With the seemingly endless applications of the AR-15 in today’s world, it can be easy to get drawn off on tangents of purpose-built rifles. Chances are, if you’re considering a M&P 15 it’s either one of your first AR’s or you just need an easy to use varmint rifle. The versatility of the M&P 15 shows through in those and other applications that shooters have found for it, including competition.
Smith and Wesson M&P 15
Unfortunately, most of the time there is going to be some quality tradeoff when looking at budget AR’s. Smith and Wesson’s build quality comes through for us in the latest M&P15 line. Smith and Wesson’s 5.56 M&P15 is one of the top offerings in the ‘out of the box’ AR-15 market. Building on the success and feedback generated by the M&P 15 Sport, the next generation now has both a forward assist and dust cover.
Why it took so long is somewhat baffling to me, but it could just be part of a product rollout to give the customers more options. These stock AR-15s have all the power and features needed by most owners. While it’s tempting to be drawn to a picatinny rail handguard, the modified GI handguard keeps handling simple, and mounting holes if you absolutely must have some type of accessory mounted to the barrel. The picatinny rail on the upper receiver does exactly what it needs to do, provide a platform for your optic of choice.
Out of the box it does come with a polymer MBUIS pop-up peep sight. Before depending on an optic, it is always best to familiarize yourself with the iron sights should the optic fail for any number of reasons. We’ll go into more depth on shooting, maintenance, and build quality today and expose some strengths and weaknesses of this budget conscious AR-15.
This particular M&P 15 has been in use as a training rifle by Atlas Defense for over a year now. In that time, about 5,000 rounds have been fired through it by 20+ clients. Most first time shooters are impressed with the efficiency of the buffer system and compensator, allowing for very accurate follow-on shots.
The lightweight and stable design also comes into play when carrying it for long distances or around obstacles as encountered in the competition enviroment. With that volume of use, we did encounter some non-catastrophic stoppages, usually attributed to a buildup of carbon or ammunition.
The included magpul magazine has remained functional throughout the months of use, and the receiver seamlessly received any variation of AR magazine we jammed into it. As with any AR magazine, we strongly advise against overfilling or maxing out a 30 round magazine. After 28 rounds, the extra spring tension created by the 29, 30 and 31st rounds on the follower only compounds the likelihood of a stoppage like a double feed upon putting the rifle into battery.
Manipulating the rifle and adapting it to the shooter is very ergonomic and intuitive. The adjustable 6 position buttstock can accommodate shooters of most sizes. To decide what length is for you, simply place the buttsotck on on your upper arm at the elbow and make a 90 degree corner with your upper and lower arm. Usually this is easiest to do with holding the rifle straight up. From there, adjust the buttstock so the pistol grip naturally settles into the webbing of your firing hand. Just like fitting your firing hand high and tight into the beaver tail of a handgun, your grip should always be high and tight. The photos below illustrate how to find the ideal placement.
Sizing a 6-position buttstock to you. From the left, you can see that fully collapsed, the buttstock does not make contact with the upper arm. The middle photo illustrates the ideal length, just enough to settle the buttstock into your upper arm. Finally, the mark on the firing hand in the far right shot indicates where the pistol grip should be settling in. With the stock too far extended, the firing hand cannot fully engage the pistol grip.
Next to an AK, the M&P 15 is 0ne of the easiest firearms to field strip. Removing a single retaining pin breaks the upper and lower receiver apart shotgun style for quick access to the bolt, buffer, and trigger assembly. Depending on how heavily each user shoots the M&P 15, regular maintenance will keep the rifle running smoothly every 250 rounds and especially before long term storage. Of all places to keep clear of carbon, the chamber and bolt especially are areas that can cause stoppages if excess carbon and dirt builds up around them. Breaking down the bolt is also very user friendly and forgiving to the beginner.
Overall, the M&P 15 is made of high quality materials and coatings, resulting in Smith and Wesson’s lifetime warranty on the rifle. The only problem this particular M&P 15 came across was a nut that worked itself loose in the pistol grip after about 3000 rounds. This could have been caused by any number of factors and didn’t affect the overall cycle of operations so retightening the nut was all we had to do to solve that small problem. After several hundred rounds of a steady rate of fire, the barrel does build up some heat and smoke but your hands stay protected by the handguards. This was not a mil-spec barrel, and if anything I would have bought the mil-spec barrel had I known it was an option.
The M&P 15 eats any magazine you feed it.
Overall, if you are looking for a reliable 5.56/ .223 AR-15, this is a great choice. Backed by Smith and Wesson’s reliable build quality and warranty, I would trust and recommend this firearm for anything from hunting to home defense. If further down the road you decide that you want to start collecting or building AR’s, this is also an acceptable gun to part out or upgrade on your own. With the seemingly endless combinations of accessories and upgrades available to M&P 15 owners, there is bound to be a setup to accommodate whatever job you may have for it! Share your 15’s with us in the comments!
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What do you think of Smith & Wesson’s M&P 15? Let us know in the comment section below.