AR-15 cleaning - how often?


max popenker
April 22, 2003, 03:23 AM

in one private conversation i was told that the AR-15 (Colt Match Target HBAR, in particular) requires good clearing every 500 or so rounds, or othervise jams begin to occur.

I want to know if it is a common case, and how long an AR15 rifle will fire good and/or NATO-milsurp ammo before it will start to jam due to the fouling.

for example, HK G36 is advertised as being capable to fire 5 000 rounds w/o any cleaning, and i suppose that the G.I. AK-74 will double this number (but accuracy will degrade, of course).

so - what with the AR-15 / M16?

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Bottom Gun
April 22, 2003, 10:35 AM
Since the AR-15 exhausts hot gas and carbon into the breech, it should be cleaned each time it's used.
I've shot several thousand rounds through them in the past before cleaning, but I was shooting my handloads with Dupont powder. I don't know if I could get away with that using dirtier ammo.

April 22, 2003, 10:42 AM
I clean after every outing.

April 22, 2003, 10:53 AM
I don't know as i don't make it a habit to shoot my firearms until they jam and then clean. My cleaning ritual for my AR is to use a little clp on a toothbrush and hit the inside of the upper, use a chamber brush on the extension and boresnake the barrel. I then tear down the bolt and carrier use the toothbrush on them, wipe them down with a paper towel to get the excess and reassemble. total time <15min.

I know of cases where guys have shot a couple of thousand rounds in heavy combat without a problem. They obviously weren't taking time to clean.

Navy joe
April 22, 2003, 11:25 AM
I heavily clean about every 500 rounds, no carbon whatsoever in there. Other than that I leave it be. I have shot 2500 rounds of normal ammo with no cleaning and no jams, I also did a Wolf reliability test and shot 1500 rounds over 3 months without cleaning to see how long it would eat crap ammo without choking. Jammed really good when it did, but fine until then. The only things I clean right away and every time are corrosive ammo guns.

April 22, 2003, 11:38 AM
I'm sure a properly lubricated AR could go many rounds without needing a serious cleaning.

However, I clean pretty well after every range session. I take the bolt and carrier out, and clean the upper receiver, then clean the bore and chamber. I'll leave the bolt and carrier assembled and clean it externally. I'll detail strip and throughly clean the bolt and carrier assy after about 1000 rounds. The barrel and chamber get cleaned every time it gets a day at the range.

Remember, your AR is YOURS. YOU spent the money for it, so YOU decide how to take care of it. Remember, with any mechanical device, maintenance is your friend, and can help ensure reliable functioning. Unless you just CAN'T take the time to clean your rifle, you should clean it every time you take it out and shoot it.

April 22, 2003, 11:56 AM
First of all, if you are concerned about it, you need to take out your AR and your ammo, and find out for yourself. Don't buy into anything you read on the internet. Secondly, like most of the others, I have never done a torture test on my ARs just to see how long I can continue to shoot them until they fail. I have fired several hundred rounds in a days time and never had a problem. I recentely attended the Gunsite carbine class and was told by an instructor that you could keep an AR running almost indefinitely if you kept oil on the bolt. When you open the dust cover, there are three holes on the side of the bolt carrier. If you keep adding oil to those holes, it will keep running. The course was a five day course and I ended up firing somewhere around 1800 rounds of ammo. I didn't test out the instructors theory. I cleaned my rifle every night. But several guys went though the whole course and never cleaned. Every morning they squirted some oil in those three holes and that was it. I know I spoke to one guy that did that and he never had a single malfunction thoughout the course.

To answer your question, I don't think there is a magic number where the rifle will start to malfunction. I also don't think it is possible to come up with such a number because there are many other factors involved. What ammo are we using, under what conditions are we using it, how was the gun lubed, if it starts to jam and we add oil but dont' clean does that count .................? I have personally fired in excess of 500 rounds without any problems at all. In summary, I don't think it is an issue.

