With sales of modern sporting rifles at an all-time high, there are thousands of new AR-15 owners out there with little idea how to properly clean and maintain their new rifles. Disassembling and cleaning an AR is far different than most traditional hunting rifles with more moving parts. At first glance, this process can be overwhelming, but it’s not difficult if you take it step-by-step.
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.
With the rifle clean and inspected, it needs to be lubed before reassembly. Semi-auto rifles require more lubrication than most other firearms, so don’t skimp on the lube. I use lithium grease because it doesn’t migrate when hot, but any gun oil will work. Your rifle will tell you where to apply lube since those areas will have their finish worn from friction. The outside of the bolt body, bolt locking lugs and the four longitudinal ridges on the bolt carrier are key lubrication points on the AR. Conversely, I avoid using lube in the firing pin channel or on the trigger parts.
Proper cleaning and maintenance are key to keeping your AR running reliably. If you take care of your AR, clean it regularly and feed it good ammo, it will provide many decades of good service.