Tuesday, March 10, 2009

REVIEW: Smith & Wesson M&P 15

UPDATED: February 2016
I finally did a trigger job on the S&W M&P 15. 
Details at the end of the article.

March 2009
You want to hear a funny story? Ok, actually I should ask if you want to know how to make my wife really mad? The answer is simple, over the Christmas holiday, go to Sportsman’s Warehouse with your father-in-law to get a bottle of gun oil and come home with an AR15.
Look my wife’ s very accommodating of my shooting hobby. Actually, she encourages it. But spending an unexpected $1100 right a Christmas, understandably, isn’t the best decision a husband can make. BUT...
Oh yea, there’s always a but. But, have you tried to find a buy an AR15 these days?! If you have, then you’ve already figured out what happened to me. I walked in to Sportsman’s Warehouse and the General Manager, Jim Rhodes, and I cross paths just inside the front door. The moment he sees me he waves me over. I know Jim pretty well and he knows I like to buy guns, many have come from his store. He ushers to a side office and whispers, “What if I knew I guy that had a brand new, Smith and Wesson M&P AR15 that he was going to sell...today. Would you be interested?”
What could I say? I’ve seen the shelves there. I’ve looked online. NO AR15s! “Sure, I’d be interested,” I said as I slipped the marital noose around my neck.
He looked around like a spy about to reveal state secrets and flicked his head to the side, “Come with me...” He turned and briskly walked past the gun counter, that was stacked with people, and threaded us into the back room that had an “Employees Only” sign over the door. There were a couple of guys in the storage room that he asked to leave. This confused me but I went along with it. As soon as he, my father-in-law and I were alone, he pulled a box from the shelf and opened it. Sure enough, a brand new M&P15.
He lowered his voice again, “Look, about every salesman here has a buyer on this. It came in about two hours ago and I bet it’ll be gone in about an hour. No big deal, but if you want it, it’s yours. If not, we’ll sell it pretty quickly.” He stared at me. I darted a glance at my father-in-law. He was wincing as he knew my dilemma. My heart started pounding, my palms sweat and I pulled the noose tight. “Jim, I think I’m gonna have to...” I bit my lip, “Dang it, I’ll take it.”
Jim nodded and and walked out of the room without a word. Ten seconds later he came back in with a sales guy. “Bob, sell this guy this M&P, but keep it back here. Don’t take it out and lay it on the counter.”
Bob looked up at Jim, “Are you serious?” Jim patted Bob on the back and said, “Yep. Take care of this young man.” Then waved and winked at me and walked out.
Bob seemed kind of pissed about something. He grouchily took my info and as he was getting my thumb prints muttered under his breath, “I have a guy that’s coming in for this thing later today.” Ah, I get it now. Well your buddy’s going to be disappointed is what I wanted to say. Little did he know that I was going to have to fight an insurgency on the home front.
As we walked to the front of the store, the sales guy was carrying the cardboard box with the big M&P printing facing outward. We passed a guy that pointed to the box and called out, “Hey!” but the sales guy charged passed him. Bob then flipped the box around so the words were hidden from view. “Damn it. I don’t want no one to know we got one of these.”
Why all the fuss? About a month earlier we got a new President that had a political history that wasn’t gun friendly and the day after his election, guns started flying off the shelves at a record pace, especially anything that could be slapped with the “Assault” label.
It’s actually ironic that a President that has a history of supporting gun control laws is actually responsible for one of the biggest runs on firearms and ammo that I’ve ever seen! Anyway, let’s shoot this thing!
The rifle is a standard S&W M&P15. Nothing fancy, no accessory rails or anything. It has a 16 inch, chromoly barrel, six-position adjustable stock, a single stage 6-7 pound trigger and 30-round magazine. I had to throw on a red dot that I use on my Ruger Mark III as a sighting instrument.
The next hurdle was finding .223 ammo. Wal-mart had it but man was is scarce. At the range, we attached the red dot, loaded the mag and with only the slightest adjustments had it sighted in. We started on the torso steels at 75 yards then moved to targets at 100. The gun shot very true.
The trigger was a bit stiff and “gritty” but I attributed it to newness. The recoil was “gentle” and didn’t match the noise the gun made. It felt like shooting a .22 magnum with the noise of a .22-250 rifle. The adjustable stock, while great for tactical situations, served another purpose. It made the gun easy to shoot for me at 5’ 9” and my father-in-law who’s 6’ 1”.
On the second outing, I only shot 50 rounds. Bruce and I were actually shooting our 10/22s for a side-by-side review of a custom built 10/22 vs. an off the shelf model (review here). But while I was there, I set a 5.5” target out at 100 yards and wanted to see what I could do with an unmagnified red dot at that distance. The dot covered 25% of the center of the target and I didn’t use a resting device but did set the bottom of the magazine on the shooting table.
For a regular guy, I felt pretty good about the results but know I can do better. Out of eight shots, I landed 7 in the target zone and had one straggler. The other way to look at it is that four were in the 10 ring and four we’re out of it. Not Quigley Down Under shooting by any means.
I love this gun and now that my wife has calmed down (mind you, I don’t blame her) I think it’ll be staying in my collection. I have big plans for it too and when she’s not looking, I’m going to add about $300 worth of accessories to it! As a side note, my good father-in-law offered me his own version of a bail out plan and offered to buy the gun from me as to ease my marital pain.
There are so many good quality options for AR15s right now. The hard part is finding one that’s not backordered. When you do find one, you might want to buy it. If we do get an “assault gun” ban, you’ll be glad you did. And even if we don’t, you’ll still be glad you did. Take my word it. Even Grandma can shoot it!

