AR-15 Cleaning, Rifle Cleaning, Rifle Running
The barrel and bolt carrier group receive the most attention when it comes time to clean an AR-15.
(Photo by Michelle Cerino)

AR-15 cleaning is easy. It mostly consists of a quick wipe down of the old oil and carbon residue. Once wiped down, I just change the oil. Over the years, many students have asked me and my husband how we clean an AR. After much thought, we came up with what it is we actually do. We don’t clean our guns nearly as much as we “change the oil.”

Your AR is a machine. Machines need oil, and a wet gun is a happy gun. We use Lucas oils. After much testing and evaluation, we found Lucas oils stay wet especially in the searing hot temperatures of the AR-15 — temperatures that can get up to 1,200 degrees! If you use good oil that doesn’t burn and turn into carbon, you’ll ultimately have less cleaning to do later. After a bunch of wipe downs and oil changes, we do a thorough cleaning.

Steps to Proper AR-15 Cleaning

  1. First, separate the upper and lower receivers and remove the charging handle and bolt carrier group.
  2. Brush the barrel’s bore and let it soak in a good copper solvent like Sweets 762. It takes about 10 minutes to work, so it can soak while you clean the rest of the gun.
  3. Disassemble the bolt carrier group and clean each part. Most can be wiped down, but a pick helps get the carbon out from the bolt face and under the extractor.

How to Clean an AR-15 bolt face

  1. Clean the tail of the bolt as best you can with a designated scraper tool or copper brush.

How to clean an AR-15 bolt

  1. Clean the carrier bore with a designated scraper tool. Real Avid makes the Carbon Boss, a perfect tool for cleaning all parts of the bolt carrier group.

How to Clean an AR-15 bolt carrier

  1. With the bolt carrier group parts cleaned, oil them liberally and reassemble. Do not oil the firing pin. Just wipe it off and reassemble it all.
  2. Wipe the lower receiver out with brushes, rags and swabs. No solvents or oils go in there.
  3. Once the lower and bolt carrier group are done, brush and patch the bore until you’re satisfied that it’s not filthy. The Real Avid Bore Boss is a great tool for this. Patches with a penetrating oil like Gibbs help to deactivate the Sweets copper solvent.

How to Clean An AR-15 Barrel

  1. With the bore cleaned, use a Swab-its chamber swab to mop up the mess from the bore cleaning. Wipe out the upper with rags and clean off the charging handle.
  2. Before reassembly, put some lube on the worn spots of the charging handle.

This article was originally published in the winter/spring 2018 issue of “Personal Defense World.” To order a copy and subscribe, visit

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