AR-15 Ownership – A Basic Guide of Do’s and Don’ts

AR-15 Ownership
A SOLGW rifle with all the bells and whistles…

If you’ve been following previous articles aimed at those new to AR-15 ownership, you should have a basic understanding of some upgrades available to you, have gained some insight as to how to determine if something is an upgrade or just marketing, and have some good ideas about how to get the most value out of gun purchases.

This article will offer some very basic do’s and don’ts related to AR-15 ownership. It’s a jumping off point, be sure to use your own common sense and do your own deep research on the subjects discussed below.

AR-15 Ownership – Do Get Training

A key part of AR-15 ownership is knowing how to use your firearm. DO get training. Go and take a rifle class from a qualified instructor. Start with good habits, as perfect practice makes perfect. Learn how to improve your skillset, minimize errors, and enjoy training with like-minded folks. This isn’t to say you can’t go turn some money into noise with friends, but it is saying that if you develop bad habits early, it is harder to break them down the road.

AR-15 Ownership – Do Vet Your Instructors

DO research and vet your instructors. Not all teachers are created equally, not everyone who instructs knows what they are talking about. Before you spend your hard-earned money to learn from someone, look them up, ask some questions, gauge their responses. Any instructor that refuses to answer questions or tells you that what they teach is the only way something should be done is a red flag to run.

Any decent instructor will welcome constructive questions and will be willing to explain why they teach what they do. That isn’t to say go in guns blazing interrogating anyone, but rather, explain you are newer and are trying to learn their philosophy behind teaching. Build the relationship early by asking questions and being receptive to useful information.

AR-15 Ownership – Don’t Let Your Skills Deteriorate

DON’T skimp on practicing what you’ve learned. An instructor once told me that “training was up to him, maintaining was up to me.” You may have jumped into training and learned some skills and concepts. However, if you do nothing with them at some point, you’ll forget them.

The best approach is to practice skills over and over so they stay fresh and become second nature to you. You can build upon them down the road. Remember, you are responsible for keeping your skills sharp, and if that doesn’t happen, there is no one but you to hold accountable. If you plan to use a rifle defensively, do yourself a favor and don’t skimp here.

AR-15 Ownership – Don’t Assume. Ask for Help

DON’T be afraid to ask for help. While the internet can be a cesspool of misinformation, there are bright spots that can help people get on the right path. The Primary & Secondary forums are one way to do that. While P&S itself can be a tad overwhelming at first, there is a ton of information to be gained there. The P&S Foundation group on Facebook is designed specifically for newer people to ask questions and find help on most topics related to firearms. There is also the AR15 Owners & Builder’s group that I help run with several other very knowledgeable folks.

Our goal there is to help people find fact-based information in a friendly environment. We have many industry professionals in the group who are all too willing to help when needed. For more technical questions, School of the American Rifle is tough to beat. Chad Albrecht is one of the most knowledgeable people on the AR platform, and his videos and posts are a treasure trove of information.

AR-15 Ownership – Don’t Buy Into Myths

As an AR-15 owner, DON’T buy into the myths in the gun world. A lot of times, those of us who work in the industry hear all sorts of insane things that seem to get passed around like campfire stories. You do not need to clean your gun every time you shoot a few rounds through it, in fact over cleaning is a real thing. You should clean it every few thousand rounds, or if you notice a change in how the gun functions. You do, however, need to lube the gun regularly.

This is even more true in arid environments like the southwest United States, as dry, dirty guns can lead to some issues in reliability and function. Steel-cased ammo needs your gun to lubed up even more, as it has different properties than brass-cased ammo, so keep that in mind if you plan to shoot it.

Also, for the record, not all steel-cased ammo produced today is steel core. Brands like Wolf, Tulammo, and others make a bi-metal round that is not going to go ripping through steel targets and such. It is a bit more reinforced than straight lead bullets, so keep that in mind if you’re shooting indoors or at steel targets. It can have some serious spawling and I’ve seen a few bounce back at shooters with steel targets.

AR-15 Ownership – Do Your Homework

DO your homework. This can be researching a gun you’re interested in, watching training videos, or reading up on brands that are out there. The goal here is to minimize your economic investment in parts or gear that don’t work out and are wasted.

Many AR-15 owners, myself included, try stuff out only to find it doesn’t work well for them for a variety of reasons. We end up with bins full of parts that sit there as reminders of the money we have tossed aside. This is not to say you shouldn’t experiment and try stuff out, but if you are interested in something or think it could be beneficial for you, read up on it.

Small things like the angle of a grip can have a big impact if you are on the gun for long periods (as I recently learned). Something like that is a cheap fix. Something like replacing a barrel or a bolt-carrier group can be much more expensive.Learn from the experience of others where you can when it comes to quality and reasons why things didn’t work.

AR-15 Ownership – Conclusion

In the end, a lot of what was talked about in this article is up to the end-user. As an AR-15 owner, it’s up to you if decide to enroll in some training, it’s up to you to practice what you learn in a class, it’s up to you if you research things or do some digging on who you might be learning from. Each of us has different lives, different drives, and different ways of finding the truth.

Do what you can to minimize your economic investment while maximizing what you get out of your firearm and training. Figure out a way for you to stay on the path. Stay safe out there, and if you have questions or need help, find me on the forums.


Todd is a gunsmith based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. After receiving his degree from Sonoran Desert Institute, Todd has spent his time building and maintaining a variety of machine guns and product testing for various companies. His main focus is expanding his knowledge on the AR-15 platform and helping bring better quality products to the market for end-users to enjoy.

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