The Best AR-15 Lowers in 2022

Kenzie Fitzpatrick

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AR 15 Lowers Cover

The bedrock of every AR-15 is the lower receiver. These unassuming bits of aluminium form the foundation onto which an AR-15 will be based, and ultimately help it reach its full potential. Of course, some lowers will cost you less than a Ulysses S. Grant, while others will set you back the cost of a budget pistol.

We’re here to help you understand why – and ultimately arm you with the information needed to select the right receiver for any AR build.

In This Article:

AR-15 Lower Comparison

Below is my list of the best AR-15 lower receivers for 2022. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.

Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of AR lowers.

ImageNameSelectionPrice
PSA AR-15Best Value$299
Noveske Gen 1Best Premium Stripped Lower$185
Spikes TacticalBest Themed Lowers$145
Battle Arms DevelopmentBest Premium Complete Lower$699
Aero PrecisionAlso Great$214
Anderson ManufacturingBudget Option$63
Bravo CompanyAlso Great$395
Black Rain OrdinanceAlso Great$59
F-1 FirearmsBest Skeletonized Option$250
Hodge Defense Mod 1Also Great$185
Radian WeaponsBest Ambi Lower$351
Seekins PrecisionLightest$249

AR-15 Lower Receiver Reviews

1. PSA AR15 EPT Magpul CTR Edition Lower

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Forged

Pros

  • Lots of inventory
  • Loads of configurations
  • Hard to beat price point

Cons

  • Non-ambi controls
  • Magpul furniture
  • So-so trigger 

We could not have Anderson and Aero on here without at least giving a nod to Palmetto State Armory, who have probably sold more standalone aluminum lowers than those two companies combined.

With that being said, we can certainly see how PSA is seen as a “value” or “budget” maker, but that doesn’t mean they produce junk.

AR Lowers - PSA PCC Lower Alt
The Palmetto State Armory lower offers quality Magpul furniture and a forged 7075-T6 construction. This particular lower is outfitted with a flat-faced competition trigger.

I run have run their lowers for years, and for those interested in a general-purpose, introductory, or common-user lower to utilize for a build, Palmetto State Armory will probably have it in stock and ready to ship, generally for less than $300.

2. Noveske AR-15 Lower Receiver

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Billet

Pros

  • Billet machined quality
  • Flared magwell
  • Type III anodizing

Cons

  • Hard to get ahold of
  • Expensive

Precision machined billet 7075 t6 aluminum lower? Check. Tension screw? Check. Flared magazine for faster reloads with a wide range of mag types? Check. Type III anodizing and an integrated trigger guard? You know that’s a check.

We don’t need to give you any more reasons to look into one of Noveske Rifleworks’ Gen III lowers. They’ve got all them trimmings and them some.  

3. Spikes Tactical AR Lowers

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Forged

Pros

  • Nice mix of quality & price
  • Themed lowers give you personalization options

Cons

  • Some themes are, uh, cringeworthy
  • Can be hard to find

One of our favs, Spikes Tactical has been in the lower game for a minute, specializing in forged 7075 mil-spec receivers that are higher up the shelf than a lot of the mid-range competitors.

Further, they have a variety of themed lowers that, while they can sometimes be cringeworthy, offer the side bonus of great deals on slower-selling models.

The standard Spikes’ Spider-marked lower is always a winner and I’ve seen more than a fair share of them at the range over the years.

4. Battle Arms Development Lower Receiver

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Billet

Pros

  • Billet machined quality
  • Proven performer
  • Really nice finish

Cons

  • Expensive

A functional work of art, BAD makes billet 7075 lowers that are super strong yet lightweight, with the company often claiming the mantle of  “best receiver on the market”.

On the downside, you have to pay to play and BAD ambi billet lowers usually run the cost of six or seven forged lowers from Aero or comparable makers. I’ve never run one personally but my experience with other people’s ARs running BAD products tells me you wouldn’t be disappointed. 

5. Aero Precision Magpul MOE AR-15 Lower Receiver

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Forged

Pros

  • Upper adjustable tension screw
  • Made in the U.S.
  • Incredible value

Cons

  • Won’t win you any cool points
Aero Precision Lower Build (1)

We, along with many others, consider Aero the benchmark maker in the AR lower game. Aero Precision’s complete and stripped lowers are available in a variety of finishes and a great warranty to back up their work– although you will probably never need to use it.

