Beginners Guide to the AR-15

1 year, 7 months ago

Many Traditional Americans have bought an AR-15 recently but have used it little or not at all. (Ahem, you know who you are!) The first thing to do is read the whole manual that came with your weapon. The manual should have a parts list diagram. This will be important info providing proper terminology. Most say what to do next is to take it partially apart (field strip), clean it, and reassemble it, even before shooting. You should at least field strip it and wipe down the excess manufacturer’s oil.

There is a lot, and I mean a lot, of information about the AR-15 platform on the web. Most of it is useless. It’s super high-speed operators, the bulk of whom are total jerks, trying to impress and one-up each other, whose language and decorum are despicable, which doesn’t help the average family with their homesteading, church, or team-building needs.

The object should be to train with the AR platform to get beyond your hunting knowledge. Your women folk also need to learn to run the gun.

Get very familiar with the weapon platform, how it performs, its capabilities, and its uses. Training with an AR is different than hunting; the platform is designed primarily for defense. That’s why you bought it, right!?!

Well, you need practice in all phases; handling and manipulation, including loading/unloading/reloading mags, safety, sling, sights, how and when to use the “ping pong paddle” – bolt catch/release lever, safety positions, the six-position buttstock, learning/running drills, shooting static/moving targets, shooting while you’re moving, etc.

You can see how this is definitively not a bolt gun and not like hunting! The time to learn your AR isn’t when your family is in trouble but before.

Some background reading is here: The AR15 as the Rifleman’s Weapon.

This video is pretty good at showing terminology and the basics of manipulation.

Next: how to field strip and clean your AR-15.

John Lovell at Warrior Poet Society is the rare exception. Instead of being a rude, know-it-all tough guy, he’s an experienced action guy with the heart of a teacher. Here’s his How To Shoot an AR-15/M-4 Carbine video, including some step-by-step written instructions.

In this video, we learn a wonderful beginner’s shooting drill. The reason for three shots is, again, defense, not hunting. I like that he teaches to get the hits on target first and, with practice, increase the rapidity with which you can run the drill. When proficient, increase the distance from the target. Later, add mag reload. This is also a fantastic handgun basic training practice. Found at this channel with other good vids.

I’m a proponent of the idea that every adult, 12 years and up, should have at least basic proficiency with every weapon type in your household. A father can determine if children are mature enough to begin serious training, but they should be training in their youth, boys, and girls.

Readers, please weigh in with beginner to helpful intermediate knowledge, books, channels, links and etc. Thanks.


  1. On September 29, 2022 at 11:30 pm, James said:

    I would add to the aforementioned videos/articles ect.,spare parts folks,get them while you can.Firing pins/bolt rings/a small parts pack that includes all the pesky springs/detents/ect.,oh…..and more ammo for actual practice,a lot of good dry fire practice videos out there that will help build basic skills.

    I found this dry fire video pretty helpful for me and he also does ones with the AR platform:

    Is very helpful also if you have a friend/family member who can help you get started.

    Have fun learning some news skills/platforms!

  2. On September 29, 2022 at 11:52 pm, Chris said:

    Don’t field strip and clean without using protective gloves as shown in the video (unless you have no choice). The cleaning fluids and lubricants are very hard on your skin. And wear some eye protection – you won’t like getting solvent in your eyes when it sprays off the brush.

  3. On September 30, 2022 at 4:53 am, Old Bill in TN said:

    Cleaning kit: put together your own. There are a blue-million cleaning gadgets, fluid, brushes, etc. out there, and 9/10s of them are worthless. Here’s mine; you may wish to add to it, but this will keep your gun running with little wear.
    1. Men;s shaving brush.
    2. Toothbrush (stiff, new)
    3. Boresnake.
    4. pipe cleaners.
    5. Q-tips.
    6. Quality gun oil of your choice.
    7. Carbon scraper (you choose; most offered work well enough)
    This can all be put together for <$50 if you shop, and you haven't wasted any $$ on useless crap. Get on Ebay & buy a leather tobacco pouch; all this fits easily and it'll slip in your pocket.

  4. On September 30, 2022 at 5:05 am, Russell G. said:

    The more you shoot, the more you’ll run into goofy malfunctions. The worse the ammo, the more you’ll run into goofy malfunctions. Bolt lock-up; blown primers; blown primers in your FCG, broken cases (yep), lose rail stuff during sighting driving you crazy, finiky mags, leaky gas blocks, lose flash suppressors/compensators/brakes, lose barrel nut, etc.

