Introduction: Cleaning and Maintenance of the AR-15

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Tips and tricks for living with Ar-15 patterned rifles. By no means complete or final.

Start by making the area safe for working with your firearm. No mags, verify the chamber is empty, remove all live rounds form the immediate area. Remove slings or other accessories.

Step 1: Gather Your Tools

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Most important item not shown: wear eye protection.

Minimum requirements are eyepro, rod, patches, and solvent.

Shown: nylon coated one-piece .22 caliber rod (Dewey), rod stop, rod guide, cleaning link, cleaning cradle (made from scrap wood), .22 caliber patch jag (Parker-Hale), .22 caliber bronze brush, .22 caliber nylon brush, chamber brush for AR-15, short cleaning rods (non-rotating), .45-70 nylon brush, Q-tips, large patches, .22 caliber patches, brushes, dummy round, small screwdriver, punch, LED Maglite with fibre-optic attachment, gloves, Ed's Red, Hoppes Elite/Mpro-7, FP-10.

Step 2: Make Safe and Take-Down

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Check chamber again, set weapon on "SAFE", close bolt, and push out rear take-down pin.

Step 3: Remove Bolt Carrier Group

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Pull charging handle back, remove bolt carrier group, and insert cleaning link. Barrel should be at a downward slop towards the muzzle to prevent solvent from falling into the chamber or lower receiver.

Step 4: Start Cleaning the Chamber

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Clean the chamber first. Apply solvent to the chamber using a large patch, then use a chamber brush to loosen fouling. Wipe brush after a few turns and reapply solvent to brush. Use some wet patches to flush the chamber and finish with a dry patch.

Patches will never come out completely white; don't let it drive you crazy.

Step 5: Begin Cleaning the Bore

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Insert rod guide and start cleaning the bore.

The rod guide centers the rod and jag to protect the throat and bore of the rifle. Do not push patches out of the muzzle; crown damage can occur by dragging a jag or rod across the crown.

Wet the bore with a patch or two of Hoppes Elite/Mpro-7. Then soak a bronze brush and give the bore another two passes and let it sit.

Step 6: Clean Bolt Carrier Group

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Pull firing pin retaining pin, drop the firing pin, remove bolt cam pin, remove bolt. Use a punch to remove extractor retaining pin (do NOT use the firing pin as a tool).

Spray parts with solvent and brush down. Use a short rod and a .45 caliber nylon brush to clean inside the bolt carrier. Most of the carbon will be inside the bolt carrier; you will never get it totally clean. The tail end of the bolt will have carbon buildup, do not go crazy trying to clean it, it will never totally clean off. Use a pipe cleaner to clean the center of the bolt and all vent holes in bolt carrier.

Step 7: Inspect Bolt Carrier Group Parts

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Check bolt face for pitting or cracks. Check bolt lugs for cracks and chips. Check extractor for cracks or chips. Check retaining pin, it should be straight. Check firing pin for dimples or a flat tip. Replace any damaged parts. A bad bolt should be headspaced; if you don't know what this means, seek help of a gunsmith.

Step 8: Lube and Assemble Bolt Carrier Group

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Use your favorite light oil. CLP, FP-10, Mobile 1, whatever works for you.

Assemble extractor. Apply one drop of lube to the bolt rings, one drop to the belt, insert bolt into carrier. Apply one drop to bolt cam pin and insert into bolt and carrier. Drop in firing pin, insert retainer pin. Lube bolt carrier rails. Apply one drop to each side of the charging handle, one drop to the top.

Place to the side and resume work on the bore.

Step 9: Finish Cleaning the Bore

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Push a dry patch through to collect fouling loosened by solvent.

Run two wet patches of Ed's Red. Apply solvent to nylon brush and run through a few times. Wipe brush after each run and reapply. Push a wet patch through to flush fouling loosened by solvent and brushing. Clean brush with Hoppes Elite or gun-scrubber.

Finish up with a couple dry patches. They should come out reasonable, but not completely white.

Step 10: Inspect Bore, Assemble Rifle

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Use a bright light to inspect bore. There should be no fouling or dark spots.

Remove bore guide and cleaning link, reinsert charging handle and bolt carrier group. Drop upper and secure take-down pin. Perform function check.

Bolt should be run wet. After function check close dust cover and relax.


psyoper22 (author)2010-10-07

very indepth cleaning, much kudos!...btw, is that an ACOG Trijicon you have on there?

cowboy404 (author)2009-01-15

i think the h&k; mp5 is a much better choice it is light weight, it is easy to maintain and, it is easy to use in a close quarters and most importantly it is the weapon of choice for the united states navy seals HOOYA baby

oakleygear (author)cowboy4042015-08-03

You are right, but an MP5 will cost you something in the range of $5k to $7k vs sub $1k for an AR15.

ak49er (author)cowboy4042011-11-20

No. Just, No.

brandon borick (author)cowboy4042010-01-07

do you know any thang  about firearms becides what you see in the moves

vestie (author)cowboy4042009-12-26

Lol. To bad it isn't chambered in 5.56x45mm but rather the anemic 9mmx19mm. Less velocity at the muzzle and isn't a very ballistic efficient round. It is a HANDGUN round vs. a RIFLE round.

M4 carbine. (a Military variant of the AR-15) are used by special forces around the world (including the Navy Seals). And along with the bust fired M16 is fielded by most of the united states military branches, And the AR is a light gun aswell weighing in at 7-9 without ammo and other crap.

