Let’s face it, AR-platform rifles run dirty, at least compared to typical bolt-action rifles. The AR15 works by piping gas from the barrel back into the bolt carrier, causing the bolt to unlock and the carrier to move the bolt backward. The “exhaust gas” from the barrel contains soot and carbon. The carbon will form hard deposits on the bolt. In addition, the carbon can combine with lube on the bolt carrier to make a nasty, paste-like sludge. This can be particularly problematic when the black paste pollutes the ejector and extractor recess.
This Editor has inspected dozens of ARs over the years. Other than mag-related malfunctions, the most common cause of AR cycling problems I found was oily gunk in the extractor and ejector areas. Many AR owners overlook these critical areas. Look at an AR that hasn’t been cleaned properly and you’ll probably find black gunk (and small brass shavings) in the ejector and extractor recesses.
If you want to keep your black rifle running smoothly and reliably, you must clean it regularly and follow the correct maintenance procedures. Here are three videos that explain how to properly disassemble and clean AR-platform rifles.
Take-Down and Full Cleaning of AR15 by Jerry Miculek
Here ace shooter Jerry Miculek takes down and cleans an AR-platform rifle belonging to his daughter Lena. This is a good video because Lena’s rifle was “run hard and packed up dirty” so you can see where carbon and grease build up. This 35-minute video is very thorough. Jerry is one of the nation’s top action carbine shooters, so listen carefully to his advice on cleaning and lubrication.
How to Clean Your AR-Platform Rifle
This is a good basic video that shows the take-down and cleaning procedure for a typical AR15. It uses some fast-motion sequences to speed up the story. Check out this video if you don’t have the time to sit through the Miculek video above.
Cleaning and Lubricating AR15 Bolt Carrier Group
This video offers very specific advice on the bolt carrier group, which receives the dirty gas directly from the barrel. Be sure to check the extractor and ejector recesses. That’s where old lube, brass shavings, and carbon accumulate. Follow the directions in this video for lubrication, and don’t over-lubricate the bolt carrier — that will only capture more carbon.