Best yet, they are affordably priced, running typically around $75-$100 for a stripped lower, while at the same time maintaining a stellar reputation.

An Aero Precision lower won’t turn heads, but they don’t get rocks thrown at them either, and for good reason: they work.

6. Anderson 80% Lowers

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Forged

Pros

  • Low price leader
  • Made in the U.S.
  • I, personally, like the roll mark

Cons

  • Very common lower
  • Seen as a “starter gun”
  • Not particularly polished

Ah, the old “Poverty Pony” of Kentucky. Anderson Manufacturing probably sells the most inexpensive yet functional lowers of any other company in the U.S. as their typical price point runs about $50 on a stripped lower, often less if you can catch a deal outside of a threatened gun ban or election cycle.

I’ve never had an issue with Anderson Manufacturing 80% lower receiver or complete and I can’t see why you would either. Many guys swear by them, especially for budget builds. 

With prices like that for a 7075 lower that is (usually) inside mil-spec, it is hard to go wrong and they offer a stellar reason to stay away from 6061 t6 aluminum and polymers. A more standard AR-15 lower is hard to find.

7. Bravo Company Complete Lower Receiver

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Forged

Pros

  • Up-and-coming brand
  • Lots of custom options
  • Solid price point

Cons

  • Availability can be hit and miss

Bravo Company Mfg., based in Wisconsin, has increasingly made a name for themselves in the past decade both with complete AR rifles and pistols as well as a wide range of lowers. Their in-demand stripped lowers, crafted from 7075 forgings, are legit while their complete lowers are easier to come across.

As a bonus, BCM offers dozens of different custom lower engravings covering everything from Gadsden flags to the USMC’s EG&A, so if you’re a fan of personalizing your build (who isn’t?) BCM should be on your short list.

8. Black Rain Ordinance Billet Lower Receiver

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Forged

Pros

  • Durable
  • Solid anodizing
  • Integrated trigger guard

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Availability can be limited

Black Rain Ordinance is best known for its rifle offerings, but they also make both complete and stripped lowers.

Their forged black anodized SPEC15 series is the flagship for the latter type and is ready to drop in a lower parts kit to put it into service.

9. F-1 Firearms Skeletonized AR Lower

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Billet

Pros

  • Superior quality
  • Incredibly light weight
  • Get ready for all the Cool Points

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Long wait times for delivery
  • Terrible website

If Anderson and Aero are mid-shelf lower manufacturers, we’d put Texas-based F1 Firearms at the other end of the spectrum — squarely on the top shelf. If you are OK with a wait time for fulfillment and have the room on your credit card, though, picking up one of their UDR series billet lowers will set you on the path to having an AR that others will envy.

Skeletonized and made to strict laser-verified tolerances, do not let the light weight fool you, these lowers are intended for a premium rifle.

10. Hodge Defense Stripped Lower Receiver

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Billet

Pros

  • Unexpected quality
  • Superior anodizing
  • Quality finish

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Hard to find
  • No billet offerings

Hodge Defense is not a household name outside of the AR world, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that is because they aren’t good at what they do.

On the contrary, we’ve found that they make some of the highest quality ARs on the market and their Mod 1 stripped lowers are about as perfect as you can get when it comes to forged 7075 aluminum.

11. Radian ADAC Lower Receiver

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Billet

Pros

  • Superior quality
  • Incredibly polished
  • Ambi controls

Cons

  • Very Expensive

We think Radian Weapons Systems has one of the best fully-ambi lowers on the market in their AX556 series lower.

A billet 7075 design, it incorporates a left/right-side magazine release paddle along with an extended dual-action bolt catch that allows right-handed operators the ability to lock the bolt to the rear without taking their strong hand off fire control.

Plus, if you ask me, they just look great.

12. Seekins Precision SP223 AR Lower

Specs:

Material: 7075-T6
Hardcoat: Type III
Forged/Billet: Billet

Pros

  • Very light
  • Sleek design
  • Ambi controls
  • Billet 7075 

Cons

  • Very Expensive
  • Style may not be everyone’s cuppa

One of the easiest lower receivers to work with and hitting the scales at 10.9-ounces, the SP223 lower by Seekins Precision deletes traditional roll pins for custom screw-in dowel pins, allowing the user to leave their punch set in the toolbox more. As much as I love swinging a hammer, nobody loves scarring their lower receiver. 

