December 07, 2015
Guns & Ammo was invited to the Smith & Wesson Academy in 2014 for an undisclosed-product launch, an event that was shrouded in secrecy. S&W gave us nary a hint as to what would be revealed. Once we arrived, though, the M&P 22 Compact was unveiled.
On arrival to its facility in Springfield, Mass., we were given the once-over of the company's updated M&P Bodyguard line featuring integrated lasers from Crimson Trace Corp. These are fairly impressive guns in their own right.
Before the reveal, it was difficult for us to come up with anything other than a revised M&P 9 or .40 or perhaps some refinements to the ultra-popular Shield, but that wouldn't constitute "new" or be worthy of such clandestine behavior. Maybe it would be a new iteration of the M&P 15, I thought to myself. I mean, S&W's got just about every base covered, right?
During a plant tour, we eventually happened upon the area where the new product was being built, the Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact. You may already be thinking: Don't they already have a M&P 22 pistol? Well, yes, but this one is distinctly different in several ways.
The M&P 22 Compact is 87 1/2 percent to scale of the regular M&P pistol. S&W got the size of this .22 just right. At the risk of this being edited out or furrowing the brows of some S&W engineers and marketing execs, I dare say this pistol size would be difficult to beat for a carry gun chambered in 9mm. This is in no way meant to steal the thunder from the 22 Compact but instead to stress immediately that I find something resembling perfection in the 22 Compact's design. You'll see it, too, when you pick one up for the first time.
Second, the M&P 22 Compact is entirely American made at the factory in Springfield, Massachusetts. The regular M&P 22 is made in Germany by Walther. Third, and very important, S&W has placed new emphasis on the M&P line of products, stressing its commitment to engineering and manufacturing this series to higher professional standards. That means that you and I get better-performing, more reliable products. The M&P22 Compact is included in this new directive, and S&W's efforts were not wasted on this pistol.
This M&P 22 Compact weighs 15.3 ounces and is extremely well balanced. It fits like it was tailor-made for my mitts. I'm hard pressed to think of any pistol that feels this good, including Smith & Wesson's very own Shield. The slide is 7075 T651 aluminum and coated with a black, hard-anodizing finish. The slide is cut on top, near the rear of the barrel hood, making for a loaded-chamber indicator, although I find that it's tough to see a chambered round through it.
When the standard-size M&P series was developed, S&W opted for an 18-degree grip angle on their polymer frames. Through its research, this is the angle it deemed ideal for accurate, more natural aiming and shooting. If you've had a chance to shoot a standard-size M&P, you know how well this works. I've heard many new shooters express how much better they shoot an M&P as compared with other semiautos. The M&P 22 Compact has the same 18-degree grip angle and pointability attributes of its siblings.
Smith & Wesson gave the M&P 22 Compact a 3.56-inch carbon-steel barrel that is fixed within the frame. It is also threaded should you want to attach a suppressor for some quieter shooting. Threads are 3„8x24, thus you will need a 1„2x28 adapter supplied from the suppressor company of your choice. It's a single-action, straight blowback type, set into motion by the dropping of an internal hammer. The trigger has the same feel of the standard M&P line, with a light initial takeup just before it stiffens up prior to breaking. I found it neither good nor bad. It feels pretty much like an M&P does.
Several safeties are onboard the M&P 22 Compact, including the ambidextrous manual thumb safety, trigger safety and magazine safety, so it can't be fired without a mag. The manual safety is a great place to rest your strong-hand thumb, and you'll be less likely to induce a malfunction. There is also an internal lock-out safety.
The frame is high-strength polymer, and, just like other M&Ps, the 22 Compact has a reversible ambi mag release and a rail section out front for lasers and other accessories. Sights are the traditional three-white-dot style, adjustable for both windage and elevation. The front sight and main rear-sight notch are of polymer construction. The rear notch is protected by a metal housing. The elevation adjustment screw is metal as well.
I wondered if the front sight might get dinged up a bit with hard usage. Time will tell. I should note that Smith & Wesson now owns the polymer/plastic injections company that has always produced its polymer parts, so it now controls all processes involved in the manufacturing of the M&P product line.
