John Boch

Maximizing AR-15 reliability

John Boch covered a number of topics in his presentation on maximizing the reliability of the AR-15 platform.

First up, he talked about magazines.

“Magazines don’t last forever,” Boch said.  “The standard aluminum mil-spec mags have a 4000-round life expectancy.”

It’s okay to buy used AR- mags, but you should function test each one before using them for personal defense or competition as it may be nearing the end of it’s useful life.  “Usually, the failure point will be the feed lips.  Once they are bent, you can’t fix them.”

He joked that it was best to sell or give a defective magazine to someone you don’t like.

Next up, he talked about the magazine followers.  The old, black GI followers should be discarded for Magpul replacement, anti-tilt followers or similar.  The green GI followers are okay, but the newest GI anti-tilt followers (now tan in color) are much better, on par with the Magpul product.  By “tilt”, he’s referring to dirt or grit getting inside of the magazine, causing the magazine follower to hang-up, or “tilt”, resulting in ammunition feeding malfunctions.

An example of the OLD GI followers. Avoid these.
The recent (now former) GI issue followers. These provide good anti-tilt service, but not nearly as good as the latest generation of followers.
The best followers out there are the Magpul enhanced anti-tilt followers like this one.

He also brought samples of aluminum GI mags, the steel Heckler & Koch SA80 magazines and the plastic Magpul “P-mags”.

All work just fine, he said, although the SA-80 mags are the least durable and the heaviest (although the follower is over-engineered and will never tilt!).

As for the gun itself, the most important single item to maximize reliability is lubrication.

Lube is your friend.

“You can use anything from urine to Vagisil to lube your gun, but oil will work best,” he chuckled.  “Don’t be bashful with the lube.”

He pulled out the bolt carrier group from one of the rifles and held it up as an example of a “dry” gun.  “A dry gun will sometimes work for a hundred rounds or so before malfunctions begin in earnest.”

Want to avoid malfunctions?  Take your bolt carrier group out and hose it down with lube.  “Make it look like a freshly glazed doughnut.”

Don’t want to clean your rifle every night at training classes?  No problem.  Just lube it up first thing in the morning and maybe again after lunch and you’ll be good to go.

“Some people say you have to clean every thousand rounds or so to have a reliable rifle.  Not so,” Boch noted.  “Pat Rogers was running a rifle at a class I was in that had 27,000 rounds since the last cleaning.  It was disgusting inside, but all we did was lube it up and it ran flawlessly all day long.”

He then held up the bolt carrier group and identified the bolt carrier gas key.  “This has to be well-staked or you’ll have malfunctions if the screws come loose.”

Here’s a fairly well-staked gas key.
An even better staked gas key.


A poorly staked key.


Mr. Boch offered any of our GSL members free use of his MOACKS (Mother of All Carrier Key Staking) Tool to properly secure their gas key at future meetings.  “Just give me a call to remind me to bring the tool.”

An example of an extractor spring buffer.  This particular one is a “D-ring” product.

With the staking issue taken care of, there are two regions on the bolt itself that need attention.  First, the three gas rings need to be inspected and replaced every few thousand rounds.  While you’re there, make sure the gap in each of the three rings aren’t lined up.

Also, remove and inspect the extractor for damage and replace as necessary.  Shooting steel-cased ammunition will accelerate extractor wear and damage.

Under the extractor, inspect the extractor spring.  Boch recommended using an extractor spring buffer around the extractor spring.

Without the buffer, the extractor spring’s useful life is about 1500 rounds.  With the buffer you gain a more positive extraction and the life of the spring goes up to 10,000 rounds or more.

Mr. Boch summed up his presentation on increasing the reliability of your AR system by reminding everyone that a little bit of preventative maintenance and a generous application of lubricant is the best way to keep your AR running smoothly and reliably – at least in the conditions commonly found in Illinois.