Forward Assists – Necessary, Unnecessary, or Disaster Waiting to Happen?

The AR-15’s forward assist has long been a topic of debate among shooters. Some shooters seem to think it is absolutely necessary. Some think it’s unnecessary or even dangerous.

On one hand, I get the arguments for the user of the forward assist for administrative functions like cleaning up after a “press check” or for the sake of reliability since it gives the ability to chamber a round that otherwise did not chamber on its own. On the other hand, the other side says you probably shouldn’t chamber a round that wouldn’t chamber on its own and there is already an assist built into the AR-15’s bolt carrier (the chamfered cut that allows the shooter to push the bolt forward with their thumb).

I understand both sides and occupy the middle ground, generally considering a forward assist to be nice to have but not necessary. Honestly, I don’t really think about it much unless I am rifle shopping/building.

Recently, I came across a post on that adds a new wrinkle to the old argument. It highlights a few cases (some documented, some anecdotal) of forward assists breaking (or at least the forward assist roll pin). As you might imagine, having the forward assist pawl running around inside your AR-15 action is not good for your rifle with issues ranging from stoppages to cracked upper receivers! Read the thread here:

Where do you stand on the AR-15’s forward assist?

3 Responses to Forward Assists – Necessary, Unnecessary, or Disaster Waiting to Happen?

  1. Publius September 10, 2018 at 13:52 #

    I too am in the middle on this one. I don’t hate a FA, but I do use them from time to time. I have several uppers where the FA is pinned on (Vltor MUR) and there is a way to remove and have it slick, FA-less. I prefer to keep it as-is.

  2. octactical September 11, 2018 at 07:28 #

    I can tell you where the FA does come in handy. After conducting weapons maintenance in the patrol base or a similar place and you need to load a round back in the chamber, but stay quiet to avoid detection. As for the FA breaking and causing a malfunction. I’m sure it happens from time to time, but I can honestly say I’ve seen more people hit by lightning then broken forward assists causing malfunctions.

  3. Demo September 11, 2018 at 16:44 #

    I agree. Pretty nuetral on the forward assist. The bolt angle doesn’t sell to me because 1. Bolts get hot. 2. It’s harder to manipulate a bolt than to just smack a forward assist.

    Honestly, I spent 11 years in the Corps and have owned/shot ARs for many years. I can’t remember actually having to use the forward assist or bolt to fully chamber a round.

    I do like the idea that it’d be useful when doing a quite reloading.

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