Some of the most important parts of an AR-15 are mounted on the lower receiver. But many people skimp on their lower receiver. The lower receiver itself has no moving parts. As long as everything fits, why not save a few bucks?
Because the cheapest lower receiver is not necessarily the best AR-15 lower receiver. There are differences between absolute budget AR-15 lower receivers and quality lower receivers.
Those differences are just less apparent on a lower receiver than they are on some other components. But those differences matter.
Fortunately, it’s quick and simple to learn what makes the best AR-15 lower receiver and identify what characteristics are most important for the type of shooting you do.
Top AR-15 Lower Receiver on the Market Today
What makes the best AR-15 lower receivers the best?
There are three things that determine the quality of an AR-15 lower receiver:
- Manufacturing process
- Tolerances and quality control
Typically, cheap lower receivers will cut corners in one of these areas. Does that make that lower receiver unusable? No.
But it can make your lower receiver more prone to failure, shorten the lifespan, or cause poor fit with the parts that mount on your lower receiver.
So here’s what to look for when you scour product pages for the best AR-15 lower receiver.
AR-15 lower receiver materials
Broadly speaking, there are two materials that manufacturers use for AR-15 receivers:
- 6061-T6 aluminum
- 7075-T6 aluminum
7075-T6 aluminum is nearly twice as strong as 6061-T6 aluminum. But 7075-T6 is more expensive than 6061-T6. And 7075-T6 aluminum is less corrosion resistant than 6061-T6.
What does all this tech talk mean?
It means that 7075-T6 aluminum receivers are best. But you might have to pay a little more to get the premium metal.
However, 7075-T6 aluminum lower receivers are still quite affordable. Also, the corrosion resistance shouldn’t be a problem if your receiver is well anodized.
One other thing: polymer lower receivers are a thing. But the main benefit of polymer is that it’s easy to drill out at home. Polymer just isn’t as strong as aluminum. It’s easier to work with polymer if you get an 80% lower receiver, though.
AR-15 lower receiver manufacturing process
There are three ways to manufacture an AR-15 lower receiver:
Cast lower receivers are manufactured by pouring molten aluminum into lower receiver shaped mold. The mold is then finished and drilled on a machine.
Casting produces the weakest AR-15 lower receivers because the metal is the least dense, with a loose, sugar-like grain structure. Obviously, cast receivers work, and they’re affordable.
But a cast aluminum AR-15 lower receiver may not be tough enough if you want a durable, long lasting AR-15.
- Billet machining
Billet machining is stronger than casting because it starts with a forged block of aluminum, called a billet. The billet is sculpted into the shape of a lower receiver by a machine.
Billet lower receivers often look very cool, because the manufacturer can do a lot of customization during the machining process. And a billet lower receiver is stronger than a cast lower receiver, because the forged billet is denser than a casting, with a tighter grain structure.
Forging is the process of heating aluminum to the point where it’s moldable, then pressing that aluminum into the shape of a lower receiver. The mold is finished on a machine.
Forged AR-15 lower receivers are the strongest, longest lasting because pressing the aluminum into shape produces the densest metal, with the tightest grain structure. And the grain structure is aligned with the shape of the lower receiver, which makes it even stronger.
The good news is that forged AR-15 lower receivers are usually not the most expensive option. Forging is an efficient way to produce lower receivers. In most cases, a forged lower receiver will be less expensive than a billet lower receiver.
Short story: Save money, get more durability. Buy a forged lower receiver.
AR-15 lower receiver tolerances and quality control
The last factor that determines price is how much the manufacturer invests in getting tight tolerances and quality controlling the finished product.
Lower receivers with looser tolerances are more likely to have a sloppy upper receiver fit or a wobbly buffer tube fit. You might even need to drill out your trigger pin holes to make them fit.
An AR-15 lower receiver with tighter, more exact tolerances are less likely to produce poor component fit. However, the quality control plays a role here, too.
Even well-built lower receivers will come off the production line with incorrect specs that would produce a poor fit with your lower receiver components. A manufacturer with tight quality control will spot this lower receiver and stop it from being sold or sell it as a factory second.
On the other hand, looser quality control might let this receiver slide, and then you get it.
Ultimately, more expensive lower receivers are usually built with tighter tolerances and checked with more thorough quality control. So it’s less likely that you’ll get a lemon.
7 Best AR-15 lower receiver reviews: Building a strong foundation
With all that out of the way, these are the best AR-15 lower receivers, in my experience. I’ve built quite a few lower receivers from parts. And none of these lower receivers have ever given me problems.
1. Aero Precision AR-15 Gen 2 Lower Receiver
The Aero Precision AR-15 Gen 2 Lower Receiver is my go-to lower receiver. It’s reasonably priced. And I’ve never had an issue with an Aero Precision lower receiver.
Personally, I think that Aero Precision has one of the best anodized finishes you can get.
Some manufacturers have anodizing that looks a bit more gray, with a very matte surface finish. There’s nothing wrong with it. But I prefer a smoother, darker finish. And Aero Precision’s anodizing is smooth and dark black. It’s also quite durable.
The other thing I like about this lower receiver is the tensioning screw that adjusts the upper receiver fit. Just pop your upper receiver on this lower and tighten the screw until your upper receiver stops wobbling. It gives you a nice tight upper receiver fit.
That’s it. If you want a lower receiver that’s not too expensive, looks great, and just works, get an Aero Precision lower receiver. You won’t regret it.
2. Aero Precision M4E1 Lower Receiver
The Aero Precision M4E1 Lower Receiver is the receiver I use when I want my gun to look cool. But this lower receiver does more than look cool.
