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Plinking Fun with S&W (Part 1) - The M&P22

September 21, 2014
Bill Waugaman , Ohio Valley Outdoors

When you ask any law enforcement officer, military person, firearms instructor, professional shooter or shooting enthusiast what it takes to be a good shooter with handguns, their first answer is practice. With the erratic availability of centerfire ammunition and the 200% to 400% increases in prices over the last 18 months, you can't practice if you don't have the ammo or it's quite expensive when you do. One solution is the increasing popularity of .22LR versions of semi-auto centerfire handguns, like the Smith & Wesson M&P22.

If you have been considering a new .22LR handgun, here's an overview of the S&W M&P22:

Single Action

Article Video

Hammer-Fired Mechanism with Internal Hammer

Blowback Operated

Articulated (hinged) Trigger

Article Photos

S&W M&P22 (left and right)

Reversible Magazine Release

Ambidextrous Manual Safety

Ambidextrous Slide Stop

Polymer Frame with Metal Inserts

Polymer Grip with Fixed Backstrap

Picatinny-Style Accessory Rail

Aerospace Aluminum Alloy Slide

Drift Adjustable Post Front Sight with White Dot

Adjustable Low Profile Rear Sight

12-Round Magazine

Matte Black Finish

Racking the Slide: 7.75 lbs.

Trigger Pull: 4.5 lbs.

Trigger Take-up*: .2"

Trigger Reset*: .25"

* measured at articulated trigger pin

When you put an M&P22 beside an M&P9, the two handguns are strikingly similar. Some visual differences like the magazine well, the bore or the thumb safety on the M&P22 are obvious; other differences are very subtle. There is a noticeable difference in weight, but the overall 'feel' of the M&P22 is just like the M&P9.

Here’s how they compare…M&P22M&P9
Weight (without magazine)20.7 oz.24.5 oz.
Weight (with empty magazine)22.7 oz.27.6 oz.
Height (rear sight to mag well)5.4”5.4”
Barrel Length4.1”4.1”
Slide Length7.1”7.1”
Slide Width1.1”1.1”
Overall Length7.6”7.6”
Length of Pull2.7”2.6”
Handgrip Girth5.5”5.5” (medium)

-- Accuracy Testing (minimum of ten 3-shot groups at 50 feet) --

The M&P22 was equipped with a UM3 mount from UM Tactical for the accuracy tests. The UM3 attaches to the picatinny rail under the barrel, wraps around the sides and creates a rail on top for mounting an optic. For optics, Bushnell's First Strike Reflex Red Dot was selected because of its light weight, small size and excellent optics. A regular red dot and a pistol scope were also mounted on the UM3; they did work but tended to bulky.

Live fire testing of the M&P22 consisted of evaluating accuracy and functionality with eleven different cartridges.

CCI AR Tactical, 40 gr. Copper Plated RN, 1200 fps

CCI MiniMag, 40 gr. Copper Plated RN, 1235 fps

Federal Champion Fresh Fire Pack, 36 gr. Copper Plated HP, 1260 fps

Federal 550-Round Value Pack, 36 gr. Copper Plated HP, 1260 fps

Federal AutoMatch, 40 gr. Lead RN, 1200 fps

Remington Golden Bullet Value Pack, 36 gr. Brass Plated HP, 1280 fps

Remington Thunderbolt, 40 gr. Lead RN, 1255 fps

Winchester M22, 40 gr. Black Copper Plated RN, 1255 fps

Winchester 222-Rounds Box, 36 gr. Copper Plated HP, 1280 fps

Winchester Wildcat 22, 40 gr. Lead RN (Lubricated), 1255 fps

Winchester Super-X, 26 gr. Tin HP (Lead Free Bullet), 1650 fps

Usually, accuracy testing will show certain cartridges producing better results than others in the same firearm. Except for the Winchester Super-X Tin HP, the M&P22 is the first .22LR handgun I've tested where the cartridges didn't make a difference. At 50 feet, the other 10 cartridges predominantly produced 3-shot groups from .75" to 1.25". The CCI AR Tactical, Federal Value Pack, Federal AutoMatch, Remington Thunderbolt and Winchester M22 all produced at least one of the ten 3-shot group measuring .5". The M&P22 with the higher velocity Winchester Super-X Tin HP produced five 3-shot groups right at 2".

