How to Fix Your AR 15 When It’s Not Cycling
Few scenarios suck more than the following: you pull out your AR-15, load in a fresh magazine, drop the bolt, pull the trigger to fire one round, and then … nothing. Your gun won’t cycle, has cycled poorly, or is jammed. Now what?
It’s best to know ahead of time what can lead to cycling issues with your AR-15 before they happen to you. That way, you’ve got an understanding of what may have happened, why it happened, and how to fix it. That’s what we’re going to discuss here.
Common Causes for AR Cycling Problems
Unfortunately, there’s more than one thing that can cause cycling problems in an AR. We’ll take a look at some of the most common ones and what you can do to fix the problem.
Using New or Different Ammo
While some guns may function flawlessly with any and all ammo you put through it, others are fussier than we might like. Some ammo with different weight bullets, varying powder charges, or even casing composition can have an impact on how well your gun does – or does not – cycle.
This can be a trial and error elimination process and, while frustrating, isn’t really a huge issue. Figure out what your AR likes best and stick with it.
Carbon buildup is a fact of life when it comes to shooting guns – even more so when shooting suppressed. If there’s too much carbon built up on the internal parts of your AR-15, then it can cause the gun to not cycle properly or not cycle at all.
The fix is easy: use a carbon scraper and other gun cleaning tools to remove the excess carbon buildup and get your gun running again.
A magazine that is in good working order is essential to proper AR function. If you’re having cycling or feed issues, the cause could be your magazine. Some issues that you could run into with a magazine are bent feed lips, worn-out springs, damaged mag catch openings, misaligned followers, and more.
If the magazine is the issue, it’s an easy fix: just grab another mag!
A Leak in the Gas Build Up System
Most AR-15s require the usage of excess gas from each round that is fired in order to cycle the action and chamber the next round. If there’s a leak in your gas tube or gas block, this could prevent the action from getting enough gas to properly cycle.
Inspect your gas tube and gas block to ensure that everything is attached properly and that there aren’t any loose parts or holes where there shouldn’t be.
Outdated Buffer Springs
Springs are a consumable product. Over time, they become less, well, springy. Through repeated compression and decompression cycles that take place each and every time you fire your AR-15, the spring wears down ever so slightly. After enough time has gone by and enough rounds have compressed your buffer springs, they will wear out and lead to cycling issues.
Luckily, it’s really easy and inexpensive to switch out an old buffer spring for a new one.
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Different Types of AR 15 Jams & Fixes
It would be impossible to list every type of jam that you might encounter with your AR, but some are more prevalent than others. We’ll take a look at a few of them and what you can do to get your gun up and running again safely.
Feed Failure (Chamber Failure)
This happens when your round does not fully or properly seat into the chamber and the bolt does not lock closed. It is one of the most common AR malfunctions, and it’s also one of the easiest to fix!
How to Fix it
- Perform standard “tap, rack, reassess” first
- Clear rounds from the chamber
- Double-check your magazine’s seating
- If all else fails, you may need to replace your buffer spring
Bolt Override Jam
This type of jam is sometimes referred to as “brass over bolt” because that’s exactly what has happened. A piece of spent brass or a live round has managed to get wedged above the bolt while the bolt is in the forward position.
How to Fix it
- Drop the magazine
- Pull the charging handle back as far as you can get it to go
- Bump your rifle’s butt on the ground to create space in the chamber by moving the bolt back bit by bit
- Smack the charging handle forward to help free the stuck round
Jamming Due to Dirt & Debris
Dirt and debris are the enemies of every gun. While some may run better than others while dirty, all guns will eventually stop cycling if they have enough dirt and debris in them.
The remedy to this kind of jamming is easy: clean your gun!
Cleaning Your Gun Properly
A clean gun is a happy gun, and a happy gun is one that you can run! Take the time to use the proper tools, solvents, and lubricants to make sure that your gun is a clean, well-oiled machine. This simple bit of maintenance can prevent a huge headache down the line.
Dangers of a Malfunctioning AR-15
The likelihood of your malfunctioning AR-15 being deadly is slim, but never zero. If your rifle malfunctions, you could damage the gun and hurt yourself if you don’t know how to fix the malfunctions. If you end up with a barrel obstruction and you don’t clear it properly, you could blow up the gun and cause serious injury or death to yourself. Equipment can be replaced; you cannot.
Maintaining an AR-15 to Prevent Cycling Problems
Regular maintenance is one of the easiest ways to prevent cycling problems in an AR-15. Here are a couple of very basic things you can do to keep your gun running smoothly.
Regular Gun Cleanings
You don’t have to do a complete strip and deep clean of your gun after every range session, but you should at least wipe it down each time and inspect the gun’s various moving parts to ensure that they are free from any debris or fouling.
Then, set a schedule that works for you to do a full breakdown and deep clean on your gun periodically throughout the year.
Keep Your Gun in a Protective Case
Your gun is far less likely to get gummed up with dirt and debris or have any unwanted and unintended items obstructing it in any way or place if the gun is properly stored in a protective case or safe.
Know What to Do if Your AR-15 Jams!
This is by no means an exhaustive list of jams and fixes, but it is a good starting place to know what to inspect to keep your gun running properly and what you can do to get it going again in case you experience one of the above-mentioned jams.
The most important thing is to stay safe. If you are unable to clear a jam or do not feel safe doing it yourself, be sure to seek out a competent gunsmith to perform the work for you. Better safe than sorry!Get a Suppressor For Your AR-15