The AR-15 Forward Assist For Total Beginners

AR-15 Forward Assist

Sam Hoober for TTAG

The AR-15 forward assist, a mechanical feature found on the bulk of AR-15 pattern rifles, is something that newbies might not totally understand. You’ll find the forward assist assembly on the right-hand side of your rifle (for most guns) directly below the charging handle.

Some details may get glossed over for the sake of brevity, and since this is more for newbies…bear with me. Or get angry in the comments section.

This feature is a holdover from an older time, as semi-auto rifles of the early to mid-20th century (M1, M1 Carbine, the M14, and others) had the capability of being forced into battery. There is some discussion of whether they should even be installed on a rifle in the first place, which we’ll go over in a bit here.

A forward assist is used to slam bolt carrier groups closed. To actuate it, you slap, press or otherwise hit the button on the forward assist assembly. This moves the bolt forward. The intended effect is usually to force a round into the chamber if it hangs up for any reason, sort of like the old trick of hitting the slide of a semi-auto pistol with the heel of your hand in the case of a failure to feed.

The AR-15 forward assist was added to the rifle at the behest of the Army as Eugene Stoner (and the Air Force) actually didn’t believe it was necessary on his design that became the M16. (Again, we’ll get to that in a bit.) Colt created the forward assist assembly, including a pawl (the thing you hit) a plunger (which engages with the receiver to send it forward) a spring and a roll pin. To actuate, you press the pawl, pushing the plunger forward. That engages with teeth on the receiver, pushing it forward.

When the bolt carrier group closes, the forward assist spring pushes the pawl back out. A fairly simple device, all in all.

Since they are standard equipment on AR-15 pattern rifles, there is an aftermarket industry of different pawl designs to customize your gun up, such as those made by Strike Industries and many others. It was kept on civilian market AR-pattern rifles as – after all – people want to buy the guns (or the facsimile thereof) that the professionals use so it had better look mil-spec.

Why would you use a forward assist? Basically to close the bolt if a round doesn’t fully seat in the chamber and holds the bolt open. It wasn’t an uncommon design feature for the day; as mentioned, the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine and M14 all had external forward assist functions (you could slam the bolt home if needed) as well. In the heat of battle, that’s kind of a good thing to have…on paper, anyway.

Sam Hoober for TTAG

Now we get to the “discussion of whether a forward assist is necessary” bit, because it’s worth bringing up.

First, there are a few different reasons why a bullet will fail to feed. One reason is that you just have a bad round, which happens. Another is that you have a dirty bolt carrier and/or receiver, fouled by carbon deposits and other detritus. Another still is that the bolt carrier failed to return to battery due to a bad spring, improper shooting, Act of God or what-have-you as semi-auto rifles can be touchier than bolt-action rifles. Each of these problems is caused by something that a forward assist does nothing to ameliorate, though in the case of a rogue FTF it can get the gun back into battery.

In any case, a malfunction is an indicator that Something Is Wrong. Forcing the gun to operate won’t correct it and could actually result in catastrophe. Additionally, the forward assist could completely seize the bolt carrier and receiver by forcing a deformed round into the chamber.

Since most AR-pattern rifles are owned by civilians who use them to punch paper…are they really that necessary?

Arguably not. A round can be cleared and the rifle returned to battery by pulling the charging handle in many cases. If insufficient cleaning and/or lubrication is the issue, the fix is the cleaning rod, patches and so on and spending some time on that. In fact, Eugene Stoner – who invented the AR-15 – pointed that very same thing out.

What is the best thing to do, then, if you have a malfunction?

First is to perform a press check or visual check that a round is chambered by pulling the charging handle back enough to open the bolt and have a look. (Make sure the rifle is pointed in a safe direction first, of course.) Unload by taking out the magazine and ejecting the round. Reload, and see if the issue repeats. If so, try moving the bolt by hand by pulling on it with a fingertip or moving it with your thumb.

If it doesn’t move or fully seat when pulled by a finger, chances are you have an issue that a forward assist won’t help with.

While arguably redundant, a forward assist can quickly get the gun back into battery in the right conditions and very quickly. They’re functional, to be sure, but are also arguably unnecessary…though that isn’t going to stop a lot of AR-15 rifle makers from installing them.

What do you think, though? Necessary feature or useless relic? Sound off in the comments.


