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AK-47 Cleaning and Maintenance

AK-47 Cleaning and MaintenanceThe AK47 is known for it’s ruggedness and its ability to perform with sand and grit choking its internals. Regular cleaning and maintenance will extend the life of your trusty AK. Here’s a handy guide on AK-47 Cleaning and Maintenance!

AK-47 Cleaning and Maintenance

Many different methods of cleaning your AK-47 type rifle are discussed among AK enthusiasts. The methods are really diverse, and unlike any other type of military weapons, may include terms like “garden hose”, “dishwasher” and “local car wash”. The rugged design of the AK-47 and its inherent simplicity allow its maintenance to be discussed in such words. It is a compliment, to a military rifle designer, to have upkeep of his firearm design discussed in terms like 30 weight motor oil and bearing grease – both viable options with the AK-47!

First step- Cleaning Products (Pick and choose)

  • CLP BreakFree – “CLP Breakfree” is the stuff you hear discussed most of the time in military rifle circles. This stuff is amazing. Since I’ve never had trouble with my guns after using this stuff, I would have to agree. CLP stands for Clean-Lubricate-Preserve. It has a lubricating Teflon ingredient and is a superb solution for all basic gun needs. It was developed for the US military and is marketed to the public.
  • Gunscrubber or Brake Cleaner – This stuff is an aerosol, high pressure cleaner. It cuts grease and carbon and evaporates to leave bare, dry metal. It will attack many plastics, wood finishes and paint, so test it first. Use eye protection- the high pressure jet stream will rebound off of corners and flat surfaces and blind you. Go outside too- the fumes will knock you back to third grade. I wear gloves, for this stuff is a carcinogen and probably much more. If it gets under a ring on your finger you will feel it for days. Now, all that said, this is the easiest and most effective way to degrease a gun. It cuts through most carbon deposits too. The downside- if the health risks weren’t enough, are that it is expensive. Gunscrubber is around $5 a can, brake cleaner is around $1 to $3. One can will disappear quicker than you expect. Some folks use Carb cleaner. Carb cleaner is a much more aggressive solvent and leaves a slight lubricant behind. In a pinch it will substitute for brake cleaner, but it isn’t recommended.
  • Light Gun Oil – This is the basic machine oil we are all familiar with. Its great for general protection of all metal surfaces. Light gun oil can be used on bare wood in a pinch.
  • Powder Solvent – Hoppes No. 9 comes to mind as the most common brand. This stuff is good for cleaning the bore of powder residue and carbon buildup. If you have guns at all, you probably have some of this stuff.
  • Heavy Grease – Any type of heavy lubricating grease works well on an AK-47, though synthetic grease with Teflon additives or lithium type grease works best.
  • Motor Oil – Yes, Motor Oil. Use oils that have no additives like Mobil 1 synthetic. Actually, Bushmaster recommends motor oil for the exterior of their AR-15 rifles, but only non-detergent. Detergent oils and oil additives are specifically NOT recommended because they may degrade the clear sealant Bushmaster applies over the phosphate finish. I doubt if many AK-47s have this clear sealant, however. Motor oil will work as a general overall lube, even on the bolt-carrier rails.
  • Automatic Transmission Fluid – ATF is jus a basic oil, it has fewer additives than motor oil and is used with great results as a general lubricant by many AK-47 owners. Its like the poor comrade’s CLP and for lubing an AK-47, it seems fitting that ATF is RED
  • WD-40  – WD-40 stands for “water displacement #40”, and is a fine general purpose solvent. There are two schools of thought about WD-40. Some swear by it, claiming it is great as a cleaner and protector, but that it should never be used for lubrication. The other school says “WD-40 will never touch my guns!”. That’s because it leaves a residue behind that becomes sticky and gummy with age. If WD-40 is allowed to pool up in corners and crevices (around firing pins?) it can cause parts to stick. I personally use it as a flushing agent, but don’t rely on it for rust protection as it is not designed for long term protection. As a water displacement product, it drives water out of the gun, but that’s where its effectiveness to the gun owner ends, especially in humid climates.
  • Bore Brushes – Get some. Bronze or brass is best to get the garbage out of the rifling grooves. Bore solvents like Hoppes only do so much on stubborn gunk.
  • Chamber Brushes – Brass bristle chamber brush for scrubbing out the receiver and chamber is a necessity. A toothbrush will suffice in most cases.
  • Bore Patches & Rod – Need I say this? If you have no cleaning rod and don’t know what I’m talking about, sell your guns. I find the AK rod is not the tool I want sliding down my rifle’s bore- its too hard! I use a cheap aluminum rod from those $5 cleaning kits. Patches need to be small enough to move through the bore, but not so tight that you bend your rod. Use .30 caliber patches or cut a tee shirt into 1″x2″ rectangles.
  • 12 gauge bore brush (for the AK gas tube) – Get a brass or bronze one for cleaning your gas tube. Make sure you have a shotgun cleaning rod to attach it to as it will not fit on your rifle cleaning rod.
  • Simple Green – This water-based, biodegradable de-greasing cleaner is great for gun owners who don’t like the noxious chemicals we normally use. With a toothbrush, Simple Green is great stuff. Dry your gun parts in the oven for 30 minutes of so after using any water based product or you may find rust forming overnight.

