I need a lower for my AR, and I see stripped lowers for various prices, though each lower looks pretty similar. Is there really any difference between lowers?
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November 3, 2010, 06:47 PM
Not much, at least for the common names. Some are finished better than others but you rarely hear of a really bad lower as long as you get one made of 7075-T6 aluminum.
That said, it's not a bad idea to pay a little more for a rollmark you like since it's a drop in the bucket compared to the total cost of the rifle. Last year I paid $10 more for a S&W M&P-15 over DoubleStar just to get that rollmark on my AR. Turned out to be one of the nicest lowers I've seen so I'm glad I went with it. Last month I paid a little more for an Armalite and it's good too but not quite up to the polish and finish of the S&W.
November 3, 2010, 06:50 PM
As long as you stay away from Vulcan/Hesse, they are basically the same. All of the big name manufacturers offer a quality product.
November 3, 2010, 07:23 PM
I saw a list somewhere of AR lowers, listed by who makes them. It is surprising to see how many different brands are made by the same milling company. Are we allowed to link to other forums here if I can find it?
I'm pretty sure I remember where I originally seen it but I'm not sure on the policy.
November 3, 2010, 08:14 PM
AR15.com has that list of manufacturers who make all the brand name uppers and lowers. FYI AR15.com has a sale on lowers, check it out.
I have a Bushmaster XM15 and I just bought a RRA lower for my first build. I don't see the difference at this point, maybe it will come to light later.
November 3, 2010, 10:13 PM
doctoroflight, if you can find it, and you can't post it here, please PM me the link to that list. I'm always curious about who really makes stuff.
I have seen several links to other sites since the post I made earlier. Guess that makes it OK.
November 3, 2010, 10:32 PM
They are all pretty much the same. You might pay more for one that was machined from a single billet of aluminum, as opposed to cast. About the only difference between them would be the size of the pin holes (milspec or not). This doesn't matter, as long as you know which one you have. Other than that, the quality of the finish may differ.
November 4, 2010, 09:55 AM
Most lowers are machined from drop forged platters. A very few mill from "billet," which is basically a hunk of aluminum. I don't know of anyone casting lowers at all in this market, other than FRN polymers.
There are a few forgers, who machine. There are a dozen or more machiners, who buy platters and finish to their specs - including Colt. Most of the roll marks on the market, and there are over 5 dozen, all come from the same handful of machiners. That makes the lower market largely a commodity item, mass produced all very similar specs, and literally interchangeable. Most parts will install equally well in any of them, and they all shoot the same.
As said, pick a roll mark for what you want it to be. I bought an AGP, because I caught it on an introductory sale for $79. There are others on the market for less. I like what I got as AGP is a turbo parts kit maker in the automotive aftermarket. They know machining to spec, as a turbo spinning at 120,000 RPM doesn't tolerate sloppy work. My lower has all the platter flash removed, a great finish, and even an adjustable trigger travel screw already installed, which took 80% of the creep out and made it that much better. Their logo isn't a huge cartoon, and the markings are CNC made, not a metal stamping smashed into the surface.
If you are shopping for a lower, consider the total cost to the FFL and his fees, which are mandatory. It may be just as cheap to buy his off the shelf, given it's something you like. Even more so, complete lowers with all the parts are priced about the same as a bunch of parts or kits mailed separately. If you need to save money, buying an assembled lower and separate upper can be very competitive - if they have the features you want.
November 4, 2010, 10:02 AM
Most are good. In those cases it comes down to which roll mark you like and how well you want the finishing work to be on the lower.
There are a few that should be avoided.
Oly and Hesse are the biggest problem children. I have personally seen a couple out of spec Doublestar Lowers and heard about the occasional DPMS but not near as many as the other two listed above.
November 4, 2010, 06:49 PM
Before the Olympic Arms bashing gets started, it bears mentioning that their forged lowers are hardly any different from anyone else's. Oly has developed a bad repuation for their budget-priced cast lowers. You should avoid those, but Oly's forged lowers are fine.
November 4, 2010, 07:25 PM
Get a Spike's. They have a selection of rollmarks to choose from and you have the option of having it color filled. I picked up two of the ones with the standard spider, but with red color fill. I saw them in the case at my range and couldn't walk away. A friend of mine got a Jolly Roger skull and cross bones rollmark.