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.
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.
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.