Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review
Part 4 - Range Tests
August 1, 2016

Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review

One of my favorite rifles to range test are semi-autos chambered in .22LR because they are so fun to shoot and I don't feel like I'm breaking the bank having to pay for ammunition.  Looking back over the years, I bet I have shot five times the ammo during a .22LR review than a .223 review because I can afford to do so.  This was the case when range testing the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Rifle.  My goals for range testing were the same as always; get a solid sense of reliability, do some basic accuracy testing, then have a bunch of fun and that is exactly what I did for this rifle.


I started out my range tests by sighting in the Magpul MBUS sights that came with the rifle at a distance of 50 yards and they sighted in without any issues.  Once I had these sighted in, I decided to spend some time at my steel target rimfire range just having fun.  Since I already own one S&W M&P15-22 rifle, I had a good idea of what to expect with regard to reliability with this platform and shooting this new rifle proved to be just as reliable as my first rifle.  I think it is great that S&W provides this rifle with the MBUS sights because all you need to do is add ammo and you are ready to go.  Also, if you choose to mount some type of optic that does not require or allow these MBUS sights, you can always use the MBUS sights on another rifle. 

I feel the S&W M&P15-22 rifles are one of the best when it comes to having a low cost training alternative for an AR style centerfire rifle.  The ergonomics and controls of the M&P15-22 match that of the standard AR rifles and this cannot be said for other dedicated rimfire AR platforms.  While at my steel target range, I was able to practice various shooting scenarios at a fraction of the cost of shooting .223.  To me, the biggest difference shooting the M&P15-22 versus a standard AR is the weight.  The M&P15-22 comes in at about two pounds lighter and you can clearly feel the difference.  Some people using this as a training rifle may or may not like this, but at only 4.8 lbs with an empty 25-round magazine, the rifle is easy to handle for even the youngest shooters.

My next task was to install some type of optical sight for accuracy testing.  Since my original M&P15-22 has only a 1x red dot sight, I wanted my final configuration for this rifle to include some type of variable power scope.  I decided on the Vortex Diamondback HP 2-8x32mm Riflescope.  The features that I liked most about this scope for this rifle were that it was fairly light weight having only a 1" tube and 32mm objective lens, it had a low end 2x power giving it a wide field of view while at the same time an 8x capability for those precision shots, and last it had a side parallax adjustment knob from 20 yards to infinity.  Personally, I find that most of my rimfire rifle adventures, whether hunting or target shooting, are typically at the 20 to 30 yards distance and being able to minimize parallax is a huge benefit, especially when you crank up the power on the scope.  Not only do you end up with a crystal clear focus, you also produce a more forgiving setup for new shooters who might not have mastered eye alignment and centering the reticle when looking through a riflescope.

These next couple of photos show the Vortex riflescope installed on the M&P15-22 rifle using some Nikon P-Series mounts which I had on hand.  As you will notice, I went ahead and removed the rear sight because the P-Series mounts are not QD mounts and there was just barely enough room for me to keep the Magpul rear sight in place due to the height of the P-Series mount and outside diameter of the ocular lens housing on Vortex riflescope.  If you are wanting to truly maintain the backup sight capability while using a traditional styled riflescope, then you should consider some QD mounts and will need to pay attention to making sure the height of your rings/mounts is sufficient to keep the rear sight in place.  In this case, the distance from the top of my Picatinny rail on the upper receiver to the centerline of the riflescope was 1.40" and the Magpul MBUS rear sight seems to require 0.52" of height for minimum clearance.

Figure 1
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport with Vortex Diamondback HP2-8x32mm  Riflescope

Overall I feel this is a good optical setup for this rifle and the aluminum P-Series mounts don't add too much weight.  For my purposes, I will most likely remove the front sight also and put the Magpul sights on another rifle which again I feel is a win since S&W provided a decent pair of sights on this rifle.

Figure 2
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport with Vortex Diamondback HP2-8x32mm  Riflescope

This next photo shows an overall view of the M&P15-22 Sport with the Vortex riflescope.  In this photo I show a 10-round magazine and bipod installed.  The magazine and bipod do not come with the rifle, but I find this combination of bipod height and magazine capacity works well at the bench.

Figure 3
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport with Vortex Diamondback HP2-8x32mm  Riflescope

For accuracy testing, my bench setup is shown below.  I decided to use a Caldwell Rock BR front rest and Caldwell rear bag to try and reduce shooting error if possible.  During my range testing, it was about mid-day and the temperature was between 75 and 80 degrees F.

