Photo via Grace Boatright

I’m currently sitting in a deer blind in McAllen, Texas where I’m taking clients hog hunting for the weekend. Two days ago, I was back in Virginia teaching a Basics of Rifle Shooting class to a group of 12-year-olds.

For both occasions, I use an AR-15. 

Call me a millennial but I love the AR-15. It’s accurate, dependable, lightweight, takes a 30-round magazine, and won’t cripple my shoulder after shooting it all day. 

It’s great for a fun day of plinking on the range with friends, hog or deer hunting, competition shooting, combat, and of course, the zombie apocalypse – or any apocalypse for that matter. 

ARs are also so easily customized and tailored to one’s unique taste and preferences. It’s like a charm bracelet for gun people. You can collect all the fun accessories you want and develop it into something all your own. It’s a beautiful thing.

And I haven’t even gotten to the best part: when it comes to disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly, it doesn’t get easier than the AR-15. 

In fact, when Armalite began designing the AR-15 in the 1950’s, part of the goal was to design a dependable, lightweight rifle that could be cleaned anywhere and in a hurry. And that’s exactly what they got in the now world-renowned AR-15 rifle. 

Whether your AR is made by S&W, Wilson Combat, Rock River Arms, Ruger, Sig, Springfield, or any other manufacturer, they all break down in a very similar manner. 

Here are some simple, step-by-step instructions for disassembling and cleaning your AR rifle. 

  1. Of course, first ensure an empty chamber 
  2. Pull back on charging handle and lock back with bolt hold open lever 
  3. Field strip rifle first using pin tool. Pull both front and back takedown pins 
  4. Remove buffer and buffer spring 
  5. Disassemble bolt carrier assembly: firing pin retainer, firing pin itself, bolt cam pin, remove bolt, remove extractor pin, then the extractor itself. 
  6. Soak bolt carrier assembly parts in cleaning solvent 
  7. Set up rifle vise for easier cleaning 
  8. Put the buffer and buffer spring back into place 
  9. Clean chamber and locking lugs with brush 
  10. Run a cleaning rod down the bore with a .22 caliber brush 
  11. Lube bore mop and run down the bore
  12. Clean/wipe up bolt carrier parts 
  13. Clean inside of gas key 
  14. Reassemble bolt carrier group – lightly oil/lube everything 
  15. Stagger gas ring gaps 60 degrees
  16. Ensure the extractor is at 11 o’clock position 
  17. Be sure to lube the hammer and sear pivot springs, safety lever, bolt catch, rear and front pivot pins
  18. Actuate the action to distribute oil 

And that’s it! I know it seems like a lot of steps but it’s really very simple, especially after you’ve done it a few times. 


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