A Big Little Surprise From Smith & Wesson: The New M&P22 Compact Pistol

Smith & Wesson's new plinker: The M&P22 Compact

Smith & Wesson’s new plinker: The M&P22 Compact

Yeah, I know, .22LR ammo is impossible to find. But the situation is getting better, and this fun new pistol comes with a starting supply of ammunition – 222 rounds of Winchester to be exact. Yep, it’s your birthday!

An 87.5% scale version of the original, it's just the right size for a .22LR pistol.

An 87.5% scale version of the original, it’s just the right size for a .22LR pistol.

If you keep up with the .22LR pistol market, you know that Smith & Wesson announced the original M&P22 .22LR pistol way back in 2011. Technically, the original model was an adopted child through partnership with Walther. The pistol was made by Walther, imported and marketed under a partnership arrangement between Smith & Wesson and Walther.

Since then, the companies have moved into more independent ventures, amicably I might add, and now Smith & Wesson has produced a natural born child – the M&P22 Compact. Unlike its predecessor, the new M&P22 Compact model is entirely American made by Smith & Wesson. And it’s not just a scaled down version of the original. The new compact model has been largely redesigned – a quick look at the inside will show you new internals including trigger transfer bar, extractor, ejector, firing pin and feed ramp. Speaking of feed ramps, one of the design goals of the new pistol was reliability with a broad range of ammunition. More on that later.

The specs

Like most .22LR pistols, this one is a blowback design with a fixed barrel. It’s a single-action, hammer operated firing mechanism with solid safety levers on both sides of the frame. As a side note, the safety levers are now metal with a plastic over mold and noticeably more solid than those on the original M&P22.

One of the many improvements from the 2011 original: better adjustable sights.

One of the many improvements from the 2011 original: better adjustable sights.

Here are the basic specs:

Overall Length: 6.7 inches
Barrel Length: 3.6 inches
Barrel Rifling 1:15, 6 Groove, Right Hand
Overall Height (including sights): 5.0 inches
Overall Width (with controls): 1.5 inches
Total Empty Weight: 17.0 oz.

The pistol has a threaded barrel, but you won’t notice that at casual glance as the threaded portion and thread protector cap are internal to the slide. This means that you will need an adapter to extend 1/2×28 threads past the muzzle so you can attach a silencer. If you have an original model M&P22 be aware that the barrel threading is now larger, so you’ll need a new adapter.

In addition to ambidextrous safety levers, the M&P22 Compact has a magazine release button that can easily be moved to the opposite side, so the pistol is friendly to righties and lefties.

Sights are standard dovetailed post and notch with three bright white dots. The rear sight has also been redesigned to be more easily adjustable so point of impact can be tuned to your specific choice of ammo.

Other features include a front rail for lights and lasers (don’t laugh, this makes an excellent rodent gun, trust me, I know!), two (10) round magazines and a loaded chamber indicator hole in the top of the slide.

The trigger is more of a service gun style as compared to a target pistol, and I think that’s part of the goal of the Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact. Comparable in size to a shield, it makes a low(er) cost option for training. The trigger has about ⅓ of an inch of take up, followed by a break at just under six pounds of pressure.

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Sig Sauer’s P226 Elite SAO: Love Child of the 1911 and P226?

 

Notice something different about this Sig P226? No decocking lever, and it's got a safety.

Notice something different about this Sig P226? No decocking lever, and it’s got a safety.

There’s no doubt about the Sig P226’s status as a reliable and quality handgun. After all, hard-core gun users like Navy Seals and Texas Rangers use the P226, or in the military’s case, the MK25. Like most of the other Sig Sauer “P” models, the standard P226 is a hammer-fired, double / single action design. The first shot requires a 10-pound trigger pull to cock the hammer and break the shot. Subsequent shots only require about 4 ½ pounds of trigger pressure as the hammer is cocked from the semi-automatic action. Also, “standard” P226’s are available in multiple calibers: 9mm, .40 S&W and .357 Sig.

The safety is ambidextrous and equal size and shape on both sides.

The safety is ambidextrous and equal size and shape on both sides.

Here’s what’s different about the Sig Sauer P226 Elite SAO. As you might surmise from the name, it’s a single action only design. It’s kind of like the love child of the 1911 and a Sig P226 Enhanced Elite model. If you’re not familiar with the Sig E2 (Enhanced Elite) concept, it’s an improved grip design that reduced reach to the trigger while offering a full, and very rounded, grip profile. Also, the SAO model is only available in 9mm at this time.

Let’s take a closer look.

The Sig Sauer P226 Elite SAO comes with two 15-round magazines. It’s packed in a foam-lined hard plastic case that has two holes for padlocks if you want to lock it up for travel. Sig also includes a cable gun lock so you can store your pistol safely when not in use.

