Most of this Clint Smith video is about how it’s OK to run your gun dry before reloading. Smith — Gunnery Sergeant Hartman for civilians — goes on to list an AR-15’s owner’s two  greatest “enemies” . . .

The forward assist (“Why would I beat something into the chamber that don’t want to go on its own”) and the charging handle (“Any time you dick with it or interrupt it you take the potential of screwing something up”). Fair enough? Or are there greater pitfalls to running America’s rifle?

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101 Responses to The Two Biggest Enemies When Running an AR-15: Clint Smith

  1. Hanging more shit on your AR than you actually need. The only reason my go-to AR has anything on it other than optics is because it’s more than likely I will need to use it in the dark and having a white light and a PEQ-15 does wonders for being able to see things. (Yes, I’ve got NODS to go with that PEQ)

    • “Hanging more shit on your AR than you actually need … Yes, I’ve got NODS to go with that PEQ”

      Oh good ole pwrbottom… you never disappoint. Thanks for the laugh this AM.

      • Good morning troll. Clearly you don’t even know what a PEQ is or why it’s a good idea to have both it AND a white light if you’re using NODS.

        • Kek. I am well aware what both those pieces are. Since you apparently need a little help in the reading comprehension department, I’ll break it down for you. I was pointing out the humorous hypocrisy and inconsistency of your post, by isolating the two most critical portions of it. In response to a question asking the biggest downfall of the AR platform, you reply that it is people adding un-needed equipment to their AR. Then, a few short sentences later, you state that you have a $1,200, half-pound laser/target illuminator stuck on yours, and a set of night vision goggles to go with it. See, the contradiction comes in because you state you are opposed to adding un-needed gear to an AR, and then state that you have gear on yours that the overwhelming majority of reasonable human beings not actively involved in night-time combat operations would rate as un-needed.

        • Ok… so just to be clear… you’re stating that night vision goggles are NEEDED (your word, not mine) for home defense purposes? As in absolutely required, essential, etc?

        • It lets you see, identify, and engage your target without your target being able to do the same. How is that NOT an absolutely awesome and useful thing to have on a home defense gun? Can the gun work without it? Sure, the gun will work great without a red dot too.

        • “an absolutely awesome and useful thing to have” /= “actually need(ed)”

          “Can the gun work without it? Sure”

          So if you admit night vision goggles are NOT needed, then you’re admitting your original post WAS in fact humorously hypocritical and inconsistent? You know, the one where you stated the biggest pitfall of AR pattern rifles was people installing accessories they don’t “actually need”, then bragged about having an IR illuminator on yours, to go with your night vision goggles you use for home defense.

        • If you’re going to use them regularly in the intended role of the rifle, they are needed. If not, they are not. For example, none of my rifles that have magnified optics have iron sights. Another example is the plethora of grip pods / bipods / breaching devices on what are supposed to be CQB guns.

          For example, if your home defense plan does not include NODS, an IR illuminator is a waste of weight and money when a $200 laser can do the same job. Similarly, a laser on a bench gun is similarly useless.

        • So wait, now you’re back to saying a set of night vision goggles and an IR illuminator ARE absolutely required and essential (ie “needed”) for home defense?

        • Nice straw man there. I’m going to repeat myself. If you’re not using it, it doesn’t belong on your gun. If you are, it does. I have, however seen people hang shit off of their rifles that they will never use.

        • So a straw man argument is one where I literally use your own words, quoted directly from your own posts? You’re the one who said “Hanging more shit on your AR than you actually need” and then went on, over several posts, to defend your position that for home defense an IR illuminator and a set of night vision goggles met that definition. Not a straw man argument, its exactly what you yourself said.

        • Heheheh, no. YOU’RE the one arguing the meaning of need. I’m using the common definition of the word as it’s been used in English for centuries, and as currently defined by the all the authoritative dictionaries. YOU’RE the one parsing out that it really means this other sorta nuanced thing depending on the whether or not these other things apply… rather than admitting you made yourself look like an idiot. Its simple. Either you believe you NEED (again, YOUR word) an IR illuminator and night vision goggles for home defense (in which case we’ll all laugh at you, more than we already do), or you DON’T believe that equipment is needed, in which case your original post was pretty dumb (and we’ll all laugh at you, more than we already do). Anything else is you trying to word-smith your way out of things by adding qualifiers and arguing that “need” doesn’t really mean “need” sometimes.

