There are few things more satisfying than a properly functioning AR-15 rifle. Follow up shots are fast and precise, loading is easy and intuitive, and handling the rifle feels like second nature. Conversely, an AR that is plagued by malfunctions, part failures, and broken accessories can be one of the most infuriating feelings you could ever experience.
Here at Bootleg, Inc., we’ll be the first to admit that while modern rifle design and manufacturing has ensured that the AR-15 and other rifles like it are some of the most reliable and mechanically sound tools ever created, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to failure and wear and tear. In fact, by nature of their use, firearms are subjected to wear and tear faster than many other tools.
That means that eventually, the parts and accessories on your AR will wear out. It’s not a matter of if but when. Being aware of these parts ensures that you can keep a few spares handy on the armorer’s bench or in your range bag.
What Parts Fail and Why
As mentioned above, modern machining and tolerances ensure that most rifles will very rarely, if ever, experience any kind of part failure. That’s in part because most firearm owners simply aren’t shooting enough to truly wear out a rifle before it either gets a permanent spot in the safe or is traded in at a local gun shop for something fancier. But for those who are range addicts or use their AR-15 rifles in shooting competitions, they’re putting enormous stress on their firearms.
The parts and accessories on your AR have what’s generally referred to as “wear durability.” Simply put, this is how fast a part wears out after frequent use. Depending on the type of part or the quality of the accessory, this “wear durability” will vary, but any part will wear out with enough time and use. This slow degradation of the part leads to common and uncommon issues, like jamming, accuracy issues, misfeeds, and more.
While we often think about the wear we put on the external parts of our rifle, the reality is that our internal parts see far more wear and tear and are more likely to need to be replaced than something like your handguard or your barrel. So with that in mind, let’s examine the parts that will wear out first.
#1: Your Bolt
Before you start coddling your bolt and cooing to it gently before every round, just remember that your bolt was designed to be used and abused. But if you’re a regular at the local range, your bolt might wear out faster than you might expect.
Bolt failure is typically seen in one of two places: splitting along the cam pin holes or the locking lugs break. Either of these issues quickly spells the end of your range trip if you don’t have a replacement bolt on hand.
When your bolt begins to split near the cam pin holes, you might only notice a crack on one side of the part itself. However, this crack can spread throughout the part, and eventually cause the entire bolt to split in two.
Wear and tear on your locking lugs can be difficult to identify if you don’t take a careful look at the part regularly. You’ll know if these lugs have failed because they’ll have broken apart in the bolt, and the shattered pieces will accumulate in your chamber, causing misfeeds and jams.
#2: Your Gas Tube Components
Perhaps because it is hidden inside your front handguard and rarely removed, it can be hard to remember that your gas tube is one of the most used assemblies on your rifle.
Keeping your gas tube and block together are fine roll pins. Normally, these parts do not fail, break, or fall out, but it can happen on rare occasions. It’s important to have extra pins on hand so you can replace them and keep your rifle functioning normally.
Your gas tube has a flared end which creates an air-tight seal between the tube itself and the gas key. With heavy use or simple age, this flare can eventually get pounded flat. Once flattened, the air-tight seal is broken, creating a negative seal that lets gas escape. When this part fails, you’ll find that you’ll experience cycling issues until the part is replaced.
#3: Your Extractor
The extractor is a common wear point for any firearm, not just the AR-15. Depending on the quality of your extractor, however, you might find yourself replacing this part sooner rather than later. Extractors can be cracked, chipped, or even break depending on the type of ammo you’re using that day. In particular, steel cased ammo can wear on your AR extractor more quickly than other kinds of cased ammunition. Once worn, the extractor is unable to grab the rim of your spent casing and remove it from your receiver.
While the extractor itself will likely fail first, there is an off-chance that the supporting parts will also fail. The springs and buffers of your extractor should be removed and replaced regularly. If while inspecting them you notice they are smashed, bent, or flattened, get replacement parts right away.
#4: Your Firing Pin
The fact is, the parts that make up your BCG, or bolt carrier group, are perhaps some of the most prone to accelerated wear and tear. Within your BCG resides your firing pin. Your firing pin can fracture and break with time and use. Depending on the weight and hardness of the primers you’re using in your ammo, how long it takes for the firing pin to break can vary.
Generally, your firing pin will lose its shape with time and use. Eventually, the tip will become blunted, chipped, or even bent. These deformations can prevent the pin from hitting the primer of your round, which can cause cycling issues or hang fires. Should your firing pin become damaged, just replace it entirely. It’s not worth the effort to try and repair it.
Bootleg, Inc. is Your Source For Quality AR Parts and Accessories
If you’re tired of constantly replacing worn out parts on your rifle, it’s time to invest in higher quality materials. From bolt carrier groups and gas blocks to upper receivers and charging handles, Bootleg offers top-tier parts for your AR. Made from durable steel and featuring hardened coatings and finishes, our parts are ready to stand up to whatever you throw at them. Order yours today.