  1. avatar Old Region Fan says:

    This and the A-2 rear sight……the dumbest additions to a battle rifle ever !

    1. avatar JasonM says:

      Don’t forget the charging handle that has to go right where your nose should be, so you have to break your sight picture to use it.

      Most of my AR-style rifles have side chargers and no forward assist.

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      got this feature on about half of my guns…and I can truthfully say i’ve never made use of it in over 20 years…interesting contrast in “Full Metal Jacket”…where only about half of the guns displayed seem to have it…..

      1. avatar Micron says:

        I use my forward assist exclusively for shell deflection. Not sure what that springy button does, however. Seems to go in and out.

    3. avatar anonymoose says:

      Just stick your thumb in the ejection port and push the bolt forward with the dust cover notch, as Stoner intended. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      Failures to seat/close the bolt usually come when stupid people ride the charging handle forward instead of pulling it back and letting it go like you’re supposed to. If there’s any underlying problems (fouling, worn-out springs, obstructions) then it’s a bad idea, but some way to manually close the bolt is a good feature to have in case the end user eases the charging handle in like a moron.

      1. avatar anonymoose says:

        Okay I will make a concession for people who hunt with ARs and ride the bolt home to be quiet. That is a good idea, and you might not be able to get a good purchase on the BCG notch with thick gloves on, so a forward assist button might actually be useful then.

        1. avatar Jim says:

          Man, I hate the word “purchase”. Just say “grip”. LOL.

  2. avatar George Overall says:

    Awaiting the wisdom that is sure to follow.

  3. avatar SoCalJack says:

    Months ago I had a FTF using my “Maglock-Kingpin” set up. I used the FA and I was GTG! I was using factory ammo and think the FTF was due to me getting used to this type fixed-mag set up. I need more practice on my AR mag reloads.

    1. avatar SoCalJack says:

      For the folks in resticted states that allow a fixed mag option, this video shows quick mag changes and clearing a double feed malfunction using a fixed mag.
      IMHO the Kingpin-Maglock kit is way better than the Juggernaut Tactical Hellfighter pin kit.

    2. avatar Chris says:

      What I particularly enjoy is the fact that so many ARs built specifically for the hunting market omit the FA.

  4. avatar Chris says:

    The only time I use the forward assist on my rifles is when loading the rifle when I’m hunting. This feature allows me to ride the charging handle forward quietly chambering a round. When you ride the charging handle it doesn’t go into battery but a quick press of the FA puts the rifle in battery without making a shitload of noise.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      This is the only time I use it as well, and 99% of the time, the only legitimate use.

    2. avatar MeRp says:

      I was looking for this before commenting. The only time I’ve ever felt confident to use the FA is when the charging handle was rode home, thus preventing a solid chambering. Hit the FA and GTG. The article didn’t even mention that as one of the reasons that an FA would be used… and it seems to be one of the two valid reasons (the other being “I’m getting shot at and causing future problems with the rifle is of less concern than getting a shot off”).

    3. avatar Daniel says:

      This is the only reason I have ever used a fwd assist….

    4. avatar Anymouse says:

      You don’t need a FA to do this. You can push forward on the divot in the BCG where there gas exhausts are and the dust cover detent fit. Wouldn’t want to do it after a mag dump without a glove, but it’s fine for first shot. Also fine for sealing up after a press check.

    5. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      I posted exactly that in the last pissing contest in the comments. My daughter has taken her 4th and 5th deer with 300 blackout this year. When I get her to the stand I usually ease the CH and tap the fwd assist method to chamber rather than a woods clear “Ca-chunck” noise.

      1. avatar frank speak says:

        most people chamber a round before entering the woods..

        1. avatar Joseph says:

          Not if your climbing a tree stand or going in before sunrise

        2. avatar MEDIC says:

          Opinions may vary but it is extremely common that a rifle is not carried chambered unless imminent enemy action is expected.

          Rifles ain’t pistols and there is a slew of discussion on why if you look.

        3. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

          I’m not walking through dense brush in the dark or going up steep steps or a ladder with a small teenager and a chambered rifle. In all my hunting years I’ve never had a negligent discharge but twice while walking in the dark I’ve fallen and dropped a gun. Foot found some barbed wire in tall grass(dark) and found a snow covered hole while bunny hunting (day).

        4. avatar The Real Hunter says:

          Most people DO NOT chamber a round before entering the woods. Please stop sharing foolish information about something you know nothing about.