        • Whatever you say kiddo. Because clearly there is no gray area in the word need. Go away. The only person being laughed at here is you.

        • “The only person being laughed at here is you.”

          Says the guy who NEEDS to sleep with a set of night vision goggles, just in case the Spetsnaz assassination team comes for him in his sleep.

        • Not that worried about Spetsnaz, a good chunk of them are extended family. However, stacking the deck against somebody stupid enough to break into my house is always a good idea.

      • Pwrserge’s meaning was pretty clear. Having a laser, flashlight, iron sights, and a vertical foregrip on your bench rifle is unnecessary and stupid. If the intent of his rifle is to be used in emergencies in pitch darkness without providing potential intruders with an advantage then serge’s setup is necessary and makes perfect sense. Do I think that setup is a little over the top? Sure. But what you or I think about the way serge protects his family means precisely dick. You’re picking a fight where there’s none to be had, and you look like a moron.

        • Here’s the point: PWR’s heavy, expensive and highly optional and mostly useless crap on the front of his rifle is just fine, but yours is not.

  2. When I had a AR-15 SP1, with slab-side lower and slick-side upper, I didn’t have the forward assist and I never missed it. The 5.56 NATO chamber would swallow any commercial .223 Remington without missing a beat (typically Norinco “Yellow Box” ammunition as it was all I could afford at the time). The only issues I had were with dud primers on the cheap ammo, and that was 3 rounds in over 4000. Funnily enough, the BCG still had the indents for the forward assist.

    Even those with proper A1 uppers or A2s would note the rarity of using the forward assist, and notably with tight chambered barrels and reloaded ammunition.

    I can see the point about not wanting to force something into the chamber because there is the risk it may not want to come out. And forcing the removal with the charging handle may damage the extractor claw in the process.

    • The forward assist is best used after a press check during administrative loads. The idea that it is used to “beat something into the chamber” is aburd.

        • You don’t have an AR-15. Your mom won’t allow one in her basement. And your only “safe” is the piggy bank you got for your birthday when you were six.

      • Administrative load/reload: Look/feel (if it’s dark) for the position of the top round in the mag, insert mag, push/pull, charge it up. Remove mag, look/feel for the position of the top round in the mag. It should have shifted to the other side. If so, there’s a round chambered. Re-insert mag, push/pull. Done. No need to “press check” when loading an AR. I’ve seen more press-check induced malfunctions over the years than I care to think about.

    • “Norinco “Yellow Box””

      I had a case of that sitting around forever (okay, since around late 80s I think). Just shot it up about a year ago.

  3. I never understood the charging system on ARs. What’s wrong with the side charging handle on every other semi-auto ri fle? Of course if you’ve got a few hundred extra $$$, the AR system can easily be converted to side charge, so it’s not something that’s not compatible with the platform. All you need is a different up per receiver and bolt carrier.

    Also, I think the forward assist was meant for bumping a round into the chamber rather than ‘beating’ it in.

    • The charging handle was integrated as a mechanically simple and cheap way to get your first round into the chamber. You’re only really supposed to use it for initial loading and unloading. It’s not like an AK where you need to run it every time you change magazines. The nice thing about the design is that it makes the AR an almost completely sealed system. The requirement for an AK charging handle actually makes it far easier for dirt and grit to lock up your rifle than an AR. I’ve seen ARs run covered in soup that would shut down an AK in a few minutes. As long as your bore is clear, you’re good to go.

      • Funny, I thought it was the AKs that could be stomped into the mud and picked up and shot. Also interesting that they went with the opposite approach with the M9 with it’s open slide.

        • Yeah. It’s a common misconception. The AK needs less cleaning and lube from normal firing. Its open receiver design is very susceptible to dirt getting into the action.

