How to Clean AR15: 9 Step-by-Step Instruction

how to clean ar15

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The AR15 is an amazing hunting weapon and an intimidating-looking rifle. That intimidation factor can carry over into disassembly and cleaning, but don't put off this crucial part of owning an AR15. It's an honor to own one of the finest guns ever designed, and keeping it in great shape so you can pass it on to your children requires knowing how to clean an AR15.

Why Choose an AR15?

ar15 in a case

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The AR15 has gotten a lot of bad press lately, but much of that bad press is based on erroneous and even misleading information. Let's get a bit of that out of the way and erase any latent guilt you might be feeling about owning (or considering) this fine rifle.

Is It an Assault Rifle?

Is It all About Looks?

Do I Really Have to Know How to Clean an AR15?

If you're just getting into the world of rifles, or if you're considering an AR15, please know that cleaning your rifle is absolutely crucial. It's also not something to be afraid of. If you get this rifle and don't clean it, though, here's what could happen:

It Won't Work When You Need It

You May Rust Out the Bore

Your Gun Will Fail

How Often to Clean

This is a personal question no one can answer for you. Some people field strip and thoroughly clean their rifle after every shooting session. Others simply wipe it down and clean it thoroughly only after the season is over. Some clean their rifles only if they've been out in particularly bad weather. Some never clean them at all.

We recommend the following as a minimum cleaning routine for a hunting rifle:

  • Once before the season begins
  • Once in the middle of the season, if using regularly
  • Once at the end before storage
  • Any time the gun has gotten wet

If you use your AR15 all year round, then we recommend cleaning it once a quarter and any time it gets wet.

How to Clean an AR15

1. Get the Right Tools


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You can buy pre-made gun cleaning kits that have everything you need, and those are completely fine. As you become familiar with your gun and the cleaning process, you'll almost certainly come to have your own preferences and can start laying in supplies of your favorite products.

For this tutorial on how to clean an AR15, we've used ProSmith and Tetra products. These are our personal favorites; but there are plenty of other worthy options. Here's what we used:

  • Tetra action blaster
  • Nylon gun brush
  • ProSmith tapered-tip swabs
  • Cleaning patches
  • Tetra copper solvent
  • ProSmith brass jag
  • Gun spray lubricant
  • Steel or bronze gun brush
  • Gun grease
  • Compressed air
  • Clean rags
  • Pipe cleaners

2. Unload and Clear

Never clean your gun without unloading and clearing it. If you know anything about guns, you know this already. If you know anything about guns, you also know you can never repeat the safety mantras too often.

3. Break Down the Gun

Tactical Atlas AR-15 M4 M16 Gun Cleaning Mat

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Breaking down an AR15 is one of the more intimidating aspects of ownership, but the fastest way to get comfortable at breaking it down is to practice, practice, practice. If you have an owner's manual, consult it to help you with the process. If you need a new manual, you can get one online.

Briefly, here's what you should do to get your gun ready to clean:

  1. Separate the upper receiver group from the lower
  2. Remove the bolt carrier group
  3. Remove the firing pin, bolt, and bolt cam pin to disassemble the bolt carrier group
  4. Remove extractor pin
  5. Remove extractor
  6. Remove handguards
  7. Remove the buffer assembly and spring from the lower receiver

4. Clean the Chamber and Receiver

Begin With the Chamber

Clean the Receiver

Return to the Chamber


5. Cleaning the Bore

Wipe the Bore

Brush the Bore

Neutralize the Solvent

Final Cleaning


6. Cleaning the Extras

This part is fairly easy. To clean your bolt cam pin, bolt carrier, firing pin, and retaining pin, simply spray them with action blaster and wipe them clean. Give them a little spray with lubricant to keep them working well.

The Possible Exception: Your Bolt

Your bolt may need some special attention. If it does, spray it down carefully with action blaster and let it sit for 10 minutes while it works. Then use a steel or bronze brush to scrub the outside. You may need to repeat this process a few times.

To get the inside, use your taper swabs and some pipe cleaners until the swabs come out clean. Once they do, apply a little lubricant and polish it into the surface of the bolt to protect it.

7. The Lower Receiver

Use compressed air to spray out the inside of your lower receiver and get rid of any loose debris. Use the lubricating gun spray and tapered swabs to carefully wipe the action and the outside of the lower receiver, the buffer assembly, and the recoil springs.

8. Magazines and Handguards

Many people learning how to clean an AR15 neglect these two parts of their weapon. That's understandable, and the handguardsreally only need a wipe-down most of the time; though it's important to check.

But the magazine is essential. Learning how to clean an AR15 magazine will prevent auto-loading malfunctions; a dirty magazine is the leading cause of these malfunctions.

Disassemble the Magazine

Spray and Wipe

Ar-15 Disassembly, Cleaning, Lubrication & Reassembly Gun-Guide

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9. Wipe It All Down

Your final step in learning how to clean an AR15 is understanding that your own handprints contain salts and other agents that can damage your gun over time. Once you're finished cleaning and lubricating the individual parts of your gun, wash your hands and thoroughly dry them.

When you return, carefully wipe down each part as you reassemble and then wipe down the fully reassembled gun before putting it away.


When you've finished cleaning your rifle, always end with a function check to make sure you've put it back together properly and everything is working correctly. Pull the bolt and release it. Activate the safety and try to squeeze the trigger. If the safety works, you're golden on that point. Then disengage the safety and try again. The hammer should fall this time, and if it does, you've finished cleaning and reassembling your gun and know everything there is to know about how to clean an AR15.

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