Have a plain Jane plinker you are lookin to trick out? This budget-friendly firearm closely resembles an AR-15 and can use its parts and accessories. With upgrades, we can transform the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 into a remarkable masterpiece. Its .22LR caliber also makes it cheaper to shoot. So grab your toolset, fasten your shooting glasses, and let’s turn your M&P15-22 into a force to be reckoned with!
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What’s The Point of a 22 AR?
The whole point of 22LR AR pattern guns and 22 conversions can be debated endlessly. Yes, it can be solely for looks and fun but mainly to any AR15 enthusiast or beginner, it can be a great training tool. All the controls and manual of arms are easily transferable to bigger and better cartridges.
If you are curious about AR15 22 conversions check out our Youtube channel!
The low cost of rimfire rounds makes high-volume shooting much more affordable. You can get the trigger time you need, without the heartache of running through a case of 5.56.
As a trainer, the M&P 15-22 provides a decent way to work on the basics. The sound isn’t going to translate to a one-to-one experience, and the recoil will be off, but the M&P 15-22 provides a great way to work on controls, mag drops, basic drills, and transitions…. It really is endless.
The M&P 15-22 can be a solid plinker, too. That doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. The M&P 15-22, like just about every other AR-pattern rifle, comes from the factory with a generalized end-user in mind.
The suggestions for M&P15-22 upgrades might differ if you are looking to use it for training, as you’ll want to get the set-up as close to your other AR as possible. But for plinking, there’s no end to the adaptations the 15-22 can support.
Typically when we talk about modifying factory guns, it is stuff on the outside. Regardless if it is outside or inside we should all acknowledge that making any major changes may result in the warranty becoming void.
The internal parts such as the fire control group are mil-spec and can be swapped using normal AR15 parts. If you are serious about a performance upgrade, consider nickel-boron coatings for moving parts. You won’t be disappointed when it comes time to clean up this, or any, rimfire.
As far as changing out the M&P15-22 handguard for another it is possible but not advisable to do it on your own. As a gunsmith myself I have done this and honestly it’s an easy thing to mess up. Special tools are needed and in some cases, irreversible modification of your firearm may occur. Companies such as Tacticool22 have products and instructions on the matter. We do not suggest you do any such modification without first consulting a competent gunsmith.
Triggers for the M&P 15-22
Again, look to your AR. The M&P 15-22 typically sells for just under $500. Some match-grade triggers cost more than that. Is it absurd to put a highly-functional trigger in a low-cost rifle like this? Hardly.
If you want something reliably easy to use, install, and maintain, check out the AT3 Tactical 2 Stage Trigger.
If you train on an AR with a rock-star trigger, that’s where you need to go here, too. Consider the Elftmann Tactical 3 Gun Trigger. This is a workhorse.
M&P 15-22 Barrel Upgrades
You won’t be able to change out the barrel–there simply aren’t as many choices for .22 LR barrels–though you should be able to match barrel length easily enough with most standard carbines, as the M&P 15-22 has a carbine-length barrel.
Muzzle devices for the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 can be a wide variety. This is because any old .223/5.56 muzzle device will work with 22LR since they are all 22 caliber. If you like the cool old-school retro feel, we suggest a three-prong style flash hider.
Blast diverters and flash cans are popular additions to any AR platform since they offer a unique look and feel to a load out. If a blast diverter like the one below isn’t your style check out the KAK Flash Can for a more slim and minimalist look.
For a no-frills approach, the stock A2 Birdcage Flash Hider can be removed and a thread protector put in its place.
Important Note: You may have noticed the lack of muzzle brake or compensator recommendations. Although we totally agree that they would suit any AR build very well, they come with some potential issues. The Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 is a straight blowback-operated firearm so it relies on factory-engineered gas pressures. A muzzle brake or compensator may vent off too much gas and cause feeding and reliability issues.
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 Uppers
Since suppressors are becoming more and more mainstream it should be mentioned that if you own a 22-caliber rimfire-capable suppressor it can be put on the threaded end of the barrel. Alternatively, Gemtech (owned by Smith & Wesson) sells integrally suppressed upper receivers.
