Advancement of 80% builds: From garage AR’s to Accurized Pistols

first published on November 21, 2018 by


When 80% lowers really started taking off in popularity, I would never have imagined the mainstream status that they have achieved today.  From the humble beginnings as a somewhat intimidating chunk of unfinished aluminum needing bulky and expensive jigs that still left some opportunities to screw up the whole thing, to today’s wildly popular Polymer 80 Glock build kits and other popular designs, the concept has come a long way. The term 80% lower no longer brings to mind a single product, but a myriad of possibilities. 

If you have the basic tools necessary, a steady hand, and an afternoon free, you can carve out a very respectable receiver for your next AR or handgun build of choice. Most intriguing to me, are the options to take a crack at turning out a home built custom 1911, 2011 or Sig pattern pistol.  Previously, if you wanted to really test your patience and abilities with pistol smithing on one of these types of guns, you would risk destroying a complete serialized frame in order to do any custom work on one.  Now, not only are you risking a far less expensive item, but you have the opportunity to custom fit each and every part to the frame as you’d like.  I was careful to say “opportunity” and not “ability” because although we live in the world of instant and unlimited information, the skills necessary to complete one of these builds cannot be purchased with the kit. 

Watching wonderfully informative videos such as the series featured here from Mosin Virus is a great way to get an idea of just how much work and skill goes into a quality build.  The average Joe could most certainly cobble together something that looks like a 1911 and fires most of the time, but a ton of very careful fitting and attention to detail goes into making an accurate and reliable handgun.  There is a very good reason a respectable custom pistol can be evenly traded for a half decent used car.  

Growing up, my friend and talented gunsmith, Barry Ruane always warned me, “People with a Dremel tool and ball-peen hammer keep me in business.  Before YOU pick up those and look at a gun, call me first.”  That was nearly a decade ago now, which seems hard to believe, but those words stick with me to this day, and are still as true now as they were then and will always be.  As Mosin Virus demonstrates in his video series, someone with the skill to do it can create an incredible custom handgun from the comfort of their own workshop or garage entirely from parts delivered right to your door.  Its no secret by now, that gun people are, by nature, tinkerers.  Modifications and accessories are as much a part of the culture as the guns themselves!  I was admittedly quite naive to not recognize the enormous potential 80% receivers presented in their early days keeping the nature of gun owners in mind. 

The freedom of avoiding Uncle Sam all together, combined with the satisfaction of using your own hands to create something useful and of quality is a “eureka” moment in the gun industry.  Of course the hysteria surrounding them as being “ghost guns” comes with that territory too.  That discussion is a whole other ball of wax that I will save to melt another day, however. Let us know what you think about 80% lower builds, and don’t forget to check out all of the great, step by step, videos of them on Full30!