Smith & Wesson’s Budget AR-15, the M&P Sport

Smith and wesson m&p 15 receiver

The new S&W M&P Sport is the rarest of items—an affordable AR-15 rifle with excellent reliability and overall performance.

The M&P 15 Sport is an entry-level AR-15. However, in this case, the rifle features a proven, quality lockwork and first-class features. The package is basic—a black rifle with a single Magpul 30-round magazine. There is no quad rail, but it does come with a modified GI-style handguard. If you wish, the flat top receiver offers a place to park an optical sight. The rails are marked for easy repeatability if you remove and wish to remount the sight.

If you look further, you find a rifle with a properly staked carrier key riding with the bolt assembly. Most AR-15s and other parts-guns do not have a properly staked carrier key. The rifle does not have a forward assist lever or dust cover. With modern loads, the forward assist may be redundant; there is little that cannot be done by racking the bolt with the cocking handle. The barrel is of good steel and coated with Melonite. I have used several Smith & Wesson pistols with this coating and have no complaints.

Both the bolt carrier and carrier key mentioned earlier are chrome plated. The barrel is stamped one turn in nine inches, ideal for most .223-caliber projectiles. The rifle is a flat-top design. The rear sight is a modern aperture that folds down and pops back up with ease. The front sight is the standard AR-15 adjustable post.

The forward handguard is an improvement on the GI type. It works fine for most shooting styles. I found the stock does not limit challenging firing sessions and hitting the target quickly. The rear stock is the modern AR-15 adjustable type. It works as well as any other. This is no base rifle and it is not primitive-grade. It is simply a quality rifle of a proven type with fewer features.

I have a tenacious memory for test subjects and the S&W AR-15 performed as well as any I have tested in the reliability department. I react to a badly performing rifle in the same manner I react to a bad odor—I turn up my nose and avoid it. The M&P 15 Sport is a good performer with endurable furniture. I am familiar with the type and so were those that fired the rifle, so there was no profane fumbling. The rifle is a good example of the type of firearm that will protect your home and keep you from becoming among the silent harvests of the Grim Reaper.

I began the test-fire by adding a number of Magpul magazines to the single unit supplied. (They are downright cheap at the moment—perhaps you should stock up.) The rifle was lubricated well. The initial magazines were loaded with HPR 55-grain FMJ loads. I finished off several partial boxes of mixed loads from several makers without a glitch. I locked the bolt to the rear, inserted a loaded magazine, dropped the bolt, and began the test program. The rifle continued to fire well over 300 rounds without a single glitch.

Smith and Wesson M&P 15 stock
The M&P 15 Sport is all AR-15, with fast handling and rapid reloads.

The trigger is smooth and crisp, typical of factory trigger actions at about six pounds. The rifle handled well in short-range high-speed drills. The combination of a combat-size rear aperture and post front sight resulted in good hits from 25 to 50 yards on demand. The day was clear, but a high wind had sprung up. Just the same, the rifle never failed to connect when the sight picture was valid and the trigger properly stroked.

It doesn’t take long for a group of interested shooters to create a pile of brass with the AR-15 rifle. The rifle is light on the shoulder and pleasant to fire. This is America’s rifle, and the black rifle is associated with home and family, as well as with many pleasant range trips. This S&W will do the business.

I fired enough FMJ ammunition to qualify the rifle’s combat accuracy. I also fired a quantity of the HPR 75-grain loads. The function was excellent, as expected. I added the Hornady 60-grain TAP load to the mix. Function followed the same pattern. Firing from a solid-braced barricade at 50 yards, I was able to secure several two-inch, three-shot groups with the rifle. The loads used were the HPR 75-grain load, the Hornady 60-grain TAP and Hornady’s 55-grain FMJ training round. There was no provable difference in accuracy. The truth be told, this is as good as the author may manage an iron-sighted rifle at 50 yards. The rifle is clearly accurate enough for use against pests and varmints to 100 yards or more. With a quality optical sight, accuracy increases.

The S&W M&P 15 Sport makes the grade. This is a reliable and well-made rifle from one of the most respected makers. For personal defense, hunting and recreational use, the rifle has a lot of merit. The M&P Sport gets a clean bill of health.

What are your thoughts, opinions or experiences with the M&P Sport? Share them in the comment section.

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (45)

  1. Is thisM&P 15 a 5.56 .233 or is it just a .223? Reason I asked is my M&P is a 5.56/.223 but I use 5.56 I haven’t had a chance to shoot this so I am asking what is the best grain amo for this 5.56?

