Wednesday, November 28, 2012

S&W M&P 15

Where to begin? S&W has been selling AR15s or M4 clones for several years, and there's a massive amount of info already out there. It appears that Smith & Wesson has dropped the M&P 15 MOE that I purchased a few years ago and this seems to be the closest model in the current lineup. I'm basing that on the specs instead of the handguards, buttstock and pistol grip.

Let's get the price out of the way. I paid about $1000 for mine during the height of the Obama guns and ammo panic of 2008-2009.
Yes, you can buy a better rifle today for the same price.
Yes, you could say that I was bent over while writing that check. It certainly felt that way.
$1000 was the going price for the M&P MOE at that point in time. If you wanted this AR you paid the money.
This S&W wasn't my first AR and I suspected that prices might drop if the economy picked up, and no anti gun legislation was proposed between the 2008 and 2010 elections.
My family and I shot the rifle for almost 2 years before prices really started dropping. I consider the added cost worth it for the amount of fun, training and plinking that we enjoyed. Had we not been at the rifle range with this gun, we would have been at the movies, eating out, etc. The money flowing out of my wallet would have been about the same, but it would have went towards something other than shooting.
I went on and on about the $$$ for one reason. We are entering another period of panic buying and ever increasing prices. It's not as bad as 2008-2009 but we'll see a bit of price inflation. It will no doubt be proportional to the amount of stupidity coming out of DC.
If you want a gun and can afford it, then I suggest that you get it. Don't wait for it to possibly drop a few dollars. You're going to blow that extra bit of disposable income on something else and whatever it is, I doubt that it's putting rounds downrange.

I'll be referring to "Mil Spec" now and then. You aren't really going to buy a true mil spec rifle regardless of what your carbine owning friend or the guy at the gun store tells you.
M4's have a 14.5" barrel and 3 round burst so your Colt, BCM, etc. are not "Mil Spec" despite sharing some of the same features as the military weapons. It is possible to buy AR15's that have more mil spec features than others.

You'll see me refer to some of these rifles as M4gery's (as in M4 forgery). This isn't really meant to be derogatory.
I'll also be using M4, M4gery and AR15 when talking about the S&W M&P MOE. Most people usually refer to the 16" carbines as M4's regardless of whether or not it's applicable. A lot of gun owners use the term AR or AR15 when talking about the 20" version but they're all in the AR15 family.

BTW, I make no claims about being an expert on Black Rifles. This post merely deals with my experiences and opinions of this S&W M&P 15 MOE. You'll get a lot more info on what to look for when buying AR15's at , Vuurwapenblog , . Do yourself a favor and spend some time on these sites before dropping $800 or more (most likely much more for a higher end weapon) on an AR.

I guess the biggest question everyone asks is whether or not it's accurate followed by is it reliable (or vice versa)? The answer to both questions is yes.
This gun shoots better than I do (easy to do) and I feel that it's plenty accurate with the right ammo. I did a very informal test with this weapon a month or so ago, and hope to update the targets soon. I mentioned in that post that I was shooting off of a range bag instead of a sandbag and will get some updated targets up sooner or later.

The reliability is definitely there. I've shot about 10 different brands of ammo (at least) and 55gr to 77gr loads. It's fed everything perfectly. The M&P 15 is boringly reliable.
I usually use Pmags, but I have a few Bushmaster magazines and a dozen or so C mags. No problems have been seen with any of these. I doubt that I'll get anything different. If it works I usually leave it alone.

There's a lot to cover so I decided to break it down from muzzle to buttstock.

Birdcage flash suppressor: The S&W M&P 15 MOE uses the standard birdcage flash suppressor that many of us are familiar with from our days in the military. It's been around for decades and is not high on my list of things to change.

