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Smith and Wesson M&P 15/22 TB

Smith and Wesson M&P 15/22 TB

There have always been a few militarystyle 22 semis around since the 1970s. However, it was not until early 2000 we started to see equipment that was a quantum leap forward in both looks and ability with GSG’s (German Sport Guns) MP5 and AK47 clones. These were just the tip of the iceberg and in a few short years the ball gathered momentum. Naturally the generic AR15/M16 was favourite and my first rifle was a Walther Colt Tactical, which looked good but suffered in its control functions and also method of stripping.

By this time there were a number of American guns available, as well as custom builds. Most however, seemed to miss out the AR’s full control functions with (annoyingly) no automatic last round hold open or manual bolt release. Two features very much at the heart of this rifle, certainly for fast, realistic and efficient operation. All that was about to change with the introduction by Smith & Wesson of their Military & Police (M&P) 15/22.

What You Need

The rifle took an unusual approach in that it offered correct, fully functioning controls with a telescopic (CAR15) butt, 4-way, free-float forend and flat-top Picatinny receiver. With the exception of the bolt and barrel etc the build was all-polymer and it came with clip-on iron sights and a screw-off flash hider on a 1/2 x 28” UNEF muzzle thread and a 25-round mag as standard and an optional 10. It was not the prettiest of the 22 ARs but it was cheap at around £550 ‘when first introduced’ and came from the box ready to go exactly as the original rifle.

I first tested one in 2005 and was impressed by its functionality and when my Colt Tactical broke after 6-months I took it back to the dealer and he gave me the option of my money back or something else. That’s how I got my M&P!

This rifle was all black and came with a Rock River Arms-type butt and standard, skinny A2 pistol grip; both of which would have to go! The sights consisted of a low A-frame up front with a fully adjustable A2-type block at the rear. For a factory fit, probably the best irons you can get offering good shootability, plus easy to fit or remove. Today, Smith fit fold-down MBUS sights on all the range.


Carbine Culture

The trigger was standard AR - for that read a firm, military pull, not amazing but it worked and was shootable. The magazine was unique and incorporated external, ambidextrous pull-down follower buttons, which makes filling easy! Equally the promised last round hold open, which was actuated by a follower extension at the rear of the feed lips. So good is the Smith mag that a number of companies offer drop-in conversion kits for 22 ARs that do not have this facility from the box, so they can use it.

With its 16.5” barrel and light weight, the M&P proved a handy rifle with good accuracy potential and having always missed my centrefire AR, lost in the SLR ban of 1988, it became a great substitute and scratched an itch. In truth it was more than that, as it was accurate enough to hunt with, as body shots on hare and rabbits out to 100-yards were not a problem.


Keeps Shooting

Most importantly, reliability was awesome, with an average of 450-500 shots between cleanings, with the obvious caveat of duff ammo; unavoidable with all 22 semis. My rifle must have had at least 12,000-rounds through it and as long as it’s kept properly clean, which is a 5-minute job and fed the right stuff, it just keeps on ticking! The other great aspect is that it strips like a real AR - push-out the rear body pin, hinge open the action and pull the bolt assembly out.

The downside of any semi-auto mech is the build-up of powder residue and debris, which is exacerbated by its blow back operating system. Particles of lead and bullet lube are shaved off as the round is chambered, this combined with the residue, blown back into the action as the bolt unlocks, deposits fouling everywhere! This can build up in extractor pockets, the breach face and down in the trigger mech. A tooth brush and picks can sort most of is out, but at 2000-rounds I will strip out the trigger and clean out all the gunk in there too!

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The AR system is easy to use with the T-handle at the rear cycling the bolt for the initial load. After that, just flip off the safety and shoot; when empty, the action locks open and you press the mag release (rear right) of the mag well to drop the empty. Slap in a full mag and press the bolt release with your left hand thumb to chamber and load. In terms of reliability and accuracy, I find my rifle works best with standard velocity, 40-grain ammo. Though it eats most things, its favourites are Fiocchi and RWS AUTO, sub-sonics go to the new Winchester 42-grain hollow point. Being 2-grains heavier seems to help with reliability in this slower round.