M&P15-22 Stock Upgrade
The Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 doesn’t use any parts of a typical AR15 buffer system besides the mil-spec tube geometry itself. The good thing about this is that means you can use just about any old AR15 stock. If you have any concerns about installing a new stock check out the FREE Army Service Manual.
If you are curious about what type of stock or buffer tube you have check out our article on mil-spec vs commercial tubes!
The M-LOK slots on the factory forend make it easier to achieve most accessory goals. Look at the M-LOK accessories you have on your current AR. Match the slot position for foregrips or lights, and you should be able to train without reasonable cross-over skills that will still work to establish solid muscle memory.
For some extra grip, there are dozens of handguard panels that interface with MLOK slots.
If this is to be used as a training tool and better yet it is to train for a home defense load out, a flashlight is a must! Streamlight ranks amongst some of the best as far as mounted weapon lights are concerned. The Streamlight TLR RM2 is a very popular option!
A sling is essential to any serious use rifle setup. All of that starts with a spot for the sling to attach. MLOK QD points are arguably the most popular option given their effortless setup and operation. Other options exist that include a more traditional style hook and loop system.
We love the Magpul MS4 since it is sort of a hybrid sling. It can be a single-point sling or even a two-point. For fixed two-point slings the Blue Force Gear Vickers 2 slings are great and even come in camo patterns!
M&P 15-22 Angled Grips
M&P 15-22 Vertical Grips
For a vertical grip in the truest sense, look at the BCM Gunfighter Vertical Grip. These are not so long that they will catch on to everything, but offer a more adaptive post for those who want a hand on a handle.
Optics for the M&P 15-22
When working with a rimfire, like the M&P 15-22, an optic is going to win out over irons for cross-caliber training purposes. Iron sights are great, and a must-have backup on either a .22 LR or a 5.56, but bullet drop and performance with these two calibers are so dramatically different. An optic will allow you more flexibility.
But let’s begin with the irons. If you are looking for angled iron sights as a backup, check out the AT3 45 Degree AR 15 Offset Iron Sights – Rapid Transition BUIS.
If you are more inclined to traditional irons on your AR-platform rifles but you want to upgrade from the Magpul MBUS Gen 2, the Magpul MBUS Gen 3 is an improved buttonless design that relies on heavy spring tension and tough polymer, but it can take a beating. Sights like these are a good choice for a rimfire and a perfectly logical choice for any AR.
Red dots, though, will add speed to just about any gun. The low magnification makes them ideal for AR platform rifles that are purpose-built for close quarters, and perfect for rounds with restricted range–like the .22 LR at the heart of the 15-22.
The ALPHA from AT3 would be the next step up in size. This design is still compact, but it has a slightly larger footprint, and is far more rugged, with extended battery life thanks to Shake Awake technology. It also includes a riser right out of the box.
Or let’s combine the two concepts. The AT3 3XP provides a bit more magnification, which can slow down target selection, but having a red dot up top puts you on target fast, and faster at close range.
While Smith’s proprietary elements keep this from being as easily adapted as some more traditional ARs, the M&P15-22 still allows some room for creative expression. With just a bit of work, you can set it up to be exactly what you need and a great compliment to a more powerful rifle.
FAQs – M&P15-22 upgrades
The base model Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 is not discontinued as of the publication of this article. Certain SKUs and variations however have been discontinued.
Rimfire rifles as is are “quieter” than their bigger siblings but are by no means hearing safe. Always wear hearing protection when working with firearms.
It is possible but not advisable to do it on your own. Special tools are needed and in some cases, irreversible modification of your firearm may occur. Companies such as Tacticool22 have products and instructions on the matter. We do not suggest you do any such modification without first consulting a competent gunsmith.
They are as accurate as most semi-automatic 22 rifles. You can expect decent accuracy at 100 yards with the right optic. Further distances will yield poorer and poorer results.
Optics can be mounted to the M&P15-22’s Picatinny rail. Accessories can be mounted to its handguard which has plenty of MLOK slots.
One Last Tip
If there’s anyone that knows the AR-15 platform, it’s the US military. As a special offer for our readers, you can get the Official US Army Manual for AR-15/M4/M16 right now – for free. Click here to snag a copy.