How to Clean AR15 Rifles: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide

Clean AR15 Rifles

When it comes to firearm maintenance, one cannot overstate the importance of cleaning your AR15 rifle. Regular cleaning not only ensures the longevity of your firearm but also guarantees its optimal performance. In this guide, we will take you through the entire process of cleaning your AR-15, providing you with valuable insights, necessary tools, and safety protocols. Whether you’re an experienced gun owner or a novice, maintaining your AR-15 is a fundamental responsibility for every firearm enthusiast.

Essential AR-15 Cleaning Tools and Supplies

AR 15 Cleaning Kit

Before embarking on the cleaning journey, it’s imperative to assemble the essential tools and supplies needed for a thorough and effective cleaning job. Here’s what you’ll require:

Bore Snake

A Bore Snake is a modern alternative to traditional cleaning rods for bore cleaning. Real Avid’s Bore Snakes are highly recommended for this purpose.

Chamber Brush

To ensure a pristine chamber, a chamber brush is essential for removing carbon deposits effectively.

Cleaning Picks/Hooks

These inexpensive plastic tools are invaluable for scraping away carbon deposits from tight spaces.

Cleaning Mat

A soft cleaning mat not only protects your workspace but also keeps your AR-15 components organized and safe from damage.


Consider using a versatile CLP (Cleaner, Lubricant, Protectant) like G96 for a simplified cleaning process. Alternatively, you can opt for a solvent like Hoppe’s No 9 and a lubricant/protectant like Rem-Oil Spray or Wipes for a more comprehensive approach.

Rags/Paper Towels/Cotton Swabs/Pipe Cleaners

These are necessary for wiping down components, but be cautious not to use grippy towels that can catch metal shavings.

Optional/Quality of Life Tools

Vise and Bench Block: These provide stability and support when disassembling and reassembling your AR-15.
Special Chamber Swabs: Useful for thorough cleaning of the chamber.
Small Hammer: This can be handy for dislodging stubborn parts during cleaning.
Snap Caps: Used for function testing to ensure your AR-15 is working correctly after cleaning.

Safety Protocols for Handling Firearms

ar15 cleaning

Safety should be paramount when handling firearms. Here’s a concise guide to safety protocols that should be followed without compromise:

Clear the Firearm

Always ensure that the firearm is unloaded and safe to handle. Safety is non-negotiable.

Point the Gun Safely

Never let the firearm aim at anything or anyone that could be harmed in case of an accidental discharge.

Remove the Magazine

Even if you’re confident it’s empty, always take out the magazine and visually check both the magazine and the chamber for any rounds.

Inspect the Chamber

To be extra cautious, visually inspect the chamber and physically check it with your finger to ensure there are no rounds present.

By following these safety protocols, you can significantly reduce the risk of accidents when handling your AR-15.

Preparing Your AR-15 and Cleaning Area


Creating a safe and efficient workspace is paramount for cleaning your AR-15. Here’s a step-by-step approach to preparing your cleaning area:

Select a Spacious Workspace

Choose a spacious table or bench that can accommodate your rifle and cleaning supplies. Organization is key to a successful cleaning session.

Use a Dedicated Gun Mat

Lay down a dedicated gun mat on your workspace. This not only provides stability but also protects the surface, making it ideal for disassembling and cleaning your AR-15.

Rifle Clearance Steps
  • Ensure the gun barrel is pointed away from you and in a safe direction.
  • Eject the magazine to guarantee the rifle is completely unloaded.
  • Engage the safety mechanism on the rifle to prevent accidental discharges.
  • Lock the bolt in the rearward position to access the chamber.
  • Visually inspect the chamber and remove any rounds if present.
  • Release the bolt, allowing it to return to its normal position, ensuring your AR-15 is fully cleared and safe for maintenance.
  • To minimize any risk of accidental loading or discharge, keep ammunition well away from your cleaning area. Additionally, protect your skin by wearing latex gloves to maintain a clean and hygienic environment for the task at hand.

Separating the Upper and Lower Receivers of Your AR15 Rifle

AR15 Upper and Lower Take Apart

Separating the upper and lower receivers is a crucial step in AR-15 maintenance. Here’s how to do it safely and effectively:

Ensure Unloaded Firearm

Before anything else, ensure your AR-15 is unloaded by releasing the bolt and hammer confirming the rifle is in a safe condition.