Barrel:  The chrome lined barrel is made from 4140 steel and has a 1:9 twist. The 1:9 twist will stabilize bullets in the 45gr-62gr range but I've shot heavier loads with decent accuracy.
This rifle has a 5.56mm chamber so you're OK using 5.56mm or .223cal. The bore and chamber are chrome lined.
Smith and Wesson calls their version of parkarizing a "Hard Coat Black Anodizing." I was comparing a Bushmaster and a BCM upper with the S&W. Surprisingly all three have a pretty clear difference in the coatings. At first glance they all look the same (most Black Rifles do) but there is a difference in texture and appearance. I'm not even going to pretend to know how well the anodizing will hold up. I would guess that it's at least as good as other M4gerys at this price point.
The usual cutout for the M203 is present, and while I think that it's stupid looking, it does give the gun a more mil spec look (if that is important to you).
The 4140 steel is not an issue with me as I'll never get a high enough round count to wear it out. Full auto fire will never happen nor will I do any bump firing. That's just not my thing. To each his own though.
The 4140 steel will be fine and should I ever reach the point in which the barrel is worn out it's an easy fix and won't break the bank.

Front sight: This S&W has the F marked front sight that is correct for the carbine model. Is the barrel parkarized... um, er... "Hard Coat Anodized" under the front sight?
Yes, it is.
Basically, there are some manufacturers that coat the barrels and then add the front sight. This is preferred.
Others put the sight on and then coat the barrel and front sight together. The area under the front sight is left uncoated, and there's probably been one or two AR's out of a gazillion than have had rust issues in that area.
So why doesn't everyone coat the barrel and then add the front sight?
You're adding a step to the manufacturing process, and also run the risk of scratching the barrel's coating when front sight is put on.
The FSB has taper pins.

Handguards: My M&P 15 wears the Flat Dark Earth colored Magpul handguards. They seem sturdy enough but I don't believe that they are as strong as the usual M4 carbine handguards. There are a lot more points to attach rails for flashlights, lasers, etc. Rails are sold separately.
Unleash your inner Mall Ninja and hang everything possible off of them.
The Magpul handguards look better than the standard handguards in my opinion. I also prefer the feel.
Some have asked if the handguards are strong enough to directly attach a sling to them... I'm not going to test it. I think it would be OK for just carrying the weapon to the range, but I wouldn't trust that method for any hard use.

Upper: The upper is made from 7075 T6 Aluminum and has a very good finish. This model includes the dust cover and forward assist. You won't find this on the sport models offered by many manufacturers. The chamber is chrome lined and there are M4 feed ramps.

Rear sight: The MBUS (Magpul Back Up Sight) rear sight is pretty decent overall, and I liked it enough to buy two more for other rifles. There's a small and large aperture on this flip up sight, and the MBUS is adjustable for windage only.
Yes, this is made from plastic. Okay, it's "Polymer." It's also a backup sight, is rarely used and is reasonably priced.
Once I zero the MBUS, a scope usually rests over it 99% of the time. They don't get much use afterwards. I'll remove a scope about once a year to practice with irons (um... polymer).
Long story short... I don't use them much but I like Magpul sights based on my limited experience. A second generation MBUS has been released since I purchased the earlier models for my AR's.
I'm linking to a couple of very good articles from Kit Up and Vuurwapenblog about the drop testing of the MBUS. Pretty impressive, huh?
One dislike that I have regarding the MBUS is the height. It sits up a bit higher than some of the metal back up sights on the market. This will force you to mount your scope a little higher than most prefer.
I have no experience with the 2nd generation MBUS but it should be a little shorter than the first gen model. After looking at the specs and measuring mine, I believe they are about 1/8" shorter.

