This article is a guest post from Richard Douglas. Richard is a long-time shooter, an outdoor enthusiast, and a technologist. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field. Columnist at The National Interest, Cheaper Than Dirt, Daily Caller, and other publications. Enjoy!
The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the gun industry.
In fact, gun sales (and optics) have hit record levels in the wake of the pandemic and according to FBI data, NICS firearm background checks have averaged 3.4 million per month since March when the stay-at-home orders were first initiated.
The last time this many firearms background checks were conducted was in December of 2012 following the reelection of President Obama when he firmly ran on the promise of stricter gun laws.
Well for those who have gone with either America’s Gun: The Black Rifle or the Soviet bad-boy: The Kalashnikov for their best defense against whatever 2020 decides to toss at them next, here are five tips to keeping those fine beauties running as intended.
Keep It Clean
Of course, you knew I was gonna say it so I might as well make it first on the list.
Things like sand or heavy grit in the chamber, a worn magazine or a bad extractor are just some of the things that may stop the AR-15 as well as the AK to stop running properly.
You will want to field strip the rifle and apply CLP (Clean Lube Protect) Breakfree to the parts that you can get to using a toothbrush and scrub including the bolt carrier/gas piston and the bolt itself.
Also, run a powder solvent like Hoppes #9 through the bore using a saturated patch down the barrel to rid of any carbon deposits. Take a brass brush to the gas piston and the bolt face and run a shotgun brush down the gas tube a few times to knock out any carbon buildup.
Check to make sure there are no carbon buildups in the channel leading to the barrel as well.
Colt recommends for their AR15s to be cleaned as soon as possible after firing for an easier job and for less opportunity for corrosion to start and then to check it again a few days later to make sure no further cleaning is necessary.
Colt also suggests that when the firearm has not been fired, it should be cleaned once or twice per year in a temperate climate or as often as once per week in a tropical climate.
Use High-Quality Magazines
One of the cheapest and most simple parts of any rifle is often also one of the primary causes of rifle malfunction.
Choosing your magazine is an important decision as the magazine itself may be dropped, stepped on, pushed into the dirt, or left stored away for long stretches of time.
Because of these instances, you will want to anticipate the stress (or lack thereof) you may be putting your magazine through and choose the correct body-type magazine.
Aluminum magazines are more easily bent or damaged than polymer-made ones which instead crack and break, making it easy to identify the issue of non-functional equipment.
IN the argument of polymer vs. steel, polymer designs are considerably lighter and don’t have issues with rust. Steel is ultimately much stronger and there are no worries with feed lips breaking when dropped which could result in a double feed.
For both your AR or for your AK, Magpul is labeled as the standard magazine of choice.
Lube It Up
The term ‘well-oiled machine’ doesn’t by any means exclude the AR-15 or the AK-47 and to be certain that these machines continue running like champions, keep them lubricated.
Now, in looking into these two rifles, it definitely seems that there are “AR people” and “AK people”.
The AK side tends to more often lean on the ruggedness of the AK and the fact that it was built to be more tolerant of things like dirt, sand, rain, heat, cold, or even no lubrication for longer periods of time. With this mindset also comes a lot more of a relaxed position on lubrication such as “pick any lube or oil and use it.”
The AR group is more disciplined when it comes to lubrication, recommending a high-quality lubricant being applied to any parts that rub together during the reassembly after field stripping. Some prefer to apply a single drop of oil to the trigger controls along with lubricating the buffer tube, the bolt and carrier (the most important parts to lubricate), the charging handle, and a small bead around the takedown and pivot pins.
You can use Ballistol which is a CLP so you can clean and lubricate at the same time.
Use Good-Quality Ammunition
It may be easier on the wallet to go for the cheapest thing to make our rifle go ‘bang’ but if your intentions for your rifle are for a more critical use like home defense, good quality ammo like Federal XM193 or Hornady is essential.
The steel vs. brass issue always comes up when talking ammo, almost always with brass on top due to steel being less reliable overall.
When it comes to the AK though, this is not always the case as the aggressive action and extraction are perfect for ripping out a stuck casing from the chamber but possibly too good when it comes to brass cartridges, ripping up the softer metal and causing malfunction.
AR-15’s are more recommended for brass simply because the steel casings are dirtier and that leaves the AR prone to more issues than the AK.
For home defense purposes, I’d suggest to go with a hollow point (when you can find it) since it breaks apart more and delivers more energy to your intended target than a full metal jacket.
Keep Replacement Parts on Hand
My last advice for keeping your machine running is to keep spare parts on hand.
These are parts that might break and those that you might lose while cleaning, disassembling or other maintenance.
Say you are cleaning and have the bolt stripped. Now say you accidentally drop one of those bolt pieces. Chances are, they are now gone. Another spare should be the extractor but don’t stop with that; include the spring, internal buffer, and O-ring as well.
You should also have a spare firing pin, spare gas rings and even a spare bolt.
For the AK’s, Brownells suggests that the best spare parts to keep on hand are springs such as the recoil spring, hammer spring, extractor spring, and trigger spring. Other than that, there is not too much else you can change on the AK.
Now that you know how to keep your black gun happy and healthy, have you thought about what you should be doing to take care of your pistol?