Pistol Frames and Gun Parts Kits: Top Questions Answered

Pistol Frames and Gun Parts Kits: Top Questions Answered

Oct 30th 2023

Why would you ever want to buy a pistol frame when you can just buy a functioning pistol?

Well, for some, buying the frame and building it out with a kit affords the freedom to make customizations on the fly. It’s not just for spare parts.

We have to walk before we can run, though. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Pistol Frame?

Whereas most shoulder-mounted firearms have a receiver, most pistols have a frame. This is the component to which all the other parts (trigger assembly, grips, barrel, slide, etc.) attach.

The pistol frame is also the part that is serialized by the ATF and is considered to be the actual firearm.

Some shooters like to buy pistol frames because they can, with an appropriate gun parts kit, assemble a functioning firearm while making unique customizations in the process.

What Are Pistol Frames Made of?

Pistol frames are predominantly made of one of three materials, either steel, aluminum, or polymer.

Steel frames are the strongest by far, and because of their weight, they are able to tame recoil and muzzle flip better than the other two materials. However, steel is prone to corrosion and some find the heavier weight less comfortable to carry.

Aluminum frames, sometimes referred to as alloy frames, are much lighter than steel, although they preserve nearly all of steel’s strength. Aluminum also does not corrode as easily as steel, and since it is lighter, most people find it more comfortable to carry aluminum-framed pistols. However, since they are lighter, they usually generate more recoil.

Lastly, there are polymer frames, which are used in some popular handguns like Glock and select H&K pistols. Polymer frames are not as strong as either steel or aluminum, but they are nearly corrosion-proof and require very little maintenance. Because they are lighter, most people consider them more comfortable to carry, but they will produce more recoil than steel and aluminum frames.

What Is an 80% Frame?

An 80% frame, also known as a ghost gun, is a frame that has not been fully machined or finished. In most instances, an 80% frame will not be able to accept a trigger group, barrel, slide, or bushing (or some combination) so they cannot be used (without alteration) to produce a functioning firearm.

Are 80% Frames Legal?

Though the ATF does not consider 80% frames as firearms, some states have banned them. In some form or other, the states of New Jersey, New York, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Washington, and Hawaii, as well as Washington, D.C., have circumscribed the sale or possession of 80% receivers and frames.

Always check with a local gun lawyer before attempting to purchase or take possession of an 80% lower or frame.

Is a Pistol Frame Considered a Firearm?

The pistol frame is the part that is considered a firearm by the ATF. Since the ATF does not consider 80% frames firearms, no FFL transfer is required to purchase one. Always ensure compliance with local laws before attempting to purchase one, though.

                   Gun Parts Kit

What Parts Don’t Come with a Gun Parts Kit?

Gun parts kits usually contain everything you need to assemble a functioning firearm, minus the frame. This includes grips, a barrel, a trigger assembly, a full set of springs, bushings, and takedown pins. For a pistol it also includes a slide.

However, sometimes gun parts kits do not include everything you might want, including grips and a magazine. Some rifle kits come with threaded barrel kits, but no thread protectors or muzzle devices. Occasionally, they do not come with bolt carrier groups, either.

Why Would You Buy a Gun Parts Kit?

When you can buy a functioning firearm, it might not be apparent at first why anyone would want to buy a gun parts kit.

The main reason is to build or customize their own pistol rather than buying one premade at a shop. Using a gun kit will give you free rein to customize the parts and performance of the firearm as you wish.

It also gives you the freedom to make personalized adjustments to performance as needed.

If You Have an 80% Frame and a Gun Parts Kit, What Else Do You Need?

If you intend to build a firearm from an 80% pistol frame and a gun parts kit, you will first need to make sure that the parts kit has everything you need for the build.

You will also need a jig and a router with appropriate bits. The jig serves as a template so you finish the milling and machining of the pistol frame before assembling it from the parts kit.

Can You Build a Pistol from a Frame and a Kit?

If you have a complete pistol frame and a whole gun parts kit compatible with the model, all you need to do is assemble the parts from the kit to create a functioning firearm.

You can’t do this with an 80% frame, though.

                    Gun Parts Kit

Don’t See Your Question Here?

Still have questions about pistol frames or gun parts kits? If you’re not familiar with how to get started on your project, get in touch with us at 610-250-3960 and we’ll help you out in any way we can.