Figure 4
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review Range Test

Since I had already gathered my chronograph data on another day, I didn't set up the chronograph again for my 50 yard accuracy tests.  This next photo shows again my bench and 50 yard range setup.

Figure 5
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review Range Test

During the accuracy portion of my range tests, I wanted to get and idea on how the M&P15-22 Sport would do with what I consider to be fairly available ammunition.  I first took a look in the Safety & Instruction Manual to see if S&W still makes a recommendation on ammunition.  They did make recommendations five years ago in their manual for the rifle I got during my original review, but the current manual only recommends to not use CCI .22LR Stinger brand in the S&W Performance Center model rifle.  Since there was no ammunition recommendation, this allowed me to go to my stockpile and select some ammunition that most people could find at their local stores.  The table below shows the ammunition selected, the manufacturer's rated velocity, my measured velocity data and my group size data.  Like most of the .22LR firearms on the market, the M&P15-22 Sport really liked the CCI Standard Velocity 40gr Lead Round Nose which gave me my best 5-shot group average of 0.76" (based on five groups).  I bet if I decided to spend more on the ammunition I could have achieved a slightly better group average, but having a best group size of 0.54" at 50 yards is pretty good (at least for me).  When you look at the data, you can also see that the rifle did not like the Winchester Super-X Super Speed 37gr Hollow Points.  The group average for this Winchester opened up to 2.39" and I feel the harmonics of this rifle are not in tune with this ammunition.  I was also impressed with how the Remington Golden Bullet 36gr Hollow Points performed.  If I were wanting to have some ammunition on hand for shooting small game, the Remington would be a good choice.  I averaged all the 5-shot groups for each type of ammunition except for the Winchester and got a total group average of 1.08" which I feel would easily meet the needs of most rimfire rifle owners.

Ammunition Manuf.
Measured Velocity1 (ft/sec) 5-Shot Group Size2 (in)
Average Standard
Max Min Avg
CCI Standard Velocity 40gr Lead RN 1070 1037 12 46 0.94 0.54 0.76
CCI Mini-Mag 40gr Copper Plated RN 1235 1159 14 51 1.31 0.99 1.15
Federal AutoMatch 40gr Solid 1200 1202 15 46 1.72 1.20 1.48
Remington Golden Bullet 36gr Plated HP 1280 1210 22 55 1.29 0.64 0.93
Winchester Super X Super Speed HP 37gr Copper Plated 1330 1296 13 42 2.93 1.39 2.39
Average for all groups but Winchester Super Speed = 1.08
1 - Velocity measured using a chronograph setup approximately 10 feet in front of the muzzle.  Average based on ten shots.
2 - Group Size data based on five 5-shot groups shot from a bench 50 yards from the target.
HP - Hollow Point, RN - Round Nose

I like to compare my range tests to other published tests when possible and the August 2016 issue of Guns & Ammo had an article "Plinkers" by Brad Fitzpatrick where he showed his range test data and had a total group average for all his 20 groups of 1.09" which matched very similarly to my results. I also like to show some of my best groups and the photos below show the best 5-shot groups at 50 yards for some of the ammunition used.

CCI Standard Velocity                  Remington Golden Bullet                         CCI Mini-Mag         
0.54" Group                                   0.64" Group                                   0.99" Group
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review 5-Shot Group CCI Standard Velocity  Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review 5-Shot Group Remington Golden Bullet  Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Sport Review 5-Shot Group CCI Mini-Mag

During my range testing, I don't recall a single issue with any of the ammunition used and I figure I have put about 2000 rounds through this rifle so far.  The only thing I did have happen which I thought was interesting was that the plastic plug that fits in the end of the buffer tube popped out when I was range testing one day in the sun.  Since the buffer tube is molded closed on the end towards the receiver, I figure the only variable that could cause this was the temperature of the black buttstock may have increased to the point where the air expanded inside the tube and made the plug pop out.  I easily popped it back in and if it had popped out and gotten lost, I or anyone else would probably never notice it being gone from the rifle.



My thoughts about the new version of the S&W M&P15-22 Sport rifle haven't changed much from their original rifle version except they have only gotten better.  This new version proved to be just as reliable as their past versions (which it should) and S&W is still providing a rimfire platform capable of 1" or better groups at 50 yards.  The Magpul sights are a welcomed standard option compared to the original sights that came with the rifle and the slim handguard with the fixed Picatinny rail at the 12 o-clock position is following the market trends and provides an overall better feel for most people.

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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