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.[PAGEBREAK]
I fired the M&P15T on the last day of June here in Tucson. The thermometer had already topped 110 degrees when I started setting up at the bench. The only relief that I had from the heat was the sporadic burst of wind that would cause my target stand to rock and coat my sweaty body with fine dirt and grit.
I fired all groups from a cement bench using a Caldwell rifle rest for support. The hardest part of the accuracy test was timing my shots as gusts of wind caused my target stand to sway. I used one-inch pasters for targets and set the very tip of the AccuPoint's chevron at its bottom.
As you can see from the accuracy chart on this page, the S&W M&P15T possesses tremendous accuracy for a carbine. I'm sure on a calm day, with a scope of greater magnification and the possible addition of a match trigger, that I would have been able to shrink these groups even smaller.
The gun has a definite appetite for 62-grain and 69-grain ammo. S&W uses a 1:9-inch twist rifling in the M&P's chrome-lined barrel. The barrel also has the step-down profile for attaching a grenade launcher and an A2 flash hider.
Given the relatively short-range mission of the patrol carbine, I also wanted to test the M&P15T with a reflex sight.
Trijicon offers a pretty neat reflex sight called the TriPower that features a triple illumination system that ensures the shooter always has an aiming point regardless of the light condition. Like the AccuPoint, the TriPower has a fiber-optic light gathering system at its top to power the aiming point during daylight. In darkness, the aiming point of the reflex sight is powered by Tritium.
One problem that nearly every non-magnification reflex sight suffers from is aiming point washout when shooting from a dark room into brilliant sunlight. Trijicon solved this problem by adding a battery pack to the sight, which can increase the brightness of the aiming chevron. The TriPower has a 30mm tube, and I used a new Tactical Multi Mount from Al's Custom. It features a quick detach lever that makes mounting and removing the reflex sight as easy as flipping a lever.
The reflex sight is designed to be used with both eyes open and this is where the shooter's speed will come from, especially on target-to-target transitions in multiple-target scenarios. I used the TriPower in a variety of light conditions and found that it was always easy to find the red aiming chevron—even when shooting from a dark vehicle into bright light.
Not Reinventing the Wheel
The S&W M&P15T is a good, solid tactical carbine. It possesses a great degree of accuracy and there were no stoppages during my evaluation.
Smith & Wesson didn't take any chances on the M&P15, nor should they have. They did not redesign the gas system or make any changes to the buffer parts or feel the need to reinvent anything. Any of their parts will interchange with any other quality AR-15 pattern gun manufactured to milspec. That means that all of the accessories currently being produced for AR-15 and M-16 rifles and carbines will work fine with the S&W carbine.
Generations of law enforcement officers have come to trust and rely on the guns from Smith & Wesson and the new M&P15T should be no different. For more information on S&W's new line of tactical rifles check out their Website at www.smith-wesson.com.
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.
THE BENEFITS OF A FOREGRIP
SureFire was kind enough to send me a M910A Millennium Vertical Foregrip to use with the S&W M&P15Tactical. It uses two thumb set screws and attached easily to the rifle's Picatinny foregrip.
The foregrip has pressure pads on either side, and either will activate the xenon/halogen gas-filled lamp to produce a blinding 225 lumens of light. There's another switch that can be activated for constant "on" and still another switch that will disable the light to prevent accidental light emission during movement and also keep the light off when in storage, saving the expensive batteries. There's another pressure pad toward the rear of the light mount. Activating it with your thumb will turn on the two small low-output LED lights that are perfect for saving night vision, yet provide enough illumination for navigation. The running lights on my vertical foregrip are blue, but they are also available in red, infrared, and white.
I never realized just how much the vertical foregrip aids in control until I actually tried one on an M-16 a few years ago. After that, I was sold on this accessory. My time between shots on controlled pairs was reduced considerably and my scores improved. Using the foregrip also encourages the shooter to pull his or her elbows in. Combining this accessory with tactical lights makes a lot of sense to me. It's an expensive piece of hardware, but I think that once you try it you won't be able to live without one.
M910A Millennium Vertical Foregrip
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