AR-15 Review: Smith & Wesson M&P-15

Today, Smith & Wesson makes the M&P-15 in practically every conceivable style, including hot rod versions like this Kyle Lamb Viking Tactics model.

Today, Smith & Wesson makes the M&P-15 in practically every conceivable style, including hot rod versions like this Kyle Lamb Viking Tactics model.

I mentioned to S&W that perhaps it would be fun to have them send me this rifle for the book, so I could take a closer look at it once I got home. In due time a long package arrived, and #221 was here. The tactical model I shot is off somewhere else, probably doing the rounds to some police department or shooting demo somewhere. I didn’t get that serial number. In the interim someone had actually cleaned it. (I was shocked.)

The trigger was as nice as I’d remembered, and the only thing to do was get it out and check accuracy. So I took a Leupold scope and bolted it into the Armalite scope mount I had on hand. That, and some Wolf performance (the Winchester ammo hadn’t arrived by then) went out to the range with me.

The boresighter had done its job, as the groups were dead-on. No need to adjust unless I wanted to be fussy, and very small indeed. MOA groups with M-193 ball are not supposed to be the norm, but my observation is that we have seen the days of a 3 MOA AR-15 being acceptable. At least in the well-built ones. One MOA is the new standard.

The S&W M&P-15 tested by Sweeney had a 1/9 twist rate barrel.

The S&W M&P-15 tested by Sweeney had a 1/9 twist rate barrel.

Number 221 is your basic A2-lower M4 clone. The telestock is the non-CAR type, with six positions.

The lower is marked around the selector with “Safe” and “Fire” on both sides. Interestingly enough, on the trigger mechanism sideplates we see the rollmark of “Model M&P 15” which is the usual location of the original maker who machined the lower. I guess a marking variance can include the change of the markings there, too.

On the magazine well on the left side is the basic info, the S&W logo, and serial number, all looking pantograph engraved. The later, four-digit serial numbered rifles I saw had the serial number roll marked. Not a big deal, just noticeable once you’ve looked at a few thousand ARs.

On the right side the mag well is laser-etched with the M&P logo that S&W now uses. This one has “15” as part of the logo. On the handguns the logo includes the caliber.

The barrel is marked “5.56 NATO 1/9” which tells us the chamber and the rifling twist. It does not indicate as to chrome-lining or not, but in this day and age, with S&W using 4140 as the barrel steel, I’d be greatly surprised if it were not chrome-lined. When I used it in Wyoming it did not have a rear sight on it.

You can have yours with or with the standard detachable M4 carry handle/sight. If you do not want the carry handle, you can opt for the M&P-15A, which comes with a Troy BUIS. The front sight housing is the proper “F” marked height for use on a flat-top, so you can swap for any other BUIS you want, if you take off the M4 and install an optic.

The Tactical uses Troy handguards and front and rear sights. Nestled inside the front sight housing of the M&P-15 and the A model is a mil-spec side sling adapter, complete with NSN part number. Out on the end is a standard A2 flash hider. However, the barrel is threaded so you can swap it out and replace it with something else if you so wish.

Inside, the M&P-15 uses an AR hammer, a modified M-16 carrier, and a standard-weight buffer. As an added bonus, a close inspection revealed a telling detail: the buffer tube castle nut is staked. In talking with S&W before the unveiling of the M&P-15, I mentioned there were a number of details on which AR builders were slacking off.

Staking the castle nut was one of them. Staking of the carrier key is another, and I’d be happier if the S&W rifle had a more-robust staking there. The fit of the upper and lower is tight. You won’t have shift or rattle, but for a while you may have to tap the rear pint to get it to move for disassembly.

The S&W M&P-15? Get one.

This article is an excerpt from The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vol. II.


Recommended AR-15 resources:

Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vol. 4New! - The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vol. IV

The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vol. III

The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vol. II

The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vol. I

Gunsmithing the AR-15, How to Maintain, Repair & Accessorize

New! The Gun Digest Buyer’s Guide to Tactical Rifles

Find more gun books, DVDs and downloads at gundigeststore.com.

 

One thought on “AR-15 Review: Smith & Wesson M&P-15

  1. Skeebo

    I bought one that was on sale, had a 6x scope mounted & set for me! Also bought 1000 rounds of .223 ammo (my barrel is stamped 5.56 NATO) and was under $900! This is a really great addition to what I have! Plan on getting some 5.56 ammo and another mag! Would eagerly recommend this to anyone!

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