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View Full Version : 1968 M16A1 maintenance comic - do you field strip your AR this far?



Wounded Ronin
8/07/2017 10:19am,
So I learned about this comic from 1968 about how to clean and take care of your M16A1 for troops in Vietnam. As I am sure everyone here knows the first run of M16s had major reliability problems that were related to many factors including improper ammunition, inadequate cleaning supplies, Colt's bizarre insistence that the rifle was somehow "self cleaning", and of course the humid jungle environment.

The comic is by Will Eisner and portrays the M16 rifle as a beautiful 1960s caucasian woman. It also contains lots of supplemental tips on protecting the rifle from the environment and alludes a bit to the M4 carbine style variants that had started to arrive in theater.

Apparently the magazines and lower receiver used to be made of aluminum. The lips on the magazines could easily bend and cause feeding problems, and apparently if you removed the various steel pins from the lower receiver they would eventually make the holes in the aluminum bigger and become prone to falling out. No wonder the M16 had a reputation for fragility!

http://www.ep.tc/problems/25/index.html

The comic is fascinating from a historical and cultural perspective. I do have one question for the people here, though. When you field strip your AR style rifle, do you take it down as far as they're saying to take it down in this comic? They're actually telling the troops in the field to take apart the bolt carrier assembly, jam pipe cleaners in the gas ports, remove the firing pin, and so on and so forth. Do you think that's really necessary for field stripping?

When I clean my contemporary AR I just remove and lubricate the bolt carrier assembly, clean the extractor without removing it, use a q tip briefly in the gas port (there's never heavy fouling in there) and scrub any fouling from the barrel, chamber and the put a little bit of lube on any exposed metal parts. I've never had a failure to fire, extract, feed, or anything with my AR. Am I doing it wrong, or do I need to do it like they say in this comic? Is it really critical to jam pipe cleaners as far as they will go into the gas port?

ghost55
8/07/2017 11:41am,
I take down the bolt all the way. I don't **** with the handguard or buffer spring though. Also, AR lowers and USGI mags are still made out of aluminum.

Wounded Ronin
8/07/2017 12:05pm,
I take down the bolt all the way. I don't **** with the handguard or buffer spring though. Also, AR lowers and USGI mags are still made out of aluminum.

Oh wow. I guess I got used to the nice plastic magazines and custom lowers that are so available on the civilian market.

BKR
8/07/2017 12:25pm,
I just have to be a butt...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aDU6N4HvFg

Wounded Ronin
8/07/2017 12:35pm,
I just have to be a butt...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aDU6N4HvFg

Oh yeah. Using a historical manual that I found on the internet, I took my AK down much further than my AR. I even removed all the wood furniture and refinished it, just as a kind of self-education project. The AK is a tremendous learning gun as far as disassembly, care, and maintenance goes. The one piece steel cleaning rod is awesome too because basically it's not going to bend or break and it's always with you.

BKR
8/07/2017 12:35pm,
Oh yeah. Using a historical manual that I found on the internet, I took my AK down much further than my AR. I even removed all the wood furniture and refinished it, just as a kind of self-education project. The AK is a tremendous learning gun as far as disassembly, care, and maintenance goes. The one piece steel cleaning rod is awesome too because basically it's not going to bend or break and it's always with you.

Not to mention overall reliability...

Cassius
8/07/2017 5:27pm,
Not to mention overall reliability...The sealed DI system has a lot to offer that many don't appreciate. Stoner was really ahead of his time. His system might poop where it eats, but the maintenance cycles are very predictable, and the sealed system keeps out most garbage from the environment. The gas and carbon blowing back into the system does a decent job of clearing debris and unfreezing a stuck bcg. The precision manufacturing ensures that broken components require very little skill to replace.

AKs are reliable, but they are poorly sealed against the environment. When AKs go down, they go down hard.

Wounded Ronin
8/07/2017 6:51pm,
The sealed DI system has a lot to offer that many don't appreciate. Stoner was really ahead of his time. His system might poop where it eats, but the maintenance cycles are very predictable, and the sealed system keeps out most garbage from the environment. The gas and carbon blowing back into the system does a decent job of clearing debris and unfreezing a stuck bcg. The precision manufacturing ensures that broken components require very little skill to replace.

AKs are reliable, but they are poorly sealed against the environment. When AKs go down, they go down hard.

So is that what they meant by "self cleaning"?

Basically, "somewhat resistant to debris but not so much to buildup, so clean it at regular intervals or you'll be sorry"?

BKR
8/07/2017 7:06pm,
The sealed DI system has a lot to offer that many don't appreciate. Stoner was really ahead of his time. His system might poop where it eats, but the maintenance cycles are very predictable, and the sealed system keeps out most garbage from the environment. The gas and carbon blowing back into the system does a decent job of clearing debris and unfreezing a stuck bcg. The precision manufacturing ensures that broken components require very little skill to replace.

AKs are reliable, but they are poorly sealed against the environment. When AKs go down, they go down hard.

