How to: Field strip an AR-15. Not dialup friendly, very pic-heavy.

M. Sage

TGT Addict
Jan 21, 2009
San Antonio
I'm not much of a photographer or writer, so feel free to ask if the photos and/or instructions are unclear and you have trouble understanding.

First things first, remove the magazine and make sure the chamber is clear!!


Then close the bolt and push on the left side of the rear take-down pin. Usually a finger works, but you may need some kind of tool like the back of an ink pen to get it started.


Pull it to the right until it stops.


And pivot the upper off the lower.

Pull the charging handle back to about this point...


... and you can grip the rear of the bolt carrier and draw it back and out of the receiver.

Pull the charging handle out to about here....

...then tilt it down and out so that you can inspect and lubricate it (next how-to will cover the lubrication).


Now that the rifle is in pieces, let's take that bolt carrier assembly apart. Remove the firing pin retainer. I can't get it without some help, the tip of my knife works perfectly.


Pull the firing pin out.


Push the bolt back into the carrier.


Turn the cam pin (that rectangular thing) 90 degrees....


...and remove it.


Pull the bolt out the front of the carrier and you'll have a nice pile of small bits of metal like this:


This is realistically as far as you'll have to disassemble an AR-15 for cleaning and regular maintenance. To reassemble, you pretty much just reverse these instructions.

A few things to note on reassembly:

Do not lubricate the firing pin! It's a floating pin and should go in dry. If you lubricate it, the lube could cause a situation where the pin gets "sticky" in the bolt and that could lead to a slam-fire, possibly an out of battery slam-fire that destroys your rifle and injures you/bystanders. The firing pin bears no load, and needs no lubrication. If you're worried about rust, spray it with a little oil and then wipe it dry.

These are the bolt rings. See the gaps? They can't line up If they do, turn them so they don't. All ARs are piston guns... this is the piston.

The bolt should be oriented like so when it's back in the carrier, or the rifle will only work for one shot (mirror image for a left-handed rifle):


The firing pin retainer can be a little finicky going back in, but don't give up and you'll get it. Just make sure the firing pin is all the way in.

After reassembling the bolt and carrier, the charging handle goes back in how it came out - tilt the front of it up and into the slot and slide it forward slightly. Make sure the bolt is all the way forward in the carrier and insert the carrier into the upper receiver. Then push it all the way in.


Make sure that rear take-down pin is all the way out, close the halves together and push the take-down pin to the left. Function check the rifle if you're anal like I am.

How to function check an AR:

1: Rifle on safe, pull the trigger. Nothing should happen.
2: Rifle on fire, pull the trigger, keep trigger pulled. You should hear the hammer fall.
3: Holding the trigger back, pull the charging handle and release.
4: Release the trigger. You should hear a dull "thunk" as the trigger resets.
5: Pull the trigger again. You should hear the hammer fall.
6: Attempt to put the weapon on safe. It shouldn't go on safe until you cycle the action again.

If any of these actions yields a result other than the ones listed, the rifle is unsafe to operate and should be repaired as soon as possible.
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