AR-15 Lower Receiver

 

The AR-15 lower receiver was the first project that I started.  I got the idea when I saw the lower receiver forging that Pvt. Ryan at Roderus Custom Gunworks was working on.  He started with a raw forging, which is basically a block of aluminum, but in the shape of lower receiver.  He done a great job of showing all the details of his work.  That got me thinking that I could do the same thing with CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) equipment.   But instead of starting with a forging, I thought I wanted more of a challenge so I started with a block (billet) of aluminum.  After I found the solid model file for the AR-15 lower receiver, I knew what I wanted to do could be done.  I spent many hours coming up with a game plan of how I was going to machine the lower receiver.  After I had my game plan together, I started programming the lower receiver using a type of computer software called CAM (Computer Aided Machining).  CAM is often used along with CAD (Computer Aided Design) and this process is called CAD/CAM.  Since I already had the solid model of the lower receiver (the CAD part), all that was left was the CAM.  After I programmed all the tool paths that I wanted the CNC machine to make, I sent the program out to the machining center.  I cut the 5x2 billets of aluminum, and I was almost ready to start doing some cutting.

Here is what the lower receiver looked like at the start of the 1st operation...

116-1642_IMG.JPG (132057 bytes)

Here you can see the 1/2" carbide ball nose endmill roughing the profile.  You can tell that it's already starting to look like a lower receiver...

116-1643_IMG.JPG (141907 bytes)

After the profile was roughed, I then made a finish pass with a 1/4" carbide ball nose endmill.  I started at one end of the receiver and machined across the whole profile stepping over 0.004" each time.  So as you can imagine this process takes a really long time.  If you had a part that was 7" long, and using a 0.004" step over, it would have to make 1,750 passes.  Machining the receiver the way I did wasn't the most cost effective way, but I wasn't real worried about time, since this was my new hobby.  Here you can see what the receiver looked like after the finish profiling pass...

116-1634_IMG.JPG (148244 bytes)

The next step was to do all the detail machining and drilling the holes.  I also engraved on the side of the receiver.  You will see that I engraved AUTO, but this is strictly for looks!!!  Since I don't want to spend any time in prison, I never have and never will make any full auto weapons.  Here's what it looked like after the 1st operation...

116-1636_img.jpg (75311 bytes)

For the 2nd operation, I flipped the receiver over and machined the other side to remove the big slab of material.  Here you can see what it looked like at the start of the 2nd operation...

116-1690_img.jpg (118194 bytes)

In order to hold the receiver flat and square, I had to design a setup block that the receiver could set on while it was in the vice.  In this picture you can see what the early setup blocks looked like, the current setup blocks are much more advance than this early version...

117-1722_img.jpg (125013 bytes)

Here you can see how I made a rough pass around the outside of the receiver to remove most of the extra material...

116-1684_IMG.JPG (179231 bytes)

This picture is after I used the 3" shell mill to flycut the receiver down to the correct thickness, and then used a carbide endmill to contour around the outside...

116-1686_img.jpg (151877 bytes)

I had to make the same rough and finish profiling passes as I did on the 1st operation.  I also engraved on this side of the receiver as well...

116-1689_img.jpg (143612 bytes)

At this point I'm able to slide the pistol grip on the receiver a little ways...

117-1718_img.jpg (107292 bytes)

For the 3rd operation I machined the fire control area and the part of the magazine (mag) well.  Since the mag well is so deep, I couldn't get an endmill down to the full depth, so I decided to machine part of the mag well from the top side and finish machining it from the bottom side.  Since the endmill will leave a radius in the corner, I will have to go back and use a file to file out the corners so a mag can slide in.  Most companies use a wire EDM (Electrical Discharge Machine), or a broach to complete the mag well, but since I didn't have access to these types of tooling, I had to just machine the mag well, and finish it with a file.  The next time I made these receivers I drilled the corners out with a small drill bit.  This saved alot of time since I didn't have to file so much material out, but for some reason I didn't think about this the first time I made the receivers.  The pic below is the setup I used for the 3rd operation, notice the setup blocks I made for both sides of the receiver to hold it flat and square...

