Guns

AR-15 Cleaning: How To, Equipment, and More!

Owning an AR-15 is not just about acquiring a versatile firearm – it’s about embracing responsibility for maintenance. Proper cleaning and care are paramount for optimum performance, safety, and longevity of the rifle. This guide will help you through the cleaning steps of your AR-15, including insights into necessary tools, the worth of a cleaning kit, and how to take special care of your AR-15 optic accessories. Happy cleaning!


How To Clean AR-15 (Step-By-Step)

Below is a step-by-step guide on the process I follow when cleaning my AR-15.

  1. Prep Activities
  2. Clean Your Bolt Carrier Group
  3. Clean Your Barrel
  4. Clean Your Upper Receiver & Chamber
  5. Clean Your Lower Receiver & Charging Handle

How to clean AR-15


1. Prep Activities

First things first, we need to make sure everything is safe and in order, before we can start cleaning our ARs. I’ve heard of countless incidences where shooters, even some of the most experienced, was cleaning their rifle and accidentally discharged a round. Even the Best AR-15 Rifles need to be cleaned on a regular basis!

Therefore, the first thing you do is to make sure your firearm is unloaded – even the magazine. Make sure it is completely free of ammunition.

Next, set up a clean working space. I work with a rubber mat as it stays in one place while I am cleaning my AR. It also helps to keep track of small parts.


2. Clean Your Bolt Carrier Group

Starting the physical cleaning process, we look to the bolt carrier group (BCG). The first thing you want to do is disassemble the bolt carrier group and use a quality solvent to clean each of the AR-15 parts. Make sure the solvent is designed specifically for rifles. We don’t want harsh materials on our AR’s integral parts and mods.

Make sure you brush the bolt’s tail, bolt body, retaining pin, bolt cam pin, and firing pin with a specialized brush, ensuring you get into every nook and cranny.


3. Clean Your Barrel

Moving onto the barrel, you’ll need either a bore snake designed for a .223/ AR-15. Or use a cleaning rod with a bore brush. I prefer a bore snake as I feel it cleans the best ar-15 barrel better, but it’s up to your own preference. Remember, it is important that you always clean from the chamber towards the muzzle.

Cleaning AR-15


4. Clean Your Upper Receiver & Chamber

Next, we want to clean the rest of the upper receiver and chamber of any grime, residue, and carbon buildup. Use a chamber brush to clean the chamber and barrel extension, as well as the gas tube, gas key, and other parts of the AR upper receiver.


5. Clean Your Lower Receiver & Charging Handle

Looking at the lower receiver and charging handle, we want to make sure we clean every part, including the buffer tube, fire control group, stock, handle, and other lower receiver parts.

Don’t be aggressive with these parts. Instead, a gentle scrub with the right tools and cleaning solutions is all you need to remove residue and grime.


6. Add Lubrication

After you’ve successfully cleaned the upper and lower receivers, you’ll want to add a quality gun lubricant to the metal, steel, carbon, or aluminum parts of your rifle. This is to prevent rust and improve the rifle’s longevity.

Lubricate AR-15


7. Replace Broken or Damaged Parts

One thing I’ve noticed about practicing a regular cleaning routine is that you are more likely to spot damaged parts before they are completely broken. Trust me, this has saved me quite a few dollars!

Therefore, while you are cleaning your rifle, make sure to conduct a thorough inspection of your rifle’s part. Be sure to keep some spare parts handy. And if you choose to make your AR15 fully automatic, just be aware you will likely have to replace damaged parts more often.


What Tools Do You Need To Clean An AR-15?

You can buy a gun cleaning kit that is equipped with all the necessary tools needed to clean your AR-15. However, if you do prefer to buy them separately, you’ll need the following tools:

  • Brushes
  • Cleaning patches
  • Cleaning rod
  • Bore snake
  • Quality gun oil (for lubrication)
  • Solvents

Is It Worth Buying An AR-15 Cleaning Kit?

Absolutely! When I first started cleaning my hunting rifles and ARs, I thought I could just buy some brushes and cleaning patches, and then I’d be set. But it turns out I did more damage than good.

