The AR-15 lower. The heart and soul of the modern sporting rifle. This is where it all begins.
I’ve shot guns most of my life. Seriously. It’s been more than 2 decades since I first experienced the rush of pulling the trigger and hearing the controlled explosion designed specifically to propel lead downrange. I was 12 years old at a Boy Scout summer camp when I was first handed a single shot, bolt action .22lr and instructed in the art of aiming. Things have come a long way since then, and though I don’t get out to a range nearly as often as I would like, I still know my way around a firearm.
Recently however, it came to my attention that the vast majority of my trigger time has been spent with pistols. Despite starting out with a rifle, very little of my experience has happened with long guns over the intervening years. One friend of mine in particular kept nudging me toward the AR platform. It was he that convinced me to buy my very first AR lower as kind of a “just in case”. That way I would have the weapon and only needed all the extra spare parts to make it functional.
You see, the lower receiver is the only part of an AR-15 rifle that is actually considered a firearm by federal law. Everything else (seriously, everything) is just interchangeable parts that help to complete the weapon. What a plan! For only a few bucks I can own an AR-15 of my very own. I just needed to spend the next few years building it.
After just a little research, I began to find that there was quite a variety of prices for AR-15 lowers. The one thing I couldn’t find though was a reason behind that fact. It looked to me like almost any lower would actually function just as well as any other. There is potentially some strength differences between forged and billet aluminum, but not likely enough to warrant picking one over the other, especially since there are even polymer options. Also, some of the billet options have some more interesting visual cues that some people may prefer. basically though it looks as if the real deciding factor of which lower to buy boils down to what emblem would you like showing on your mag well?
I personally went with one of the less expensive options. Anderson Manufacturing made a Mil-spec Multi-cal AR lower receiver that definitely met all of my first-time gun builder needs. The forged aluminum meant that it likely held the highest possible strength for the greatest durability. Of course, as a first timer, I’m not likely to be adding undue duress to my weapon any time soon. Being Mil-spec means I should have no issues with tolerances to worry about either.
Not having experience with AR-15’s of any sort prior to starting this site, I don’t have a lot of background to be able to pour into a full review at this stage of the game. I don’t know what I need to be looking for, honestly. I’m sure I’ll be able to comment far more once I have the gun built and tested, but in the mean time, all I can do is say it looks darn good. I may not know AR’s, but I do know anodizing at least. I’ve spent a good number of years previously reviewing mostly aluminum flashlights, and as such have seen my share of both good, and poor anodization. I don’t know what’s common to firearms, but this appeared to be one of the thicker, more durable anodizations I’ve seen. It was a very matte finish, and maybe that could scuff up a little over time, but I’d be surprised if there was any significant chipping through normal use.
Obviously, I’ll have to come back and revisit this subject later, as I learn more, but in the interim, I’ll start off by saying just seeing this one simple part has made me more excited about a project than I’ve been in a very long time. Stay tuned, there’s much more to come.