        5. avatar Dan says:

          I agree but apparently some people don’t know how to hunt. Ever hear of brush busting? Try it with a empty chamber and report your results. I have killed at least a couple deer on my way to the stand. Spot and stalk? Any of you actually hunt??

        6. avatar Lary says:

          Bull shit. We are talking an AR here, use the effing selector and put in on SAFE. Any rifle that does not have a safety I don’t want to use.

          The last thing I do when getting out of the truck, and getting geared up and ready to head to my my hunting spot….stand, blind, etc is chamber a round, put it on safe and sling the rifle. In 2011 I got a 14 point White tail on the way to my tree stand. It was at the base of the tree. It got up because it heard me and my son approaching. I told him, take a knee slowly…I did the same and the safety quietly went off and BAM…it trotted maybe 5 steps and dropped. Best hunting day ever.

    6. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      This !

    7. avatar JustAsking says:

      So they didn’t put a safety on your rifle?

    8. avatar Lary says:

      Or just use your thumb/finger in the BCG grove, that was put there for this purpose. I personally hate the FA as it is just in the way of the charging handle grip on the right side and just in the way period.

  5. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

    “you press the pawl, pushing the plunger forward. That engages with teeth on the receiver”

    *teeth on the bolt carrier

    Good article.

    1. avatar MyName says:

      Yeah, noticed that too. Plunger, pawl, receiver, bolt carrier – all interchangeable words I guess.

      Since this article was supposed to be for newbies:

      You push on the plunger which forces the pawl to engage the teeth on the bolt carrier, which is inside the receiver, resulting in the bolt carrier and bolt moving forward and the bolt being forced into engagement with the locking lugs at the rear of the chamber. This feature is normally used if grunge or some other minor malfunction has caused this sequence to not occur under spring pressure after the last shot, charging of the action with the charging handle or the disengagement of the bolt stop.

      1. avatar Big Sky says:

        Yea I too had trouble choking down this article, not to mention the poor writing.

        There is a phenomena on the internet where when someone learning about something new to them quickly feels compelled to “educate” others by wrapping up their lack of knowledge and experience with the “for newbies” disclaimer meaning any missing information is intentional and for simplification purposes only, and anyone noticing anything incorrect is obviously not the intended newbie audience. Win-win! So spew forth Corporal Keyboard. I won’t stop you.

  6. avatar jwtaylor says:

    The long and short of it is that Sam hit the nail on the head (although, Sam, does the plunger act on the receiver or the carrier? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t move the receiver forward.)

    Simply, there’s nothing wrong with having a forward assist. There may be a BIG problem with using one.

    I’ve seen barrel obstructions turned into bigger more dangerous obstructions because people just kept hammering that button to get the round chambered. Fortunatley, they are rarely successful.

    If you need the FA, you have a problem. Fix your problem.

    1. avatar Ruthless Objectivity says:

      Oh, I don’t know about that. I used it once in a firefight when I didn’t have the time or inclination to properly clear a jammed A2.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Go back to basic. Sports.

        1. avatar Ruthless Objectivity says:

          It always (subjectively) amuses me when POGs make comments like that. Suffice it to say, the round didn’t seat properly, bolt wasn’t forward enough, charging handle was sticking. Forward assist may not necessarily have saved my life, but it definitely ended some Hajji.

        2. avatar jwtaylor says:

          It never amuses me when people make shit up.

        3. avatar J says:

          If I remember correctly T is tap the forward assist.

        4. avatar Alexander B. says:

          No one actually uses SPORTS except TRADOC. Just charge the weapon again and GTG. The FA is useless.

        5. avatar Ruthless Objectivity says:

          Fortunately for me, POG, your opinion on whether or not I “make anything up” does not in fact change the reality of the situation. As was pointed out, you use sports in basic, and pretty much nowhere else.

          Moreover, as was pointed out (I didn’t bother because I made the mistake of assuming you knew what you were talking about when you mentioned the acronym), the T stands for “T”ap th forward assist.

          In the real world, you use whatever works, and the fact is that at least once the forward assist was useful. If it’s valuable once, it’s valuable full stop, even if you never use it at the range.

        6. avatar Moltar says:

          They still teach that? I thought the green weenie went to tap rack bang. I remember being taught SPORTS in 05 but shortly after being told to forget that sh*t, it takes too long, and use Tap Rack Bang. If Tap Rack Bang doesn’t correct the issue do a mag swap; if that fails take cover or switch to secondary.


