Building an AR-15 Ghost Gun


The presidency of Barack Obama brought with it a constant stream of threats on our Second Amendment rights. Like many other Democrats, who want to be able to control what is supposed to be a free society, Obama wanted to take guns away. But the law didn’t allow him. The most he was able to do was to use executive orders to try and take guns away from a few small groups of people.

Now that President Trump is in office, the risk of having our guns taken from us has lessened considerably. But it hasn’t disappeared. Democrat lawmakers are still trying to pass laws, making more and more guns illegal and restricting our rights to defend ourselves.

In the midst of all this, there is a way of protecting yourself and making sure that you have the necessary firearms to do so. Basically, all you need to do is to own guns that the government has no way of tracing to you. One way to do this is to buy them privately, from people who aren’t all that particular about reporting the sale to the appropriate officials. This is what criminals do. But there’s another way; that’s to have a gun without a serial number to record. Believe it or not, this can be done legally.

What Does the Law Say About Ghost Guns?

The law is very technical about firearms, specifically about defining what qualifies as a gun and how it is to be identified by the manufacturer. This technical definition can work to our advantage, once we understand it.

There is only one part that is actually considered the gun; that has been identified as the frame. In the case of the AR-15, the frame is what is known as the lower receiver. This part is so identified because it is the part that the trigger mounts into, fitting the technical description of being the gun. As the gun, it is the only part which receives a serial number; none of the other parts do, except in the case of fully-automatic weapons.

The law even goes so far as to identify when in the manufacturing process the serial number has to be stamped or etched into the gun’s frame. That is, once the gun’s frame has gone past 80% complete, it has to be so identified. But a gun frame or lower receiver that is only 80% through the machining process doesn’t have to have a serial number.

So, if you can buy one that is only 80% done, you can buy it without a serial number and then finish the machining process yourself. This is perfectly legal, and in fact, the ATF has already ruled on its legality.

There are a number of companies online, who sell what are known as 80% lowers, just for this purpose. The more reputable ones have a letter on file, from the ATF, which declares that the 80% lowers that they sell are legal and not considered a firearm. Therefore, they don’t need a serial number. There is even one company which is providing polymer 80% lowers. While these work fine and are much easier to machine, you need to realize that they are more susceptible to breakage, than the aluminum ones are.

One important requirement for this to remain legal is that you have to do all the work yourself. If you were to take your 80% lower to a machine shop and ask them to do the job, they would be breaking the law, as they are not a licensed firearms manufacturer. Likewise, if your buddy asks you to make one for him, you’d have to decline, as you are not a licensed firearms manufacturer either. You can only make one for yourself, and as best I know, you can’t transport it across state lines.

Finishing an 80% Lower

The bad news is that you can’t just drill a hole or two in the unfinished lower and be ready to put your gun together; it’s a little bit harder than that. But anyone with a fairly well equipped workshop should be able to complete the machining in a few hours.

I’ve done three of these, and they all needed the same work done. That consisted of drilling three holes through the lower receiver from side to side, cutting the slot for the trigger, and machining out the pocket for the trigger mechanism.

These operations have to be done rather precisely, so it’s best to buy a template to work with. Templates are available from all of the manufacturers of 80% lowers. While not all templates are equal, they basically all perform the same functions and provide the same degree of accuracy. In addition to the template, you’ll need a drill press, an X-Y vice (which you can buy from Harbor Freight for $69.99), and a few end mills.

AR-15 80% lower and template
AR-15 80% lower and template

While machining aluminum in a drill press isn’t easy, it is possible. The one thing I would have to say is that you need a lot of patience. You can’t try to cut rapidly or make deep cuts with the end mill. Rather, you have to shave off a little bit at a time, until you reach the full depth and breadth of the cut you need.

Unless you buy an already anodized 80% lower (which are available, if you’re patient enough to wait for them to be in stock), you’re going to end up with a bare aluminum lower receiver. As I mentioned earlier, you can’t pay someone to work on it, so you can’t send it to an anodizer for finishing. You either have to anodize it yourself (which I’m not set up to do), or you can do what I did and just paint it black.

Building the Gun

Once you have your 80% lower complete, you’re ready to start assembling your gun. You can either buy the necessary parts online or at a local gun show. There are usually people there who are selling parts for AR-15s. Buying them at the gun show for cash, eliminates any credit card records of you buying the parts online.

Most people merely build the lower part of the gun, installing a trigger parts kit and a buffer tube kit into the lower receiver and then attaching a stock. For the upper part, you can buy completed AR-15 upper receiver and barrel assemblies in a variety of calibers and styles.

AR-15 80% polymer lower – Fully machined and built
AR-15 80% polymer lower – Fully machined and built

Your other option is to buy all the parts individually and fully build up the AR-15 exactly as you want. I did mine this way and found it to be an interesting experience. I have a much better understanding of the AR-15, how it works, and how it is assembled, than I would have had otherwise. This gives me the capability of being my own gunsmith, which I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

There are plenty of videos around, showing how to assemble the various parts of the AR-15. You will need a few specialized tools, but they aren’t all that expensive. Your most expensive tool will end up being the template, assuming you already have a drill press and an X-Y vice.

One final thing I need to mention; that is, this is not a way of saving money on your AR-15. You’ll end up spending more on your AR-15, building it yourself, than you would spend buying one off-the-shelf. But the big advantage here, is that there will be no record of you ever having purchased it or even of the gun existing. So, if the government ever does try to round up our guns, all you’ll need to do is keep it hidden.

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