How to Clean Your Compensator – by Loyal Brezny

Loyal Brezny from Hunting Mark

How to clean your compensator

It is funny that some folks never think to focus on cleaning their compensator.  It’s not that they are lazy or mistreat equipment or anything like that; it is just a part that I think many folks overlook.

With that in mind, let’s look at this pretty important subject and find out what can happen if we don’t clean the compensator and what great things can happen when we do clean the compensator.

For this article, I will refer to the most popular rifle in the United States, the AR15.  All of this will apply to any compensator, for cleaning, why we do it, etc.

First up, why do we need to talk about this in the first place?

The easy answer is accuracy.  As the bullet passes through the compensator and the gasses exit the body, if the right side flames and gases escape more than the left side gasses, the thrust right behind the bullet will be uneven and imparts that uneven pressure to the bullet.

The other part or issue with the uneven gas burn of the escaping gasses and fire direction is that compensators with ports that expel at 12 o’clock.  If the compensator is designed for, say, 80% of the gasses out the sides and 20% out of the top.  Now let us say dirt and carbon build up on the inner surfaces, sends 30% expelled out the top ports, and may affect your shooting.

If the sight picture is interrupted with hot gas and fire, you may not get a clean shot, you may jerk a bit, or the gun does not behave the same for follow-through, etc.  When you operate with a compensator, make sure your front and rear sights are high quality.  Don’t let the cheaper units get warped or fouled in a hurry, and be careful with Red Dot or Holographic sights as well.  Lots of dirty back blasts can come from the compensator and harm that expensive optic.   With that said, high-quality open AR iron sights are a needed thing, and if you shoot three-gun, and the open sights are on a 45* for up-close work, that is where the back blast will be the worst, so choose carefully.

How do we clean the compensator?

First, how does your compensator screw onto the muzzle?  If it uses a crush washer, you need to secure that rifle, nice and tight, make sure to protect it from crushing and marring, then use a PADDED screwdriver or rod/bar through the ports, or use a strap wrench and take that compensator off, know your thread direction!

If your compensator uses a jam nut style, secure the rifle, secure the rear nut with a wrench, use the other wrench to break the torque, and take off the compensator.

OK, now we jump to the compensator is off, and sitting on the bench, you need a few things, and we will talk about the way I do it here in the shop.

Gather the following:

  • Simple Green and a Red Plastic Cup
  • Toothbrush
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Cotton Swabs, any kind will do
  • WD40

Some items are great to have but not an absolute necessity.

  • Heat gun, hairdryer, or like I use here is a toaster oven.
  • Ultra Sonic Cleaner – Cheap ones, or if you are a reloader, that one will work

OK, here we go.  Fill the Red Plastic Cup ¾ full with Simple Green.

  • Place the compensator in and soak the compensator in the Simple Green.  If the fluid does not cover the whole thing, put some more in the cup.
  • I use Simple Green due to the non-toxic and no skin irritation, but it kicks the hell out of carbon and dirt.
  • Let the compensator soak for about 10 minutes, and the Simple Green will not harm anything, not even your skin; even if it gets in your eyeballs, it will not eat them away.
  • After the soak, use the toothbrush to brush away the heavy crud, then resoak for about 5 minutes.
  • After the second soak, use the toothbrush if needed or the cotton swabs, and you will see most of the crud is gone, and just treated metal is left.
  • Use the pipe cleaners to get the vents’ corners cleaned out; try and not use a sharp scraper.
    • If you make a place for carbon to collect, it is good at finding that area.
  • When all the junk is gone, wipe down the areas you can reach with a rag, then get the rest with the cotton swabs.
  • Then give a few shots of WD40 as a water displacement.
  • Remove any extra so that it doesn’t blow back into your face next time at the range, and replace it on the rifle.
  • After soaking and scrubbing, if you have a heat source, heat the compensator to “gas out” all the water at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes.
  • Carefully remove it, and let it stand for a few minutes
  • Give it a WD40 treatment and put it back on the rifle.

If you have an Ultra-Sonic cleaner, soak it in that, then your scrub time is almost zero.  Ultra Sonic Cleaners will cost a bit more upfront; it is up to your pocketbook.  For a soaking medium, I use Simple Green as well.  If you have a massive issue with using WD40, use the gun oil of choice, not a big deal.

Cleaning is an easy process that needs to be done about every 500 rounds or so when you get after it and clean the bore as you mean it.


Good luck, be patient and take your time and you will be fine.

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