Project Appleseed has temporarily banned the use of Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 rifles at Appleseed events. Appleseed claims that the popular rimfire rifles experienced at least four serious malfunctions at Appleseed shooting events.
Appleseed workers and instructors have reported potentially dangerous malfunctions including out-of-battery fire and uncontrolled fire. The shooting society said they will keep the ban in place until Smith & Wesson formally responds and addresses these problems. At least one participant has been injured due to malfunctions, though the injury was not life-threatening.
Project Appleseed is dedicated to teaching marksmanship and American history at camps across the country. These camps are open to shooters of all ages and offer some of the best, affordable training to beginning and experienced shooters. The organization sees a lot of different models of rifles at their events — it’s alarming for Appleseed to call out and ban a specific firearm.
“As responsible instructors, we have a duty to maintain safety at our events,” reads the official Appleseed statement. “If we know a rifle to be potentially unsafe, we shouldn’t allow it on the line at all.”
“At this time the least-risk course of action would be to exclude the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 from future events until Smith & Wesson formally investigates the problem and issues an official corrective action,” it continued.
The M&P 15-22 is an entry-level rimfire rifle chambered for .22 Long Rifle. Externally, the gun looks and functions similarly to an AR-15-pattern rifle. It’s an inexpensive alternative to bringing an actual AR-15-style rifle to an Appleseed shoot due to the lower cost of ammunition. Campers can expect to shoot well over 1,000 rounds at many Appleseed events making the lower-cost M&P 15-22 a wallet-friendly option for users who want practice with something similar to their ARs.
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An out-of-battery malfunction occurs when a firearm discharges a cartridge before it is loaded into the chamber. Without the support of a chamber or breech the cartridge can rupture and fragment and send those fragment flying.
At a Maryland Appleseed shoot, one participant was injured when an M&P 15-22 next to her had an out-of-battery malfunction. A small fragment of the ruptured case was lodged in her arm. It took a doctor’s visit to remove the fragment. While the damage was minimal, the potential damage from out-of-battery fire is still high even with rimfire guns.
In Michigan, an Appleseed instructor’s own M&P 15-22 suffered an out-of-battery malfunction. The instructor was not hurt but the rifle was disabled. The instructor sent the rifle back to Smith & Wesson for repairs. Smith & Wesson repaired the rifle but said that the malfunction was caused by the ammunition, not the gun.
Another Michigan instructor suffered a much more dangerous malfunction. According to Appleseed, the second instructor’s rifle had an automatic-fire malfunction which emptied the magazine unwantedly. Uncontrolled fire of any kind is potentially life-threatening and it may put the gun owner at legal risk as well.
For now, Appleseed enthusiasts and hopefuls will have to leave their M&P 15-22 rifles at home. Given the scope of the Appleseed project, Smith & Wesson is undoubtedly investigating the matter. We’ll update this story as more news develops.