The E2 grip profile makes this gun particularly shootable. The "wraparound" grips are actually two pieces that fit together.

The E2 grip profile makes this gun particularly shootable. The “wraparound” grips are actually two pieces that fit together.

The P226 is a full-size gun. It’s 8.2 inches long and 5.5 inches high. At its widest point, width measures 1.6 inches. The barrel itself is 4.4 inches. Overall weight with an empty magazine in place is 34.4 ounces.

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We Test The New Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact

Hot off the press - the new Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact. 87.5% scale of a full size M&P, it's a fun .22 plinker.

Hot off the press – the new Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact. 87.5% scale of a full size M&P, it’s a fun .22 plinker.

Getting home and tearing open Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact box, my very first impression was, “Oh snap!”

The next thought that crossed my mind was that this gun won’t be out of the box for six seconds before I’m compelled to attach a silencer. A SilencerCo Sparrow would be an excellent fit. The compact size just screams harmony and balance with the diminutive SilencerCo Sparrow.

I love .22s. Full size, compact, micro – I don’t care. They’re just fun. But there’s something to be said for a .22LR gun that is downsized for the rimfire caliber, and this one is. While I didn’t do a volumetric test to determine the exact size relationship, think of the M&P22 Compact as an 87.5% scale version of a full-size Smith & Wesson M&P – that number is from the company. Whatever the numbers, the feel and balance is great.

The pistol comes with (2) ten-round magazines, safety lock and gun lock keys.

The pistol comes with (2) ten-round magazines, safety lock and gun lock keys.

I picked up a production model at my local gun store, East Coast Guns in Summerville, South Carolina. When I asked manager and firearms trainer Tim Elmer for his first impressions, the first thing out of his mouth was “Wow! That’s a neat little thing!” After a bit more reflection, he noted “the size is awesome, well perfect actually. It also seems very well built, the safety is positive and the action is smooth. Now I have to shoot it!”

Me too. So let’s check it out.

Features and Specs

Opening the box, you’ll find a pistol, two 10-round magazines, keys for operating the integral safety lock, a hex wrench for windage adjustment of the rear sight, fired case and owners manual.

The pistol uses a blowback action with a fixed barrel, common to most .22 pistols. It’s a single-action, hammer operated firing mechanism. Here are the basic specs:

Overall Length 6.7 inches
Barrel Length 3.6 inches
Barrel Rifling 1:15, 6 Groove, Right Hand
Overall Height (including sights) 5.0 inches
Overall Width (with controls) 1.5 inches
Total Empty Weight 17.0 oz.
If you've seen the original M&P22, you'll notice the Smith & Wesson lettering is toned down on the new model.

If you’ve seen the original M&P22, you’ll notice the Smith & Wesson lettering is toned down on the new model.

The barrel itself is threaded, although that’s not obvious until you retract the slide. A screw on thread protector cap, the same diameter as the barrel, is hidden inside the slide when in battery. If you want to add a silencer to the M&P22 Compact, you remove the cap, add a thread extension and adapter to provide 1/2×28 threads compatible with most .22LR silencers. If you already have an adapter for the original M&P22, be aware that it won’t work – you will need a new one sized for the larger 3/8”-24 threads on the M&P22 Compact barrel.

The magazine release button is mounted by default on the left side of the pistol, but it’s easy to move it to the opposite side if you like. The owner’s manual includes clear step-by-step instructions with photos if you want to do this.

The new M&P22 Compact is shown here (right) next to a Smith & Wesson Shield (left). I put a Crimson Trace Rail Master laser on my test gun because... Fun!

The new M&P22 Compact is shown here (right) next to a Smith & Wesson Shield (left). I put a Crimson Trace Rail Master laser on my test gun because… Fun!

The M&P22 Compact features an ambidextrous thumb safety which blocks operation of the trigger. A nice design feature is that you can perform administrative functions like slide operation, slide lock and takedown with the safety engaged. We’ll talk about other improvements to the safety levers in a minute. While we’re on the topic of safeties, the pistol also has a trigger activated firing pin block and it’s drop safe.

The M&P22 Compact has a visual loaded chamber indicator on the top of the slide. A small curved cutout allows you to see if there is a cartridge in the chamber.

There is a lawyer lock on this gun. On the M&P22 Compact, an included key can be used to lock the safety in the “safe” position. In fact, the lock can only be engaged while the safety is in the “safe” position. Do with the lock what you will.

 

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A Look At The Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun

The Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun is all business.

The Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun is all business.

