Common AR Problems (and How to Fix Them)

Visit any shooting range across the United States and chances are you’ll see at least one AR-15 rifle there. It’s considered by many to be “America’s rifle” and for good reason. They’re affordable, accurate, and can be used easily by shooters of any age or any size. And while modern machining practices have made AR-15s increasingly more precise and reliable, they are still prone to the occasional problem.

Bootleg Inc. offers you the AR-15 parts and accessories that you need to completely customize your rifle. You won’t get much use out of these parts if you can address the problems you’re having out on the range. Part of being a better marksman is having a greater understanding of how your rifle works. So let’s take a look at some of the most common AR-15 problems and how to fix them.

Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

One of the easiest ways to address problems is to prevent them from happening in the first place. The fact is, the guys you see at the range were struggling with the rifles all day long are the ones who aren’t taking care of them. After every range trip, you should be thoroughly cleaning your weapon. There are plenty of guides out there on the Internet that will show you how to properly disassemble and clean your weapon. If you bought your rifle instead of building it, it’s likely that the manufacturer included an owners manual that shows you how to disassemble your weapon. We’ve even offered some insights on how you can better clean your rifle in one of our previous blog posts. A clean rifle is a functional rifle. Keeping the weapon clean and lubricated will mitigate any problems you may have.

The type of magazine you’re using can also be a source of your range time issues. While surplus US G.I. magazines are cheap they’re not always the most reliable. These magazines are often put to their paces at shooting ranges on military posts or actual combat zones and are not cared for to the same degree that actual service weapons are. If you find that your surplus magazines are constantly causing issues, it may be time to spend a little more and get some of the higher quality metal or polymer magazines made by third-party manufacturers.

Of course, these steps can’t always address or prevent all the problems rifle could have at the range. In moments like these, it’s best to know how to identify the problem and address it.

What to Do First

As soon as your rifle malfunctions or experiences an issue any kind, the first step is to take your finger off the trigger, put the weapon on safe, and to keep the weapon pointed down range. This simple step prevents further problems of having a malfunctioning weapon being pointed at nearby shooters.

Military service members or veterans may be aware of the immediate actions you can take to address a problem with your rifle. Colloquially this is referred to as “tap, rack, bang.” This method may work for the battlefield but isn’t always appropriate for the shooting range. Instead, you should practice the “tap, rack, and reassess” method.

  • Tap the bottom of your magazine to make sure it’s properly seated in the well.
  • Rack the charging handle of the rifle forcefully and release it.
  • Reassess and make sure that the issue has been resolved or is still in play. This reassess step ensures that the rifle is safe to fire.

The truth of the matter is that this simple three-step process will address the vast majority of any problems you experience will shooting your AR-15. Generally, your rifle will encounter simple stoppages that are caused by an unknown reason. However, if this does not work your rifle may be experiencing a far more complicated issue, and the reassess step may take longer. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the problems are most likely to experience at the range.

Failure to Feed

One of the most frequent and easily remedied range problems you will encounter is a failure to feed. Usually, this problem is caused when the bolt carrier group hasn’t moved forward with enough force to push a new round into the chamber and lock the boat in place. This can be solved with tap, rack, and reassess or the use of your forward assist.

Failure to Fire

In some cases, your rifle can properly chamber around but still not fire. If failure to fires caused by one of two factors. First, the ammunition could be defective in some way. The second issue could be that the firing pin did not strike the cartridge primer hard enough. In either case, keep the weapon pointed downrange for 3 to 5 seconds in case your experiencing hang fire and the primer is taking a while to detonate. Then eject the round and inspect the casing and the primer. Compare the strike against the primer to that of an empty casing that you fired earlier. If the indent in the unfired around is not as pronounced as the fire around, he may be experiencing firing pin issues. However if the round has the same indent see fire ground, it is likely a primer issue.

Failure to Extract

A failure to extract occurs when the bolt and carrier have either short stroked or returned completely rearward. In both cases, the cartridge is left in the chamber. The next round is cycled and is forced against the case that is still the chamber, creating a difficult to resolve issue. To address this problem, start by walking your bolt to the rear and putting the rifle on safe. Remove the magazine and any loose cartridges in the rifle. With the rifle pointed safely up and away from others, strike the butt stock on a firm surface to dislodge the round.

In some cases, a failure to extract is caused by a broken or ruptured round which is then stuck in the chamber. Again, put the rifle on safe and remove the magazine. Use a cleaning rod to push the jammed casing out of the receiver. For particularly stubborn casings, you may need to use the cleaning rod from the muzzle and a tool in the ejection port to fully remove the damaged case.

Stovepipe Jam

This is perhaps the easiest of the common range issues to diagnose and solve. When your rifle experiences a stovepipe jam, this simply means that the empty brass casing has been caught in the ejection port and is preventing the bolt from returning to battery. You can solve this jam in one of two ways.

Perhaps the simplest method is to simply use your hand to remove the offending brass. However, there will be no round chambered and so you will have to rack the bolt anyway. Instead use the tap, rack, reassess method above which clears the case from the receiver and puts the rifle the battery with a round in the chamber.

A Double Feed

Perhaps the most complicated type of problem you’ll find on the range is a double feed. Essentially, this is when two rounds try to occupy the same place at the same time. A double feed is exacerbated by the fact that your buffer spring is pressing the rounds forward into the chamber. The first step is to pull the bolt back and lock it in the rear position. Next, remove the magazine from the rifle. Depending on the severity of the jam, this may require some force. With the magazine out of the rifle, rack the bolt back and forth to three times. If this process does not work, it may require some careful manipulation of the jam grounds. Use your fingers or range tool at the edge of a pocket knife to free the rounds from the chamber.

Double feeds are often caused by a combination of issues. First, it may be that your buffer spring isn’t as strong as you believe it is. It could be that your 30 round magazines are tightly loaded. The pressure from the spring of the magazine pushes the second round into the receiver faster than the buffer spring can push the first round in. There are three ways to solve this issue. First, you can replace your buffer spring with a stronger example. Second, you can use higher quality magazines at the range. Or third, you can simply load 29 rounds instead of 30 into your magazines.

Customize Your Rifle Today

A detailed understanding of how your rifle works and doesn’t work is a critical part of becoming a capable marksman. Once you understand the fundamentals of shooting accurately and caring for your weapon, you’ll find that your trips to the range are more effective and more productive.

When you’ve developed an intimate familiarity with her weapon it’s time to customize it to meet your needs. Bootleg Inc. is your go-to source for high-quality AR parts and accessories. From bolt carrier groups to handguards, upper receivers, flash hiders, and more, we have the products you need to enhance the fit and finish of your AR-15 rifle. Browse our complete collection today and order now.

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