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

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

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

Step 3: Remove Bolt Carrier Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.