How I Clean MY AR-15


Bartholomew Roberts
December 9, 2004, 09:40 AM
I keep seeing these threads where people are spending what I would consider to be a lot of time on cleaning the AR15. So I decided to share my particular method and hope others will share their methods as well. Perhaps between all of us, we can all learn a little (either ways to save time or things we need to add to our cleaning routine).

My detail clean takes about 30 minutes. First I separate the upper, lower, charging handle and bolt carrier group. I take the bolt carrier group and separate it into the bolt, bolt carrier, cam pin, firing pin, and firing pin retaining pin.

The bolt, cam pin and firing pin go into a jar of Carbon Cutter (can also use mineral spirits). I wet a patch down with carbon cutter and push it through the bore of the rifle. I use the same patch after it goes through the bore to wipe down the exterior of the bolt carrier, the upper receiver, and the charging handle. Using a toothbrush handle and wet patch, wipe out the chromed interior of the bolt carrier, wipe out again with dry patch.

Using another patch of carbon cutter and a chamber brush, I clean the chamber and lugs. I also use toothbrushes and q-tips on this area. This is one of the few critical areas on an AR for cleanliness.

I take the lower and inspect it for any debris/spent primers. I flip it over upside down and shake it until any big chunks fall out. I also examine the individual parts for wear and tear; but do not disassemble it. I now wait about ten minutes (start another gun, inspect parts for cracks or breakage, watch TV).

Remove the bolt, cam pin and firing pin from the Carbon Cutter and wipe them down with an old t-shirt. Run some dry patches through the bore until you have removed any traces of Carbon Cutter. Wipe down the upper and charging handle with t-shirt and wipe down chamber lugs. When everything is dry, wet a patch with CLP. Give everything a protective coat of CLP and then wipe off excess. No CLP should be visible to the naked eye.

I run a .243 boresnake with CLP on the brush through the bore. One or two passes max. Using one or two drops of CLP (enough to give a visible sheen of CLP), lube the bolt and the shaft of the cam pin. Shoot some 725 degreaser into the gas key. Run a pipe cleaner through and then add a tiny drop of CLP.

Reassemble the bolt carrier group. Using a q-tip moistened with CLP, apply a visible sheen of CLP to the four rails of the bolt carrier. Reassemble and function check rifle.

My regular clean is similar, except I don't use the Carbon Cutter. I break down the gun and simply wipe off the excess grime with a t-shirt, clean the chamber with brush, dry-patches and q-tips. I bore snake the bore and reapply lube to the bolt and bolt carrier rails and I am good to go.

Some notes on the cleaning products:

I mentioned Carbon Cutter because I think it is the best product for this. You can substitute mineral spirits for this; but you'll need a lot more elbow grease and use it in a well-ventilated space.

725 Degreaser is like an eco-friendly Gun Scrubber alternative that can be used in a closed room. Smells like citrus. You can use either Gun Scribber or solvents to replace it if you like.

CLP: I use SLIP 2000 Gun Lubricant. I have used FP10 and Breakfree in the past and while all three work well, I think SLIP 2000 is clearly the best. If you use Breakfree you'll need to detail clean a bit more often (every 1k-2k rounds) as Breakfree gunks up faster than FP10 or SLIP2000.

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December 9, 2004, 09:54 AM
Standard cleaning.

Field strip
Clean barrel with Hoppes or whatever.
Clean chamber with a .45 nylon brush.
Clean exterior of bolt group.
Clean gas key or whatever that little gas tube is called with pipe cleaner.
Use a Q-Tip to clean bolt nooks and crannies without a bolt breakdown.
Wipe everything and barrel down.

Use some kind of lubrication on all metal and barrel.
Wipe all lubricated parts with a dry cloth/patch.

Reassemble. 20 minutes or so.

I will strip the bolt every once in a blue moon not very often at all and I have never had a problem.


December 9, 2004, 10:21 AM
I used to clean it the long way.


1. Break apart the upper lower.
2. Run some patches with CLP through the bore. Leave it sloppy on the inside.
3. Take CLP in a can, spray, literally hose down the inside of the lower. Flip upside down let sit on a paint rag. Hose again through the trigger hole.
4. Wipe down the bolt carrier group with CLP soaked paint rags, make sure I got all the gunk out of the bolt, especially around the face and extractor.
5. Wipe down the charging handle, especially where the gas tube goes.
6. Flip the upper upside down, spray/drop CLP into the top if the upper, around the gas tube. Wipe it down with a dry paint rag. Usually several times.
Leave everything sit. Go watch TV, browse THR, whatever.

