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9 Things to Check Before Shooting Your AR-15 Rifle for the First Time

You’ve done it! You’ve built your very own AR-15 rifle. You finished your lower, assembled everything, and you’ve built your AR-15 into the weapon you want it to be. Your next step is to go forward and shoot the darn thing! Before we shoot anything, we are going to do a quick function check. 

This is a complete list of functions you should check before shooting your AR-15 rifle for the first time:

  1. Pull the bolt back to the rear and release it. The bolt should automatically go forward. Press the forward assist, it should be somewhat freely forward.
  2. Lock the bolt to the rear with the bolt hold open button. Once locked, release the bolt and it should go forward.
  3. Put an empty magazine into the rifle and pull bolt to rear. The bolt should lock to the rear.
  4. Press the magazine release button and remove magazine, pull on the charging handle, the bolt should go forward.
  5. With the weapon pointed in a safe direction and cleared of any ammunition, transition the safety selector from safe to fire. The selector should click into place. Place the selector on safe.
  6. Pull the trigger, nothing should happen. Rotate the safety selector to fire.
  7. Pull the trigger. Hammer should fall. Keep the trigger held to rear and rack the bolt.
  8. Slowly let the trigger go forward until you feel/hear the trigger reset.
  9. Pull the trigger again, release trigger. Attempt to place weapon on safety. The weapon should not be capable of going on safe.

This is our basic function check for AR-15 rifles. This will tell you everything you need to know before live firing the weapon. The next step is to take it to the range and let some lead fly. Before we do that though, let’s go over the four safety rules of a firearm.

  1. Treat your AR-15 rifle as if it was loaded at all times.
  2. Never point a weapon at anything you do not intend to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
  4. Know your target and what lies beyond it.

Once you know these rules, load your magazines and head to the range. Before you fire any weapon, it’ is important to use the proper protective equipment. You’ll need a set of ear protection and eye protection, and should use both whenever you fire a gun.

Once you step up to the line, there are a few things to pay attention to on your AR-15 rifle.

The first is trigger pull. The trigger pull may vary slightly with standard triggers, but not much. The trigger should be largely consistent and similar. Nothing too heavy or lose.

Next is ejection. As the rounds are ejected, they should also clear the weapon, but not be hitting you. Ejection should be not be erratic and follow a similar path with similar ammo.

Your AR-15 rifle should also function reliably. Rounds should extract, eject, and feed smoothly. There shouldn’t be double feeds, and rounds should not be stuck in the chamber. Also, the bolt should strip rounds from magazines with ease. If you are running into issues with your weapon, trying changing magazines and ammunition. Many problems can be solved with a high quality magazine. Finally, ensure your weapon is well-lubricated.

The most important step in building and shooting your AR-15 rifle is to have fun and be safe. You can always work a simple malfunction out. Have fun, be safe, and enjoy your rifle.

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