We’ve all had the experience of a teacher so deadly dull, so drearily boring, that the mere thought of attending the scheduled class produces a glazed, listless demeanor. (The wonder isn’t that kids are so bored, the wonder is that they don’t simply set fire to the schoolhouse as a release from boredom.)
But the lucky ones among us have had a teacher who made a subject come so alive that we simply had to know more, learn more and spend our own time devouring books on the subject. (Thank you, Dr. Crist.)
Well, if you want those you introduce to shooting to carry on and keep shooting, you have to make it fun. Do not use a Marine DI or Primary Marksmanship Instructor as your model.
Becoming a professional in any field brings with it the risk of getting burned out, bored, jaded. I recently attended an industry gathering where we spent each morning getting briefed on new firearms products and the afternoon shooting those products.
Anyone in business can tell you the remarkable similarities between Power Point presentations and grade school. At this event, one of the presenters was giving us the rundown on his company and its products. He was so engaging and entertaining that my boss’ boss leaned over to me and remarked, “Whatever is in his coffee, I want some.”
Later at the event, Smith & Wesson showed us the latest iteration of its M&P 15-22P. Now, for those who have not been paying attention, the M&P 15-22P is a .22LR version of an AR-15.
Made mostly of polymer, it’s reliable, inexpensive and about as addictive as a firearm can be. Well, the latest version, the one S&W had for us to shoot, is a handgun. Yep, no stock (and no way to attach one, either), a six-inch barrel and the rest of it still
resembling the middle section of an AR. On top iron sights, out front a flash-hider, underneath a 30-round magazine.
Now, I’ve always been pretty cool toward the “AR as a pistol” trend, as I typically find them clumsy, lacking in accuracy (at least the usable kind) and, especially in the .223 variants, not very reliable.
So it was not with any great enthusiasm that I stepped up to the firing line and tried my hand at shooting one. The internal monologue went something like this:
Hmm, a grip I can hold on to. OK, the front hand takes some work to find a location that works, but I can figure this out. Nice trigger. Seems to hit a bit high. Oh, that’s where it is hitting, OK. Man, those plates go down easy. What, I’m out of ammo? Wait, there are more loaded magazines right here on the bench!
By the end of the second magazine I was hammering down biathlon 25-meter plates at warp speed. The sights weren’t on for the 50-meter plates, so I left them alone. I just concentrated on the 25-meter ones and let the range assistants keep loading magazines for me. Once I’d gotten to the bottom of a 500-round carton of ammo, I figured I’d best leave some for the other shooters.
That’s when I realized that I’d been having fun. Now, the S&W M&P 15-22P is not your classic plinker, the one all us old farts learned to shoot with and dreamed of owning one day. That’s all right, because modern aesthetics are pointed more toward the 15-22P anyway and less toward a Colt Woodsman. Don’t let that divert you, as the 15-22P has everything you do need reliable function, plenty of accuracy (the plates I was pounding down are four inches across, which is not an easy target to reliably hit at speed), low ammo cost and lots of capacity (30 rounds if you live in a Free State). It’s got a reliable magazine, one that locks the action open when it’s empty. Otherwise it is like any other, holding 10 rounds—still enough to have fun.
With rails on it, the M&P 15-22P allows bolting on lights, lasers, a red dot sight, all the tacti-cool accessories that anyone could ever want.
I have to circle back to this, because it is important It was fun to shoot. Would it be suitable for squirrel hunting? Perhaps, although even the squirrels will give you odd looks just before you pop them. Is it a suitable defensive sidearm? Again, no. But, if it were all I had and I’d practiced with it for thousands of rounds (likely, considering how fun it is), I’d probably be a real handful for whomever was coming for me.
It is simply a fun gun to shoot, and let’s get serious here. Despite hunting being popular, my bet would be that for every rimfire round fired at a squirrel or cottontail, a brick has been fired while plinking. The ammo companies make more than a billion rounds of .22LR each and every year. If even an appreciable fraction of those were fired in the game fields, small game would be extinct.
The S&W M&P 15-22P, being made of (to bring a phrase out of the distant past) space-age plastic, will not be the least bit less functional for getting scratched, banged around in the trunk of the car and occasionally dropped.
I know, I know, we all want our kids and grandkids to have the same feelings toward a “real” gun, a blued steel and walnut plinker that is a close copy of a real target gun. But what your kids or grandkids will find appealing will most likely not be what you find aesthetically pleasing. Your Eisenhower-era Woodsman, High Standard or other “real” .22 pistol will be passed over for the sexier (by today’s standards) M&P 15-22P.
But that really doesn’t matter, as long as they are having fun, learning safety and developing shooting skills. The key word here is fun. And the S&W M&P 15-22P provided the most I’ve had in a long time.