          Slap Magaine
          Pull charging handle
          Observe ejected round and chamber
          Release charging handle
          Tap forward assist
          Squeeze trigger

        7. avatar Jolly Roger's Flagpole says:

          Hey JWT,

          Let Sam fight his own battles. That’s how we will shape him into a quality TTAG writer. If dad always steps in between his words and his readers, he’ll never learn to fight his way to the truth.

          Hey Sam,

          Get busy on the next article. Don’t give up. Just ask others to proof your work before going live. Accuracy, whether weapons or words, well, it’s a guy thing. Get used to it.

    2. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      “If you need the FA, you have a problem”

      The Tavor (which I greatly admire) doesn’t have a FA at all. Its manual of arms is to just reload, presumably including a proper release of the charging handle this time.

      1. avatar 22winmag says:

        When it comes to gun writers.

        You generally get what you pay for.

        With very few exceptions, this place is a prime example.

    3. avatar Lary says:

      Exactly. Why FORCE something that should have gone on its own. I never use the charging handle to chamber a round. I use it to lock the bolt open or extract a live round.

  7. avatar Fred says:

    The first argument I heard against the forward assist was from Clint Smith. The idea that jamming the possibly defective round into the chamber, was not a good idea. This does make sense to me. Perhaps there is a broken case stuck in the chamber, and other issues mentioned in the above article ring true.
    One thing not mentioned is the dished out feature in most if not all AR bolt carriers. That does give a grip point to move the carrier in or out without disturbing the charging handle. Although most of my AR’s have the forward assist, I never use the feature. The gun runs fine, till it doesn’t. Then it is probably time to clean it.
    My $.02

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      The way it was explained to me, if the previous round left pieces of the case in the chamber, you really, really hope the FA will not seat the round, since it will probably blow the gun up with serious injuries. I have never and would never attempt to use it. There is just no reason to.

  8. avatar 0351 says:

    I agree with Sam for the most part. However, having shot a ton of rounds through many obsessively cleaned rifles… every once in a while you get an auto loan that doesn’t quite seat all the way. I’ve used the forward assist plenty of times,both in the military and out,and I keep my babies lubed and ready…that sounded wrong. I guess to me it’s usefulfor a certain kind of misfeed, maybe caused by slight brass imperfections or a bit of buildup from a long shoot, and I’ve done enough of it to know it does come up.OTOH, it’s important that the shooter pays attention to what *kind* of misfeed there is. Because of the way I shoot,nthe split second it takes to glance at the bolt carrier tells me if it’s just that simple misfeed that needs an extra push or something else. The forward assist does have a place IMHO, and that’s in the middle of a long shoot, with an experienced shooter at the wheel. But I could, as always, be wrong. I’ve used it quite a number of times and though.

    1. avatar 0351 says:

      Auto load. Auto load

    2. avatar 0351 says:

      I’ll say also that I wouldn’t use that feature in a firefighter or anything. Then it’s all tap rack bang. But maybe you have a moment (DMR anybody?) and preserve the precious Jewel that is your round. Maybe that’s just because I own a 308 AR and popping a round out without good reason seems like sacrilege.

      1. avatar 0351 says:

        My apologies to all firefighters everywhere for that one…

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          We all miss the edit function.

        2. avatar possum says:

          Not so much as the” aw fck why’d I hit send” button. Like a bullet, you can call it back

        3. avatar possum says:


        4. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Now, *THAT* was funny!

  9. avatar Arandom Dude says:

    I have tried to use my forward assist twice: once when the tip of one of the Vmax bullets I was using melted, causing an FTF, and once when I preformed a test by trying to chamber a dummy round after dropping a small amount of debris directly into the action, again causing a failure to go into battery. In the first case, the forward assist was useless, and in the second it made the problem worse, firmly jamming the debris into the locking lug recesses and forcing me to mortar the action open and pick the debris out with a pen. I suppose the forward assist could be useful if you have a filthy/unlubricated rifle, a rifle with a weak buffer spring, or a need to silently chamber a round during a Super Secret Operational Operation, but such things don’t apply to me.

    1. avatar 0351 says:

      I don’t think the forward assist was ever meant to be used to jam actual obstructions further in, and plastic tipped rounds are….well … plastic. And they didn’t really exist when the feature was designed.

