Review: Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 Performance Center Rifle

Smith & Wesson's M&P15-22 Performance Center Rifle

Smith & Wesson’s M&P15-22 Performance Center Rifle

Buy one on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=m%26p%2022

Breathtaking. I shall call him… Mini-Me.
Dr. Evil, The Spy Who Shagged Me

While the dimensions of the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Performance Center rifle are not ⅛ the size of a “real” AR-15 type rifle, you can think of this gun as a “Mini-me” to a 5.56mm / .223 Remington AR-15, at least in terms of weight. The .22 model weighs in at 5.6 pounds while it’s roughly equivalent 5.56mm M&P comes in at about 6.85. That’s for the M&P15T that comes equipped with a quad rail and removable sights like this M&P15-22 Performance Center.

But weight isn’t the driving design goal of this rifle. The thing I like most about it is that it operates just like it’s much louder sibling. As much as can be, given the different modes of operation between the .22LR blowback design and the direct impingement gas system of a “real” AR-15, the controls are where you would expect and they do similar things. The two-position safety has “safe” and “fire” modes and is located on the left side of the lower receiver. The magazine release is right where you would expect, and it drops the magazine out freely without the need to tug on it. Also on the left side, the bolt catch and release button operate just like the real thing. Oh, and the charging handle is legit too. I mention these details right up front as many AR look-a-likes chambered in .22LR have cosmetic and non-functioning features.

Unlike other .22 caliber AR rifles, the controls actually work.

Unlike other .22 caliber AR rifles, the controls actually work.

Other than being made of polymer, the charging handle looks and operates like the centerfire version.

Other than being made of polymer, the charging handle looks and operates like the centerfire version.

If you’re looking for a .22LR that can serve as a practice and training tool, or you just want it to operate like the big brother, this is your Huckleberry. Even now, with all the griping about price and availability of .22LR ammo, you can buy rimfire rounds for eight cents each, give or take. 5.56mm and .223 Remington will still cost you upwards of 25 cents or so.

Smith & Wesson makes a few different M&P15-22 variants, so let’s spend a minute on the differences of the Performance Center model we’re talking about here.

This one had a quad rail setup although the newest catalog shows an M-Lock rail.

This one had a quad rail setup although the newest catalog shows an M-Lock rail.

The barrel is not free floated. Here you can see how the barrel supports the hand guard.

The barrel is not free floated. Here you can see how the barrel supports the hand guard.

The Goodies

As a Performance Center model, you might expect some premium upgrades, and there are. Some are production differences while others boil down to upgraded third party components.

The biggest difference you’ll notice is the barrel. It’s 18 inches long compared to the 16.5-inch version on the standard M&P15-22 Sport model. It’s not free floated – the front of the handguard is supported by the barrel itself. You’ll also notice longitudinal fluting on the exposed portion of the barrel in front of the hand guard.

The Hogue pistol grip is a nice touch.

The Hogue pistol grip is a nice touch.

I really like the inclusion of the VLTOR six-position stock.

I really like the inclusion of the VLTOR six-position stock.

The heavier bull barrel on this PC variant doesn’t come with a flash hider or muzzle brake. Instead, it comes out of the box with a thread protector only. That’s just fine with me as this rifle screams for a suppressor. That’s easy to do as this rifle comes with standard ½x28 threading. If you’re going to suppress this gun, be sure to read the “Shooting Suppressed” section later in this article.

The handguard on my sample is a 10-inch polymer quad rail version with large ventilation holes along the 45-degree positions. The latest model of the M&P15-22 Performance Center on the Smith & Wesson website features a 10-inch M-Lock rail. Since it appears that the hand guard type may have changed at some point during production, you might find either variant out there in stores. If you choose to order one online, just check to see what’s coming in case you feel strongly one way or the other.

The VLTOR stock has a rubber buttpad.

The VLTOR stock has a rubber buttpad.

The VLTOR stock includes two sealed compartments for spare batteries, parts or maybe a small snack.

The VLTOR stock includes two sealed compartments for spare batteries, parts or maybe a small snack.

