Put simply, a forward assist manually forces the bolt forward if the cartridge doesn’t go into battery. It is a physical option for resolving situations in which the return spring is unable to drive the BCG and bolt home. Read on to learn more.
The forward assist is a push-button assembly on many AR15/M16/M4 type rifles intended to help push the bolt carrier forward in situations where the return spring has failed to do so. This might be the result of more than one factor, though it mostly happens to a dirty weapon (or one with some other obstruction).
Forward Assisting: the Argument
The entire notion of a forward assist (and the concept of forward assisting) is contentious. Many people believe it unnecessary. Detractors correctly note that Eugene Stoner, the weapon’s original designer, disapproved of the feature. Proponents will occasionally reference the use of a forward assist by Kyle Rittenhouse to put his weapon back into battery during his defensive shooting in Kenosha, WI in August 2020. They will also assert that it’s “better to have it and not need it” than the reverse.
The argument has been around as long or longer than that of 9mm vs .45 and any other three gun debates you might dredge up. The debate becomes more significant when discussing a defensive rifle than one intended for hunting, but even then there are strong, salient points pro and con.