  2. Great reviews except trying to buy replacement parts. Must send rifle bad to S&W. Anyone have differing information?

  3. I purchased one of the sportsman from Gander Mountain in Greenfield IN a couple weeks ago. Just got it out yesterday to show my son. He immediately tried to pull back the bolt carrier group and it was jammed. I took it and took the pin out so I could break it down. Took a couple minutes until it finially broke down. I disassembled most o the gun and looked at it and it had been fired several times so I cleaned it and found the bolt carrier group was very tight to take apart. Looked more closely at it and it was also dirty so I cleaned that also and put it back together and still was very tight. They sold me a dirty , used gun that was jammed. Now I’ll have to put out another $100-150 for parts and hope it fixes the problem. THANKS GANDER MOUNTAIN! Roger Crail.

    1. Sir not to offend you but its kinda your responsibility to detail clean your rifle before you head out to the range or as soon as you get home.

    2. You didn’t notice that the gun had been used and was dirty? Did you raise the issue with the seller? What was their response?

  4. Ever hear of a burial tube? I’m in a position that makes me consider them as long as I live in CA. I thought that going 22 would make it so I could plink, not break any laws or have it cost me $3 a shot when using my vintage collection. Now, I find this is all wrong. Protect the valuable items and make the inexpensive plinking tools available in the safe in case they “knock” one day. Give up the cheap stuff. Also, consider staying OUT of your health care provider’s “convenient” on line medical management offering. Sure you can make appointments and manage your medicines but it is available to THEM as well. For instance, antidepressants are also used to treat ringing in the ears (a common issue with target shooters). If it comes to pass, THEY may show up on your doorstep wanting your possessions simply because your doctor prescribed a certain medication. Stay safe. Stay aware. Don

    1. Don,
      I feel sorry for you brother. If it was me, I’d be tying my best to get out of California. Job be damned.

  5. Why does everyone call this rifle an M&P 15 SPORT ?Iam building one now. Bought a lower M&P 15 an it doesnt say sport anywhere on my lower. I am building what they call a ak-15 it is 7.62+39 any comments on how to build it so no screwups ? need relayablity. Any help would be welcome . Thank you.

    1. its a sport due to sites and forward assist. ar makes different guns with minor changes so they give it a different name. hope it helps bud and goog luck on your build 🙂

  6. How many parts of this rifle do you think Smith & Wesson actually makes in their own factory? Definitely not the lower or upper receiver. Most likely not the bolt carrier group either. Probably not even the barrel, at least not totally anyway. How about the trigger group or any other small part? Thats going to be a no on that one too. I always heard that S&W AR’s were actually made by Stag Arms. I definitely would like to find out for sure though.

    1. This isn’t limited to S&W – most AR manufacturers do NOT make the majority of the parts in-house. The major AR parts are all standardized and meant to be interchangeable, and so the economic effects of specialization and larger-scale manufacturing result in more consistency and lower costs for a given part.

      It’s a win for the gun makers and also a win for the purchaser.

  7. Great news for me here in CA! I was shopping at Walmart last night. I always go by the ammo counter first, just to make sure that “Yes, they have no 22 ammo.” Having switched my plinker to a 9mm M1 carbine (cheap bullets, easily available), I bought a box of 100 9mm for 19 bucks. To my amazement, they had 22 ammo! For the first time in a YEAR, at 8pm at night, they could sell me a max of 3 100 round boxes of 22 for my Stg 44 22 cal replica rifle! I walked around the store, telling every “like minded” individual I could find and soon they were lined up to take it all away. Feels great to help fellow shooters. They were OUT of 223 rounds for your AR and my Mini 14, though, a backlash on the threat to “ban” those bullets as “armor piercing”. Scary. You want a real Scare? Look at the pistols dropped from CA’s “list”.

    1. Don, I lived in California for a short while after getting out of the army. There isn’t enough money in the USA to get me to ever live there, or NY, MD, CT or CO.

      Move, Brother, before they come kicking your door down some night to confiscate your 9mm.

    2. Hey don’t be lumping CO in with all those nutjob states. We can walk down the street with a firearm strapped to our hips. Open carry dude! We may home some liberal pukes but we’re not like those other stupid states you mentioned!

  8. My daily carry side arm is a S&W .40 Sigma with 14+1. When I bought my first AR-15, a couple months ago, I went with the S&W AR-15 in the article. due to the great reviews on line. I have not been disappointed. Really like the rifle. I added a Bushnel electronic sight. It was right on the mark at 100 yards. Very happy with the rifle and sight. I highly recommend this fire arm.

  9. Oh well Brandon as long as you get what you want it doesn’t really matter how much you spend. If I had my way I’d own an AR10 and a .50 cal.

