Just about every AR platform style of weapon has a forward assist feature on it. The forward assist is used to ensure that the first round you load has been completely chambered. This forward assist feature was added during the Vietnam era due to poor weapon cleaning and extremely dirty ammunition was causing chambering issues. These issues would commonly result in wounded and killed American soldiers. So the forward assist button was added to help alleviate these issues.
Is the forward assist still needed today? It is a question you will hear at gun shows or at gun ranges quite often. I do not feel as though it is necessary per say, but I certainly want my AR’s to have it.
The forward assist is not meant to force a damaged, bent or excessively dirty round into the chamber. It simply lets you manually close a partially open bolt that hasn’t gone fully forward into the locked and loaded position.
If you have shot any type of semi auto or fully automatic weapon, you have had to bump or tap the weapon to make it fire again. This is where the idea of the forward assist came from.
There are lots of other automatic weapons that have a forward assist of some kind on them. Weapons such as the AK47, M14, M1a and M1 Garand.
We have all heard of the tap, rack and fire drills. In these situations you normally have a semi automatic pistol and it doesn’t fire. So then you tap the magazine, rack the slide fully to the rear, asses the situation and engage if necessary.
The forward assist helps the operator know that his bolt is all the way forward into the battery.
The immediate action drill for an AR is called SPORTS. Which stand for Slap, Pull, Observe, Release, Tap and Shoot.
The tap is to tap the forward assist button to ensure you are ready to engage.
A very popular argument is that if a round won’t chamber all the way forward on its’s own, you don’t need to shoot it anyway. Since the round won’t chamber, then something is wrong. Now you are using the forward assist to complicate the problem even further by forcing the faulty round into the chamber.
These are all legitimate thought processes and to each his own. I feel as though the forward assist is the only means I have to put forward pressure on the bolt and I think it is needed.
I have never carried an AR platform weapon into combat, so you may have a totally different opinion than me.
Our tactical team utilizes the H&K MP5 and it does not have a forward assist button. But, that is a totally different animal and topic for another day.
Like it or lump it, the forward assist is likely here to stay. I vote that we keep it, but we all have our own vote, remember that.
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Story by Shane Smith