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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Ammunition||Average Group Size at 50 yards (inches)||Velocity|
(feet per second)
|Aguila Sniper Subsonic, 60-grain||N/A||913.9|
|American Eagle HV Copper Plated 38-grain||2.15”||1,180.7|
|CCI Green Tag 40-grain||.945”||1,022.3|
|CCI Mini Mag HV 40-grain||1.54”||1,164.3|
|CCI Suppressor 40-grain||1.85”||973.2|
|Eley Practice 100 40-grain||.927”||996.3|
|Federal Target Grade 40-grain||1.95”||1,177.0|
|Winchester Match T22 LRN 40-grain||1.81”||1,148.3|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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