Alright, you are ready to take the plunge and put together your own 2nd-Amendment screamin’, fire breathin’, politically incorrect 30-round Black Rifle. Awesome! A key part of that is getting the best AR-15 lower receiver.
You are taking a step into the deep end of the shooter’s pool (this ain’t no nightstand .38 Special).
With that said, the depths of AR-15 ownership are a vast, confusing landscape, often fogged up by competing manufacturers pushing out parts they all claim to be “the best of the best”. That simply is not true.
No, building the right AR-15 – whether it is a bench rifle, a 3-gunner, an economy rifle, a hog gun, an “M4gery”, or just an all-around fun gun for the range –means picking the right lower receiver.
To be sure, this is arguably the most important piece of the AR puzzle. Simply called “the lower” this critical aluminum, carbon fiber, or polymer hunk of gun serves as the actual firearm, as far as the ATF is concerned.
It is the core piece upon which you will slap an upper, barrel, gas system, stock, and all those internals to make the whole thing go boom.
With the importance of picking an AR-15 lower underscored, read further as we name our Top 5 AR-15 Lowers, from good to better to best.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, where I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The 5 Best AR-15 Lowers
Palmetto State Armory’s lowers are great for building an outstanding all-around AR.
They have all the standard, reliable stuff: Forged 7075-T6 aluminum, CAL MULTI markings, black hardcoat anodizing (MIL-8625 Type 3 Class 2 Spec, the “Army” standard), mil-spec construction, and quality CNC machines assembled by American workers.
This is your standard everyman’s lower. What is great about these? Well, bear with us, but the benefits are the manufacturing defects. “What the hell do you mean?!” You might ask.
Lucky for us, PSA maintains crazy high quality standards. Even if one of their AR lowers is perfectly built to tolerance and spec, they will sell it at a huge discount because of very, very, veeeery minor blemishes in the anodized finish.
Seriously, we tried to find the “blemish” on one of our own guns built with a PSA blemish lower. We could not find anything amiss.
These lowers function just fine. They fit well. They are not broken. There is nothing wrong with them except for the chance that you “might” see a tiny imperfection in the finish.
If you are not concerned with this (and really you should not be, it is an AR after all) then this lower is the perfect one for you.
You can pick up a PSA Blemish Lower for a cool $60 and enjoy some mil-spec quality that will fit any upper, barrel, stock, or trigger assembly like butter.
Shelling out a mere $60 for any forged lower is crazy. PSA’s lowers are often found on police rifles and three-gun machines, so you know they are up to par.
Aero Precision needs no introduction. They are one of the top AR builders. Their manufacturing process is unsurpassed. Expect to find the best materials.
As usual, forged 7075-T6 aluminum, Class 3 Stage 2 hardcoat anodizing, MULTI CAL markings, perfect roll marks—the whole gamut. You will not easily find a stripped lower receiver that fits better with any upper.
What is cool about Aero Precision’s Gen 2 lower is the upper tension screw and the increased mag well flare. The tension screw is a simple but creative fix for that wobbly, loose feeling you can get when you are parting together a rifle.
This nylon-tipped set screw is inserted in the tang of the lower receiver and adjusts in a few seconds to make everything snug.
The Aero’s increased mag well flare is another big improvement over all other mil-spec lowers. By opening the mag well more, Aero made it easier and quicker to insert a new magazine.
A simple but noticeable benefit where ergonomics and performance are concerned.
If you want a mil-spec lower that looks great, has a solid build and a nice finish, and makes fitment to any upper tight with easier mag changes, look no further. Aero Precision’s Gen 2 can be had for $60 to $90.
Spike’s Tactical has been in the AR business for a number of years, pumping out some pretty amazing rifles for every application and budget.
Their forged stripped lowers sport “the best stuff.” They have forged 7075-T6 aluminum, 0.001” tolerance CNC machining, Type 3 Stage 2 black hardcoat anodizing, MULTI CAL markings, mil-spec and civilian profiles, buttery smooth threads for your butt stock, a perfect fit for your barrel—and of course, pretty bada** markings.
If you are a shooter who likes a little comedic on the range to break up that “seriously operatin’ operator” mentality of so many AR owners, you will appreciate the Spike’s options:
You can pick up their classic Spider lower, featuring a menacing 8-legged roll mark. Pretty cool.
You can take it a step further and go full swashbuckler with their Pirate lower, featuring a Jolly Roger roll mark and three fire selectors: “Parley”, “Plunder”, and “ARRR!” Cheesy? Eh.
Remember, we are all here because we love custom ARs. None of us are SEAL Team 6 members.
Perhaps the nicest bit about Spike’s lowers is their fitment. Every single hole has been punched, sanded, and polished to perfection.
This makes assembly a snap – and more importantly, makes functionality reliable to the nth degree. If you want a stripped lower that will make your first (or 12th) AR build the easiest thing in the world of black rifles, Spike’s should be at the top of your list.
You can pick up Spike’s Tactical Forged Lowers for around $115. For just north of a Benjamin you are getting a lower that is guaranteed to mate perfectly with any other AR part line for line and hole for hole.
Also, you have the choice of some cool finishing touches.
This one has a build that is—or at least, was—controversial, but hear us out. Tegra Arms put together something pretty amazing with this lower.
In this stripped mil-spec hunk you will find all the standard touches that make a great AR, but what lies within this lower is something pretty unique.
See, Tegra decided to push the boundaries and make the AR even better at what it was meant to do, which is to be a semiautomatic rifle that is super lightweight and easy to maneuver.
In short, they have created the first carbon fiber stripped lower that has no metal to speak of. Now you might be thinking, “it is plastic! It will melt! It will fall apart!” Well, you would be wrong.
However, there are some reports on the internet about failures. Plastic isn't for everyone, so you should consider if you want to go down that road or stick with metal.
This is not a cheap base polymer like some other manufacturers are trying to push.
Instead, this thing blends polymer with actual woven carbon fiber to create a lower that is crazy lightweight (just 3.65 ounces vs. the average 9 ounces) yet stronger than steel—and stronger than any aluminum lower.
If you do not believe it, you should. Tegra backs this puppy up with a lifetime, no-questions-asked warranty.
Everything is developed and fabricated in the U.S. to mil-spec standards. If you want to build the lightest AR possible, one that is a real featherweight, you need this lower.
You can pick up the Tegra Arms Carbon Fiber Composite AR Lower for a surprisingly low $80.
Our first 4 choices closely embody your “standard”, USGI-like AR lower. Pegging the #1 best AR lower on our list is the Seekins Precision Stripped Lower, which takes that standard, all-around-good design and, well, makes it better.
The SBA15 Lower incorporates that standard “best of” stuff (forged 7075-T6 aluminum, mil-spec profile, Type 3 Class 2 Coating, micro-tolerance CNC machining) with some innovative features.
You will enjoy an ambidextrous bolt release (perfect for our lefty readers), an SP Enhanced bolt catch, a quick access mag release, flared and beveled mag well opening, upper receiver tensioning screw, oversized trigger guard for gloved shooting and ergonomics, and a nifty ribbed front mag well for a comfortable, close-up grip.
That is one helluva list of improvements over the standard stripped lower. This all boils down to a lower that is lightweight, ergonomic, and perfect for speed-shooing and ultimate comfort and convenience.
These are two things the AR platform seeks to epitomize.
The SBA15 will set you back a bit, around $250. We strongly feel that extra comfort, functionality, speed and finishing touches are worth the cash, especially if you are shooting professionally or if someone is shooting back.
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