Cleaning My AR15
So you are considering purchasing an AR-15, or you have one, and now you want to know how easy it is to clean, or its time to clean, and you’re not sure what you need and how to clean it. Have no worries, between the blog post below and the video below, you got this! At first glance, you may think it’s very complicated, and a little confusing. Have no fear, cleaning and maintaining your AR is very easy to learn, and with this guide and video, you will master it in no time.
So what do you do first?
You’ll need the tools necessary for cleaning your AR-15. If you already own a handgun or a standard rifle, you should have most everything you need to clean your AR-15. And if not, almost everything you need can be found around the home. The only thing that you will need to absolutely purchase is an AR-15 bore brush and cleaning rod if you don’t already have it available. The bore brush you want will be brass and specific to the caliber or your AR15 (5.56/.223 or AR10 (7.62/.308) you are cleaning. These are very inexpensive and typically you can get them for under $3.00.
One note, if you are a high volume shooter, you may want to want to purchase a comprehensive kit that will include all of what is discussed today and will likely include more tools for the advanced cleaning of your AR15 platform. However, before you run out and take the easy route by purchasing a cleaning kit there are pros and cons to buying a pre-made cleaning kit. For starters, most of these kits aren’t as in-depth as the one you put together on your own. Therefore, if you decide to seek out a complete kit, you will want to make sure that they contain the right size bore brushes and/or snakes, and all other tools that your AR-15 requires. You’ll want to match your caliber to the caliber size of the cleaning kit tools.
Alternately, if you decide to build your own cleaning kit, you’re going to want to ensure you purchase/find a box to hold all your cleaning accessories. I have used everything from small zip lock bags, tackle boxes, to gun cases. There is no right or wrong answer here, whatever works for you to keep everything together and accessible is all you really need.
You may also want to pick up a gun cleaning mat or find some of sort of mat that will protect the surface you are cleaning on, as well as, to protect the gun, and gun parts from the surface and surface dirt you are cleaning the rifle on. You can purchase a rifle cleaning mat, use a piece of carpet, soft cutting boards, cardboard, etc… Again, there is no wrong answer here, you just need something that protects the surface from the oils you use to clean, as well as, to protect the gun from picking up the dirt from the surface you are working from. Mats can be anywhere from $10-20 so they are by no means expensive, but if you just want something from the house to save a few dollars anything that is soft (sheet, towel, cardboard, rubber mat, etc…) will work.
For the gun owners opting to build their own kit, it can be in your interest to consider buying several smaller kits that have what you need and then combine them to build the kit you need to maintain and clean your AR.
Here is some example of kits that may include many of the items you’ll need for AR-15 maintenance:
- Gunmaster 223/5.56 AR Rifle Cleaning Kit
- Champs Universal Handgun, Rifle & Shotgun Cleaning Kit
- Otis Modern Sporting Rifle & AR Cleaning System
These kits include the brushes, punches, bore snakes and other items you’ll need for cleaning your AR-15. Some kits will include lube, solvents and clean patches. There is so many lube option we can’t possibly cover them here, so my advice is to try different ones until you find the one that works for you. Oil is Oil is Oil, and the key things that have been show stoppers for me are, the smell and cleaning ability. Not all oils are equal when it comes to actual cleaning. They may oil the parts really well and may keep them from rusting, but they all don’t clean equally. Therefore my advice is, purchase small bottles of oil/cleaner until you find the one you like. If you want to know what we use, please send us an email to Sales@TarRiverArms.com and will be happy to share what we use on the TRA team. Warning, each one of us on the team uses different oils so you will get different answers.
As a starting point, here are some lubes and cleaning options for maintaining the AR-15 that we sell in house or have used in the past:
- Frog Lube
- Remington Rem Oil
- Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner
- Birchwood Casey Gun Scrubber
- Ballistol Multi-Purpose Aerosol Can Lubricant Cleaner Protectant- one of my favorites, but my wife hates the smell so I can only use it outdoors
Now that you have your tools you’re ready to start cleaning your rifle. First, you’re going to want to prep your area and ensure that you clear your firearm. IMPORTANT, please don’t ever begin cleaning your firearm without first making sure that your magazine and chamber are empty.
If this is your first time clearing a firearm, here are the measures you need to take:
- Point the rifle away from yourself in a safe direction
- Remove the rifle’s mag
- Lock the bolt to the rear
- Inspect the chamber and remove any ammo that may be in it
- Release the bolt
- Place the weapon safely on your cleaning area
Now that your firearm is clear, layout a cleaning mat, tablecloth, bedsheet, or whatever you end up using. Next, we recommend you use a pair of gloves. Any latex gloves will do, or if allergic to latex, rubber non-latex gloves will work. The oils and cleaning solutions you will use can sometimes be slightly toxic, hence why I use Frog Lube, so protecting yourself with gloves is always a good option. Additionally, cleaning your firearm can leave quite a bit of dirt and black nastiness on your hands, so using gloves will also prevent you from having to spend as much time cleaning your hands afterward as it did to clean your firearm.