April 22, 2003, 12:53 PM
I'm sure a properly lubricated AR could go many rounds without needing a serious cleaning.

Say, about, 10,000?

10,000 round torture test (

Granted, they did a quick cleaning every 1000 rounds, but it's still an impressive test.

April 22, 2003, 01:14 PM
That was a very interesting article. In terms of this thread, I think it only tells us that the rifle can go for 1000 rounds without malfunctions, I wish they would have just done a pure torture test and fired until it wouldn't run anymore then lubed the bolt and kept going. I feel certain they could have easily gone several thousand rounds and had the rifle still functioning. But there was a lot of other ineteresting information. Like the fact that all the parts lasted for 10,000 rounds. And the barrel lasted for 9000 rounds. And the accuracy was quite good and as mentioned, could possibly have been better with more magnification. Most people will never fire their AR15 this much over the life of the rifle. I am kind of concerned about it however because one of my ARs is probably half way to the 10k mark and I have only owned it about six months.
Thank you, I will pass that link along.

El Tejon
April 22, 2003, 01:34 PM
Max, as long as you keep an AR "medium wet", it will keep running for several thousand rounds. Depending on ammo, accuracy will begin, enough to show a difference, to be impacted at around 500. The greater the distance, the more it shows.

At API 223 or UR or such courses, it will not matter as long as it is lubed. I'm like you and clean after shooting.

April 22, 2003, 11:59 PM
Speaking of lube, what is a good lube for the AR. I'll be buying my first at the end of this month.

Badger Arms
April 23, 2003, 12:13 AM
Break-Free is the best all-around lube for the AR-15. It's what the Military uses.

As for how often you should clean it... Studies in the 60's indicated that the rifle would operate fine with any ammo for about 1000 rounds and then stopages began to happen. Even the best of ammo won't go beyond about 2000 rounds before the likelyhood of stoppages takes an exponential jump. Have you ever looked at the caked-on crap on the AR-15 after you've shot a couple of hundred rounds? The HK G-36 will simply run forever although it's suggested you clean it more often. The AK will also run forever without cleaning.

Navy joe
April 23, 2003, 12:13 AM
Good lube? I've used CLP or VV-L-800 in mine for years with no problems.

El Tejon
April 23, 2003, 08:35 AM
Lube? Depends on what I'm doing. I like Kellube for class (thick stuff, doesn't burn off, use for 1911s as well) and either SLI or CLP otherwise.

April 23, 2003, 10:18 AM
i bore snake before leaving the session,get home and field strip and use a full can of carb cleaner then lube.

Kentucky Rifle
April 24, 2003, 03:51 PM
I sure clean my Bushie after every trip. After, of course, I check myself for ticks.<shudder~~>

KR <shudder again>

April 24, 2003, 06:16 PM
AR-15 cleaning - how often? in one private conversation i was told that the AR-15 (Colt Match Target HBAR, in particular) requires good clearing every 500 or so rounds, or othervise jams begin to occur

I have never understood this line of thinking. If you spend a lot of money buying an Ar15 (they are not exactly cheap) and then put any extras on it like an adjustable trigger, adjustable stock, scope mount, expensive scope you can easily get $1,500 dollars or more tied up in this equipment.

My question is simply why in the world would you want to ruin the gun way before its time to rebarrel it.

It is prudent to properly clean any weapon after you fire it no matter how few rounds you shoot out of it. It not only prevents rust from setting in but a build up of burnt power and copper fouling soon destroys the accuracy of a rifles barrel. Over heating it is another quick way to insure an early death of a rifles barrel.

Shooting guns in the military where cost is no object is one thing but deliliberately abusing your own very expensive personal weapon makes no economic sense whatsover even if you plan on selling it because the resale value also is affected to the extreme.

