Educational Zone #49 – Cleaning & Lubricating an AR15 Rifle

Today we will be looking at how to clean and lubricate an AR15 rifle or carbine.

Once again, let me begin by explaining that this is one way of doing this job. It is not the only way, just one way. It is the way I have cleaned them since 1971, when I got my first variant at Fort Polk. (BTW, that particular one was especially nice, as it had the lovely “Third” safety setting. )

We went to the range this morning and ran about 100 rounds of Wolf 5.56 ammo through my rifle. This particular rifle is a DPMS.

I start by making sure that the magazine is removed and weapon is unloaded.


I then push in the take-down pin.


And open the action.


I then pull the charging handle to the rear and remove the bolt carrier.


Then the charging handle can be removed.


The cotter pin is removed from the bolt carrier.

I use a small Allen wrench to help grab it and remove it.


Then the firing pin will drop free.


Then you can push the bolt to the rear of the bolt carrier and rotate the bolt cam pin.


This will allow the removal of the bolt cam pin.


Bolt cam pin out.


Then the bolt can be removed from the carrier.

This is as far as I feel is usually necessary for normal cleaning. 

Further take-down instructions can be found on, an excellent site. 


I then spray all parts with a solvent and let them soak while I clean them.


Some parts, like the firing pin can simply be wiped off and they are clean.


Others, like the bolt, must be scrubbed.

I usually find some carbon deposited on the rear of the bolt.

This can be removed with a brass or bronze brush.


If that doesn’t work, I use a Very Fine wire wheel to get it clean.


Be sure to use an old toothbrush and solvent to clean the bolt face and clean under the extractor.


Blow it clean and dry with compressed air.


The bolt carrier can be cleaned by spraying a lot of solvent into it…


…and then blowing it completely dry with compressed air.


Then wipe it clean.


Also wipe down the bolt cam pin, cotter pin, and firing pin.

To clean the barrel, please refer to my earlier post.


The only other requirement for this weapon is to clean the chamber and locking lug recesses.

I do this with a chamber brush.


Then I spray solvent liberally into the area to wash out any crud, and scrub with a toothbrush.


Then flush out with more solvent.


I then blow it completely dry with compressed air until dry. 

Then patch the barrel and finish cleaning.


As we reassemble, we will lubricate the weapon.

A note: At Thunder Ranch, during the Urban Rifle Course, Clint Smith noted that whenever he sees a failure of an AR, it is almost always a lack of lubrication.

He stated that folks can get by with too little lubrication at home if they don’t shoot too much, but when running the weapon hard, maybe 1,000 rounds in a few days, you will see failures due to lack of lubrication.

I start by applying a good quality gun oil to the bolt gas rings…


…and the bolt body.


Then apply lubricant to the wear points of the bolt carrier.


All of them.


Then replace the bolt in the bolt carrier and line up the hole for the bolt cam pin. 

Lubricate and then replace the bolt cam pin and rotate 1/4 turn.


Then pull the bolt forward.


Insert the firing pin.


Then insert the cotter pin.


Lubricate the charging handle…


…and place in the rifle.


Then insert the bolt carrier…


…and push completely forward.


Lightly lubricate the internal firing system.


Then close the action and replace the take-down pin.


I then work the action a few times to spread the lubrication evenly.


Close the dust cover.


And wipe down the exterior of the rifle.


This is my method for cleaning after every shooting session. More detailed cleaning can be done every so often, such as removing and cleaning the extractor and removing and cleaning the buffer tube, but these types of detail are not required each time you shoot.

Take care of your rifle and it will take care of you.

7 Comments on Educational Zone #49 – Cleaning & Lubricating an AR15 Rifle

  1. John Thompson // December 15, 2015 at 7:42 pm // Reply

    i was at Polk in 71 for basic and first AT class. Basic was May 6 to July 9 which includes reception center time. We started wheel vehicle mechanics class on July 23 until weekend after labor day. Was wondering you name and other info to see if we were there at the same time

  2. Raymond Coates // May 17, 2016 at 7:56 am // Reply

    Thanks for the refresher course. I last used am M-16 back in 1969. I was stationed in Danang, RVN on an LCU 1475 I just picked up my new AR-15 Last month.

  3. This is a major fail from the start. The pin that retains the firing pin is NOT a “cotter” pin and to use one will be a huge mistake.

  4. When I went thru my basic training at Ft.Jackson in 76 it was referred to as a cotter pin. I don’t believe the instructions given said to use any ol cotter pin only to replace what was removed

  5. Earl Cornelius // January 2, 2017 at 4:51 pm // Reply

    Thanks for info, presented well, used M16 in usaf in the 1960’s. I am happy to get your update!

  6. Annoyed with Trolls // January 19, 2017 at 2:04 pm // Reply

    Great, succinct summary – pictures and description made it easy to follow. Thanks for posting it, I’m sure most of us really appreciate the work you put into it and for “spreading the love”.

    Regarding “cotter pin boy” from Oct 9 – ignore that idiot. We all knew what you meant. Most of us don’t need to see the “Do Not Eat” writing on silica packets included with new shoes to know that we shouldn’t eat them. Similarly, most of us know to use the correct part when maintaining a firearm. Don’t know who pooped on his pancakes, but dude needs to lighten up.

  7. Thanks man, it was very handy and easy to follow, I just bought a AR15 and put about 400 rounds through it but I was a little worried about breaking it down. This really helped me. And you mean to tell me you can’t eat those silica packets

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