[The following review was written by Paul G., one of my buddies from the day job]
I’ve never made an 80% lower before, but I have watched several videos online and my boss at work makes them as a hobby. That being said I know each location on a completed lower and what goes where with relative accuracy and with the assistance of quick Google search. I have always wanted to complete an 80% lower, and thankfully after 80% Arms asked TTAG to review their entire kit Nick figured a novice would be a good choice to test it out…the perfect guinea pig.
After opening the package for the first time and clearing all the packing peanuts I can say the packaging was top notch. The boxes inside had no visual damage and whoever delivered the package did a good job because the exterior had no visible damage other than the cardboard flattening from putting packaging tape firmly on the top and bottom seams. I then opened the boxes inside and everything was packaged well, the only thing that bothered me with the packaging of the individual Easy Jig and 80% Lower Kit was the lack of filler inside the individual boxes to protect those items. Then again, they are metal after all.
After unpacking the items completely I was a bit disappointed that the Easy Jig did not come with a manual but only a link to the manual and video online. With technology, all of us typically look at everything on either a computer or smartphone but I didn’t want to get lubricant or metal over either of those items so a paper copy would have been nice to have.
The 80% Lower Kit was visually unappealing for me because of the milling lines — I prefer a smooth appearance which this didn’t have but it did have that smooth to touch finish which was definitely great. The Easy Jig Tool Kit was packaged well so that you wouldn’t lose items but it seems as the only item they really cared about in the packaging process was the milling bit which had its own package within the larger tool kit package but visually nothing was damaged on any of the items.
After I pulled up the video on the manual on my computer I moved on to assembling the jig with the lower in it and putting tape over the rear holes as suggested in the video (so I didn’t accidently drill through the screw by the buffer tube threading). I couldn’t use a vice the way they show in the video just because of the way my workshop was set up, so drilling out the holes by hand was a bit of a pain in the butt. Following the instructions I made an initial hole on each drilling hole and then added WD40 as I progressed. In order to drill all the holes for milling out the pocket I had to use two of my batteries for my drill. During this entire process it was nice that the unmounted template had the depth markers for the current drilling and milling process which made it very easy to just pick up and confirm your depth. I also stopped every so often to clean out the aluminum shavings with a plastic fork because gravity was not working to clear the area.
Once I finished the holes for the trigger pack I moved onto unmounting the pocket template and replacing it with the milling template. In theory this should have been pretty quick, but it took longer than expected to clean off all the metal shavings and lubricating oil from my hands after each step in order to work the digital instruction manual on my phone. Had I printed out the paper manual I would have saved some time, but it would have been better if the manual had simply come with the kit already printed.
When I first turned on the router I was not prepared for how much it would want to bounce around when it would catch on the sides of the holes I drilled previously — I definitely recommend keeping a tighter grip on the router than you would when using it on wood. After I realized how much bracing I would have to do I moved on to milling out the pocket and being careful not to hit the template with the cutting surface of the bit as they noted in the video and the digital paper manual. This process took me a long time because the milling bit often came loose from the router, which I corrected by constantly stopping and checking that the bit was still fasted tightly during the entire process.
I think you can see the after effects of that loose milling bit pretty clearly in the outline of the trigger hole.
One of the things I wasn’t prepared for was the annoyingly sharp metal shavings getting everywhere. This was completely my fault for not wearing long sleeves and gloves but it’s worth mentioning because I would imagine most first timers would do the same thing I did.
During this process the shavings made it very difficult to see what you were doing so I would clear them with my trusty plastic fork (FYI, when clearing the shavings you should push them towards the magazine well and not the buffer tub because it’s a pain to remove them that way without the shavings compacting and blocking the evacuations hole by the buffer tube). I would check the tightness of the router between depth adjustments or even halfway through each pass you perform at the given depth. Once all milling was finished I removed the templates an inspected the cavity I created and it has a very smooth finish with minor depth differences from my mistakes on not tightening the router bit mount soon enough.
After I removed the milling templates I moved on to drilling the holes on the sides of the jig. Because I don’t have a drill press and I was using a hand drill, I flipped the jig over to drill either side of the holes that go from one side of the lower to the opposite side. Even though the screw heads on the side of the jig stick out a few millimeters I didn’t have any issues drilling the holes because they kept the jig relatively level on its side. After I finished all the drilling and milling needed I inspected everything I had done and found no burs of aluminum but the glass like shavings were all over the place.
I am definitely happy with the end result. The 80% Arms jig system makes a smooth even cavity thanks to the fact that you mill the area out rather than drilling holes multiple times like with other 80% Jigs. Once I was done with cleanup and went back and visually inspected all the templates and I didn’t see any wear that would keep you from using this jig several times but I can’t say for certain as I have only used it from one lower.
As far as price is concerned, I could see the $149.99 jig plus $44.99 price tag being completely worth it as long as both lasted for about 5 lowers. It makes the entire process fairly simple and leaves you with a very smooth cavity for those crazy people like me that have to have everything perfect. The video does state that you can bring the entire process down to 1 hour but that would be for someone experienced in machining or making lowers. For the new guy I would imagine no less than 2 hours because it took me 2 ½ hours with my constantly going back and looking at the directions and tightening the milling bit often. The price of the lower could either be $89.99 or $109.99 but I can’t tell because the item doesn’t not have any discerning marks in order to tell and neither does the packaging.
Specifications: 80% Arms Easy Jig
Material: Type III hard anodized
Rating (out of five stars):
Overall: * * * *
It gets five stars for instructions, durability, and easy of assembly, but it wasn’t easy to drill and mill as I was lead to believe.
Specifications: 80% Arms Easy Jig Tool Kit
Material: Solid Carbide (End mill is the only product with metal information)
Rating (out of five stars):
Overall: * * * * *
It performed well for the intended purpose without any visual damage or wearing.
Specifications: 80% Arms Lower Receiver
Material: Either 6061 or 7075 (Item and package do not say)
Price: Either $89.99 or $109.99
Rating (out of five stars):
Overall: * * *
It’s defect free but not the cheapest option out there.