  10. Its wonderful you are able to own such a modern, fun rifle. Here in CA, I figured that a person with one of “those” would be on the same “list” as someone with an AK. 20 years ago, I could see these laws in CA on the way. I filled my safes with everything I figured I would need and am satisfied. I had to substitute with a Mini 14 and my bread and butter is grandfathered “stuff”. Now its a scramble for ammo. Very little gun sales at shows. The line is for the ammo in CA. Congratulations on finally dialing in your AR. I really liked mine 40 years ago. Fast handling, light and a straight shooter.

  11. Brandon, when you factor the cost of all the upgrades would it not be better to just buy a more expensive AR that already has the upgrades? You’ve changed the ecconomical M & P 15 Sport that it’s not actually the same AR anymore.

    1. perhaps,part of the fun for me is creating exactly what I wanted,not what some guy n a suit wants me to have. no dout ive spent a lot,however its exactly what I wanted…….PS,single dude,no kids,gota spend my money on something

  12. I like to share with everyone that i own an M&P15T 5.56 . Great rifle to shoot however after about 500 to 650 rounds or so barrel nut came loose. I’m really disappointed with the workmanship Smith &Wesson done on my rifle in relation to the barrel nut assembly

  13. love mine!!! put new buffer,bcm bolt carrier Mickulac comp,leo mark AR mod 1,troy Bravo,n most importantly a giesslie SSD trigger n out shoots both my Buddys DPMS and Rock River(both costing more than twice as much).,n their hands mine u. sublime tool,n was able too build as I so much my next toy will be its .308 big brother.

    1. Brandon, If you “love” it, why did you feel it necessary to make so many modifications?

    2. cause I don’t have kids n can afford. also to me to make a masterpiece u must start wt a blank canvas,n the sport n my eyes fits the bill perfectly.

  14. First to Do Shively about the citadel gotta check out the just right carbine.I have it chambered in 9mm because i have a glock17 and the Jr carbine uses glock came with a 33rd glock mag and it is really accurate,reasonably priced,has a collapsible stock and quad rail and you can buy conversion kits in .40 &45 complete and ready to go in minutes for around $250.also the carbine can be changed in few minutes very easily for left or right handed.check it out you won’t be disappointed.S&W m&p 15 sport.all around excellent weapon.highly recommend it.low price,eats up any type ammo and endless customization possible. If you don’t have it then get one

  15. I’ve owned and built AR’s from stripped lowers for over 25 years now. I own higher level AR’s and this M&P sport is a great rifle. Your getting a good quality AR for a good price. I bought mine for $569 (new). That’s a good deal for a AR that’s reliable, dependable and a great shooter. I bought a carry case, 4 more Magpul P30 Gen 2 mags and a Red Dot scope. It’s all set up and ready incase of a SHTF situation. I wouldn’t think twice that this rifle wouldn’t be reliable enough to protect me and defend my property. I recommended the M&P 15 Sport to my dad and friend, they went out and bought one for themselves. They trust my opinion and judgment Great AR w/ no complaints. Highly recommend it.

  16. I’ve owned and built AR’s from striped lowers for over 25 years now. I own higher level AR’s and this M&P sport is a great rifle. Your getting a good quality AR for a good price. I bought mine for $569 (new). That’s a good deal for a AR that’s reliable, dependable and a great shooter. I bought a carry case, 4 more Magpul P30 Gen 2 mags and a Red Dot scope. It’s all set up and ready incase of a SHTF situation. I wouldn’t think twice that this rifle wouldn’t be reliable enough to protect me and defend my property. I recommended the M&P 15 Sport to my dad and friend, they went out and bought one for themselves. They trust my opinion and judgment Great AR w/ no complaints. Highly recommend it.

  17. I bought one of these M&P’s last year at the Pasadena gun show and I was very impressed with out of box performance. Went to the range same day and shot 3inch groups at 50 yards with the magpul sights using fed 55 grain fmj, the rifle is stamped 5.56 on the bull barrel and performs just as well with 223 loads. You cannot go wrong with this black rifle for the price.

  18. I’ve owned the Smith & Wesson MP 15 Sport for a couple of years. It is by far my favorite rifle even over my Henry Big Boy 44 magnum. You can trick this rifle out with all kinds of accessories but remember every little thing adds weight. Even though this is considered a starter AR15, because of its reliability, accuracy on target and ease of maintenance, I have no need for any other.

  19. I would like to see a report on the Citadel M1 Carbine in 9mm. It seems that for plinking and target shooting, a carbine that takes the same ammo as your side arm would be a handy thing to have around. I enjoy antique military weapon shooting. To evade $2 a shot prices, I have purchased arms in .22 cal, only to see this ammo become mostly unavailable. Walmart still carries 9mm for cheap. I’d like to know more about the 9mm M1 Citadel makes. It takes Beretta 92 mags in unmodified style, what’s not to like?

