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Plinking Fun with S&W (Part 2) - The M&P15-22 Performance Center Rifle

December 28, 2014
Bill Waugaman , Ohio Valley Outdoors

In August 2009, Smith & Wesson introduced the M&P15-22 semi-auto rifle in .22LR. This rifle was designed as a dedicated .22LR firearm, not a retrofit of their centerfire rifle. About a year and a half later, they came out with the M&P15-22 Performance Center model that took their standard M&P15-22 rifle to an entirely new level.

The standard M&P15-22 and the PC model have a lot of the same features: blow back semi-auto action with the bolt riding on steel rails, high-strength polymer upper and lower receiver with integral steel inserts, removable rail-mounted front and rear sights, adjustable A2 front post, adjustable dual-aperture rear sight, 6-position adjustable stock, carbon steel barrel with a 1-in-15" twist, high strength polymer quad-rail hand guard, case deflector, two-position receiver mounted safety selector, functional charging handle and bolt catch.

S&W made 3 accessory and 3 functionality enhancements for the Performance Center rifle (SKU 170335).

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* The factory 6-position adjustable stock is replaced with a mil-spec 6-Position Vltor IMOD (Improved Modular) stock. This matte finish stock is made with impact and temperature resistant polymer that is specifically blended for these stocks. The rubber butt pad is angled, has a wide traction area with rolled edges and is replaceable. There are standard military and quick disconnect swivel sockets. The design incorporates two waterproof battery compartments, each holding 3 CR123 or 2 AA batteries.

* A Hogue Overmolded handgrip replaces the factory grip. This handgrip is a comfortable rubber grip with finger grooves, palm swells and a storage compartment in the bottom. Storage components are available from Hogue.

* The M&P15-22PC comes with three 7" rubber 'ladders' that fit on the quad rail making the forearm more comfortable to hold while leaving 4 rail slots on the bottom and 6 rail slots on the sides for attaching accessories.

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M&P15-22 Performance Center Rifle

* The match grade two-stage trigger feels good. Measuring at the middle of the trigger, stage 1 (take up) is 1/10". The trigger pull on stage 2 (sear release) is just a fraction over 5 lbs. with negligible creep. Unlike many rifles that have basic triggers, the Performance Center rifle is build with an AR-platform trigger. If you don't like the factory trigger, you can replace it with your favorite one.

* The 18" barrel is match grade. It is 2 inches longer and has a diameter .100" greater than a standard M&P15-22 barrel. The bore is machined to very tight tolerances and the crown is recessed to protect the bore. The muzzle is threaded for easy replacement with any standard threaded flash suppressor. The barrel has been fluted 6 times in front of the hand guard for weight reduction and for aesthetics.

* The Performance Center rifle has a .22LR Laney semi-auto match chamber. The Laney chamber is precisely machined to specific dimensions to enhance accuracy. While it does make the M&P15-22PC more accurate, the closer tolerances affect which ammunition performs best in this rifle. S&W recommends: CCI Standard Velocity or Mini-Mag; Aguila Super Extra Standard or High Velocity; Federal American Eagle or Game Shock; Winchester Super-X High Velocity. Not recommended are: Remington Golden Bullet, Target 22 or Thunderbolt; Winchester Wildcat; any and all sub-sonic brands and types. S&W specifically states not to use CCI Stingers.

There are several other features that should be mentioned.

* The receiver extension is actually part of polymer lower (unlike centerfire AR-platform rifles where the extension is a separate piece that attaches to the lower). It is mil-spec and will work with other compatible adjustable stocks. The receiver extension allows 3.75" of adjustment for an overall length from 32" collapsed to 35.75" extended.

* The polymer upper and lower receivers are reinforced with integral steel inserts in addition to the steel bolt rails.

* The polymer quad rail is proprietary to M&P15-22 rifles.

* The M&P15-22PC only comes with a 10-round detachable magazine. It is made from high-strength polymer and has an ambidextrous load-assist button. I like the 10-round magazine; it keeps the aesthetically sleek lines of the rifle and it can be used for hunting in states having magazine capacity restrictions for semi-auto rifles. Since rifles specifically designed for accuracy are normally fired at a slow, deliberate pace, the 10-round magazine is appropriate. If you need more capacity, the 25-round magazines will fit.

* With the 10-round magazine, the M&P15-22PC weighs 5.4 pounds (exactly as S&W specs state). The lighter weight makes this rifle ideal for youths, small stature individuals or anyone who has to carry the rifle for long periods of time.

At the Range: Accuracy

Redfield's Battlezone TAC.22 scope was mounted on the rifle using Leupold's Mark 2 IMS mount. For zeroing in, the first groups were fired at 25 yards before moving to 50 yards. After 9 shots (3 groups of 3), this rifle's accuracy was obvious; those first three groups measured 5/16", 3/8" and 3/8".

The M&P15-22PC was then tested at 50 yards shooting 16 different cartridges (recommended, not recommended and not listed). These were Aguila Super Extra High Velocity, CCI AR-Tactical, CCI Mini-Mag, Federal 550 Value Pack, Federal American Eagle, Federal Auto Match, Federal Fresh Fire Pack, Federal Lightning, Remington Golden Bullet, Remington Thunderbolt, RWS Match*, RWS Target*, Winchester 222, Winchester Lead Free*, Winchester M22 and Winchester Wildcat. The results for ten 3-shot groups (five where indicated by an *) were as follows:

Smallest Groups (9 under .5"): .2" Aguila; .3" CCI AR-Tactical, Federal Auto Match, Winchester 222/M22/Wildcat; .4" CCI MiniMag, RWS Target/Match. It should be noted that every cartridge shot one or more 3-shot groups under 1".

Group Averages by Cartridge (10 at 1" or less): .6" RWS Target; .7" CCI MiniMag/AR-Tactical, Winchester 222, RWS Match; .8" Remington Golden Bullet; .9" Winchester M22; 1.0" Federal American Eagle, Remington Thunderbolt, Aguila.

Standard Deviation by Cartridge (9 had less than .5" variance): .1" RWS Target; .2" RWS Match, CCI MiniMag, Remington Golden Bullet; .3" Federal Value Pack/American Eagle, CCI AR-Tactical; .4" Winchester 222/M22. Standard deviation is a good indicator of the consistency of the 3-shot groups (the lower the number, the more consistent the group sizes).

Final Thoughts:

I really like the M&P15-22 Performance Center rifle. It has the look and feel of a centerfire M&P rifle with many of the same operating features, but at a reduced weight and it's more affordable to shoot. The quad rail gives you the ability to accessorize with all of your favorite goodies just like the centerfire versions.

Since this rifle was enhanced for accuracy, S&W conducted extensive testing to develop a list of recommended and not recommended ammunition. Using the standard deviation calculations with the ammunition available at the time of this review, I found their recommendations to be true. In the aggregate, the recommended ammunition was 40% more consistent than the non-recommended, and 25% more consistent than the other brands. The overall accuracy met or exceeded my expectations.

There are 18 models of S&W M&P15-22 rifle starting at an MSRP of $499. The Performance Center model tested has an MSRP of $789.

For more information, check out all of the S&W M&P15-22 rifles at



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