My Smith

Like any AR, the Smith is a moveable feast in terms of upgrades and cosmetics. Though not the only choice in accessories, I went mainly for Magpul. The issue butt is both wobbly and offers little head support. This was solved by the ACS-L carbine stock, which has a separate lever that locks it solid in all positions. There’s also a small compartment for odds and sods and a widened/improved comb shape that doubles up as battery carriers. I went for a simple MOE grip, which is fuller than the A2 and with a generous backstrap for correct hand/finger positioning.

The forend is typically hard on the hands on the sides and base, a few sets of XTM® Enhanced Rail Panels sorted this. They are small enough to allow easy positioning without getting in the way of accessories, nor do they make it too wide either. With basic furniture sorted, I considered improving handling. I favour a vertical fore grip and the RVG Rail Vertical Grip proved ideal; not too long but offering superior control and giving a good hand position for torch operation. I also tried the AFG Angled Fore Grip but it never felt quite right!

As I wanted a side-mounted sling, I went for the RSA® - Rail Sling Attachment that fits on to the 12 o’clock rail and offers a large loop. I had already picked up a tactical sling with QD snaps, which worked very well. Though I had the issue irons they had to be removed when scope mounting so I went for Magpul’s MBUS, basic front and rear, fold-down sights. The rear features an L-flip, twin aperture and is windage-adjustable with elevation taken up on the front post.


Paint, Glass and Trigger

I stuck with the basic trigger and it worked but lacked finesse. I tried some drop-in hammers, which improved things a bit then settled on a drop-in unit, which was much better. By this time I had added 4x25 and 2x10-round mags, the latter for hunting use as they make shooting supported far easier. On that point I picked the A-TEC, modular rimfire moderator, as it was available in 1/2x28 UNEF.

The rifle came together really well, with enhanced shootability and handling, but it looked like a dog’s dinner as nothing matched. So the final change was a Cerakote finish in desert tan (including mags), just leaving the barrel/flash hider, buffer tube and rail panels in black. Both the new furniture and accessories combined with the paint job made the rifle far more visually pleasing.

My final thoughts turned to optics. I had a Leupold 1.5-6x24 VX7 compact with quick-dial turrets, which suited the hunting role nicely, this went into Warne, high, 30mm QD rings. I also had their 1x14 Prismatic, which is more a tiny scope than a red dot, for more Action-orientated use. Both optics got the Cerakote treatment too. However, I have had a bit of a re-think, as I tend not to use the Smith for bunnies so much these days, so a Vortex 1-6x24 Strike Eagle in their cantilever mount takes over this dual role. One other accessory I picked up from Black Rifle was a Lightnin’ Grip magazine reloader, Smith mags are easy to fill by hand but the Lightnin’ cuts that time in half!

Whether it’s straight from the box or tricked up and painted, the S&W M&P 15/22 is still the most cost-effective, shootable and reliable 22 semi I have ever used! For Magpul and other accessories try the specialist AR15 dealers like North West Custom Parts (www. nwcustomparts.com), Black Rifle (www. blackrifle.co.uk) and Riflecraft (www.riflecraft. co.uk) to name but a few!

PRICES: £620 (ball park)

www.shieldpsd.com (for nearest dealer)
A-TEC moderators, Jackson Rifles, www.jacksonrifles.com
Nitecore torches and accessories, NITECORE, www.nitecore.co.uk

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  • Name: Smith & Wesson M&P 15/22 TB
  • Calibre: 22 LR
  • Capacity: 10 and 25 (DM)
  • Action : blow back
  • Barrel : 16.5”
  • Threaded : 1/2x28” with
  • Length : 33.75”
  • : 6-position telescopic butt
  • Weight : 5 lbs
  • Sights : Y