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Field Stripping, Cleaning and Lubricating Your AR-15

In my experience, the AR-15 style of rifle is one of the easiest firearms to clean and maintain. I actually know AR-15 owners that bring their AR-15 to a gunsmith for cleaning, or rely on others to do it for them. I have always wondered why. Maybe the person is new to the AR-15 platform and is not sure what the process consists of or how to do it? Or, maybe they just don’t have the time or are simply intimidated? These are all valid reasons. However, in my opinion, it is important for you, as the owner, to know how to field strip, clean, lubricate and maintain your AR-15. Think about it; would you want your rifle in the shop twenty minutes away when you may end up needing it right now?

You may find yourself surprised at how quick, easy and enjoyable the process can be; and, it will provide you with the opportunity of “getting to know” your AR-15. In this post, I have included my video that shows the exact process of field stripping, cleaning, and lubricating a direct impingement (DI) AR-15. To help get you started, here is a list of definitions and items that you will need to help you get the job done.

There is no better way to dirty up your AR-15 than by shooting it. Image courtesy of Paul Vincent Photography
I enjoy getting my AR-15 dirty by shooting it. Photo of me courtesy of Paul Vincent Photography


  • Field stripping: The process in which you disassemble your AR-15 style of rifle down to the minimum level needed for cleaning. There are no tools required for this.
  • Cleaning: Using a few items to assist you in removing lead, copper, and carbon build-up from the barrel, chamber, and bolt carrier group.
  • Lubricating: This is where a lubricant is placed onto moving parts of your AR-15 to provide less friction and protect against wear during the operation of the firearm. Properly lubricating your AR-15 is the most important part of this entire process. In emergencies, even a “dirty” rifle can still function with proper lubrication.

Items needed:

  • A gun cleaning solvent of your choice to assist in breaking up the fouling from the rifling in the barrel and the bolt carrier group.
  • Some lubricant that may either be an oil, grease, or combination material such as CLP (cleaner, lubricant, and protectant).
  • A bore cleaning device such as a bore snake, or a cleaning rod of proper caliber size. When choosing to use a cleaning rod, you will also need the proper attachments and fabric patches for running down the barrel to remove fouling from the rifling.


  1. Field strip your AR-15 by separating the upper receiver from the lower receiver. You may set the lower receiver aside as it normally does not require cleaning.
  2. Remove the BCG (bolt carrier group) and charging handle from the upper receiver.
  3. Spray some bore cleaner down the barrel. This will allow it to soak in while you move onto the next step.
  4. Field strip the BCG. (In the video, I show a detailed example of how to do this)
  5. Spray a cleaner of choice onto the field stripped BCG parts and then wipe them clean.
  6. Run a bore snake, or something similar, down the barrel and chamber to remove any fouling and to clean it.
  7. Use your lubricant of choice and lubricate the BCG and charging handle.
  8. Reassemble your upper receiver by installing the BCG and charging handle.
  9. Reassemble your AR-15 by re-attaching the upper receiver to the lower receiver.
  10. Function check your now cleaned and lubricated AR-15 for proper function.

There are a variety of ways to do this process, but they all end the same way with a clean and properly lubricated AR-15. In the video I have posted, I am showing you the process that has worked best for me. Remember to have fun, relax and enjoy the process of becoming a more knowledgeable AR-15 owner.

About the Author
Nate Schultz is employed within the field of Law Enforcement, is an avid shooter, firearms enthusiast and hobbiest gunsmith. When he is not writing for The Arms Guide, he is producing content for his YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/nsz85

How do you clean a piston ar15 like the Barrett rec7 gen2?


Do you have a video for cleaning a piston ar15?


I've had a sample of Frog Lube sitting in my cleaning case for I don't even know how long and haven't gotten around to using it, yet. Looks like I'll have to correct that and try it out :]


Interesting...I guess if I was in the field I might clean it this way. Good video...hopefully you don't mind if I throw in a few tips based on my experience: 1. Use black rags to wipe everything down. Sometimes the white ones leave visible fuzzies. 2. You should always wipe out the lower and inspect the trigger group and other moving parts for wear or damage. Also a good idea to lightly lube or grease contact points. 3. Using a bore snake is fine, but really need to wipe out the upper. It does build up carbon and gunk even on a piston gun (I know your is not a piston). 4. Should complete the field strip by removing the extractor. This is important to inspect for cracks, damage or excessive wear plus you can clean it up a bit. 5. Wasn't a problem in this video but I have seen people mix and use a variety of lubricants on their weapon. Don't mix lubes. Stick to one. If you switch to something else, thoroughly degrease and clean the rifle before using a different type of lubricant. With the concepts in this video and a few tips here, you AR will run good for a long time.