Where our handlers grew up, if you didn’t have a Ruger 10-22 and a few banana mags topped off with .22LR, you were probably being raised by hippies or sissies and you weren’t allowed to watch Thundarr the Barbarian. Ruger still makes a good rifle, but .22s now are for more than plinking. In addition to being a fun, satisfying shoot, they’re a great training tool for working fundamentals and just getting some range time in. To that end, a weapon built from the ground up to function like an AR (as opposed to an AR with a conversion kit dropped in) is a Very Good Thing. The best one we’ve shot yet is, hands down, the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22.
The 15-22 comes in a number of different variants (including MOE) and is most enjoyably serviced by a 25-round magazine with a happy ending. You can get them with A2-style front sight posts, adjustable A2-style rear sight, single stage trigger, two-stage match trigger, Hogue over-molded grip, optional barrel shroud, folding MBUS, 6-position adjustable CAR stock, fixed stock, threaded barrel with A1 compensator…pretty much however you want it. They can be bought in black, FDE, Realtree camo and Christian’s favorite, Pink Platinum1, and of course you can always rattle can it.
We first encountered the 15-22 at the S&W Writer’s Blast a while back, shooting alongside writers like Mas Ayoob, Rich Grassi, Leroy Thompson and our our personal crusty old shooter-writer heroes Wiley Clapp and Jim Shepherd. Pretty much everyone’s reaction was the same as ours after the bolt locked back on the first magazine. Damn. This is a nice little rifle. Jim put it most succinctly when he said something to the effect of, “This thing is accurate to within a minute of prairie dog right when it comes out of the box.”
Since that time, we’ve run three different M&P 15-22s on several different ranges, shooting several thousand rounds of ammunition. We’ve only had one malfunction the entire time. Ammunition included Winchester Super-X 40 grain , Federal Auto-Match 40 grain SP and endless boxes of that stuff you buy from Wal-Mart 330 rounds at a time (whatever it is…CCI?)
Fun as they are to shoot at targets, cans and balloons tethered behind RC cars (try it sometime; great way to shoot moving targets), it is our contention that the 15-22’s rightful place is on the line as a training tool. It’s inexpensive to run and a great way to reinforce muscle memory. There are at least three police departments we know of who have ordered enough 15-22s to put one on every point across the line, specifically for that reason (ammunition costs undoubtedly factoring into that decision).
Obviously it’s not going to be exactly identical to running .223 or 5.56. You won’t have the recoil, so you’re going to recover faster from each shot. You won’t have any appreciable muzzle climb. Though your weapon accessories will work, your LBE won't be a perfect fit for the mags. There’s virtually no muzzle blast or flash and reloads are going to be a little different just because of the magazines—but not enough that you couldn’t do a skillion mag changes or malfunction drills for less than you spent on bbq at lunch. You’re still going to want fire standard drills and qual courses with regular ammunition, but consider spending some time with one of these in between.
Anyway, we’ll close with a video of our friend Matt, from S&W. He can be relied upon to cheat at everything from Chutes & Ladders to Strip Poker, but he doesn’t lie about guns. Pay no attention to the fact that he looks like an OWS protestor; he’s a solid guy who knows guns and likes to shoot.
We’re the Mad Duo, and we approve this message.
1That isn’t really Christian’s favorite. We just wanted to see if he still checks in once in a while.