Oh and if you don’t think that owning an AR15 can get you killed, you haven’t bought one on Christmas without asking your wife first. Damn, those things are deadly!

I mentioned the gritty trigger earlier in the article. hundreds and hundreds of rounds never made it better so I finally did something about it. I thought about a drop in but some of the ones that I considered were $300 or more and I didn't want to invest that into the basic M&P so I looked into improving the stock, mil-spec trigger. 

I started by ordering a Taylor Tactical AR Trigger Kit. 


I liked the Taylor Tactical solution since it included a super simple over-travel solution and it was very inexpensive. For $35 (as Jan 2016), I got two reduced power hammer springs and two over-travel grip screws. The solution is so ingenious and so simple...simple to install too. 

While I waited for my Taylor Tactical kit to arrive I disassembled my AR trigger and began polishing.

Notice how rough the metal is! The sear face looked the same way!

I used 600, then 1000, then 2000 grit oiled sandpaper then took my Dremel and gently polished the trigger face, sear face and hammer notch to a mirror finish (be careful with the hammer notch!)  I also polished the disconnector and hammer contact points plus the channel that runs down the center of the trigger body but not to a mirror finish, just real smooth. The reason I polished the channel is that I noticed that when the disconnector pivoted it was gritty. To get things mirror smooth, I used Mother's Mag Wheel Polish.

Some things to note. If you use a Dremel, make sure that the polishing bit rotate away from the sharp edge of your trigger face or you could severely damage it by rounding it off. For example, in the image to the left imaging me holding the Dremel in my right hand policing the top of this trigger. You'll want the bit rotating counter-clockwise. Rotate your wrist 180º and make sure you do the same with the sear face. You want that edge sharp for a crisp release.

Out of the box, the trigger started off at a unpleasant, gritty 7 lbs, 9 oz. After the polish and springs the pull dropped to a smooth 5 lbs, 8 oz. And thanks to the over-travel grip screw, the full trigger stroke and reset is half of what it used to be. I went from hating that dang trigger to loving it for only $17.50 plus some elbow grease. 

Things turned out so well, I did the same thing to the trigger on my Father-in-law's DPMS AR. Thus, buying the two-pack. He too loves the result and for $35 bucks for both, it was an inexpensive fix that even I could do.