I recently got my hot little hands on a Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun. After checking out the floor model at the 2014 NRA Annual Meeting, I decided I had to have one. Why? Because it handles like a shotgun carbine. If you’ve shot short, light weight and compact rifles, then you know exactly what I mean. Now envision those attributes in a shotgun and you’ve got the Beretta 1301 Tactical.

The Aimpoint Micro H1 optic fit perfectly and allowed for co-witness of the ghost ring sights.

The Aimpoint Micro H1 optic fit perfectly and allowed for co-witness of the ghost ring sights.

Right out of the box, it’s just under 38 inches long, which is right in line with other famous carbines like the Ruger 10/22 and World War II era M1 Carbine. Beretta ships this gun in its shortest configuration. The butt stock has removable spacers included in the box that allow you to add ½, 1” or 1 ½ inches to the stock length to arrive at the length of pull that you want. Me? I loved the short and handy configuration, so I left the spacers in the box for future use in the event my arms grow longer.

The 1301 Tactical is offered in 12 gauge only at this point and features a 3 inch chamber. In a small, lightweight shotgun like this one, you really don’t want to shoot 3 ½ inch shells anyway – it’s not intended to be a turkey hunting gun.

Differing from it’s 1301 competition sibling, the 1301 Tactical model sports some differences. First, it has an 18-inch barrel as compared to the Competition choices of 21 or 24 inches. It’s also got adjustable ghost ring sights. Both the ghost ring in the rear and sturdy post up front are protected with metal “wings” to save your sights from getting knocked around in the back of the SWAT wagon. More importantly, the 1301 Tactical model has a receiver-mounted rail just in front of the rear sight so you can mount optics. For me, this just screamed for an Aimpoint Micro H1. With a 2-MOA red dot and compact size, it turned out to be the perfect solution. The quick-release mount on the Aimpoint positioned the optic at a perfect height so the iron sights are just visible in the bottom section of the glass. If your battery croaks, you’ve got iron sights ready to go without need to remove your optic.

Beretta_1301_Tactical-15

Magazine capacity on the 1301 Tactical is a bit less than that of the 1301 Competition due to its shorter length. In mine, I can stuff 4, and sometimes 5, shells into the tube depending on the shell. Be aware that Beretta ships this model with a magazine plug in place, temporarily limiting tube capacity to two shells. No worries, just pop out the plug and you’re good to go.

Beretta_1301_Tactical-26Speaking of magazine capacity, I felt compelled to add a Nordic Components extension tube to my test model. While I could have chosen a longer tube, I opted for a 2 shell extension. This makes the overall length of the magazine tube just a hair longer than the barrel. I get two extra shells with no sacrifice of the compact handling qualities. Now, my total capacity, at least using Federal 12 gauge Gold Metal Target loads, is 7 in the tube plus one in the chamber. If you’re a 3 gun competitor, you might notice this sets this shotgun up nicely for…

The Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Event!

While I was itching to try this shotgun anyway after seeing at the NRA Annual Meeting, I really wanted to test it in such a way as to give it a total workout. The idea was to configure this gun as a useful home defense model and the midnight 3 gun competition is a great way to test gear to see how it performs in the dark. In addition to the Aimpoint Micro H1 optic, I added a Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro up front on the right side. A Nordic Components tube / barrel clamp with rail segment gave me the perfect spot to do that.

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Gun Review: Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 AAC Blackout AR Rifle

Here's a slightly "geared up" Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout.

Here’s a slightly “geared up” Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout.

Some phrases are just fightin’ words.

“That’s MY horse!”

“That’s MY daughter!”

“I love the 300 Blackout!”

For some reason, virtually any gunny discussion about the 300 AAC Blackout cartridge quickly devolves into a typing wind sprint where the winner itemizes more reasons why the 300 Blackout is not as good as (fill in your favorite cartridge here.)

Due to the unique performance characteristics and its wide range of velocity an projectile weight combinations, it gets poked in the eye from both ends of the ballistic spectrum.

The high speed supersonic crowd gets bent out of shape because, in their words, the 300 Blackout

“Doesn’t have the same energy or reliability as the 7.62×39 AK-47 round.”

“Doesn’t have the ‘reach out and touch someone’ range of the 6.8 SPC.”

“Ammo is way more expensive than the .223 Remington / 5.56mm!

The rumble and bumble subsonic cartridge fans fans claim…

“Why not use a pistol or MP-5?”

“Subsonic rounds are unreliable unless you use a silencer.”

“Ammo is way more expensive than .223 Remington / 5.56mm!”

This reaction is understandable. We all know that if you encounter someone who’s wrong on the internet, you have to rectify the situation immediately, right?

Subsonic ammo, like these 220 grain Sierra MatchKings, shot surprisingly well.

Subsonic ammo, like these 220 grain Sierra MatchKings, shot surprisingly well.

