There is no doubt that the AR15 is America’s most popular rifle platform. With models ranging from the low end of a few hundred bucks to nose bleed territory of $3,000+, everyone should be on the lookout for ways to keep “America’s Rifle” in top form so it is ready to go when it’s needed most.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of a few things you can do to ensure the longevity of your AR platform rifle.
Say “YES” to the upgrade
One of the main reasons that the AR15 has become such a beloved platform is that it can be easily upgraded. There is probably no other weapon platform with a more widespread availability of aftermarket parts. So, if you are looking to upgrade your AR15 as well as prolong its life, upgrading can kill two birds with one stone, if done intelligently.
One upgrade you can make that does double duty is to replace (or coat) your bolt carrier group (BCG) and trigger group. Parts coated in an aftermarket coating like Armorlube, Nickel Boron, or TiN will help protect from wear and tear by adding a smooth, hard surface which reduces friction. Depending on the trigger, you’ll likely get the bonus of a smoother trigger pull as well.
Your barrel is another area that can be upgraded to extend the overall life of your rifle. Chrome lined barrels have become standard for hard use AR15’s (versus match guns which are commonly seen with stainless steel barrels that are not chrome lined) but some cheaper models may skimp and provide an inferior barrel. If so, a barrel upgrade could be worth examining (especially if you shoot lots of steel cased “bimetal” bullet ammo - see below).
Another upgrade to consider is an adjustable gas block. Many AR’s come from the factory over-gassed. This ensures they cycle reliably with weak ammunition, but this increases heat and pressure, which can be detrimental to longevity. Adjustable gas blocks allow you to fine-tune your rifle’s gas pressure and adjust it to function reliably without over-gassing. This gives you the perfect blend of reliability and longevity - it should also help reduce felt recoil.
Regularly Maintain Your Rifle
It may not be your favorite thing to do, but regularly maintaining your AR15 will ensure that you get the most mileage out of it. Not to mention, it’s one of the simplest things that you can do to enhance reliability as well.
Regular maintenance is important because it removes buildup that could potentially cause corrosion. When properly lubricated, the internal parts of the AR15 will also run more smoothly, with less friction and heat, decreasing your wear and tear.
Part of your maintenance should include careful inspection of small parts. Parts like the extractor, BCG gas rings, and your firing pin should be inspected every time you clean them. Taking care to replace these small parts on a regular basis will help prevent issues from accumulating that could potentially culminate into a larger problem that results in your AR15 being out of commission.
Don’t forget the magazines! If you drop your mags in the dirt (and why wouldn’t you?) then they are a perfect candidate for a breakdown and good cleaning.
Ammo, Ammo, Ammo!
One of the reasons that we are so careful to curate only the best ammo in each category for our subscribers is because we know what a huge role it plays in keeping your gun functioning reliably.
Poor quality ammo can gunk up your weapon, increase wear and tear, and potentially damage small parts and even the barrel. That is why running clean, factory, SAAMI spec ammunition is so important - preferably brass cased!
Shooting ammunition with bi-metal jackets (copper coated steel), commonly found in Russian steel cased ammo, will prematurely wear out your barrel and extractor. You’ll know this is happening when you start seeing a loss of accuracy and “keyholing” on a paper target - the bullet impacting sideways. When this happens a barrel replacement is in order because your rifling is shot out. If you do shoot lots of steel, just recognize the tradeoff with more frequent barrel replacement.
Keeping your AR15 duty ready shouldn’t be rocket science but it does take some work. This work will pay dividends the moment you are in a situation where you are depending on your AR15 to work properly. Your life could hinge on the actions you took in the months and years before that moment.