The Truth Behind Building a “Ghost Gun”

Long before Joe Biden tried to shake hands with a ghost (catch video of his April 14, 2022, address at North Carolina University) or even more stupefyingly called for a ban of build projects using 80% receiver kits from the Rose Garden during his April 11 “Ghost Gun” ATF crackdown speech where he fumbled with a Polymer80 kit claiming that said kits are the main reason for soaring crime rates. I knew he was off his rocker, and he was stepping way out of his lane. Only Congress, as defined by our Constitution, can pass useless laws.

The Truth Behind Building a “Ghost Gun” with 80% Receiver Kits

Banning these 80% home projects under the guise to keep guns out of criminal hands is laughable. Most criminals are creatures of opportunity. And most would not be willing to spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for tools and parts. Especially when they can buy an illegal firearm for half the cost. But I digress, and it’s time to focus.

(Photo by Andy Grossman)


I got tired of core content creators having all the fun and wanted to build my own handgun. Specifically, a Glock 19 clone. I thought it would be cool to do two different builds from two different companies to see the differences.

My goal was to use parts from each company to build a complete handgun, with only the sights being from a different company. I used Trijicon handgun sights for both builds along with their sight tool. In addition, I also used several Real Avid Glock tools that I found extremely helpful. I did run into some issues where I needed to swap out the barrels, but more on that later.

I reached out to Lone Wolf for their Freedom Wolf (80% lower). So, I ordered that part, and then separately ordered other parts from them to complete the build.

From Polymer80, I ordered their PF40C separately and then ordered other parts to complete the build as well. My plans for building two G19 clones were coming together. Before I go any further, does all of this seem like something a hardcore criminal would be doing?

All About The Jig

Both of them came with two drill bits (3mm and 4mm), jigs, and front and rear rails. The P80 came with a slide catch, while the Freedom Wolf came with a magwell along with a flat and swelled backstrap. I installed the swelled backstrap, as it fits my hand better.

The P80 jig encloses the entire frame and doesn’t allow for any movement. Likewise, it has indicators pointing to where to drill and remove polymer. The Freedom Wolf’s jig required you first to remove obstructions and then place the jig on top of the frame to drill holes.

Jigs for the Polymer80 and Lone Wolf Freedom Wolf 80% receiver kits.
(Photo by Andy Grossman)

For both frames, you have to drill only for that side and not drill through the other side. While flipping the Freedom Wolf over to drill the other side, the jig moved slightly. This caused one of my locking block pin holes to be lower than the other. The whole process of removing polymer and drilling took about one hour for each frame.

I should note that the PF940C frame is compatible with Glock 19/23 Gen3 parts. However, the Freedom Wolf is compatible with Gen3 or Gen4 Glock 19/23/32/38 slides. With the Freedom Wolf, you also had to glue in the slide rails, which took 72 hours to cure.

Some Assembly Required

Along with lower parts kit, both companies sent a completed slide assembly—the P80 Compact Slide and AlphaWolf Upper G19. I removed the standard sights on the slide and replaced them with Trijicon’s DI night sights on the P80 and Trijicon’s Fiber Sight on the Freedom Wolf.

In the P80’s lower parts kit, you have the option of using either a flat or curved trigger. I went with the flat one, but it’s always nice to have options.

Featuring a blade safety the author selected the flat faced trigger for his 80% receiver build.
(Photo by Andy Grossman)

Assembling both guns was straightforward and maybe required an additional 30 to 45 minutes per handgun. I did notice that the slide wasn’t racking as it should on both handguns. And I could feel the recoil spring getting caught on some polymer.

I dissembled both and went to work removing more plastic. Once done, I reassembled everything and decided to do some dry-fire function tests.

Addressing Issues

I should mention at this point that I didn’t have any 9mm snap caps. If you are building your own guns, make sure you have snap caps in that caliber. It can save you headaches later.

9mm Snap Caps make things easier during the build process.
(Photo by Andy Grossman)

The P80 appeared to work fine, and I really liked the two-tone modernish styling of that handgun. I kind of dug the old-school look of the Freedom Wolf, and it felt great in the hands.

As I function-tested the Freedom Wolf, the trigger refused to reset. I would pull it back and it would stay there when I racked the slide. I reached out to Lone Wolf with my problem, and they suggested I send it in for them to look at. This is where the uneven locking block holes came back to haunt me.

