80% lowers have become a staple of modern gun ownership, and for good reason too. They are often found cheaper than complete firearms, they invited the challenge of building a unique AR-15 without the unnecessary government intervention that comes into play with complete firearms, and are not terribly difficult to build. It cannot be understated that the building of 80% lowers has become its own hobby within the gun community which people of all socioeconomic statuses can enjoy.
Recently though, there have been some changes that will critically alter the development of the 80% lower industry. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms recently issued a new ruling in the federal register that would effectively ban the sale and private manufacture of 80% receiver blanks. The ATF Ruling 2021r-05f was ruled on April 11th 2022, and will be made effective on August 24th, 2022.
Will 80 Lowers be Grandfathered?
The term grandfathered refers to a piece of an item manufactured before the date a regulation was made effective. A close example of this would be the sale of fully automatic firearms manufactured by for the year of 1968, pursuant to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which outlawed the ownership of fully automatic firearms. The act does not extend its jurisdiction to firearms made before its effective date, meaning there is a category of fully automatic firearms available to the general public, albeit at much higher prices.
The current ruling for 80% lower receiver blanks will expressly require any and all 80% lower built firearms without serial numbers to be turned in to local Federal Firearms Licensees to either be sold or serialized with an ATF approved serial number. This is done by the nature of the ruling, which does not inherently act as a ban towards 80% lowers, but changes the definition of firearm to incorporate what would be 80% lowers as firearms.
The summary of the ATF ruling on the ATF website notes that firearms with split frames built from 80% lowers will be legal on the requirement that they are marked with a serial number in accordance with the ruling’s requirements.
Do 80 Lowers Require Serial Numbers?
Currently, 80% lowers do not require serial numbers because until this ruling, they had not been legally considered firearms. In fact, the ruling is specifically a ruling that governs how the ATF will interpret its own regulations. The ATF Ruling 2021r-05f is not an actual piece of legislation, but must be adhered to in order to stave off a ten year prison sentence.
80% lowers will not only require serial numbers, but they will not be able to be purchased by an individual to be serialized at a later date. 80% lowers will be serialized by the FFL licensee that has either manufactured it or has it available for retail.
Types of Available 80 Lowers
There are a few kinds of 80% lowers. The first kind is that of the AR-15, which is a split receiver, meaning that the receiver is split into two parts that control the core functions of the receiver. The AR platform is available in many different calibers, making this one of the most versatile firearms to build from an 80% lower receiver.
The AK-47 lower receiver is not really an 80% lower receiver as it requires the firearm to be built in its entirety rather than just the milling out of the fire control group. The gun itself is designed to be durable, therefore it is made using tools much harder to come by than those of the AR-15.
Polymer handgun 80% lowers, like those of the popular company, Polymer 80 are another example of 80% lowers. Modeled after the Glock OEM, Polymer 80 lowers are compatible with factory OEM and aftermarket products. These 80% lowers only require a dremel tool and a hand drill to build.
Which states are 80 lowers illegal?
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Washington DC
Break down the STATES and it’s laws regarding 80 lowers.
80% lowers are illegal in NJ. The Attorney General, Gerbir Grewal in 2018 issued a letter addressed to the Gun parts manufacturers demanding that the halt of 80% lowers sales in the state. The letter threatened all businesses that sold 80% lowers to residents of NJ with legal action including, but not limited to obscene monetary fines. New Jersey is one of the only states that outright bans the 80% lower industry as a whole within its borders. From buying, to the building process, 80% of lowers are completely illegal in the state.
“As the chief law enforcement officer for New Jersey, I demand you stop selling and advertising unregistered and unserialized weapons to New Jersey residents. Should you fail to comply with this demand within 15 days, my Office will initiate legal action.” – Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal
Click here to see the Cease and Desist Letter.
Like New Jersey, Leititia James, the Attorney General, issued a cease and desist letter to gun parts manufacturers in September, 2019, halting the selling of receiver blanks to New York Residents. The 80% lower laws in New York took another major change with the signing of a new piece of legislation in late December, 2021. Governor Kathy Hochul signed the legislation, solidifying the criminalization of the possession of 80% of the state as a whole. The law makes it illegal to own as well as illegal to sell 80% lowers to residents of the state.
