging handle sometimes sticking and their delta ring having lock-up problems), so I ordered the Sport 2 last night. $560 and free shipping. Yee-haw.

    I had no idea how cheap PMags are. I ordered plenty of extras.

    I'm already looking into what ammo I'll want to use in the rifle and am looking into handloading practice ammo. Seems to me that 62-64 grain bullets might be the way to go, considering the 1:9 twist and that this rifle's primary purposes will be to live in my truck, and shoot at the range.

    When the rifle comes in and I shoot it, I'll let you guys know how it turns out. Thanks again for all of your help.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Cornmastah on Thu Mar 31, 2016 1:05 pm

    TJ, if handloading, I would highly recommend getting a powder that meters well, like more of a ball rifle powder than a stick powder.  I use Ramshot TAC for my 223 loads and I like it quite a bit.  Because it "meters like water," I use a powder thrower instead of using a trickler and measuring each powder charge.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Cornmastah on Thu Mar 31, 2016 1:08 pm

    Also, if you are wanting to take it out a little further (distance wise), you should consider free floating the barrel with a free float hand guard for your first upgrade.  It should help with accuracy--but try it without first to see if it is good enough.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Tennessee Jed on Thu Mar 31, 2016 1:38 pm

    Outstanding advice, thanks Corn. I'm going to pick up some bullets, cases, dies and Ramshot TAC powder soon.

    I had the same thought about free floating the barrel, but will first see how the rifle does without it. I'm gonna start with just iron sights, then move to a red dot (probably start with one of my TRS-25's to see how it does), maybe later to a scope. I'm already looking at that Nikon model you mentioned.

    I can already see how AR ownership evolves into a habit.
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    Re: Question for you AR guys regarding Stripped Lowers

    Post by Cornmastah on Thu Mar 31, 2016 1:48 pm

    Sounds like you are going to have some fun.  Welcome to the world of "America's Rifle."

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