    Stop. Clam down. Talk to someone that can get you through it before hitting the platform with something heavy and not in the manual. At the range, there’s one or two old farts like myself that will help–ask. We’ve been there. Or, maybe we haven’t. It don’t matter one way or another to us. We want you to FRIGGIN shoot. We have yet to see all these new guns from NICS transactions show up at the range…closet queens don’t get the job done.

  5. On September 30, 2022 at 5:07 am, Joe Blow said:

    I found a lot of helpful people and useful information at my local sportsmans club. Granted I am lucky and have a very nice one near me, but I have seen innumerable examples of shooters helping shooters at the range. Novice shooters are not scorned (unless its the weekend before deer season opens), and anytime I asked the fellow next to me “Hey, have you ever seen this..?”, I was offered helpful advice and information. Many clubs also have courses and training programs, etc. I took the NRA Riflemans course at my club for about 50 bucks (included use of their rifle and ammo). While my clubs annual dues were a bit pricey at $160/yr, that covered the whole family, and for a year or three as a novice was money very well spent.

  6. On September 30, 2022 at 6:15 am, Swrichmond said:

    If you are piercing primers, breaking cases or having primers blow out of cases, with factory ammo and a new-ish rifle, there is something drastically wrong, wrong enough to be a safety problem. Bad ammo or bad headspace come to mind. Stop shooting until diagnosed and resolved. This is extremely rare.

    The AR is loud but there is very little recoil. If the noise makes you flinch, double up with earplugs and muffs, especially on the kids and and women you don’t want turned off by the noise. Since it’s a semi auto you will likely be firing many rounds, many loud rounds. Eye protection also.

    The trigger is squeezed, it is not pulled. You gradually increase pressure on the trigger until the weapon fires. After many rounds in practice dry and live fire you can do this gradual increase quite quickly, but I can honestly tell you after many tens of thousands of rounds on semi autos this is how it is done. Rifle and pistol.

    Call your shots: your brain must learn to snap a photo every time the weapon goes “bang”. You should know how / where the sights were aligned at the moment the weapon fired. This is an essential skill.

    Intermediates: if you really want to learn triggers and trigger control, buy a quality .22LR target pistol and shoot a few thousand rounds through it one handed, while carefully watching the sights and calling your shots. Your trigger finger and hit probabilities will thank you. It is impossible to learn good trigger habits on an 8# trigger. Impossible. Replace the godawful factory trigger on your AR.

    Stop when you’re tired, otherwise you are only reinforcing bad habits (forcing shots).

    The key is this: drill the manipulations and body positions (standing, kneeling, prone, barricade, weak side) until when you get into one of those positions your brain relaxes and says “yep, that’s it”, then after that all you are doing is aligning the sights, executing trigger squeeze and following through.

  7. On September 30, 2022 at 8:23 am, ragman said:

    All great comments and advice. I would highly recommend going to and read the article and watch the videos concerning “tuning” your ARs buffer spring for optimum extraction of the spent brass. Then order the appropriate buffer and extractor spring and replace them. If you’re new to the AR platform have an experienced friend help you do it. Also Pat Mcnamara has an excellent video on common malfunctions and how to clear them.

  8. On September 30, 2022 at 9:08 am, Michael Gladius said:

    Anybody here ever use the Stoner 63A? How does it compare to regular ARs?

  9. On September 30, 2022 at 4:58 pm, Dindoo said:

    Swricmond has the key.

    Call your shots: your brain must learn to snap a photo every time the weapon goes “bang”. You should know how / where the sights were aligned at the moment the weapon fired. This is an essential skill.

    After doing it enough, you will feel the sear release and call the shot there.
    Lookup Ed’s Red for cleaning and lubrication.
    TheSchooloftheamericanrifle on utube is awesome.

  10. On September 30, 2022 at 7:27 pm, Jon said:

    Good magazines are essential to proper function. They’re expendable items that indeed wear out or become damaged. Buy twice as many as you think you need. Test them all in live fire.

    Read the excellent book “green Eyes and Black Rifles.” Sound advice on running the gun and correcting common malfunctions.

