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Why Won’t My AR-15 Cycle Rounds? Common Malfunctions and How to Fix

When your AR-15 doesn’t cycle or move from one round to another, the weapon can jam, and you could find yourself in a high-risk safety situation. Rifles can be intimidating, but once you know the ins and outs, they are just tools. So why won’t my AR-15 cycle rounds?

Your AR-15, not cycling rounds, can mean you miss shots on game or lose the opportunity to rip some targets down range. Don’t sweat it! Rifles are an easy fix if you know what to look for. So read on and learn all you need to know about fixing your AR-15 when it will not cycle rounds.

Why is My AR Not Cycling? How to Fix

The AR-15’s semi-automatic firing system works by ejecting the round and sliding the next round into the chamber. Several pieces must work together for the rounds to enter and exit properly, and any of these could be why your rifle isn’t cycling. As always, ensure the weapon is unloaded, and there aren’t rounds in the chamber before getting to work.

Safety First

The most important thing to remember when dealing with firearms is safety. As a shooting community, we must hold these safety standards dear and spread the word about them.

Rifle cleaning and repair is often where people forget about rounds in the tube or muzzle awareness. Be safe when handling weapons by treating every rifle as if it is loaded.

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.

Bad Magazine Springs Could be the Problem

One of the most common problems with magazines is their weak spring mechanisms. The spring inside the mag holds the pressure against the plate and drives the rounds upwards into the lower receiver. When the spring doesn’t maintain tension correctly, it won’t push the round far enough to reach the cycling mechanism.

The steps to fix your bad magazine springs are:

  • Remove Rounds – If there are rounds in the magazine, you should create a soft area to drop them out. Letting the rounds clatter to the floor will only increase the chances of a misfire. The rounds should move easily if they don’t find something to use as leverage against them.
  • Take out the Push Plate – The push plate is the name for the flat area that drives the rounds up due to the spring’s tension. Find a screwdriver and gently remove the plate from its cradle inside the mag.
  • Pull the Spring – The spring should be easily visible once the push plate is removed. Take pliers or your fingers, and pull the spring out. If it is connected on the inside to the floor plate, removing it could mean disassembling the mag. Usually, they pop right out or spring from their place as soon as the push plate tension unloads.
  • Repair – If the spring needs replacing, get it in there and ensure it is seated correctly. Repairing the tabs on the magazine is the most critical part of this step. The tabs keep the pressure localized inside the mag and make it function properly.

The mags are a good place to start when looking for answers. The springs are easy to replace, but they often function without issue. If you have a bad mag, the rounds will not reach the proper height in the receiver, and there will be a misfeed instead of a misfire.

The Ammo Could be the Issue

People love to browse the munitions aisle in the gun store to see what kind of rounds are new on the market. Unfortunately, when they try out new rounds, they could hinder the rifle’s ability to cycle efficiently. Be consistent with your rounds and ensure they are uniform to avoid ammo issues.

Another ammo issue shooters could encounter weak casings. If a weak casing splits, the round will not cycle. Companies have faulty rounds make it to consumers more often than you would think. Pay more for ammo to avoid weak shells.

Carbon is Another Prime Suspect

If you have a dirty rifle, it could keep the rounds from cycling. Carbon build-up on the inside of the gun occurs when cleaning oil dries or you fire the weapon. Cleaning the gun is your best bet to keep it from misfiring.

Check out my Cleaning an AR Step by Step Guide for more info.

A serviceable rifle could differentiate between feeding your family or making them starve. Be prepared for every situation.

A few essential tools to clean your AR-15 are:

  • Rags – Carbon gets everywhere. The dust is fine and has a black hue that is hard to miss. Rags to wipe down the largest scored areas are vital to getting the rifle back in shape.
  • Brushes – Another great tool to use when cleaning your AR-15 is brushing. Soft and hard-bristled brushes, no metal, are the best way to get into the nooks and crannies of the rifle and keep the finish smooth.
  • Cleaning Kit – This one seems a no-brainer, but some refuse to use a cleaning kit. While you can create your own that works just as well, if not better than a store-bought kit, cleaning kits have useful tiny brushes and pieces that might be hard to find elsewhere.

Cleaning the bolt and receiver of the rifle should be done with care, and attention should be paid to the firing pin and its attachment. The small clip holding the firing pin can grow legs easily if you don’t put it in a safe place.


Your rifle will not cycle because of several issues. All of which can be avoided by regularly doing equipment checks on your gear.

Some of the most common problems are malfunctioning equipment or unclean firing platforms. Take the time to inspect your gear and fix any issues that could force you to miss shots on target or game.

The most common equipment that could fail on the rifle is the magazine or the firing mechanism. However, both of these spots are easily fixable and, with some homework, can even be improved upon. Always take safety precautions when working with firearms, as cycling issues often involve live rounds.