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Most Common Reasons An Ar-15 Won’t Dry Fire And How To Fix

Dry firing your AR-15 will not damage the rifle. If the firearm is malfunctioning, then this is the result of some other underlying issue. In the article below, this subject will be addressed in full detail, including sections on how to repair an AR-15 that won’t dry fire.

An AR-15 may have difficulty dry firing due to issues with the safety selector, fouling of the bolt carrier group, fouling of the chamber, or improperly-sized/broken parts. Sometimes the solution will be a thorough cleaning of the firearm. Other times you may need to replace a part.

In the sections below, you’ll find guidance on how to dry fire your AR-15 properly. Also included are some recommendations on cleaning products for peak firearm performance.

Is It Ok To Dry Fire My AR 15? Will It Damage It?

Contrary to a belief held by some owners, dry firing your AR-15 will not damage it. Dry firing is a great practice for improving your overall comfort with your rifle. The term “dry fire” means to pull the trigger, without any bullets flying out of the barrel.

Armalite certainly does not discourage dry-firing, although the company does reiterate that you must take care when doing so.

How To Safely Dry Fire With An AR-15

You must follow these steps when dry firing your AR-15. If you’ve ever heard of anyone damaging their rifle while dry-firing, then there is a good chance that they may have not followed this protocol. (source)

Do Not Fire Without The Bolt Carrier Assembly Installed

You are strongly advised to keep the bolt carrier assembly attached while dry firing. The firing pin is what stops the fall of the hammer. If the bolt assembly is not attached, the hammer can damage the lower receiver.

Safe Procedures

Don’t let your guard down just because you’re not firing bullets. Follow all of the same safety procedures you normally would and operate your rifle as if bullets are flying out of the barrel.

If you are having issues getting your rifle to work, then the first step should be making sure that you are following these steps.

Here’s the procedure for dry firing your AR-15:

  • Make sure that all cartridges have been removed firearm.
  • Remove the magazine.
  • Pull back the charging handle. Visually inspect to confirm that the chamber is empty.
  • Dry fire the rifle so that the hammer is allowed to rotate to the fired position.

I use either Brownells, Palmetto State Armory, or Optics Planet to buy parts, that way I always know what I’m getting and that it will actually show up.

Why Won’t My AR-15 Dry Fire?

Firearm malfunctions are a serious concern that should be addressed immediately. Sometimes, however, the solution to your problem can be quite simple.

In the section below, you’ll find the most common reasons why your rifle won’t dry fire.

Selector Level Is On “Safe”

Yes, it seems quite obvious to check the safety. But even the most experienced shooters sometimes default to the most complicated explanation for why things won’t work.

Start by making sure that the selector lever on your rifle is operating smoothly.

Cheap & Easy Fix: Action Spring

This is one common reason why a rifle won’t fire when the trigger is pulled. The action spring responsible for feeding rounds into the chamber has become worn. Alternatively, or additionally, it may also be properly sized.

It’s a cheap fix, so it’s recommended as a good starting point.

Too Much Carbon On The Firing Pin

It can’t be said enough how important it is to keep your firearm clean. If your AR-15 is not dry firing, then there is a good chance that this is due to buildup on the firing pin.

Check out my How To Clean an AR article for step by step instructions and a list of cleaning gear I use.

The firing pin looks like a fencing foil. To access it, you’ll need to make sure your safety is on and then proceed to remove the entire bolt carrier group.

You can clean the firing pin with either a cotton cloth or a brush. For more thorough cleaning, you are encouraged to use a highly-rated gun cleaning solvent such as CLP. You may need to leave the parts to soak for a few hours.

It’s never a bad idea to get yourself a brass scraper set for your rifles. This should finish off any persistent carbon buildup with ease.

Oil Or Fouling In The Bolt

It’s also possible that oil buildup inside the bolt is preventing this part from being able to function properly. To clean the inside of the bolt, you’ll need a pipe cleaner.

Check out my How To Clean an AR article for step by step instructions and a list of cleaning gear I use.

Bolt Won’t Lock

Another common reason that an Ar-15 won’t dry fire is that the bolt won’t lock. There are several potential reasons why this is occurring. Chief among them is a need for cleaning of these parts.

It’s also possible that the bolt won’t lock because:

  • The bolt is broken.
  • The extractor is stuck.
  • Dirt, corrosion, and/or carbon buildup is occurring in the barrel locking lugs.

If any parts are damaged or stuck, you are always encouraged to reach out to the manufacturer for guidance on replacement parts. Unfortunately, you cannot always trust repairs or replacements from third parties. Certainly not without checking first.

How To Prevent Further Issues

A good rule of thumb to follow is that for every part where metal-on-metal contact is occurring, then those parts should be properly lubricated. Do this every time you clean your bolt carrier group before reassembling the parts.

You can make things easier for yourself by using an oil that comes with a needle tip applicator, which makes it much easier to hit all the areas where that metal-on-metal contact is occurring.

Final Thoughts

If you’re AR-15 is not dry firing, this could be a sign of improper procedure, carbon buildup in the rifle, or a more serious underlying issue. Diagnosing the problem always starts with switching the safety on and removing the bolt carrier group to inspect the parts. For peak performance, you are always encouraged to routinely clean and lubricate the parts using quality firearm cleaning products such as those mentioned in the above sections.