  1. I bought the same ORC version of the M&P pre-election for $849 out the door (no sales tax in Oregon) and have only good things to say about it. After throwing an EOTech on it, I was at the end of the marital rope as well, so I understand your situation. . . and it's only been this fall that I've been able to get away with switching out some of the furniture (for Magpul). It has never misfired and is doubtless more accurate than I am (yet).

  2. I just picked one up for 1299 with an EOTech. I love this weapon. I shoot a M4 in the Army and this is every bit as good, I don't care what anyone says.

  3. I just bought an M&P 15 with a Troy Industries stand alone rear pop up sight and a quad rail fore arm for $999. Smith & Wesson gave me a coupon for 5 extra Mag Pull magazines too. I zeroed it yesterday with standard 25m military targets and shot 3/4" three shot groups with the iron sights. The weapon functioned flawlessly and needless to say I am very well pleased.

  4. I recently bought the M&P magpol edition and have yet to fire it. I missed the smith and wesson coupon by a week but didn't keep me from ordering 5 mags any way my fioncet was less than pleased since we are supposed to be funding a wedding but it was the last one that the store stocked and the asking price was 950 and figured if i didn't get it now i would be paying much more once they got the new shipment in.

  5. I bought one last week for a little over a grand, its everything I Expected and more. I put 60 rounds thru it, 30 rds. as fast as i could pull the trigger. WOW! I cant wait till the weather breaks, I could spend all day at the range with this weapon.

  6. I've got one and it's a wonderful weapon! The article was okay, but seriously, spare us the story about getting a "special favor"...There's no shortage of these things, and any salesperson who would pull that stunt in real life would just be guilty of the classic "I've already got buyers lined up for this" tactic. This isn't a review; this is a sales pitch.

  7. I just got mine. ORC version for $899 at Cabelas. I'm impressed with the quality and feel out of the box.

    To the last post, you're right, it is much easier to find these rifles today, but consider that the writer originally wrote this last year. During that time, it was near impossible to find, let alone at a fair and reasonable price. Unfortunately, there was a lot of political fear. Glad I waited and saved myself $400 now that there is a surplus of rifles. :)

    Point being, don't be so quick to judge without knowing the facts.

  8. Thanks for the info. Purchased a 15 0R basic model. $950 with $100 rebate. Will make it $953 with rebate at home. 10 day waiting period that expires 9/18/10. Cleared it with my new fiance just after buying her rings.

    Going with my son to pick it up and take it over to the range after a quick clean and mounting GMG steel sights and a NcStar P4 3x9 40mm sniper scope.

    Glad to know I made a good choice.

  9. Love this blog! So glad I found it. I started learning about firearms a just a couple of years ago, in my mid 40's, and it's nice to find reviews that I can actually relate to and understand. This post helped me make up my mind about getting an M&P15 and I'm now on day 2 of the California 10 waiting period. Arrrg! Looking forward to bringing this baby home!

  10. Thank you for your kind words. I enjoy reviewing firearms from a regular guy's perspective. I'm not a professional marksman, just a regular, average Joe, like most gun owners.

  11. I bought the Magpul M&P 15 this past October and love it! I got the $100 rebate with it, and with rebate got it for about $900. I have a DPMS Sportical as well, and the M&P 15 blows it out of the water. I'm not knocking DPMS, and I did buy their cheapest model, but the M&P is a much better gun. I've had only one failure to fire and I suspect it was faulty ammo. These guns are much easier to find now than when this article was written. I would recommend this rifle to anyone. (Actually my brother and a police officer friend of mine also bought one after shooting mine). I think I'll be trading my DPMS for another one of these.

  12. I was considering DPMS or S&W M&P15 and sounds like most would recommend the S&W.

  13. I bought an M&P15X (with the quad rail handgaurd) for about $1100, last March. I ordered it from an small firearms shop and it took about 2 weeks to get here. I usually order my guns because I am very specific about the model I want. Impulse buying is not allowed (need to negotiate with the wife), so I usually get to weigh out the pros and cons with any particular gun. I am 100% happy with the M&P15 and have had no reliability issues at all with over 500 rounds through it. It is worth ever penny I spent (and probably more). My only complaint is that I can't afford to buy a second one...YET. I'm hoping that by the time I save enough money, S&W will offer it in a .308 version - possibly with a built in compensator? .308 power with .223 recoil, and 20 round capacity? That would be sweet. (Yes, I know DPMS, Armalite, Bushmaster, and others offer AR's in .308 - but I want a S&W!)

