An All-Purpose AR-15: S&W M&P 15 Sport II— Full Review

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!

The S&W M&P 15 Sport II is a versatile rifle.

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.

SPECS

There is no heat shield with the handguards. It worked fine for testing, however, if shooters are shooting a lot of magazine dumps, they may want to invest in a different handguard.

  • 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 M&P controls are easy to actuate and all the magazines fell freely from the lower receiver during testing.

Overview

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 bolt carrier group has a phosphate finish on the exterior and the interior has a chrome lining.

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

The S&W M&P 15 Sport II continued to function flawlessly even after over 1,000 rounds were sent downrange during a law enforcement class.

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 rifle comes equipped with an A2 Flash hider.

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

The author placed a Trijicon MRO on his test rifle for accuracy testing.

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 75-grain Hornady Black produced very accurate groups at 100 yards.

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.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Bob A September 7, 2017, 6:19 am

    I thought the old info that chrome was better than nitride was dead by now. It has long been known that nitride treatment is superior to chrome lining. Recommend that you try out nitrided BCGs, slicker than snot when lubed.

  • Douglas Jones September 4, 2017, 11:57 am

    Where do you find a deal for this money? Dunham’s is asking $550.00 today only.

  • Kristopher July 18, 2017, 11:04 pm

    Awesome post thank you for sharing

  • lee July 18, 2017, 12:19 pm

    I have a few smith and wesson I can tell you great customer service had a couple parts fail on my ar -15 piston they sent them no proublem or questions asked . The last time I called they said we so not make that fun anymore it is just a little clip that failed on the gas tub, so they sent me a whole bag of them. I proubly have 100,000 rounds through this gun over the years . Good products great company why I always come back

  • Russ H. July 17, 2017, 4:52 pm

    Why of all things would S&W skimp on handguards? No heatshields? Why? I don\’t think I\’ve ever seen ANY AR15 milspec style handguard without heat shields. I shoot a lot of rapid fire so this would be a big deal for me. Anyone who\’s fired off a few 30 rd mags quickly knows handguards get hot quick. Buying a new rifle/carbine that immediately needs new handguards is silly. S&W, put heat shields in the handguards and don\’t let this be an issue. Seriously.Molded hammer? Why? Weigh/dollart savings vs risk = not worth the risk to me.I wouldn\’t buy a barrel that is chrome lined so well done there. Carbine over midlength gas? Meh, I prefer midlength but to each his own. Once you\’ve compared the two side by side most people will take midlength.Can\’t attach an M203? LOL.S&W, thanks for making an inexpensive AR but spend an extra dollar and add heat shields and an all metal hammer.

    • JohnL July 17, 2017, 6:40 pm

      Yeah not really the way to go. Kinda dated set up or kinda cheap vs affordable. Would it have killed them for a nice mid-length set up?

    • Bob A September 7, 2017, 6:28 am

      Heat shield for most is not an issue. Their trigger systems are better than any sub $1200 AR. If you like magazine dumps, triggers are the least of your worries. I also would like a mid-length gas system.
      The MIM method of creating the hammers is not bad process, should match the quality of other methods. MIM is cheaper to mfg. Read up on it and you will give it an okay.
      I have the original sport which I went with because of the barrel. The sport is accurate, noticeably so even for an average shooter. You will see tighter groups with various ammo.

    • Vinny Barbin October 8, 2017, 6:39 am

      @Russ H. Yeah this gun must really suck. Funny how I could not find one bad review either professional or from someone who actually owns one.

  • Clay July 17, 2017, 11:06 am

    I just wonder if S&W will ever do a free or reduced conversion on the original Sport, To make it a II (Add dust cover and Forward Assist) I was one of the “Suckers” that bought it.

    • FirstStateMark July 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

      That’s the reason I didn’t buy it. When if first came out no dust cover and forward assist. Instead I bought the Ruger AR556.
      I don’t like the shiny finish on the barrel either. The Ruger is more of a dull military finish and is all mil-spec.

  • DrThunder88 July 17, 2017, 10:24 am

    Ten years ago if you had told me a new AR15 would cost less than a new AKM, I would have thought you a fool. I don’t know if this is a “thanks Obama”-thing because ARs are now so cheap or if it’s a “thanks Bush”-thing for making AK kits more expensive.

    I considered an M&P Sport II when I was putting together my personal patrol rifle. My department insists on “trusted” brands for the rifles but allows officers to customize them. S&W is one of the trusted brands (the general issue rifles are all S&W), and it wouldn’t be a big deal to get a Sport II, strip it down to its receivers, and sell off anything I was going to replace. Eventually I just bought a new Ruger lower for $99 and went from there, but I like the integral trigger guard on the Sport II.

  • Thomas Breithaupt July 17, 2017, 10:16 am

    To ro: DPMS warranty is 3 years, Delton & Smith unlimited. Even with the best products it’s the tiny things that go wrong, break, or out of spec years later. DPMS has been good overall and I hear generally good things on Delton but Smith warranty reports have been exceptionally good the last 10 years. I had a fairly new Smith mag spring/follower get messed up so they simply sent me entire new mag, free. No company can give away finished goods over time if they are defective – this can only be done when products have very low error rate. Although no company is perfect, I value such “little-stuff” service greatly, so I lean towards Smith.

  • MJB July 17, 2017, 8:46 am

    I have a DPMS Oracle that was tricked out with a quad rail, red-green optical sights and a forearm attached handle like a Thompson for around $700 five years ago. I just noticed the standard rifle with factory rebate is only around $375.

  • Kevin Etter July 17, 2017, 8:16 am

    So now we’re not only mispronouncing Hornady but misspelling it as well? Seriously?

  • Daniel J Hughes July 17, 2017, 6:09 am

    I am very happy with my SW Sport II that I picked up for 585, I added a Nikon P 223 4x scope. I will eventually change out the hand guard. Until then I will have a great deal of accurate shooting fun.

    • gary sheldon July 17, 2017, 3:39 pm

      Put that scope on my Olympic AR. They make a great “team”.

  • Randal Koebler July 17, 2017, 4:36 am

    I thought it said new. The sport 2 has been out forever.

  • Dan Foster July 17, 2017, 3:20 am

    What about S&W AR 308.

    • Dan Foster July 17, 2017, 3:25 am

      I want to know about an AR10 or15
      in a 308 cal.

  • ro July 14, 2017, 11:25 am

    why push a cheap Smith (no ten cent piece of aluminum in the handguard….please….what do you take us for?) when you can have a cheap $400 AR (with a heat shield)….is the name worth more (I’ll answer that for 200 Alex…..NO)? For most shooters of AR’s ….shop around, buy a $400 gun (Delton or DPMS Oracle) and spend the savings on ammo.

    • AkmSks21 July 17, 2017, 9:22 pm

      I just saw a S&W sport II on sale today for $469.99 you can get this rifle with Magpul furniture for $ 499.00 free shipping. Look on gun deals formerly Slicksguns! Much better rifle than DPMS not sure if it is better that Del Ton! The Warranty beats both hands down! S&W M&P sport II is best budget gun Imo..

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