How Do I Break In My Oly Arms Barrel?

Q: How do I break in my Oly Arms barrel?

A: This question gets asked frequently. The following is written generically to answer most of the questions asked regarding "break-in" of Olympic Arms products. If these questions do not apply directly to you, or to your situation, please forgive us for being long winded, but you may find the information provided interesting just the same.

First of all, Olympic Arms has been in existence and operating at the top of the industry for more than 3 DECADES and we are proud to have been innovators of many now-common products in the AR industry.  Products and features like free-floating aluminum handguards, flat-top upper receivers, pistol caliber uppers and the 7.62x39 caliber AR were all developed at Olympic Arms.  We are proud to be such an influence on the AR scene and take a great deal of pride in helping our customers with questions such as break-in procedures.

The Rifle Itself

Most often, break in questions are referring to the barrel of the firearm, not the firearm itself. The proper overall functioning of an Olympic Arms AR-15 firearm does require a bit of TLC to ensure the best, and proper performance.

The first thing you'll probably notice about your Olympic Arms AR-15 is that it has a tight fit. At least tighter than what you are used to seeing in most other brand name products. The rear takedown pin may be tighter than usual. The charging handle, and bolt carrier fit a bit snug. When charging the rifle you feel a bit more resistance than you may be used to. The magazine well is sometimes tighter than most, in fact some aftermarket mags will show considerable resistance when installing in your lower. These are all common comments made by first time Olympic Arms owners. Keep in mind these are indications of superior quality in our manufacturing processes, resulting in a better over-all performance from your Olympic Arms product.

All Olympic Arms AR-15's are made to minimum blue-print/mil-spec dimensions to make every AR-15 we produce a Match Grade firearm (including the carbines!).  Even our basic K3B model (entry level 16" carbine) is Match Grade and can compete accuracy-wise with most other manufacturers 20" rifles (including some of their "Match Grade" or "accurized" products). What this means is that there is a short 200-500 round break in period for our AR-15s. For this break in period we recommend you use a high quality ammunition, or military surplus ammo.  We cannot recommend one specific brand as the best, better, preferred or endorsed ammunition.  What we can say is that other Olympic Arms customers (including many of our staff) have had better results from the following brands of ammunition:

  • Hornady
  • Federal
  • PMC (US manufactured NEW, not remanufactured or imported ammo)
  • Black Hills (both US manufactured NEW, or remanufactured ammo reportedly )

On that same line we should mention that some of our customers (including some of our staff) have had poor results from the following brands of ammunition:

  • Winchester (mostly white box, or the Q3131 ammo)
  • Any and All Wolfe brand
  • Any imported ammo.
  • Any steel cased ammo.

REMEMBER your Olympic Arms product is only warranted for use with US manufactured brass cased, factory new (not remanufactured or reloaded) ammunition.

During the break-in period of the first several hundred rounds, your AR-15's internal small parts are rubbing against each other - anywhere there is metal to metal contact those areas are 'breaking in'.  Areas you can think of right off the bat are in the upper where the bolt carrier is running inside the upper on rails. All the internal small parts like the hammer, trigger, selector, and disconnector all have a fresh (and semi-rough) parkerized finish on them that will smooth out as time goes on. Also the buffer inside the receiver extension tube and the bolt itself into the barrel extension will also begin to smooth out with continued operation. The same thing will happen with the rear takedown pin (the more you use it, the smoother it will operate).

As with any mechanical device your AR-15 should be lubricated. In the AR-15 keep a light coat of oil on all the parts at all times. We also recommend a good quality metal treatment as well as lubricant. Again, we do not specifically endorse a single product, but our customers have had positive performance from the following brands:

  • Weapon Shield (from Steel Shield Technologies, Gibsonia, PA)
  • Weapon Shield Grease (for where grease applications will perform better).
  • Tetra-Gun (oil and/or grease depending on application)

Barrel Break-in

There are many ways that people recommend to break in their barrels. The following is our recommended method, but certainly not required. Additionally, your warranty does not hinge on this method of break in.  We have many customers who shoot sub-minute of angle from their standard button-rifled AR-15 barrels and have done NOTHING special with regards to break in.

A note of warning: Breaking in a barrel does not make a barrel inherently more accurate. What it will do is make it more consistent throughout it's life, allow it to consistently meet the barrels highest level of inherent accuracy, and give it's longest life. For these reasons we do recommend a good quality break in procedure. We will not attempt to go into great detail with regards to why this is important. Nor will we describe what it does to the barrel as far as breaking it in or any more of the more scientific reasons and effects of this procedure.  Many volumes of books have been written with regards to break-in and we will not attempt to rewrite any of it.

Fire, Clean, Treat, Lubricate and Fire Method

  1. Clean the barrel well.
    • Make sure the patches come out clean and white.
    • Use the cleaner of your choice (do not use ammonia-based cleaners). Use of a lead or copper solvent is okay, but use only when necessary.
    • Make sure you have the barrel cleaned and any solvents removed or neutralized in the bore.
    • Apply the lubricant-bore treatment (we recommend Weapon Shield).
    • Dry the bore with a clean dry patch.
    • Use the quality ammunition of your choice and fire ONE round.
  2. Repeat Step 1 for the next 24 rounds.
  3. At round 25, repeat Step 1. Change from firing ONE round to THREE.
  4. Repeat Step 3 until you have fired 50 rounds total.
  5. At round 51, repeat Step 1. Change from firing THREE rounds to FIVE.
  6. Repeat Step 5 until you have fired 100 rounds total.
  7. After firing 100 rounds total clean and treat the bore as in Step 1, then fire for a group. Your barrel is now broken in.

You may choose to use another method if you wish. Again, if you do choose a different method, or choose to accelerate the process this does not void your warranty. We do not recommend lapping of the barrel.