One of the original design goals of the AR was to make it easy for a soldier to maintain it while in the field. Disassembling an AR for field maintenance requires nothing more than the tip of a bullet to loosen the pins that hold the upper and lower receiver together and to remove the retaining pin inside the bolt carrier group (BCG), which allows the BCG to be disassembled.
But there are a host of tools specifically for ARs that are useful for cleaning and maintaining the platform. Anyone who runs an AR should consider adding these to his or her kit.
1. Gunner’s Mount
This armorer’s block is an excellent example of what to look for in a high-quality maintenance system for AR rifles. The base plate comes with trays to keep small parts organized and plenty of holes for mounting jigs that hold specific AR parts.
The jigs in this modular system adapt to different components of AR rifles and can fit into them with remarkable precision. There are jigs that snug up in the interior recesses of the upper and lower receivers, for example, and that secure them with retaining pins so that the rifle is fully supported while any maintenance work is being done.
2. AR Bench Block
This hockey puck-like block supports the traditional M16 front sight assembly. Holes in the puck are positioned to capture the retaining pins on the front sight as they are tapped out of place with a punch.
3. Cleaning Brushes
Several companies make cleaning brushes that are contoured such that they will clean both the bolt recesses in an AR as well as the chamber. These are
very handy for removing gunk and bits of brass that build up in recess.
4. Bore Guide
The best way to clean any rifle is from the chamber end while using a proper bore guide. A guide protects the rifling in your barrel from damage and helps prevent solvent from getting all over the interior of the firearm.
5. Hand Guard Remover
On ARs with clamshell-style hand guards, this tool is a lifesaver. Even though it’s possible to manipulate the delta ring that holds the hand guard pieces in place with bare hands, this tool makes the chore more pleasant.
6. AR Multitool
This steel wrench is a minor miracle. It can help with the installation or removal of free-float hand guards, barrel nuts, butt stocks, and other parts of an AR. It also has cutouts for removing or tightening down standard-sized nuts and a screwdriver tip.
7. Field Cradle
To clean an AR in the field, a portable cradle that positions the rifle correctly with the muzzle down is a boon. With the chamber elevated, any oils or solvents in the barrel will move down toward the muzzle rather than leak back into the receiver where they can gum up the trigger and other components.
8. AR Scraper Tool
This simple tool performs a vital task: It clears away carbon buildup from the bolt, bolt carrier, and firing pin without scratching or damaging the components.
The first ARs, meaning the M16s that were fielded in Viet Nam, were a real disaster. They were poorly made, lacking chrome lining inside the chambers, among other things, and were prone to corrosion and malfunctions. To make matters worse, troops were given ammo that didn’t work well in the rifle and they weren’t supplied with cleaning kits. Many servicemen died because of these errors and the M16 ended up developing a terrible reputation—and rightfully so.
Today’s ARs have evolved beyond this ill-fated start to become the world’s premier battle rifle. But it is worth remembering the terrible price we paid to get to this point.