Home » Guides » How To Clean An AR-15 Barrel Properly [Step By Step]

How To Clean An AR-15 Barrel Properly [Step By Step]

L.p. Brezny | Updated February 22, 2024 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
Black AR-15 with bipod and scope

Cleaning your AR-15 is part of owning a firearm. Knowing how to properly clean your AR-15 barrel will prevent you from accidentally damaging it and ensure it’s safe to use the next time you hit the range.

Here’s a complete step-by-step guide to how to clean an AR-15 barrel.

AR-15 Barrel Brands Review

Once you’ve finished this article I’d suggest you take a look at our article where we review the top AR-15 barrel brands.

How to Clean an AR-15 Barrel

Everyone has their own way of cleaning an AR-15 barrel. Whether you use a bore snake or a cleaning rod, the idea is to remove any contaminants from the barrel so you can shoot safely and accurately the next time you visit the range.

If you’re not sure how to clean an AR-15 barrel, take a look at our step-by-step guide below, complete with pictures for reference. Clean your AR-15 barrel a few times, and you’ll soon become a pro.

1. Prepare Your AR-15 for Cleaning

Person holding an AR-15 and inspecting bolt carrier

Before you do anything to your AR-15, ensure it is clear and safe. Visually and physically inspect the gun to ensure there is no live ammunition present.

Next, decide if you want to use a specific gun-cleaning vise or if you’ll simply lay the parts out on a cloth on a flat surface. You can remove the upper in either instance to make it easier to access the barrel.

Remove the bolt carrier group and charging handle and set those aside for cleaning if desired. The barrel is now ready to be cleaned.

2. Scrubbing the Bore

Cleaning brush scrubbing gun chamber

Place a chamber cleaning brush securely on a T-handle cleaning rod. After dipping it in some solvent, carefully insert it into the barrel from the receiver end and clean the chamber, the feed ramps, and the locking lugs.

3. Clear the Barrel

Hands unscrewing .22 caliber cleaning brush from rod

Place a .22 caliber cleaning brush on the T-handle cleaning rod and put a few drops of solvent on it. Carefully insert it into the barrel from the receiver end and remove the cleaning brush before you pull it out.

4. Clean the AR-15 Barrel

Clean patch in a gun chamber

With a slotted tip jag, insert a clean patch and run it through the barrel once, moving again in the direction of the bullet’s flight. Discard the dirty patch before removing the cleaning rod from the barrel and continue until the patches are clean.

Cleaning rod in a barrel with clean patch on the end

5. Lube the Barrel

Can of cleaner lubricant preservative and gun on a bench

Attach a bore mop to your cleaning rod. Place a few drops of your favorite gun lubricant on the bore mop and move it through the barrel.

Bore mop attached to a cleaning rod

6. Reassembly and Testing

Assembled AR-15 lying on a table

The final step in cleaning your AR-15 barrel is reassembling the gun after it’s all clean. Test the mechanics of the AR-15 to ensure it’s in proper working order before you send any rounds down range.

If anything seems confusing, you can check out this video that does a great job explaining the process of cleaning an ar15 barrel:

How Do I Clean a 5.56 or .223 Barrel, Is It Any Different?

Cotton swab brushing gun barrel

The same principles of cleaning an AR-15 barrel apply to any barrel. As long as your cleaning equipment can fit down the barrel without catching it, you’re fine.

How Often Should I Clean an AR-15 Barrel

Depending on how often you shoot, you should clean your AR-15 barrel every few hundred rounds. If you shoot suppressed, you’ll want to clean your AR-15 barrel more often due to the additional back pressure. (Reference: Cleaning your AR-15)

Common Tools for Cleaning Barrels

Every gun owner has their own favorite set of tools for cleaning their barrels. Here are a few common cleaning tools you’ll want to invest in.

Cleaning Rod

Red cleaning rods and brushes

A cleaning rod is a thin rod that allows you to reach down the barrel to the muzzle end. Cleaning rods also have a threaded end for attaching brushes, jags, and mops.

Most cleaning rods come in a specific caliber size and length. Choose a cleaning rod that will fit inside your gun’s bore diameter and is longer than the length of the barrel, as you’ll need to maneuver the cleaning rod through the barrel with additional length at each end. (Reference: More on AR-15 barrel lengths)

Cleaning Kit

Gun cleaning kit in a box

Most cleaning kits include the attachments above, as well as solvents and lubricants. You can easily purchase cleaning kits from any one of many gun-cleaning accessory manufacturers.

You can also build your own gun cleaning kit by purchasing components separately. This is often the case if you want to use a specific type of solvent or lubricant to clean your AR-15 barrel.

Cleaning Spray

You can also find cleaning spray that sits inside the barrel to loosen contaminants. This spray can make it easier to clean your AR-15, but you’ll still need the other cleaning components to finish the job.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I oil my AR-15 barrel?

Yes, you should oil your AR-15 barrel. Any metal-on-metal moving parts will wear out less if you lube them each time you clean your gun.

What size cleaning rod for AR-15?

You’ll need a .22 caliber cleaning rod for your AR-15, just slightly longer than the length of your barrel. In the case of cleaning rods, longer is better so you can reach all the way through the barrel.

What size cleaning rod for a 5.56?

A cleaning rod for a 5.56 should be smaller than the bore diameter but longer than the length of the barrel. Most cleaning rods used for 5.56 rifles are .22 caliber in size.

What is a cleaning rod used for?

A cleaning rod is used to clean the entire length of the barrel and reach all the way to the muzzle end. Most cleaning rods are threaded on the end to allow for the attachment of several different types of gun-cleaning tools.

What size thread is a cleaning rod?

The size thread of most cleaning rods for .22 calibers and larger are 8-32. However, you should note the thread size of your cleaning rod before you purchase any cleaning tools to ensure you get the right size threads.

Should I get a bore snake or cleaning rod?

You can get either a bore snake or a cleaning rod. A bore snake simply runs through the length of the barrel while a cleaning rod allows you to attach jags and brushes for more detailed cleaning.

Should you clean AR-15 after every use?

You don’t need to clean your AR-15 after every use. Most AR-15 owners clean their guns after a few hundred rounds.

You can also get into the habit of cleaning your AR-15 after visiting the range. This can help prevent debris from absorbing into the barrel over time.

Which is better for gun cleaning brass or nylon brush?

Brass gun cleaning brush in a cleaning kit

You can use both brass or nylon brushes, depending on which solvent you use. Brass brushes tend to be more aggressive than nylon.

If you use a brass brush, you’ll want to avoid copper-removing solvents as these can damage the brush. However, if you’re using a nylon brush, you don’t have to worry about copper-removing solvents.

What bore snake works for 5.56?

A .22 caliber bore snake works for a 5.56. It can be a snug fit depending on the bore snake you purchase, but a snug fit can ensure you clear the barrel of any debris.


  1. Bob Campbell, Which AR Barrel Length Should You Use? Retrieved from https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/blog/which-ar-barrel-length-should-you-use/
  2. Vortex Nation, Stop Overcleaning Your Guns. Retrieved from https://vortexoptics.com/blog/stop-overcleaning-your-guns.html

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