The MP5 has a distinct advantage in close quarters in that you can hold more ammunition but that being said. AR-15's have been modified to work with 9mm rounds.


hitachi8 (author)2012-11-25

really people? you shoot metal bullets trough the bore at super speed and very high pressure, and you think a little aluminum rod could damage your crown/barrel?

i have a model 64winchester dating from 1952, me and the previous owner always cleaned it from the muzzle, rod against the crown. and it shoot better than a brand new marlin.

Tool Using Animal (author)2008-06-11

The firearm aficionados on this site might enjoy this, I found it laugh out loud funny.

Humorous comparison of the AK47, AR 15 & Mosin Nagant

Mosins Rock!

Damn right, but Lee Enfields are better!

stg.badass (author)scafool2011-06-19

I.....i dont think so i perfer a AR-15 eagle 5.56x45

LOL, awesome!

no wonder i had to use a 2 by 4 not a 6 by 8

that was funny, anyway I go for the Ar.

joebob8 (author)2010-09-28

The only other thing I would liked to have seen was pictures of the disassembly and reassembly of the bolt carrier group. I like how thorough you are in cleaning your weapon.

aj01-01 (author)2009-11-06

I'm almost finished with an AR-15 I made out of's not all that accurate but it was a lot of guess work
It's no where near done in this pic

fantacmet (author)2008-10-29

I didn't find it funny. I found it to be true enough though. If i didn't know my way around an AR15 I'd of found it informative, but it was all review. As for comments on the gas system, it's not really needed. Some of the worlds top comp shooters have NEVER cleaned their gas system. Of course if you have a cheap AR then hey. I run a Bushmaster M4A3 AR-15. Stock for now, but I've got my eye on some mods. First I need a coupleof lower recievers (Ceramic Metal Matrix) and the finishing kit and the upper reciever block and maybe even the barrel block. I need to build one for the wife in pink and purple.

chalky (author)2008-06-20

you certainly know your stuff.

oakleygear (author)2008-06-11

If my AR gets too dirty I just send it out to the dry cleaners... who has time for all that gun oil! I kid I kid! Great job dude... thanks for posting and being one of the ONLY firearm guides on the site... you did an excellent job.

rectifiedbuzz (author)oakleygear2008-06-12

If my AR gets too dirty I just send it out to the dry cleaners

Yeah, I guess it is too big to throw it in the dishwasher next to the GLOCK.

oakleygear (author)rectifiedbuzz2008-06-13

I wasn't even sure you HAD to clean GLOCKs!

thematthatter (author)2008-06-10

I don't consider this clean enough. Anybody that has been in the military is going to cringe when they see this weapon. You failed to remove the buffer/buffer spring, mud and carbon can end up back there. You never cleaned out the lower receiver, mud and carbon can interfere with the firing mechanism, (i was low crawling through mud and my weapon would not switch from safe to semi because of mud) Also show how to preform functions check.

mr.smashy (author)thematthatter2008-06-10

I didn't clean the gas tube either, but then I haven't been swimming in mud or using my rifle as a tomato stake. I'm not a Drill Instructor, and I don't have hours to while away; this weapon is ready to be fired reliably with a competent man behind the sights and quality ammo. This is my requirement, yours may differ. Again, "By no means complete or final."

Also show how to preform functions check.

Get your rifle and a camera and post an Instructable. or look here.

thematthatter (author)mr.smashy2008-06-11

my weapon is locked up in a bunker somewhere. but i clean mine good (when i have the opportunity) so my weapon doesn't pull a Jessica Lynch on me. ill post an instructable once i get a good sit down with my weapon. she is a plain Jane M16A2, nothing fancy or high speed with her but I know she can drop Fast Freddies at 300m.

Kiteman (author)2008-06-10

Not being a gun-owner, I can only say that this seems very comprehensive.

However, It certainly shows that, for some gun-owners, half the fun is in the maintenance.

awoodcarver (author)Kiteman2008-06-11

Kite ..Good cleaning and working on improving function or making a lighter trigger pull on ones firearms is always to me at least a big part of owning guns ...Yes hitting a empty shotgun shell at 25 yards double action with a revolver made in 1966 is always fun..If you ever come to Calif let me know I will take you and the family to the range ...oh and teach you to clean the guns after I teach you to shoot ....Since my first AR type was full auto I use more oil other then that some minor add ons to the instructions and I could rate 5 but I was that DI you are talking about Smash .. with this cleaning it will shoot when needed and that is all that matters ...MIne is a safe sitter since I am in Calif and hate to carry the paper work needed for a AR type firearm

rectifiedbuzz (author)2008-06-10

Love your instructable mr smashy. Thank you for posting it. It's exactly the type of guide that I've been looking for, expecially for a rifle that I plan on shooting Fri-Sun where I don't necessarily want to clean it like it's a safe queen. Please post more AR stuff if you have them.

Deltaforce2555 (author)2008-06-10

Nice AR, may I ask what company it is?

mr.smashy (author)Deltaforce25552008-06-10

Thanks, it's a CMMG upper (1:7 5.56 NATO, chrome lined barrel) and STAG lower. Rail is a KAC M5 RAS and has a TangoDown VFG. Beauty shot here.

firemanfu (author)2008-06-10

certainly shows you take good care of your AR-15 all i've ever cleaned is a .22

masterochicken (author)2008-06-10

I love it.

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