New hybrid zinc-polymer AR-15 lower from ATI (VIDEO)

American Tactical Imports, or ATI, has developed a hybrid lower for their Omni series of lowers and AR-15 rifles. The new Omni Hybrid design incorporates a hardened zinc alloy insert at the rear of the lower receiver that provides support to the buffer tower and threading for the buffer tube.

Polymer lowers are relatively new and have a spotty reputation as early designs used inadequate materials leading to lowers that sheared apart right at the buffer tower. While more recent polymer receivers haven’t displayed the problem with regular, even hard use, many gun owners are simply opposed to the concept of the plastic lower.

This design is at a crossroads between the all-polymer lower and the traditional alloy lower with its insert. The majority of the design remains a fiberglass composite — keeping the weight of the stripped receiver down to an impressive eight ounces — but the problem area of the buffer tower is metal.

The rest of the receiver is molded directly around the insert, which extends partway down the sides of the receiver. The rear takedown pin also passes through the insert, further providing support for the buffer tower and buffer assembly.

ati omni hybrid nickel polymer lowerThe use of an insert also solves another, albeit rare problem with conventional polymer lowers. Although it is technically a user error, it is possible to over-torque a castle nut when assembling a complete lower receiver, which can damage the threads of the buffer extension. This can happen with metal threads, too, but it is a lot harder to do.

“The Omni-Hybrid lower has gone through all the pressure and weight-baring testing of a traditional aluminum lower with flawless results,” said Joe Calabro, Director of Marketing for ATI. “We feel like this new manufacturing technique will help set the standard for AR lower manufacturing.”

The Omni Hybrid is a fully-featured lower receiver in other respects. Right off the bat it has an oversized, flared magwell for quick mag changes that’s also textured for use as a foregrip.

Like most polymer lowers the Omni Hybrid has an integrated trigger guard and in this case it’s enlarged as well for use with gloves on. It also has reinforced pin holes for the fire control group.

ATI has a clever design on their hands. The Omni Hybrid is the prime candidate for establishing polymer as a generally-accepted material for AR-15 lower receivers. It lightweight and because it is far more flexible, in a lot of ways polymer is more durable and definitely more scratch-resistant than anodized aluminum.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that the MSRP on these is just $50. Not too long ago the price for AR-15 lowers was at a mind-boggling high and this couldn’t be further from that.

If you’re looking to build an ultralight AR or are just on a budget, be sure to keep an eye out for ATI Omni Hybrids. For more information, head over to the product page. There you can find videos of the lowers being fired, tested, dropped and even run over with a five-and-a-half-ton forklift. (Spoiler: it does just fine.)

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