Training Without Scars: Why Every Agency Should Have M&P-15s

Aug. 13, 2021
Unlike “toy” 22 LR copies of an AR-15, the M&P 15-22 is purpose built as a training tool, and it is the closest approximation to ones issued to me after I raised my right hand that I have ever operated.

I tested Smith and Wesson’s M&P 15-22 Sport, an AR-15 in 22 LR. It is similar in size, weight and configuration as a standard AR-15. Considering the extremely reasonable MSRP of $461, and the outstanding quality of the product, this is one that should be in everyone’s inventory.

I don’t have to tell anyone that there is an ammunition shortage going on right now. 2020 had record firearm sales, many of them first-time buyers. April of 2021 set a record in sales, and I don’t think we are finished. The unprecedented sales of guns have reduced the availability of ammunition.

Shooting is my hobby, but when I go to the range, the purpose is training. Without ammo, training is limited.

I’m always talking to different agencies. I have been hearing that agencies have reduced their training ammunition requisition, and therefore have reduced trigger time. At the same time, we experienced a surge of ambushes in 2020. Training ammunition availability has decreased, and the training need has increased.

In brief spurts, the 22 LR ammunition supply is coming alive. When I visited the Speer Ammunition manufacturing plant in Lewiston, Idaho, back in 2019, I also was treated to a look at their improved manufacturing process for 22 ammunition ( Not only was this process faster, it showed a commitment to keeping serial plinkers like me supplied with practice ammo. During the time when ammunition was becoming scarce, I acquired several 22 LR training firearms and three new reloading presses. It is foolish to forgo training in a time where it’s a good idea to be armed all the time.

The M&P 15-22 is a semi-auto blow back 22 LR carbine with a polymer receiver and carbon steel 16”, 1 in 15” twist barrel. Most of the fixtures on the carbine are polymer. The magazine has a form factor that is similar to a standard AR-15 magazine. Even the first steps of field stripping, where the user punches out the rear pin that separates the lower from the upper, resembles the AR-15 big brother.

Unlike “toy” 22 LR copies of an AR-15, the M&P 15-22 is purpose built as a training tool, and it is the closest approximation to ones issued to me after I raised my right hand that I have ever operated. From a distance, it also is indistinguishable, even in its manual of arms.

Although the M&P 15-22 uses a typical blowback operating system, it is almost completely indistinguishable from a standard AR-15. The charging handle works, and it uses the same latching mechanism. The safety mechanism is the same. The magazine inserts and releases in the same manner. The shell deflector really deflects shells. One can train using this carbine and never gouge out training scars. Even converted AR-15s do not have this kind of compatibility.

The M&P 15-22 model comes with a 6-position collapsible stock, which, you guessed it, is exactly like the 5.56 version, because it is a MagPul MOE SL.

Some of the aftermarket products reflect this compatibility. Radian Weapons ( makes a charging handle and (ambidextrous) Talon Safety Selector system for the M&P 15-22. For officers with ambi safety selectors, and extended charging handles, this gives the 22 version exactly the same feel. There are several other charging handle options available, and I anticipate there will be more in the future. Almost all external accessories like rail mounted products fit, in case the user wants to add optics.

The Sport model comes with a standard capacity 25 round magazine. For areas whose legislators cannot interpret crime statistics, there is a 10 round version available. I recommend that LE users who use this tool for training invest in several magazines. This carbine can be used to reinforce magazine handling skills.

When I first started shooting the carbine, I put my Leupold 1x14 Prismatic on it. This is a lightweight, non-magnifying option that allowed the MAGPUL MBUS sights, which come standard on this model, to co-witness in the bottom third of the optic. This was a great option, and fired several controlled pair headshots at 10 yards effortlessly.

My 1x14 Prismatic has been discontinued. If you are wondering what Leupold introduced to replace the 1x14 Prismatic, look for the Freedom RDS (red dot sight) 1x34, which comes with a mount suitable for the M&P 15-22. This operates like many RDS, except it has more precision in the optics and adjustment, in case the user wants to make a non-magnified long shot.

The M&P 15-22 comes with the flip up MagPul MBUS sights, which are also mounted on my personal last ditch carbine. For those who like offset sights like XS XTI2 sights, all of these products fit as well.

MBUS sights stay out of the way until used, in their protective configuration, until the user flips them up. At this point, the seemingly innocuous vehicle transforms into a sighting Autobot, capably steering bullets downrange. It is no wonder these are popular. They don’t take up much rail space, and they stay sighted in and poised until they are needed.

This M&P 15-22 model comes standard with MagPul M-LOK Type 2 rail covers with 6 attachment panels. M-LOK is a direct attachment system that allows fast mission configuration of the carbine. For example, one can add rail sections, a bipod, or quick sling attachments that don’t add weight when not in use.

The M&P 15-22 magazine fits standard magazine pouches, but it does have a protruding set of lips. Your mileage may vary, so test your magazine carrier for a good fit.

The magazines have a loading button, with which the user pulls down with the thumb to ease loading. This button holds the follower, and I caution the user not to pull it too far down, which encourages the bullets to flip in the empty space in the magazine. Users should just pull it down enough so the follower is not against the feed lips. There is a window that allows one to view loading progress and inspect the contents. A flipped cartridge is glaringly obvious, and users will quickly master loading.

One thing I noticed right away. Every semi-auto .22 I have owned has preferred one type of ammunition over another. Smith & Wesson makes it very clear in the manual that this model has a match chamber, and Stingers, whose dimensions are slightly larger, cannot be used in this gun. Stingers, or “Stangers,” as 22Plinkster calls them, have the same overall length (OAL), but longer brass dimensions, than other 22 LR cartridges. MiniMags and CCI Clean cartridges will work fine, but anything designed for suppressor use, or target velocities, sometimes caused failures to eject. In other words, about 95% of all 22 LR cartridges manufactured anywhere will function flawlessly in this gun.

It did function beautifully, too. I found that I could come to the range with the exact same training goals, fire a lot more ammunition, and have ammo money left over. Through the 16.5” barrel, downrange velocities allow the same training scenarios that they would using a 5.56 carbine, within reason. For example, Remington 33 grain yellow jacket bullets only drop around 4” at 100 yards out of a full length barrel. The M&P 15-22 can make a 100 yard shot without any problem.

Many 22 LR bullets have some sort of external lubrication, usually a wax coating. Even plated ones get “dipped” in most processes. Most manufacturers use a proprietary mix, but it is usually similar to beeswax in consistency. 22s have been a thing for over 160 years, and a spray or dip lubrication the predominant process for lubing.

This process leaves a little more residue in the 22 LR chamber and action. Halfway through your range training day, I suggest you clean your 22. Many popular 22s make it hard to fully disassemble the action, separate the bolt, or access the recessed extractor notch on the chamber. The M&P 15-22 is an easy disassembly, and even the magazine can be taken down to components.

As my readers know, I am an unabashed, self-confessed, plinker. I never grow bored of just running 22 LR rounds down range. Having a fun gun to shoot that has a legitimate training purpose is a plinker’s dream. For those whose job is contingent on survivability with an AR-15 platform carbine, the Smith and Wesson M&P 15-22 Sport carbine is a worthwhile investment.  

About the Author

Officer Lindsey Bertomen (ret.), Contributing Editor

Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer and retired military small arms trainer. He teaches criminal justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, California, where serves as a POST administrator and firearms instructor. He also teaches civilian firearms classes, enjoys fly fishing, martial arts, and mountain biking. His articles have appeared in print and online for over two decades. 

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