Remove Takedown Pins

There are two takedown pins – the front and rear pins. Please start with the rear takedown pin, pushing it out to allow the upper receiver to pivot upwards. This is a straightforward step.

Handling Tight Pins

In some cases, the takedown pins can be snug. Avoid forcing them; instead, use a punch, preferably a nylon or plastic one, to gently tap them out. This ensures you don’t scratch the rifle’s finish, maintaining both functionality and aesthetics.

Dismantling the Charging Handle and Bolt Carrier Group is a meticulous process that plays a pivotal role in maintaining your rifle’s performance. Let’s walk through it:

Dismantling the Charging Handle and Bolt Carrier Group

Bolt Carrier Group ar 15

Dismantling the charging handle and bolt carrier group is a meticulous process that plays a pivotal role in maintaining your rifle’s performance. Let’s walk through it:

 Handle with Care

Handle the upper receiver and bolt carrier group with care, as the bolt carrier group is delicate, and mishandling can lead to damage.

Disassemble the Bolt Carrier Group
  • Start by removing the retaining pin, which secures the firing pin in place. This pin is typically located on the side of the bolt carrier group.
  • Extract the firing pin from the bolt carrier group with a delicate touch to ensure the components remain undamaged.
  • Tackle the bolt cam pin situated at the top of the bolt carrier group. Rotate it 90 degrees before lifting it out.
  • The final step involves removing the bolt from the bolt carrier group and granting access to individual components for a comprehensive cleaning and inspection.
  • During this disassembly process, it’s crucial to track each component meticulously to ensure correct reassembly.

Bolt Carrier Maintenance: Keeping It Clean

Bolt Carrier ar 15

Cleaning the bolt carrier is essential for firearm maintenance. It ensures proper function and extends the firearm’s lifespan. Here’s how to keep your bolt carrier in top shape:

Cleaning the Bolt Carrier

Start by cleaning the bolt carrier itself. This foundational step is essential for reliable performance and the longevity of your firearm.

Disassemble for Thorough Cleaning

Consider disassembling the bolt carrier for a more thorough cleaning. This practice eliminates carbon buildup and allows for careful inspection.

Disassemble the Extractor

Carefully remove the extractor from the bolt carrier. This step is crucial for a comprehensive cleaning and examination of the components.

Extractor Pin Removal

Press on the extractor while using a small screwdriver or the firing pin to push the extractor pin out of its small hole. Precision is key here.

Handle Small Springs with Care

Throughout the disassembly process, be cautious not to lose the small spring attached to the extractor. Despite its size, this small spring is a critical component that requires careful handling.

Inspection and Cleaning

Meticulously inspect each part of the bolt carrier for carbon buildup or damage. After inspection, use a solvent-soaked rag to clean every component thoroughly.


Before reassembly, ensure that you lubricate each component with gun oil. This step is vital to ensure smooth operation and minimize wear and tear, a fundamental part of firearm maintenance.

Don’t focus solely on the bolt carrier; also, emphasize cleaning and lubricating the charging handle, another crucial component that should be considered.

Upper Receiver and Barrel Maintenance: Thorough Cleaning

AR15 Upper Receiver

Maintaining the upper receiver and barrel of your firearm is crucial for ensuring peak performance and a long lifespan. Here’s how to thoroughly clean them:

Solvent Cleaning

Kick things off with solvent cleaning. Use a solvent-soaked cloth to meticulously wipe down the upper receiver, effectively removing any grease and accumulated dirt. This step ensures that the components are clean and ready for action.

Cleaning the Gas Tube

Please exercise caution when cleaning the gas tube, as it is a critical component in the firearm’s operation. A gentle touch and careful cleaning are essential.

Eliminate Carbon Buildup

Carbon buildup can be an issue. Use a cleaning brush and solvent to effectively eliminate excessive carbon buildup, keeping the upper receiver and barrel in pristine condition.

Cleaning the Bore

The bore of the barrel is a crucial area that requires attention. Use a bore guide, cleaning rod, and a solvent-soaked patch or cloth to clean the inside of the barrel thoroughly. This ensures it remains free from debris and residue, maintaining accuracy and reliability.