Marko Kloos
April 24, 2003, 06:41 PM
Wow, I am actually in agreement with BHP9 for once. If you're not forced to run your rifle without cleaning it, why would you do it as a matter of routine? It's an expensive tool, and your life may depend on its reliable function tomorrow, so it only makes sense to maintain it as well as you can.

I clean my weapons after every shoot. Then again, I still have my DI's mantra ingrained. When we got in from a field exercise, we weren't supposed to shower or clean our gear until after our weapons were properly cleaned. His mantra was, "First the horse, then the saddle, then the man!"

April 24, 2003, 07:44 PM
Has anyone ever noticed how much lube comes off of guns when they sit in a safe for long periods of time? If I use CLP on my AR or FAL and don't shoot them for awhile they look dry. I don't think I'm over lubing my rifles, but my FAL and AR have have lube on the stocks if they haven't been shot in awhile.

April 24, 2003, 09:18 PM
An AR-15 does not need to be cleaned except after it's been fired. If you shoot it, you clean it.

April 25, 2003, 10:14 AM
nemisis, obviously you have never been to USMC Recruit Depot, PI, SC.
you clean it when it needs cleaning. sand, mud, dust, mist, humid morning outside...
my AR's get stored muzzle down, mag inserted, dustcover closed.
if i take one outside for some reason and dont end up shooting i'll still boresnake it and wipe down the bolt and carrier w/ oil.

April 25, 2003, 01:42 PM
on my first AR i ran over 1,000 rds of crappy Norinco ammo thro it without cleaning.

oiling the 3 holes in the side of the carrier isn't going to do much, those are hewer gas vents from the inside of the bolt carrier after working the bolt... any oil you put there is going to be gone after about one mag, perhaps less.

minimal maintanence would be to pull the bolt carrier, clean the locking lugs in the barrel extention with the chamber brush, clean the lugs onthe bolt and lube the bolt and carrier.

for lube i like ATF and for cleaning i like Ed's Red... does a better job of disolving carbon deposits than CLP, and it's FAR cheaper.

(Ed's Red is a mix of equal parts of Type 3 ATF, Mineral Spirits, Kerosene and Acetone)

April 25, 2003, 01:50 PM
AR Cleaning. How often?

Too often! :D

I hate cleaning ARs. Stupid little pin. Eight little lugs. Closed Receiver. Arrgg!

Compared to any other serious rifle it is a pain in the butt to clean.

April 25, 2003, 11:24 PM
fixer, I think you are missing something here. Those three holes on the side of the bolt carrier are placing oil directly on the bolt without disassembling it. If you think that oil will be "blown" out within one mag, what do you think keeps the oil you place on the bolt in ?

April 26, 2003, 12:16 AM
"The truth is that the M16 is by far the more superior weapon. It's lighter, more accurate, more versatile, and with proper maintenance it is very reliable. Indeed, it might be less sand proof then the Galil/AK47 series. However, all you need is to clean it once a day and it will work like a charm......As for reliability, the M16 is reliable enough"

I only have experience with a preban Colt AR15. I reloaded my own ammo. After around 500 rounds (more or less), the rifle would start experiencing "feed/jam" problems, probably because of the powder. I would recommend cleaning it every 1000 rounds OR LESS, but only if you want to be sure it will keep functioning reliably. This is the only problem I ever experienced with my AR, but does suggests that it needs to be cleaned religiously in order to guarantee proper functioning. My opinion anyway.

April 26, 2003, 08:28 AM
What about those gas rings? Are they a "500 round" item,or,"life of the gun"? What other items are generaly replaced after X rounds to insure reliable shooting?Any of those springs(i've already found a broken extractor spring on mine,1000 rounds),but i belive that was my fault for poor cleaning....

April 26, 2003, 11:22 AM
I store my ARs muzzle down, dustcover closed, mags inserted.

I glad to hear I'm not the only one to store my long guns muzzle down. I found that the lube stays put and out of the stock, and keeps dust from entering the bore.