But easy to take-down and clean. Look at the number of steps involved between the two...

ghost55
8/07/2017 7:42pm,
Oh wow. I guess I got used to the nice plastic magazines and custom lowers that are so available on the civilian market.

Most lowers are still made out of aluminum. There are some polymer and magnesium lowers, but those generally suck and break more easily.

Wounded Ronin
8/07/2017 9:12pm,
Most lowers are still made out of aluminum. There are some polymer and magnesium lowers, but those generally suck and break more easily.

You can get a nice steel lower if you want a heavy rifle for shooting from a rest. :3

ghost55
8/07/2017 9:30pm,
You can get a nice steel lower if you want a heavy rifle for shooting from a rest. :3

I mean, I guess. I'm not sure I would ever want to though.

Cassius
8/09/2017 9:41pm,
So is that what they meant by "self cleaning"?

Basically, "somewhat resistant to debris but not so much to buildup, so clean it at regular intervals or you'll be sorry"?Pretty much. But for some reason people get it in their heads that a battle rifle should be able to go its entire service life without being cleaned and still function reliably. Anything less is total ****. An AR15 should be cleaned every thousand rounds or so. Some seem to be fine going much longer, but a gun that can fire "only" a thousand rounds without being cleaned is still good for nearly 5x the average combat load carried into battle. And it's not like they need to be detail stripped and cleaned. Just wipe down the damn bcg and make sure carbon fouling isn't obstructing the bolt, barrel, and chamber. And if you know you might have to go extended periods without cleaning, just dunk the whole BCG in lube and run it super wet.

That said, I'm still totally building a dedicated suppressed SBR AR15 using a superlative arms piston system. Don't ask why. I just need to. For science!

Cassius
8/10/2017 5:50am,
But easy to take-down and clean. Look at the number of steps involved between the two...I own both. I wouldn't say there is a large difference in the skill required to take apart and clean them, beyond the foregrip being too tight and a pain in the ass to remove on my Arsenal SLR104. And you don't really ever need to clean the gas system on an AR (unless you're shooting .22lr through it with an adapter), so there's no point in taking it down that far.

They are both great firearms, and modern versions are even better. You guys who are obsessed with the idea of AK reliability should check out the Galil ACE. It is basically an AK with an actual sealed action. Too bad they removed all the lefty friendly features of the AK pattern when they designed it. Seems like an expensive pain in the ass for a southpaw like me to shoot.

Wounded Ronin
8/10/2017 10:46am,
Pretty much. But for some reason people get it in their heads that a battle rifle should be able to go its entire service life without being cleaned and still function reliably. Anything less is total ****. An AR15 should be cleaned every thousand rounds or so. Some seem to be fine going much longer, but a gun that can fire "only" a thousand rounds without being cleaned is still good for nearly 5x the average combat load carried into battle. And it's not like they need to be detail stripped and cleaned. Just wipe down the damn bcg and make sure carbon fouling isn't obstructing the bolt, barrel, and chamber. And if you know you might have to go extended periods without cleaning, just dunk the whole BCG in lube and run it super wet.

That said, I'm still totally building a dedicated suppressed SBR AR15 using a superlative arms piston system. Don't ask why. I just need to. For science!

Yeah, that's what one instructor told me when I brought up the legendary AR unreliability topic. He basically said that in an extreme situation you can relubricate the BCG and you should be good to go for a little while longer.

Of course, I wonder if one factor in the seeming good reliability of ARs today is how in many cases they're being operated in desert environments instead of jungle environments. In the past I've had to take care of some machinery in a jungle environment and it's amazing how things rust out there. A tiny scratch in the paint or finish and you start to get rusting and bulging under the paint. Moss starts growing on cars within a matter of months unless you scrub it off.

In the desert, you can leave a gun in the safe for years and not touch it, and it won't rust.

By the way, I have technically had more stoppages on my AK than my AR, although both are very clean and in good condition. I have had 0 stoppages on my AR, and 1 on my AK, which I believe was the fault of the magazine. In any case, in my experience with well maintained weapons and not operating them in extreme environments, both seem nearly infallible.

Diesel_tke
8/10/2017 11:34am,
I strip my ARs down to the bolt when I clean them. I don't usually take the extractor apart. I inspect all of the parts of the BCG and clean it pretty well. Check all the rings and stuff like that. I usually don't take the FCG apart unless it is starting to feel gritty or it looks real dirty. Sometimes I may take one apart to tinker with it, that's just for the fun of it. I took off the Bolt catch of one the other day because it wasn't contacting the bolt very well when the charging handle was pulled back and the catch engaged. I ended up grinding a little off the bottom and it works better now. But it was working fine before. I've built a bunch and mostly just like building them with different setups for the fun of it. I've built a few for friends to save them money.

The thing I like about an AR is that it wants to work. A lot of rifles and pistols have tolerances that are so tight that something being off just a little will cause all kinds of problems. But the AR wants to cycle. It will still work very well even when it has things not in optimal condition.