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How to Make an Off-the-Books AR-15

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It appears that the Democrats are still hell-bent on taking our 2nd Amendment rights to keep and bear arms away from us. You’d think with all the defeats they’ve had, that they would eventually give up. But then, if they gave up, they’d never succeed in creating the totalitarian, socialist, police state that they want to create.

The problem is, as we all know, that getting the guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens may not be as easy as the politicians think. A bigger problem will be getting them out of the hands of the criminals. I can’t see any criminals willingly giving up their guns, just because the government tells them to.

That’s a little more of a dilemma for those of us who are law-abiding citizens. If the government sends agents to collect our guns, we either have to give them up or make a stand. That could ultimately cause a lot of battles between government agents and otherwise honest citizens. Of course, if the government doesn’t know you have the guns, they might not come looking for them.

Introducing the Ghost Gun

That’s where an off-the-books AR-15 comes in, what some people are calling a “ghost gun.” The idea is actually rather simple and perfectly legal. According to the technicality of the law, there is only one part of a gun which is actually considered “the gun.” That’s the part which receives the serial number. For most guns, that’s the gun’s frame. For the AR-15, it’s the lower receiver.

Here’s where the law comes to our help. The serial number doesn’t have to be attached to the AR-15 lower receiver until it surpasses 80% completion. Up until that point, it’s nothing more than a casting, a work in process. So, if you buy a lower receiver that’s 80% complete or less, it doesn’t have a serial number on it.

There are several companies that sell these “80% AR-15 Lowers.” You can either buy them in raw aluminum or already anodized. Then, you have to complete the machining yourself, to make it possible to build the AR-15 into a complete, working gun.

Machining the AR-15 Lower

The machining that has to be done on these 80% lowers is to machine out the trigger group pocket and drill three holes through the sides of the receiver. The trigger group pocket is one of the least critical machining operations in the manufacture of the receiver, so this is something that can realistically be done in a garage or basement workshop.

You’ll need a good drill press to work with; one that’s at least 13″ in size. It will also be a whole lot easier to machine the lower if you buy a X-Y machining vice to hold and move the lower casting while you are machining it. While it is technically possible to complete the job without this, it’s a lot easier to do a neat job if you have it. One final thing you’ll need is a template, which you can buy from the same company that sells you the 80% lower.

Machining out the pocket is done in stages. First you drill a number of small holes into the casting, and then enlarge them to take out more material. Finally, you switch from a drill bit to an end mill and clean out the rest of the material in the pocket. That’s where the X-Y machining vice really helps.

The template will not only provide location for the pocket to be machined out, but also for the holes that need to be drilled in the sides of the lower receiver. That way, you can be sure that their location is exact.

One important note that you must keep in mind. For this project to be legal, you must do all the work yourself. I didn’t realize what that meant until I had finished machining mine and was going to take it for laser engraving and anodizing. Since it was now a complete AR-15 lower, I couldn’t have someone else do those parts. Had I had them done before I started working on it, it would have been legal.

Building the AR-15

Once you have your AR-15 lower receiver machined out, you need to turn it into a complete rifle. This is a great experience, and will teach you a lot about how the AR-15 works. You will need a trigger group parts kit for the lower, as well as a buffer tube kit and a stock. It’s generally easier and cheaper to buy these parts as kits, than it is to buy them individually.

You can find lots of videos on YouTube, which will tell you how to assemble the AR-15 lower receiver. It’s actually rather simple and only requires one specialty tool. That’s the spanner wrench for tightening the buffer tube nut. If you are going to build the upper receiver group as well, you will need a barrel wrench, which may have this spanner included in it.

Most people buy a ready-made AR-15 upper assembly, which consists of the upper receiver, bolt carrier, barrel and grips or rail system. There are a large number of configurations available, allowing you to find one that meets your exact needs. Or, if you’re like me, you can buy the individual parts and build your upper exactly how you want it, making your AR-15 truly a custom work.

One Final Note

Although your AR-15 doesn’t have a serial number on it, I would recommend putting one on yourself. You can either have this laser engraved before machining the 80% lower or can do it yourself with an engraving tool. Not having a serial number on it would seem suspicious. So, if you make up your own number and put it on your gun, it won’t be quite so obvious. The number won’t matter, as there will be no record of it anywhere.


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