Few guns are more etched into American culture than the AR-15. This gun has a long and exciting history that goes back to the 1950s when it was first developed by ArmaLite. 

When it comes to shooting, it doesn’t get much more exciting than trying out your new AR-15 for the first time. Now, let’s imagine you’ve taken your rifle out to the shooting range and have happily gone through several boxes of ammo. What do you do next?

When it comes to all firearms, but especially the AR-15, it’s imperative that you practice proper gun maintenance. Cleaning a rifle may appear to be overwhelming at first. But you’ll soon realize that taking care of your gun is a rewarding and simple task.

Are you interested in learning how to keep your AR-15 well maintained? Continue reading and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know. 

Gather All of the Necessary Tools to Clean Your Rifle

If you’re currently in possession of other guns, then you should already be cleaning them often. And if you are cleaning then often, that means you should have just about everything you need to keep your AR-15 clean.

However, there are some tools that are used specifically for the AR-15. For example, you’ll need a specific-sized bore brush depending on your rifle’s caliber. 

If you don’t happen to already own the necessary tools, or just want to start a kit from scratch, you’ve got two paths to go down. You can either make your own or buy a pre-built kit. 

If you’re someone who expects to use up a lot of ammunition, then you’ll need to clean your gun often. If this the case, then making your own kit is going to be the ideal option. You should also make your own kit if you want to really understand and enjoy the entire gun-cleaning process. 

Let’s diver deeper into these two kit options.

Building Your Own Kit

Everyone likes to add their own personal touch when cleaning their guns. If you’re someone who takes gun cleaning especially seriously, then you’re going to want to own a kit that will make cleaning as fun and efficient as possible. Building your own kit is going to be the best way to go about this.

You can also purchase several kits that are pre-built and then combine them to make your super kit. 

If you want to start from scratch, the first thing you’ll need is a container for storing everything. A tackle box should be enough to get the job done. You’ll also need a durable and sturdy work mat. 

The mat is what you’re going to lay your tools on. It’s advisable that you get a white mat so it will be easier to see everything. 

You’ll also want to get bore snakes, rods, and brushes that are specific to your rifle’s caliber. You’ll also want to get cleaning patches, lubricants, and various solvents.  

Read More: A Beginner’s Guide to Hunting

Purchasing a Pre-Built Cleaning Kit for Your AR-15

We’d like to point out that there is nothing shameful about buying a kit that already comes with all of the cleaning supplies that you need. The majority of gun owners simply don’t have the free time or the energy to make their own AR-15 cleaning kit. Luckily, there are several high-quality pre-built cleaning kits on the market.

With that said, the main downside to getting a pre-made kit is that this kit will probably come with a bunch of extra brushes and bore snakes that you’re not going to need. Think of a pre-made kit like a suit that you buy off the rack. 

That suit is going to serve you well but it’s never going to be as good as a bespoke or tailored outfit. To continue this metaphor, a suit from the rack is nice but it’s not something most people would want to wear on their wedding day. This logic can also apply to pre-built kits.

If you’re a casual shooter, then a pre-built kit could be great for your situation. However, if you’re shooting almost every day or if you use a shot timer for competition, then you wouldn’t want to rely on one of these kits. 

Despite all that, pre-made kits are extremely effective and popular among many shooters. They’re also generally more affordable if you have multiple AR-15 calibers or other guns at home. 

It’s important that when you’re buying these pre-made kits that the box comes with properly sized bore snakes and brushes. It should come with all of the parts you’ll need for your specific AR-15. 

If you get a kit that doesn’t work with your gun’s caliber, then that kit will be effectively useless. 

Clear Your AR-15 and Prep the Area

Spread out your work mat and throw on a pair of gloves. It’s important that you keep your skin protected as some of these cleaning substances can be toxic. 

Now, collect all of the ammunition around you and move it away from your workspace. Ideally, you should move the ammunition to another room. You want to do everything you can to avoid the possibility of a round accidentally making its way into your firearm’s chamber.

Now, check to ensure that your rifle is rendered clear and safe.

Separate the Upper Receiver from the Lower Receiver

Grab hold of the take-down pins and pull them out. Now, separate the upper receiver from the lower receiver. As you do this, be careful not to scratch the finish on your AR-15. 

While some people like to build their own upper receivers, many experts recommend purchasing an AR 15 complete upper receiver assembly from a reputable brand.

Take Out the Charging Handle and Bolt Carrier Group

Your bolt carrier group and charging handle should be able to be pulled back and out of the body of the upper receiver. These are also items that can be purchased from reliable online dealers.

Break Down the Bolt Carrier Group

The first thing you’re going to have to do is pull the bolt to the back of the receiver. Then, use your pick to remove the firing pin. Move the firing pin off to the side and then rotate the cam pin one-quarter clockwise. 

You can then take out the cam pin. Once you do that, the bolt should come out smoothly. Now, grab a punch and a mallet and remove the extractor pin.

Once the extractor pin is out, you can remove the extractor. For now, put the extractor off to the side. 

Remove the Buffer and Buffer Spring from the Buffer Tube

You can use either a calloused finger or your punch to press firmly on the Buffer Retainer. As you do this, remove the buffer spring and the buffer from the buffer tube. Remember that the buffer retainer is currently under pressure and you don’t want to press with too much force. 

Clean the Gun’s Barrel and Chamber

Everyone has their own personal way of cleaning these two parts. But no matter what you do, just keep in mind that you have to clean the Chamber and the Barrel starting from the back and moving to the front. This way the debris will come out of the front end of the gun’s Barrel.

Always insert your rod or brush from the back, like a how a bullet would go in. This is going to ensure that your rifle stays intact. Don’t clean like how actors do it in films and TV — never start cleaning from the muzzle and work your way to the Chamber.

Now is also an excellent time to use some bore cleaner if you have any on hand. 

Reassemble Your Firearm

Now that your firearm is properly cleaned, you can put it all back together by following the previous steps in reverse order. After you do this a few times, cleaning your gun will become a breeze.  

Lubricate Your AR-15

Every time you clean your gun, you should follow it by applying a coating of lubricant. Lube up the Bolt Carrier Group as well as the Charging Handle. You should also add a little bit of lube to the FCG, safety selector, bolt catch button, and mag release button. 

Basically, if it’s a part that moves, you want to apply some lubricant to it.

Other Maintenance Procedures to Know

You should give your rifle a thorough inspection after every 1,000 rounds. Inspect the rifle after every 500 rounds after it’s reached the round 5,000-mark. 

Make sure to inspect the O-rings as these are usually the first components that breakdown.

The Importance of Knowing Proper Gun Maintenance

The AR-15 is as American as apple pie. There’s a reason why gun enthusiasts turn to it time after time. This device has become the preferred firearm among casual shooters, hunters, and competition shooters alike. But as great as these firearms are, they’re not much help if proper gun maintenance isn’t practiced.  Are you looking to read other helpful gun articles? Check out the rest of our blog today for more!

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