    1. I have a Citadel M1 Carbine in .22LR, and it’s very picky on what ammo it likes to feed. Maybe the 9mm works better.

    2. I own a Beretta CX4 in 9mm. I also have a Beretta PX4 full size and sub-compact in 9mm. As you may know the C is for carbine and P is for pistol. The current models all have interchangeable magazines. I use 17 round mags at the range. I have no problem hitting a 3″ group at a hundred yards from a bench or adjustable fiberglass rifle brace. The pistols are my carries depending on how I dress. I travel with all three. Having numerous mags that fit all 3 is very convenient. No matter what I reach for it will interchange. I use Winchester 147 grain hollow points at 950 fps. I am confident either will do the job. Beretta developed these for European police forces and 3 states have acquired them for their state police as regular issue in the US. Even though I love my 92 this newer series protects my family on a daily basis. Quality and dependability since the 1500’s.

  20. I have one of the early M&P 15 Sport models that has a 1:7 twist, able to fire heavier loads. Added a scope, bipod, Magpul pistol grip and a two stage trigger. It’s my favorite toy.

  21. I bought 2 DPMS rifles before finally buying my M&P. Both of the DPMS models have been a lot of trouble. The first, purchased back during the Clinton era AR regulations had an extractor spring so weak I had to install a Buffer Tech upgrade to get it to cycle. The second was terrible and I eventually had a case freeze in the chamber and I just replaced the entire upper. But the M&P is a beautiful piece of machinery. Never a hiccup, no matter what or how much I put through it. If they built this, then you can be confident buying it, dust cover or no dust cover.

  22. I bought my MP 15 last year. LOVE IT. I am former Military Police in the Army and have logged many rounds in the M-16. I wish I had the MP 15 instead. I like the fact the dust cover and forward assist has been removed. My point of view is…if it is jammed, why force it in deeper? Pull the charge handle and get the stuff out. The dust cover is just a pain in the butt.

    This weapon is great. Accurate. Love the flip up rear sight.

  23. I’ve owned my M & P Sport for 2 plus years now ( I actually have the first model that has a fixed rear sight instead of the flip up). Nothing but praise for it. The rifle is dead accurate and needs nothing. At least 2000 rounds fired without a single problem. If the SHTF I’d trust me and mine with it.

  24. I have had a S&W Sport for several years along with two dozen other name brand and personal build AR’s. My findings are the Sport will hold it’s own among the majority of offerings today. Mine has never failed when firing a great diversity of ammo and bullet weights. I am not in the habit of buying “cheap” when it comes to weapons and am pleased to say the Sport stands in the same rack with my Colt’s, DD, BCM and others.

  25. I bought four of these a few months ago for the family, paid $650 for the CA compliant version. Works perfectly, looks great and fun to shoot. I have other As including a factory Colt H-bar, and these are more fun to shoot and you can easily get zombies out to almost 300 yards with a red dot. Nice gun for a fair price for a name brand that backs up their products. Why not buy it?

  26. Just what we need, another budget AR to add to the other 5000 budget AR’s out there. I think the world is pretty much saturated now. We need more new, better, and different and the same old.

  27. When I first started to look for the AR15 the SW model was more money and I had to go with what I could afford. I bought a DPMS AR15 witch was on sale for 600. With a 100 rounds of ammo as a rebate that come in the mail. The barrel shoots great groups 1 1/2 inch at 100 yards with practice ammo. I shot a lot of rounds and have had no problem with the gun. The trigger was upgraded to the DPMS 2 stage Trigger and the Hand guards were also replaced I like the gun and would shot against a Smith and Wesson in a range. Thanks

  28. I’d argue all day that the Mossberg MMR is a better deal. Why? For statrters the Mossberg has a dust cover. I think that it’s a good idea to have it-rather than not. Also the Mossberg has a free-floating quadrail that definitely betters the accuracy. I’m shooting .75 MOA at 100 yards with decent ammo. Anybody that owns one will back that up. And the Picatinny rails allow me to hang tons of accessories. I paid $499, but I hear they’re now around $600. On the other hand, the S&W MP-22 is better than the Mossberg version of a AR in .22 cal.

  29. I bought the first S&W MP-15 when it first came out. Fired all types of ammo out it and never had any problems with anything. One of my best AR-15 platform rifles I have!!!!

    1. jim, I agree with you 100%.

      My M&P is a dream come true. I added rails, a light and a nice set of optics and BU iron sights, and it is my go-to M4 for range or home defense.

      I was issued a Colt M-4 when working in Iraq (along with a very nice Kimber .45), and it was a very nice gun, but for half the cost the M&P is it’s equal.

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