Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review
Part 3 - External & Operational Features
August 1, 2016

Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review 

In this part of my Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Rifle review, I'm going to show and discuss the external and operational features of this AR styled rimfire rifle chambered in .22LR.  Keep in mind that I reviewed my first M&P15-22 about five years ago and you can reference the details (which are very similar) of that review at this link.  I'm also going to point you in the direction of the original review if you are interested in the disassembly and internal features.  Both disassembly and the internal features are nearly identical on this new version compared to the previous version and I didn't see a need to go into those details again.

 

The M&P15-22 Sport is an AR styled .22LR rimfire rifle which appears to be made primarily from injection molded polymer components with the exception of the barrel, bolt and critical internal parts.  I believe the polymer material is a glass filled nylon which is similar to what everyone else in the firearms industry is using and this material has proven to be durable and strong enough for this application.

Figure 1
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review Iso View

For this particular rifle is an all black finish.  Because the polymer components don't have any other surface finish, there are areas where the overall matte looking sheen varies, but based on my observations on other firearms, this is to be expected.  If you choose one of the camo versions, the camo version will have an overall better surface appearance based on my experience with my original rifle which is a camo version.

Figure 2
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review Iso View

One of the great features of the M&P15-22 platform is that the ergonomics and controls of this rifle match that of most AR styled rifles.  The similarity of this rifle to other AR styled rifles makes this an extremely cost effective training platform for those wanting or needing to save some money.  The biggest differences between the M&P15-22 and a standard AR are the weight (about two pounds lighter on the M&P15-22) and length require to pull the charging handle (more later).

Figure 3
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review Iso View

The main differences between this new M&P15-22 Sport and their original rifles are the Magpul MBUS front and rear sights which are now standard on all "Sport" rifles and the new slim styled M-LOK handguard.  These are both welcomed changes because they more closely align with the current market trends.

Figure 4
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review Iso View

To help show these differences, the original (Standard) and "Sport" rifles are shown below.  The new "Sport" version is on top and the original version is on bottom.  Except for the sights and forend, they look identical.  If you are looking at an advertisement listing that does not show a picture and you want the new version, make sure it clearly says "Sport" in the model name.

Figure 5
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Original

These next photos are the same from Part 2 and I have included them so I have a complete set in this part of the review for our reference.  The overall width of the rifle is about 2.2" measured across the bolt release and shell deflector.

Figure 6
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Top View

The overall height of the rifle is about 7.1" excluding the sights and the overall length varies from 31.75" to 35.0" depending on the position of the buttstock.  This measured length varied from the specifications of 30.70" to 33.75" which I feel is an error on S&W's part.

Figure 7
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Right View

Figure 8
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Bottom View

Overall, I feel that S&W has done a nice job with the look of their rifle and attempt to match a standard AR's configuration.

Figure 9
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Left View

The rifle weighed in at 4 pounds 7.6 ounces (4.5 pounds) without magazine and 4 pounds 13.2 ounces (4.8 pounds) with an empty 25-round magazine included.  This is slightly less than the 5 pounds stated in the specification which may have included the original heavier metallic sights.

Figure 10
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Weight No Magazine

Figure 11
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Weight With Magazine

Starting at the front... the barrel comes with a fairly standard A2 style steel flash hider with six slot around the perimeter.  The flash hider does not have a closed bottom like standard A2 style flash hiders, but with this rifle being chambered in .22LR, the true need for a flash hider is a little questionable.  I feel the greatest advantages of having one are aesthetics and that it can function as a thread protector when not using a sound suppressor.  The flash hider comes with 3/4" wrench flat for removing and installing if needed.

Figure 12
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Flash Hider

The portion of the barrel that extends past the forend measures about 6.56" in length and the barrel has an outside diameter of 0.67".  The barrel is made from carbon steel and the finish is a black matte and there are no visible markings indicating caliber and twist.  As already mentioned though, the barrel is chambered for .22LR and has a 1:15" RH twist rate.  The actual barrel length measured 16.5" in length as advertised.

Figure 13
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Barrel

At the front of the handguard is a plastic insert that touches both the carbon steel barrel and polymer handguard.  This means that the barrel is not free floated.  I don't see this as a big issue on this rimfire rifle because it is not intended to be a completion target rifle and has a proven track record of good performance.

One of the new features on this "Sport" rifle is that it comes with a set of polymer Magpul MBUS sights.  I feel these sights are a great match-up with this rifle; quality Magpul polymer construction, light weight, reasonable cost.  The Magpul MBUS front sight is shown below in the deployed (up) position.  The front sight is adjustable for elevation only and the rifle comes with a front sight adjustment tool.  The specs on this sight are shown below and were taken from the Magpul website.