      1. avatar Arandom Dude's Other TTAG Handle says:

        In the case of the melted Vmax, I didn’t know the bullet (or rather, just the tip, heh heh) had melted when I hit the forward assist. All I knew was “rifle no workie” and it looked like a simple enough malfunction. I didn’t even consider the possibility of a melted bullet because I hadn’t been running the rifle very hard- about 40 rounds in 2.5 minutes. The point is that if you have a malfunction on a well-maintained rifle, the circumstances are probably such that the forward assist will be useless or even counterproductive. The only uses for a forward assist are as a crutch for a poorly maintained rifle or for the aforementioned Super 007 Operations.

      2. avatar frank speak says:

        think it was introduced to instill some confidence among the troops that the damn thing can be made to work when it hadn’t previously…

  10. avatar Bob says:

    This article reminds me when pilots were told that the machine gun on a jet plane was obsolete because the air to air missile was the end all be all… that changes quickly after we lost a few pilots to faulty missiles and poor technology… I may never use one but I’m glad it’s there. Newton’s law has a very good track record of showing up when least expected.

    1. avatar TweetyRex says:

      Newton’s Law? No, Murphy’s Law!

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      more than a few…the migs had the edge for awhile…

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        I don’t think the F-4’s “Sparrow” missiles ever did get up to speed, they carried 4 and generally fired two at a time due to the failure rate, still often had all 4 go on vacation as soon as released. Sidewinders were much more reliable, but did not know good guys from bad guys, just blew up anybody close. Bolting on a 20mm cannon was much appreciated.

  11. avatar former water walker says:

    Alrighty then…my “new” AR is a S&W Sport.(5star review on TTAG). No FA or dust cover. I can see it’s EZ to nudge a round with my finger. I doubt I’ll ever care about a dust cover as I’m an old fogey who doesn’t hunt,compete or live in a desert.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      No dust cover? I have never heard an objection to the dust cover, do we know why it would be excluded? Cannot be expensive, is not heavy, go figure.

      1. avatar Sian says:

        It’s just extra fash on a rifle that will never be run hard enough to get dirty.

  12. avatar Manse Jolly says:

    Anybody from the military remember ‘SPORTS’?

    slap the magazine
    pull the charging handle
    tap the forward assist
    squeeze the trigger’

  13. avatar Gordon in MO says:

    Quote from the article: “This feature is a holdover from an older time, as semi-auto rifles of the early to mid-20th century (M1, M1 Carbine, the M14, and others) ” End Quote

    The rifles listed did not have a “forward assist”, they had operating rods with a “tang” so the rifleman could open the action to reload. Conflating the operating rod with a “forward assist” suggests lack of experience with those rifles. And, yes, I had occasions to hit the operating rod tang to finish seating the bolt a few times. Friends had occasions to kick the tang to get it open in the middle of some rather heated action.

    Maybe a forward assist isn’t necessary most of the time, but when you are in a hurry it can be priceless.

  14. avatar Bob Jones says:

    I had an SP-1 or 2 forty years ago that didn’t have one but needed it if it was dirty and you put more than 26 rounds in the magazine. Information was not in great abundance back then so I had no idea about keeping it clean & oiled and not filling the mags. I was not at all impressed with the fit or finish and traded it for a NIB wood stocked Valmet M62. It was one of only 3 guns I ever sold or traded, probably should have kept all 3.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      still have one NIB…guess they have some value these days….

    2. avatar Southern Cross says:

      I had a SP1 back in the 1990s. Never needed the forward-assist as it didn’t have one. The 5.56 NATO chamber would feed anything. I ran matches that fired 100-150+ rounds in 10-15 minutes with 20 and 30 round magazines loaded to capacity. It never missed a beat. So much for the jam-o-matic reputation the gun had from Hollywood.

      The only malfunctions I ever had were about 3 fail-to-fire in about 5000 rounds of Norinco commercial .223 Remington ammunition. The same rounds failed in a bolt-action so the primers were definitely at fault, and not the gun.

      The people who did need the forward-assist were those who had tight-chambered match barrels installed and tried to use cheap commercial or surplus ammunition. Even then, it only happened about a dozen times a year among about a hundred-plus rifles.

  15. avatar possum says:

    Banging it against a tree was recommended when the a2 mag wouldn’t work in the a1’s.

  16. avatar Mort says:

    I love the Forward Assist.

    It enables me to do “just one more session” of plinking before I feel compelled to field strip and clean my rifle. Nowadays, I think one of two things: When the NiB bcg looks like a nitride black bcg, then it’s time to clean.

    Or, when I need to smack the forward assist “every freaking time” to get it into battery after a mag swap… time to clean and lube.

    Or… both ha.

    Forward Assist follows a very standard Gun Truism: Better to have and not need, then to need and not have. That said… be safe.

  17. avatar Mike says:

    Somebody gave me some Wolf rounds, and since steel cases are not super slippery, I had to use FA a couple times to seat the bolt. The rifle ran fine otherwise, and I haven’t run a steel cased rounds since. BUT… if I were firing in anger, I’d have been really happy to get that round down the tube instead of futzing with the charging handle and trying to diagnose my rifle. Just saying.

    1. avatar rosignol says:

      Had the same experience, with the same ammo. Seems like steel-cased is just a bit more inclined to stick in the chamber than brass.

  18. avatar Ken says:

    “Arguably” not necessary? I’d say absolutely not necessary. The one time I’ve ever used one in the 30 or so years I’ve owned AR’s, all I did was jam a defective round into the chamber to the point that it would not extract conventionally and the only way to get it out was to ram it out from the muzzle. All FA’s on my AR’s have since been replaced with a plug.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      seems to needed more on the really short-barreled guns…always seem to have issues when those are shot a lot…and it led to an accidental discharge when I forgot about a round stuck in the chamber…

  19. avatar strych9 says:

    I’ve never used the forward assist on any of the rifles that I personally own. To my knowledge the FA was used only once on one of those rifles and that was by a friend of mine. He was using lacquered steel cased ammo, the rifle got hot, the lacquer got sticky and caused an FTF. According to him he whacked the shit out of the FA to get there round to chamber.

    Of course the rifle went bang when he pulled the trigger but it failed to extract the spent case because the time he spent screwing with the rifle let the lacquer cool a bit. After using a dowel rod to verify that the round in the chamber had indeed been fired it required a vice, rubber mallet and a metal dowel to extract the case.

    Unless you are required to do so for some reason I don’t see a point in using the FA. It runs a very, very high chance of turning a failure to feed into a much more significant problem.

    1. avatar possum says:

      Was he shooting rapidly? It’s my theory the excess heat cause the lacquer to melt. I’ve had that lacquer problem cause a failure to fire in the AK I had

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        Shooting rapidly or for a long time. Either way, the lacquer prevented the round from chambering and then, after being forced into the chamber, prevented the casing from being removed by the extractor.

        1. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Many times, the head will extract just fine, the neck won’t move, and the portion in between varies. IOW, it’s a hell of a mess, from these stories, I really don’t see why I would wish to use steel cased ammo, or a FA.

  20. avatar cgray says:

    I’m an AK guy. I don’t know what the hell you guys are talking about.

    1. avatar possum says:

      I believe it was the beginning of “let’s hang more shit on a gun” era

      1. avatar frank speak says:

        suppose you’re right…but it looks kind of cool on there…and doesn’t destroy the aesthetics of the gun….unlike the Black & Decker look of the present variety…

    2. avatar Sean says:

      Your forward assist is called the “charging handle.”

  21. avatar rimrock says:

    FA ruins the look of the receiver to me. I don’t have enough history with ARs to qualify a respectable commentor on this subject. I have an older, off paper receiver I bought from a personal friend. My upper was made by top notch mfr while the lower is frankensteined. You get what you pay for. My problem was a burred buffer retainer—dead dead gun. FA no good. Google buffer retainer failure it’s common enough that dummies like me can find it and diagnosis the bang failure. FA can fail, but apparently very infrequently!!!! Buffer retainer fails often enough so why no focus on that problem that absolutely leaves you with a club and no smoke pole at critical times. I no longer have a buffer retainer, but a lawless functioning off paper AR.

  22. avatar Anymouse says:

    Smacking the back of a slide is a bad move, especially if there are sharp sights or a hammer. From a two-handed grip, move both thumbs to behind the slide (on both sides of the hanmer, if present), and press forward gently and firmly. If that’s not enough to close the action, you probably need to run a clearance drill to get rid of the bad round or magazine. While I’m here, smacking a magazine in or whipping a cylinder closed is silly Hollywood BS. Firmly insert, and the give a tug outward to confirm it’s seated.l

    1. avatar Gadsden says:

      Slapping the mag is the first S in sports.

