AR-15 Maintenance and Cleaning: A Step-by-Step Guide

Are you looking to master the AR-15? Whether it’s for a hunting trip or to prep for a possible zombie apocalypse – regular maintenance and cleaning is essential for your AR-15. You could just say ‘EH, it’s good enough’, but if you really want your rifle to be reliable and consistent, then you need to know a few basics about AR-15 maintenance and cleaning.

So if you’re ready to be that much closer to being an AR-15 expert and become more knowledgeable about your weapon of choice, give this step-by-step guide a read! We’ll cover everything from the best ways to clean and maintain your AR-15 to how to store it properly and keep it in perfect working order.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work – let’s learn exactly how to keep your AR-15 in peak condition!

Cleaning Your AR-15

Cleaning your AR-15 is an important part of its maintenance and care. Begin by removing the bolt carrier group and setting it aside on a cleaning mat in a safe place. With the help of a solvent or degreaser, swab out the barrel and receiver with a cleaning patch or brush to remove debris, grit and gunpowder residue. Once clean, a soft cloth can be used to dry it and help prevent rusting. For further protection from rust and weathering, adding lubrication to all components is essential. It is suggested that shooters use a synthetic oil like CLP (Clean Lubricant Protect) since some aerosol-based lubricants may damage plastic parts.

It’s recommended to wear rubber gloves as well as eye protection due to the chemicals present in these cleaners and oils. Make sure to keep children away from these products, as they are hazardous when ingested.

After properly cleaning your rifle, you are now ready for disassembly and separation of its major components. Doing so will provide an even deeper level of cleaning by allowing more access to certain areas of the firearm which may have been missed before.

Disassembling and Separating the Rifle‚s Parts

Once you have finished cleaning your AR-15, it is now time to begin the process of disassembling to get deeper into the individual parts that make up your rifle. This is a crucial step that should not be overlooked or done with haste. Going through the process of disassembly and separating the parts can be tedious and time consuming, but it is essential in order to ensure your weapon functions as intended.

When beginning to disassemble, read through manual instructions provided by the manufacturer for reference. This involves taking off the upper receiver from the lower receiver and breaking out pieces such as buttstock, carry handle, and bolt carrier group. Each part may require additional disassembling for further cleaning and inspection based on individual needs for maintenance. During this process it is important to know what each part does and how it connects in order to ensure it functions properly once reassembled.

Before concluding this step, make sure all pins are secure and tightened properly before connecting different components back together. At any point during disassembly if something feels wrong or off with a part or connection, do not try to force anything together. Not only can this lead to further damage or breakage, but it is also dangerous due to the fact these parts can affect trigger pull and shootability of the weapon. It’s better to take the time double checking your work than take a chance later when actually firing the rifle.

Now that disassembly has been completed and all rifle components separately stored away from each other appropriately, it is time to fully clean each individual piece of parts collected from disassembly. This means going beyond a general surface level clean and perform an in-depth inspection that includes removing carbon deposits on key areas such as barrel chamber, bore surfaces, and action. This can be achieved by utilizing an assortment of cleaning solutions, brushes, jags/patches, picks/scrapers, etc. Depending on personal preferences or specific ammunition used this may vary in terms of frequency of application – with some going as far employing ultrasonic technology for complete decarbonization process. Cleaning the bore and action should never be neglected as dirt build-up can affect stay integrity within these sealed passageways leaving too great a risk on long-term reliability of our AR-15 rifles.

Crucial Highlights

Disassembling and cleaning an AR-15 rifle is essential to ensure it functions as intended. Read the manufacturers instructions on disassembly, double check parts and connections while tightening pins, and inspect each part separately before reassembling. Cleaning should include removing carbon deposits from the barrel chamber, bore surfaces, and action using a variety of solutions, brushes, jags/patches etc., with some users utilizing ultrasonic technology for complete decarbonization. Regularly inspecting and cleaning the bore and action is important to ensure long-term reliability of the rifle.

Cleaning the Bore and Action

Now that the AR-15 is disassembled and separated into its parts, it’s time to start cleaning the bore and action of the rifle. It’s important to note that there is an ongoing debate in the firearms community on perfecting a cleaning method for the AR-15. Some experts advocate for lighter cleaning with special designed patches and towels, while others swear by vigorously scrubbing down every part of the rifle with a toothbrush. Both methods can be effective depending on one’s preferences and objectives.

One should start by removing any debris or fouling that has been built-up inside the bore of the rifle using either a bore snake, a cleaning rod with an attached patch and cloth or an air blower. It’s suggested to use a lubricant such as Hoppes 9gun oil) sparingly throughout the process before and after running through a few patches or bore snakes. This will help effectively alleviate residue from each pass. Moving on to the action, most authorities recommend using compressed air and/or cotton swabs with a mild gun cleaner to remove residue from dust, carbon, and other fouling inside the trigger mechanism and bolt carrier assembly. A light coat of gun oil should be applied after completion.

Removing Residual Pressure and Gunpowder from the Barrel

Now that the bore and action have been cleaned of rust, dirt, and other foreign matter, it is time to move on to removing the residual pressure and gunpowder that may still be present in the barrel. This is an important step because any powder left in the barrel can cause corrosion and buildup over time which could eventually lead to a clogged barrel.

