We've seen a lot more interest in survival guns lately, especially AR-15's. Have an AR-15 you love now, and need to know how to take care of it? Cleaning an AR-15 is relatively simple once you know what you are doing.
To clean an AR-15, you need to know these basics:
- How to Disassemble your AR-15
- How to Separate the Receivers
- How to Disassemble the Bolt Carrier
- How to Clean the Chamber
- How to Clean the Bolt Lug Reccess Area
How to Effectively Clean and AR-15:
Supplies You Will Need:
- small plastic tub
- ballpoint pen
- powder solvent (aerosols like Gun Scrubber or Powder Blast work best)
- carbon removal tool (optional, see recommendations below)
- AR chamber brush
1. Disassembling Your Rifle
To prepare your AR for cleaning, basic disassembly or “field-stripping” is necessary. After double-checking to make sure the firearm is unloaded, prepare a suitable flat surface, such as a workbench or countertop. As you’ll be dealing with several small parts that can get lost, you’ll want a small plastic tub or at least a towel available.
2. Separate the Receivers
The first step to cleaning your AR is separating the receivers. You can totally separate the upper and lower receivers for cleaning, but I prefer to leave them linked at least initially. Begin by pressing the rear takedown pin from left to right to release the upper and lower receivers.
Hinge the upper forward and up, then pull the charging handle to the rear, which will allow you to remove the bolt carrier from the upper. Slide the charging handle to the rear while pressing downward and it will release from the upper. Use the nose of the charging handle to depress the buffer retainer on the lower receiver (Note: The buffer is under spring pressure) and remove the buffer and spring. Your rifle has now been broken-down into the major sub-assemblies.
3. Bolt Carrier Disassembly
Now it’s time to strip the bolt carrier assembly. Press the bolt fully rearward into the carrier and using an object such as a ballpoint pen push the firing pin retaining pin until you can remove it with your fingers. Remove the firing pin from the assembly; it may fall out if you turn the bolt upward. Rotate the cam pin 90 degrees and remove it from the bolt. The bolt can now be removed from the carrier. Using the firing pin as a punch, push the extractor pin out of the bolt and remove the extractor. Your rifle is now fully field-stripped and ready for cleaning.
4. Chamber Cleaning
If you’ve fired your rifle much, you’ll notice most of the interior is coated with greasy, black carbon residue from the gas system. Sooner or later, that fouling must be removed or it will gum-up the works and disrupt the function of the firearm. There are two main methods of removing this carbon: the traditional method of scrubbing each of the parts with powder solvent and a toothbrush or cloth, or using an aerosol product like Gun Scrubber or Powder Blast to quickly remove most of the carbon buildup. If you don’t mind the mess and have a suitable location available, the aerosol method will save you time and elbow grease. Be careful not to lose small parts such as the extractor pin when cleaning them.
Whichever method you choose, it is important to ensure all of the fouling is removed from the internals; anything with carbon or other crud should be completely cleaned. Because an AR uses propellant gases to cycle the action, you’ll likely find a heavy buildup on the tail of the bolt and on the inside of the colt carrier, which can be stubborn to remove.
Special products such as Magna-Matic’s Carbon Removal Tool and A&O Manufacturing’s Bolt Carrier Carbon Scraper are designed specifically for removing carbon buildup from those areas and can save lots of time and foul language.
5. Cleaning the Bolt Lug Recess Area
Another area of special concern is the bolt lug recess area. The AR uses eight rectangular locking lugs on the bolt to hold the cartridge in-battery. The area where these lugs interface with the barrel extension can accumulate significant debris. It is imperative that you clean this area thoroughly in order to keep the rifle functioning reliably. An AR chamber brush is a key piece of cleaning equipment for any AR owner; get yourself a few in case one gets lost or worn.
The brush has two different diameter bronze bristles: The narrower section cleans the rifle’s chamber while the larger brush scrubs the locking lug recesses. Wet the brush with cleaning solvent or spray the area with your aerosol cleaner and rotate the brush to loosen caked-on debris. You’ll want to give the chamber area extra attention if you’ve used steel-cased ammo, as it commonly leaves lacquer or polymer residue on the chamber walls. Once this area has been thoroughly brushed, use a large handgun-sized cloth patch on a short rod to remove the dirty solvent and give it a final scrubbing.