    2. avatar Moltar says:

      You slap or tap the magazine to possibly free a stuck or tilted follower. You slap the bottom putting it in the gun to ensure it locks in. It is slightly faster than the stick n pull method but really there isn’t much of an advantage either way. Like boxers or briefs this is all personal preference.

  23. avatar Enuf says:

    Okay so here’s a question. You have an AR with the forward assist and want to remove it. Obviously this leaves a hole.

    Does anyone make a cap for the FA hole?

    Does leaving the FA out cause any other issue with normal function?

    I would like an upper with no FA and side charging. Sooner or later I suppose I’ll get around to picking that new upper.

    1. avatar Alexander B. says:

      If I’m not mistaken I believe a variant of the M&P15 AR-pattern rifle excludes the entire FA from the upper receiver keeping it completely smooth.

      1. avatar 22winmag says:

        Yes and “slick side” uppers (generally meaning no FA and no ejection port door) have been around for many years from many manufacturers.

    2. avatar Another Mike says:

      Yes, companies make a plug to fill the hole.

      One of the most popular is made by Schuster out of Derlin. Both Midway $9, and Brownells $12 carry it. (same plug)

      You can find others as well.

      Clint Smith has a good video on using the forward assist, I prefer the thumb indention in the BCG. On the range if I need more pressure than I can exert with my thumb, I stop shooting and solve the underlying issue.

  24. avatar The Grey Man says:

    Better to have and not need than to need and not have….

  25. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    Why would you use a forward assist? Basically to close the bolt if a round doesn’t fully seat in the chamber so you can really jam that sucker up in an intense firefight.
    Ummm…..there might be a real reason that the bolt is not going closed.
    Even with rifles that have a charging handle that rides with the bolt, forcing a round into the chamber to close the bolt is a piss poor idea.
    Yeah, I have rode the charging handle attached to the bolt to make less noise closing into battery. Just make sure you know your rifle when you do this or instead of a bang, you will get a click.

  26. avatar dlj83544 says:

    Didn’t know the history of the assist. Now I do!

    Thanks for the post.

  27. avatar GS650G says:

    I’ve never used the FA nor saw a reason to jam the gun. A bullet with OAL big enough to keep it out of battery is problem a FA won’t solve. If dirt or foreign objects are in the mix where is the debris going when you hit the plunger?

  28. avatar Pmac says:

    Used the forward assist plenty on the various M16A1s I was issued. Used them on the various ARs I bought over the years. When I was taking a class called Patrol Carbine put on by the Florida S.W.A.T. Association, and clearing yet another malfunction on the department issued Colt M-4, one of the instructors asked, “What’s wrong with that rifle?” I replied, “It’s a fucking M-16! That’s what’s wrong with it!” He walked away without comment. The course mandated an AR platform or I would have been shooting something else. Also, never heard the bolt handle on an M-1 rifle, M-1 carbine or an M-14/1A called a forward assist. Damn sure never had to use one as such.

  29. avatar LarryinTX says:

    Just a chuckle, here, I carried an XM177-E2 for a solid year in Viet Nam, and ran 2 cans of ammo through it (just playing-my fighting was done in an airplane), and today I have absolutely no idea whether that gun had a FA or not. That doesn’t seem possible to me.

  30. avatar 22winmag says:

    The USA is in the Northern Hemisphere and it gets cold here. Nothing slows down your action like subzero temps unless you’ve managed to optimize your AR to work reliably in these temps.

    I shoot around 0 farenheit occasionally and the FA sees fairly regular use. That being said pushing a side charger closed is surely less jarring to your sight or scope picture than banging on the FA.

  31. avatar PeterK says:

    I didn’t really think I’d ever use it. But I installed the parts so my gun looked complete.

  32. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Having removed a few spent cases from AR’s for people who were not able to remove the case from the chamber (one of which required that I remove the AR’s barrel from the upper and attend to the issue on the lathe… that’s a story for the campfire…), allow me to make this observation:

    Too many people fail to understand the inherent advantages that a bolt action (a proper bolt action, ie, not the Remington 700) has over most all other rifle actions: the camming power of the bolt in both directions.

