AR-15 Bolt Cleaning


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nulfisin
August 3, 2009, 12:43 PM
How important is it to disassemble the bolt for cleaning after routine use? I typically wipe the entire bolt assembly with solvent and oil from the outside, with special attention to the bolt face with the extractor. I don't, however, disassemble the bolt very often to clean the "interior." Am I making a bad mistake here?:confused:

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coloradokevin
August 3, 2009, 12:49 PM
Well, I was always taught (and remain of the philosophy) that you should disassemble the bolt and clean the carbon off of the bolt and the inside of the bolt carrier. Personally, I carry an AR-15 for duty use, and I like the weapon to be clean! I figure that the more dirt/residue there is inside, the greater the wear you'll put on the gun, and the greater your chances are for a malfunction. Plus, you can occasionally remove the extractor and clean metal filings/gunk/oil/carbon from underneath this part (some folks don't do it every time, but I find that it only takes an extra minute or two, so I clean under there each time I shoot).

If you disassemble your bolt you'll see how dirty things get inside (particularly on the tail of the bolt, past the gas rings, and the corresponding areas on your bolt carrier)! Now, honestly, I've never found a real quick way to clean this carbon. It is something of a scraping job, and it is the most irritating part of cleaning an AR-15 to me!

GrimmLV
August 3, 2009, 12:58 PM
What do you use to "scrape" this stuff off? I tried everything, and didn't know how forceful I should be. I got most of it off, but didn't want to use anything abrasive.

briansmithwins
August 3, 2009, 12:58 PM
US Army manual here: http://www.box.net/shared/tlxri3l1ic

The manual calls for removing the extractor each time the rifle is cleaned.

http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y3/briansmithwins/extractorremoval.jpg

I use the rim of a fired cartridge case to scrape the back of the bolt. BSW

DMK
August 3, 2009, 01:42 PM
I always take the bolt apart and clean it every time. It's not that hard. I just use some Hoppe's #9 and a toothbrush. I let it soak while I clean the bore then wipe it off with a rag. oil it and put it back together.

If I can't get to cleaning the rifle right after the range, I pull the bolt, squirt some Hoppe's in the holes, (and run a wet patch down the bore if I can) put it back in the rifle and let it soak until I have time to get to it in a day or two.

I never clean the back of the bolt behind the gas rings. I do brush and wipe out the inside of the carrier though.

Roadkill
August 3, 2009, 02:33 PM
What do you use to "scrape" this stuff off? I tried everything, and didn't know how forceful I should be. I got most of it off, but didn't want to use anything abrasive.

I've used a razor blade, pocket knife, and lately a bore brush or a wire wheel on a dremel tool. Just scrape/scrub it and wipe it off. ARs are a lot more resilient then most folks think.

W.E.G.
August 3, 2009, 02:39 PM
Remove the extractor.

Leave the ejector alone.

coloradokevin
August 3, 2009, 03:45 PM
I've used a razor blade, pocket knife, and lately a bore brush or a wire wheel on a dremel tool. Just scrape/scrub it and wipe it off. ARs are a lot more resilient then most folks think.

Same here, minus the dremel. I usually either use my cheap pocket knife, a set of plastic dental type picks, or a razor blade. That residue is quite stubborn!

nhm16
August 3, 2009, 04:14 PM
I use a variation of the mineral spirits technique from ar15.com. Instead of a shallow tray and wire basket to hold the stuff, I use three spaghetti sauce jars.

The first is full of the mineral spirit and CLP mix. I use a metal wire or paper clip to hang the bolt in the sauce jar and a metal tea basket for the small parts. The bolt carrier I just dip. I let all that soak while I clean the rest of the gun, then use a brass brush and q-tips to clean up.

When done I just close up the sauce jar, the gunk will settle to the bottom. Next time I need to clean, I just transfer the clean spirits to a second jar, top it off if needed. The gunk I just pour off into a third jar that collects the stuff. The gunk in the third jar will soon settle too, and you can reuse some of the mineral spirits in there too.

I've kinda wanted this gadget to clean the carbon off my bolts, but it hasn't been a big deal:
http://www.catm4.com/ (it also illustrates a downside of the Black Rifle Disease, someone makes a gadget, add-on, or tool for everything).

mp5a3
August 3, 2009, 04:28 PM
I like to use Slip 2000 products. The cleaner/degreaser and Carbon Killer are both good products. Their lube and EWL are the best though, make it much easier to clean

Jeff White
August 3, 2009, 04:39 PM
Don't worry about the carbon on the tail of the bolt. The high temps and pressures there blows it off on it's own and deposits more. You're going to do more damage to the finish by scraping it off then any gain you will receive.

I shoot my ARs a lot in training. Once a year the bolts go into the SLIP 2000 Carbon Killer tank and get cleaned off.

W L Johnson
August 3, 2009, 05:04 PM
Here's a little something from Armalite about the matter
http://www.armalite.com/images/Tech%20Notes%5CTech%20Note%2029,%20Rifle%20Cleaning,%2099.04.pdf

Note this part
Bolt Carrier Group:
Disassemble the Bolt Carrier Group completely. Soak the parts in cleaning solvent if possible.
Wipe all parts with a rag to remove most of the dirt. Use a brush to loosen and remove tougher
fouling. Wipe out the chromed cavity in the front of the Carrier. Don’t use scrapers or any
other hard tool to clean the hard fouling at the bottom of the cavity: normal gas flows from firing
keep the fouling under control. Clean the gas path in the carrier key with a solvent-soaked pipe
cleaner.

