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[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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
Price: $149.99

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)
Price: $44.99

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.

42 Responses to Gear Review: 8042 Arms 8042 Billet Lower Kit, Easy Jig, and Easy Jig Tool Kit

  1. In an alternate world I’ve used the easyjig and router to make a handful of lowers. My first alternate world try took way more than 2 hours, heh. But I got faster. Biggest time hog, really, was cleaning out the shavings from each initial drill, the realigning the bits. They’ve all worked just peachy though once assembled.

    One thing: I don’t know if they’ve changed their process, but on the anodized 80% lowers the jig itself would pull off the anodizing. I’d just go in the white now and bake the lower later with whatever color I fancy.

  2. You might as well spend another $60, and get a drill press. (harbor freight) I would never attempt this with a hand drill, especially a battery powered one, most of which are not capable of high RPM (better for alum.)

    • Yeah, agreed. They show in their video using a hand drill, but after using my HF drill press for the 80%s I’ve done I would not attempt it will a hand drill.

      • I have one of their (HF) little 8″ drill press, and I would consider it under powered for the job, but a whole lot better than a hand drill.
        I also have a HF 10″ drill press. It has a 3 pulley system, (greater RPM range) more powerful motor, and would be much better suited. I think they have them on sale now, for a C note, or close to it.

      • I have tried it with my 18 V DeWalt battery powered drill, but after two holes I decided to make a quick trip to Horror Fright to get the cheapest drill press. Yes, it is under powered, but still makes the task much easier and faster.
        I used big Black and Decker firestorm router and didn’t have to worry about a bit getting loose. It is little unwieldy and requires two hands to move. The weight and solidity helped to tame the kickback and chirping.
        Shop vacuum cleaner is your friend and gets most of chips before they fly away or clog anything.

    • I’ve used a plug in drill which works well. I found a shop-vac very handy in getting rid of the shavings…

      My router is a Ryobi and has no problems with the mill bit loosening up. Do have to watch to make sure the depth setting doesn’t drift down.

  3. Great review.. It looks like a fun project to play with. Would be a nice Christmas gift for someone.. (Hint)
    Other than just to see if I can build one, it’s still a little expencive when you can catch stripped Anderson lowers that are already painted for $50-$60 on sale.
    It would be cool if you could get custom design 80% lowers and finish them off with the kit.
    like those mag wells that are shaped like a faces or custom safety markings. ( safe, fire, rock&roll) etc..

    • Look around and some vendors will do custom engraving as part of the purchase. I think tm.maching does for their ar-10/lr 308 lowers

    • “Other than just to see if I can build one, it’s still a little expencive when you can catch stripped Anderson lowers that are already painted for $50-$60 on sale.”

      This would be fine if we didn’t have the NICS check, the 10 day wait, the registration, and then have to take it home in a locked container. Retiring out of this place somewhere in Free America. Ron White Says it best…”You just can’t fix stupid!”

      • Wow. You are welcome in bama man. Still gotta fill out a quick background check, they make a phone call and 5 mins later they say cash or charge? I spent more time looking at a new XDM than it took to walk out with it and a box of ammo. Heh
        I still think it’s BS to have to get a check for a stripped lower, but 10 mins to talk myself out of a buy is not a big enough nusence to complain. Lol
        But I also think supressors should be in the ear pro section instead of the ATF fradie hole..

  4. Nice Review, but I hate it when TTAG writers speak directly to the voices in my head without asking me first. Now I have to get and make one. . .hundred . . thousand. Especially since (even if you want to argue that there are Anderson lowers going for $50-$70) there are 0% lowers on eBay right now that are as high as $125. http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=aluminum+block. You just have to pretend like you’re the last gun-maker on earth and tough it out.
    ; )

    • I know now I’ve got to go buy a mini mill a drill press and a router so I can try it as many ways as possible

      • If you get a mill, you wont need the router.
        BIG savings huh!
        $1300 for the mill, ( bench model) barley adequate.
        $69 for the drill press
        Routers $50 and up
        OUCH!

        • Gunr,

          My man cave budget is similar to a government agency budget if I don’t use it.next year it will get smaller. Budgeting for alot now expresses a need for a larger budget.

          Looking at a HiTorque 3990 mini-mill for completing 80% lowers and any other projects that strike my fancy

  5. Great article! Would you be intrested in a drill press/BTR Jigged 80% article? It’d probably be 2 parts due to all the pictures. I used the Tactical Machining lowers, and would buy a polymer one as well for comparison (want one for a pistol.)

  6. I did a polymer jigless with a hand drill. My Dremel did not have enough torque on low speed, and high speed melted the plastic. Finished off with hand files, it is not all that pretty inside, but it works just fine. Especially for California. [I made it while the “Ghost Gun” bill was pending.] I guess my question with these jigs is that you have to make several to make them cost effective, and a lot of the 80% lowers cost more than a stripped lower. How many lowers does a guy need? For me, anyway, and since you can’t really sell them without a lot of hassle, one is enough.