Once your gloves are on and your AR-15 is laid out, remove all ammunition from the table, if any, and let’s get to cleaning.
Separate the upper receiver from the lower receiver by pushing out the takedown and pivot pins, see the video. Take care of the tool you use to separate and remove them as you may run the risk of scratching your rifle’s finish. As discussed on the video, these pins may be tough at first, but the more you clean and use your rifle the less need you will have for a tool to push out these pins. They will in a short period of time be able to be pushed out with your fingers.
If you can get it, we highly recommend finding a nylon punch, which guarantees that the punch will not scratch your pins or rifle when separating your receivers.
Remove your charging handle and bolt carrier group. If this is your first time I have included a video and pictures below that show you what to break down and how to remove the charging handle and bolt carrier group (BCG).
Now that your BCG is out you are going to want to disassemble the BCG. You start by pushing the bolt to the rear and removing the firing retaining pin, once the retaining pin has been removed the firing pin should drop out, and then remove your cam pin by turning 90 degrees, once cam pin has been turned 90 degrees it should just drop out, and once the cam pin has been removed your bolt should be able to be pulled out as well. If this is your first time, this is covered in the included video with this post.
Now you’re going to disassemble the bolt using a punch and a mallet to extract the extractor pin. From here, you’ll take out the extractor and set it aside for later.
With your punch or finger, you can remove the buffer and buffer spring from your buffer tube. Be sure to take care when pushing down on the pin that is holding your buffer inside the buffer tube. The buffer is under spring tension and will shoot out.
Once again, the included video should help you get started.
Once the buffer and buffer spring have been removed and set aside, you’re going to clean the chamber and barrel that is attached to the upper. Almost everyone ends up developing a way to clean this area that works for them, as well as, the tools that work for them. There really is no wrong way to get this done, all you are looking for is a clean upper and barrel and there are a thousand ways to get there.
No matter what method you end up with, it is our recommendation that you clean starting with the chamber and push your cleaning rod towards the muzzle. This will ensure anything that you scrub clean from the barrel gets pushed outwards onto your mat and not into the chamber/upper. See the video on this one, it’s hard to explain in writing.
Now scrub all the components of your bolt carrier group a good once over and plenty of cleaning oil. Watch for any carbon buildup that will occur over time. If there’s build-up, make sure to scrub it vigorously with a brass brush or something with more grit than a nylon brush.
Next, you’ll clean your buffer assembly with a rag. We typically don’t recommend using anything but a rag, but if lube is required, make sure you wipe it thoroughly to ensure that any remaining oils are removed when you are done. Oils are good at cleaning and lubricating, but if it’s not removed in certain areas, it will do more to collect dirt and carbon than anything else you can do. So if using lube of any kind, on any part of the gun, ensure you wipe it down thoroughly.
On to the charging handle and upper receiver. I like to use a nylon brush and some oil to scrub it down thoroughly and then I wipe it with a clean lightly oiled rag. I will keep several rags around, my favorite being a cut-up t-shirt, to ensure that I can clean the oil and dirt from the areas that have been cleaned. The rags will get overloaded with oil and dirt quickly and it may take several rags to get it cleaned.
Take a few moments to clean your lower and fire control group (trigger). There should not be a lot of dirt here and should only take a few moments with a rag and q-tip or patch to remove any dirt or oil that was created from shooting the rifle.
It’s all done now and it’s time to put your rifle back together. You will reassemble your rifle working backward from step twelve, but to ensure we cover assembly we have included assembly in our video as well. Yes, it’s time to admit that this is the best video and write up on the web on how to clean your AR.
After your rifle is assembled, you may want to lightly lubricate it in few areas. We recommend a small drop of oil on your charging handle and your bolt carrier group.
Last step, its time to perform a function check. Look around and make sure there is no ammo laying around or the rifle is loaded. It should still be safely secured and stored away from step 1 but it is always good to check anyway. Look at it this way, what does it hurt to ensure your firearm is not loaded prior to pulling the trigger every time you are about to pull the trigger? It doesn’t, its only time, the habit that is formed from doing this is only positive, and it helps prevent accidental discharge.
So as we did in the beginning, pick up your rifle, and point it in a safe direction. Ensure that it is unloaded by pulling the bolt to the rear. Once confirmed that the rifle is unloaded, you can release the bolt, make sure your safety is engaged, place your finger on the trigger, and give it a pull. If the hammer drops, you’re in trouble. If the hammer doesn’t drop, you’re in the clear. Next, turn the safety to the fire position, point your firearm into a safe location, and pull the trigger. If the hammer falls, you’re all set.
Congratulations, you have cleaned your AR15/AR10!