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Reviews : Arsenal

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Rifle

S&W's new AR15 is an excellent addition to the crowded market for law enforcement carbines.

August 01, 2006  |  by Mike Detty - Also by this author

Like most AR15s, S&W's M&P15 comes with a standard trigger. My sample was a little gritty and broke with about seven pounds of pressure-in other words, it is a standard military trigger pull. I felt that I would have had more success if I had been able to replace the trigger with an aftermarket two-stage trigger.

Somewhere around 600 rounds, I began to have cycling problems with the M&P15. The bolt would ride over the rear end of the cartridge, and it would fail to feed. Pulling back on the charging handle and letting it fly forward would correct the problem and get me back in the action. But it annoyed me enough that I broke the gun open to look at the bolt carrier. It was bone dry and heavily fouled. I didn't have a cleaning kit with me and no oil, so there wasn't much I could do except keep clearing the misfeeds.

Mike Jordan asked if he could help and I told him that I needed some oil. Minutes later he came back with the dip stick from the rental SUV and slathered the motor oil on the bolt and carrier. That was all that it took. The gun was 100 percent after that for the next 500 rounds before we quit for dinner. While the writers and sponsors ate, Matt Rice from Blue Heron Communications (S&W's press relations company) broke the rifle down and gave it a thorough cleaning and re-lubricated it.

A Crowded Market

At dinner I spoke with Tom Taylor, S&W's vice president of sales and marketing. I was curious to know what brought S&W into the AR game when there are already so many players. According to Taylor, it was the result of extensive marketing research and consumer requests for a tactical long gun that prompted S&W to make an AR-15.

The M&P15 and the tactical "T" model are the company's first AR15s, though there will also be precision models with free-float handguards and longer, heavy stainless steel target barrels. "Smith & Wesson has longstanding ties to the law enforcement community, and it is our goal to give officers a gun that they can trust their lives to," says Taylor.

Right now S&W is using a number of vendors to get the parts to build its M&P rifles. Most AR producers do little more than assemble guns with parts from numerous sources. Very few manufacturers actually make their own receivers. But the eventual goal is for S&W to make all of the components, including the receivers and barrels. "Building parts in-house gives us ultimate control over quality issues," Taylor says.

Though S&W is outsourcing some of its parts, the company is not sacrificing quality for savings. The upper and lower receivers are made from forgings that are machined and then hard coat anodized. The barrels are chrome lined and capable of tremendous accuracy.

I made a point of shooting the same gun the next day. I was interested in seeing if a simple cleaning and lubrication would cure its ills. I was able to fire more than 1,000 rounds the second day and am happy to report that I did so without a single malfunction.

I never thought that I could get tired of shooting but, in all honesty, I'd had all I wanted by 4 p.m. the second day. I was sunburned, had a sore cheek and shoulder (despite the low recoil of the .223 cartridge), and was experiencing severe eye fatigue from looking through the scope so much. But I did feel as though I had thoroughly tested the M&P15. Despite the problems the previous day, the gun had proven itself the second day.

Several Models

I also had the chance to shoot the M&P15A Model. This is the same gun as the M&P15, but it is outfitted with a detachable folding rear sight instead of the carry handle sight. I had absolutely no problem engaging the small targets out to about 150 yards and did quite well with it. I had forgotten just how much fun it is to shoot the ARs with iron sights, and it allowed me to get out from behind a scope and allowed my headache to go away.

S&W currently offers two different M&P carbines. The M&P15/M&P15A evaluated in this article has a 16-inch, M4-style barrel, detachable rear sight, and six-position collapsing buttstock. The T Model is a tactical version that has many of the same features as the standard M&P15 but features a free-floating rail/handguard system. At some point in the future S&W will offer a tactical precision model that will have a free-floating handguard and heavy, stainless steel target barrel along with a two-stage trigger.

On the Job

Following the shooting of Officer Prendes, donations poured in from the community with the express purpose of funding the acquisition of patrol carbines. Las Vegas Metro PD requested test and evaluation samples from numerous manufacturers at the 2006 SHOT Show and, according to a rightfully proud Taylor, the agency decided to buy 300 of the new M&P15s.

The Las Vegas PD's faith in this weapon, especially in light of its recent tragic experience, speaks volumes about Smith & Wesson's quality. The S&W M&P15 is a welcome addition to the AR market.

Mike Detty is an NRA-certified rifle, pistol, and shotgun instructor. A certified rangemaster and competition shooter, Detty served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and holds a degree in criminal justice from the University of Arizona.

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