I’ll confess, I’ve never been a Glock guy. It’s not that I’ve ever doubted their versatility or reliability – clearly the platform has proven itself many times over and is one of the most popular handguns in the world. But they always rubbed me the wrong way. Any time I handled one, they just didn’t fit comfortably in my hand. Don’t even get me started on the looks. I don’t mind admitting that I like my guns to have a bit of character, and I find off-the-shelf Glocks to be pretty deficient in that regard.
So to be totally honest, I can’t really say why I was intrigued by the thought of building one. I guess I’m just a sucker for a new DIY project that will add another gun to my collection.
To those tuning in who are new to the 80% world, a firearm receiver is generally the serialized part considered by the government to be “the gun”. In most cases, it houses the fire control mechanism (trigger). A fully finished manufactured (100%) receiver is something that can only be purchased new from a licensed seller. On the other hand, in the case of an 80% receiver, a few final steps of the manufacturing process are left unfinished, rendering the firearm incapable of being used. Basically it’s a big paperweight in the shape of a gun part.
At this point, some might be asking, why someone would want an unfinished part that doesn’t do anything? Purchasing an 80% lower, then finishing manufacturing process yourself means you can own your own firearm while skipping the licensed FFL dealer part.
Is that legal? You bet. Unless your State laws say something to the contrary, Federal law allows for anyone who can legally own a firearm to also build them for their own personal use. Some call them “Ghost Guns” because there are generally no serial numbers and no paperwork trail. The thought of owning a firearm like this is appealing to some who don’t approve of the government sticking their nose in their Second Amendment rights. For me, it’s simply more about the satisfaction I get in being able to say, “Hey, this is cool because I did it myself.”
So, whatever your motivation, if you’re legally able to own a handgun and want to give this a try, it’s not that hard. But before you get started, there’s a few things you need to know.
If you’re like me and thought, “Hey Glock parts are everywhere and I can probably finish this build with some cheap used pieces”, think again. With a retail price of a Gen 3 G19 at around $399, you can simply buy a new factory Glock for around the same price, or a used one for even less. Whether it’s due to the rise of 80% frames or some other demand factor, the parts you’ll need to create a fully functioning handgun will still set you back a fair amount. Unless you get really lucky, you can still expect to pay the cost of a new gun, even if you buy used. On the other hand, there are endless manufacturers and customizers out there to help you make your Glock into pretty much anything your imagination can come up with.
The process of finishing 80% receivers is pretty straightforward…in theory. You put the frame in the provided jig and use it as a guide to mill away excess sections, followed by drilling a few holes. And that’s where 80% receivers become a non-starter for some. A milling machine is a pretty specialized, not to mention pricey, piece of hardware that most DIYers don’t have just sitting around.
Happily a Glock lower receiver is made of Polymer, which is much easier to work with than aluminum or steel found in other receivers. There are no large, solid areas that require milling out, so the work can be done with something many home owners do have – a Dremel-style rotary tool. Now, there are a few videos and articles that basically boil down to putting the jig into a vice and freehanding the Dremel with a sanding bit to remove the excess plastic. While it’s certainly possible to do things that way, there’s a lot of potential for things to go wrong. I’m here to demonstrate that there’s a better way.