Review of the Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Pistol
Let’s face it – the shooting sports are expensive. The equipment costs are substantial, but the cost of ammunition is a killer. I generally shoot about 150 rounds a week on average – the Tuesday night competitive league I shoot in is 50 rounds a week, and I like to shoot another 100 practice rounds a week. I used to go to Walmart a couple of times a month and buy their least expensive 50 round boxes of 9mm ammunition, which costs about $13.00 a box with tax. So at Wal-Mart prices, it was costing me $156.00 a month just to shoot my 9mm….let alone my rifles or my shot gun. I started buying bulk ammunition online which helped – I can get 1000 rounds for about $210.00 shipped. That brings my monthly 9mm ammunition cost down to $126.00 – still a chunk of change.
When I got my Smith & Wesson M&P 15 (an AR-15 rifle), ammunition costs were even higher. Fortunately, S&W makes a .22LR caliber version of this rifle called the M&P 15-22. I’ve set up my M&P 15-22 identically (optic, trigger, grips) to its big brother and use it as a training gun. My rifle shooting skills have dramatically improved over the last few months as a result, because I can shoot A LOT more with the 15-22. Buying bulk, the .223 ammo my M&P 15 shoots costs about $.30 a round. But .22LR rounds cost as little as $.3 a round for the cheap stuff, or about $.6 a round for the more expensive, higher precision rounds – a substantial savings using .22LR even at the high end of the scale.
Noting how much my skills improved, and my ammo costs reduced by shooting a .22LR training gun, I began to do some research into .22LR pistol options which would work as a low cost training alternative. For training and competition, I primarily use a Springfield Armory XD(m) 4.5 9mm. Ideally, I would have loved to have found a .22LR version of the XD(m) 9mm, but unfortunately Springfield Armory does not (as of this writing) manufacture such a firearm, nor is there any kind of a .22LR conversion kit available. However, Smith & Wesson does make produce a .22LR version of their wildly popular M&P handguns called the M&P 22:
The M&P 22 was introduced by S&W at Shot Show 2011 and is currently in extremely short supply. The M&P 22 is currently manufactured by the German manufacturer Walther for Smith & Wesson, so their production capability is somewhat limited. I was extremely fortunate that I found one at a local dealer called Vandalia Tactical. The M&P 22 retails for $419.00, but I was able to negotiate a modest discount with a purchase price of $416.00 including tax. I didn’t push too hard on the price, given the lack of alternatives, and the potential ammunition costs savings I can realize by using the M&P 22. My plan is to reduce my 9mm ammo consumption by 350 rounds a month. So instead of shooting 600 rounds of 9mm, I’ll shoot 250 rounds o f9mm, and shoot 350 rounds of .22LR. I figure my monthly pistol ammo bill will drop from $126.00 to about $63.00 – a 50% reduction which will allow me to recoup the price paid of the M&P 22 inside of seven months time. Which means I’m money ahead within the first year of ownership. Even better, if I want to shoot more, I can shoot another 550 rounds of .22LR for about $23.00 more. Never did the words “no brainer” ever apply more to a buying decision.
Of course, all the dollar costing goes out the window if the M&P 22 does not provide a good, comparable shooting experience to shooting my 9mm, so the day I after I bought it, I headed to my local indoor gun range Sim-Trainer for some testing. I ran about 100 rounds of CCI Mini-Mag ammo through it, and experienced no failure to feeds, failure to ejects, or other mechanical failures. The M&P 22 comes with only one 12-round magazine which was a bit of a disappointment. Worse, it’s virtually impossible to find M&P magazines for sale anywhere (being an early adopter of a new to market product has disadvantages). I was able to back order three M&P magazines directly from Smith & Wesson, which I’m told will be arriving from Walther in the first week of December.
Once I got a feel for the gun, I was performing as accurately with it as I normally do my 9mm. Here’s one of my targets at 25t.:
Here’s another from 75 ft. (target set at the furthest point possible downrange):
My initial impressions from this first session were quite positive. The M&P 22 is designed to be a nearly identical to the full-size M&P models chambered in 9mm, .40, and .45. Holding the gun, it feels very comparable to holding my XD(m) 9mm – also a full size firearm. Unlike the other M&P models, the M&P does not have interchangeable back straps to allow for a more precise, customized in-hand fit. However, I found holding the M&P 22 quite comfortable despite my having relatively small hands. As you might imagine, the M&P 22 is quite light for a full-size firearm, and the aluminum slide takes very little effort to retract. Functionally though, the M&P handled very much like my 9mm XD(m).
Here’s a couple of photos which show the front and rear sights:
Initially I was not pleased with the dovetail style rear sights – the lack of white dots on the posts (which the front sight does have) means slower sight alignment. When I shot the gun, the rear sights weren’t as bad as I had initially thought they might be, but I’m hoping that with time better aftermarket sights will be offered.
The following Saturday I decided to take out the M&P 22 for more extended test and did some practice shooting drills at the Miamisburg Sportsmen’s Club. Here’s some video footage of the drills:
As you can see in the video, I used the least expensive .22LR ammo you can find – the .22LR Federal Value Pack. Given that Walther manufacturers the M&P 22, I was quite concerned that it would have the same intolerance for cheap ammo which the Walther P22 is reputed to have. However, I’m happy to report that I ran through an entire 550 round box and only had 3 or 4 failure to feeds – one of which was caught in the video. That’s perfectly acceptable to me – in fact, from a training perspective, an occasional mechanical failure has value. You’ll see in the video I responded very quickly to the FTF and was able to continue through my training drill with no break in concentration. If you never train to overcome mechanical failures, you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage if one occurs in a self-defense scenario.
The more I shot the M&P 22, the more I liked it – it’s very addictive to shoot too. From a training perspective, you can practice everything needed for good marksmanship M&P 22 – stance, grip, sight alignment, and trigger control. I wouldn’t advocate abandoning training with your normal personal protection caliber handgun in lieu of the M&P 22, but augmenting it with this low-cost alternative will no doubt yield substantial benefits. The only real alternatives out there to the M&P 22 are the aforementioned Walther P22 (very finicky with regard to ammo, and the trigger guard magazine release is too different from my other firearms) and the Sig Sauer Mosquito (also picky). There are a couple of others (as well as a few .22LR conversion kits which are available for a few handguns chambered in traditional self-defense calibers). But my point here is that there are few choices in this category. The M&P 22 offers a higher magazine capacity (12 rounds vs. 10 for most other competitors) and is more reliable with a wider range of .22LR ammunition. Definitely check it out!