    • Tactical Machining has 80% forgings from Cerro 3/90. IMO buy a few, drill the trigger group pins/safety holes and stash them. Don’t forget, at that point they ARE technically firearms. That means that they become grandfathered until someone decided to be an utter jerk and confiscate anyways.

  7. Anyone tried the “ghost gunner” cnc from defense distributed? I sure would like one. I’m already on several several “lists”, what’s 1 more?

  8. Do NOT wear long sleeve shirts or gloves when using milling machines. Doing so can lead to injury or death. And to those who say “it’s only a hand drill”, how would you react to someone disregarding the rules of gun safety and saying, “it’s only a .22”?

  9. How in the name of The Name did AR’s get selected as the build-your-own-gun gun? I get the modularity factor and the abundance of parts and accessories but the tolerances have to be tighter than most of the rifles out there. I have heard of dudes having problems when they drop in a new part or switch uppers and lowers – this takes that to a much higher level.

    I am thinking AK’s and Maks have to be better suited for this type of thing.

    Nick please do a future article on the functionality of your own BYO AR as well as those of any colleagues/friends that have their own.

    • uh, they’re not THAT tight. You’d be shocked how tolerant the trigger pocket stuff in an AR is; The biggest thing is the spacing of the pins to get the sear engagement right. Mine are quite frankly flat out ugly, however they do work and work well.

    • One big reason that ARs have become the go-to design for build-your-own-rifle dudes is because the AR’s lower receiver is under very little stress. So you can make it out of aluminum or plastic, two materials that are much easier than stamped steel for the average home-shop hammer-banger to work with.

  10. If the router was real hard to hold on to I just have to ask; what is your day job?

    What kind of coating will you be using?

    Defiantly dont wear sleeves or gloves when machining!

    Good job on making your “first” ghost gun….ha ha wink wink, “first”, yeh ok…..

    • I have yet to make up my mind on the finish but I’m interested in polishing it and leaving it as raw aluminum. Also thanks to you and everyone for the comments and no sleeves and gloves.

      • You can buy coarse to fine polishing compound ‘sticks’ wherever you get your Dremel accessories.

        Once you polish it up it will start to very slowly corrode, depending on the environment.

        A light coat of clear polyurethane spraypaint on the exterior will keep it gleaming. On the interior, a smear of grease will keep the oxidation at bay.

        Anodizing isn’t that difficult, if you have an 8 inch grinder you can put a wire wheel on it and give it a ‘brushed’ look and then drop it in the anodize solution.

        • I will probably just put clear or some off color on it as I will have to buy some items to anodize the lower.

  11. For anyone drilling metal, tapping holes or cutting threads with a die whether the material is iron, steel, aluminum etc. use “cutting oil” (available at hardware stores) instead of WD-40-type lubricants. Cutting oil is perfect for jobs like making lowers, I’ve used it for decades in the shop repairing motorcycles, cars, trucks, and buses and fabricating weight-lifting equipment, it gives you the cleanest cuts possible and will extend the life of all your steel cutting tools ie. milling/lathe/router/drill bits, taps and dies.

    As the author has said WEAR GLOVES, the cuttings will be as SHARP AS RAZOR BLADES! Wear snug fitting mechanics gloves NOT loose work gloves that can get tangled/snagged in a rotating chuck. Be CAREFUL even with the gloves NOTHING is fool-proof.

    • Mods DELETE my second paragraph on gloves, I meant to say to wear them when handling the material NOT when using power tools/machining equipment.

  12. If after you finished one of these you wanted to get it anodized or powdercoated with “professional quality”, how would that work? Would you have to remain with the lower the entire time, since its unserialized and you technically can’t transfer it? I assume the laws vary by state, but in general what would you need to do to not have a piece of naked aluminum on your scary black rifle?

    • Home anodizing is actually not that bad; I’ve done it to my lower, the problem is that I couldn’t get the dye to take so I wound up with something ugly but hard anodized. With modern coatings I wouldn’t be afraid of durability honestly. That being said powder coat would not really be on my list, it’s likely too thick.

  13. For you that want some quality and a real good fit, get a Quentin Defense 80% lower and their uppers. You’ll swear they’re one piece. May cost a bit more but they’re worth every penny.

  14. For you personally that are looking a few high quality along with a actual great match, obtain a Quentin Protection 85% reduce as well as their own uppers. You’ll vow they’re 1 item. Might price a little more however they’re worth it.

  15. I’d bet you all have really small wieners! All this talk about guns is actually about other men and their freakishly big dongs that you want to wrap your lips around! One more thing…..SUCK IT!

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