The fact that AR-15 rifles need to be cleaned and lubricated regularly is not new to anyone reading this. At least it shouldn’t be. But what parts of the rifle require lubrication, and in what amounts? That is the question we will answer here today.
In general, the bolt assembly is the only component of the AR-15 that needs regular lubrication. There are other parts that should be lightly wiped down with oil, such as the bore and the charging handle, but there is rarely a need to frequently reapply lubrication to these parts.
When cleaning your AR-15, a good quality solvent removes not only carbon fouling but also much of the oil or grease used to lubricate the critical moving parts of the gun. After cleaning you should always reapply lubricant to these parts.
What lubricant you use is a personal decision. Depending on the environment, some shooters prefer to use a light oil, gun grease, or even a dry lube. Each type has certain advantages and disadvantages. Some light oils can burn off from heat, and some heavy oils and grease can become excessive thick during cold weather. Dry lube is necessary in excessively dry and dusty or sandy situations, but in general the thin film left by dry lubricants doesn’t reduce friction to the same level as other traditional oils.
While there are advocates of shooting the AR-15 platform “dripping wet,” this method is not necessary. In some cases where the weapon may be exposed to harsh elements, over-lubrication may actually be ill-advised as the excess oil will attract and trap dirt and debris. Instead, keep the lubrication to a minimum and apply it only where it is needed.
The cam pin needs just a little dot of oil or grease just above the firing pin hole. Rub in the lubrication until it is lightly coated and wipe off any excess.
In the past, many shooters would completely coat the bolt carrier with oil or grease. This is not truly necessary. If you look closely at the bolt carrier you will notice rails along the top and bottom of either side. These bearing surfaces, which appear shiny on bolt carriers that have had a couple of hundred rounds fired through them, are the only parts that need to be frequently lubricated.
When shooting a match, especially with high round counts that may heat up the bolt and carrier assembly significantly, it pays to reapply lubricant to these parts to replace oil that has burned off. Shooting your AR-15 style rifle “dripping wet” is not strictly necessary. Keep bolt, carrier, and cam pin lightly lubricated and you’ll be good to go.