Lower receiver: The lower is also made from 7075 T6 Aluminum and is nicely finished. That should be a given but I've seen some truly fugly stripped lowers on the market. Usually a lower is a lower as long as it's in spec. The finish and the roll mark are most of what you're paying for unless you get something a little differently shaped.
Magazines drop free without any problems. All of of the mags that I've used fit perfectly.
The early M&P's were made by Stag (according to the all knowing internet), and some of them had problems with Magpul magazines not fitting. That hasn't been an issue for years, and S&W now makes their own M4gery's.
S&W M4 feedramps
There's a little bit of play in between the upper and lower but it seems to be in the normal range. I really hadn't noticed it until I began this review and started pulling AR's out of the safe.
Bushmaster w/out M4 feedramps
S&W did a good job on the M4 feed ramps. BTW, the picture on the right is of an older Bushmaster from Maine, I have no idea if the Remington/Bushmaster rifles have M4 feedramps.
Controls: The trigger is about 7lbs and is nothing to brag about. Most triggers aren't on AR's and M4 clones. I would give it an OK and remind you that it's a quick and easy fix if you don't like the factory trigger.
The controls are all standard and nothing really to comment on. The all work well and feel like you would expect. There's no sloppiness or looseness, and everything has a very positive feel.

Magazines: I probably shouldn't mention the mags since you'll buy most of them on your own. I will say that S&W had a "5 Free" magazine special when I bought my rifle and, all of the supplied Magpul magazines were of high quality, worked perfectly and arrived within a decent amount of time. This was a mail in special at the time and I've seen them repeat that a few times.
I wouldn't hold my breath waiting on any more magazine specials with the current anti gun policies coming out of the Capitol.

Pistol grip: About the only thing that I prefer about the MOE Grip is the storage compartment inside. I think that the standard M16A2 grip feels better, but I really like being able to keep a few spare parts in the MOE grip. It feels fine, and fits my hand nicely but I've seen other aftermarket grips that I prefer more.

Buttstock: I like the MOE Carbine Stock ,but I'll be honest. I don't think that it does much that the standard M4 stock doesn't. You get a few more sling attachment points and it looks cooler. It fits pretty snugly and I can't think of a single complaint about it.

I like all of the Magpul stuff on my M4gery's but most of all, I love their magazines. I can't say anything bad about any of their gear that I've used.
If I had nothing but Magpul magazines from now until eternity it would be just fine with me. I don't plan on doing a lot of comparisons in regards to AR mags.

Buffer tube (Receiver Extension): Mil spec tube and unstaked. Carbine buffer. Nuff said.

Bolt Carrier Group: The BCG has a correctly staked gas key. The bolt is HP tested and shot peened. The black extractor spring insert is present. You'll notice that this is the semi auto BCG.

S&W BCG at top

I found a few of these rifles online. The average used price seemed to be between $800 and $850 at this time. Add another $35 or so for a FFL transfer.
Other manufacturers have jumped onto the MOE bandwagon, and have a similar rifles or at least a similar looking version. A little bit of digging will be required to find out what barrel steel, twist rates, etc are offered.

If you're interested, that's a Burris PEPR mount. They now make a quick release model which falls into the "Gotta have it" category for me. Maybe Santa will help me upgrade.
The PEPR mount was purchased because I needed the extra height in order to get my scope over the MBUS. I could have left the MBUS off (which would have saved some coin), and had the scope closer to the barrel... but... it would offend my sense of order not to have a back up sight.
This offset mount was also needed to move the Burris 4.5-14x32mm far enough forward for me to use.
The scope shown is a bit big for this carbine but it's meant to be a range toy, and it keeps me from having to bring a spotting scope out on most days.
A commonly asked question is whether or not the front sight gets in the way. The answer is no. You'll never see it through your scope as long as it's set above 4x.

So in conclusion, I like the S&W M&P 15 MOE a lot. I have no buyer's remorse, and that's unusual for me.
Would I buy it again?

I have a few AR's and this one gets shot the most. You'll notice that I haven't done much to this gun. I added a scope, a few rails and replaced the stock end plate with one that has a sling mount. A new trigger will probably be added sooner or later. No hurry.
They say that AR15's are like Barbie's for men. You can dress them up however you want. They sky is limit for aftermarket accessories, and there's a lot of great stuff out there.
There's also some cheap junk and counterfeit gear. If that red dot scope that you're looking at is priced too good to be true then it probably is too good to be true.
Be careful and if you're buying expensive gear then get it from a reputable dealer instead of the guy on Ebay.

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