117-1727_img.jpg (127506 bytes)

This is what the receiver looked like after the machining was finished...

117-1731_img.jpg (146356 bytes)

After the 3rd operation was finished, I was able to see if some of the fire control parts would fit.  Come to find out, everything fit perfectly...

117-1737_img.jpg (122033 bytes)

On the 4th operation I decided to drill the pistol grip hole.  I done this hole next, because I knew there was still enough material left inside the receiver that it wouldn't bend when I clamped it into the vice.  I used a C-clamp to help hold the blocks against the receiver, and to make everything more stable.   Notice the blocks I used to support the buffer tower.  These blocks gave me the correct angle so the pistol grip hole could be done in the exact location...

117-1740_IMG.JPG (179186 bytes)

Here is a pic after the hole was drilled and tapped for the pistol grip...

117-1744_img.jpg (147163 bytes)

For the 5th operation I machined the bottom of the receiver.  You will notice that I once again used the setup blocks.  The setup blocks ended up being a very useful piece of tooling...

117-1745_img.jpg (133546 bytes)

Here you can see what the receiver looked like after the 5th operation.  Notice the chamfer around the mag well.  I machined that using 3-d profiling.  It was much easier for me to profile that chamfer instead of trying to use an angled endmill to contour around the mag well.  You can see how the cut from the top side of the mag well matched up with the bottom cut.  It matched up much better than what the picture shows...

117-1752_img.jpg (172993 bytes)

The 6th operation I machined the buffer hole.  Most people use a drill / reamer / and tap for this hole, but since I was doing this on a CNC machine, I went with just milling the hole and then using a thread mill to cut the threads.  A thread mill is just like an endmill in that it contours the hole, but as it's going around the hole, it's also going down, so all 3 axes of the CNC machine is moving at the same time.  Machining the threads in this fashion leaves great looking threads.  Here you can see the setup that I used...

117-1755_img.jpg (175665 bytes)

This is a picture after the hole was contoured with a endmill and ready to be tapped...

117-1759_img.jpg (157075 bytes)

Here is a picture of the thread mill cutting the threads...

117-1760_img.jpg (156615 bytes)

And here is what the receiver looked like after the buffer was threaded and the hole for the detent was drilled...

117-1761_img.jpg (159920 bytes)

For the 7th operation I drilled the front detent hole.  The setup for this operation was basically the same as the buffer hole setup...

117-1764_IMG.JPG (152520 bytes)

For the 8th operation I drilled the hole that keeps the buffer spring held back.  This isn't a very good pic of the hole, but maybe you can get an idea of how this operation was setup...

117-1765_IMG.JPG (155743 bytes)

The 9th operation is the last operation.  This operation I drilled the bolt catch hole.  A 6" long aircraft extension drill is needed for this hole.  I was scared to do this operation on the CNC.  So I ended up putting it on a manual mill.  This would allow me to guide the drill bit in the correct location.  The drill has a small diameter and is very long, so it would be very easy for the drill to just "walk" off.  I later designed a bolt stop fixture that would guide the drill bit in the exact location, I could even do this hole with just a cordless drill.  After I designed the new style setup blocks, I incorporated this bolt stop fixture in the blocks.  Here you can see how I drilled this hole without any special tooling...

117-1768_IMG.JPG (164080 bytes)

In the pic below you can see the AR-15 lower receivers that I made.  Making the receivers is the easy part, the hard part is finding the money to complete all the receivers...

receiver_show_complete.jpg (51388 bytes)

Since the 3-d profiling leaves such a great finish on the receiver, I decided to polish one of the receivers to a mirror finish and clear anodize it.  I spent many many hours polishing the receiver to this mirror finish, but I think it was well worth it, since I was very happy with the results.  In the picture you can also see the mirror finished A2 upper that I machined from billet...

