Getting home and tearing open Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact box, my very first impression was, “Oh snap!”
The next thought that crossed my mind was that this gun won’t be out of the box for six seconds before I’m compelled to attach a silencer. A SilencerCo Sparrow would be an excellent fit. The compact size just screams harmony and balance with the diminutive SilencerCo Sparrow.
I love .22s. Full size, compact, micro – I don’t care. They’re just fun. But there’s something to be said for a .22LR gun that is downsized for the rimfire caliber, and this one is. While I didn’t do a volumetric test to determine the exact size relationship, think of the M&P22 Compact as an 87.5% scale version of a full-size Smith & Wesson M&P – that number is from the company. Whatever the numbers, the feel and balance is great.
I picked up a production model at my local gun store, East Coast Guns in Summerville, South Carolina. When I asked manager and firearms trainer Tim Elmer for his first impressions, the first thing out of his mouth was “Wow! That’s a neat little thing!” After a bit more reflection, he noted “the size is awesome, well perfect actually. It also seems very well built, the safety is positive and the action is smooth. Now I have to shoot it!”
Me too. So let’s check it out.
Features and Specs
Opening the box, you’ll find a pistol, two 10-round magazines, keys for operating the integral safety lock, a hex wrench for windage adjustment of the rear sight, fired case and owners manual.
The pistol uses a blowback action with a fixed barrel, common to most .22 pistols. It’s a single-action, hammer operated firing mechanism. Here are the basic specs:
|Overall Length||6.7 inches|
|Barrel Length||3.6 inches|
|Barrel Rifling 1:15, 6 Groove, Right Hand|
|Overall Height (including sights)||5.0 inches|
|Overall Width (with controls)||1.5 inches|
|Total Empty Weight||17.0 oz.|
The barrel itself is threaded, although that’s not obvious until you retract the slide. A screw on thread protector cap, the same diameter as the barrel, is hidden inside the slide when in battery. If you want to add a silencer to the M&P22 Compact, you remove the cap, add a thread extension and adapter to provide 1/2×28 threads compatible with most .22LR silencers. If you already have an adapter for the original M&P22, be aware that it won’t work – you will need a new one sized for the larger 3/8”-24 threads on the M&P22 Compact barrel.
The magazine release button is mounted by default on the left side of the pistol, but it’s easy to move it to the opposite side if you like. The owner’s manual includes clear step-by-step instructions with photos if you want to do this.
The M&P22 Compact features an ambidextrous thumb safety which blocks operation of the trigger. A nice design feature is that you can perform administrative functions like slide operation, slide lock and takedown with the safety engaged. We’ll talk about other improvements to the safety levers in a minute. While we’re on the topic of safeties, the pistol also has a trigger activated firing pin block and it’s drop safe.
The M&P22 Compact has a visual loaded chamber indicator on the top of the slide. A small curved cutout allows you to see if there is a cartridge in the chamber.
There is a lawyer lock on this gun. On the M&P22 Compact, an included key can be used to lock the safety in the “safe” position. In fact, the lock can only be engaged while the safety is in the “safe” position. Do with the lock what you will.
The trigger on my model broke consistently right at six pounds of pressure. Like its predecessor, the M&P22 Compact has a hinged trigger to help prevent inadvertent trigger activation. The trigger operates with about ⅓ of an inch take-up if you measure travel at the hinge point. While you can feel a bit of grit, which will probably smooth out with use, during the pressure stage, there is a smooth break and minimal over travel. As this is a .22LR plinker, I’m not going to get too involved with the mechanics of the trigger. One thing to note is that the trigger will not move with the magazine removed, so without a magazine present, the gun will not fire.
It’s got a Picatinny rail so you can mount lights, lasers or even a bayonet. I’ve actually found rail accessories quite handy on the original M&P22 that I have. With a suppressor and Crimson Trace Rail Master, it’s the ultimate rat hunting gun for time when rodents get curious about our bird feeders. I used the rail on the M&P22 Compact to mount a Crimson Trace CMR-203 green laser for the accuracy portion of this review. Why? It was fun and I figured I could aim more precisely with a small laser dot as opposed to iron sights. We’ll cover those results in a minute.
Takedown for field stripping and cleaning is much easier with the new M&P22 Compact model. To remove the slide, release the magazine, clear the chamber and lock the slide back. Now, just rotate the takedown lever clockwise 90 degrees until it is pointed straight down. Pull the slide back and lift the back end until it comes off. Move the slide forward, once disengaged from the rails, to remove the captive recoil spring assembly and access the basic components for cleaning. It couldn’t be easier, and it’s a big improvement over the take down procedure of the original M&P22 pistol. Reassembly is easy as well – just remember to hold the slide back far enough to rotate the takedown lever in the slide cutout.
M&P22 Compact vs. M&P22
This is not the first M&P22 pistol from Smith & Wesson, but it is the first in-house original. The original M&P22 was actually made by Walther as part of the partnership which has since been dissolved. As a result, the new M&P Compact is made entirely by Smith & Wesson with all American made parts, so you’ll see a number of design differences. The new compact is not simply a collection of the same parts only downsized. Here are a few of the differences that I noticed in the test model.
Looking inside the action, you can quickly see that the guts have been redesigned. Everything is different – trigger transfer bar, extractor, ejector, firing pin – you name it. According to Smith & Wesson folks, one of the primary design goals for the new compact model is reliability and function with a wide variety of .22LR ammunition. One visible change that should have a big impact on feeding reliability is the redesigned feed ramp and chamber. On the previous M&P22, the feed ramp had a gap between the ramp and chamber, meaning the cartridge had to “jump” a small distance to the chamber. The new M&P22 Compact has a feed ramp machined perfectly into the chamber. The feed ramp is also longer and wider, meaning the bullet nose will be smoothly guided to the chamber.
