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Cleaning Discipline Counts!!!

964 Views 10 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  j427x
Hello All,

I just went through a long and difficult process of troubleshooting an AR problem. Good news is that we have solved the real problem, but along the way we had to re-learn some fundamental lessons in order to eliminate the obvious.

Now to the point: Periodic cleaning and maintenance of the AR-15 Rifle.

We all know that our AR-15 rifles need to be properly cleaned after each trip to the range. Like most, I sometimes just punch out the bore, and wipe off the bolt and bolt carrier and call it good. In my case, this has never failed me. I tend to keep a running count of the number of rounds that I put down range, and I clean the gas system every 500 rounds or so.

This was true, up until a couple of months ago. This is when my buddy and I began to reload ammo, cast about for the perfect powder / projectile / primer combo, and we would try two or three different types of ammo at a time. To top it off, we would throw in a hundred rounds or more of old Wolf .223 (which is dimensionally more akin to 5.56 NATO).

The result: A very dirty gas system, and an un-characteristic set of issues that we had not previously experienced. I want to be clear!!! These issues were self inflicted by our lackadaisical cleaning an maintenance, and the combination of two or three different types of powder which individually are fine. but in combination can cause complete failures in the weapon.

Background complete: Now for lessons learned.

Each and every time you fire your AR-15, you should take a 16" long pipe cleaner, soak it with Hoppe's, and insert it all the way into the gas tube. Place the upper in a muzzle down orientation and leave it for at least an hour, then with a pair of needle nosed pliers, agitate the pipe cleaner in and out of the gas tube. You only need to move the pipe cleaner about an inch or so, but it needs to be a scrubbing motion. Re-insert the pipe cleaner and leave the upper in a muzzle down orientation for another hour or two, repeat the above process of scrubbing. At this point, you can remove the pipe cleaner, turn it around and re-insert it into the gas tube. You will be using the dry end of the pipe-cleaner now, and you should insert it all the way into the gas tube and repeat the scrubbing motion explained above. Remove the pipe cleaner, set aside the upper, and get the bolt carrier, disassembled. Insert the wet end of the pipe cleaner into the gas key, and agitate. Make certain that the pipe cleaner is moving all the way into the bolt carrier body by looking into the frot of the bolt carrier. Remove the pipe cleaner, and fold it over so that you have a one inch long, double or even triple layer of pipe cleaner. Insert that into the gas key, and twist aggressively to ensure that you have scrubbed out the gas key.

Now, use the same pipe cleaner double or triple folded to swab the outside of the gas tube where it extends into the upper receiver. Follow up with a toothbrush or cleaning brush to remove any additional residue.

By following this process, you will ensure that you will never suffer a gas system failure. In the field, simply delete the soaking step, and swab the gas tube twice, followed by a dry pipe cleaner....Voila! A trouble free and reliable gas system.

Sometimes, we all need to be reminded of the basics. If you are anything like me, you will become complacent over time. This process is simple insurance.

By the way, 16" pipe cleaners are available at a reasonable price. Just Google "16 Pipe Cleaner".

Hope this helps...
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Great info. Thank you bellson. :cheers:
Dont forget too pull the firing pin and get inside there also..
Hell it was a piece of cake for me and my ex :) Marine Gunny Sargent buddy too take apart.
A case of beer and 3 hours at the cleaning table and with both our numb nut brains we figured it out.
We waited till the next day to put it back together. :)
Great info. Thank you bellson. :cheers:
Dont forget too pull the firing pin and get inside there also..
Hell it was a piece of cake for me and my ex :) Marine Gunny Sargent buddy too take apart.
A case of beer and 3 hours at the cleaning table and with both our numb nut brains we figured it out.
We waited till the next day to put it back together. :)
takes me a bout a 30 pack too 4th. but i think were doing more drinking than cleaning!:nanabang:LOL!
You may want to check this out...

I've never had to clean the "inside" of the gas tube. That being said, one of the most important benefits from cleaning the rifle is you get to check the parts for wear/damage. Which if not done, could result in a failure when you least want/expect it.

""DANG"...I just reviewed my own .PDF file about cleaning and I forgot to add...About after cleaning the bore to blow air canned/compressor into the gas tube (receiver end) to remove any cleaning material that may have been pushed into the gas tube barrel port during cleaning. Without doing this, any solvents/bore paste will be blown into the carrier key/bolt upon the first firing. Which could/may "gum" up the works.

Well, I never said that I was perfect. I'll just have to update my .PDF file to correct the error and then post again.
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O_O I generally just oil the bolt lugs and the bolt carrier rails before each range trip. Then I take it apart all the way and clean it every 1000 rounds or so. With non chrome bores they get an oily patch after the range trip.

I don't have trouble with dirty rifles, just dry ones. So long as they're wet with oil they [ARs] seem to work, though I only shoot my reloads, none of which use dirty powder, so the gas tube ain't so much of a concern for me.
As far as I am concerned, all of the above are valid methods for cleaning and Maintenance. The reason for my post was to highlight the set of conditions that we had run into where a couple of different types of powder residue were causing the gas system to foul up beyond ANYTHING we had ever seen. My "normal method of using gun-Scrubber was not working, so we consulted the "bible" The USMC TM for Armorers and the M-16 weapons system. This is the method described there.

I have personally gone through 5523 rounds without ANY cleaning. Just added some dry lube when I felt nervous. My test was ended by a ruptured case that required a full take down of the upper to resolve. It was really stuck!!!!

Anyway, I so rarely have anything intelligent to say, so I thought I would take the opportunity to provide something back to the board....
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How many rounds would you guess it took to block the gas tube off?
How many rounds would you guess it took to block the gas tube off?
By our count:

650 Rounds of handloads using H335 Powder
100 Rounds of handloads using Varget Powder
100 Rounds of handloads using 4198 Powder
400 rounds of Wolf.

At this point, we were getting severe short stroking.

It took several minutes of soaking and agitating the pipe cleaner in the gas tube before it would go all the way to the FSB.

By comparison, a second AR, same barrel, gas system, and layout had fired well over 120 rounds of Wolf. That Gas tube cleaned up very easily.

The real message here is that when you change ammo types, you may suffer a greater build up of crap in your gas system than you might expect.

The cleaning discipline is critical because you never truly know when you are going to need your rifle. Will you have time to punch the bore and do a little cleanup???
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Wow, that really isn't that many rounds... Huh.

I hear you on the "you never know when you'll need your rifle" part, I keep the go to rifles cleaned and greased [the grease doesn't dry off like all the oils I've tried].
1250 rnds isn't that much to have a clogged gas tube. I pretty much only shoot reloads through my ar's with IMR4198, IMR4895, Rad-78L-7383, Win 748,H335 in that order. About the only factory rounds I've used in the past 5 years are south african ball. The 7383 is extremely dirty in the 223/556 as it likes bigger cases. But I got it for $4 LB a few years back and can't gripe too much. Perhaps I need to start cleaning my tubes also. I am curious if the hoppe's is leaving a slighty oily film that gives the fouling a place to stick and gets "baked on" from firing. Would it be a good idea to spray the gas tube out with brake cleaner or a pipe cleaner soaked in it before blowing it out with compressed air?
back in the day our armorer would sometimes remove the gas tubes and soak them in can of solvent solution overnight and then blow the tubes out with very high PSI compressed air the next day.

i don't know how many rounds had be fired before he did this. my guess would be like once or twice before the barrel had been shot out.

i had some very dirty greek ammo that left too much un-burned powder. it was clogging and jamming things up. but it was pretty easy to clean up and get to running.
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