The Basic Beginners Guide To Maintaining Your AR-15

By Lisa Andrews


I love my AR-15 rifle with all of my Second Amendment-respecting heart. I also know after many years of ownership that I never clean my rifle often enough. Perhaps it is a lack of discipline, or perhaps it is just the finicky nature of this weapon. Whatever the cause, you should clean your rifle after every time you shoot it with no exceptions. If you're too busy to clean, you're too busy to shoot. If you want a gun that doesn't need that kind of attention, then go buy a shotgun. This is an AR-15, and it needs your love.

First thing is first, and you're going to want to make sure everything is completely safe and ready to go. Somewhere between 500 and 1000 people die each year by accidental gun death. I'm sure a large number of those people were drunk at the time, so try not to be drunk when you're cleaning your AR-15. Also, make sure there are no magazines present and the chamber is completely empty before going one more step. A clean, uncluttered working surface will also aid in preventing accidents.

Did you make sure that you checked all of those things I asked you to check? Did you make certain you weren't drunk? Well, maybe you should check all of that again before getting your supplies ready. When you are doubly sure of your personal safety, get those supplies ready. You are going to need protection for your eyes, a cleaning rod, some cleaning patches, and a good solvent.

Pull the charging handle back and lock it into place, taking out the bolt carrier assembly and setting aside. Point the muzzle of the AR down so that any solvent drippings don't go into the lower parts of the receiver and the chamber. You now need to clean the chamber thoroughly with several patches that have been wetted with the solvent. Take not that the patches will never come out clean, so there's no need to waste them by applying them over and over. Just get it clean and finish it up with a dry patch rub down.

The bore needs to be cleaned now using very wet cleaning patches. Do several passes to get all of the loose, easy-to clean fouling from the muzzle bore. If you push your patch all the way through the muzzle bore, then you risk damaging the crown...so don't ever do that. Components are expensive, after all. Set the bore aside to soak while you take the bolt carrier group apart for cleaning. Use wet patches to clean each component, but keep in mind that the carbon will never completely come off.

After each piece of the bolt carrier group is as clean as they are getting, then it is now time for a very intense inspection. These parts are under massive stress during firing, so you need to make absolutely certain that none of them are succumbing to that terrible stress. No chips, no warps, and no cracks make for a happy component. Once they pass the inspection, put these parts back together and lubricate them all.

Now that the bore has soaked a while, the stubborn fouling is ready the be cleaned out. Use multiple wet patch passes to give the bore a smooth cleaning and finish it up with a couple of dry passes. Use a light to check for dark smudges and remaining fouling, as this means your AR-15 bore needs further cleaning. If everything passes your careful inspection, then it is time to put the weapon back together and do a complete functionality test. If you did everything carefully and completely, your AR-15 will be ready for the range!




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