Made from 7075 billet aluminum, the SP223 is stripped but comes with Seekins’ enhanced bolt catch and ambi release.

Why an AR-15 Lower Receiver?

Aero Precision Lower Build (4)
A complete Aero lower

People generally buy AR-15 lower receivers for one of two reasons.

  • Building a new rifle. The first reason is to build a new rifle from scratch. While some people are intimidated by this, even a first-time gun owner can put together an AR-15 starting from a bare lower. These days, there are a ton of awesome tutorials online that make it more than possible to do it yourself with some basic tools, some time, and a little patience. This gives you the opportunity to build a rifle that is exactly as you want it and gives you the pride in having built something yourself.
  • Adding Features. Second, if you have an extremely specific build in mind, one of the only ways to achieve that might be to start from the lower and build the rifle yourself. For example, if there’s a specific feature set that you want, like an ambidextrous safety, one of the ways to achieve that is to get a lower receiver that allows for it and populate it with parts that will let the rifle work better for you. Some people also want to go for a particular aesthetic, for instance, the differences in reinforcements, fences, and forward assists, to make a gun that looks like it’s from a specific historical period.

What to Look for in a Quality AR Lower

Best AR-1 Lowers - Anderson Lower
The AR platform gives the user an unparalleled opportunity to personalize their firearm.

Once just a niche “plastic” sporting rifle for Colt fans, the AR-15 platform over the course of the past 60 years has evolved to the point where it is truly one of the most versatile firearms ever designed. They can be rifle, pistol or shotgun. 

Disregarding wildcat rounds, they can be chambered in more than 50 calibers ranging from the rimfire .17 HMR to the bruising .50 Beowulf. Modern rail systems, running from beefed-up Picatinny/Quad and stripped-down VLTOR Key-Mod to Magpul M-LOK, allow virtually any accessory to be fitted to enhance the user’s performance. 

When it comes to furniture, there are folding stock kits, collapsible M4-style kits, an ocean of stabilizing braces for pistols, and even fixed wood options. And it all starts with a lower. 

1. Construction

AR Lowers - Group Alt
A group of lowers waiting for their upper counterparts

First off, construction is key. The two-part receiver design of Eugene Stoner, first pioneered on his ArmaLite AR-10 back in the 1950s, incorporated the use of early lightweight aircraft-grade aluminum as ArmaLite was a subsidiary of California-based Fairchild Aviation and benefited directly from their manufacturing process.

Since then, while Fairchild has long since been delivered to the dustbin of history, aluminum has remained the standard for both AR lower and uppers receivers. 

Aluminum Grades

Aluminum allows typically come in two grades, 6061-T651 and 7075-T651, with the latter being preferred as it is nearly twice as strong when it comes to tensile and yield strength as well as 80,000+ psi shear strength — for very little difference in weight.

The primary benefit of 6061 is that receivers constructed of such material are more corrosion resistant than 7075 while running slightly cheaper– but only slightly. While there’s an opportunity to save money it’s generally not worth the reduction in durability.

Polymer is an option

Speaking of cheaper, polymer lowers can cost even less, and often hit the scales at even lighter in weight than aluminum offerings. They aren’t exactly new to the market, with pre-Remington Bushmaster, Plum Crazy, and CavArms producing them going back to the 1980s. 

Despite the cost difference, they do have a reputation for being a bit more fragile, especially when it comes to breaking the rear buffer tube threads and developing cracks at the pivot points.

While current polymer lower makers such as New Frontier Armory have redesigned pivot and takedown pin areas in addition to a beefed-up polymer recipe to fortify the failure points on past designs sold by other companies, in the end, the choice to run metal or plastic is up to the user.

2. Billet or Forged Aluminum

Unfinished and finished AR-15 Lowers
Forge marks on an unfinished lower.

Aluminum lowers, going past the 6061/7076 material argument, also come in either billet or forged varieties. The short story on a forged lower is that it’s produced by compressing/hammering a heated platter of aluminum alloy together and then machining the resulting stamping out into a working lower. 

Meanwhile, in the case of a billet aluminum lower, it is constructed by milling one out of a single piece of an aluminum block. 

While the forged 7075 t6 aluminum receiver is easier to machine, requiring fewer manufacturing processes to finish and thus making it cheaper to make, billet aluminum receivers, as they are born from a solid block of metal, have a reputation of being stronger and can be made more exotic–traits especially desirable in a high-end AR build.

