Although Smith & Wesson is one of our oldest and largest surviving gun companies, the iconic manufacturer is a relative newcomer when it comes to tactical rifles. It was just last year at the 2006 SHOT Show in Las Vegas that S&W introduced its M&P15 carbine. Later in the year S&W invited me on a writers' seminar to Wyoming to use the new rifle for a prairie dog hunt. If you missed my article in the August 2006 Issue of POLICE Magazine, myself and several other gunwriters had two days and an endless supply of ammunition to wring out the new M&P15.
I found the gun to possess all of the accuracy and reliability needed for a patrol carbine. And before I left the seminar, I placed an order for an M&P15 Tactical carbine — a gun that comes standard issue with a four-rail handguard, collapsing stock, and detachable folding sights.
The only problem that I've heard associated with the S&W rifles is their availability. It seems that demand far exceeds supply. Just recently, I received the test sample that I had ordered at last year's seminar.
My new S&W M&P15 Tactical is nearly identical to the rifle that I used on last year's hunt with the exception that it has a Free Float Modular Forend. I like what S&W did with the handguard rail system. It free floats the barrel, meaning that the rail system is attached to the receiver rather than the barrel, so shooting from a rest, or sling, or bipod will not change its point of impact.
There are four Picatinny rails on the S&W system and every other slot is numbered in white so that you can easily see them with night vision gear. This rail system covers and extends past the carbine-length gas block, giving the weapon a more streamlined appearance. More importantly, this gives the standard length carbine another two inches of sight radius in the event that the iron sights are deployed.
Both front and rear sights on the M&P15 Tactical are of the folding design. When in the folded position, they maintain a very low profile but, when deployed, they lock solidly in their up positions and have a spring-loaded button that must be depressed to fold the sights again. The sights can easily be removed from the rail system by loosening a single screw on the right side. It's a good solid system and should serve well as primary sights or backup to whatever optic the user chooses.
S&W uses the popular M4-style six-position collapsing stock on the M&P15T. Users can modify the length of the stock by simply depressing the stock lever and pulling the stock in or out to best fit their stature or for use with body armor. Its rear sling swivel can be turned to either side for use with a variety of different tactical slings and carry systems. Unlike the cheap import clones, S&W's stock collapses smoothly and does not bind along the length of the buffer tube.
The M&P15T's trigger possesses some creep-in and breaks with about six pounds of pressure. There is very little overtravel and reset is positive. While the trigger pull may be too heavy for a precision rifle, it is fine for a tactical carbine. Despite its pull weight, the trigger was very predictable and I was able to obtain some pretty good 100-yard groups.
For accuracy I fitted my test M&P15T with Trijicon's excellent AccuPoint 1.25–4 x 24 variable power scope. I've been a big fan of this particular optic since its introduction. It does everything that the more expensive Trijicon ACOG scope will do but also gives the user the ability to select from 1.25- through 4-power magnification based on the scenario presented to the shooter. It also has long eye relief, which makes it popular for use with heavy recoiling rifles.
I used a set of high rings and actually mounted the scope on the top handguard rail. The rings placed the scope high enough that the folded rear sight does not interfere with the scope's sight picture.
The AccuPoint's aiming chevron glows and is powered by the fiber optic collector at the top back of the scope. In darkness, the aiming point is powered by tritium. For the accuracy portion of the evaluation I set the scope on 4 power—its highest setting.