I love the choice of buttstock that Smith & Wesson put on this rifle. It’s the VLTOR Weapons Systems six-position model. It’s got a rubber buttpad, multiple sling attachment options and two storage compartments where you can stick batteries, spare parts, or Slim Jims. More importantly, these longitudinal compartments along the top provide a much broader cheek weld surface. I love this stock and have it on a couple of my other rifles. They retail for about 90 bucks separately so it’s a nice value add.

The pistol grip is also upgraded with a rubberized Hogue model. It’s got three finger grooves in the front edge. This particular one is open on the bottom so you’ll have to get creative if you want to store junk in the grip area.

The rifle does not have the standard fixed A2 type sight up front. Rather, Smith includes removable front and rear sights on the full-length top rail. The front post is adjustable for elevation. The rear sight is also adjustable for windage and elevation. The elevation dial does have markings in case you want to calibrate hold-overs for your particular choice of ammo. The rear sight offers two apertures – small for more precision and large for speed. Just rock the aperture insert back and forth to change between the two sizes.

The forward section of the bull barrel is fluted and capped with a thread protector.

The forward section of the bull barrel is fluted and capped with a thread protector.

This model comes with a 10-round magazine.

This model comes with a 10-round magazine.

Part of the reason this rifle weighs in at just over 5 ½ pounds is the liberal use of polymer. The front hand guard is polymer, but so are the upper and lower receivers. While we’re talking about the receiver, the two separate just like those on a standard AR rifle. Two captive takedown pins can be pushed out by hand to hinge or completely separate the two receivers.

Once you have the receiver open, the bolt assembly slides out the back of the upper receiver just like on a big kid AR rifle. Of course, the bolt looks a heck of a lot different and the recoil spring is part of the bolt assembly. Given the blow-back design and mellow recoil forces of .22LR ammo, there is no spring in the buffer tube and no need for one. In fact, when you separate the lower receiver, you’ll see that there is no buffer “tube” per se. It’s molded as one solid unit with the polymer lower receiver.

The Trigger

This rifle comes with a two-stage trigger. The first stage travels about ⅛-inch, at least according to the wooden schoolhouse ruler I have in my desk. That first stage is smooth and grit free and I measure the pressure at two pounds. The second stage breaks crisply at five pounds. While many .22 rifles have lighter triggers, I suspect this one deliberately mimics the approximate weight of a standard AR trigger. I didn’t have a standard M&P15-22 handy for comparison so I have to guess that this Performance Center model got a little extra love. It’s good, especially if you want to use this as a practice or training rifle.

The upper and lower receivers join just like on a standard AR-15 via two push pins.

The upper and lower receivers join just like on a standard AR-15 via two push pins.

Once the upper receiver is opened, the bolt assembly and charging handle pull out easily.

Once the upper receiver is opened, the bolt assembly and charging handle pull out easily.

By the way, it will shoot with the magazine removed. I’m not sure what possessed me to try that on a .22LR rifle, but there you have it.

Ammo Performance

Rimfire rifles and pistols are notoriously finicky about what ammo they like. I wanted to get an idea of what you can expect concerning practical accuracy, so I tested this Performance Center model by shooting multiple groups with each type of ammo from a range of 50 yards. I averaged the results (for each load) to derive the group size published here.

For accuracy testing, I mounted this Hawke Optics 10x scope.

For accuracy testing, I mounted this Hawke Optics 10x scope.

The rear sight includes both large and small apertures for speed and precision respectively.

The rear sight includes both large and small apertures for speed and precision respectively.

Just for kicks, I mounted a Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical scope. That’s a fixed 10x model with a mil-dot reticle, so at just 50 yards, the sight picture was pretty precise. I didn’t check, but I’m guessing the scope weighed almost as much as the gun. If you’re not familiar with the Hawke Optics Sidewinder scopes, know that they can make a great impact weapon in a crunch. They’re big and heavy, even without the shade extension screwed on.

While I was at it, I set up my Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 feet down range to measure average velocity of each load. For this, and for accuracy testing, I went ahead and mounted a SilencerCo Sparrow-22 suppressor. Because fun.

Here’s what I found.