  • Weight, w/ hardware: 1.2 oz.
  • Height above rail, stowed: ~0.51 in.
  • Length, stowed: 2.6 in.
  • Length, deployed: 1.5 in.  
  • ELEVATION ADJUSTMENT:
    ~1.6 MOA (1.886"/100m) per click with a 14.5" sight radius
    ~1.2 MOA (1.367"/100m) per click with a 20" sight radius

Figure 14
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Barrel

Another great feature of this rifle is the addition of the 10” M&P® Slim Handguard with MAGPUL® M-LOK™ capability.  For several years I have been favoring a slim smooth (no quad rails) handguard and it seems that I wasn't the only one.  The width of the handguard measured 1.66" and has a nice feel.

Figure 15
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Handguard Top View

S&W included a sloped rear end of the handguard along with other features to blend it into the shape of the upper receiver.  They also molded the "M&P" logo into the right side of the handguard.

Figure 16
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Handguard Right View

Although someone's first impression is that the handguard is round, it actually has flat areas at 3, 6 and 9 o-clock.  The flat areas allow for a proper interface of the M-LOK attachments at these location.  The handguard has five and one half 32mm in-line slots with a 8mm rib in between each slot located at seven locations around the handguard, but only the 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions can be used for mounting M-LOK accessories.  The top of the handguard comes with a full length Picatinny rail.

Figure 17
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Handguard Bottom View

The left side of the handguard also has the M-LOK "M" logo molded in the handguard.  According to Magpul, "M-LOK is a modular locking accessory mounting system that is a direct attachment method for hard mounting accessories to a negative space mounting point. Designed by Magpul Industries as an evolution of the MOE® slot system used since 2007, the M-LOK system is being released as a free licensed platform to allow greater compatibility of accessories between all manufacturers."  Basically, Magpul developed a system similar to KeyMod for other manufacturers to use.  You can see all the details about the M-LOK system by taking a look at Magpul's M-LOK Brochure.

Figure 18
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Handguard Left View

The rifle comes with one short piece of Picatinny styled M-LOCK rail measuring about 2.25" in length that has 5 lateral slots.

Figure 19
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport M-LOK Rail

When you flip this piece of rail over, you can get an idea on how the M-LOK system locks in place.  In this case there are three pieces molded into the rail that insert down into the slots on the handguard.  At each end there are two cammed T-nuts that lock under the handguard when you tighten the screws.

Figure 20
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport M-LOK Rail Bottom

When you put this piece of rail on the handguard, two of the molded pieces will nest into a single slot on the handguard.  The third molded piece will nest inside another slot.

Figure 21
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport M-LOK Rail Install

Once tightening the screws, this section of rail is securely in place.

Figure 22
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport M-LOK Rail Installed

The upper receiver is all polymer and has a basic configuration like most AR upper receivers.  The top has a standard 13-slot Picatinny rail and the rifle comes with the Magpul MBUS rear sight.  I did a detailed review of this Magpul MBUS rear sight in December 2015 and you can refer there for detailed photos.  Just for the record, I think these Magpul sights provide great value and functionality and are a perfect choice for the out-of-the-box sights on this rifle.

Figure 23
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Upper Receiver Top View

This next photo shows the rear sight deployed and the charging handle pulled to the rear.  The charging handle is made from a polymer material as well as the charging handle latch.  Since the shell length on a .22LR round is significantly different than a .223 round, the charging handle pull length is significantly shorter.  This shorter charging handle pull length is a key operational difference that a user will feel when comparing between this rifle and the centerfire version.

Figure 24
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Charging Handle

One of the nice features of the Magpul MBUS sights is that they quickly deploy by spring activation when you push down on the side tabs which allows them to pop up into the deployed position.  It is the spring force that holds them in the deployed position, so if they are bumped rearward, they will fold back.  The rear sight is adjustable for windage only and includes a piece in front of the orifice which folds down and allows you to change the peep diameter from very small for precision shots to much larger for close fast action shots.

Figure 25
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Rear Magpul MBUS Sight 

Because this is a rimfire rifle, there are differences in the upper receiver configuration on this rifle than that of it's big brother. The first is the rifle works on a simple semi-auto blow back system like most rimfire rifles so there are no gas tubes to deal with which changes the internal configuration of the upper receiver.  Externally, the main difference is the ejection port size and  shell deflector shape.  S&W chose to omit the ejection port cover and it was probably the right choice on this rifle.  Not that I expected it to work, but I did try and fit the upper receiver on one of my AR lower receivers and it did not fit.  The lug details were slightly different on the M&P15-22 compared to a centerfire upper receiver.

