Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Matthews Carbine Company 80% Lower Jig Review Featuring ASA 95% Lower

Matthews Carbine Company 80% Lower Jig Review Featuring ASA 95% Lower

Without question the 80% Lower AR15 receiver market has exploded this year and why wouldn't it with our own government and officials threatening to take away our second amendment rights.  On the other hand, many people are really digging the challenge of making their own firearm. Whatever your reason Matthews Carbine Company has an 80% Lower Jig to make completing your home brew AR15 80% lower receiver without any specialized equipment other than a $70 Bench top drill press.
Thankfully making your own firearm is legal assuming you do sell it or are not a felon. 80% AR15 lowers have made this process pretty simple. 80% lowers are simply partially finished AR15 lower receivers which have pre-finished almost to the point where the ATF considers it a register-able firearm instead of a raw material. 
The cool thing is that 80% lowers can be shipped right to your doorstep without going through an FFL because they are still in a raw material state… of course you still need to complete the un-milled areas to make it work.

Matthews Carbine Company is delivering custom billet 80% lowers for that custom cool touch on your home brew AR15.  I picked up two Matthews Lowers and the Jig I am reviewing here. 

Those with longer memories and actively involved on forums may remember Matthews Carbine has some delivery challenges with a group buy/pre-purchase offer a while back. I was one of them.  The founder Keith Matthews indicated he wanted to get that out in the open, versus pretending it didn't happen. Payments were provided and deliver was significantly delayed… for a while. 

The challenge was that the OEM manufacturer who was making the 80% lowers suddenly took on business from a major manufacturer and bumped his smaller job order which meant he was left with orders and no way to immediately fill them and then once he did receive his lowers, there were also delays with magwell broaching and anodizing. 
As you can imagine it all happened at the height of the AR15 shortage.  That same situation happened to everyone in the industry at one point or another however it appears Matthews has taken the right steps to assure that never happens again.

Keith Matthews decided to bring all the machining in house to both assure quality and delivery.  The result is the new and improved Matthews Carbine Company. I know a fairly large number of people including myself who have purchased lower from Matthews recently and have experience fast shipment, so I am happy to report they are far past that initial delivery problem.
The thing that drew me to Matthews was the custom element; custom colors, logo-ing, and they can even laser engrave your own logo in the receiver as I did with my Orange lower.  Those may be pretty but you have to have a way mill out that trigger pocket to actually use the lower and that is where the Drill Jig comes in.
The big problem with making your own firearm is the big “S” Skill required to make the register-able part of the firearm.  Manufacturers have made it easier by offering jigs which can guide your mill or in this case a drill to remove the required material from the lower. The Milling Jig guides deliver a near perfect factory looking AR depending on your mill and skill. 

The Drilling Jigs allow your to drill out enough of the material that it can be finished with hand fitting and a Dremel tool to smooth out the drill cuts. For the everyday average home user the Drill Jig is the way to go versus springing for a $1000 Little Machine Shop Mill that I will be featuring to finish the two Matthews lowers. 

Drill Jigs only really require two things, an inexpensive tabletop drill press ($70 from Northern Industrial Tool) and a Dremel tool.  In this case the Dremel tool will set you back more than the drill press.
Matthews sells their Drill Jig as universal so instead of a Matthews lower, I used a 95% American Spirit Arms lower for the test. It fit perfectly in the solid billet heavy duty jig and I was ready to roll.  Of note, I recommend going for the heaviest Jig you can find, because there can be a lot of torquing force that occurring during the drill process or that is exerted by a vise. Sturdy is better.
Matthews’ Carbine Company Drill Jig is made of thick billet aluminum that started life as a .75” thick piece of aluminum. It features all steel receiver and guide screws and a series of steel drill plates to assure long term use.  The selector switch hole and trigger pin drill holes are on one side of the jig.
The general idea of the jig is to bolt your 80% lower into the jig, drill the selector switch and trigger pin holes and then start the trigger pocket drilling starting with the small hole drill plate.
Each steel trigger pocket drill plate is keyed to the rearmost position and has a bevel which is placed down and to the rear of the receiver. The jig is set up to also mill 80% 308 receivers as well in a forward position; however just assure that on AR15s lowers that you have the drill plates in the rearmost position. 

The only exception to this rule is when removing the last little bits of material from the trigger pocket which you can shift the large hole drill plates forward, but just note that if you drill the forward most holes in this position you will drill into your bolt catch pocket. 
Take you time measuring and understanding what you are removing with each plate and the results are very impressive. The last plate is with the Medium holes which drill out the trigger slot.  
You could I am sure just use a hand drill however it would definitely take a toll on the jig itself but also would not deliver the precision or depth stop that a drill press would. Assuring you have the proper drill depth is pretty key otherwise you could drill through the bottom of the receiver.
In this case everything went perfectly finishing up my American Spirit Arms 95% lower. After all the drilling a couple hours of work with the Dremel to fit the trigger and I had a very nice looking lower receiver. 

Although a drill press is a requirement, this is as low tech as it gets for finishing an AR15 lower receiver. Start to finish this Drill and then Dremel method produced a finished working lower in about 10 hours.
Chronology of Finishing 
The basic steps are as follows for the Matthews Carbine Company jig (your jig may vary). Mount the receiver in the jig and assure all surfaces are level and square and the bolts are all tight. 
Drill the two trigger group pins and the safety selector holes with the jig guide and then use the top guides to drill ⅛” holes, remove plate #1 and install plate #2 with larger drill bit hole in rearmost setting and drill, remove and install plate #3 in rearmost setting and drill, repeat last two steps with plates #2 and #3 in the forward most setting and drill, and then remove and mount the trigger hole guide. All the drilling should be done to the correct dept. 
I used a spare stripped receiver as a template. After the major material removal is complete, now begins the Dremeling with a cutter or sanding bit. This is the stage you will wish you had a mill. It can take many hours to complete this stage. 
Once you have a receiver that the trigger group will fit into, check that the magwell does not need to be loosened up for the mag to drop free, that a standard upper fit and locks in properly (before you mount the take down pins, and install a lower parts kit to assure everything is functional. If it all works you are done.
Like almost every AR15 80% Lower Finish Jig, the MCC jig comes without instructions.  I mentioned this to Keith and he indicated that was on the way.  
With a lot of patience, a lot of measuring, some fitting and definitely some time, I am ecstatic to say I have created my first firearm. This is a great Jig Drill and Dremel option for someone who is not going to sink $1000 is a table top mill and produces results which deliver perfect functionality.
Matthews Carbine Company AR15 Lower Drill Jig
Works with all AR15 Milspec Standard design Lowers and MCC Billet Lowers
Matthews Carbine Company -
American Spirit Arms 95% Lower -

1 comment:

Unknown said...

In the 2nd paragraph change circumstances to *do not sell
There was a typo that could get some people into serious rouble