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Smith & Wesson M&P15R

This 5.45x39mm carbine can save you a lot of money on training ammo and serve as a valuable patrol tool in a pinch.

August 20, 2010  |  by Nick Jacobellis - Also by this author


One of the biggest budget concerns facing law enforcement agencies is the rising cost of ammunition. Even individual law enforcement officers have to be concerned about the cost of buying the ammunition they need to remain proficient with their firearms. When the skyrocketing cost of ammunition stretches your budget to the max you can cut back on training, you can stop carrying certain firearms, or you can become resourceful. I advocate being resourceful.

I'd like to discuss a somewhat unusual rifle choice that can help law enforcement agencies and individual officers realistically cope with the rising cost and shortage of .223/5.56 patrol rifle ammunition. I believe the solution to this problem is for law enforcement agencies to field the Smith & Wesson M&P15R M4-style carbine chambered in 5.45x39mm-the caliber used by the Russian Federation Armed Forces. Before you say this guy is crazy and turn the page, hear me out.

Great Training Tool

The semi-automatic M&P15R in 5.45x39 is virtually identical to the M&P15 (M4) in 5.56 caliber. In addition, this rifle is basically the same as every other M4-style carbine. This means that the manual of arms, sights, operating features, and the disassembly procedure are identical.

One minor difference between the M&P15R in 5.45x39 and an M16 rifle or M4 carbine in .223/5.56 involves the need to clean the barrel with a product like

M Pro 7, soap and water, or diesel fuel when you use mildly corrosive/corrosive 5.45x39 ammunition. Once the barrel is clean and dry the final maintenance step involves applying a light film of oil or lubricant to the barrel to preserve the steel and prevent corrosion.

As far as training to qualify is concerned, it is important to note that 5.45x39 caliber comes in different bullet weights just like the 5.56 caliber does with the most popular being the 53-grain load. It is also important to note that the Smith & Wesson M&P15 (M4) in 5.45x39 is just as accurate as any standard M4 carbine chambered in 5.56mm or .223 caliber. This means that you can practice with an M&P15R (M4) in 5.45x39 to reduce the cost of training and use an M4 in 5.56 as your actual patrol or tactical rifle. Both M4s have the same controls, the same look, the same feel, and even similar recoil.

Even the magazines used in the Smith & Wesson M&P15R in 5.45x39 look identical to 30-round M16/M4 magazines. Yeah, I know, that's a potential problem.

But it's easily solved. To prevent confusion, mark the 5.45 magazines with colored red tape or red paint. You can also identify the caliber of the magazines by examining the base plates.

Tactical personnel also need to take note that when the Smith & Wesson M&P15R in 5.45x39 and a standard M4 carbine in 5.56 were both test fired with a suppressor attached, the M&P15R in 5.45x39 proved to be a bit quieter than a suppressed M4 carbine chambered in 5.56.

Saving Money on Ammo

The M&P15R in 5.45x39 allows U.S. law enforcement officers the ability to train with a rifle that is virtually identical to their M4/M16/AR-15 patrol rifles in 5.56 except 5.45x39mm ammo is at least 50 percent less expensive than 5.56.

To prove this point all you have to do is compare the price of ammunition and you will find that a case of 1,080 rounds of 5.45x39 generally has a retail price of $154 to $187, with the most expensive case of 5.45x39 ammunition costing $239.

Tags: Smith & Wesson, Patrol Rifles, Firearms Reviews

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Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Badshot1951 @ 8/20/2010 8:49 PM

How long will it take to recoup the initial $1300 cost of the 15R? Sorry I'm not interested in Russian so-called cheap ammo. I'll stick with what I know and trust.

mwcpd066 @ 9/29/2010 3:57 PM

I lie the ar's that are in 22lr. The fundemantals of shooting are the same, the controls and sights are the same and 22lr ammo is still cheap.

Nick Jacobellis @ 6/18/2012 10:29 AM

It's not just the cost of the ammunition. 5.45x39 is a very effective caliber to use in an emergency. It's true that there is nothing wrong with training with a .22 LR caliber. However, when it comes to recoil an M4 in 5.45x39 caliber will recoil more like a 5.56 NATO caliber M4 than a .22 LR caliber M4. Second, 5.45x39 caliber ammunition is a bargain at half the price of 5.56 NATO caliber FMJ ammunition when you consider that any M4 in 5.45x39 is just as effective if not more effective than a 5.56 NATO

caliber M4.

Nick Jacobellis

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