Figure 26
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Ejection Port 

The lower receiver looks fairly standard and has the M&P logo along with "15-22" molded into the right side of the magazine well.  It also includes the standard magazine release button.  The safety positions "SAFE" and "FIRE" are also clearly marked  on the right side and the lower portion of the trigger guard is molded into the lower receiver.  The rifle also comes with a standard polymer A2 pistol grip which allows you the option to switch it out for your favorite style grip if you are into customization.  There are many aftermarket grips out there and this is probably one of the things I will upgrade first (after adding an optic).  If you are into Magpul components, you might want to consider one of the MOE version rifles which include the Magpul MOE SL Stock and Grip.

Figure 27
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Receivers Right Side

 To remove the pistol grip, remove the screws that you see inside the cavity of the grip and the grip can be pulled from the lower receiver.  Remember there is a spring and detent pin for the manual safety so pay attention not to lose them.

Figure 28
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Pistol Grip Bottom

In keeping with the style and feel of a centerfire AR rifle, S&W chose to use a near full size magazine well so the magazines feel and insert very closely to the same as a standard magazine.  This is another feature that makes this rifle a good case for a training rifle.

Figure 29
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Bottom Lower Receiver

Just to be clear, a standard AR magazine will not fit in the magazine well of this rifle.  The magazine well on the M&P15-22 is slightly shorter and also has features inside the well that are specific to the use of their .22LR magazines.  Another nice touch is the flared magazine well on the bottom of the lower receiver. 

Figure 30
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Magazine Well 

Overall, the left side of the receivers look very similar to that of a standard AR.  The bolt catch and two position safety match that of a standard AR.  The left side also has the markings "MODEL M&P15-22", "CALIBER 22LR", S&W Logo, "SMITH & WESSON SPRINGFIELD, MA" and that good old "MADE IN U.S.A.".  Under these last markings is a metal plate embedded/bonded into the lower receiver that has the serial number of the rifle.  One last thing to note is that the buffer tube is molded into the lower receiver and is not removable.  The outside diameter of the buffer tube measured on average about 1.140" which makes this buffer tube compatible with "Mil-spec" buttstocks.  Actually a mil-spec diameter tube should be between 1.145" to 1.150" and the one on this rifle is slightly undersized which attributes to more buttstock rattle.  This rattle can be reduced with some properly placed black electrical tape down the sides and top of the buffer tube extension.

Figure 31
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Receivers Left Side

The M&P15-22 Sport comes with a standard AR trigger configuration that uses trigger groups having 0.154 diameter pins.  This gives you the opportunity to upgrade your trigger if desired.  The trigger pull on this rifle averaged 5.0 pounds based on 10 pulls using a Lyman digital pull gauge.  The trigger pull felt like it had some creep then seemed to break fairly crisp with a little overtravel. Overall it was fairly good for a mil-spec-ish trigger setup.

Figure 32
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Trigger 

Figure 33
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Buttstock Top

This version of the rifle comes with a standard M4 styled buttstock.  This buttstock has the standard vented/ribbed look, slot for rear sling and metallic toe sling loop.  The buttstock also includes the S&W logo molded into the right side.

Figure 34
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Buttstock Right

The buttstock adjusts to six different positions via the standard style lever on the bottom of the stock.

Figure 35
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Buttstock Bottom

The rifle came with a single 25-round magazine.  Since I have owned a M&P15-22 for the last 5 years along with many of my shooting friends, I can say the these magazines have proved to be very reliable.

Figure 36 - Front
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Magazine Front

The follower includes a button on each side which allows for you to pull the spring down with one hand while loading with the other.

Figure 37 - Left
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Magazine Right

The rear of the follower also has a tang that sticks out and up and engages the bolt catch so that the bolt is held open on an empty magazine.

Figure 38 - Back
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Magazine Back

Figure 39 - Right
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Magazine Right

The magazine feed lips and follower are all polymer and I have not experienced any issues with the magazines I have that are 5 years old and have seen thousands of rounds of use.

Figure 40
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Magazine Feed Lips

 

Thoughts

My thoughts on this rifle are based on a combination of what I have re-studied doing this review and my experiences with many of the features over the past 5 years with my original rifle.  The S&W M&P15-22 Sport is a well built rifle that has the feel and functionality of a centerfire AR styled rifle yet allows you to have fun and train with low cost .22LR ammunition.  The build quality of this rifle seems on par with S&W products and the addition of the Magpul Sights and new slim handguard will appeal to today's consumer's desires.

For more detailed photos and commentary, make sure you check out the other parts of this review and feel free to leave comments below.  The following links are provided to help you see other parts of this review. 


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