Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Basic Guide to AR-15 Cleaning

The longevity and enjoyment derived from any gun is directly related to the quality of care the weapon is provided.  In regard to cleaning, the AR-15 platform is relatively simple to maintain and the weapon’s popularity has led to recent introduction of cleaning products that have made the process quick and thorough.  The AR-15 is a tough, dependable battle rifle—proven functional in extreme circumstances, but it does require the same amount of cleaning as any semi-automatic weapon platform.  Many of our customers have experience in the military and understand that whether “downrange in the sandbox” or back here and out in the field, if you have some downtime you are often cleaning weapons (even those that have not been fired since they were last cleaned)!  While this level of care is typically not necessary for the average AR owner, it is important to clean your weapon often, and especially after use.  In this post, cleaning equipment products and basic methods will be presented that will help you keep your rifle clean and functional.

Cleaning Equipment                                 
A basic, inexpensive cleaning kit designed for the particular caliber of your AR will do the job just fine, but there can be advantages to the more expensive products.  A one-piece, coated cleaning rod and special cleaning rod guides can prevent any harm  to your weapon during the cleaning process.  There are many “quick-cleaning” type kits on the market that do not use a cleaning rod, but rather some type of flexible rope or cable that would also prevent any harm caused by a cleaning rod that is not centered and guided.  These kits, such as the one shown above from OTIS, are compact and convenient and have been in use with military units for some time now.  At the minimum, you will need:

·    a cleaning rod, a bore brush, and chamber brush (brushes with a brass core and bronze or nylon bristles are considered better quality)

·    cleaning solvent and gun oil (there are many quality brands available at sporting goods retailers: Hoppe’s, Shooter’s Choice, Montana X-Treme, Break-Free CLP, etc...)

·    cleaning patches of natural cotton (some users prefer synthetic fiber patches)

·    cotton swabs, a tooth brush, and dental pick for cleaning inside the upper receiver, chamber recess lugs, and bolt/carrier components

·    cleaning rod, brushes, and patches must be designed for the particular caliber of your AR (.223/5.56, 6.8 SPC, etc...)

Cleaning Procedure
Make sure the weapon is unloaded and on safe.  After separating the upper receiver from the lower receiver by removing the front and rear takedown pins, the bolt and carrier and charging handle should be removed from the upper receiver.  This disassembly capability is a benefit of the AR platform in that it allows you to clean from breech to muzzle without the fear of solvents and debris getting into the action (lower receiver parts). 
Wet a patch with the cleaning solvent and use the jag to insert and guide the patch into the chamber and down the barrel.  Once the patch and jag exit the muzzle, it is suggested to remove the jag before pulling the rod back out to prevent any damage to the barrel crown (this procedure is even more important when using the bore brush in the same manner).  Most solvent brands have detailed instructions regarding use, and how long to allow the chemicals to contact the bore.  If using solvent designed to remove copper fouling, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully (many copper solvents contain harsh chemicals that can harm barrel steel after prolonged exposure).  Insert the cleaning rod with the bore brush attached in the same manner as the jag and patch described above.  Again, remove the brush once it exits the muzzle before pulling back the cleaning rod.  Repeat this procedure a few times, and then use the jag and a patch that is dry or with a light amount of solvent applied.  If the patch comes out of the muzzle clean, no further solvent use is likely required in the bore.  If it comes out dirty, repeating the wet patch and brushing sequence is probably necessary.  The quantity and quality of ammunition fired can necessitate how much cleaning is later required. 
One advantage of multi-piece cleaning rods is the rear section can be attached to the chamber brush to clean the chamber of fouling.  Apply solvent to the chamber and twist the brush to loosen fouling.  Then, using cotton swabs, patches, or specifically designed lug recess cotton rolls, etc... remove all fouling and solvent.  Especially if you do not plan to immediately fire the weapon, a light coat of oil applied to the bore by a patch and jag, and to the chamber by the cotton swabs will help maintain the weapon until it is ready to be used again.  It is important to make sure there are no obstructions (even a heavy coat of oil) in the chamber and bore before chambering a round and firing the weapon.

Cleaning the bolt and carrier parts can be more daunting, but it is necessary.  Separating the bolt from the carrier by removing the firing pin retaining pin, the firing pin, and then the cam pin will allow you to access all the parts and surfaces that are required to be cleaned under most circumstances.  Using solvent and a toothbrush, it is possible to remove the majority of fouling from the bolt and inside surfaces of the carrier.  Heavy carbon fouling (often at the tail end of the bolt, and on the bolt face under the extractor) can be removed with a dental pick.  The outside surface of the bolt and carrier can benefit from a light coat of oil, though it is important not to apply any oil to the bolt face.  Some cleaning kits are specifically designed for the AR platform and may have special brushes for the carrier key, gas tube, and other parts that can be difficult to access with the basic equipment mentioned.  Before reassembly, make sure the breaks in the 3 gas rings near the tail  end of the bolt have not moved so as to have all of the breaks in line with each other (these being lined up would likely cause cycling problems by allowing a gas leakage).  It is also a good idea to apply a small drop of oil to the trigger and hammer pins inside the lower receiver and a light coat on the buffer spring's exterior.

Again, while this post is not an exhaustive description of AR-15 cleaning and maintenance, it offers a basic method for keeping your weapon clean and functional.  It is important to follow any manufacturer specific instructions.  Thanks for reading our blog...check back often for more news and information pertaining to the AR-15 platform and feel free to contact us anytime with any questions you may have about the AR-15 and our products. (20111105)


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