The most effective way of doing this is by discharging some rounds of ammunition through the rifle. Due to safety concerns, this should only be done at an outdoor shooting range with proper eye and ear protection. Before discharging rounds through the rifle, ensure that the range is cleared and all bystanders are a safe distance away. Load up some ammo into the magazine and fire off a few rounds until all ammunition has been discharged.

After firing all of the ammunition, inspect the barrel for any residual firearm residue before moving onto lubricating it. If necessary, swab out any remaining powder from the barrel using solvent-soaked patches with careful attention being paid not to damage any of the bore’s rifling grooves. When finished cleaning out these gunpowder remnants from the barrel, you can move onto inspecting and lubricating the rifle for optimal performance and maintenance longevity.

Inspecting and Lubricating the Rifle

Before moving on to the next step in maintaining an AR-15, it is important to inspect and lubricate the rifle. While a clean gun goes a long way, proper lubrication also aids in ensuring that all parts of the firearm are working properly. Some recommend lightly coating all necessary surfaces with lubricating oil, such as around the barrel extension and in the bolt carrier group. Any friction caused by movement of parts will be reduced and can prevent stalling due to dirt buildup.

An argument against this approach is that over-lubrication can cause functioning problems. Applying too much oil or grease can attract powder residue and dust that can adversely affect performance. This encourages residue to settle into crevices and further harm accuracy when shooting. It is essential to ensure that only enough lubricant is being used to reduce friction instead of creating more residue build-up.

Checking Critical Areas for Function

After inspecting and lubricating the rifle, it is now time to check for proper function in the critical areas of the rifle. The major parts to check are the upper, bolt carrier group (BCG), fire control group and magazine. With no rounds in either the chamber or magazine, begin by charging the rifle by pulling back on the charging handle and releasing it several times in a row. This should be done smoothly without jerking. The action should move freely when cycling as well as when holding back on the charging handle while it is cocked. Feel around these parts while they are moving and make sure there are no obstructions or resistance that could indicate a malfunction. Cycle several rounds through the weapon with dummy rounds to make sure there are no issues with the internal parts such as extractor tension adjustment or any other foreign objects that may be lodged in the weapon.

If a malfunction does occur upon inspecting for function, further investigation may be required to identify what is causing the problem. Depending on where you obtained your AR-15, some of its components could be faulty or out of spec from factory settings, so components may need to be replaced due to substandard quality or improper assembly. If any part inspection reveals signs of damage or wear and tear, replacing them might be necessary before continuing.

Part Replacement and Cleaning Alternatives

Part replacement and cleaning alternatives are an important part of AR-15 maintenance and cleaning, and there are differing opinions about when parts should be replaced. Some gun enthusiasts believe that parts should be replaced whenever any signs of wear begin to show, while others maintain that parts should last even longer before needing to be replaced.

Those who advocate for immediate part replacements argue that it’s a good practice to keep weapons in optimal operating condition by replacing worn components as soon they are identified. It is also thought to reduce the risk of malfunctions or jams due to worn out parts. Supporting evidence can be seen in the numerous online forums where users discuss instances when replacing certain components led to immediate improvements in weapon functionality.

Gun owners who prefer to wait before replacing worn parts often cite the cost of doing so as a main factor in their decision-making process. Replacing every component at the first sign of wear can add up quickly, gradually reducing the overall value of the gun over time and potentially eliminating any long-term savings from purchasing used gear or upgraded components at lower prices. Others worry about being unable to use some spare parts effectively if all of their components are at different levels of wear, making them incompatible with one another.

There is no definitive answer when it comes to replacing AR-15 components during maintenance, as gun owners must weigh both sides against their own personal preferences and financial situation. In either case, regular cleaning is always recommended, as this serves not only to reduce dirt buildup but also the likelihood of malfunctioning due to worn out parts.

Frequently Asked Questions and Responses

How do I properly clean and store my AR-15?

Properly cleaning and storing your AR-15 is an important part of owning this weapon. First, you should always make sure to clean it before and after each use. Before you start, you should remove the bolt carrier group (BCG) and separate it into its component parts. Then, use a toothbrush and warm soapy water to brush away debris on the inside and outside of the weapon. Make sure to get all moving parts lubricated with gun oil and reassemble the BCG.

To store your AR-15, make sure it is unloaded and the chamber empty. Put a lock in place if necessary. Pick out a safe spot for storage – preferably away from any children or unauthorized users –where you can keep your rifle out of sight but easy to access should you ever need to use it again. Wrap any ammunition separately from your rifle in order to avoid accidents or theft.

What type of lubrication should I use on my AR-15?

When lubricating your AR-15 it is important to use a lubricant specifically designed for firearms. A good quality synthetic oil or grease should be used on the bolt and bolt carrier group. For external metal parts, a light oil such as CLP (Cleaner Lubricant Protector) or Break Free can be used. Be sure to exclusively use gun-grade lubricants on your AR-15, as any other type could damage or corrode the firearm. When lubricating your AR-15 make sure to avoid getting oil inside the receiver, as this can lead to cycling issues and will reduce accuracy.

How often should I perform maintenance on my AR-15?

It is important to thoroughly clean and maintain your AR-15 at least once every 500 rounds fired or every 6 months, whichever comes first. This will ensure optimal performance and help prevent any unnecessary issues that could arise. It is recommended to perform additional maintenance after particularly harsh conditions such as if you take your rifle in salt water or have taken it through dense foliage. Keeping your rifle clean and properly lubricated will keep it from corroding and make sure the action works smoothly, guaranteeing a safer shooting experience.

Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.

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