A gun cleaning kit is designed specifically for guns, meaning the brushes and cleaning patches are made from the correct fibers and materials for cleaning weapons.

It also comes with the right oils and solvents to dissolve the unique compounds found in ARs. Ultimately, it comes down to your preference, but investing in a quality gun kit will save you a lot of headaches. No matter if you have an AR15 or a m16 clone, using a cleaning kit can be a real time saver.


Can You Clean AR-15 Gun Accessories?

Yes, cleaning your AR-15’s accessories is just as important as cleaning your AR-15, as it ensures the normal functioning and longevity of the accessories. Optics are probably one of the most important accessories to clean on your AR-15.


How To Clean Your Red Dot Sight

An AR-15 red dot sight is perfect for close-quarter combat. But when it becomes dirty, performance can start to decrease. Therefore, it is essential to clean your red dot sight routinely. I use a gentle lens cleaner and a microfiber cloth (it doesn’t leave fibers on the lens) to keep it in top shape.


How To Clean Your AR-15 Magnified Scope?

If you are a hunter or range shooter, you probably have a magnified AR-15 scope. They are perfect for shooting beyond 100 yards and increase your accuracy dramatically.

Similar to red dot sights, it is important to clean your magnified scope with quality cleaning solutions. Don’t use harsh chemicals or coarse cloths or brushes – you risk damaging your lens coatings. Instead, use the same materials as for red dot sights.


Can You Clean AR-15 Night Vision Scopes?

When I think of an AR-15 night vision scope, I think of varminting. These scopes bring the night to life and enable you to shoot with pinpoint accuracy in the night.

However, because night vision scopes rely on surrounding light to produce visible images, you need to make sure the scope is always clean and running optimally. Use quality lens cleaning solutions (refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines) to clean your night vision scope.


Frequently Asked Questions

Should You Clean Your AR-15?

Definitely! One of the easiest ways to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your AR-15 is by practicing a regular cleaning routine.

How Long Does It Take To Clean An AR-15?

When you are new to AR-15s, it can take up to a couple of hours. However, as you become more experienced with the weapon, cleaning time drastically decreases - I take 20 minutes to an hour, depending on where I used my AR-15 and for how long I used it.

Does Cleaning Your AR-15 Improve Performance?

Yes, when an AR-15 is clean, there is no carbon buildup in the barrel that can influence the trajectory of your bullets. Therefore, cleaning your AR-15 routinely improves performance.

The Bottom Line

Cleaning your AR-15 is more than just a task – it’s part of the pride of ownership. It allows your rifle to function properly, safely and ensures a longer life. Remember to always practice safe gun handling techniques when cleaning your rifle. Invest in the right tools, follow the correct procedures, and your AR-15 will serve you well for many years to come!

Step Description
1 Ensure the AR-15 is unloaded, and the magazine is removed. Check the chamber to verify it is clear.
2 Disassemble the AR-15 by separating the upper and lower receivers, removing the bolt carrier group, charging handle, and other components.
3 Wipe down external surfaces with a clean cloth or brush to remove loose dirt and debris.
4 Use a bore brush and cleaning rod to clean the barrel. Run patches through the barrel until they come out clean.
5 Clean the bolt carrier group, paying attention to the bolt, firing pin, and gas key. Remove carbon buildup with a brush and solvent.
6 Inspect and clean the upper and lower receivers, paying attention to the trigger assembly and other internal parts.
7 Wipe down and lubricate all metal parts with an appropriate firearm lubricant to prevent corrosion and ensure smooth operation.
8 Check and clean the buffer tube and buffer spring, ensuring they are free of debris and well-lubricated.
9 Inspect and clean the gas system components, including the gas tube and gas block.
10 Reassemble the AR-15, ensuring all components are correctly seated and secured.
11 Perform a function check to ensure the AR-15 cycles properly and all controls operate as intended.
12 Store the AR-15 in a cool, dry place, and periodically inspect and clean it to maintain proper function and longevity.

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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