EP Lowers makes a hot item right now, 80 percent lowers. But theirs are a bit different. First of all, they’re polymer, which means a home gunsmith doesn’t need a lot by way of power to complete them. But more importantly, they’re made of two different color polymers, so you can physically see what needs to be removed — obviating the need for a jig.
Eighty percent lowers have come into their own as more and more people take to the idea of building their own firearms — they don’t have to go through FFLs and as such no records of their transfers are made — if to really get personally involved with their guns as much as to maintain their privacy.
A person doesn’t have to undergo a background check when purchasing an 80 percent lower because as shipped, it’s a receiver-shaped paperweight. It is impossible to turn an 80 percent lower into a firearm without some effort, usually machining and drilling.
This work normally requires some special tools, not necessarily a CNC milling machine but at the very least, a drill press and a jig. Without a jig to guide the bits, a gunsmith could take away too much or too little material to complete their receiver, ensuring that it will always be a paperweight.
But with the EP Lowers’ lower, you just need to cut away the wrong-colored plastic. In theory, you can do this with simple hand tools, but their instructions say that you need a drill press — preferably one with an X- and Y-axis control.
To complete an EP Lower lower you’ll need the following: “A drill press, drill bit set up to 3/8-inch, drill bit 3/32 x 8 inches long, 3/8-inch or smaller, end mill, 5/32-inch drill bit for the hammer and trigger pins, 3/8-inch drill bit for the selector, C-clamps, Dremel tool with a variety of cutter bits and sanding bits, Files, Sandpaper, Level, Safety glasses, Gloves and of course some patience.
“Optional items that will help are a drill press table with X- and Y-axis control and a hollow punch set.”
To make things simple, the hammer and trigger pin holes are relieved. Once you’ve bored out fire control group space, you just flip the receiver on its side and use the lower’s molded-in guides to drill out the pin holes.
- Magazine well
- Pistol grip area completed
- Trigger guard holes drilled
- Front and rear pivot pin holes drilled and reamed
- Selector retainer hole drilled
- Main hole for buffer tube drilled and threaded
- Buffer retainer hole drilled
- Magazine release/catch slots finished
To be done by you:
- Fire control pocket
- Drill trigger pin hole
- Drill hammer pin hole
- Cut trigger slot
- Selector hole
They have pretty clear instructions available on their website, although a video would be nice.
EP Lowers also sells lower parts kits and spare parts kits, along with takedown pins and some of the other bits and pieces you’ll need to complete a lower.
The lowers themselves are a bit expensive at $100. This is par for the course right now, unfortunately, as the popularity of 80 percent lowers has exploded following talks of increased gun control, but considerably more affordable than most other 80 percent lowers (if you can find them).
Taking into account the fact that you don’t need a jig to complete these, that’s one more thing you don’t have to buy.
We think that EP Lowers’ lowers, because of the fact that they need so little in terms of specialized equipment, are going to be popular with a lot of beginner hobby gunsmiths. EP Lowers is working on different colors for down the road, but right now they’re only available in black.
Polymer lowers are starting to grow in popularity, as both their manufacturing quality has gone up and availability of lowers in general has gotten rough; people are willing to try new things when new thing are their only option.
That being said, they’re also proving to be worthwhile; polymers are in many ways more resilient than alloys and can take a lot of abuse, and the finish never rubs off. These look like a great way to break into home gunsmithing.