        • Makes you wonder how many American lives were needlessly lost on the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima due to the poor design of the M1 Garand.

        • From what I understand, G.I.s were taught to handle their M1 Garands rather carefully in muddy or gritty conditions, or the very least they learned to to do so when faced with those conditions. Plus if you see a lot of D-Day footage, it’s not uncommon to see Garands in clear plastic sheets which were discarded after the initial landing was completed.

          Youtube “InRange Mud tests” and the only firearms that have pulled through muddy (Arizona) tests was the Lugar, G-3, and AR-15. Everything else either failed or came close to failing.

        • When you say “discarded” you mean “the soldier was killed before he even made it to the beach and unwrapped his Garand”…right?

  4. I’ve found that screwing with one (the charging handle – specifically riding it forward) can generate the need to use the other (the forward assist).

    • Seek Cover
      Pull the charging handle to the rear
      Observe the ejection port
      Release the charging handle
      Tap the forward assist
      Sight in and attempt to fire

    • Learned it as:
      Slap the mag
      Pull back charging handle
      Observe ejection port and chamber
      Tap forward assist
      Squeeze trigger
      Granted, this was basic training in 1990 and anagrams can change…

        • I feel certain my Drills felt that if you weren’t already in cover, or were dumb enough to stand in the open trying to fix a malfunction, you probably weren’t going to remember how to fix it anyway. Different times maybe.

      • Don’t recall any anagram, but I do recall being told that you should under no circumstances touch that forward assist unless you are actively engaged in actual combat.

    • When I went through Air Force Basic SPORTS was taught on the CATM range. When I got to my first AFSOC unit I was taught never to use the forward assist. SPORTS may work on a controlled range with a bunch of recruits who, mostly, are going to desk jobs, but banging on the forward assist in combat is a real good way of turning a quickly rectified simple ammo malfunction or chamber blockage into a completely jammed and unfixable rifle.

      • The Air Force and Army have gone to “Tap, Rack, Bang” for corrective actions. I guess the assumption was that if you take the time to observe the chamber and find a genuine problem you more than likely don’t have the tools or the time to fix it.

  5. Well, mine has the forward assist, rear charge and the dust cover, rarely use any of it, but the assist has been used to bump the bolt closed, i dont need to cram my handloads into the chamber, and i also agree with the “too much crap on an AR” i have a scope and bipod, thats it. Thought about a flashlight but no real need for it, grab the pistol and light off the dresser if needed.

  6. As a left-handed shooter, I harbor resentment toward the forward assist because it pokes me whenever I’m using a sling. I think the next upper receiver I buy will not have a forward assist.

      • The wrong handers are the folks that actually NEED the brass defector.

        Right hand but left eye dom and no brass deflector sucks when shooting lefthanded. The M16A1 didn’t have/need a brass deflector, is for the rifleman. The little plastic snap on POS deflector functioned on range but otherwise was laughable

        • The best thing about my Stag Arms “lefty” AR-15? The look on the face of the guy to the left of me on the firing line who is pelting me with spent brass when the brass comes at him from the shooter on his left AND mine from the right!

  7. I only use the the charging handle to cycle the first round into the chamber. I’ve never had to use the forward assist. My ar has been used wet dry dirty covered in mud…. and the only time it ever failed to fire was with dud primers. Never failed to cycle or eject.
    Aks are even better. Sorry they just are. Maybe not as accurate but I’ve never seen one fail.

      • They did mud tests on an M1, AK, and AR. They AR usually does better as it is sort of sealed so mud does not get in as easily. However, if mud gets in you are nigh screwed. With an AK you could just throw it in water for a few seconds. If you cannot do that you at least can manually work the action to get the rifle to fire. Once gunked in the internals an AR does not due so well.

        AR’s have come a long way. The tighter tolerances can provide an added benefit (keep debris out). For most jobs most civilians will need it to do, it will work as well (and often better than) an AK. But you can do non-break down cleanings of an AK and keep the thing running in the field indefinitely. For all its benefits, you cannot do that with an AR.

