How to Take Care of Your AR15
Keeping an AR15 in working condition is not a hard thing to do. The AR15 is an incredibly durable and reliable piece of equipment, and can certainly take much more of a beating than you are giving it at your local range or hunting lodge. The following paragraphs will tell you how to keep your gun properly cleaned and lubricated, as well as show you a few things to keep an eye on during the cleaning process.
Assuming you are a recreational shooter or weekend warrior, your AR isn’t going to need much more than regular lubrication to keep running like a...well, like a well oiled machine.
A general guide to what needs light lubrication. A Bolt-Carrier Group (BCG) should be heavily lubricated.
Though I tend to clean my guns after each range day, it’s not because the gun needs it, but because I find it therapeutic. Really, the cleaning schedule is up to you. As long as the action is smooth and not grimy, the mag drops freely, and the gun feels healthy when firing, it is probably just fine. But let’s say you’re like me and you want to “deep-clean” your gun because you simply enjoy doing it.
First thing’s first, take your magazine out and cycle your action to make sure the gun is unloaded and safe. Regular cleanings are a great way to make sure the wear components of your gun are healthy and functioning correctly, ensuring your AR15 is operating as designed.
Now that your gun is separated into upper and lower, go ahead and inspect both for anything more than carbon build up. You are looking for things like primers or primer fragments, metal shavings, or non-typical debris. If any of the previous are found, you have issues beyond regular maintenance, you will need to replace parts and have your gun inspected.
A heavily fouled BCG that needs a good cleaning
Assuming you just found a dirty gun and nothing else, go ahead and pull out your buffer, buffer spring, and BCG. Disassemble your BCG and inspect it for any peening or irregular wear at this point, paying close attention to the bolt lugs, firing pin, gas rings, and extractor.
I then do just a rag cleaning on these parts, as well as the upper and lower receiver before I spray them with anything. Once done with the rag, I spray a carbon solvent on and let it sit. There are plenty of great solvents out there, I was raised using Hoppes No. 9 and have never had any issues. Once the solvent has done its job, clean off the remaining carbon and look for your lubrication.
Everyone likes to debate what lube is best, and really, it just comes down to what you like. I know guys who use expensive oils and pastes, as well as guys who just use motor oil. Lately, I have been a big supporter of FrogLube; which is a non-toxic paste, founded and operated by former Navy Seals, and it works flawlessly. The biggest thing, is that you keep the gun well lubricated, no matter what it is. An AR15 can go hundreds to thousands of rounds without a cleaning, provided that it is well-lubricated.
Frog Lube is one of the most popular cleaning and lubrication solutions
As far as what to lubricate and how much lubrication is needed, I was always taught like this: “if it moves, or has something move against it--oil it. There’s no such thing as too much oil, any excess will be shot off.” So apply a hefty amount of lubrication to your moving parts, while making sure everything is going back together smoothly. I always make sure to oil my trigger every time to keep it smooth and crisp, shoving a fair amount of oil down my buffer tube as well.
I always get a lot of questions asking about cleaning your barrel. Unless you are shooting a precision rifle, it really isn’t as necessary as people assume to clean a barrel often. There are actually people who claim that cleaning your barrel too often can effect accuracy and your zero. I would stick to once a year as far as running a snake through your barrel, but do check to make sure your muzzle device is tight and in line during routine cleanings.
Now that you’ve cleaned and oiled your rifle, you are ready to join the upper and lower together again. Make sure your takedown pins slide and lock in position without too much force, and cycle the action a few times to make sure everything is together properly before feeding the rifle live ammo.
And voila! You have now successfully cleaned and inspected your AR15, and are for another range day or hunting trip. Always make sure even if not cleaning, to at least inspect your rifle from time to time to make sure everything is operating as it should. The AR is incredibly reliable, but parts do wear out eventually, and the last thing you want is to have your gun fail during a fun range day or hunting trip, causing you embarrassment, a lost animal, or potential injury.