Field stripping the AK-47

Before you start field strip your gun, ensure that its unloaded- check it, then check it again!  Every gun is loaded!

  1. Remove the top cover off of the receiver by pushing the button on the rear of the receiver cover and lifting the cover up.
  2. After the cover is removed, slide the receiver retainer button that held the receiver cover down forward until it disengages from the trunnion that holds it in place.
  3. This will allow you to slide the recoil spring out of the bolt carrier.
  4. Next, pull back the bolt to the rearmost position and lift the bolt carrier/gas piston assembly out of the receiver. Watch the bolt! It is loose and with a turn will fall out.
  5. Remove it by turning it until the locking tab is clear and you can slide it forward and free.
  6. Finally, with the bolt carrier/gas piston assembly removed, lift the lever on the right side of the gas block up by rotating it clockwise.
  7. The gas tube/upper hand-guard assembly will be loose now and you can move it upward and off the gun.

That’s all that is required to field strip your AK-47, and it is ready for cleaning.

Initial Cleaning
First, I apply CLP to the parts that I can get at with a toothbrush and scrub. This includes the bolt carrier/gas piston and the bolt itself. I also use Hoppes #9 on the bore by passing a saturated patch down the barrel. You can use any solvent here that you wish, from kerosene to WD-40. The idea is to flush out the grunge and scrub off the stubborn carbon deposits. The brass brushes will come in handy on the gas piston and the bolt face. Run the shotgun brush down the gas tube a few times to knock out any carbon in there. Check the gas port too, making sure the channel leading to the barrel is open and free of carbon. A special tool is available for this, or a length of coat hangar will substitute just fine.

Once I’ve loosened the really nasty grunge with the toothbrush and flushed with cleaner of my choice, I spray off the interior, parts and bore with brake cleaner to get the cleaner and remainder of the grunge off. This step leaves a nice, greaseless, bare metal finish.


Using CLP, I lube all operating parts. Inside the receiver, go ahead and coat the whole thing in a light film of CLP or light machine/gun oil. You don’t want any rust in there! I use Tetra grease on the rails. I give it a good coat with my finger, but it really doesn’t need much as this stuff leaves a film behind even if you can’t see it. A large blob of grease only attracts dirt.

Protection and Storage

Use CLP here. Some folks prefer Motor oil, Automatic Transmission Fluid, or light gun oil. With a rag, wipe down all exposed metal with CLP- interior and exterior, parkerized, blued or otherwise. Get it all. A slight film is all that is required to protect the gun.

And that’s it!

Alternate cleaning methods for the AK-47

  • Field strip, run the water hose through it, dry in sun, squirt with motor oil, reassemble.
  • Field strip, put in dishwasher, run cycle, dry in over at 250 degrees (without stocks of course), squirt with motor oil, reassemble.
  • Hose down the whole thing with the local car wash pressure washer. Stick on radio antenna to dry while driving home. Dip in motor oil. Store.

Sound insane? These are all methods people have actually used! I use the dishwasher when I really want to degrease a gun. To prep my SAR-1 for refinishing I had to remove all grease and lubricants inside and out. I used gunscrubber gets the initial layers of grease/oil off, then heated the metal parts in the oven for a while to drive the grease out of the tight spots and from between the stampings and metal-to-metal areas. I’d then concentrate on that area with acetone and a brush. I repeated the process a couple of times until I had removed as much grease and oil as humanly possible. Once done, in the dishwasher it went, broken down of course. When the dry cycle was over, I put it back in the over to drive out leftover moisture and then proceeded to refinish the surface.

Make sure to keep your AK-47 clean and maintained so that it will last you a lifetime. The AK47 is still an awesome weapon platform with many AK-47 Accessories available to customize it for any need or use.

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