Another option for mounting an optic on the M&P22 is the rail mount from Sight-Mount. It simply replaces the rear sight and gives you a picatinny rail mounted on the slide. There are some definite advantages to this mount. The optic is right on the top of the slide for a comfortable sight picture. Without an optic attached, the Sight-Mount is a notched rear sight with dots. With a Sight-Mount, make sure the optic can handle the slide's jolt back and forth when fired, and that the optic will not interfere with proper cycling of the slide. Bushnell's First Strike Reflex Red Dot is a good choice with the Sight-Mount.

-- Functionality and Reliability --

For reliability and functionality, CCI Mini-Mags, CCI AR Tactical, Federal 550 Value Pack, Federal Fresh Fire Pack, Winchester 222-Rounds Bulk Pack and Winchester M*22 Bulk Pack were used.

The M&P22 was tested in a variety of ways. First, 50-round strings were fired with magazine changes using the same ammo. Then, shorter strings were fired with partially full magazines. Finally, different brands of ammo were loaded in a magazine in random order and fired in different string lengths, varying speeds, double-taps and at a slow, deliberate pace.

As for reliability, the M&P22 functioned perfectly until the breech area and chamber got so dirty that failure to extract (FTE) problems started. This happened about the 500 and 1,000 round marks. With a quick cleaning, the M&P22 was back to normal and functioned without any problems. In total, about 1,400 rounds were put through the M&P22. The only FTE's occurred when the breech and chamber were very dirty with powder residue. There were no FTL's (failure to load).

One functionality surprise did come out during this part of the testing. With most centerfire semi-auto handguns, a loaded magazine is typically inserted firmly and with enough force to insure it locks securely in place. This is not necessary with the M&P22; the magazines locked in place with very little effort and a pronounced 'click'.

After the rigorous range testing, here are some observations about the S&W M&P22.

* The factory trigger is surprisingly nice for a .22LR handgun

* The M&P22 comes with a 12-round magazine (not 10 like many .22LR semi-autos)

* A magazine disconnect prevents firing when the magazine is removed

* The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation

* The notched rear sight does not have any dots or markings

* It only takes 7 3/4 pounds of pressure to rack the slide

* The take down lever for disassembly seems awkward to manipulate

* You can see if the chamber has a round in it without partially racking the slide

* Holding and shooting the M&P22 feels really comfortable

-- Conclusion --

Carl Walther in Germany makes the M&P22 to Smith & Wesson's specifications. It is a dedicated .22LR handgun and not the conversion of a S&W M&P centerfire. Except for the weight, thumb safety and some subtle differences, the M&P22 is very close to the M&P9 visually and in dimensions.

Who would like the M&P22? Anyone who carriers a centerfire M&P for duty or personal protection will appreciate the ability to practice with the M&P22 at a fraction of the cost of a centerfire M&P. A person who likes the look and feel of a polymer frame handgun but is not interested in the power of a centerfire cartridge, the M&P22 is just the ticket. The M&P22 would be an ideal handgun for learning shooting basics and safety before stepping up to centerfire handguns, especially for youths, women, older adults, anyone with limited strength or novices shooting handguns for the first time.

If you want a .22LR semi-auto handgun that is relatively accurate, reliable, not finicky about ammunition and feels very good in your hand, the Smith & Wesson M&P22 is reasonably priced ($419 MSRP, SKU 222000) and a lot of fun to shoot.

For more information about the S&W M&P22, check out their website at:



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