Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sig Sauer 522 vs. Smith & Wesson AR15-22

What's your definition of fun? Let me rephrase, when it comes to SHOOTING, what's your definition of fun? I got the opportunity to shoot a Barrett Model 82A1 and that was FUN! But at around $3 a shot (military surplus prices, store prices are closer to $5 a shot) the experience is expensive fun. I shot a .44 Mag Ruger Super Redhawk with a Simmons scope and that was fun...for about five rounds. The second five shots moved the needle from fun to painful. Personally, I prefer cheap all day fun.

Two friends of mine got a couple of .22 rifles, one was the Smith and Wesson M&P15-22 (MSRP $499) and the other was the Sig Sauer 522 (MSRP $734), and asked if I wanted to take them to the gun range. How could I say no? I was about to find out how easy it is to run through 1400 rounds of .22 in just a few hours.

Rising ammo prices haven't decreased people's desire to shoot. It's just "encouraged" people to be more frugal. It's similar to gas prices. Higher gas prices don't stop people from driving, but is has influenced car buying and trip decisions. As ammo prices have increased, people are shooting less 308 (or 30-06, .30-30, etc) and are shooting more .22 or .223. While .223 isn't all that expensive in comparison to some calibers, it's not .22 cheap but it is a lot more fun. If you and a couple of buddies want to throw 500 rounds down range, it'll cost at somewhere around $150 (on average at the time of writing). On the other hand, 500 rounds of .22 LR will cost you about twenty bucks. Swap enough .223 for .22 and you've bought a Sig 522 or a S&W M&P15-22 with the monetary difference.

Remember, this article is about maximum fun with minimum expense. Enter the Sig 522 and S&W M&P15-22. Out of the gate, these rifles shoot as differently as they look. The S&W .22 has a gritty trigger that seems to break with less consistency. It feels like the same hard to pull, gritty trigger that's on my S&W M&P15 (read review here). On the M&P15, I can tolerate it, (though at some point I'm going to replace it with a Timney or Gazzelle drop in) but on on a .22, it's ridiculous. I had to seriously concentrate to keep shots on target at 50 to 75 yards as I pulled through the sandpaper trigger pull.

On the other hand, right out of the box the 522 has a light trigger that's buttery smooth and breaks at a consistent point shot after shot after shot. To me, that's how a trigger should feel and it's perplexing that a company as big as S&W doesn't share that belief. Chock a big one up for the Sig.

Both rifles have adjustable, telescoping composite stocks. In addition to telescoping, the stock on the Sig folds, Swiss style, so the rifle can be shot from the hip and/or packed in a small space. I think the folding stock if more beneficial for storage than shoot as it felt extremely awkward (and inaccurate) shooting it without wedging it against my shoulder and looking down the barrel.

Speaking of feel, to me, the Smith felt so much more natural as I alternated between the two guns. The Sig has a cool, futuristic look that I like but I couldn't get the same secure purchase on it that I could get when holding the traditional looking M&P15-22. Personally, the Smith was just more comfortable for me to shoot. That's a small advantage to the M&P15-22.

When you're shooting .22, you'll go through a lot of ammo, or at least you should, and the Smith has a really handy feature that makes loading the magazine really, really easy. The magazine has a slot that runs down the side with a thumb relief tab attached to the follower. This allows you to take out the spring tension and drop rounds into the mag with blazing speed and virtually no thumb pain (see accompanying photo, click to enlarge). The Sig doesn't have this feature thus forcing you to press the tiny round against fully sprung round at the top of the stack. This isn't an issue as you load the first few mags, but my thumb quickly got a tender spot on it that made me dread loading the Sig's magazine while I could load the Smith all day with no fatigue. It's crazy how a simple addition make such a huge difference. Chock up a big one for the S&W.

Lastly, I found the groupings tighter and more consistent with the Sig, even though it has a shorter barrel. I attribute the better accuracy to the smooth trigger. I casually picked up the rifles and shoot them downrange from a standing position and could not get the accuracy out of the Smith that I could out of the Sig. In a seated position with the rifles in a rest, the accuracy was much closer. In my opinion, pistols and rifles are meant to be held in combat or sport positions, not vice clamped into a rest. The enjoyment is a test of person AND equipment and a hard, gritty trigger effects both of those variables at the same time. I have to give accuracy to the Sig even though they were similar in the rest.

Both of these guns are extremely fun, and cheap, to shoot. The Smith is more comfortable to hold and easier to load while the Sig is more accurate and has that buttery smooth trigger that I love. If I were to buy one, I'd buy the Smith and Wesson M&P15-22 and get a trigger job done to it and it would still be less expensive than the Sig. Then, I'd shoot the dog out of it, probably 1,000 rounds a session for the same price as a 25 count box of .223!! That's what I call fun.