It’s time to think about buying an AR-15. Selection is high and prices are falling; there’s never been a better time for the AR-15 market. Besides, can you ever really have too many black rifles? If you answered yes, stop reading now!
I have been shooting an M&P15 SPORT II from Smith and Wesson. This is a basic gun that is a solid platform straight from the factory. The rifle is versatile, lightweight, reliable and a blast to shoot. The standard rifle comes equipped with a Magpul MBUS rear sight, a 30-round Magpul PMAG M3 and a forward assist and dustcover with a 6-position collapsible stock. There are plenty of rifles being offered at a comparable price that are stripped down without any of these goodies. Also, consider that the Smith & Wesson Lifetime Service Policy is something you will not receive with a Franken rifle.
- Type: Gas-operated semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 5.56 NATO/.223
- Capacity: 30+1 rds.
- Stock: 6-position CAR
- Barrel Length: 16 in.; 1:9 in. twist
- Sights: A2 (front); Folding Magpul (MBUS-rear)
- Receivers: Aluminum alloy 7075 T6 aluminum
- Weight: 103.2 oz.
- Overall Length: 35 in.
- Finish: Black anodized hard coat
- MSRP: $739
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
The beauty of the Sport II is not just skin deep, it lies in the finer details, most of which are lacking on budget rifles. Let’s take a deep dive. The upper is marked with the splintered “A,” which means it has been forged by Anchor Harvey. The upper has M4 cuts that match with the feed ramps on the barrel. The barrel is not chrome-lined, it is finished with nitride both inside and out. Before we anguish over the lack of chrome lining, let’s consider that there have been accuracy issues associated with the chrome finish. The A2 front sight post is F marked and comes with a bayonet lug and a sling swivel. The business end is threaded, and it comes with an A2-style flash hider.
The Sport II’s bolt carrier is phosphate-finished on the outside, with chrome lining the interior, as is the inside of the gas key. The staking on the key was done correctly and worked quite nicely with the Mil-Spec charging handle. The bolt itself is comprised of 158 Carpenter steel. Without diving into that rabbit hole, I will offer my opinion, which is that 158 Carpenter is quite adequate. The bolt itself is marked MP, indicating magnetic particle inspection. The extractor is equipped with the black O-ring, which is generally considered preferable for more reliable extracting.
The trigger on the sample was 4 pounds, and it broke cleanly and consistently. Rather than having the Mil-Spec flip-down triggerguard, this one has a rounded winter triggerguard, which is forged in one piece with the lower receiver.
The buffer tube is mil-spec sized and equipped with a 6-position adjustable Smith & Wesson buttstock.
No Free Lunch
There are a few things that you should know about this rifle upfront. I don’t consider them deal breakers by any means, but I do think they represent some areas that Smith & Wesson chose to keep the price down while minimizing the impact on most shooters. Remember, we are not comparing this gun to a machine-gun, but rather to that of a civilian user who needs a reliable but affordable rifle.
The handguards are completely unlined; there is no heat shielding. I had no trouble running the gun in a carbine class, and the students that I allowed to use the gun did not complain about any issues. However, if you’re planning on doing lots of mag dumps with this gun, I would definitely say that investing in an aftermarket forearm would be money well spent.
The barrel profile is unique in that, past the handguard, it is an M4 profile. Once you remove the handguard, a much thicker profile than the standard M4 is revealed, with noticeable machine marks left unfinished. This tends to result in a barrel-heavy, although not onerous, feel. There is also no provision to mount an M203 grenade launcher to the barrel, although if you’re planning on running one I doubt that this is the rifle for you anyway. The lower receiver is not a perfect match to the upper. This is a cosmetic issue, as I believe they are using different suppliers for each of those parts.
The gas system is carbine-length as opposed to a mid-length gas system. This can lead to over-gassing the gun and cause a sharper recoil impulse. I must confess that I could not notice any difference. Perhaps it is somehow working with the unique barrel profile.
The bolt carrier is not a full auto, which means that you give up some weight, which can in turn cause transmission of additional recoil, although I did not notice any. This will also prevent the tripping of an auto sear.
Smith & Wesson chose to use an MIM (metal injected molded) hammer. I have no personal experience with this being a breakage issue, however, experts do differ on this manufacturing process for firearms parts.
On the Range
I only made two additions to the rifle to get ready for its first trip to the range: a standard black sling and a Trijicon MRO optic. My game plan was to start off with some accuracy work and then run a few drills with the rifle. Instead, the rifle received a baptism of fire, as we were teaching a Patrol Rifle class for law enforcement officers, and we happened to end up with more students than rifles. I went to my trunk, grabbed the M&P rifle, and pressed it into unexpected service. The first part of the class was shot with traditional sights. The A2 front sight post and flip-up Magpul rear sight worked without issue. Next, we installed optics, and the Trijicon MRO was zeroed at 40 yards. This was a really simple process thanks to the accessory rail on top of the receiver. This class was set up as a three-day affair that consumed approximately 1000 rounds of ammunition. Except for the malfunctions that were induced by instructors for training purposes, the fresh-faced Sport II did not suffer a single failure. There was oil applied at the end of each day of training, but no additional maintenance was performed. When the class was over, one of the deputies was interested in purchasing a copy of this gun.
My eventual work on the range was made simple by the three days of shooting that had transpired prior to my finally getting a turn on the gun. My to-do list had been reduced to checking the accuracy of the rifle and finding out what kind of ammunition it enjoyed eating. The Patrol Rifle class was shot with 55-grain fall ammunition purchased on state bid. I observed that the rifle tended to be as accurate as any other firearms in the class.
The target that I chose to shoot was the M16 A1 series target. This is a 25-meter target that is used to simulate ranges out to 300 meters. by means of a series of small silhouettes.
My ammunition choices for the test included the American Eagle 62 grain full metal jacket, the SIG Sauer 77-grain OTM match, the Hornady 68-grain boattail hollowpoint match, and finally, the new Hornady black 75-grain bottail hollowpoint. Check out the results below; the Sport clearly likes the heavier-weighted bullets. I am left scratching my head as to how the Hornady black 75 grain shot so well out of the gun. I would love to think that the round itself is that much better than the SIG Sauer 77 grain, but there will have to be some more testing done before that can be decided.
These results were all shot from a Caldwell lead sled using the Trijicon MRO optic at 100 yards.
The Bottom Line
This rifle is equipped like a middle of the pack gun, but it’s priced like an opening price point rifle. If you can live with the quite reasonable compromises that were made to achieve that cost, you will not go wrong in purchasing the Smith & Wesson M&P Sport II. This rifle has delivered consistently for me in reliability, accuracy, modularity, and ease of use. It’s really that simple!
To learn more about the Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II, click https://www.smith-wesson.com/firearms/mp-15-sport-ii.
To purchase a Smith & Wesson firearm on GunsAmerica, click https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?Keyword=smith%26wesson.