AmmunitionAverage Group Size at 50 yards (inches)Velocity
(feet per second)
Aguila Sniper Subsonic, 60-grainN/A913.9
American Eagle HV Copper Plated 38-grain2.15”1,180.7
CCI Green Tag 40-grain.945”1,022.3
CCI Mini Mag HV 40-grain1.54”1,164.3
CCI Quiet-22N/A649.4
CCI Suppressor 40-grain1.85”973.2
Eley Practice 100 40-grain.927”996.3
Federal Target Grade 40-grain1.95”1,177.0
Winchester Match T22 LRN 40-grain1.81”1,148.3

Shooting Suppressed

This model comes threaded from the factory. The pattern is 1/2×28 threads per inch as you would expect on a .22LR gun. The rifle includes a nice and very substantial thread protector. Note that Smith & Wesson includes a rubber gasket that helps keep the thread protector locked in place. Be sure to remove this rubber washer before mounting a silencer as you won’t want anything at all to interfere with the perfect alignment of the suppressor with the bore.

The barrel is threaded 1/2x28, but with a full length cut like a standard AR-15.

The barrel is threaded 1/2×28, but with a full length cut like a standard AR-15.

This spacer creates standard .22LR thread length, making this setup friendly with my SilencerCo Sparrow-22 suppressor.

This spacer creates standard .22LR thread length, making this setup friendly with my SilencerCo Sparrow-22 suppressor.

There is one small gotcha that you should know about. Since this rifle mimics a regular AR-style rifle, the length of the threading measures .63 inches. The threading length that you would expect on .22LR guns is about .40 inches. What this means is that a direct thread mount suppressor will screw onto the barrel about .23 inches deeper than the suppressor might be expecting. With some suppressors, this doesn’t really matter. However, the one I was using with this rifle is a SilencerCo Sparrow. One of the neat features of the Sparrow is that it has a rubber gasket ring inside at the end of the thread mount. It’s located after about .40 inches of internal threading on the silencer. This is a good thing as that gasket prevents carbon and other suppressor gunk from collecting on the threads of both the silencer and your host gun. However, if you just mount the Sparrow on this particular rifle, the threaded barrel will mash right into, and past, the rubber gasket.

What to do? Fortunately, Tactical Innovations sells spacers for just this scenario. For a whopping $8.49, this .23 inch spacer screws onto the threaded barrel and leaves the expected .40 inches of threaded area that many .22 silencers expect to find. While we’re on this, you might want to file away the URL for Tactical Innovations. I’ve found that they have a great number of pieces and parts that solve little gotchas like this one.

The SilencerCo Sparrow is hardly larger in diameter than the barrel. Shown here with the spacer installed.

The SilencerCo Sparrow is hardly larger in diameter than the barrel. Shown here with the spacer installed.

The included sights are excellent. They're sturdy, but easy to remove if you want to use optics.

The included sights are excellent. They’re sturdy, but easy to remove if you want to use optics.

This little quirk is not unique to the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22, but this is a good opportunity to point out the importance of verifying the specs of your host gun threading and the pattern and overall length that your particular suppressor expects to find.

While testing out this rifle, I happened to have a Gemtech ONE in for review from the good folks at Silencer Shop. As the “ONE” name implies, this rifle suppressor is intended to serve a variety of hosts in a wide array of calibers. This particular can is rated for anything from .17 all the way to .300 Winchester Magnum. One of the mounts that came with it was a 1/2×28 quick attach flash suppressor, so I stuck it on the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Performance Center rifle for one of my range outings. Certainly this can is way more than you need to tame the tiny .22LR blast. Even though it was physically bigger than it had to be, it worked like a champ. In fact, it made this little .22 rifle look more like a big kid rifle. The combination was quiet enough and I couldn’t tell a difference with the “naked” ear between this configuration and the SilencerCo Sparrow-22. If you want to avoid sending an extra $200 to Uncle Spendy, there’s no reason you can’t buy a larger caliber suppressor and use it on a .22 rifle too. I’d limit lead bullet shooting, however, as most rifle suppressors don’t disassemble for cleaning and you don’t want to fill up your expensive rifle silencer with .22 bullet lead residue.

Closing Thoughts

Smith & Wesson does make a version of this rifle that is compliant in the Republiks of New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The big difference that makes is far less “dangerous-er” in these states? The VLTOR stock is fixed instead of collapsible. So, if you live in one of those places and are looking for a nifty plinker that can easily be adjusted to fit different sized shooters, call your non-representing representative and complain.

The bolt works a little differently given the rimfire pressures. Note the tiny (in comparison) recoil spring.