Similar to a Glock, the Lone Wolf trigger has a blade safety.
(Photo by Andy Grossman)

Once Lone Wolf received my handgun, right away they knew what the issue was. They drilled into the locking block at the same angle as my frame, so everything would match up. I shortly received it back and ran a couple of function tests before shooting live ammo.

Well, after a couple of dry fires, the Freedom Wolf started acting as a binary trigger randomly. So, I would pull the trigger, pin strike, release the trigger, pin strike. I had to make a decision then and there—send it back or go the American way and try to fix it by breaking it in.

First Live-Fire with 80% Receiver Builds

The decision was made to try to break it in. Now, because these two guns were homemade guns and not built to factory specs, I expected hiccups in the first 200-400 rounds. It wasn’t too long ago when every handgun had to be broken in by at least 200 rounds before it could be expected to function reliably.

Knowing I had some issues with it, I first shot the Freedom Wolf. Thankfully, I had Remington 9mm Range Bucket (115-grain FMJ) 350-count to break in both pistols. The Freedom Wolf would randomly go binary on me, which made things interesting.

Around the 75-round count, the Freedom Wolf started having failure-to-feed issues about every two to three shots. It was time to put it aside and try the P80.

The author purchased the whole slide assembly for the Lone Wolf 80% receiver kit.
(Photo by Andy Grossman)

I put the magazine in the P80, racked the slide, and it refused to chamber a round. Okay, I tried different magazines but had the same issue—it didn’t want to chamber a round. I literally had to drop a round into the chamber, close the slide, and slam home the magazine.

I would get about two to three shots before I had a failure to feed. It was so frustrating. I got through maybe 40 rounds before I called it quits. It didn’t want to eat.

Second Go Around

Both guns got a good cleaning and lubing before performing additional function tests. Plus I had snap caps from Otis to ensure everything was on the up and up. The Freedom Wolf’s random binary issue seemed to have disappeared. I must have dry-fired it a couple of hundred times to see if it would come back, and it didn’t.

The P80 refused to chamber the snap caps, so I reached out to Polymer80, and they sent me a barrel. I could see there was a difference in the feeding lip on the new barrel. Sure enough, once installed in the P80, it chambered the snap cap just fine. But it didn’t want to eject it.

The author had issues with the original barrel that came with the slide assembly from Polymer80.
(Photo by Andy Grossman)

I had to separate the barrel from the slide using a flat-head screwdriver. I tried the older barrel where the snap cap dropped into the chamber, and it, too, needed to be pried open. So, I dropped in Lone Wolf’s barrel into the P80, and viola, it worked.

A quick search on the internet showed other people had this same issue, and the highest recommended solution was a barrel replacement. I reached out to the good folks at Faxon to get barrels for both guns. The threaded gold barrel for the P80 and a black barrel for the Freedom Wolf. The colors of the barrels added that extra flair to the builds.

The author decided to go with Faxon barrels for his builds to prevent feed issues with his 80% receiver kits.
(Photo by Andy Grossman)

Hitting the Range with the 80% Receiver Builds One More Time

With my brother-in-law in tow, we took both homemade pistols out to the range again. And you wouldn’t believe it, especially after the first range session, both guns ran flawlessly. We used all sorts of different G19 magazines without issues. The guns ran like champs.

After we had gone through the 350-count Remington bucket, it was time to try some hollow points. We used Federal 135-grain Hydra-Shok Deep and Speer 124-grain GDHP without any issues, even with the guns being dirty.

How Long Did It Take?

It has been repeated several times in the news that an 80% receiver build kit allows you to have a working firearm within 30 minutes with little to no experience. That’s a complete farce.

So, assuming you run into no issues and have all the tools you need on hand, it takes about 30 minutes to an hour of work on the frames to bring them to what the ATF considers a firearm.

An additional 72 hours is needed for the Freedom Wolf so that the epoxy can cure. Then, it takes an additional 30 minutes to an hour to assemble everything. Again, that’s if you don’t run into any issues.

And then, there is a test fire to work out any kinks or any issues that might pop up. Just because you didn’t have issues assembling the gun doesn’t mean you won’t run into any.

Completed pistols from 80% receiver kits.
(Photo by Andy Grossman)

I learned a lot from building my first two guns. Both 80% Receiver kits have their pros and cons. You have to figure out what works best for your build. I am looking forward to working more on these two pistols to bring them to the ultimate “Practical Tactical 9mm” or “Gucci Gold 9mm.”

For more information, please visit LoneWolfDist.com and Polymer80.com.

This article was originally published in the Combat Handguns November/December 2022 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email [email protected].

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