    • Not sure about sand, but he may well have inhaled more gunsmoke than the combined armies of the guys the new President is trying to get to pay up for their own defense…

  8. When I built my AR, I intentionally selected a slick sided receiver. It doesn’t even have a shell deflector. Truthfully, I did have some issues early in since the chamber (.223 Wylde) was only deep enough for 55 grain loads, but otherwise, I have never understood the need or desirability of a forward assist. The shell deflector doesn’t seem necessary either; the shells eject fie feet to my right and 6 feet back very consistently. And if your gun is just a range toy (as mine is), a dust cover isn’t really necessary either.

      • Left handed, shot everything from M1 to M16, 1962 to 1965, never had a problem. Never used the forward assist on the M16. Pull the T back and turn that puppy loose. Carried the M14 thru 18 months of jungle warfare outfit, 2nd 503rd/173rd Abn, in Okinawa and other places, never had a problem over the ‘open bolt’. Thru monsoons, up mountains thru swamps, mud, sand and dust. Not to say they never failed, never had a rifle that didn’t at one time or other. We could clean the things walking if we had to. Wipe and swipe.

        • How tall (or broad maybe) are you? I’m 5′ 7″ and before the deflector brass would go down the front of my fatigues like it was laser guided. Easily solved by buttoning your top button and using a bandana if necessary, sucks IRL.

  9. In California, the slide hold-open will become a thing of the past for those who go the new ARMaglock or Patriot Button or even the Franklin fixed magazine route, as the law requires that in order for a magazine to be deemed “fixed”, one must “disassemble the action” in order to be able to remove the mag. This means splitting the two receivers, and in order to do that, the bolt must be closed. Consequently, all of these devices, as well as the one from Bastiani Arms, disable the slide lock. As a result, the rifle must be recharged every time it is reloaded. (Yet another reason to go the “featureless” route–looks funny, but allows the rifle to operate as designed.)

    • California really doesn’t count.

      Next they’ll make y’all defend yourself with airsoft rifles…..that only hold 10 rounds.

  10. Clint is always a hoot to listen to. between what he has seen in is active time and what he must have seen in the thousands of people/guns through thunder ranch, I count his advice very highly.

  11. My local indulgent gunshop now has Delton Sport Ar’s for 459 bucks. It’s got the forward assist and dust cover. Is it OK for an old guys 1st and probably only starter AR? More of a SHTF than anything else. Be gentle…

  12. Clint was right except for a couple things:
    1) If Stoner was connected to God like JMB, he would have designed it with something like the Magpul B.A.D. lever instead of the bolt release where it is.
    2) Push that bolt forward with your thumb on the indent like he demonstrated, after a couple magazines, and you’re going to burn your thumb.

  13. Trying to lock the bolt back while not empty seems like playing twister… You’re normally racking with your left hand, until you’re not…

    • And this is one of the biggest shortfalls of the AR15, clearing jams is a PITA because of the control layout.

      I’ve got a BAD lever on my DDM4 for this purpose, and my .300BLK SBR has a side-charger upper that conveniently puts my hand right next to the BHO lever when opened.

      • Tactical Link, KS used to make an even better “BAD Lever” for ambi-controlled AR’s.

        A POS intellectual property dispute with MagPul leaves the field destitute for the same device.

        Dang you MagPul

  14. #3: Shitty ammo. AR’s can and will strip out the primer cap and shred them. Get some pieces of that stuck in the lugs and you’ll be beating that BCG out with a dowel rod and a rubber mallet.

    #4 Pissing me off. I’ll steal your firing pin just to see how long it takes you to figure out why your rifle won’t fire.

  15. Dropping magazines feed-lip end down.

    Using cut-rate aftermarket mags.

    Hanging extra crap on the rifle.

    Reefing down on the sling in the prone position as if it were a sling-able rifle like the M14, M1 or 1903.

    Loading with dirty powder.

    Swapping the bolt on a well-worn rifle with the bolt of another rifle without checking the headspace.