AR15_Silver.jpg (50858 bytes)

That's it for the AR-15 Lower Receiver Project.  The AR-10 lower receiver project will be very similar to this AR-15 lower receiver.  For information on the new tooling blocks click on the "Tooling" link at the top.


I just finished a HK416 clone.  I tried to machine the lower as close as possible to the real HK416.  Below you will find progress pics along with the finished rifle.  I've started a thread on the cncguns forum discussing this lower... DISCUSSION THREAD

HK416 Clone_3960.JPG (293212 bytes) HK416 Clone_3967.JPG (266679 bytes) HK416 Clone_3968.JPG (282769 bytes)

HK416 Clone_3971.JPG (259205 bytes) HK416 Clone_3974.JPG (316987 bytes) HK416 Clone_4031.JPG (204697 bytes)

HK416 Clone_0229.jpg (788624 bytes) HK416 Clone_0228.jpg (574811 bytes) HK416 Clone_0237.jpg (545734 bytes)

HK416 Clone_0240.jpg (775659 bytes) HK416 Clone_0254.jpg (479683 bytes) HK416 Clone_0245.jpg (443926 bytes)

HK416 Clone_0249.jpg (530789 bytes) HK416 Clone_0248.jpg (370005 bytes)


Below are pics of a batch of HK416 clones I made a while back. Click HERE for a link to the old thread discussing these lowers.  For the latest updates on these HK416 lowers, please check my NEWS page.

HK416 Clone 11 percent raw stock.jpg (97600 bytes) HK416 Clone 11 percent 1st op.jpg (110669 bytes) HK416 Clone 11 percent 2nd op.JPG (130647 bytes)

Below is what the lowers looked like before I sent them off to be broached...

HK416 Clone 11% before broaching1.JPG (156092 bytes) HK416 Clone 11% before broaching2.JPG (154763 bytes) HK416 Clone 11% before broaching3.JPG (138931 bytes)

And below is what the final HK416 clones look like...

HK416 Clone 11 percent final-1.jpg (196202 bytes) HK416 Clone 11 percent final-2.jpg (137777 bytes) HK416 Clone 11 percent final-3.jpg (183613 bytes)

Below are pics of the lower that the customer Hk996 finished.  He took the lower to a local polisher and had the lower polished to a mirror finish.  I think it's amazing how shiny the lower is.

HK416 lower clone finished by HK996-4.jpg (202298 bytes) HK416 lower clone finished by HK996-5.jpg (210545 bytes) HK416 lower clone finished by HK996-1.jpg (207020 bytes) HK416 lower clone finished by HK996-2.jpg (176962 bytes) HK416 lower clone finished by HK996-3.jpg (190083 bytes)


I've been playing around with a little AR15 2 tone splash anodizing.  I tried it a few years ago but I didn't have much success.  I decided to try it again with a little different technique.  In case you didn't know, 2 tone splash anodizing is an anodize coating in which there are two colors in the anodic coating instead of 1 solid color.  The technique of doing this is pretty proprietary so you can't find a whole lot of info about it on the internet.  Since I have several hours in trial and error I'd prefer not to detail my exact steps since we may be offering this at my "day job".  But I can tell you in a nut shell, the process is basically anodizing and coloring the part twice with a masking step in between.  The process is very time consuming, therefore very expensive.  I searched the internet for AR15 2 tone splash anodizing, but I came up empty.  So I decided to anodize a scrap upper and lower receiver and you can see the results below.  I anodized the charging handle gold for a little contrast.  It looks like the upper and lower were in a bloody crime scene....kinda reminds me of the tv show DEXTER.

ar15 2 tone splash anodizing 1.jpg (189078 bytes) ar15 2 tone splash anodizing 2.jpg (178860 bytes) ar15 2 tone splash anodizing 3.jpg (184680 bytes) ar15 2 tone splash anodizing 4.jpg (181500 bytes) ar15 2 tone splash anodizing 5.jpg (169516 bytes) ar15 2 tone splash anodizing 6.jpg (176834 bytes)