Looking to build your own AR-15? The lower receiver is obviously the starting point of your build. For those that aren’t familiar, the lower receiver of an AR-15 is the part of the weapon where the trigger and trigger mechanism will eventually be contained. It connects to the upper, which has more internal parts involved, such as the bolt and bolt carrier group.
However, the lower receiver is the most important part of the build, because it is the part of the weapon that has the serial number stamped in it. This is the only federally controlled part of the rifle, despite the fact it is nothing more than a specially formed piece of metal.
There are a few different ways in which AR-15 lower receivers are commonly made.
- Forged. The metal is essentially hammered into its final shape. It is the strongest of the group, but is also pretty heavy.
- Billet. Think of billet lower receivers as sculptures. They start as solid blocks of metal, and are then carved down into a very specific shape.
- Polymer. Polymer lowers are made from a synthetic material. Without getting too much into the science, think of it as a much stronger plastic. It is the most lightweight of the group.
When you’re looking to buy your lower, there are a few key factors to keep in mind.
- Strength and durability. Forged lowers are the strongest and generally the most durable.
- Weight. Polymer lowers are the lightest, but their durability is questionable. Personally, I still wouldn’t buy a polymer lower.
- Price. Lowers range from $50 to well over $300.
- Looks. Some are very basic, and some are extremely intricate.
Your uses for the weapon will drive which is the best AR-15 lower receiver for you. My personal beliefs are that polymer lowers are never a good idea. Although they are extremely light, lower receivers take a beating, and the durability of polymer is still somewhat unknown. While I’m not necessarily opposed to billet lower receivers, they are generally more expensive, because material is wasted in the process of making it. In my personal builds, I have always opted for a forged lower, and I will continue to do so. They are strong, durable, and affordable.
In this list, we have selected five of the best AR-15 lower receivers and reviewed them in depth, to hopefully guide your buying experience.
Top Five AR-15 Lower Receivers
Bang for your buck
This lower receiver from Anderson Manufacturing is one of the best on the market for many reasons. It is forged from a high strength aluminum, given an anodized finish, and made to mil-spec standards with tight tolerances, all at an unbeatable price. It weighs just under 11 ounces.
The pros of this lower are the extreme affordability, durability, and strength. Of the aluminums that are used to forge lower receivers, the aluminum that this lower is made with is much stronger. This high strength aluminum, paired with the anodized finish, give this lower some extreme durability.
The only con of this lower is that it is one of the heavier ones.
All in all, this is without doubt one of the best AR-15 lower receivers. It represents an awesome combination of quality and affordability. We would recommend this lower to just about anyone for any use. However, if you are building a show gun, there are much better looking lowers available. Similarly, if you are entirely concerned with the weight of your rifle, there are lighter lowers available.
- Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum. Extremely high strength and durable.
- Price. An almost unbeatable price.
- Mil-spec. This lower will accept all AR-15 parts and accessories.
- Bang for your buck. High quality for a great price.
Next up is the BAD556 from Battle Arms Development. You would be hard pressed to find a better looking AR-15 lower receiver. This forged aluminum lower is absolutely one of the sleekest looking lowers out there. Similar to the Anderson Manufacturing lower, it is all given an anodized flat black finish and made to mil-spec standards. It weighs 6.84 ounces and is compatible with short throw safety selector.
The biggest pros of this lower are the looks, the light weight, and the minute details. Countless details were included to make this one of the best AR-15 lower receivers out there. Some of these details are the flared and beveled magwell, the fact that the sharp edges are de-burred by hand, and the pictures for the safety selector.
The one con of this lower is the price. It is a very expensive lower, but is also one of the highest quality. It is a very strong and durable receiver with an extremely unique look, but some will struggle paying this much money for a forged piece of metal. However, if you are building a show gun, this is probably the lower you want to start from.
- Forced 7075 T6 aluminum. High strength and durable.
- Lightweight. Excellent combination of light weight and high strength.
- Short throw safety selector compatibility.
- Unique, sleek design.
This Aero Precision lower is extremely similar to the Anderson Manufacturing lower, except with some added features. It is a forged aluminum lower, with an anodized finish. It is available in black, OD green, and tan. It’s made to mil-spec standards and weighs 8.35 ounces.
The primary difference between this lower and the Anderson Manufacturing lower are a slightly sleeker look, an increased magwell flare, tensioning set screws, and a slightly lighter weight. The increased magwell flare makes it easier to insert magazines, and the tensioning set screws allow the user to fine tune how the lower and the upper fit together.
The cons of this lower are that it is slightly more expensive than the Anderson Manufacturing lower for a very similar piece of equipment.
- Forced 7075 T6 aluminum. High strength and durable.
- Increased magwell flare. Easier to insert and remove magazines.
- Tensioning set screws. Allows the user to get a snug fit between their upper and lower.
- Lightweight. Similar to the Anderson Manufacturing lower, but at a lighter weight.
Up next is another sleek looking AR-15 lower. This lower from V Seven Weapon Systems is the only billet lower on our list. It is made of a high tech lithium/aluminum alloy, which V Seven claims is stronger than forged aluminum. It has a hardcoat anodized finish, and has an extremely sleek design. It weighs 6.4 ounces.
The pros of this lower are the extremely light weight, increased resistance to corrosion, and the unique design. V Seven claims that their alloy is stronger than forged 7075 T6 aluminum, but without intensive testing, it’s hard to say for sure.
As previously mentioned, billet lowers are significantly more expensive than forged lowers due to the amount of material that is lost in the process of making it. The pricetag is the one con of this lower. It is one of the highest quality AR-15 lowers, but it comes at an extremely high price.
We would recommend using this in show guns or competitive shooting rifles only. While it would function admirably in any role, the price drives us to think that this should be saved for only the fanciest of rifles. Despite the quality, that pricetag is a hard pill to swallow.
- Unique design. Similar to the BAD556, a very unique looking lower.
- Increased corrosion resistance thanks to the lithium/aluminum alloy.
- Comes with a quick detach endplate.
As previously mentioned, I am not a fan of polymer lowers. I think that their durability is questionable, and I think you run the risk of having issues with your rifle. However, I also realize that not everyone thinks like me, so I did put a polymer lower receiver on this list.
This polymer lower from James Madsion is an 80% lower. For those that don’t know, that means that the lower needs more work done for it to be officially considered a firearm, so it can be sold without a Federal Firearms License. Essentially, it is a lower that is 80% complete. This lower is made from a polymer that is specific to James Madison Tactical, after they conducted extensive research. They added in some additional reinforcement in weak parts of the lower, and they claim it is as durable as an aluminum lower.
The pros of this lower are the flanged magwells, extreme light weight, and a limited lifetime warranty. Plus, avoiding the FFL hassle is another added bonus.
The cons of polymer have already been talked about, but outside of that, this lower is slightly more expensive than some of the others on this list, albeit not by much.
This lower could be used for any number of AR-15 builds. It is the best polymer AR-15 lower receiver, and the light weight and resistance to the elements make it an excellent choice for any type of shooting.
- Limited lifetime warranty
When you are starting to build your AR-15, the first place you’re going to have to start is with the lower receiver. As we have previously talked about, the three primary types of lower receivers are forged, billet, and polymer. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, as we have talked about. Forged are durable and strong. Billet lowers are unique but expensive. Polymer lowers are very lightweight.
In order to narrow down the list of available lowers, you must think about the following key features, as we talked about:
Once you know exactly what type of build you are doing, you’ll be able to easily narrow down the list of available lowers. While your final choice may not come from our list of the best AR-15 lower receivers, it has hopefully at least given you some aspects of the lower to consider and helped guide your purchase.