S&W M&P .22 Pistol
When I first started shooting, it was very common to have an “understudy” automatic or revolver chambered in .22 Long Rifle with which to practice more inexpensively than with the centerfire service pistol.
Those who liked the 1911 often had a Colt .22 conversion unit to allow .22 Long Rifle (LR) to be fired in their .45 pistols.
For those who used S&W K-frame revolvers, the Model 18 .22 Long Rifle Combat Masterpiece could be used in place of the Model 19 or Model 15, and the .22-caliber Colt Officers Model Match could be used to train for shooting the Python or Trooper. I used a Colt Official Police for a couple of years and always wanted one of the .22 Long Rifle versions, but never managed to find one.
A few years ago, I did get a much used SIG P-210-7 .22 Long Rifle pistol for a price that was a steal at an auction. I probably shoot it more than any .22 handgun I own.
When most of us switched from revolvers to autos as combat handguns, we didn’t have a .22 Long Rifle version unless we shot the 1911. Cheap 9mm surplus ammunition was available for many years, so it wasn’t an issue. In fact, a friend of mine always had a second example of the pistol he carried which he used to shoot cheap corrosive surplus ammo for practice.
NOW IN .22 LR
Fortunately, however, makers of some of the most popular duty handguns are now offering versions in .22 Long Rifle. I have a SIG P-226 .22 and a P-229 .22, both of which I shoot a lot and I recently received an S&W M&P .22 pistol for evaluation. For purposes of training, the .22 M&P will duplicate the operation of the centerfire version quite well. But internally, there is a major difference. Instead of being striker fired as is the centerfire M&P, the .22 version uses a hammer to insure more reliable ignition.
Walther—Smith & Wesson’s partner in Germany—is manufacturing the M&P .22. This offers one explanation for the incorporation of the thumb safety on the pistol, as it makes importation easier. However, I should note that, although my 9mm M&P does not have a thumb safety, I ordered my .45 M&P with the thumb safety.
I like the idea of a proprietary aspect to pistols, so that anyone gaining control of them cannot just point and fire them. Many law enforcement agencies have ordered their M&Ps with the thumb safety. Incorporation of the thumb safety allows the M&P .22 to be used for training either with or without the thumb safety, since it can be ignored if one wishes. Both the thumb safety and slide release are ambidextrous.
INCLUSIONS AND OMISSIONS
One feature present on my 9mm and .45 M&Ps and that I miss on the .22 is the interchangeable backstraps. I usually switch to the smallest, which feels best to me, but the .22 M&P is one size fits all using a medium backstrap. Magazines for the M&P .22 are offered with either 10- or 12-round capacity. Since I live in a state which trusts its citizens, I ordered mine with the 12-round magazine. I would prefer if the magazine held the same number of rounds as a centerfire M&P, but I understand that making a double stack .22 Long Rifle magazine is problematic. I’ll take reliability over exact cartridge count match. I would, however, have preferred if the pistol came with at least one spare magazine.
The slide is of aluminum alloy to allow reliable functioning with the lighter recoiling .22 LR cartridge. I like the inclusion of the accessory rail because it allows the M&P .22 to be used for lowlight tactical training. I also like the fact that the rear sight may be adjusted to get the pistol zeroed. If one is going to have a practice pistol, it should be able to shoot to point of aim.
Another good feature is that the weight of the M&P .22 is 24 ounces, the same as the M&P 9mm or M&P .40. However, there is an obvious weight differential when shooting loaded pistols, as a magazine of 9mm or .40 weighs quite a bit more than a magazine of .22 LR.
RELIABILITY, DISASSEMBLY AND TEST FIRING
One of the most important aspects of the M&P .22 pistol is that it works reliably. The SIG .22 P-226 and P-229 do as well, but I have had conversions that do not. For example, I purchased one of the Argentine .22 conversion units for the Browning Hi- Power and have not been able to get it to work properly. No worries with the M&P .22 pistol. I put 150 rounds through it without cleaning the first time I took it out, then cleaned it and put another 100 through it. I had no malfunctions using CCI .22 Blazer.
Disassembly for cleaning is quite straightforward. To remove the slide, a captive disassembly lever is rotated downward and pulled out until it stops. The barrel remains attached to the frame.
I did some shooting from the leather with a very nice holster I’ve been trying from a new holster maker named Cerisse Wilson at Soteria Leather.
At one point I alternated drawing and firing my 9mm M&P at plates with my .22 M&P. I did notice the weight difference, but not dramatically. Accuracy with the M&P .22 was pretty good. A five-shot 25-yard group of around three inches was the norm with the Blazer ammunition I was using. Trigger pull on the M&P .22 doesn’t feel quite like that of the M&P 9. I assume this isthe difference in being hammer-fired versus striker-fired. It isn’t all that different, however.
I see two major niches for the S&W M&P .22 pistol. It makes a good understudy pistol for training for combat use of the centerfire M&P. It is also a fun shooting pistol that offers the features of a combat autoloader rather than a plinker. I intend to use mine for both.
To be honest, I rarely carry my M&P 9mm or .45 pistol these days, but I still shoot them. Having the M&P .22 allows me to practice with a pistol that duplicates them to a large extent. I’ve also added it to my rotation of .22 handguns, one of which I take shooting every time I go out.
The advantage of a good .22 pistol that functions reliably is that it pays for itself in ammo savings if one shoots fairly often. It is also useful for training new shooters. A friend of mine who teaches concealed carry classes here in St. Louis is using the M&P .22 for the auto pistol training portion of his classes. I like the M&P .22 in itself and I like the trend toward offering training versions of popular duty handguns.