  14. Thanks for all the reviews, I need one of these for work and love S&W

  15. Have had my Smith M&P 5.56 nato for a lil over a year these are a quality gun, as I have seen alot of others. Just purchased a Burris AR332 sight for it. Has yet to malfunction or jam. Gonna look into the .308 next

  16. i was just offered one of these for 589bucks private sale. sounds like something that shouldnt be passed up.

  17. I am new the the AR world, but have always been faithful to the S&W company. I was looking to get a stag model 3 because of the looks, and the reviews are good. This all changed when I saw the M&p 15 sport the other day. It's small lightweight, and providing I am only 5'2" it should work fine for me. S&W made some cutbacks on this model(sport) to keep the cost low. These really are not important unless you are swimming in the mud, only my personal opinion. They didn't cut back on the important stuff. But like I said, I am new to the AR world.

  18. I just bought a SW15 and haven't scoped or shot it yet.

    The manual says to only use ammo as designated on the barrel. Mine says 5.56 but is it okay to shoot .223 ammo in this gun. Have had trouble getting 5.56 and I was told it is okay to shoot .223 through a 5.56 barrel but not 5.56 through a .223 gun. what is the truth?

    Also what scope is best for under 250 yds/ brand and model. Thanks. new at AR's so looking for some advice. Thanks.

  19. To answer the above question.... Yes. Go ahead and shoot .223 through it. It is chambered to take both 5.56 and .223.

  20. I just bought the M&P 15 tactical put an eotech on it and a forearm grip all around 2 grand great shooter to use cheaper than the 7.62 and still a good hitter.

  21. I just won a S&W M&P 15orc at the gun club, burro canyon, here in California. What a package... It came with the EOtech holographic site. Can't wait to get my hands on it...

  22. Hey John, you let me shoot your AR this weekend at Burro Canyon, thank you! I love it so much that I went out today and bought me a S&W M&P15. I can't wait until 11 more days! Thanks again for turning me onto an amazing firearm!

  23. Guess I live in a different world. I was looking at this gun figuring it was just a fantasy. Wife bought it for me for Christmas! Great gun, better wife!!

  24. I saw this rifle at our local gun store for 700 bones and I knew immediately it was a steal. I am extremely impressed with how accurate and easy the gun is to clean! I only put 40 rounds down range but hit targets from 25-75m on almost every squeeze of the trigger. Safe to say I'm in love!

  25. Just gave $625 for one at D&w outdoors in jonesboro AR.

  26. Waiting on my Sport. It's backordered. My son has an AR15 and we will be competing (army vs. Marine Corp) as soon as mine comes in.

  27. what is the best ammo for knock down power on this gun?

  28. Just bought mine yesterday without informing my wife. I am still waiting for my license so the dealer is storing if for me now. Ken, I might be in as much trouble as you were if not more.

  29. Never shoot 556 in a barrel stamp 223. The 556 generates higher gas pressure. If the barrel is stamp 556 its ok to shoot both.

  30. I've had two of these fine rifles for about two years now. Each rifle has eaten about 2000 rounds of mixed .223 and 5.56 ammo without a single problem. I love them both and would reccomend the M&P15 over anything I've tried so far.

  31. For the record I paid $1700 out the door at Rifle Gear in March 2013 for M&P 15T with the nice rail and the Magpul flip up sites and furniture - I think they are now going for between $900-$1150 depending on where you buy them. I think I will try to get the AR 10 before they become illegal here in Kalifornia - probably for less than what I paid for the AR 15!

  32. I just picked-up my 15T for $1,000 and was given a 100 round drum mag with it for free. I look forward to tuning her in! So far, I have only put 50 rounds through it, but I was sold on the fit and finish. I looked at a lot of different guns before I chose the S&W M&P 15T.