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How to Clean AR15 Uppers, Rifles, Bolts, and Barrels (WITH PICTURES)

How to Clean AR15 Uppers, Rifles, Bolts, and Barrels (WITH PICTURES)
August 14, 2020 Edited March 9, 2023 6715 view(s)
How to Clean AR15 Uppers, Rifles, Bolts, and Barrels (WITH PICTURES)

At Bear Creek Arsenal we understand that a lot of the new gun owners may be looking for some direction on how to care for their new AR-15. We want to show you and explain how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble as quickly and effectively as possible.


Field Stripping AR-15 Rifles

The first thing to remember before cleaning your firearm is to ensure that it is unloaded. Safety first, always! Once you know that it is unloaded you may start the disassembly process. We are going to start by “field stripping” your AR-15 or AR-10. This will include a basic breakdown of the rifle which can be done often and easily as desired.


Remove the Takedown Pins

To start the “field stripping” of your AR15, push the two take-down pins out of the AR-15 to separate the upper and lower assemblies from each other. Do this by pushing the small flat part of the pin inward till you can grab and put the wider side of the pin from the other side of the lower. Sometimes using a tool that is soft but pointy (like a pen) might help this if the pins are tight at first.

Takedown Pins LocationTakedown Pins Location 2Takedown Pins RemovalTaking Apart you AR-15
AR-15: 2 Pieces


Remove the Bolt Carrier Group

Now that the upper and lower assemblies are separate, we are going to remove the charging handle and BCG (bolt carrier group) from the upper receiver. To do this, flip your upper assembly upside down with the Picatinny rail on the table. Now pull back the charging handle and remove both the charging handle and BCG. This will leave you with an upper, lower, BCG, and charging handle all in separate pieces on your table.

BCG Removal Part 1BCG Removal Part 2


Cleaning the Gun

Gun Oils and Cleaning Kits

It's a good idea to invest in a standard gun cleaning kit with essentials such as wire brushes, gun oil, cleaning rods, and a bore snake. Most gun oils and solvents will work great for AR-15 cleaning; we recommend Rem Oil or Hoppes for cleaning, but everyone has their own personal preference.


Basic Cleaning

Using a cleaning cloth and gun cleaning oil, spray down the BCG, charging handle and inside of the upper. Wipe away the excess oil and grim on these pieces. When you have wiped them clean, you'll want to re-apply a fresh light coating of oil/lube on these parts before reassembling them. At this point you have performed a basic cleaning on your AR-15. Place the charging handle back in the upper first and then place the bolt carrier group on top of it; then slide them back in the upper. The upper and lower assemblies will piece back together with the take-down pins.While this is a basic cleaning, after shooting many rounds through your rifle or carbine, you will most likely want to remove the carbon buildup on your bolt itself to make sure your rifle functions reliably. A quick note, shooting dirtier ammo like steel case ammo can cause carbon to build up faster on your bolt and will require more frequent cleaning of your bolt and bolt carrier. Get your pliers ready because we're going to further clean your AR rifle!


BCG Disassembly and Thorough Cleaning

Step 1 (BCG Removal): BCG will be taken out of the upper receiver as shown above.

Step 2 (Firing Pin Retainer Pin Removal): Locate the firing pin retainer pin on the left-hand side of the carrier and remove the firing pin retainer. Using needle-nose pliers or a Leatherman workers great for removing the firing retainer pin.

Removing the Firing Pin Retainer

Step 3 (Firing Pin Removal): Rotate the bcg to a vertical position and the firing pin should fall out of the back of the BCG. (Set these two objects to the side)

Firing Pin Removal

Step 4 (Bolt Cam Pin Location): Locate the Bolt Cam Pin, which has a flat rectangular head of metal next to the bolt. This is located under the gas key (the small tube, above the bolt carrier).

Bolt Cam Pin Removal

Step 5 (Bolt Cam Pin Removal): Push bolt back into BCG and twist the bolt cam pin 90 degrees till it's parallel with the BCG. Use your finger nails to grab the top of the bolt cam pin and pull it out of the carrier.

Bolt Cam Pin Removal Part 2

Step 6 (Bolt Removal): Remove the Bolt from the BCG by pulling the bolt face away from the carrier.

AR-15 Bolt Removal

Step 7 (Extractor Pin Removal): Remove the extractor pin which is located in the middle of the bolt. You can use a firing pin or tool to push the pin out and then grab it with your fingers

AR-15 Extractor Pin Removal

Step 8 (Disassembled BCG): After removing the extractor pin, the extractor will come off the bolt. There is a small spring in the extractor; make sure not to lose it!

Disassembled BCG

Step 9 (Cleaning the Bolt): Now that your bolt is completely disassembled, coat it with a cleaning solution or solvent and scrape away any white/gray carbon residue with a brass wire brush. Once the residue is removed, wipe the bolt with a cleaning cloth and reapply gun oil for lubrication before reassembly. Now you can reassemble the parts in the opposite order as you took it apart. Watch ourYouTube videoabout this topic to learn more.


Barrel Cleaning

There are many different opinions out there on what is the best way to break in and clean your barrel. Fortunately, barrels don't need to be cleaned quite as much as your bolt carrier group or upper receiver. After a few hundred rounds or so it is never a bad idea to run a bore snake or cotton swabs down it to clean off some of the copper fowling and make sure the bore is in good condition. Make sure to pull whatever cleaning accessory you use in the direction that the bullet will travel (from receiver to muzzle); also be sure not to use any harsh solvents when cleaning the barrel.


AR-15 Chamber and Barrel Extension Cleaning

Cleaning your barrel extension is necessary to keeping your AR-15 or AR-10 functioning reliably. To do so, put some solvent on a Q-tip and wipe the black areas around the extension and chamber. If it has been a long time since the upper has been cleaned, you can use a chamber brush to break free some of the hard to remove carbon.


Cleaning the Lower Assembly

Lowers typically don't require extensive cleaning, but it's never a bad idea to wipe down the hammer and use a brush to scrub away any grime you may see.


Congrats, you're done!

Great job, you just performed a full cleaning of your AR15! It's always a good idea to perform a function check after and make sure the bolt is well lubricated and ready to go. Comment below any of your special cleaning techniques and check out our gun cleaning kit if you need a place to get started. Happy shooting!


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September 27, 2021
September 28, 2021
Hey Randy, the screws are either T25 Torx or 1/8 Allen Key. Remove the screws and pull it off. Hope that helps!
Khalil Gates
November 8, 2022
How do I replace dust cover on 308 upper? I stripped 1 of the handguard screws( figured only way to remove dust cover is taking off handguard) need help!!
Skip Albertson
September 12, 2023
September 12, 2023
Any gun-cleaning hook will work fine.
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