The AR-15 is a highly dependable weapon that you should be able to rely on for several years. However, like any machine, it requires routine maintenance. There are several things you should consider if you want to keep your rifle functioning properly. These considerations include cleaning, lubrication, gas ring inspection and replacement, the use of high-quality magazines, and monitoring gas pressure.
Let’s take a closer look.
Cleaning your AR-15 is a relatively easy task that should be a regular activity after going to the range. Solvent, oil, a basic rifle cleaning kit, an AR-15 chamber brush (specific to your gun’s caliber), and an old cotton T-shirt are all you will need to keep your AR-15 running strong for many years. Since the bolt carrier group (BCG) is exposed to most of the fouling that occurs, it’s a good idea to field strip the BCG, coat the parts in solvent, and let them sit while you move on to the barrel, upper, and fire-control group.
On the other hand, AR-15s have been known to shoot thousands of rounds between cleanings. What’s more important to remember is that a dirty gun that’s properly lubricated is much more reliable than a dry gun—which brings us to the topic of lubrication.
Even if your AR-15 is brand new, it is still important to verify that all lube-points have been lubricated before taking it to the range. Lubrication is key to ensure your AR-15 cycles smoothly every time you pull the trigger. There are numerous lube-points on AR-15s. Some points require a light application of oil, while others require a generous application. If you are unsure about lube-points, it’s always best to refer to your weapon’s manual. If you don’t have the manual, there are several guides on the internet that can point you in the right direction.
Lubrication viscosity is something to bear in mind if your AR-15 will be exposed to extreme conditions. For example, a dry lube works best in sandy or dusty conditions as sand and dust will stick to wet oil; a heavy lube would not work well in extremely cold conditions as it may become excessively thick and cause cycling failures.
There are three gas rings on the bolt that create a dynamic seal between the bolt and bolt carrier. After enough use, the gas rings will eventually wear to the point that the seal begins to leak which can lead to short-stroke issues. You should visually inspect and test your gas rings each time you clean your rifle. If you are missing any or see that they are deformed, it is recommended to replace them before you shoot the rifle again. To test the gas rings, reinstall the bolt into the bolt carrier, pull the bolt so it is in the extended position, and stand the BCG
vertically on the bolt. If the bolt carrier remains supported, the rings are good. If the bolt carrier collapses, the rings are bad.
Using high-quality magazines is also important to ensure consistent feeding. Using cheap magazines might save money at first, but these tend to warp, bend, or crack over time. If you notice any damage or excessive wear to the feed lips of your magazines, be aware that you may experience feeding issues. If you have cheap or worn magazines that still function, it’s a good idea to use them for drills and plinking and save your high quality, good magazines for when you need maximum reliability.
Some AR-15 manufacturers over-gas their rifles intentionally to help cycle cheaper, inconsistent ammo. While cycling a wide variety of ammo is certainly a great thing, having too much gas pressure can have negative effects, such as parts wearing prematurely, heavier felt recoil, and noticeable damage to the rim of the spent brass. The ejection pattern of the spent brass is the best way to know how well your AR-15 is gassed. Imagine looking down over the top of your rifle with the muzzle at 12:00 and the buttstock at 6:00. If your brass ejects around the 3:00 – 4:30 positions, there is adequate gassing. In cases where ejecting ahead of the 3:00 position, there’s too much gas. Ejecting behind the 4:30 means too little gas.
You can do several things to adjust the gas pressure. Over-gassed? Switch to a heavier buffer or a longer buffer spring. Under-gassed? Check for a loose gas block, loose gas key, cracked gas tube, or worn/missing gas springs; switch to a lighter buffer; or switch to a shorter buffer spring. To easily control the gas pressure, or if all else fails, simply install an adjustable gas block.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can have a long-lasting and reliable AR-15. There’s just one more piece of advice you should heed – buy high-quality components.
For high-quality AR-15 parts at the lowest prices, visit the E2 Armory store today!