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What is the functionality of the "forward assist assembly"?

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Overview

The forward assist is used per the operating manual to insure that the first round loaded has been completely chambered. It was added during the Vietnam era when poor cleaning practices and ammunition that was very dirty could cause chambering problems. The forward assist is seldom if ever needed now with the improvements in materials and ammunition.

It is not meant to force a bent or damaged cartridge into the chamber that could develop excessive pressures. 

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