The AR platform is one of the most reliable weapons systems devised in the last century. That’s one of the big reasons that so many militaries, law enforcement, and civilian shooters have adopted it as their primary weapon. This website has a huge variety to choose from if you are in the market for an AR-15 carbine.
With that said, there’s no such thing as a miracle weapon, and we’re going to walk you through some of our top advice for keeping your AR in top working order for years to come.
1. Keep Debris from Getting Inside
The AR is reliable and accurate in no small part because it has relatively tight tolerances around the bolt. The key to making a system with tight tolerances function reliably over time is doing your absolute best to keep debris, especially fine sand and mud out of the system as best you can.
While some ARs meant for competition, or ultra-cheap upper receivers do not have a dust cover, the vast majority of ARs came with them from the factory. This simple trap door, which will open as soon as you fire a round, is vital to keeping dirt and debris out of the gun when you’re not shooting.
When you are shooting, keeping the bolt forward at all times will also be of some help here.
If you do manage to get some dirt into the system, we recommend, at the very least, opening the bolt and rinsing everything with water if what you need to do is keep shooting as quickly as possible, though pouring water into your firearm is not generally advisable.
2. Lubrication is Key
While it’s more than possible for an AR to keep going for a while when fairly dry in terms of lubrication, it’s far from good in terms of the wear life of the parts for you to do so for more than a few rounds. Even in a firefight, it’s advisable not to run the gun dry, and to keep it as well lubricated as possible.
As a general practice, we recommend lubricating the entire bolt and its parts as the last step in your cleaning process and running a patch with some lubricant down the barrel is always a smart idea. For use in the field, a little bottle of lubricant can also be a good idea.
Without disassembling the gun, you can put a few drops on the exposed part of the bolt when it’s closed and cycling the bolt a few times with a charging handle can spread the lubricant out enough to prevent the weapon from getting excess wear.
Generally, it’s impossible to over-lubricate an AR: about the worst that can happen is that the next few rounds will spit some of the lubricants out of the ejection port and might stain your clothes.
3. Clean Your AR Often
When the M16A1 was first issued in Vietnam, there was an awful and deeply problematic rumor that spread around that this new aluminum and plastic wonder rifle did not need to be cleaned. Of course, spending weeks at a time in ninety-degree weather, in the rain, and frequently firing the weapon led to lots of jams in firefights.
Shortly thereafter, a cleaning manual was issued with the rifles, drawn in the style of a comic book, indicating that, yes, you need to clean your AR to prevent it from jamming and the barrel from rusting, and that’s still very much true today.
The common advice is to clean at least every thousand rounds. If you’re using corrosive, steel-cased ammunition, clean it immediately after your range session.
Our go-to cleaning kit is a simple one that consists of a bore snake, some cotton swabs, an old toothbrush, and a rag. Once we take the bolt out of the gun, we wipe it down with the rag and get as much of the debris out of the upper and lower as we can by hand.
Then, we put some cleaning solvent on the bore snake and run it through the barrel twice. The third time, we add some lubricant: this should leave the barrel perfectly clean for our uses.
To clean the bolt, we start with the cotton swabs, dry, and get off ad much of the gunk as possible. Adding some cleaning solvent to the toothbrush, we then scrub everything, including the underside of the charging handle, which can get a little dusty and dirty over time.
Once we’ve added a few drops of lubricant to everything, we reassemble the AR.
The whole process takes about five minutes, and it’s well worth doing to keep your AR up and running: it’s also a good opportunity to make sure none of the parts will need replacing any time soon.
4. Be Wary of Over gassing
Because the AR is a direct-gas operated firearm, there’s going to be some carbon and other stuff that gets blown into the upper receiver and onto the bolt with every round fired. This means that the AR platform is generally fairly dirty.
This problem compounds itself when you add a suppressor. Suppressors cause more back pressure, and thus more gas to blow back into the receiver. If you’re running a suppressor, make sure to clean the gun more frequently: re recommend doing so at the end of every shooting session.
5. Check for Parts Wear
While you’re cleaning your AR, we recommend making the time to check for parts that might be wearing out as a normal part of your cleaning process. At the very least, take a quick look at the bolt face, firing pin, and hammer every time you clean the AR: any excess wear or cracking on those parts is generally a sign that something is wearing out and need to be replaced. Once in a while, looking down the barrel with a flashlight and inspecting the buffer spring is also a good idea.
Keeping an AR platform rifle or pistol in good working order doesn’t take any special tools or a ton of time and taking that little bit of time will keep your AR in good functioning order for decades to come.