However, on the downside, billet receivers sometimes need more hand fitting of parts as there is not a “MIL-STD” when it comes to billet lowers. 

What about cast lower receivers?

Then there are cast lower receivers, with molten metal poured into a mold, with the result being a product that generally has a less than stellar reputation as it is on the soft side metallurgically speaking due to the loose crystalline structure that is formed when that once hot aluminum cools.

There are instances of homebuilders casting their own lowers from recycled pop cans, which is an interesting DIY project, but in general, cast lowers are best avoided. 

3. Intended Use

AR Lowers - PCC vs AR Lower
A 9mm PCC lower (bottom) is designed around a completly different cartridge and purpose than a 5.56 NATO lower (top). Your selection of a lower should align with its purpose.

Going back to the best-selling point for an AR platform, the versatility of the design allows users to build a gun from the receiver-up with a dedicated purpose in mind.

Home Defense

For instance, the gun could end up being a .300 Blackout pistol with a 10-inch barrel optimized for home defense with a backup purpose of hog hunting in thick brush.

This could point to using a factory fresh AR lower, preferably aluminum in construction, that has never been part of a firearm before, to keep square with the ATF’s “pistol” classification.

Lightweight Plinking 

In another example, someone intending to build a “plinker” rifle to mate with a dedicated .22LR rimfire upper receiver but isn’t looking to drop a lot of coin could elect to use a polymer lower to create a gun that will likely run (well) south of 6-pounds while not breaking the bank. 

Long-Distance Builds

A third example would be of someone seeking to build a .224 Valkyrie precision rifle. Using a .224V AR upper receiver with a 20-inch 416R stainless barrel and a 6.8 SPC mag, a good mil-spec 7075 lower could work, but the builder would be better off taking a step up to a nice billet lower with a built-in tensioner screw to help reduce upper/lower wobble and yield a tighter fitment.

4. Finish

DDM4 V7 Review - Grip and Lower
The DDM4 V7 lower receiver is incredibly well engineered.

When looking for a new lower, I usually consider is the finish as well. While some people don’t care about this too much, I strongly prefer to match upper receivers with a like lower receiver finish. The final rifles look like a professionally made piece of equipment rather than something I pieced together at the kitchen table.

Also, some finishes add a lot of durability to the metal, depending on the anodizing process, which I value in a rifle that I plan on owning and using for years to come. 

A note on finishes

While there are other options, anodizing is far and away the most popular finish for ARs and tactical rifles. The matte black finish is where the term “black rifle” comes from, but that same anodizing process can produce any number of colors — from burnt bronze to OD green and any kinds of custom look in between. Hardcoat anodizing basically just a coating of aluminum oxide — or purposely-applied aluminum rust.

When you hear “mil-spec anodizing,” that means it’s a Type III anodized finish (more on types below). This thick protection is found on military rifles and many retail ARs, receivers, and aluminum components. While matte black is the easiest to produce (essentially the default), additional processing can produce a glossy look and smoother texture.  

Hardcoat Types: I, II, and III/ (MIL-A 8625)

  • Type I anodizing is often reserved for small, low-wear components. This softer, less durable finish wouldn’t be used on high-wear parts such as AR receivers. The reason for Type I’s lack of durability is the depth of the finish itself — which is decidedly thin at 0.0001″. It’s also produced with chromic acid rather than the harder sulfuric acid.
  • Type II anodizing eschews chromic acid for sulfuric acid and is a level of protection that can be done at home with safety precautions and an appropriate DIY anodizing kit. Type II coatings are at minimum twice as think as Type I coatings, ranging from 0.0002″ to 0.0006″ thick.
  • Type III is the most durable form of anodizing. In addition to sulfuric acid, that acid cooled to accommodate higher electrical current, adheres to more exacting measurements, and uses de-oxidizing agents for a precision coat, resulting in a “Hardcoat” that will range from 0.0005″ to 0.003″ thick.

5. Trigger

Assuming you’re going with a complete lower, the part I think about the most is the trigger. While I’m fine with military-style triggers in off-the-shelf rifles, I want the best trigger I can get for the money when building a custom rifle. Here, something flat-faced and user-adjustable is likely what I want.

