Lubricating Your AR-15

Black AR-15 on white background with orange can of lubricant

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 excessively thick during cold weather. Dry lube is necessary for 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 bolt itself should be completely covered with a light coat of oil or grease. Take care not to apply too much lubrication and wipe off any excess.

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.

Apply a few drops of oil or a dab of grease to each rail and rub it along the rail until it is lightly coated.

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.

Do you have an argument for running your AR “dripping wet?” Tell us why in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (51)

  1. What about White Lithium?? We used gun oil in the military, but, I have heard that White lithium is awesome to use, as long as it is used lightly.

  2. I have an Anderson AM15, I clean it with Simple Green and water with a bore snake and a gun brush, then rinse with a water hose.
    Then I blow the water out with an air hose, never use lube or solvent.
    It does not get as fouled up with carbon like a none RF85 treated AR.
    All my other guns I use CLP.

    1. Anderson RF85 that doesn’t require lube is a freaking joke. Put some lube on that thing and dont be silly. Having no lube can hurt but having lubricant cannot hurt.

    2. The Anderson Rifle is the only rifle in the world that never requires lubrication.
      An ancillary benefit arises because without an oily film to catch carbon particles, the rifle runs cleaner much longer. A typical lubricated weapon traps the carbon byproducts from explosives. Under the heated conditions found in weapons, the gooey mess turns into tar which bakes into a solid mass and fouls the chamber. The result is life-threatening weapon failure.

      85% Less Friction
      23% Faster Action
      Never Needs Oiling
      Cleans Up with Soap & Water
      Once you understand just how effective this process is, you won’t settle for anything less than an Anderson NO LUBE Rifle.

  3. I use Fire Clean on many of my firearms, the stuff works great. I get both a cleaner and a lubricant in one. Without ranting off about the product, I just want to say look into it and try it out. I have never had any issues and so little of the product is used to clean and/or lubricate. Those are my two pennies!

  4. My Dad used motor oil to lube his M16 in Vietnam. I started using it in my ARs in the 1980’s. First, regular 10W-30. When cars started using 5W-20, I switched over to full synthetic 5W-20. I carried a bottle of motor oil with me for 20 years in the military to lube my rifles. Doesn’t gum up or get sticky like CLP. Doesn’t burn off like LSA or regular gun oil. Carbon doesn’t burn onto the bolt and can be just wiped away. It also works well on other semi auto pistols and rifles. It’s a bit thick for use on hunting rifles and revolvers, and I don’t use it in the winter. I prefer dry moly for subfreezing temps. Otherwise, you can’t beat it.

  5. Thanks for the info. Do you repeat this every time after use, I was watching this one guy and he said after the range he just wipes clean. Puts some liquid frogs lube on his fingers and coats the parts.

  6. Now now victor no need to get so technical… The guy given his opinion, basically that’s how it works

  7. I’ve herd mobile 1 motor oil works great… I’ve never used it, but I’m about to try it soon. I’ve herd this from a guy that claimed he goes through a lot of rounds. If you think about it, it should hold up? If it’s good enough for race car motors, I’m sure it’ll hold up for the small amount of rage time I spend.

    1. The lube that I use is Zero Friction..Works good at lower temps.. If you have any questions about the lube that you use,,, put it in a deep freeze for a couple of days,, see if it stays fluid or pliable thanks joe

  8. Everyone here keeps mentioning high dollar product like froglube and slip2000. Those are great products, I’ve used them both, but I’ve found a cheaper solution that works just as well. I picked up a tube of lithium grease at my local hardware store for $5 and it works just as well as the premium stuff. And the tube holds fl ozs of the stuff. I’m pretty much set for the next ten years! You’re welcome….

  9. Frog lube is great soaks up into the pores of the metal and sweats when it heats up allowing it to constantly lube your weapon. only lube what is necessary too much and you can have failure the copper could start building up sticking to too much lube

    1. Metal does not have pores. It is a crystalline structure. Any lube that claims to “soak into” fictional metal pores should be suspect.

      Frog lube does not make that claim. Know your product before you post authoritatively on it.

    2. I also use Froglube. I have used several different types of gun CLPs and I have had the best results with FrogLube. Apparently Victor doesn’t like it. Oh well, that is what makes this country great. Freedom of choice. I use FrogLube CLP on the bolt carrier of both guns and they wipe clean. No scraping. The whole upper receiver also gets the treatment. The bolt carrier group practically falls into the receiver. Use what you want but i believe that Froglube is best.

  10. I use FrogLube, and it works great as long as you use it per instruction. The best way is to warm your parts before applying, then wipe off excess.If not applied this way, it will attract dirt and fowling.

    Had a previous issue with froglube not applied correctly on springs that gummed up and failed to work properly.

    1. do you wait for the parts to cool off and then wipe off the excess. I also use Froglube unfortunately I never did it by heating up the parts never had any fails or problems but I would like to start fresh and heat up everything and then apply the lube

    2. I use a hair dryer to warm the parts and let them set until cool, then wipe excess off. If I did not wipe off excess it would gum up. Evan had a failure to fire in a 1911, due to excess in main spring.

  11. New to AR’s. Been shooting a lubing a used Bushmaster XM15 I bought last year with MPRO7. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for lubrication. Only issue I have had was a stuck case from Russian ammo after about 530 rounds in the same session.

  12. I began using FrogLube a couple of months ago. When I break down my AR after heavy use (3-500 rounds in a couple of hours) It is still where I put it and while it may get black, it is still working. I almost hate to wipe it off. I had been using CLP on advise of my trainer and liked it but it replacing mid-match. not so with Frog Lube. BTW, it s so slick I am using itin my M&P 9mm too and my Ruger 10/22.

