Smith & Wesson M&P-15 .22 LR Sporter, by Pat Cascio

I’m hooked on AR-15 style of rifles, and I own more than a few, not counting what my lovely wife owns, or my two daughters. Some years ago, I purchased the then-new Colt AR-15 chambered in .22 LR. Sadly, that particular rifle wouldn’t reliably function with any type of .22 LR, and I made adjustments and tinkered with it, but finally got rid of it. So, quite a few years passed before I even thought about another AR-15 rifle chambered in .22 Long Rifle (LR).

Not long ago, I was shopping for another AR. However, none were to be found in my neck of the woods. However, my local FFL dealer had a couple Smith & Wesson M&P-15 Sporter rifles in .22 LR. The price was about right, so I got it. At first glance these dandy little rifles look very much like an AR-15 chambered in .223 or 5.56mm – so the deal was done, and I got it.

This M&P has a 16.5-inch barrel, and it is topped with a flash suppressor – not that you need one on a .22 LR gun, but it is still there and complete the look of the gun looking like a real AR-15 style of rifle. The barrel is a medium-weight one – and that also adds to the look of the real-deal AR.

Starting from the butt upwards, it has a telescoping (adjustable for length) butt stock – just like a genuine AR has. Here’s where there is a difference, the entire lower receiver is made out of black polymer, and it is super-tough stuff. I don’t know how it would hold up to “combat” then again, this gun isn’t made for war. Since the lower receiver and buffer tube for the telescoping butt stock is all one piece, it appears that the lower is not compatible with a standard centerfire AR upper.

The pistol grip is standard AR configuration – but you can easily swap it out if you want a different type of grip. The magazine release and safety lever is steel. A 25-round plastic magazine comes with the gun, and it is well-made, not junk.

As we move up on the gun, the upper receiver is also black polymer. The handguard is made out of black polymer as well, and is of the M-LOC design so you can mount just about any accessories on it you might want. I plan on keeping mine as-is – I don’t need to add any extra weight to this little rifle – it’s a plinker, and can do double duty for hunting small game. The upper portion of the hand guard and the top of the upper receiver has a Picatinny-style rail, for mounting sights, red dots or magnifying scopes. The gun came with some outstanding Mag-Pul MBUS front and rear sights – polymer and extra tough. Nice touch by S&W.

The M&P also came with an attachment to add a sling to the hand guard – took a little while to get it attached to the bottom front end of the hand guard, but once locked on there, it will stay. I attached a simple Nylon sling – however, before doing that, I had to add a sling attachment and I had several of these in my AR parts box – wish S&W would include a similar part – without it, you can’t attach a sling. The opposite end of the sling is attached to the butt stock.

The upper receiver has a shell deflector – I don’t know if this is necessary or not, but its there and almost completes the AR-look. There is no means to slam a jammed round into the chamber (forward assist) like that found on a real AR – and its not needed – not even needed on a real AR…if a round won’t fully chamber, and you try to force it home, you’ll only complicate the jam and make it worse – don’t ever try to force a round into the chamber that way.

The charging handle actually works, to chamber a round from the magazine – nice touch. The gun operates on the direct blowback method, like most semi-auto .22 LR guns do. That makes things simpler.

Before firing the M&P I checked the gun over – it was dry – no lube to be found. I don’t like to use a lot of lube on a .22 LR rifle. However, I added some to the bolt before taking this gun out for some fun shooting.

The Mag-Pul sights are fold down – and this is great if you want to add a red dot sight to the Picatinny rail. You simply fold the sights down and add the red dot and you’re good to go. I haven’t decided if I’m going to add a red dot sight or not. It only takes a few seconds to fold the sights down or raise them.

Our Shooting Tests

As I always do, with any rifle, I check the zero, and this little gun was perfectly zeroed for windage, but shooting too low at 25-yards. S&W included a front sight adjustment tool with the gun – only took a few turns of the front sight to bring it up to the bullseye. The gun should be dead-on out to 100-yards at this point.

The 25-round magazine is easy to load, it has little tabs on each side, so you can pull down on them as you insert each round into the magazine – and it is a consistent amount of pressure with each round you insert into the magazine. In contrast, some .22 LR magazines are a real pain to load – especially some .22 LR handguns.

.22 Rimfire Ammo

I had a great variety of .22 LR ammo on hand. Whenever I’d spot some .22 LR ammo on sale in a small box store, I’d get a brick or two – didn’t matter to me what the brand was – if it was priced “right” I’d get a couple bricks. However, things have changed – we are just starting to recover from the worst ammo drought – EVER! You’re doing good if you can find a “cheap” brick of ammo (500 rounds) – for less than $60 these days, and some of the better .22 LR is going for $75 to $100. Ouch!

I had quite a few loose rounds in one of my .22 ammo cans, and I loaded them into the first magazine. If a gun is going to have a failure to feed, then it will be with a mixed lot of ammo in the same magazine. After chambering the first round, I let loose on some rocks down range – and in a few seconds, the magazine was empty – no malfunctions of any kind.

My wife loves to shoot .22s – and she thinks ammo is never-ending. After the front sight was adjusted for elevation, she fired magazine after magazine full of all different brands of .22 LR ammo – never a bobble or any sort of malfunction at any time. In all, we fired over 300 rounds during our first outing. I cleaned the gun when we got home. I don’t believe in letting a .22 get too dirty – only took a few minutes to run a couple patches through the barrel and chamber to get it clean.

One of my volunteer shooters stopped by one day, and I have a small shooting range on my digs and he really wanted to shoot this little .22 – and he did – several mags were fired with no problems, and the big smile on his face said it all – he wants one of these guns himself. Now, between my wife and myself, we have more .22 rifles than needed, but it was a great investment in this M&P for the sheer joy of “fun shooting.”

Spare Magazines — Buy Plenty!

Spare magazines were $25 each – so I ordered up half a dozen spares. In looking at before starting this article, I saw that spare 25-round magazines were going from $30 to $40 – so people are stocking up – knowing what kind of anti-gun measures the Biden Administration will try to institute via executive order,  going around the law and Congress. He’s already trying to pull a fast one on “ghost guns” – whatever he thinks those are, by regulating the sale of gun parts. In the recent shooting in New York City, a man used a Glock 17 – and their mayor said he used a “ghost gun” – not true! The man did try to scratch off the serial numbers on the gun, though – without any success.

Right now, prices vary on this rifle. But most are selling for $450 to $500. Yeah, that is a little spendy for a .22 rifle, but this one is a real winner in my book. If I had the funds, I’d purchase another one for my wife, not that she “needs” another .22 rifle – and she also has a .22 LR rifle that looks like an HK MP5 – that she likes shooting. Still one more of these dandy S&W rifles would be nice to have around.

I’m not advocating that anyone purchase one of these rifles for a SHTF scenario. However, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end out to 150-yards or closer. While you may not be able to terminate someone with the “lowly” .22 LR, you would sure make these realize that they do not enjoy getting shot with a .22 LR. Though a lot of people have been killed with .22s over the years.

Check one of these guns out. It wouldn’t be such a bad “survival” gun capable of taking small game.