When is a gun defined as a firearm? Even better when is a gun a ghost? If you are a staunch 2nd Amendment advocate as I am plus like to build stuff — especially stuff that goes bang — then 80 percent lowers no doubt tickle your fancy. According to the Federal Government, the Polymer80 Spectre 80 percent pistol kit is nothing more than a piece of polymer, but apply some calculated cuts with drill bits and cutting tools, shape the polymer with a file and sand paper, and add parts and that inert piece of plastic becomes a functioning semi-automatic pistol. There is a certain satisfaction on a number of different levels — yes, I can hear you checking them off in your head — when you create something from nothing especially a firearm or rather a ghost gun.
Polymer80’s idea is simple: Provide 2nd Amendment enthusiasts with the ability to build a semi-automatic pistol in the comfort and privacy of their basement, garage or kitchen table. There’s no serial number or 4473 form to fill out. It’s just a kit that turns into a pistol receiver ready to be built. The Spectre 80 Percent Pistol Kit comes with a piece of polymer that looks like a pistol receiver. Upon inspecting the piece of polymer, it is apparent that it is close to being a receiver but it is only 80 percent there.
The magazine well, magazine release button cut outs, trigger guard and a slew of other features are molded into the piece. There is even a Picatinny style rail molded in for accessories. You just need to perform 10 percent more work to it until it becomes a receiver. Along with the plastic piece — you can be ill reverent to it until it becomes a full-fledged receiver — I call it a “pre-receiver” or “80-perecenter.” The black piece comes with a plastic jig. Think of the two halves of the red jig as slices of bread and the black pre-receiver as the meat. The 80-percenter is sandwiched between the jig. The jig is clearly marked so you will only make a mistake in cutting — really just relieving some material — if you can’t read. Polymer80 makes sure the process is very simple. Also included in the box are two drill bits and two end mill bits. No need to go to the local hardware store to get the right cutting tools. Polymer80 provides them for you.
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Tools of the Trade
The tools you need are a drill press, hand drill, bench vise, files, sand paper, punches, bench block, hex wrench and hammer. If you have a Dremel tool that can be helpful as well. The other piece in the kit is a steel locking blocking block. This piece is press fitted into the pre-receiver and screwed into the frame. This is the Jesus nut of the entire receiver keeping the barrel, slide and receiver all working in harmony. The clearly written instruction manual should be read at least once. I read it twice. Required safety equipment includes safety glasses. I wore WileyX Rouge, which has interchangeable lens so you can go from workshop (clear lens) to range (smoke lens) with minimal fuss. Before starting, remember that you will most likely not have a working pistol in one day not unless you are a gunsmith savant. Make sure you have an uncluttered work area and plenty of lighting. Take your time and have a patience. I was actually surprised no explicatives were uttered on my part during this build.
Think of the build as having four steps:
4.) Test Fire. Total time for me was about 8 to 10 hours.
Placing the pre-receiver between the jig halves and tighten it in the bench vise. Drill one 5/32nd hole on the left side reposition the jig and drill the right side. Swap drill bits and drill two 7/64th holes on the left side and right side. Don’t try to drill completely through since the holes the holes on either side will not completely align.
Next, chuck up the end mill bit in the drill press and relieve material off the top rails. A cross vise is handy during this step.
Then file down the side rails until flush with the jig. The next cut is for the recoil spring and guide assembly. I used a Dremel tool to cut out the semi-circular slot.
Lastly, use the small 5/64th end mill to cut the slide rail slots on the left and right sides. Just follow the guide molded into the jig. I used a small flat file to file the rear slide rails and used three different slides while fitting. You need the slide to ride on the rails easily and smoothly. At this point your pre-receiver is almost a full-blown receiver. Use the bench vise to press fit the locking block into the pre-receiver and fix it down with a screw on the left and right side. This is where the hex wrench is needed. Loctite on the screws is recommended. Now the piece of plastic has crossed the threshold and is now a receiver. It still needs fitting —especially the rear slide rails — but you have a receiver.
A Receiver is Born
Polymer80 designed the pistol to be compatible with Glock parts — trigger, ejector, slide, magazine — the whole nine yards. I sourced all the parts through Lone Wolf which offers OEM parts and aftermarket parts. I opted for the latter since Lone Wolf custom parts can enhance the Glock experience.
I won’t go into detail assembling the parts, suffice to say that Lone Wolf will supply all the parts to completely assemble a receiver in one kit so you don’t have to order each individual part. Suffice to say if you have assembled the Polmer80 receiver and have parts left over you probably missed something. Tear it down again and start over.
With three slides on hand, a stock Glock G17, PWS EDS (Enhanced Duty Slide) and a Polymer80 P80 DLC slide cut for an RMR, I used all three to fit the receiver. File a bit then check for fit. You don’t want to file too much material away. All said and done, the Spectre pistol was a mash up of Polymer80, Lone Wolf, and Glock parts. I also wanted to try out the Magpul PMAG 21 GL9 magazine which hold 21 rounds of 9mm ammo. I also used Sprinco recoil guide and spring. The barrel was stock Glock G17.
The PWS EDS features night sights and a crisp 4-pound trigger pull. It is blocky and offers plenty of serrations for a good grip. The Polymer80 slide needed parts so I utilized Lone Wolf products. The rear of the P80 slide is cut out for an RMR and iron sights. I opted for the Meprolight FT Bullseye sight, which uses fiber optics and tritium to create an illuminated dot and circle. Center the dot in the circle on your target and fire. For the test firing position of the build, I used the FT Bullseye on the P80 slide. If I keep the Meprolight on the slide, I’ll also need to invest in a cover plate so the sight can lay flush with the slide. With the slide working smoothly and the trigger feeling a lot like a Glock trigger, I lubed the Spectre and took the pistol to the range with an assortment of 9mm ammunition factory and hand loads.
I can’t say that building the Polymer80 kit is as easy as buying a factory produced pistol. I had to make some tweaks and a couple of trips to the pistol range before I got the Polymer80 to run reliably. My first mistake was tightening the two locking block hex screws too much. They interfered with the recoil spring functioning. I also needed to use an OEM slide lock spring and OEM slide lock. The first few factory rounds I had issues with the slide going back into battery. I fired about 25 rounds of a hot handloads and the Spectre began working as it should. I also found that I was shooting a large ragged hole at 10 yards as I was working out the kinks. The grip feels thin in hand. There is plenty of texture on the grip to keep the pistol secure. The magazine well has a molded in funnel so the pistol sucks up magazine and spits them out just as fast. There is also plenty of beavertail to protect the meaty part of your hand from a slide cut.
Yes, building a pistol from a kit can be complicated but if you hate paperwork as much as I do then the Polymer80 should be on your to-do list. I’ve always hated paperwork. Remember, ghost is a relative term. Buy one the old fashion way. Pay cash.
Check out the review of the Glock Gen 5 here.
For more information about Polymer80 kits, click here.
To purchase a Glock on GunsAmerica, click here.