Smith & Wesson’s M&P22 is, according to the company, built for recreational shooting, personal protection, home protection, and professional training. I don’t much buy into the idea of using a .22 LR for personal or home protection, but I have just spent the good part of an extended weekend shooting and handling the new model, and I see the M&P22 being useful for training and recreational shooting.
First off, the M&P22, which was announced in 2011, looks almost exactly like S&W’s 4.25-inch-barreled centerfire M&P, and it feels really good in my medium-sized hand. It weighs 24 ounces, unloaded, and it comes with a 4.1-inch, fixed barrel. Unlike its bigger-caliber brothers (9mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP), the M&P22 does not have interchangeable backstraps; however, the .22 pistol does compare favorably ergonomically to the standard, 4.25-inch-barreled M&Ps in other aspects. Overall lengths are virtually the same. Widths are the same. Heights are the same. And empty weight is the same as for the 9mm 4.25-inch-barreled M&P.
The M&P22 is made for Smith & Wesson by Carl Walther, GmbH, and the gun carries many of the familiar operating features of S&W’s centerfire M&P duty pistols; as such, it makes a pretty good “understudy” (as one writer put it) to the bigger-bored pistols. The front sight is a white-dot, drift-adjustable post very much like the centerfire model’s front sight. The rear sight is a fully adjustable, plain black, low-profile sight.
The M&P22’s frame is polymer with metal internal inserts, and like the centerfire model’s frame, it incorporates an integral Picatinny-style accessories rail. The rimfire’s slide is aluminum alloy, whereas the centerfire’s slide is steel.
The operating controls—the ambidextrous slide stop release, the magazine release, and the takedown lever—are exactly like the centerfire’s controls. By the way, the M&P22’s magazine release is reversible just like the centerfire model’s magazine release. The M&P22 comes with an ambidextrous thumb safety similar to that on some versions of the bigger-bore models. All versions have an articulated trigger, a magazine disconnect that prevents the pistol from firing when the magazine is removed, and a loaded chamber indicator.
The really big difference between the rimfire and centerfire models is the firing mechanism. The single-action, blowback-operated rimfire pistol uses a hammer-fired mechanism, with an internal hammer. The double-action centerfire model is a striker-fired mechanism. For those of you who don’t know the difference, the hammer-fired mechanism, as its name implies, uses a spring-tensioned hammer that pivots on a pin to strike the firing pin. A striker-fired mechanism uses, in simple terms, a spring-loaded firing pin that travels in line with the cartridge, thereby eliminating the separate hammer.
The real joy in any new-gun review comes with getting the gun out on the range for some shooting. I put the new M&P22 through its paces by shooting 10 different .22 LR loads, ranging in bullet weight and style from 31-grain plated hollowpoints to the age-old classic 40-grain lead solids. Also included were lead hollowpoints and plated roundnoses. I shot standard-velocity target ammo, subsonic loads, high-velocity rounds, and hypervelocity ammo. In all, I put close to 350 rounds through the M&P22, and it didn’t miss a beat.
As for accuracy, well, the results on paper weren’t exactly stellar. I have to admit that the single white-dot front sight and the plain black rear sight isn’t the ideal combination for me for shooting at small bullseye targets. At 25 yards the front sight completely obscured a 3-inch bullseye. With my poor eyes being what they are, I just couldn’t get any loads to group better than 2.00 inches. Most loads were in the 3.0- to 4.0-inch range at that distance. In the interest of full disclosure, in addition to my poor eyesight, I also had to contend with winds gusting to 30 miles per hour while shooting the new M&P22. Make of that what you will.
A more satisfying part of the shooting session came when it was time to shoot the M&P22 on my swinging steel target. In my view the primary function of this pistol is training, and so I was pleased to see the pistol shine in this type of shooting. Engaging my 4-inch-wide steel gong at various distances (from 3 yards to 10 yards), from every angle I could conceive of and on the move, was a real blast—pardon the pun. I just plastered the white dot front sight on the gong and let the shots go. Double-taps were tremendously effective, what with the nonexistent recoil of the rimfire round. Not having to deal with a lot of recoil and muzzle jump makes concentrating on trigger squeeze and sight placement a lot easier. I know that this type of shooting is important for training purposes and should be taken seriously, but you have to admit, shooting rapidly on a reactive target is a lot of fun, too.
I think the new M&P22 makes a lot of sense for anyone who shoots a centerfire M&P pistol for duty or for personal protection. It’s been said that for an action to become instinctive to a human being, the action must be performed at least 3,000 times. Considering that the cost of the cheapest .22 LR ammo at my local Wal-Mart is 3.6 cents a round and the cheapest 9mm ammo goes for 20 cents per round, the cost savings of firing 3,000 training shots of .22 LR as opposed to 9mm is $492. And with that in mind, the M&P22 looks pretty good.