The internals are composed of a captured recoil spring and guide rod, keeping things tidy on the inside. The hammer/fire-control group is housed in the frame's rear section. It's fairly straightforward and simple to clean. The gun is fed from a quality 10-round metal magazine. All parts, polymer or not, possess a quality look and feel; nothing comes across as questionable or chintzy, which can easily happen with .22s.
The M&P 22 Compact was developed to compete with other similar-size .22s but with a more tactical focus as opposed to being for plinking. That's not to say that Smith & Wesson has marketed this as a carry piece because it has not. Instead, the 22 Compact goes back to its focus on the M&P line being made to higher standards. The Compact is touted as more of a serious training pistol because of its claimed superior reliability, which is one word I've never equated with .22 pistols, especially ones that are simply a smaller version of a full-size product.
When developing the M&P 22 Compact, S&W made function and reliability paramount. The result of its efforts, as claimed by Smith & Wesson, is a gun with a mean round-between-failure count of 500 rounds. This number is not arbitrary, and I can't go into the proprietary information that was given to us. Just be conscious of S&W's commitment to making a .22LR pistol that will run longer and stronger across a broader variety of ammunition — the bane of .22 auto pistols.
I was on a mission to find out if this was a reality or just marketing hype. I didn't want to straight thrash a new gun right out of the box; that was not my intent. I only wanted to verify how accurate S&W's statements were.
Accuracy was tested from 10 yards. Storms were headed through the area, so I kept the accuracy session as efficient as possible. I was less concerned with the groups the M&P 22 Compact would produce than I was with how frequently I might have to clear malfunctions. Because of this, I recorded every single round fired from the gun during this test. Federal Champion .22LR HP, Remington 22 Golden Bullet HP, CCI subsonic HP and Gemtech silencer subsonic .22LR were shot for accuracy.
Top honors went to the Federal, shooting 1.34 inches. The Remington Golden Bullet shot 1.37 inches, followed by the CCI subsonic at 1.69 inches and 1.83 inches from the Gemtech subsonic. It might be worth noting that the group sizes correlated directly with the velocities from fastest to slowest. With more patience and concentration, I believe the groups could be even better.
After accuracy testing, I set out to call Smith & Wesson's bluff — 500 rounds or bust. During the first 110 rounds of initial testing, all was good. With only two magazines on hand (I asked for more, but the gun was so new, S&W didn't have any more), I got to work. Not only did I shoot the brands of ammo that I used for accuracy testing, I even pulled out some fairly old hollowpoints from Winchester and some equally old stuff from Remington. My guess is that this ammo was roughly eight years old; I found it in an old box in the basement.
I shot high-velocity and subsonic mixed in the same magazines, sometimes staggered, shooting one-handed, strong and support side, sometimes limp-wristing it a bit. I shot in rapid succession and slowly. Strong rains rolled through, and from beneath a metal shelter, I continued to load magazines and set bullets free into my Grizzly steel target from 20 yards. The M&P 22 Compact kept chugging and chugging, showing no signs of giving in. I had set my mind on the magic "500," and that's where I had planned to stop as long as the gun didn't quit first.
The 500-round mark came. The gun was hot. The gun was dirty. The gun was even wet. The gun was without a malfunction. I grew bored of loading the mags but refused to be beaten. I pushed on, loading another magazine, then another. It wasn't until after round number 530 that I experienced my first malfunction, a failure to extract.
I wasn't completely sure that my grip didn't interfere with the gun's cycling. I was both disappointed and relieved. I'd secretly hoped I'd be reporting that at 650 rounds my M&P 22 Compact was still dirty and without failure. Although that was not the case this time, it's safe to say that Smith & Wesson got it right with the M&P 22 Compact. It worked as claimed.
S&W has a legitimate winner. The M&P 22 Compact is of good quality and works as advertised. I have only one small gripe with it. It ejects cases straight to the right at roughly the same velocity of the bullets leaving the muzzle. Spent cases would fly no less than 18 feet in a flat trajectory. Just be aware of this should you be standing next to someone shooting one, and make sure you are wearing the appropriate eye protection.
Looking for a serious .22LR pistol? The S&W M&P 22 Compact is about as serious as they get. Suggested retail price is $389. The price we'll actually see on the shelves should be much less, meaning everyone can benefit from range time with this high-quality rimfire.
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