The package was made up of 3 state laws:
S.14A/A.613A: Enacts Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act; Criminalizes the Sale of Ghost Guns and Requires Gunsmiths to Register Firearms and Unfinished Frames or Receivers They Assemble
S.13A/A.2666A: Enacts Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act; Prohibits Possession and Sale of Unfinished Frames or Receivers
S.7152/A.6522: Amends Definition of ‘Disguised Gun’ to Include Weapons Designed to Appear as Toys
“Working with partners at all levels, my administration will continue to crack down on the distribution and possession of dangerous weapons and put an end to the gun violence epidemic.” – Governor Kathy Hochul
Washington state legislators passed a state bill that banned untraceable firearms, namely those that can easily pass through metal detectors. While the bill does not expressly ban 80% lowers, polymer 80s and those without the required amount of metal are illegal. This legislation was passed through HB1739-2019-20
“Except as otherwise provided in this section, it is unlawful for any person to:
(a) Manufacture, own, buy, sell, loan, furnish, transport, or have in possession or under control, any machine gun, bump-fire stock, undetectable firearm, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle;
(b) Manufacture, own, buy, sell, loan, furnish, transport, or have in possession or under control, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively for use in a machine gun, bump-fire stock, undetectable firearm, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle, or in converting a weapon into a machine gun, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle;”
(c) Assemble or repair any machine gun, bump-fire stock, undetectable firearm, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle; or
(d) Manufacture an untraceable firearm with the intent to sell the untraceable firearm.”
In this instance an undetectable firearm refers to “any firearm that is not as detectable as 3.7 ounces of 17-4 PH stainless steel by walk-through metal detectors or magnetometers commonly used at airports or any firearm where the barrel, the slide or cylinder, or the frame or receiver of the firearm would not generate an image that accurately depicts the shape of the part when examined by the types of X-ray machines commonly used at airports.”
Untraceable firearm refers to “any firearm manufactured after July 1, 2019, that is not an antique firearm and that cannot be traced by law enforcement by means of a serial number affixed to the firearm by a federally licensed manufacturer or importer.”
80% lowers are legal in California, but only rifles. Pistols are not legal to be built from scratch by someone who is not an FFL. The state also requires that 80% lowers are serialized upon being built. As of July 1st, 2022, CA Assembly Bill 1057 prohibits the purchase, sale, and transport of 80% lowers. Any and all previous stipulations regarding the purchase of 80% lowers has been overruled by this new legislation. Residents are also forced to get their firearms serialized to be within state compliance.
“The bill would, on and after July 1, 2022, define a firearm, for the purpose of the specified gun violence and domestic violence restraining order provisions, to include a frame or receiver of the weapon or a firearm precursor part. By expanding the scope of existing crimes, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.”
The mayor of D.C passed the “Ghost Guns Prohibition Emergency/Temporary Amendment Act Of 2020.” The bill amends an established law that includes 80% lowers in a list of prohibited firearms. In saying this, they are not legal to ship directly to buyers in the District of Columbia.
Rhode Island passed the Julie Cardinal Act after a shooting. This bans the sale and ownership of “ghost guns” or un-serialized and untraceable firearms. 80% lowers are banned from being sold in the state to its residents, and the manufacture of 3D printed guns is prohibited as well.
Governor Gina Raimono signed a bill that would ban “ghost guns” in the state of Rhode Island. The manufacture, import, sale, and possession of firearms and firearms parts made from composite materials is illegal within the state.
“We know that untraceable guns put our community at risk,” Raimondo said. “I’m proud to sign this legislation to help ensure that every gun in our state is registered, traceable, and in the hands of someone who is fit to carry the responsibility of owning a firearm.”
The bill was sponsored by Senator Cynthia Coyne and Rep Patricia Serpa. Punishment for breaking this law may result in a fine of up to 10,000 plus possible prison time.
In 2020, Hawaii passed HB 2744 H.D. 1 S.D. 2 which prohibits the manufacture, purchase or obtaining of firearm parts for the purpose of assembling a firearm that has no serial number. The manufacture of 3D printed guns is also illegal according to state law.
The Bill will:
“(1) Prohibit the manufacture, purchase, or obtaining of firearm parts for the purpose of assembling a firearm having no serial number; and
(2) Amend certain requirements relating to firearms registration.”
The bill also amends previous gun laws in the state which severely targets home builders in the state.
