Beginner Tips: 3 Parts to Focus On When Cleaning an AR-15

Cleaning an AR-15


With great arms come great cleaning responsibility. Having an AR-15 is like having a good old sewing machine. Once you disassemble an AR-15, you’ll find that every piece has a purpose, even the stock assembly parts. This is good because you should know what goes into cleaning an AR-15

Cleaning your rifle right after use is essential. It helps you keep it in tip-top shape and maintain its gunk-free, pristine functionality. There’s no exact method to do it; it’s all a matter of preference.

As there is no single way of cleaning a rifle, some would go with basic cleaning by adding lube over and over as a way to clean their AR-15. But if you’d like to reach the deeper end and make sure the insides are gunk-free, you can go by with light cleaning and moderate oil.

can of gun cleanerYour basic cleaning kit should include:

  • Q-tips
  • Bore snakes
  • Oil
  • Microfiber rug
  • Gun cleaner

If you’re new to AR-15 cleaning but prefer the old way of comparing notes with fellow firearms owners and finding out what works best for them, then you’ve come to the right page.

Prepping to Clean An AR-15

Before you start disassembling your gun, start with a few safety measures. At home, the best place to clean your rifle would be somewhere you won’t be interrupted; the basement or garage should do. Bring out a large table, where you can layout all the disassembled parts of the rifle, and cover it with a cloth or a mat.



Put on an all-purpose glove before detaching the parts. Remove the rifle’s magazine. Pull the charging handle to eject live rounds, lock bolt to the rear, check the chamber and magazine. See if there is any ammunition left inside. If there is, make sure to remove it carefully. Once removed, pull the charging pin and let it go.

Turn the selector switch of your rifle to safe mode. When you’ve done that, you may disassemble the rifle piece by piece and start cleaning. For this cleaning exercise, the parts to focus on include the carrier assembly, the chamber, and the external surface.

Start by Separating the Receivers


AR-15 Field Strip


Separate the upper and lower receivers of your rifle first by finding the two pins holding them in place.

You’ll find the first takedown pin near the rear part. It should be the one right above the selector switch. Using a flat-pointed peep tool, push down the pin to depress it.

The pins are a bit tight, so you may need to tap them out gently. You need to push it in to release the upper receiver from the frame. Once it’s disengaged, it should pivot upward, letting you see the inside of the rejector.

For you to completely take out the upper receiver, you need to do the same with the second pin holding the hinge together. Push in the peep tool once more, and it should disengage and release the upper receiver entirely off the lower receiver. By now, you should be holding two separate rifle parts.

Take Out the Bolt Carrier Assembly


AR-15 Bolt

Remove the bolt carrier assembly and charging handle. Both parts should slide out quickly once you’ve separated the receivers. The bolt and the carrier assembly are always the dirtiest after a day of shooting. Unless your gun has been used several times with hundreds of rounds through it, you can go by with cleaning the carrier assembly.

Spray a sufficient amount of gun cleaner on the carrier, and wipe off the dirt using your rug. There’s no need to field strip it any further as you’ll easily spot the amount of dirt on the outside.

But if you do want to take the entire assembly apart, you’ll need extra tools, specifically a punch. Start by pulling out the firing pin retainer. Tilt the assembly, and let the firing-pin fall out of the carrier. It should come right out easily without the pin retainer holding it in place.

Next, turn the bolt cam about 90 degrees toward you, and pull it out with the punch or with your fingers. By then, you should be able to pull the bolt out of the carrier. Separate the carrier assembly parts, and put them on your table as a group. Soak everything with your cleaner. After a few minutes, apply oil on each piece using your Q-tips.

As for carbon buildup, usually, you’ll find it at the back of the bolt. There are several ways to remove them. The easiest is to scrape them off with a Q-tip and reach in.

Some prefer using dental picks, but they’re a bit more expensive. Either way, it takes care of the gunk. To reassemble after cleaning and oiling, follow the same steps in reverse order.

Insert Snake Bore in the Chamber

bore snakeWhile your bolt and carrier assembly are soaking in the cleaner, you can scrub the outer parts, starting with the handguards. Spray some gun cleaner on any black and sticky stuff that you spot on the rifle, and wipe it away. When you’ve gotten rid of the gunk, apply a light coat of oil on them using your Q-tips.

Spray the gun cleaner on the AR-15 barrel and foregrips, and let it soak. Some people like using rod or patches to get inside the chambers. But the easiest way to reach in is by using a bore snake.

Put some cleaner on the front of the snake, and apply oil on the backside. Insert the bore snake at the backside of the barrel, and simply run it through all the way out to the front side. That should take care of the dirt accumulating inside the barrel.

Easy Does It When You’re Cleaning An AR-15

You can do these cleaning tips regularly depending on your gun usage. The great thing about AR-15 rifles is that you can easily detach the parts and disassemble them for cleaning. Even if you upgrade your rifle, later on, you can still follow the same cleaning tips and add a few extra steps here and there to ensure it remains as a well-oiled machine.

Further Reading:


This article first appeared on Ed That Matters.

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Todd Sepulveda

I'm the owner/editor of Prepper Website, a DAILY preparedness aggregator that links to the best preparedness articles on the internet. I'm also a public school administrator and a pastor. My personal blog is Ed That Matters, where I write about preparedness and from time to time, education. Connect with me on one of my social media outlets below.

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