Skip to comments.Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport (A brand new AR-15 for $640?)
Posted on 07/26/2011 2:23:10 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Theres innovation, and then theres beating a dead horse. A few firearms have fallen into this latter category, like John Moses Brownings 1911 design. At over 100 years old, the 1911 has been done, redone, re-redone, and retro-redone with anniversary editions released that hearken straight back to the original weapon. I say that lovingly as an admitted 1911 guy. More recently, the Modern Sporting Rifle has begun to fit the same bill. When it comes to accessories, my Prada and Gucci-loving cube-dwelling co-worker has less choices than your average AR owner. Some observers have gone so far as to call the AR Barbie for men. I couldnt possibly comment. But I can tell you this: Smith & Wesson have introduced another AR variant called the M&P15 Sport . . .
The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport rifle is not your mall-ninja AR dripping with rails and oozing tacti-cool. Its not meant to be. Smiths aimed its rifle at AR newbies looking for a quality firearm at a bargain price..
Unboxing the M&P15 Sport isnt much of an event. You open the cardboard box and strip back a layer of foam. Laying in front of you: a black rifle and Magpul 30 round magazine. Taking a closer look, you can see that Smith & Wesson shaved costs where they could. But they didnt skimp on the important stuff.
Smith & Wesson have done away with the dust cover and forward assist. Smith Marketing Maven Paul Pluff told TTAG that sacrificing the dust cover in the name of cost-savings was a no-brainer. The target market is less likely to need an AR to fight terrorists in sandstorms and extreme weather than use that funny shell holder thingie to eat snails [paraphrasing]. The M&P15 Sport will likely live out its days in a case or safe, with semi-regular forays to the range or the woods.
To check out the rifles reliability, I ran the rifle for a week out at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona.
I spent the week putting rounds down range in arid, sandy, dusty conditions begging the Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport to show me that it needed a dust cover. I fired standing, kneeling, and from several variations of the prone position, including rollover-prone where the bolt of the rifle was less than two inches from the dust, rock, dirt, and grime the ejection process was kicking back up into the rifles action.
Did nastiness get in to the action? Ohh yeah it did. I made sure of that by peppering the rifle with a few small handfuls of Arizona high desert when the Smith and Wesson folks werent watching. By the end of the week I had one gritty feeling charging handle, one rough trigger, and one dirty as all-heck action. I was also holding a rifle that continued to function without a single hiccup.
The forward assist (err . . . forward scallop) on the M&P15 Sport is a throwback to the rifles original design. The cylindrical slap-assist found on most other black rifles is no-where to be seen on the M&P15 Sport.
For a beginning AR shooter, the manual assist has the same likelihood of turning a minor and easily correctable malfunction such as a double-feed into one that could require gunsmithy assistance. Newer users tend to follow the Hollywood example of hitting the forward assist with the force of Thors hammer rather than giving it the gentle smack thats needed to bring a round into battery if it hasnt seated properly.
So whats an M&P15 Sport owner to do if their rifle doesnt charge properly without a forward assist? Simple use the scalloped section of the bolt itself and a finger on the support hand to gently nudge the action closed (demonstrated in the above video). This isnt a new idea; its an homage to pre-forward assist designs. Even with dirty rifle with a gritty action, I could easily seat rounds after a manually-induced malfunction.
The M&P15 Sports barrel isnt an M4 cut; if youre looking to mount your M203, look elsewhere. The Smith sports a full-profile barrel of American 4140 Steel. The bolt carrier and gas key are chromed, and the barrel sports their Melonite coating. Smith claims that the bare bones approach has no effect on durability. Theyve fed two M&P15 Sport test rifles a combined ~170,000 rounds of various brands of ammunition without any [visible] damage to the Melonite finishing process.
The M&P15 Sports barrel also incorporates 5R rifling, an innovation Smith added after they acquired Thompson Center Arms. The M&P15′s 5R rifling is a 1/8 gain twist. The twist starts longer and tightens to 1/8 towards the end of the barrel.
In theory, the bullet stabilizes before fully engaging the rifling. Shooting Remingtons Disintegrator 45gr frangible ammunition in shoot-house drills and testing on steel, the rifle didnt have a single failure-to-feed or fire. Given that mag failures account to many of the issues shooters encounter with their AR, Smith & Wesson got it right by spending a few extra dollars on the factory-standard 30-round P-mag. Gunsite instructor Dave Starin (20 years LE, 12 years SWAT) also reportedand I can confirmthat accuracy wasnt an issue, either.
The rifle ships with a flat-top Picatinny style rail with an adjustable / removable dual aperture rear, and adjustable A2 post front sights. Removing the factory options to mount the EOTech EXPS2 (review to follow) was a breeze. The muzzle brake is standard A2 style. The M&P15 Sports threading is also standard; shooters can swap out for common muzzle accessories should they desire.
The rifles lower and upper receivers are fashioned from 7075 T6 Aluminum, fully-forged in-house by Smith & Wesson. Included with the lower: the single piece, solid-forged, non-removable, over-sized (for gloves) trigger guard. A typical six-position telescoping stock is standard, along with sling mounts allowing for single or double-point sling attachment. A bayonet lug is under slung just in case. All of the M&P15 Sports parts are interchangeable with the rest of their AR product line.