The AR's Achilles heel has been always been reliability problems based on close tolorances and the inferior design of the gas system, blowing gas and carbon fouling into the breech area and gumming up the works. Although the close tolorances wouldn't be a liability by themselves with a different gas system.
This is primarily why I chose the Daewoo K2 over a CAR-15. I've ran several hundred rounds through my K2 without it choking even once. When cleaning time came, there was hardly anything in the breech area or bolt face to clean out, it dosen't have a dust cover.
To be fair though, in the original Stoner design and specifications, the AR was very reliable. Problems arose when the gummint stuck their fingers in the pie and started tweeking things.
The main problem came from changing the original powder in the cartridges to a slower and dirtier burning propellant. This raised the cyclic firing rate way up putting more stress on the gun, and causing more wear and heat. Then of course the additional fouling from inferior powder.
The gummint in it's infinite wisdom :rolleyes: , instead of going back to original powder specs, tweeked even more by adding the forward assist and telling GIs they needed to clean more often. They even changed the powder specs even more and went with a Win. propellant. H335 is now the standard propellant in GI ammo.
My basic training issue M-16 was a Vietnam Era, 3 prong suppresser type, POS. Accurate? Well I qualified expert with it, but it gagged on about every 5th round. Swore I would never own one.
IMHO, if you shoot it, clean it. If it sits more than six months w/o shooting, clean it. If you don't shoot it regularly, inspect it monthly, and clean if needed.

Uhmmm...........and those three holes in the bolt carrier is to bleed off gas once the bolt starts to unlock. But yes you can put oil in them, just make sure the bolt is in it's locked position before you do, otherwise the first round will burn/blow it out.

April 26, 2003, 08:01 PM
I think that few people realize how quickly you can ruin a barrel even a stainless one by not cleaning it often enough. The acummulation of burt power constantly being ground into the bore and the rapid build up of copper deposits are all a sure and positive way that lead to the early death of the bore as far as gilt edge accuracy is concerned. Rapid fire which leads to over heating and cooking of the bore also will ruin an AR in short order.

Not using an oil specifically designed for firearms is also another short cut many people try and get away with. Some oils and lubes may work but many don't work near as well as oils and greases designed for the extreme fricition of linear motion and designed to work in a high heat environment often found when using semi-auto weapons.

I think the original LSA fluid is still the best (it was designed for the weapon) the only problem is is finding enough of it at an affordable price. The second oil of my choice has been Break Free CLP ,not the lower priced industrial grade of Break Free.

I even like to use a thin film of grease on the bolt lugs and bolt body. Anything that keeps the friction down will help prolong parts life.

April 26, 2003, 09:50 PM
My recommendation is to clean it as often as possible. Remember that the AR-15 gets dirty in 1/10th the time of a piston operated rifle.

April 26, 2003, 11:44 PM
I am no AR15 expert, but I have some experience with them. For example I actually own an AR15, actually quite a few of them. I am not the most experienced AR15 shooter in the world, but I have fired over 4000 rounds out of an AR since the beginning of February. I fired around 200 rounds today, about the same yesterday, and will do the same for the next two days in a formal training environment. In fact, this year I have spent 10 days of formal training while using the AR15 rifle along with almost all the other students in these classes. Between these two classes alone, I have fired around 2500 rounds of ammo.
Based on what experience I have with the weapons system, I have to say that about half the stuff I have read on this thread is misinformed at best, and ridiculous at worst.

April 27, 2003, 01:55 PM
about half the stuff I have read on this thread is misinformed at best, and ridiculous at worst.


I would like to answer matt1911s question. Within reason, You don't need to periodically replace anything. The broken extractor spring was not the result of improper cleaning, more likely it was simply a defective spring.

April 27, 2003, 02:02 PM
How often should you clean an AR?

Every time is gets a piece of grit in it and could as a result, cost you your life in a fire-fight.