“Manufacturing, purchasing, or obtaining firearm parts to assemble a firearm having no serial number; penalty.
A person who is not licensed to manufacture a firearm under section 134-31, or who is not a dealer licensed by the United States Department of Justice, shall not, for the purpose of assembling a firearm, purchase, produce with a three-dimensional printer, or otherwise obtain separately, or as part of a kit:
A firearm receiver that is not imprinted with a serial number registered with a federally licensed manufacturer;
A firearm receiver that has not been provided a serial number that may be registered in accordance with section 134-3(c); or
Any combination of parts from which a firearm having no serial number may be readily assembled; provided that the parts do not have the capacity to function as a firearm unless assembled.
Violation of this section is a class C felony.”
The law is riddled with confusing legal jargon, leaving much of the interpretations open which is very dangerous in cases of legislation where an extreme circumstance may result in a higher penalty. For example, (“…Any combination of parts from which a firearm having no serial number may be readily assembled”) could mean any part of the firearm itself like the buttstock or the grip. This will likely be used to crack down on the sale and private assembly of upper receivers which have long been unserialized on the AR-15.
House Bill 4383 was signed in the Illinois state law on May 18th 2022, by Governor J.B. Pritzker. The bill effectively bans the sale and possession of 80% lowers within the state.
“The people creating, selling, and purchasing these firearms know that they’re working to circumvent common-sense gun laws that ensure guns stay out of the hands of traffickers, abusers, and convicted criminals,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “We are seeing these unserialized guns being built in basements by those who should never have had access to such dangerous weapons and then used to commit heinous crimes, and it must be stopped to keep Illinoisans safe.”
The bill was a reactive move by the state government after the Texas shooting in the same month. It is a part of a widespread movement to ban 80% lowers from law abiding citizens without any accountability given to the criminals themselves.
“It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly sell, offer to sell, or transfer an unserialized unfinished frame or receiver or unserialized firearm, including those produced using a three-dimensional printer, unless the party purchasing or receiving the unfinished frame or receiver or unserialized firearm is a federal firearms importer, federal firearms manufacturer, or federal firearms dealer.”
80% lowers are illegal in connecticut. The state legislature passed a law that bans the ownership of unserialized blank receivers on June 3rd, 2019. Unserialized firearms in general are also illegal. Governor Ned Lamont signed the bill as a part of two laws that would ban the sale and ownership of 80% lowers in the state. One bill banned the storage of firearms in motor vehicles.
Public Act 19-6 is put in place “To ban guns without serial numbers and regulate those which are sold in a form requiring the purchaser to finish assembly or that are homemade or 3-D printed.”
Public Act-19-7 is put in place “To require safe storage of a pistol or revolver in a motor vehicle.”
This act was put in place to address gun thefts from motor vehicles in the state. The law prohibits storing a pistol in an unattended motor vehicle unless that pistol is in the trunk, a locked glove box, or a locked safe.
Are 80 lower Jigs illegal?
As of today 80% lower jigs are not illegal as they are not regulated by the ATF or any state law. Some states do, however, have bans on certain methods of making firearms at home, especially revolving around the use of 3D printing. The ATF Ruling 2021r-05f does not specifically say anything about Jig kits themselves, but seeing as people will not be able to build 80% lowers from their homes anymore, jigs kits may suffer a similar fate.
Should you buy an 80 lower?
Buying 80% lowers as they are now will not be available soon. Even still, purchasing an 80% lower and building it will still be possible, but on the date that the ruling becomes effective, the build will need to be serialized. 80% lowers are currently still cheaper than purchasing a complete firearm because the law has not been taken into effect yet, however, this will change come August 24th. It is still worth it to be an 80% lower currency despite it needing to be serialized in the near future. Get them while you can!
Needless to say, gun control has become much stricter with the ATF ruling 2021r-05f. In what seems like just a method to reduce the 80% building hobby to zero, the ATF and the Biden administration have seen fit to change the definitions of many things revolving around the private manufacture of firearms sales. Whether this ruling will last or not in future administrations remains to be seen, though recent Supreme Court rulings have been in favor of the second amendment.
Disclaimer: We are not a law firm and our writers are not acting as your legal advisors. The information contained on this page is general information and should not be construed as legal advice. The laws are subject to change, so please check with your local and state laws to be fully up-to-date with the most recent information regarding the gun laws.