For those of you living in the Peoples Republic of Kalifornia fear not. Smiths making a California-compliant version to satisfy your political overlords. For their Cali-compliant bullet button, Smith & Wessons mag-release can be engaged with a round of .223/5.56 ammunition.
The M&P15 Sport is a perfect entry-level AR. With stock sights, the rifle is amazingly accurate. Equipped with an expensive optic like the EOTech EXPS2, gratuitous mag-dumping onto targets from 50 110 yards was childs play. I engaged various targets on Gunsites Scrambler course while the OFWGs decided who was going to shoot next. Point of Aim quickly became Point of Impact. I was eventually instructed to stop wasting ammo for the sake of the sweet-satisfying PING! of steel. Sad, I know.
Testing at Gunsite was less about ranged engagement or precision shooting and more about carbine drill and functionality. Maximum distance shot during the evaluation in Arizona: 50 yards (not including the Scrambler targets, which extend upwards of 100 yards). The guns back on the East Coast with me; Ill be firing out to 100 yards from a rested position and beyond, and report back.
With night vision and thermal gear (hey, why not?), I was able to use the M&P15 Sport to hit pie-plate steel at 50 yards. More importantly, in head shot and non-standard failure drills extending from three and out to 25 yards, I consistently placed rounds in the T-zone within seconds of being instructed to fire.
The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport is all yours for $709 msrp. Thats $600 $650 in real world dollars. If the gun is as reliable as our initial impressions indicate, thats tremendous value-for-money. Its taken Smith a while to get here, but it looks like theyve finally brought the same no-nonsense quality and functionality to the AR world that made their revolvers so justifiably famous.
Caliber: .223 / 5.56 NATO Barrel: 16″ Melonite coated 1/7″ twist according to S&W rep. Thompson Center 5R rifling. Overall Length: 32 inches collapsed, 35 inches extended. Weight: 6.45 pounds unloaded. Action: Semi-automatic. Finish: Melonite barrel, hard coat anodized 7075 T6 Aluminum receivers. Capacity: 30+1 using standard AR magazines (ships with a Magpul 30 rnd). Price: MSRP $709 readily had between $640 $690.
RATINGS (out of five)
Accuracy: * * * * Final star TBD Excellent accuracy in carbine drills. Rounds consistently placed in a 3″ T-zone from 25 yards while standing. Minute of bad guy observed during all firing events. Further accuracy testing pending.
Ergonomics: * * * * * Its an AR carbine with all the controls in all the standard places, and adjusts to fit the user in all the standard fashions. Easy to manipulate, easy to bring on target.
Reliability: * * * * * One feeding issuetraced to the cheap aluminum magazine I was using as a back-up. Not a single failure with the factory-issue Magpul. I shot well over 1000 rounds through the rifle without cleaning (with additional lubrication).
Customize This: * * * * * Its an AR. Kit it up! Check out The Barbie for Men.
Overall Rating: * * * * * The price is right, the product performs, and Americas second largest arms manufacturer stands behind it. Whats not to like?
Special thanks to Manassas Guns and Ammo Warehouse for handling the transfer to bring this rifle back to Virginia for further testing. Stay tuned for updates.
Got mine about a month ago. They can be had for less than the price stated, but are scarce due to popularity. They lack the chrome barrel, forward assist and dust cover on the ejection port, but are hands down the best bang for the buck.
Google M&P15 Sport.......and you can find them for less than $640. Whether they’ll ship it is another matter.
Sounds good to me. The AR-15 that I used in USAF Basic Training didn’t have no stinkin’ forward assist.
As for the dust cover, at the range I never see them closed anyway.
Sounds like the perfect way to get into 3-gun on a budget, or a much easier way to justify a .223 for plinking. And you can always put a different upper on it if you choose.
I know a fellow that picked one up last week for that exact price.
Have been thinking about getting one of these...may trade in my .45 Officers ACP to help pay for it. Hate to let go of it but need a semi-auto rifle to complete the survival kit and our other handguns are .38/.357. The Colt is also a little heavy to me for concealed carry but sure looks pretty.
Ping for later gun porn viewing.
Nice price point. Sounds like you can deck it out for $1200. I wished every God fearing Bible clinger would equip themselves with such a tool.
They got rid of the ejection port cover and forward assist because they didn’t think people needed them, but they left the bayonet lug on there?
I’d rather have a forward assist than a bayonet lug. Of course, my AR-15 has both (my ACR has neither).
Just saw one at a gun show for $599.
Ping for possible purchase
Nice, but I want to see a picture of the opened lower receiver. Is their a space for a DIAS or do we have to machine it out?
You can easily put together a great AR for under $500 by shopping and picking the pieces you want.
It has to be concealable (yay, WI!), it has to have "one shot - one kill" stopping power, it has to be completely reliable (no jams), and it can't be overly expensive ($350 to $600 range).
There has got to be one weapon "at the top of the heap" so to speak. What is it?
Now I still have faith in 223/5.56 but I do not use full mags of ball.
Years ago the army did research on pistol rounds and found that shot placement was more important than caliber and the only places to reliably stop someone was with a shot to the head, the spine or the long bones of the leg. A .45 to the chest would kill the perp eventually but they would still have time to do some damage to you, while a .22 in the brain had the same effect as blowing the head off with a shotgun. So instead of looking for a killer round get something you can afford to practice, practice practice with.
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