Gun Maintenance 101: A Guide to Understanding AR 15 Maintenance

The AR 15 has a long and storied history within the culture of America. 

There are few things that are more exciting than trying out your new AR 15 for the first time. And now that you’ve gone through multiple boxes of ammunition at the shooting range, you finally take your new gun home. But what do you do next?

Well first, you’re going to want to clean the firearm. But you might not be sure how. Although it may seem overwhelming at the start, practicing AR 15 maintenance and cleaning is both easy and rewarding. 

AR 15 Maintenance
Weapons and military equipment for army, Assault rifle gun (M4A1) and pistol on camouflage background.

Interested in learning how to do it? Continue reading and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know in order to keep your new firearm properly maintained. 

Get the Necessary Tools to Clean Your Firearm

If you already own other firearms, you should be cleaning them regularly. And if you’re cleaning them regularly, that means you likely have all of the tools you need to clean your AR 15. Although there are some tools that are unique to AR 15s, like a bore brush that will correspond to your specific caliber. 

If you don’t have the cleaning tools already, or you just want to make your own AR 15 cleaning kit from scratch so you can take it with you to the gun range, you have two options: buy one or make your own. 

If you want a kit that you know is going to work, or if you don’t expect to use your rifle a whole lot, then buying a cleaning that is pre-made would be a perfectly good decision to make. You might sacrifice some cleaning efficiency but not much. 

However, if you’re someone who goes through a lot of ammo and you need to clean your gun often, or if you just really enjoy the process of cleaning guns, then building your own kit might be the perfect choice for you. 

Let’s look further in-depth at the two options below. 

Buying a Pre-Made Cleaning Kit for Your Rifle

First off, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to purchase a kit that already contains all of the cleaning supplies you’ll need. In fact, most people simply don’t have the energy or free time to make a personal cleaning kit from scratch. And there are many good options out there. 

The main disadvantage of buying a kit that is already built is that your new kit will likely contain a bunch of extra bore snakes and brushes that you likely won’t need. 

You can compare a kit like this to a suit that you get off the rack. It’s going to get the job done but it’s never going to fit you as well as a tailored or bespoke one. 

To take the metaphor further, off-the-rack is a good option but you wouldn’t want to wear it on your wedding day. The same can be said for a pre-made kit. It’s great if you’re a casual shooter. However, you probably shouldn’t rely on these kits if you were engaging in competition shooting or if you were shooting every day. 

With all that said, pre-made kits are fantastic options for the majority of people. They’re also very cost-efficient if you have other firearms or AR 15 calibers in your home.

When you’re buying a pre-built kit, it’s important that the kit comes with the correct sized brushes and bore snakes. It should also come with other important tools that are going to fit your AR 15. If you buy a kit that doesn’t match the caliber, it’s not going to do you much good at all. 

Building Your Own Kit

Because cleaning a gun can be such a unique process for each person, it’s important that you build a kit that’s going to make the process as efficient and enjoyable as possible. And if you want, you can even purchase multiple pre-made kits in order to create your perfect kit. 

Use a tackle box for storing your tools. Next, get a cleaning mat. This will be where you’ll lay your tools out so you can see them.

You’re also going to want to get rods, bore snakes, and brushes for your specific AR caliber. Also make sure that you get lubes, cleaning patches, and solvents. 

Clear the Rifle and Prepare the Area

Put on a pair of gloves and roll out your cleaning mat. Some of these cleaning materials can be toxic so it’s important that you protect your skin. 

Get all of the ammo in the area and move it away from the table. Take it out of the room if you can. The last thing you want is for a round to accidentally end up in the rifle’s chamber. 

Make sure that the AR 15 is rendered safe and clear. 

Separate the Lower Receiver from the Upper Receiver

Push out the take-down pins and then pull those two halves apart from each other. Just make sure that you don’t tarnish the gun’s finish while you do this. 

Remove the Bolt Carrier Group and Charging Handle 

The charging handle and bolt carrier group slide back and out of the upper receiver’s body. You can find high-quality bolt carrier groups from companies like Aero Precision.

Take Apart the Bolt Carrier Group

The first part of this step is to push the bolt to the back and then take out the firing pin with your pick. Move it to the side and then rotate the cam pin 90 degrees. Now, remove the cam pin. 

The bolt should easily slide out now. 

Now, use your mallet and a punch to take out the extractor pin. Then take out the extractor and put it to the side for now.

Take Out the Buffer Spring and Buffer from the Buffer Tube

Using either a punch or a calloused finger, press on the buffer retainer. Then take out the buffer and the buffer spring from the buffer tube. Keep in mind that the retainer is under pressure here, so don’t push too hard.

Clean the Barrel and Chamber

Each person likes to clean their own way. But the most important thing to remember is that you clean the barrel and the chamber from the back to the front. The debris should be coming out of the front of the barrel. 

Whenever you use a brush on a rod, you insert it from the back, as a bullet would.

Doing this will help to keep your gun intact. Don’t trust how they do it in the movies: never clean from the muzzle to the chamber. 

And if you’ve got some bore cleaner, feel free to use some in this step.

Clean the Bolt Carrier Group

The bolt carrier group is easier to clean than the barrel and the chamber.

Make sure that you scrub everything and look out for a buildup of carbon. Check extra carefully at the back of the firing pin.

Exercise extreme care when cleaning the extractor. Use white rags to make sure that you don’t miss anything. 

Once you’re done, put the bolt carrier group back together in the opposite order that you disassembled it. 

Reassemble Your Firearm

Work in reverse when putting your rifle back together. After you do this a couple of times, it’ll come to you naturally. 

Lubricate Your Firearm

You should apply a light coating of lubricant to your charging handle as well as all of the pieces of the bolt carrier group.

You should also apply a little bit to the safety selector, mag release button, FCG, and bolt catch button. If the piece moves, you should lubricate it. 

Other Maintenance Procedures

After every thousand rounds, you should give your gun a good inspection. Once you’ve hit round five thousand, you should inspect the gun after every five hundred rounds. 

The O-rings tend to be the first pieces that fail so make sure to inspect those. By keeping your gun lubricated and clean, you will ensure that it will last a long life with minimal failures. 

The Importance of Knowing Proper AR 15 Maintenance

AR 15s have been part of America’s history for well over half a century. They’ve become a favorite among hunters, competition shooters, and even casual firearm owners. And as great as these guns are, they won’t do you much good if you fail to practice proper AR 15 maintenance and cleaning. 

Are you interested in reading other helpful firearm articles like this one? Check out the rest of our blog today for more!

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