The trigger can drastically affect the feeling of a gun and your accuracy with it, so picking out one that you like at this point in the process is something that you should consider carefully. Why stick with mil-spec when you can build something that will be adjustable & more user-friendly?

5. Features

Consider the basic set of features built into the lower, and this depends mainly on the kind of build I’m after. For instance, if I want a build that looks more like an M16A11, I want to go for historically accurate features in terms of reinforcing fences and a lack of a forward assist. Again, with lowers, it’s all about the fine details of what you create.

A standard receiver nowadays will come with, at the very least, the spots for a mag release, a dust cover, and a forward assist. These will help you build a fairly standard AR build.

For those who are considering a fully built lower, the included buttstock is also worth consideration. If you have an existing upper, I’d go with something that matches, exactly, the handguard that I had on the upper. If not, make sure to find out exactly what kind of buttstock you’re getting so that you can match it to the handguard. 

Completed lowers tend to be more expensive anyway, so it’s more than worth your time and effort to shop around for exactly what you want in this case, so you’re not compromising at the last minute.

Types of AR Lowers

stripped vs complete lower
A stripped lower (right) vs a complete AR lower (left)

The difference between a stripped and complete lower is pretty obvious.

Have we mentioned AR versatility? When it comes to the choice of internal lower parts, triggers, grips, buffer tubes, and stocks/braces, there is a kaleidoscope of options available for the AR builder. 

Complete Lowers

For ease of construction, complete lowers will be good to go right out of the box, just add a complete upper, bolt carrier group, and magazine, then function check and make sure it is lubed, and you are good to go. 

This is especially appealing for first-time builders. Should you decide to, say, swap out a mil-spec hammer, hammer spring, disconnector, trigger, and bolt catch pin for an aftermarket drop-in trigger assembly as an upgrade, that is something that can typically be carried out later in under an hour with the help of a YouTube video. Don’t end up liking it as much as you thought you would? Swap it back.

frankengun-15 lower receiver
IT'S ALIVE!

Stripped Receivers

For those looking to craft a gun from the bare receiver up, a stripped lower receiver is the way to go, allowing individual selection of LPKs and triggers, tubes, stabilizers, or the inclusion of an ambidextrous bolt release or custom roll marks like the above Frankengun lower from PSA.

This is appealing not only to AR snobs who will debate the finer points of a Timney Calvin Elite trigger compared to the Triggertech Adaptable trigger but also to those looking to build on a budget as oftentimes generic LPKs with standard no-name “military” grips and triggers can be had at value prices, sweat equity required.

AR-15 Lower Pricing

Due to the variety of features available on lowers can vary so much, so does pricing. For under $100, it’s possible to get a quality forged or billet lower that comes totally bare.

  • Over $100, you’ll be getting some parts that come with the lower, such as a basic trigger, magazine release, etc. But it’s unlikely any of the parts will be especially fancy or high-end. Expect lots of mil-spec goodness and little worry about quality control.
  • At the $200 mark, it’s more likely that you’ll get either a buttstock or an upgraded trigger. At this price point, some fancier finishes are also available.
  • Above $300, you can expect a lower that comes fully ready to go, and many of them will come with upgraded parts that are intended for accurate rifles and competition guns.

As you can see, it’s more than possible to get into AR building with a stripped lower at a relatively low price.

This is one of the things that I like so much about buying lowers: it gives people a chance to get into an AR for an extremely reasonable price, and then you can learn something about building a complete rifle along the way. I’d recommend going for a stripped lower if you want to save money and are up for a little bit of a challenge.

How We Selected These Products

As much as I would love the put all these lower receivers to the test there are times when certain products or categories are a real challenge — be it availability, cost, or simply a lack of resources — we can get stymied going hands-on with all the potential candidates. Rather than present a never-ending list of all the lowers on the planet, we selected those which we felt best represent the price points laid out above — giving you a solid representational list to serve as a jumping-off point for your own research (you are going to do you own research, right?)

To avoid disappointment or steering you in the wrong direction, we bolster our own experience with conversations with experts, comb through reviews on retailer sites & sales data, review industry publications, other blogs, and otherwise surface the best information available.

We aim for all thriller, no filler, as they say.

Sources

  1. GunCraft101. (2019) Making an AR15 from beer cans 2011
  2. Clinton Aluminum. (2017) 6061 VS. 7075
  3. 80% Lowers. (2020) AR-15 Coatings Explained

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