    Buy and use a cleaning kit. Proper bronze bore brush and a proper chamber brush. Proper 22 caliber cotton patches. Any reasonable bore cleaner will work fine for most uses. I like Hoppes or Ed’s Red homebrew for routine cleaning. Sweets for removing copper fouling. Canned air is helpful for blowing dirt out of the lower receiver, but not necessary. An old toothbrush helps cleaning everywhere.

    Keep it properly lubricated. Especially the bolt and carrier. You don’t need snake oil for the rifle. Lightweight motor oil works fine. So does Automatic transmission fluid thinned a bit with mineral spirits. Or buy any of the petroleum based specialty gun lubes.

    Zero according to the manufacturers recommendations for your optic or irons. For irons the 36yard USMC zero or 25meter Army zero will get you close enough. Confirm zero at distance. Changing bullet weight or muzzle velocity changes your zero, but not enough to get upset about at practical fighting ranges.

    Get a good sling and use it.

    And properly lubricate the rifle. Keep it clean.

  11. On September 30, 2022 at 9:04 pm, James said:

    While on the AR platform with ideas have a ?I want to run a carbine gas system upper with a rifle length buffer tube/skeleton stock as I like the feel of longer stock.Has anyone used a spacer in buffer tube to use a carbine spring/buffer in a rifle length stock and got it to work well,anyone make said spacers,thanks for any input.

    I also am a fan of the Ed’s Red and it’s varios uses. ,I use the tranny oil/kerosene 50/50 for lubricant.

    Eds red cleaner version is also great for rusty bolts after wire brushing them,apply/wait 10 minutes and bolts come free.I use a new version of Ed’s with just mineral spirits and tranny fluid and seems to be so far the best ructy bolt breaker I have ever used,apply with brush and soon your rusty bolt/nut comes off just fine.

  12. On October 1, 2022 at 8:52 am, Paul B said:

    You need to shoot any platform you intend on using. Make sure you shoot in the cold as that will uncover problems you might not otherwise be aware of.

  13. On October 1, 2022 at 7:33 pm, Matt M said:

    As someone else alluded to, America’s Rifle runs best when lubed. All you need however is one drop at each hole in the side of the bolt when viewing the ejection port. Recommended manufacturers: Colt, BCM, Daniel Defense – buy once, cry once. Red dot sights are fine ou to 50-75 yards, but if you want to positively ID your target a low power variable optic (1x to 4x or 6x) or a fixed 3x optic is better. I recommend leaving the rifle as purchased until you learn it. All a rifle really needs is a sling, optic and light. The rifle and optic are toolz yu may stake your life on, so buy good, reliable stuff.

  14. On October 3, 2022 at 1:33 pm, =TW= said:

    I have been using Hoppe’s #9 and 3 in One oil since the ’60s. My Old Man used them since the ’40s. These have proved adequate for most gun maintenance.
    Depending on conditions- hot, cold, dusty etc, ARs might benefit from the use of different lube types.
    Some advocate various alternates: grease, specialty gun oils, Frog Lube, Kroil, ATF, motor oil, dry lube and/or BCG component plating and surface treatments.
    Note: Frog Lube does not play well with other lubes.
    I have used Kroil, and silicone auto wax for protection of external surfaces.
    I am not particularly fond of Rem Oil.

    3inOne will leave residue if allowed to dry for extended periods.
    With that in mind I mixed up a small batch of home-brew consisting of Marvel Mystery Oil, Teflon oil, 3inOne that seems promising. I might try Mobil 1 someday.

    Also note: WD 40 may be useful as a solvent. But do not rely on it for corrosion protection. Better use anything instead. (Motor oil from your dipstick if nothing else is available.)
    Aggressive solvents such as brake cleaner will remove ALL oil. It is imperative to reapply oil to those surfaces.
    I put the bolt and carrier in a container of kerosene to loosen the crud while I attend to the bore and chamber areas. A couple of passes w/ the bore snake, followed by an oiled patch is usually sufficient. Detail clean the bolt parts, inspect for wear, oil and reassemble.

    Periodic maintenance like this will familiarize you with the weapon and alert you to potential problems. Keep the Owner’s manual handy for guidance.

    Enjoy your new hardware!

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You are currently reading "Beginners Guide to the AR-15", entry #32203 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) AR-15s,Survival,Weapons and Tactics and was published September 29th, 2022 by PGF.

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