The bolt works a little differently given the rimfire pressures. Note the tiny (in comparison) recoil spring.

The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation.

The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation.

All in all, this is a nice rifle. As with any .22LR gun, you’ll want to invest some time figuring out which particular ammo your gun likes to shoot. I didn’t run into any problems with feeding – it ate every ammo type I tried – so I’m really referring to getting the accuracy you want. The fixed sights on this rifle are good to go and there’s no reason you need to add an optic unless you want to. This would make a great rifle for the Appleseed program if you have a desire to build your basic rifleman skills.

Factory Specs

SKU:10205
Model: Performance Center® M&P®15-22 SPORT™
Caliber: .22 LR
Capacity: 10 Rounds
Action: Semi-Auto Blow Back
Barrel Length: 18” (45.72 cm)
Threaded Barrel: 1/2×28
Front Sight: Folding MBUS®
Rear Sight: Folding MBUS®
Grip: Polymer (Hogue)
Weight: 89.6 oz. (2,540.2 g)
Overall Length: 32.5” (82.6 cm) Collapsed, 37.25” (94.6 cm) Extended
Barrel Material: Carbon Steel
Upper & Lower Material: Polymer
Finish: Matte Black

MSRP: $709

{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Bryan Conner December 28, 2016, 12:23 pm

    Very disappointed in my S&W M&P 15-22 purchase so far!! Bought one from Academy ($399) about 3 weeks ago, and just had them send it back to manufacturer for repair. Never could get the rifle to cycle a full 25 round magazine through it without casing ejection problems and/or jams. Ran CCI, Winchester, and Federal ammos through it to see if the problem might be the ammo……no difference. All of the ammo was rated at 1200FPS or greater.
    I sure hope S&W can supply a dependable REPAIRED rifle, as I was really looking forward to doing some hard core plinking with this firearm!
    This was my first S&W purchase, and needless to say….not impressed so far. I hope my issues are not characteristic of this product.

    • Bryan Conner January 23, 2017, 3:09 pm

      To whom it may concern:
      I have received my M&P 15-22 back from being repaired by Smith & Wesson, and it is working perfectly! I have ran about 500 rounds of numerous types of ammo through it, with no issues at all. The rifle works great!!! I am a satisfied customer!!

  • Terry Adkins October 11, 2016, 11:30 pm

    I purchased a new M&P 15-22 last month. So far about 300 rounds fired in gun . Today sent back to S&W for FTE almost every round. Customer Service very nice to work with so far. Hate to have to send in. Love gun so far

  • Mike August 17, 2016, 9:23 am

    I’ve been shooting handguns for a while but shot my first rifle geyser day at the range and it was the SW 15-22.. I really enjoyed it although don’t have anything to compare it to.. Question though.. What is the differences of there are any between this and what would be in the category of an AR-15?

  • Dale Keith May 25, 2016, 10:30 am

    I have an MP 15-22 PC rifle and have shot it with and without a suppressor. In my humble opinion the best 22 lr ammo I have shot was the new Gemtech 42 gr or the Federal 45 gr. I have fired, from a rest, 50 yard 5-shot groups less than 1 inch. I scoped the rifle and keep the barrel clean especially the throat. The trigger is OK for me but could use a lighter second stage as I am used to triggers on benchrest 22s. For those who mentioned the 10-22 I also shoot a Kidd and the two rifle are in different classes. (Further, please don’t compare an auto loader to a bolt action rifle as they are in different classes, have different competition targets, and maintain a huge cost differential.) For a tactical-style rifle, shooting plates for speed and accuracy, the MP 15-22 PC rifle is my go-to weapon. For auto benchrest I have other choices. ( As an added note: The price of the rifle varies from dealer-to-dealer so shop your best deal.) Enjoy your shooting time and firearm ownership.

    • Terry Adkins October 11, 2016, 11:33 pm

      Have you tried the new CCI AR Tactical ammo ? I read where is was developed and tested just for the M&P 15-22.

    • Kevin Fry November 7, 2016, 5:37 pm

      I just read this but very well said . I am getting for my son a who is just starting to use a small cal. to begin with, hope this is a good first gun. He is a Sea Cadet and he has been taking gun safety and Gun training. Pistol club is in the spring.

