Receiver (firearms)

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Disassembled Mauser action showing partially disassembled receiver and bolt

In firearms terminology, the receiver is the part of a firearm that houses the operating parts. There are many types and styles of firearm receivers. A bolt action or semi-automatic firearm receiver usually contains the bolt carrier group, trigger group, and magazine port.

AR-15 rifles showing their configurations with different upper receivers (stripped-down lower receiver is visible at bottom)

In most handguns, the receiver, or frame, holds the magazine well or rotary magazine as well as the trigger mechanism. It is sometimes called the body of the firearm, while in the context of handguns (revolvers and pistols), it is often called the frame.

The receiver is often made of forged, machined or stamped steel or aluminium; in addition to these traditional materials, modern science and engineering have introduced polymers and sintered metal powders to receiver construction.[1]

In US law[edit]

Under United States law, the receiver is the actual firearm itself,[2] and as such it is the controlled part (without which operation is impossible). Generally, the law views the receiver as that part of a firearm housing that has the serial number upon it. Thus, in the case of a firearm that has multiple receivers (such as the AR-15, which has an upper and lower receiver), the legally controlled part is the one that is serialized (the lower, in the AR-15's case).

'80 percent' receiver[edit]

A receiver that is 80 percent or less complete is not considered to be a receiver in the eyes of the (US federal) law.[3] Thus it is not a firearm and may be bought and sold freely. Such an object requires final steps - machining, welding, drilling - in order to convert to a receiver. There are many manufacturers of 80 percent receivers in the US, and they will generally sell to anyone with a US address and adequate funds. Generally no records are kept of such sales. Since all other components of a firearm are simply unnumbered parts it is possible to obtain such an object, complete it, and build the resultant receiver into a functioning firearm without knowledge of the authorities, without a serial number, and all of this in full compliance with federal law.

Individual state laws may be more restrictive, particularly where they limit firearms manufacture, i.e. the creation or completion of a receiver. Many do permit this, but most require numbering and records keeping of the completed receiver and may also require registration of the completed receiver or the manufacturing gunsmith.

See also[edit]

3D printed polymer lower receivers for the AR-15