Tiger McKee

Shootrite Firearms Academy

Brother Can You Spare a Bolt?

The majority of the problems I see with AR’s involve the bolt assembly. The simple solution to this problem is to have a spare bolt assembly on hand. If you’re training/practicing and experience a problem swap out bolts.

Just be sure to check the headspace on your spare bolt to make sure it fits. (Unless you plan on performing a lot of work on AR’s and need gauges get a gunsmith check it.) Have your spare bolt gauged in any other AR’s you own as well; usually one bolt will often fit several rifles, but check to be sure.

It’s also a good idea to have spare parts for your bolt group, and the knowledge and tools necessary to swap out parts, which is pretty easy. One of the most common parts to fail is the extractor spring. With a punch and the know-how it’s easily replaced.

I use chrome silicon springs for both extractors and ejectors in my rifles. (Brownells #840-000-051) While reworking the bolt I also replace the cotter pin holding the firing pin in place with an original style solid pin. The cotter pin eventually bends, making it difficult to remove and install. The solid pin (Brownells #231-000-029) cures this problem.

Get you an extra set of gas rings for the bolt. The rings wear out, and occasionally they break. I’ve seen rifles run with missing or broken rings, but it’s not something I’d do for extended periods of time. My Marine Corps Technical Manual advises testing the gas rings for wear by installing the bolt in the carrier, without the firing pin and cam pin, and holding the carrier upside down.

If the bolt drops free, replace the rings. I’m not sure what the ‘official’ life of the gas rings is – I have training carbines with 15,000 + rounds through them – but with an operational weapon, replace them regularly, like every 5,000 rounds or so. (Note: Keep a logbook on your weapons. Data books aren’t just for sniper rifles.)

One area to inspect on your bolt, especially with new rifles, is the gas key on top of the carrier. Make sure the bolts holding the key are securely staked in place. If they aren’t properly staked, they work loose, gas escapes and the weapon won’t cycle properly.

Use plenty of lube on the bolt, carrier, and charging handle. Where you see wear marks, lube it up. I use SLIP 2000 EWL. AR’s will run dirty, but not dry.

Taking proper care of a fighting firearm is a matter of life and death. Preventative maintenance is essential; it fails during a fight the consequences are disaster. If you don’t feel confident about working on your own weapons find someone who does, and not just anyone, but the guy that you trust when he’s finished it’s done right.

Occasional, sometimes, or the “it only happens every once in a while” problems are not acceptable when it comes to your weapon. This also is true for every other piece of your kit.

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March 3, 2011 - Posted by | AR-15, Gear

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