Joe Demko
April 28, 2003, 11:41 AM
Yeah, and we all know that your typical THR member is in a firefight or two on a daily basis.
When I was in the army, over twenty years ago, we had M-16A1 rifles. Mine never gave me any problems. Also, over the years, I've owned two Colt and two Bushmaster rifles. None of them gave me any problems. In the service, I cleaned very frequently as that was procedure. For my personal rifles, I clean when I feel like it. If there is anything in the world of gunlore that is more of a myth than AR-series' dirt sensitivity, I can't imagine what it would be.

April 28, 2003, 03:01 PM
I clean every time, and have yet to have a gun-related malfunction (I had one round of dud ammo, but thats the only failure the gun has ever had).

April 28, 2003, 10:12 PM
I just finished the four day rifle course that I mentioned in an earlier post. The course was held in the desert. No grass, no pavement, it was just a graded off piece of desert. The last two days we had high winds. The inside of my pickup is covered in dust from the blowing dirt. During the course, we were required to rapidly assume various shooting positions; for example we were required to drop into the prone position and put one shot into the vitals of a silhouette at 200 yards within 6.9 seconds. We did this over and over and over at various ranges. Obviously when you hit the dirt, you hands are covered with dirt which you then use to manipulate the rifle. This combined with the dirt clouds caused by all the students doing this at once left my AR completely covered in dust and dirt. My AR is now light brown colored from muzzle to buttplate. In addition, because this was a formal course, we were required to spend all the time we were not actually firing the weapon with the mag out and the dust cover open so the instructors could tell at a glance that our weapon was unloaded. I ended up firing something over 600 rounds without a single malfunction (other than those purposely induced for training on clearing malfunctions). Not one. I guarentee that very few civilians will ever get an AR this dirty certainly not those of you who don't even own one, or those of you who own one that you never shoot.
I am certainly glad that I rely on my own experience rather than the crap I read on-line.

Oh, and I left out one thing. I was shooting Wolf ammo which is the victim of even more internet BS. Using this dirty rifle and Wolf ammo enabled me to put every shot in the vitals at 200 yards. I also managed to hit 7 out of 8 shots on a steel half-silhouette at 400 yards from the prone position in these winds. Try that with your AK.

April 29, 2003, 08:17 PM
I am certainly glad that I rely on my own experience rather than the crap I read on-line.

I'm not sure who's crap you have been reading, but I'm sure that must be quite messy. I certainly think you should rely just on your own experience, which seems to tell you that your gun never needs cleaning. That's fine with me, but that was the question after all. I ONLY post what I have experienced, but your free to ignore it. Just be sure to come to the defense of those maintenance company soldiers when somebody puts them down for not cleaning their rifles frequently enough, because you KNOW it's just a bunch of crap!:rolleyes:

Navy joe
April 29, 2003, 08:32 PM
Matt1911- I ran one set of piston rings 6000 rounds. They're cheap, now with my new gun I figure I'll replace them every 2,000 or so, never had a reliability problem with mine. Other than that I had replaced only the firing pin and I still have the old one which is servicable. Just wanted to be sure since the old one had seen a fair amount of dryfire and I didn't want it breaking. The cotter pin that retained the firing pin looked like a pretzel but was still working.

When I sold my pre-ban it was 8 years and 8,000 rounds old, I know, I know, shoot more but I lost a lot of time being married and deployed. Most of those rounds were in the last two years. Who knows, maybe I hurt the gun not cleaning it enough, but it would still shoot to 2" at 100yds on iron sights for me and was bone reliable. I always fired no more than 60 rounds before letting it cool, but those 60 could be rapid depending upon what I was up too. When I sold it it looked near new as the people that got the pieces commented. I did not destroy it by overcleaning like all the military M-16s. Taking apart your M-16 in boot camp everyday has less to do with weapon function and more to do with keeping the recruit busy and supposedly learning something. An experienced gun owner ought to be able to determine what maintenance their gun needs based on field conditions, not by some arbitrary schedule.

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