7. Come back, wipe everything down, leaving the guts dry, but not too dry. Reassemble.

Takes me about 15 minutes, it's usually not real clean once I'm done.
I never have cleaned the inside of the gas tube. I also make sure the chamber and the bore are as dry as I can get them, inside the upper receiver too I try to make sure there aren't any pools of CLP that collected anywhere. And I make sure there isn't any noticeable CLP anywhere inside the upper receiver.

The lower is usually wet. But not soaking. Just a slight sheen to some of the parts. I make sure to wipe the hammer off too.

That's about it. Mine is a RRA Car-4. I've got maybe 7,000 rounds through it now. I've had jams, but it's usually only specific brands of soft point. HP and FMJ no problems whatsoever.

December 9, 2004, 10:23 AM
30 minutes?? 20 minutes?? I should get you guys to come over and clean my guns. :p

Yowza, I must be inadequate. The most it takes me to clean almost ANY gun...even a blackpowder cartridge about 10 minutes. 15 minutes if after a long match. It's probably because I get to shoot only 1 or sometimes 2X per month. And I usually have a minimum of 3 guns and sometimes as many as 5 or 6 to clean. I can't afford that kinda time...3 kids and all.

That's an awesome routine, though...good guidelines.

December 9, 2004, 11:18 AM
Does swabbing the bore with a couple of passes of CLP enough to clean all the copper from it?

December 9, 2004, 11:27 AM
Too many variables to say. If it's chrome it'll clean a whole lot faster.

Personally I have never been big on cleaning a bore to pristine conditions. You can over clean them you know, then you're just putting excessive wear on the bore. Plus there is this theory that you fill in the imperfections in the bore with that extra junk. Especially a regular barrel.

Mine personally I just run a couple wet patches, then a couple dry patches. The wet are the ones that really clean. The dry ones just sop up whatever CLP was left.

I usually quit once I'm only pulling a minor amount of soot out of the grooves. Then I depend on CLP to provide protection against corrosion for anything else that's left in there.

December 9, 2004, 11:56 AM
I, however, actually like to clean the guns. I pop in a movie or something settle in with a bunch of them and go to town. A Bond movie or war movie while cleaning the guns is just about a rousing good time for me.

December 9, 2004, 11:59 AM

I'm disappointed. No Spaghetti Westerns?

Bartholomew Roberts
December 9, 2004, 12:33 PM
Does swabbing the bore with a couple of passes of CLP enough to clean all the copper from it?

CLP does nothing to address copper fouling. It only removes powder residue and not even all of that.

Both my detail clean and my regular cleaning are based around my expectations of 1-2 MOA accuracy from my chrome-lined barrel. If you have a match-barreled AR and expect sub-MOA performance from it, the bore may need more attention than I routinely give it.

December 9, 2004, 12:38 PM
The only thing I'd add to all this is that I lightly grease the recoil spring and that big honking, coppery colored thingy it hooks up to (sorry but I don't know the nomenclature of all the parts in an AR).

I also lightly apply a CLP/Grease mixture with a q-tip to the bolt carrier rails in the upper.

Other than that I pretty much do what Bart related that he does.

December 9, 2004, 12:59 PM

I'm disappointed. No Spaghetti Westerns?

Depends on the guns in questions. SAA's and Lever guns get westerns.

Garands, 1911s, M1 Carbines etc. get WWII movies.

The rest get Bond or modern action flicks.

December 9, 2004, 01:00 PM
"that big honking, coppery colored thingy it hooks up to"

That would be the Buffer Assembly :)

December 9, 2004, 01:12 PM
Wow, you guys make this really hard on yourselfs.

Take apart weapon
Put all parts in a bucket of VERY VERY hot soapy water
Let set for 10 to 15 min
Pull each part out clean and dry and then let all parts air dry for 5 min
After all parts have been cleaned and dryed apply light coat of CLP/Oil to all surfaces to exclude plastic parts, let set for 5 min
Then dry all parts and reapply a light coat of CLP/Oil to all moveing parts

Of course this is if you want your weapon inspection ready, white gloves and all. :D

Edit: I too like to put in a good movie when i'm takeing care of the weapons.

Sleeping Dog
December 9, 2004, 03:18 PM
Break it open, remove bolt carrier/bolt.

CLP on a patch through the barrel, then a dry patch.

Shake the carrier. If the firing pin sounds real loose, it's good to go, otherwise strip and clean.

Spritz the trigger part innards with brake cleaner. Then spray clp.

Close it up, throw it in the safe.

15 minutes, max.


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