Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Prudent Prepping: the 80% Arms AR-15 Lower and Easy Jig

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

My son's birthday was a couple months ago, and since I have never been to his home, I took off right after work last Friday for a visit. He had received his present well before my arrival, but waited for me to help him with finishing it. But what, exactly, was it?

The 80% Arms AR-15 Lower and Easy Jig
From the Easy Jig webpage:
The universal fit Easy Jig® is a patented router jig that makes machining your 80% lower easier, faster, and safer by utilizing a router instead of a drill press. The Easy Jig allows you to complete an 80% lower in about 1/3 the time it takes to complete a lower on an old style drill press jig. This jig is easy enough for a caveman to use. It definitely lives up to its name. You also save money on tools. You do not need to own a drill press, mill, or any measuring tools to use the Easy Jig. The Easy Jig is built like a tank (weighs over 6 lbs) and can be reused for dozens of lowers. For those planning to use their jig for 20+ lowers, we offer optional hardened steel drill bushings in both side walls.
 Lower and parts kit
The reviews of the included jig were what pointed me to this combination, since lowers of about the same price (with minor exceptions) are very similar in quality. The website is informative with easy-to-understand descriptions and directions. There is a YouTube video that is a very good complement to the instruction sheet included with the jig.

I strongly recommend watching the video while reading the manual to get a real understanding of the whole process. The instructions state that a lower can be completed in an hour, but in my son's experience, that is very optimistic. That being said, with some practice setting everything up and being familiar with how to perform all the steps without referring to the instructions repeatedly, one hour might be possible. Maybe. After running many, many lowers.

It took a bit over 4 hours, not including trips to Lowe's and Home Depot for parts not necessarily needed to complete the job but things which made the job easier, like:
  • A vise. A large one is not necessary but one is absolutely needed, along with bolts to mount it to the work area. 
  • Light weight oil or WD-40 to lube the drill bits and end mill. 
  • Brake cleaner, carburetor cleaner or acetone (or another fast drying solvent) to remove the oily mess after you finish. 
  • A small hex key set for installing the screws. 
  • Safety glasses and ear protection, especially when using the router. No one needs to collect 25,000 rpm aluminum pieces with their eyes or listen to the high pitched whine of the working router. 
  • A shop vacuum to pick up all the tiny aluminum particles. Buy a vacuum, there will be aluminum dust everywhere. 

Assembled jig with 80% lower

Extra steps were taken to protect the exposed surfaces of the lower from flying particles and accidental bashes from drill bits or dropped wrenches.

Vise mounted to the bench
The small vise my son bought did not have reversible jaws, so extra care was needed when clamping the jig down. When drilling several of the holes through the side plates, it is possible to have part of the lower accidentally in contact with the rough surface of the jaws. This is a Bad Thing, as the aluminum of the lower is softer than the steel of the vise jaws, and this can lead to scarring (or worse) of the lower.

Padding the jaws with cardboard seemed to keep scarring to a minimum.

Starting to drill

One of the reasons that assembly took so much extra time was double and triple checking all the measurements involved.

The directions were very easy to follow and well written.

Oily instruction sheet

Because we referred to the instructions so often, we didn't think to keep them off the actual work bench. Drilling and routing the lower sprayed oil everywhere.

Drilling the trigger pocket
All of the parts needed to finish the lower are in the kit. However, depending upon your lower, you may need to replace the large (3/8") drill bit before you finish the project*. The other drill bits are only used for two holes each, and those holes are only through the thin side plates, while the large bit makes ten holes over 1" deep. There should be no problem using the smaller bits for multiple jobs, in my opinion.

* We had to buy a replacement drill bit because my son was pressing so hard with the old bit that the jig was moving in the vise, causing some minor damage. It wasn't enough to cause problems with drilling accurate holes, just some scarring on the jig face. Fortunately, the new bit made the process faster and easier.

The Takeaway
  • Doing the research to find a reputable company is key. 
  • Having everything needed to finish the job included and clearly marked was fantastic. 
  • If we made a mistake and ruined the lower, 80% Arms will sell you a replacement for 50% off the regular price! 
  • Well designed parts with easy-to-follow directions makes this something I can recommend to friends 

The Recap
  • One 80% Arms AR-15 lower and Easy Jig: As a gift for my son, priceless; for everyone else, $248 (free shipping on orders over $200).
  • These items were purchased by me at the prices listed on the website. 
  • Nothing else was purchased or removed from my gear. 

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If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

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