    1. I also run frog lube in my AR and all my firearms. Works perfectly every time. Like other poster noted it might get dirty or black but the debris wipe right off and it continues to work. Put over 1200 rounds through a glock 23 and 1500 rounds through the AR without any cleaning at all.

    1. Well BBob it’s an ak you own. Really no need to clean it. It will out live you without a cleaning LOL. I own 2 aks and I clean them after about 500 rds through them. No need for extra lube but I do add a little dry lube to parts that move metal to metal.

  13. Ok, so,, I’m new to the AR platform. What’s the cam pin and where is it at? I feel stupid now, lol. Thanks.

    1. OK, Gordon, I’ll try to walk you through this…
      In the 4th picture down in the article you’ll see the bolt carrier, facing left, with the rails (contact points) highlighted and marked :Grease rails here.” In the TOP highlighted area, near the front, you see that hole? That’s where the cam pin fits in. You remove that by first pulling out the cotter pin on the left side of the bolt (or “cam”), removing the firing pin and then the cam pin itself. The head of the cam pin is rectangular, so you’ll have to rotate that 1/4 turn in order for it to slide out past the gas key (the offset thingy on top of the bolt carrier group), The firing pin is what holds the cam pin in place and oriented properly for functioning of the bolt carrier group.
      Hope this helped..

    2. Gordon the cam pin is the second picture in this article. The 1st pic is the bolt carrier group as a whole then the second pic, the silver one with the dot above the hole. That is the cam pin and that is where you should put the lube.

  14. Light lubes like Rem Oil will fly or burn off quickly. I use Slip 2000 EWL 30 wt. as it’s thicker and stays put. No smell, clean indoors, non-toxic.

    1. I also use Slip 2000 products cleaning and light lubrication. If it’s good enough for the USMC, who am I to question? For the few areas where I choose to use grease, I utilize AeroShell 33MS Extreme Pressure Grease.

  15. Since I started using Shooters Choice High Temp gun grease I have not had any stoppages at all.

    Just put a small bead on the areas listed in the article with a Qtip and you will easily run 2K through your AR without issues.

    No dripping or splattering oil, no problems in cold weather, and fast clean up.

    My 2 cents.

  16. ARMagLock is a new patent pending AR-15 fixed magazine solution. It allows New York, Connecticut, California and new potential Rhode Island AR-15 owners to comply with existing and proposed fixed magazine laws, potentially avoiding assault weapon registration within their respective states. Stay compliant with the laws. For more
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    1. No Harris, the best fixed mag solution is to MOVE OUT OF NEW YORK!!! Then you never have the problem. The idiots in Albany are gonna get some law enforcement officers hurt or killed when the idiot governor tells them to go after the non-compliant. So just take your taxes, labor, talent, salary and loved ones to a real state!!

  17. “What lubricant you use is a personal decision.”
    Yes, yes, I would say so. It also depends on what you are lubricating.

  18. My are lube of choice for my AR’s is Mobil 1 15W-50. Works better than just about anything else out there and one bottle will last you a lifetime. If this stuff is good enough for million dollar+ high performance vehicles it will be great for AR’s and other gun platforms and it has for me.

    1. Out of curiosity, why 15w50…and do you still use it. What do you think of frogs lube

  19. Ive recently decided that when you simply use oil on any gun,that it runs down and off the critical parts as the weapon is stored in the cabinet/locker/safe.they have some gun grease that when used sparingly,does a much better job at staying put over still need a little oil on the compression rings on the bolt or a thin film in barrel.but the grease is better typically providing you dont run the gun in the dust or sand.look at a brand new glock has a grease on the wear areas.

  20. I purchased the Fail zero – Nickel Boron Bolt Carrier group.. No Lube and it fires flawlessly. The metal feels slick to the touch. I would highly recommend it. I paid $220 for it.. pricey, but no LUBE!

  21. At my first ‘dry run’ pre-qualification in Army Basic, an overzealous Drill Sergeant hosed all our bolts down with CLP from a spray bottle. I was wearing glasses, and the first shot sprayed oil all over them… I’m not a fan of the ‘soaking wet’ AR.

    On the other hand, one of my less-than-intelligent team members ran a bone-dry weapon on a blank-fire FTX. It stopped cycling before the end of the first magazine. When he lied and told me that he’d learned that CLP was just for cleaning, his arse-chewing got worse by an order of magnitude.

    In other words, the AR needs some lubrication. Thanks for pointing out the problem areas. If my AR hasn’t been fired in a while, I put a drop of oil in each of the two holes in the bolt (the vertical pair visible in the ejection port), and work the action a few times.

  22. I generally use SLIP 2000 EWL in liberal amounts all about the bolt carrier group (unless in a sandy, windy climate), and it keeps my ARs running flawlessly for 1000s of rounds – after which a thorough cleaning with Hoppes’ #9 and another lube job with SLIP 200 and I’m good to go again. A Tactical Instructor turned me unto SLIP 2000 a couple years ago and I’ve never looked back. I’d love to use their solvents (carbon killer), etc, but they’re just too hard to come by. But, assuming thy’re as effective as their lubricant, should I ever acquire any quantity of it, that’ll become my choice for cleaning as well. It’s like Mobil 1 for guns.

  23. What about piston driven AR’s like the Ruger SR-556 or the PWS MK114? Any additional critical wear items or need for different approach to lubrication?

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