Despite the AR-15’s modularity, the procedure for cleaning it remains almost universally the same. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few tricks to keep in mind each time you disassemble for a deep clean. Save yourself some time and effort by trying some of these tricks for proper cleaning of an AR-15.
Use Consistent Cleaning Materials
Try to have the same cleaning materials on hand each time you clean. It will push you to develop cleaning habits that will save you time and money. Prepare these materials regularly when cleaning an AR-15 rifle:
- Cotton Patches – The larger surface area of cotton patches combined with their density allows you to wrap the patch around all cylindrical parts and push the patch into hollow pieces for internal cleaning, too.
- Solvent – A quality solvent will break down bonds between carbon, grease, and your gun’s metal without compromising the strength of the weapon’s construction.
- AP (All-Purpose) Brush – You’ll come across stuck-on carbon and debris from time to time that requires a bit of extra strength from the metal fibers of an AP brush.
For almost any AR-15 cleaning job, these three materials are all you’ll need.
Inspect the Metal as You Clean
Cleaning is the perfect time to do a safety inspection of your weapon. It should be disassembled for a thorough clean, so you can get a good look at each part as you clean it.
Keep an eye out for cracks and pieces of debris, especially in hollow pieces. Make sure you’re cleaning the inside of AR-15 parts with hollow centers, as you may not be able to see debris hiding inside.
Make Sure Firing Pin Stays Dry
You should absolutely clean your firing pin, but dry it completely once it’s clean. Skip the lubricant on the firing pin – it’s essential that this particular part of your AR-15 stays 100% dry.
Lubricate with Grease, not Oil
All weapons need consistent and thorough lubrication to function. One of the most common beginner mistakes when first firing a new AR-15 is to fail to lubricate. The weapon will usually cease to operate under unlubricated conditions after a relatively small number of rounds are fired.
Some operators prefer to use oil as a lubricant, but since oil tends to run off rather than stay put, it can infiltrate parts of the weapon that don’t need oil or need to stay dry as well as thin out to the point that it is no longer viable as a lubricant.
Instead, you can use specially-formulated weapons lubricants that are greases, not oils, to ensure that lubrication stays in place. When it comes time to clean your AR-15 again, grease is also easy to remove with solvent and cotton patches.
Don’t Spend Too Much Time
A skilled operator can clean and reassemble an AR-15 rifle in about five minutes. Most of us aren’t going through a Commanding General (CG) inspection in which the parts of our weapons must be immaculate. Take the time to remove as much gunk as you can, but don’t overdo it.
Getting the majority of the buildup off the weapon so that it functions as intended is the goal of cleaning an AR-15. Once you have most of the dirt removed, the remaining dirt in the small, hard-to-reach areas won’t affect weapon performance.