And this
Some of the worst cleaning practices are found among those expected to know best how to
maintain rifles: the military. Military procedures are too often focused not on cleaning properly,
but on cleaning totally. That’s because of tradition and the sad fact that it’s hard to make a
judgement call that a rifle is cleaned and preserved well enough for reliable service. It’s easier
to say that there isn’t a speck of dirt remaining on the rifle.

dbshabo
August 3, 2009, 08:00 PM
I'll second the Slip 2000 Carbon Killer. It works great. I just ordered a Brownell's product that does the same thing. Can't remember what they call it but it was a couple of dollars less than the Slip 2000. Just soak about 20 minutes and rinse with water. I put the bolt and carrier in a little toaster oven to thoroughly dry them after the rinse. Re-lube and you're good to go.

Shabo

PandaBearBG
August 3, 2009, 11:04 PM
about once a month (depending on range time that month) I disassemble the bolt (basic disassemble, not removing any screws or such, and scrup it clean, this means using pipe cleaners and q-tips, removing all dirt and carbon tilt he q-tip is clean. W L Johnson's article from Armalite say not to worry bout spic and span clean its a military thing, all I know is that a thorough cleaning is how I do it, not half assed. Military rifles go through ALOT! especially the boot camp ones, thousands of rounds a year, smacked banged, dropped buried, and still fire true until the barrel eventually wears out. I would rather go with the "traditions" of rifles put to the test under decades than what an arms manufacture says who probably just gets a new one every few years. IMO

I say NEVER scrape the bolt, if the carbon is that built up, I just use the bore brush to rub it off. If its STILL gunked up and not coming off, and this just might be me but take a little cup fill it with coke, throw a penny in use a q-tip to rub that soda on the specific build up and it will eventually break loose. I used to use the 81 mortars and sometimes after a long live fire, 150 + HE rounds all day, when we got back to clean em, that carbon is bedrocked in the bottom of that barrel and NOTHING, no amount of CLP or scubbing would get that out and we'd splash some coke and a penny down there (unofficially :) and in 2 minutes it would break free! just make sure you clean all the coke up and rub it all down with CLP.

If you don't want to get into all the nooks and crannies, at LEAST use a pipe cleaner to clean out the gas tube on the bolt, thats the life line. Just my $.02

coloradokevin
August 4, 2009, 04:02 AM
Don't worry about the carbon on the tail of the bolt. The high temps and pressures there blows it off on it's own and deposits more. You're going to do more damage to the finish by scraping it off then any gain you will receive.

I shoot my ARs a lot in training. Once a year the bolts go into the SLIP 2000 Carbon Killer tank and get cleaned off.

Yeah, even around my department there seems to be something of a split decision on the scraping method! I never used to do it with my personal weapons, as I too feared potential damage to the finish on the bolt. But, I was given a brand new department rifle to use when I signed up for our rifle course a few years ago (not everyone here carries a rifle here... dept politics and all), and a couple of our range officers were advocates of the scraping technique at that time.

So, given that I didn't own the rifle, I figured I'd give it a try! By the time I switched to carrying my own personal rifle a few years later, I had probably put about 10,000 malfunction-free rounds through the department's Colt rifle. As far as I can tell, scraping never really did any damage to the bolt. But, obviously I can't honestly say whether or not it took some years off of the finish (it didn't look like it was damaged, but who knows what was going on at a microscopic level).

Admittedly, I try to be careful when I scrape. I'll use the plastic dental-like picks as much as possible, and only use a razor blade to handle stubborn spots. Even then, I am careful not to scrape to vigorously.

I wish I could find the definitive answer on this subject, if one actually exists. There seem to be a few schools of thought on this issue, and I'd certainly like to pick the "right" choice, if there is one! Some folks swear up and down that you'll get malfunctions if you don't regularly remove the carbon from the bolts, but I can't say that I ever experienced one of these malfunctions back in my non-scraping days. Other folks maintain that you'll surely ruin the finish if you do scrape, but I haven't really exerpienced that yet either. Moreover, some manufacturers apparently claim you'll do damage by scraping (see post #12), while other companies make tools specifically for this task...

Maybe none of it matters at the end of the day? Either way, I spend far too much time trying to figure out the best ways to clean these rifles... They are complex, and contain lots of hard to reach places! But, they are a heck of a lot of fun to shoot, and they are a great piece of equipment to have available at work!

SlamFire1
August 4, 2009, 09:49 AM
I remove carbon deposits on the bolt each and every time I clean the rifle. I believe the carbon deposits will attract moisture and cause rust. I also believe in keeping the interior of the carrier and bolt as clean as reasonably possible.

I have kegs of AA2520, a ball powder. Got the stuff when it was $69.00 a keg. AA2520 leaves heavy deposits of fouling on the bolt, something I don't get with N140 or AA4064. To remove those deposits I use a brass bristle brush and solvent. I have several gallons of GI bore cleaner, and 99% of the time that is the solvent I use.

Carbon killer is great stuff, I have some.

speedsix
August 4, 2009, 09:38 PM
I am starting to move away from AR-15s due to them being a little picky. The new gas system ARs look like a big step in the right direction.

kwelz
August 4, 2009, 11:26 PM
Picky? That is news to me.
And gas Piston isn't an innovation. It introduces more moving parts that can cause problems.

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