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What is an AR 15 forward assist?

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Of all the hotly debated parts of an AR-15, the forward assist is one of the most controversial. This is because many people do not see the need for an AR 15 forward assist, while others consider it to be a necessity.

The reality falls somewhere in the middle. The forward assist assembly has some advantages for your rifle, but it isn’t always necessary.

We’re going to go over all you need to know about forward assists in this helpful blog from the firearm experts at Guntology.

A finger resting on an AR 15 forward assist

What is a forward assist?

The forward assist is the button on the right side of a normal AR 15 upper just below the charging handle. It was added to the AR 15 rifle on the US Army’s request in order to provide an option to force the bolt into battery.

What are the benefits of a forward assist?

The benefits of a forward assist are pretty simple. If your rifle isn’t in battery or the bolt isn’t fully closed, you can use the forward assist to push it closed. This is easier than recharging the gun and has the added benefit of not dumping a live round on the ground for no reason.

It can also be used to check and see if the bolt is closed if you accidentally snag the AR 15 charging handle, which is easier to do if you have an ambidextrous charging handle. The forward assist is basically a way to ensure firearms go into battery.

What are the Drawbacks of a Forward Assist?

The drawbacks of the forward assist assembly comes down to the circumstances you are using it in. This predominantly deals with failures to feed and other malfunctions. If your AR 15 rifle doesn’t go into battery during fire, hitting the forward assist may not be the best course of action.

In this situation you are more likely to make the problem worse by trying to force a round through an obstruction or into a blocked chamber. This can wedge things into the locking area of the rifle, damaging it or making it unusable until the entire bolt carrier group and battery can be taken apart/cleared.

When Should You Use Your Forward Assist?

There are times when using a forward assist is necessary and it usually involves light actions with the bolt. Whether you’re riding the charging handle home or have just conducted a press-check, your bolt might not fully seat because there wasn’t enough energy put into the bolt. Using the forward assist will safely put the bolt fully into battery.

Other times are related to environmental factors. The rifle may be able to chamber normally but something like frost or other fine grit might add enough resistance so that the bolt does go all the way forward. The issue might resolve itself during the rest of the day, but using the forward assist will make sure the bolt is seated correctly.

Another situation that will benefit from using the forward assist is when the gun is too dirty, or when the bolt lugs area inside the bolt carrier group is too dry. Built up carbon, dirt, and debris can also slightly change the tolerances of your rifle’s chamber. This can prevent the cartridge from fully chambering but won’t prevent the gun from running. The forward assist can help you overcome the slight tolerance change and get the rifle working again.

As for the dry bolt lugs, metal on metal without lubricant can cause the bolt to not want to go into battery, especially if there’s some sort of fine dust or grit in the action. The forward assist will provide enough force to get the bolt into battery so you can get back to some light shooting.

How can you make the Forward Assist better?

Photo of a finger on an AR 15 forward assist.

The forward assist started as a tear-drop shaped paddle, but since it caught on equipment and slings, it was changed to a rimmed button shape. This rimmed button has been a snag point for fingers ever since.

The Low Snag Forward Assist puts an enhanced dimpling on the surface of the normal forward assist for better traction when using it. It also features a rimless design to reduce its snag factor even more.

Not having a rim on the forward assist is a bigger benefit than you think. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to have something snag when we don’t want it to. You probably experienced this with normal clothing, and it is even worse when it comes to gun, slings, and tactical/competition gear.

That small rim could be just enough of a catch (especially shooting the gun left handed) to get the rifle hung up. Another more painful issue is getting your finger or fingernails caught on the assist’s rim.

This doesn’t seem likely when you’re doing your normal routine, but when you’re on the clock the stress can make you do things a little heavy handed. You are more likely to “grip and rip” your charging handle which puts your fingers right in line with the forward assist. Getting caught on the edge (especially with a fingernail) is not something you’re going to do twice if you can avoid it.

Improve your firearms with Guntology

We’re passionate about all aspects of the AR 15, and we’re dedicated to making every shooter’s experience a good one. Shop our great ambidextrous AR upgrade options, like our popular ambidextrous bolt release or ambi mag release, or just reach out to talk over how you’d like to improve your AR 15 platform.

Samuel Vester
Samuel Vester
Samuel, or "Sammy", is the Founder of Guntology and is the co-owner of several other businesses in the firearms industry. He is an avid shooter and enjoys sharing cool, new, and hard-to-find products with others through Guntology.

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