One of the oldest debates in the AR-15 community is about the forward assist. Some people say that it is completely pointless, while others believe that it can be useful. Both sides have some valid arguments, however, before we get into them, let me tell you what the forward assist actually is, and what it does.
The forward assist is usually located on the right side of an AR-15, however, many modern ARs don’t have a forward assist. It is like a button on the side of the rifle which helps you manually push the bolt into battery if it is not closing, either because of an Ammo malfunction, or an unclean receiver.
Why was the forward assist added to the AR-15?
The original AR-15, made by Eugine Stoner did not have a forward assist, however, when it was later added because of the US army requirements. You see, the army was just getting out of theirl long relationship with the M1 Garand, and M14 rifles.
These rifles had an open top rotating bolt design, which meant that if the rifle went out of battery, you could just smack the charging handle and it would work. Now, this could not be done with the AR-15, and hence the US army wanted a manual forward assist.
The US Air Force did not opt for the forward assist, claiming that it wasn’t necessary. So, you can see that the debate for the practicality of the forward assist even existed at that time. Moreover, an argument can be made that it was only added because the US army was used to an older rifle design.
Do you need a Forward Assist?
Well, the answer to that depends upon which side of the argument you are on. For normal civilian use, where the rifle is not going to be under too much stress, a forward assist does seem a little excessive. Moreover, the purpose it fulfills isn’t fundamentally correct.
For instance, if your bolt isn’t closing all that way, it is because there is something wrong, either with the ammo, or the rifle. In such a situation, you need to clean your gun or maybe cycle a new round, rather than pushing the bolt shut.
Another major concern that many people have is that the forward assist could actually damage the reliability of the rifle. The plunger, or spring inside the forward assist could break,a dn get into the action of the rifle, causing a fatal malfunction.
However, in a military setup, where there are more chances of your rifle getting dirty, it is quite possible you end up in a situation where you need to engage targets with your rifle. If the bolt is not closing completely in such a situation, the forward assist can be helpful. This is why most military m4s have a forward assist.
So, whether you want a forward assist on your rifle or not, that is for you to decide.