      Really enjoy the comments.

      Kevin

  • Capt Paul March 15, 2016, 4:36 pm

    For that cash get a CMMG .22 AR with stainless bolt group and never look back , real AR , not polymer / aka plastic !

  • Spike March 7, 2016, 8:54 pm

    Yeah….**sigh**….I bought a 10/22 back in the ’70s shot it for a few years then (damn) sold it…I wonder where she is every time I read about the 10/22….where are you my baby? Hear that dull thudding sound? That’s me kickin’ my ass.

  • DEBO March 7, 2016, 8:29 pm

    Wow, $700+ for a .22 that is not a custom made “MATCH” Gun is absolute insane!! $299.00 Maybe but not anything over $350.00 even with those grips!! Better off getting the Colt’s plastic crap for $299. Or like everyone else here, the 10/22 you can’t go wrong with either and you can get those for $199.00 or less on sale… Like I said I wouldn’t spend over $350. for “ANY” .22CAL GUN PERIOD!!! These people need to step away from the “Bong” and get a grip on reality!! Did you see those groups? At 50 yards? Those are not even good for 100Yards!! Either that gun is “AWFULL” or He’s just a Terrible shooter! I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt and say it’s probably the gun… As my 8Yr old can get better groups than that with my old .22 I got in the early 60’s!! Maybe it’s a “TYPO” and they meant to print the price was $200.??

  • Marcelino March 7, 2016, 11:02 am

    Dose look cool, and I’m always on alert for something better in .22RF. But my 10/22 just keep going and going and…

  • thermite cubed March 7, 2016, 10:16 am

    smith and wesson are the guys that crumbled to the govt. and did not stand and fight the establishment 10 or 15 years ago. that is why companies like ruger are having to have promotions like their 4 million dollar effort right now. i wouldnt consider buying a pen knofe off of these traitors!! however, for less than 200 bucks you can buy a savage .22 cal bolt action, like i have and put 10 bullets in the same hole at 50 yards!!! why the big deal oner a gun that is almost all plastic??? how can you write any article supporting these bad guys??? 700 bucks for a friggin’ .22!!! you got to be nuts. you dont need a silencer on this junk!!! idiot!!!

    • Tom McHale March 7, 2016, 10:41 am

      You do realize the CEO that sided with Clinton is long gone, right? You can hold a grudge against whomever you want, but those folks have been gone for a long time.

      • Marcelino March 7, 2016, 11:12 am

        Forget the grudge Tom, it’s about quality; give it time to see how it contrast to the Ruger 10/22 King of the Hill. Where I shoot there’re many rim rifles blasting steel and bowling. The 10/22 is the least troublesome even with bad ammo.

        • Tom McHale March 7, 2016, 11:35 am

          You can never go wrong with a 10/22! I have one 🙂

          • SteveG March 7, 2016, 11:56 am

            I have the standard M&P 15/22 and have had several 10/22’s. This gun runs circles around the trusty old Ruger when it comes to reliability. I occasionally do a rimfire competition and when the Rugers are failing to fire and failing to eject, my M&P keeps running like a sweet little sewing machine. They’re both good guns, but from my personal experience the stock M&P is much more reliable. Note the myriad of replacement and upgrade parts to “improve” the 10/22’s performance. 🙂

    • Terry Adkins October 11, 2016, 11:35 pm

      Mine was 366.00 from Vance in Columbus Ohio

  • Cyrus March 7, 2016, 9:43 am

    $709? I would rather buy the real thing from Bushmaster!

  • Don from CT March 7, 2016, 8:38 am

    A couple of things to add other than that I love my 15-22.

    The 15-22 is the only .22 AR (other than ones built on real AR receivers, which aren’t as reliable.) that uses standard fire control parts. As such, you can replace the trigger with your favorite match trigger or ambi selector if you would like.

    The other thing is that this rifle seems to continue the slow decline of the S&W Performance Center from a genuine custom shop (ever seen a PC 5906?) to a mere marketing tool designed to eek a few more bucks out of potential customers.

    Don

    • jim walsh March 12, 2016, 2:10 pm

      after the pc5906 everything seemed to go down hill at S&W. you are
      right about the co being more market driven rather than end product driven.
      right on, don.

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