Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22
By: Pete Moore
Pete Moore checks out the latest 22 AR to hit the UK in the form of Smith & Wesson’s M&P 15-22
As an old guy, ex-pistol shooter and police armourer, the name Smith & Wesson M&P means their great series of Military & Police double-action revolvers. But it seems they have moved this nomenclature on, as their latest product the M&P 15-22 is a neat and no compromise 22, semi-auto AR15 variant.
In the UK over the last few years we have seen the rise of the military look-a-like 22, semi-auto rifles. OK, not the first wave, as long before that we had the truly hideous Jaeger Arms AP74 and AK47. This new generation which includes the Southern Gun Co’s V22, Bradley Arms BAR 15/22, German Sport Guns GSG5 and AK57, Spike’s Tactical etc are better looking and more reliable. They are also very popular at seemingly all levels of our sport; proving if nothing else people love this sort of kit, I know I do.
Wayne Titterton (North West Custom Parts) rang me to say he was bringing in the new Smith & Wesson AR-u-like and would I like to look at one. Called the M&P 15-22 this rifle shows a no compromise approach to features and also makes maximum use of hi-strength polymers in the build.
In terms of 22 ARs the biggest problem appears to be feed systems in relation to controls. By this I mean that in a centrefire AR you get all the functions – automatic last round hold open and bolt release, which is nice. However, on the 22s that use the standard 223 lower this is not or only partially possible. The V22 will not hold open manually or magazine-related, and the BAR 15/22 can only achieve this with a special magazine with extended follower that literally jams the bolt open - which is certainly better than nothing.
The M&P however, is built for 22 Long Rifle and shows a dedicated upper receiver with 22 LR-sized ejection port, spent case deflector and fully functioning automatic last round hold open and bolt release. Which is impressive.
Also surprising is the fact that this rifle is around 70% plastic with the upper and lower receivers, buffer tube, forend, butt and the magazine being made from a hi-strength polymer. This leaves the barrel, bolt group and trigger mech etc., in metal.
Unsurprisingly the build goes for a CAR15/M4 style with telescopic butt, flat topped receiver and 4-way, free-float forend. The lower is pure AR15 with all the controls as you would expect – mag release on the right, safety on the left above the trigger and the bolt release catch forward of this. Cocking is by a T-handle and the gun comes with 1 x 25-round magazine and a set of removable iron sights with the rear being a double aperture, fully adjustable type.
The 16” barrel shows a medium profile and is supported at the front of the forend by a removable spacer. This example was not threaded but they are done in the UK prior to proof. Typically you can opt for ½ x 20 UNF or if you want to fit an AR15 flash hider ½ x 28 UNEF. A number of companies that supply 22 moderators (Jackson Rifles, Jager Sporting Arms) now offer this thread form too.
The lower is standard AR spec though and unusually the buffer tube is integral to the moulding and blanked off so won’t accept a spring. It also means you can fit items like match triggers, extended controls and different pistol grips – currently the M&P comes with the A2 unit.
Fill her up
The magazine is much like a Black Dog with a full sized body that holds a single column 22 LR stack. However, it’s externally slotted with ambidextrous, pull-down followers to assist loading. As can be seen at the rear, it’s cut away to allow the last round hold open lug to function. Nice too is the fact that it falls free from the well at the touch of the release button and has a removable floor plate so it can be stripped and cleaned. This last being all-important for a 22 semi of this type.
Checking out the S&W website shows they also offer a 10-round mag, which is for US states that still have a hi-cap ban. Though not too exciting it would make a useful accessory for hunting, as that big 25-round, banana clip can get in the way sometimes.
The trigger is garden variety with a heavy but workable pull; I’d definitely drop in something better! The bolt is a blow back unit complete with spring that slides into the upper receiver, the build is quite open so hopefully should resists crud build up. Slightly different is the extractor which is a hooked arm protruding from the left side of the breech face. Normally this feature is built into one of the supporting rails.
The magazine is quite high, positioning the nose of the cartridge near the chamber and short feed ramp. This near straight-line feed boded well for reliability. Weighing in at 5 ½ lbs (empty with iron sights) the M&P comes up as a nice little AR and certainly looks and feels the part!
Good to go
With the iron sights included the M&P is good to go from the box – nice! However, I wanted to see what it could do, so fitted a Night Force NXS 2.5-10x24 in an A.R.M.S. QD mount. Though not cheap this is a super little compact and well suited to AR15s in general. All that remained was to select some fodder and start turning live into empty.
As ever I dug out a cross section of 22 LR – subs, standard, high and ultra-hi velocity. I have generally found that most of these guns seem to like standard and high speed fodder best. Wayne told me this example did not like sub-sonics, however that might be due to the overly heavy hammer spring and fitting a moddy might also increase back pressure a little. Though hunting capable, this is more an actioner/fun gun so keeping it quite is not a major concern.
Pull and slide
Filling the mag was a doddle and not the finger buster of some other hi-cap 22s. Ammo compatibility proved interesting; as stated the subs were a waste of time, ejecting, reloading but failing to cock the hammer. Lapua, SK and Winchester standard and high velocity, plus ultra HV Remington Vipers proved the best bets. One brand of HV was just on the cusp and gave intermittent reliability. However, with 22 semis it’s just a matter of finding out what the gun likes and keeping the mech clean.
Accuracy, even with the heavy AR trigger, was acceptable with the M&P keeping it at 1 – 1 ½” at 50-yards. There’s no doubt this could be tightened up with a better trigger mech and low mass hammer! But as I said, for an Actioner, it’s more than acceptable. The case deflector works too, meaning the rifle is suited to left handers as well as we normal people without getting a face full of hot brass…
Overall the S&W M&P 15-22 proved to be a good rifle and I reckon they will sell very well.
For: Great 22 AR with bags of potential
Against: Love the automatic last round hold open and bolt release
Verdict: Might want to sort that trigger
|Name||Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22|
|Weight||5 ½ lbs|
|Detachable iron sights||Y|
|Auto last round hold open||Y
Spare mag £27.95
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates