Photos: Yamil Sued and Becky Leavitt

Photos: Yamil Sued and Becky Leavitt

Since its introduction in 2005, the Smith & Wesson M&P semi-auto pistol has become one of the most popular polymer frame pistols in law enforcement. In its various guises the M&P has been adopted by more than 2000 police agencies around the world and has proven equally popular with civilian shooters. On a personal note, the highway patrol of my home state, North Carolina, issues the M&P to its personnel. I know several troopers, and they have told me that they are very happy with the pistol.

Because of its popularity with civilians and police, S&W's M&P product line includes more than 50 variants, including subcompact, compact, service size, long slide, and competition models in .380 ACP, 9mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 ACP…and .22 LR.

That last one doesn't seem like it belongs, right? But it does and here's why.

Little Round, Big Benefits

The .22 Long Rifle (.22LR) is unquestionably the most popular metallic cartridge in the world today. And I'm not talking about just rimfire cartridges. More .22LRs are manufactured, sold, and fired annually than all other non-military cartridges—rifle, handgun, and shotgun—combined. And the reasons for its popularity are easy to understand. It's much less expensive to shoot than centerfire handgun cartridges.

Which is why serious shooters, including law enforcement officers and agencies, should take a look at .22LR versions of their duty weapons for some training. While .22 rounds are not as cheap as they used to be, a department can still buy a lot more .22s than 9mms, .40s or .45s before giving the finance officer a case of the vapors.

The cost savings is, of course, the main driver for some agencies and officers to consider using .22 pistols for training. But there are other benefits as well.

One major attraction to .22LR rounds is that they don't make a lot of noise. This means they can be fired in areas where letting a round off from a .40 pistol might cause complaints from those residing nearby, which is one reason why so many outdoor ranges—including law enforcement ranges—are being closed down.

Those little .22 rounds also have benefits on indoor ranges. One key reason why indoor range operators like .22s is that they don't overpenetrate.

Lastly, firearms firing the .22LR produce very low levels of recoil, making them an excellent choice for teaching new recruits or those persons sensitive to recoil. And let's face it, some older officers who have pains in their hands might be willing to practice more with .22s than they do now with more powerful handgun calibers.

And did I mention accuracy? With quality ammunition, a .22 firearm is capable of extraordinary accuracy. It is no fluke that some of the most accurate competition rifles and pistols are chambered for the .22LR.

Compact

A few years ago S&W introduced its first rimfire M&P, the full-size M&P22. The new M&P22 Compact is just under an inch shorter, 1.6 ounces lighter, and the magazine holds two fewer rounds than the full sized M&P22 pistol. In addition, it is a hammer-, rather than striker-, fired pistol.

To achieve this reduction in size and mass, the pistol's slide is machined from lightweight aluminum alloy. The low operating pressures of the .22LR permit this and also allow the pistol to operate by the straight blowback method.

When fired the slide is held in battery by its own weight and the recoil spring until the bullet has left the barrel and pressures inside the barrel have dropped to a safe level. The slide then reciprocates to the rear, cocking the hammer, and extracting and ejecting the spent cartridge case. A recoil spring on a full-length guide rod under the barrel then pulls the slide forward, stripping the next round out of the magazine and chambering it as it goes into battery.

Controls and Features

The M&P22 Compact does not have an ambidextrous slide release but it does come standard with ambidextrous safeties (an option on other M&P pistols). It uses a 10-round single-column magazine and comes standard with a fully adjustable rear sight. A Picatinny rail on the frame dust cover allows mounting of tactical lights or lasers for low-light training.

Applying the manual safety locks the cocked hammer and sear in place. In addition, a trigger block safety can only be overcome by a full stroke of the two-part trigger while a half moon cutout at the rear of the ejection port allows the shooter to verify if a cartridge is chambered.

Additional security features include a magazine disconnect safety that prevents the pistol from being fired if the magazine is removed. An internal key lock can be used to immobilize the safety levers in the "safe" position to prevent unauthorized firing.

Testing and Training

S&W provided me with an M&P22 Compact to evaluate for POLICE. As someone who has used M&Ps for carry, home defense, and competition, the 22 Compact held few surprises for me. It is an attractive pistol and displays excellent ergonomics. The controls are positioned for easy manipulation, while the sights are large and both easy to see and align.

Accuracy testing of the M&P22 was performed from a rest at 15 yards, and I was pleased to see that the pistol must have been zeroed in before it left the factory because I didn't have to touch the adjustment screws once. It shot to point of aim with four different brands of .22s, producing groups ranging from just under an inch to two inches.

Because I am so familiar with the M&P and one of the reasons agencies and officers might want to acquire the M&P22 is for training, I asked my fiancée Becky to run the combat drills.

While an avid shooter, Becky has next to no experience with the M&P. Her carry gun is an S&W J-frame .38 revolver and she uses another brand of polymer pistol for competitive shooting. Despite her lack of experience she found the Compact's easy-to-see sights and rather decent trigger much to her liking, and at seven yards, she put every round she fired into the target's 9 and 10 rings.

Becky was impressed with the M&P22 Compact's excellent handling characteristics, light weight, and—more importantly—light recoil and felt that it would be an excellent tool for teaching new shooters the basics of safe gun handling and marksmanship...without the expense of higher caliber ammo. She found all the controls positive in operation and easy to manipulate and, being a Southpaw, she was especially taken with the ambidextrous safeties and the reversible magazine catch.

Becky and I ran approximately 300 rounds through the M&P22 in our first shooting session and another 200 or more the following weekend. And while the pistol got quite dirty, we did not experience a single failure to feed, fire, or eject.

As is my regular practice I would like to make two suggestions as to how S&W could improve the M&P22 Compact. I believe installing a fiber optic front sight while removing the white dots from the rear would provide a superior and faster sight picture. Secondly, loading magazines to capacity took a toll on our fingers and a sleeve-type magazine loading tool would be greatly appreciated.

If you're looking for a carry-style compact .22 pistol for training new or experienced officers or just to let you get in more trigger time at a lower cost, the M&P22 Compact deserves consideration.

Paul Scarlata has served as an auxiliary police officer and is a frequent contributor to POLICE.

Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact Specs:

  • Caliber: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Overall Length: 6.65 inches
  • Barrel Length: 3.56 inches
  • Width: 1.48 inches
  • Height: 5.03 inches
  • Weight: 15.3 ounces
  • Construction: Slide, aluminum alloy; Frame, polymer
  • Finish: Black hard coat anodized
  • Sights: Front, white dot; Rear, dual white dots, fully adjustable
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Features: Ambidextrous safeties, magazine disconnect safety, reversible magazine release, loaded chamber viewport, internal key lock, Picatinny rail, spare magazine, lock, and owner's manual
  • Price: $389

Shooting the Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact:

Ammunition                                        Group (inches)

CCI 40-grain Super Match                   0.9

Federal Classic 38-grain HP                 1.4

Remington 40-grain High Velocity        1.6

Winchester 40-grain Power Point HP   1.8

Note: Group size is the best of three, five-shot groups fired from an MTM K-Zone rest at 15 yards. Muzzle velocity was not measured.

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