I always thought the safety levers on the original M&P22 were a weak point. Made with lots of plastic, they just don’t feel sturdy to me. The lever will flex during use and the safety itself feels mushy, and I just like a crisp and positive safety. The new M&P22 Compact has solved this problem. As one of the pictures here shows, the safety itself is stainless steel with a polymer overmold. The end result is that the ambidextrous safety levers are rock solid and engage and disengage with authority.
The front sights are functionally the same – a dovetail sight with a white dot, but slightly improved. The dot on the M&P22 Compact is larger and brighter. The sight blade is also wider at .140 inches as opposed to the original .129 inches.
The rear sights have been replaced with target models that are easily adjustable for windage and elevation. On the M&P22 Compact, you use a slotted screw to adjust elevation and a hex screw for windage. The elevation ramp is mounted on a spring and the windage adjustment moves a sight blade (now with two rear dots) sideways within a channel. On the original, you loosened a hex screw to move the whole sight assembly side to side. The result of these changes are sights that are much easier to adjust.
The guide rod and recoil spring are now captive in a single assembly. On the original M&P22, the spring was loose and seated directly into the front of the slide.
Magazines are also different in the new model and are not interchangeable with the original M&P22. The longer 12 round magazines would stick out the bottom of the Compact’s magazine well anyway, so this is no surprise.
The M&P22 Compact only has a slide stop lever on the left side, while the original model is ambidextrous.
Shootin’ the Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact
I had the opportunity to put several hundred rounds through the M&P22 Compact at a recent prairie dog hunt. Based on that experience, I was hot to get one in my hands for further testing. I was so eager to shoot this gun that I willingly broke into my precious stash of .22LR ammo. That’s saying something as .22LR ammo is rarer than a Umami Freekeh restaurant in Possum Kingdom, South Carolina.
22’s are notoriously finicky comes to the combination of ammunition and gun. It’s not at all unusual to go through several types of .22LR ammunition to find one that your gun likes and shoots reliably. I brought 12 brands and types of ammunition to the range to see exactly what would be compatible with the M&P22 Compact.
After shooting about 500 rounds with no malfunctions, I got bored and decided to mix things up. I pulled one round from each box and started loading magazine after magazine of mixed loads. Any two consecutive shots might include a 750 feet per second 60 grain subsonic followed by a 32 grain hypersonic round. Lead, round nose, jacketed, hollow points – I mixed them all up. No matter, the gun still functioned flawlessly with all ammunition types except one.
The ammo type that I was sure would foul things up was the Aguila .22-SSS Sniper Subsonic. These are crazy things with short cases and long 60 grain projectiles – check out the pictures. They shoot slow and are exceptionally quiet with or without a silencer. Shooting about 50 rounds of this ammo, I managed to get two failures to feed. I’m confident that when I mount a silencer on this pistol that problem will go away.
Given the compact size, and correspondingly short barrel, velocities will be lower than with full-size pistols and certainly lower than rifles. This works to advantage with the M&P22 Compact as many, many regular .22 LR loads will be subsonic, and that creates some serious ‘awesome’ if you choose to invest in a silencer. To give you an idea of real-world velocities to expect, here’s what I clocked using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master placed 15 feet down range.
|Ammunition Brand||Velocity (feet per second)|
|Aguila 22-SSS Sniper Subsonic 60 grain Lead RN||753|
|Aguila 22 Super Maximum Hyper Velocity 30 grain HP||1,177|
|American Eagle high Velocity 38 grain Copper-plated||959|
|Armscor Precision Standard Velocity 40 grain Lead RN||905|
|CCI Mini-Mag 40 grain Copper-plated RN||948|
|CCI Quiet-22 40 grain Lead RN||563*|
|CCI Stinger 32 grain Copper-plated HP||1,139|
|Eley Practice 100 Lead RN||848|
|Federal Target Grade Performance 40 grain Lead RN||979|
|Remington 22 Thunderbolt high Velocity Lead RN||882|
|Winchester Match T22 40 grain Lead RN||929|
|Winchester White Box 36 grain Copper-plated HP||1,025|
* I shot the CCI Quiet-22 out of curiosity just to check the velocity. It’s not supposed to cycle semi-automatics, but I wanted to see how much the short barrel in this compact pistol impacted its 710 feet per second rated velocity. It was really, really quiet.
I’m not big on accuracy testing pistols as anything held by hand, even on sandbags, is more a reflection on the shooter and their eyesight than the mechanical accuracy of the gun. With that said, I found the M&P22 Compact to be a very easy gun to shoot accurately, which is an entirely different thing. For fun, I rested it on a sandbag and shot some groups 15 yards down range with three of the ammo types I had on hand. 15-yard distance was an arbitrary choice but seemed appropriate for a compact pistol like this one. Winchester Match 40 grain, Eley Practice 100, and Federal Target Grade all grouped less than 1.3 inches.
Politicians make new laws faster than I can write, but here’s the legal status as of today. The pistol will be available in all states except Massachusetts, Connecticut and California. Reading between the lines from earlier statements from Smith & Wesson (and Ruger), don’t hold your breath for the company to create some legal version of the gun for those states. Instead, get busy and vote the tyrants out of office who make ridiculous laws about gun specifications.
According to Smith & Wesson, the suggested retail price of the M&P22 Compact is $389.00.
One more thing: Smith & Wesson is offering a promotion of one free box of Winchester .22LR ammunition with each M&P22 Compact purchased through December 31, 2014.