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AT3’s Guide to Upgrading Your Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22

Smith & Wesson is one of the most iconic firearms manufacturers on the planet. After more than a century of active production, the company knows its way around firearms and innovation–and the M&P 15-22 is a good example. This is the epitome of the reliable rimfire AR platform rifles available today.

The S & W M&P 15-22. A versatile tool in its own right, and a great training gun.

That doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. The M&P 12-22, like just about every other AR-pattern rifle, comes from the factory with a generalized end-user in mind. The set-up is simple, effective, and designed as a working platform that can be built onto to make a more-perfect rimfire.

What is it good for?

For most of us, the M&P 15-22 is a training gun. 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, transitions…. It really is endless.

The M&P 15-22 can be a solid plinker, too. The suggestions below for setting up this gun 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.

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Setting up the simulacrum

Typically when we talk about modifying factory guns, we aren’t concerned with making them look or run exactly like another gun in a similar caliber. There’s simply no need. But for this exercise–for any rimfire training–you will be well-served by making the training gun as close to the larger-caliber rifle as is possible.

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.

And you won’t be able to make changes inside the action, either. 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.

Triggers for the M&P 15-22

Again, look to your AR. The M&P 15-22 typically sells for just under $400. 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.

Elftmann Tactical 3 Gun Trigger - AT3 Tactical
Want enhanced performance from any AR platform rifle? Elftmann.

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.

AT3™ 2-Stage Lower Parts Kit with 1005 Tactical Nickel Boron Trigger - No Grip or Trigger Guard
The AT3 Tactical 2 Stage Trigger is nickel boron coated and a great addition to a rimfire, especially.

If you want something reliably easy to use, install, and maintain, check out the AT3 Tactical 2 Stage Trigger.

Forends for the M&P 15-22

The M&P 15-22’s forend has a proprietary connection. There are some smaller companies that specialize in adapters for these forends that will allow you to get all the way down in to the end with a wrench to begin the swap, and then adapters that convert Smith’s proprietary design to one that takes almost any free-float forends.

A simple QD sling mount will make carrying and training with a two-point sling much easier.

The M-LOK slots on the factory forend, though, may get you close enough to what you want. Look to 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.

Vertical Grips for the M&P 15-22

When it comes to M-LOK grips, Magpul is still the king.

The AFG is a nice way to add some index points on an AR forend and they can accommodate a wide variety of grip styles.

The Magpul M-LOK AFG Angled Foregrip is a logical choice, and one that works on both pistol and rifle builds.

BCM Gunfighter Vertical Grip-Mod 3 - MLOK
Short, easy to connect, and even easier to use–the BCM Gunfighter vertical grips are a solid addition.

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 back-up 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.

See the world from a different angle, and one that will allow you to pick up close targets–even when running high-powered optics.

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.

Magpul MBUS in the polymer form.
Magpul MBUS in the polymer form.

If you are more inclined to traditional irons on your AR-platform rifles, take a look at the Magpul MBUS Front And Rear Back-Up Sight Kit – Gen 2. Adding steel sights is always a good option, but it adds weight to a rifle. The Magpul MBUS design relies heavily on 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.

For a compact red dot, consider the AT3 ARO. This is a low-profile design that can mount on handguns or rifles, and works well with both rimfire training and plinking.

Red dot sights have become incredibly compact. This AT3 ARO is ideal for handguns.
Red dot sights have become incredibly compact. This AT3 ARO is ideal for your Smith & Wesson M&P15-22.
The RD 50 from AT3 would be the next step up in size. This design is still small but it has a slightly larger footprint. On a riser, this (or the AT3 ARO for that matter) will be right in your line of sight, making target acquisition both intuitive and reflexively fast.
AT3 RD-50 PRO Red Dot Sight
How high should your red dot be off the top of the gun? For AR-15s, you will want a riser. This RD-50 comes with a riser and armor to protect the unit.

Or 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.

AT3™ 3XP + ARO Combo - Includes 3x Prism Scope & Micro Red Dot Reflex Sight
A red dot on a red dot? Sure–if you want a magnified red dot for medium range work and a non-magnified red dot for faster target acquisition. Here it is an AT3™ 3XP + ARO Combo – a 3x Prism Scope & Micro Red Dot Reflex Sight.


While Smith’s proprietary elements keep this from being as easily adapted as some more traditional ARs, the 15-22 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.

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.

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