    The bolt action can cram a round into the chamber like no other action. Even if the round’s bullet is engaging the lands in the barrel, even if the shoulder needed to be bumped back, or the chamber was filthy, or the round was deformed… if you can get the bolt lugs started onto the receiver’s bolt lug supporting surfaces, you can cram a round into the chamber. Get the bolt’s lugs started, then push down on the bolt handle, and in it goes.

    But here’s where people usually fail to appreciate the bolt action – the extraction of a round. With bolt actions that have proper extractors (ie, not a factory Model 700 Remington), and especially a Mauser-style claw extractor, and if you have a forged/welded bolt handle, you can either get the round out of the chamber, or you can tear the rim/head off the case as you try to lift the bolt handle.

    With semi-autos, the AR included, you have nowhere near the ability to force a case in or out of the chamber. The original M16 didn’t have a forward assist, and with the charging handle not enabling ramming a round into the chamber, the Army thought that they needed a way of making sure that a cartridge chambered. The trouble is, the only force you can bring to bear in pulling a case from the chamber is with the charging handle in a straight-back pull. Let’s say you’re a very strong man – you might be able to pull up on the charging handle with a hundred pounds of force, more or less. This is nowhere near the force you can generate on a bolt action rifle with the extraction cam’s action.

    Best bet is to avoid using the FA. Some above have suggested that the only time to use it is to ensure that a round that has been slowly allowed into the chamber be seated fully – but my caveat there is ‘don’t push too hard, just make sure there is no more forward movement of the BCG’.

    Some of my AR’s have no forward assist at all. I don’t miss it a whit.

  33. avatar Bob says:

    I use it to help anchor my brass catcher.
    I don’t remember using it for anything else

  34. avatar SoBe says:

    The only time in tens of thousands of rounds that I ever got failure to chamber in an AR type rifle I am glad I did not use the FA. Turns out a faulty magazine follower had, well, failed to follow. It tilted down, not enough to fail to feed, but enough to cause the bolt to put a nice crimp on the cartridge case. It was this crimp that kept the bolt out of battery. As such it was difficult enough to pry out of the chamber, I don’t want to imagine what it would have been like if I had crammed it in further with the FA.

  35. avatar Sian says:

    The only use I have for a forward assist is when I need to quietly close the bolt, as letting it down easy doesn’t necessarily bring it fully into battery.

    This is not a critical need.

  36. avatar Sora says:

    I remember slamming the bolt multiple times when the round kept FTF with bolt not fully closing.
    Happened multiple times with multiple rounds and magazines.
    Turns out the primer fell out and jammed in the star chamber.
    So, yes FA will only WORK enough to compound the problem. Sure, military primers are staked, but it could have been anything else.

    Had to use a pry tool to pry open the bolt.

  37. avatar Al says:

    Hello, does anyone know if I can legally buy and use this rifle (as is) in New York?

    Thanks in advance.

  38. avatar WI Patriot says:

    Immediate action…
    (S) lap the magazine sharply into magazine well
    (P) ull the charging handle to the rear
    (O) bserve a round being ejected
    (R) elease the charging handle
    (T) ap the forward assist
    (S) queeze the trigger

    Learn it, it may save your life one day…

  39. avatar David Ludwig says:

    Not a critical need, but I’m ok with the one on my AR-15. Nice to have as a backup. My AR-10 does not have one. This is not an either/or thing…it’s a backup, and I like backups.

    1. avatar David Ludwig says:

      …that said. You push it with your thumb, not a hammer.

  40. avatar MT says:

    Uh, the safety is exactly what it sounds like…a saftey measure. Chamber that round, put the safety on like a good little safe hunter and proceed. Most of you are so paranoid about this. I have never in 30+ yeqrs had a problem with this. EVER.

  41. avatar Jamie says:

    My son, who hunts with an AR and chambers the round once in the stand, uses the FA to ensure that the bolt is in fact closed and seated because we don’t want the load noise associated with the bolt closing once we release the charging handle. It can look closed, and not quite be there, so you check it quickly so you don’t miss a deer or a hog in the heat of the moment. Other than that, I’ve never used one. I have several ARs and a X95 and have never needed it…I also shoot left handed so the FA is not ergonomic for me (or my son) for the most part.

  42. avatar Coyote says:

    “Better to have it, and not need it, then need it, and not have it”.

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