    Cleaning it with one of those MIL-spec jointed cleaning rod sets.

    As for the forward assist: It was added to the M16A1 at the Army’s insistence. The original M-16 didn’t have a forward assist. The desk pilots who reviewed the M-16 after the first deployment in Vietnam decided it needed a FA.

    • The Air Force were using slick-side uppers into the 1990s for their base security and special ops. I have numerous photos from books and magazines from that era with non-FA uppers in USAF use.

      • Yeah, the Air Force didn’t buy into that FA crap. The GAU-5 had a slick upper until the end when they started to issue SOPMOD M4’s to Airmen needing rifles.

  16. Back in the olden tymes on the range at Parris Island we were taught to give the rear of the operating rod handle a thump with heel of the off hand to make sure the first round was seated in the chamber. I guess the “forward assist” is meant to accomplish the same thing.

  17. I use the forward assist and the charging handle every time I unload and load my AR.
    Unload:
    Eject the magazine then pull the charging handle to extract the round from the chamber.
    Load:
    I have found that when I chamber the same round from a magazine more than once, the bullet always gets set back. From now on, when initially loading, I manually insert a round in the chamber, pull the charging handle back to release the bolt catch, and gently let the bolt forward. Releasing the bolt would beat the crap out of the extractor. Then I use the forward assist to engage the extractor. Lastly, insert a full mag.

  18. My uppers have the forward assist only because the slick sides I had before did not have the brass deflector and I hated having brass hit me in the shoulder.

  19. Got it, Stoner was a genius for including the thumb ‘blood-groove’ on the BCG but the forward assist was satan’s idea?

    Nah.

    Two biggest problems with “running” the AR (.223 / 5.56)
    1) you might have to shoot your target twice (if not 2-3 times)
    2) you need to keep it RELATIVELY clean

    After that, refer to #1 above in trying to keep a handle on your round count.

  20. A long time ago I bought about 20 surplus mags. Some had Colt floor plates. I didn’t know squat about AR’s (still don’t) and those old surplus metal mags had crushed feed lips near the back of the mag. They would not run for $#!T. Bought new Brownells mags and it was like running a whole new gun. Now I run Magpul mags cuz they don’t scratch the brass and the feed lips don’t crush. Like some others said above, crappy mags and crappy ammo will give you a bad hair day a whole lot faster than messing with the FA and CH.

    • I have people coming to me with “my gun won’t feed,” or “it jams up” or similar complaints with semi-autos quite frequently.

      The FIRST thing I check is the magazine. Magazines (whether cheap, damaged or incorrect) are the cause of the vast majority of FTF’s I see in semi-auto guns – whether they’re pistols, rifles or shotguns.

      Want to save yourself a trip to the gunsmith? Get real magazines. Quality magazines. The type you pay money for.

      • My next door neighbor gave me four mags that he said wouldn’t even attach in his SR556. My CMMG held them just fine. They were some off brand plastic, I won’t call them polymer, so my intention was to only use them on the range.
        I’m all in favor of tort reform and being Conservative, I hate frivolous law suits, but for a company to manufacture and sell garbage packaged as an AR magazine knowing full well that the product is a complete failure, constitutes fraud in my book.
        Every. Single. Cycle. Of my rifle had a double feed with these magazines. And it was with all four of them. I even tried one in my wife’s Mossberg bolt action. It’s a sad product that won’t feed a bolt rifle.

  21. Abbreviations to remember things are called mnemonics’s
    Anagrams are when you mix up the letters of words
    The forward assist can be used for a stealth chambering
    Pull handle back and run it forward real slow
    Use forward assist to push bolt closed the last eighth inch
    A Delton AR-15 is an excellent entry level AR
    Don’t let the AR snobs tell you anything different
    There are very few manufacturers of AR parts
    Almost all entry and mid level AR guns are assembled from parts made by these few manufacturers
    That Delton will work just fine even after the end of the world as we know it
    Put a red dot on top and keep it lubed

  22. Nice to hear someone else say the things I have been saying for the 30 years I have owned and fired these fine weapons. Good video!

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