How to Disassemble an AR-15 – Ultimate Guide

How to Disassemble an AR-15
Alfred Mendoza

One of the most sought-after rifles in the United States is AR-15 as it features a straightforward design, easy-to-understand functionality, and impressive versatility. To perform regular cleaning and maintenance of your rifle, you need to know these easy and highly recommended steps on how to disassemble an AR-15.

1. Gather the Items You’ll Need

Gather the Items You’ll Need

First step, prepare the workstation and these tools:

  • Small tool with a narrow end 
  • Punch 
  • Screwdriver
  • Pair of pliers 
  • Cleaning products
  • Lubrication products

2. Remove the Magazine

The second step is to remove any gear. Then remove the magazine from the weapon, push the magazine release button while at the same time sliding the magazine out. Place your rifle in a zero elevation position.

3. Pull the Charging Handle to the Rear

The next step is to unload the rifle and cock it for appropriate disassembly. From its locked position, pull the charging handle to the rear, cocking the rifle, and checking the feed chamber for any calibers inside. Inspect the chamber visually and manually for any ammunition (e.g.,NATO). 

4. Locate the Rear Take-Down Pin

Find the rear take-down pin on the left side of the weapon. Push this pin out using a small screwdriver or pointed tool. Make sure the pin stays in place with its retainer. You will see that the rifle will swing down and open.

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5. Slide the Bolt Carrier Out of the Rifle

Slide the Bolt Carrier Out of the Rifle

The fifth step is to remove the bolt carrier group (BCG), slowly pull the charging handle to the rear. Take down the pivot pin on the side to separate the lower receiver and upper receiver. Slide the BCG out of the rifle and set it aside. Remove the charging handle. 

Disassembling the bolt carrier group of AR-15, AR-10, or M16:

  • Pull the firing pin retaining pin and then the firing pin itself. You can remove the firing pin by applying minimal pressure to either side of the pin. If the retaining pin is too tight, use a small punch, pick, or pliers. 
  • After taking out the firing pin, remove the bolt cam pin. Turn the cam pin 90 degrees so it will be parallel to the body of the carrier, slit the cam pin right out, and take the bolt out. Set the cam pin aside.
  • Remove the bolt by pulling it out from the top of the carrier. 
  • Using a punch, the next step is to remove the ejector pin from the bolt. 
  • Press out the retaining pin to remove the extractor.

Cleaning the Bolt Carrier Assembly to remove a lot of carbon fouling and dirt:

  • Prepare the solvent (CLP) and soak the small components (bolt, ejector, carrier, pins) from the BCG for several minutes. Make sure there’s no debris or carbon build-up left unscrubbed out. 
  • Clean the extractor thoroughly with a white cloth so you can clearly see the contaminants. 
  • Wipe the inside of the gas key and gas rings with q-tips. You can also use a brush to clean the rings because most carbon build-ups are there.
  • Clean the face of the carrier, bolt, ejector, and retaining pins, with a brush and solvent.
  • Thoroughly clean each hole, bolt, all sides, and small areas for any contaminant build-up. 
  • Then wipe dry each pin, bolt, ejector, carrier, and other components with a cloth or dry patch. 
  • Last step is to apply lubricant.

6. Remove the Front Barrel Sideguards

Remove the Front Barrel Sideguards

The next step is to grab the round release ring located in front of the magazine to remove the front barrel side guards. Pull the release ring and slide the hand guards off by pulling it to the side.

Guide on how to clean the barrel and some parts of the rifle:

  • Wipe the AR-15 buffer and buffer spring. Remove all contaminants on the ejector spring. Then run through an oiled cloth.
  • Wipe the trigger area with a q-tip. Wipe the hammer with a cloth or patch. 
  • Use a chamber or wire brush to clean the chamber and the barrel logs down the bore.
  • Remove the wire brush before you take the rod, so you don’t drag any contaminants back inside it.
  • Keep running patches inside the barrel until no contaminants are left.
  • Soak the patch with a lubing product and push it through the barrel

Read: What’s the Best Barrel Length For AR-15?

What are the Do’s and Don'ts?

  • Make sure your rifle is completely unloaded before doing any field stripping, inspection, or maintenance. Keep your finger away from the trigger. 
  • For beginners, look at a sketch or pictures of your rifle’s components. 
  • A lot of fouling is found in the bolt carrier group. Clean the holes of this section thoroughly to remove any contaminant. 
  • To clean your AR-15 rifle, use a good solvent such as a CLP or Break Free cleaning product.[1] Use gun grease or oil products when applying lube to your rifle. Research on the most effective products and cleaning kits from trusted retailer or sellers.
  • The reassembly process should be in reverse order. Search other related articles and pictures from a reliable source for guidance. 
  • It is the gun owner’s responsibility to research the federal and state laws (e.g.,New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Washington, and Connecticut) regarding firearm ownership, assembly and disassembly, and DIY gun building or builder. 
  • Your state may have stricter laws (e.g.,New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Washington, and Connecticut). Read some articles about them from your state.

Mastering AR-15 Disassembly

Carbon build-up and dirt accumulation are unpreventable as you shoot more often on your firearm and use it frequently for any shooting competition. When it’s left uncleaned for long, it could malfunction, which can be deadly in some situations. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to do regular maintenance or function checks to keep it operational. 

Field stripping is a learnable skill. An AR-15, M16, and similar AR brands have a simple design. You simply need to know all the basic components and the proper way of removing and cleaning each part. Always follow safe weapon handling measures prescribed by your state. When in doubt, seek advice from the manufacturer, retailer, builder, or hunting buddies.


2 thoughts on “How to Disassemble an AR-15 – Ultimate Guide”

  1. I just assembled my our 15 for cleaning and found a small Spring on the pad and I don’t know where it goes. It is about 3/8 of an inch long

  2. The 3/8 inch spring is about an eighth of an inch diameter. I did not disassemble anything and only removed the bolt carrier group and bolt

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