Chamber and Barrel Extension

The chamber and barrel extension are other critical areas prone to carbon and debris accumulation. To address this, use a solvent-soaked cloth or brush to clean them, leaving no room for any hindrances.


As the final step, apply gun oil to both the inside and outside of the barrel and upper receiver. This provides much-needed lubrication and protection against corrosion and wear.

Cleaning the Lower Receiver

Lower Receiver ar 15

Cleaning the lower receiver is a meticulous task that plays a critical role in firearm maintenance. Here’s how to do it:

Remove Excess Grime

Start by using a solvent-soaked rag to remove any excess grime from the lower receiver. This foundational step ensures that the lower receiver is clean and ready for further inspection and maintenance.

Clean the Magazine Well

The magazine well is a spot that often gathers dirt and carbon buildup. Ensure you clean it thoroughly to maintain proper magazine function, which is crucial for smooth and reliable magazine changes.

Verify Trigger Mechanism Components

Next, verify the trigger mechanism components, including springs, keepers, and pins, to ensure they are securely in place. This step is crucial for firearm safety and performance.

Clean the Trigger Mechanism

Cleaning the trigger mechanism is a detailed process. Remove any dirt and excess lubricant, paying particular attention to the trigger well. A clean and well-maintained trigger mechanism is vital for accuracy and reliability.

Inspect the Safety Mechanism

Inspect the rifle’s safety mechanism, making sure it functions correctly. Remove any debris that may impede its operation. Safety is paramount, and there should be no compromises.

Magazine Release

Clean and lubricate the magazine release to prevent malfunctions and ensure smooth operation, which is crucial for efficient magazine changes.

Buffer Maintenance

Inspect and clean the buffer, its spring, and the inside of the buffer tube. If necessary, remove and maintain these components correctly. A well-maintained buffer is essential for managing recoil and overall firearm performance.

Reassembly Process

AR-15 review

The reassembly process is the final step in cleaning your AR-15. Here’s how to complete it effectively:

Charging Handle and Bolt Carrier Group

Begin by correctly placing the charging handle and bolt carrier group back into the upper receiver. Ensure that the bolt carrier is fully seated and the bolt action is in the battery position. This sets the foundation for the rifle’s functionality.

Reattach the Upper and Lower Receiver

Reattach the upper and lower receiver of the firearm. Proper alignment is key, and you must ensure that everything fits snugly and securely.

Secure with Takedown Pins

Use the rear and front takedown pins to secure the upper and lower receiver in place. This not only holds the rifle together but also ensures a secure and functional assembly. It’s the moment when the two halves become a whole.

Final Wipe Down

Before considering the reassembly complete, give the fully assembled rifle a final wipe-down. This helps remove any excess lubricant and enhances the rifle’s appearance. It also prevents over-lubrication, which can affect the firearm’s performance.

Testing your AR-15

ar 15 rifle shooting

After reassembly, it’s essential to conduct a comprehensive function test to ensure that your AR-15 operates as it should:

Safety Testing

Ensure that the safety selector can rotate to all positions, allowing for safe handling and firing.

Trigger Testing

Check the trigger by pulling it while the safety is engaged to confirm that it doesn’t release the hammer.

Charging Handle Testing

Verify the charging handle’s smooth operation, making sure it cycles effortlessly.

Bolt Carrier Function

Ensure that the bolt carrier returns to the battery position when the charging handle is released. This indicates proper cycling and that the rifle is ready for action.

Dry Firing

Safely dry-fire the rifle without live ammunition to test the trigger’s function and confirm that the hammer falls correctly. This step ensures that the firing mechanism is in working order.

Trigger Reset

Test the trigger reset by holding it to the rear and rechambering the rifle. This is essential for rapid and accurate follow-up shots.

After successfully completing these tests, you can be confident that your AR-15 is in top shape, both in terms of performance and safety.


Properly cleaning your AR-15 is fundamental for maintaining its performance and ensuring its longevity. By following the safety protocols and step-by-step cleaning instructions outlined in this guide, you can rest assured that your firearm is always ready for action. A well-maintained AR-15 not only performs better but is also safer to use, making it a responsible choice for every firearm enthusiast.

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