It also has an integrated trigger guard and a threaded pin for the bolt catch. This saves you about two lifetimes of pain when you assemble your lower receiver, because the trigger guard and the bolt catch are the biggest hassles. The M4E1 removes those assembly hassles.
This lower receiver also has the same upper receiver tensioning screw that other Aero Precision lower receivers have, to give you a clean upper receiver fit.
And the magazine well is slightly more flared than a standard mil-spec lower receiver, which does make it easier to get your magazine seated.
Honestly, the only reason I don’t use this lower receiver on all my rifles is because I don’t think it matches that well with a standard AR-15 upper receiver (the M4E1 Upper Receiver looks great with this lower, though).
Otherwise, I’d never drive a bolt catch pin or install a trigger guard again.
3. Anderson ManufaAnderson Manufacturing AR-15 Lower Receiver
The Anderson Manufacturing AR-15 Lower Receiver is the Honda of AR-15 lowers. It’s inexpensive, but will last for the rest of your life.
Anderson lowers are one of the most affordable forged lower receivers. And they work just fine. I’ve never had to drill out an Anderson lower receiver or make any modifications to get parts to fit.
Now, this is a bone stock lower receiver. There are absolutely no creature comforts here. And the anodized finish is kind of a matte great, rather than pure black.
But, if you’re not picky about aesthetics and you want the cheapest lower receiver that will get the job done, an Anderson lower is the way to go.
4. PSA AR-15 Lower Receiver
The PSA AR-15 Lower Receiver is another one that I’ve used a lot. They often come through the gunsmithing shop for assembly because they’re well priced. And they’re in stock more often than Aero Precision receivers.
I’ve never had a fit and finish issue with a PSA lower receiver. Palmetto State Armory receivers are an affordable option if you want a forged lower receiver with a nice finish.
I think that PSA has a nicer anodized finish than Anderson, which might be why their lower receivers cost a little more. The PSA anodizing is a deeper black than the Anderson finish. Though the PSA surface finish is not as smooth as the Aero Precision finish.
For the money, this lower receiver is hard to beat.
5. Seekins Precision SP223 Billet Lower Receiver
Being left-handed, I’m kind of a stickler about left-handed controls. And the Seekins Precision SP223 Billet Lower Receiver is one of the few ambidextrous lower receivers that doesn’t feel gimmicky.
I think that’s because it simply adds an ambidextrous bolt catch. And it comes with the bolt catch installed. Most ambidextrous magazine releases feel overcomplicated to me. So I appreciate that they just made the bolt catch ambidextrous and left the mag release alone.
Ambidextrous controls aside, I also like that Seekins did away with the bolt catch roll pin and used a threaded pin. Not that you’ll want to change out the bolt catch. But it’s easy, if you want to.
Lastly, this lower also has an upper receiver tensioning screw and a trigger reset tensioning screw. That way you can adjust the upper receiver fit and customize your trigger reset (to a point).
Admittedly, this Seekins Precision lower is kind of pricey. But it has some pretty legitimate upgrades.
6. Radian Weapons AR-15 Ambidextrous Lower Receiver
The Radian Weapons AR-15 Ambidextrous Lower Receiver is kind of expensive. But it’s nearly a complete ambidextrous lower receiver. It comes with everything except the pistol grip and AR-15 trigger.
All the controls on this lower receiver are ambidextrous. And the ambidextrous controls are pretty well designed. You can even lock the bolt to the rear with either hand, where most ambidextrous lowers only enable you to release the bolt with either hand.
Radian also uses a self-tensioning system to adjust the upper receiver fit. Instead of using an adjustment screw, this lower receiver has a spring loaded tensioner that removes slop in your receiver fit without having to adjust anything.
Lastly, this lower receiver has some decent reinforcements to add strength and some wisely placed lightening cuts to keep the weight down.
But, the best part about this lower receiver is that all the challenging assembly is done for you. All that’s left is to screw in the buffer tube, bolt on a pistol grip, and drop in a trigger. That alone probably makes this lower receiver worth the price.
7. Bravo Company Complete AR-15 Lower Receiver
Maybe I’m a shill for Bravo Company Manufacturing. But BCM makes good stuff. And the Bravo Company Complete AR-15 Lower Receiver is probably the best value you can get from a fully assembled AR-15 lower receiver.
This lower receiver costs as much as some stripped lower receivers. But it’s ready to shoot. Just slap on an upper receiver, and you’re ready to rock.
And this lower receiver is no slouch. The BCM Gunfighter stock and pistol grip are some of the best AR-15 furniture on the market. And the trigger is a decent enhanced mil-spec trigger.
You may want to upgrade the trigger eventually, because at the end of the day it’s just a mil-spec trigger with a nickel boron finish. But it’s good enough for government work.
I also really like the BCM anodized finish. It’s true black. And it’s relatively smooth. It’s a nice look.
Ultimately, there’s nothing tremendously special about this lower receiver. It’s mostly standard mil-spec hardware. But BCM has excellent quality control. And the price is really respectable, considering that this is a complete lower receiver that’s ready to shoot.
Thermal sights are excellent for hunting nocturnal animals and showing off your shot
Any one of these lower receivers will last as long as you can squeeze a trigger. It’s just a matter of choosing the one that meets your wants and needs. If you’re like me, a nice smooth finish and solid construction is all it takes.
If you want something with a little more flare or more performance enhancements, have at it. There’s a lower receiver out there for you.
So, if you’re getting excited about your upcoming AR-15 build, grab yourself a lower receiver and get started on your dream gun.
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