Noveske and Mega Arms lowers side by side. Note the extra hole for tenstion screw behind the trigger well on the Mega and the fact that Noveske drilled the buffer retainer hole after anodizing.
Assembling your own lower takes very few tools, can generally save you money and is pretty easy. Selecting the best stripped lower is a harder task for me than putting one together by far. There are many choices and a large price range. For those who don’t know, the lower is the only serialized part of an AR-15 and therefore only part that needs to be shipped to an FFL.
The quick answer is yes, any forged lower made from 7075 aluminum that has had its holes drilled correctly will last a lifetime and take any abuse it is reasonably likely to receive. So just get the cheapest forged lower from a known brand and you are golden.
I hope to have this autopopulate soon. My last update was 2012 which is more than a little out of date
Mega Arms is so far the no#1 for an upper and lower combo for me in terms of price, quality and function. I have not seen them make a bad stripped upper/lower combo in AR-15 yet and even their forged series has some notable improvements others don't.
Noveske’s gen 2 lower is great. If you can get one stripped you won’t be disappointed. Overpriced? probably but still a nice lower.
JP Rifles makes a great forged lower with their trigger (and only the trigger) pre installed. It works out to be a decent deal if you want a great trigger with a short reset. They also do a great billet lower to match their CTR rifle.
AXTS: Considered by some to be king of the ambidextrous lowers, but pricey at over $400 for the lower with parts kit. No buffer tube etc, just the lower internals.
If you have the time, check out the list of makers and pick the best looking/most functional billet lower for you.
The way I figure it, I am going to keep that lower forever. Even if I just keep it for 20 years, then I have to wonder if it worth paying $20 extra for a logo I like better or a brand I prefer. Even if 2 lowers come out of the same shop (and some do), just with different brands stamped on them, maybe it is worth $1 a year to me to get the one I like looking at better. Maybe it is worth $2 or even $5 a year for me to get a brand I love. Then I have to wonder what a flared magwell is worth to me, or the ability to tension the lower with the upper and take the play out of it. And so on and on it goes.
You may, like I have done, hunt out the cheapest deal and get a scratched up, stripped upper for $60 with a logo or name on it that I hated. I then paid about $7 to ship it and $15 for the transfer. Then I built it into a complete rifle and I ended up spending over $1000. If I had have got the lower I wanted over the cheaper lower, I would have spent $50 more. For $1000 something versus $1000 something+50, I would have been a lot happier just paying the extra $50. Not everybody is like me in that regard, but I can’t fight it in myself. I experimented to see if even spending $200 more on a lower would make me regret the money versus the look and it turns out that no, it does not.
The other thing you may want to consider is resale. Some brands sell better used than others. Colt, BCM, and Noveske just to name a few are very well branded. Many people have owned one for years and never had a problem and therefore consider them to be the end all of firearms. If it ain't broke don’t fix it… If you are planning on betting your life on something and don’t have the time to research, why risk buying a gun from a brand you have never heard of? It is not how I feel about things, but I understand the guys who do. So if I ever intend on selling one of my used rifles, they are more likely to buy a Noveske than a PSA, DPMS or Surplus Ammo.
So in short, for me it is worth it. If you have read this far it probably is for you too.