As with most debates, there are a lot of elements of truth in all of these statements. But I don’t really care. That’s because, for me, whether the 300 Blackout is interesting or not isn’t a binary question. It doesn’t have to be better than (fill in the blank.) I like the fact that it’s a different option with unique capabilities. In fairness, I might be more biased in favor because I’m a reloading enthusiast, and the 300 Blackout is a reloaders dream.

What’s 300 AAC Blackout?

The simple explanation is that the cartridge offers 30 caliber performance and viable subsonic options from a standard 5.56mm AR platform. A 30 caliber barrel swap is required, but other than that, the bolt, carrier, receivers and magazines are compatible. Without delving into the debate here, the idea is to provide improved terminal performance, especially from short barreled rifle platforms. The subsonic option is interesting as a 300 Blackout can launch a 208 to 245 grain projectile in the 1,000 feet per second velocity range. When used with a suppressor, the sound level is very, very quiet. Switching a 300 Blackout rifle from supersonic to subsonic performance involves no more than a magazine change. We’ll get into more detail on the wide variety of cartridge options later in this article series.

One big drawback to shooting 300 Blackout is ammo cost and availability. That pesky supply / demand thing means there is much less manufactured, so it’s expensive and harder to find. If you shoot 300 Blackout it’s in your best interest to reload your own ammunition.

The Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 AC Blackout

You might say Daniel Defense rifles are built from the parts up. The company started by making a simple part – a receiver mounted sling loop. You know, it’s that typical American success story. Some person out there has a better idea, they figure out how to make it, then sell it to the masses. In an oversimplified sense, that’s sort of how Daniel Defense rifles came to be. After the sling loop had started to sell, Marty Daniel figured he could also invent a better rail system for AR type rifles. Ultimately, he figured, why not build a whole rifle from the ground up using parts designed and manufactured mostly in house?

When it comes to rifles, ground up really refers to barrel out. One of the first big equipment investments at Daniel Defense was a cold hammer forging machine for making barrels in house. Cold hammer forging is kind of a cool process. You take a steel tube with a hole in it, insert a perfect 3D mirror image of the barrel interior and chamber (a mandrel), then pound the living crap out of the outside of the tube until the interior takes the form of the mandrel inside. The reason for all this pounding and noise is that the end result is a smoother and stronger finished product, and that leads to better accuracy and longer barrel life. No pain, no gain, right?

Let’s get back to the rifle at hand. The DDM4 series is infinitely configurable, so I’ll talk about the options I chose for this rifle here. Just be aware that you can build your own at the Daniel Defense website if you want to tweak options like trigger, chrome, iron sights, rail type, flash suppressor and more.

Let’s touch on some of the high points of this rifle, then we’ll talk about significant details. It’s well built for military-level reliability. Gas keys are staked, parts are mil-spec compatible and Daniel Defense pays attention to the little things that add up to long term performance under rough conditions.

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The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

Gun Review: Smith & Wesson’s 1911TA eSeries

One of the design goals of the eSeries line was elegant, but not gaudy, appearance.

One of the design goals of the eSeries line was elegant, but not gaudy, appearance.

There’s always something appealing about a nice 1911. While carrying a full size, all steel 1911 isn’t always fun, shooting one sure is. This particular eSeries model is a blend of traditional and modern innovation. Like the origin government model, it’s got a 5 inch barrel, single stack .45 ACP magazine and single action trigger. Unlike the original, it features Tritium night sights, tactical rail and other internal design changes that we’ll discuss later.

Impressions

Let’s start with the most noticeable features. With that criteria in mind, I have to mention the grips first. They’re gorgeous. The specs say the grips are wood laminate, but it’s sure hard to tell. The grain pattern is beautiful and the finish is well polished. There is a small diamond with the eSeries “E” logo. Surrounding this is a traditional diamond checkered pattern. Above and below the diamond pattern area you’ll see a fish-scale pattern that matches the scallop pattern carved into the slide. The grips are not only really attractive, but functional. They won’t rub your hands raw, but do provide a positive grip through recoil.

It's a personal opinion, but I think the grips are, well, awesome.

It’s a personal opinion, but I think the grips are, well, awesome.

The slide also falls into the “cool looking” category. The cocking serrations at the rear are the same fish, dragon or snake scale pattern – choose your favorite reptile. There are matching scale serrations on the front. Some people don’t like texture on the front of 1911 slides, but I find them handy for press checks. Even if I grab the front of the slide overhand, I can still easily see the chamber. But using front serrations or not is a personal preference thing. I happen to like them, but get that others don’t. The top of the slide is flattened and has full length grooves. Whether or not you think this “looks” cool is not really the issue. The practical purpose is to reduce glare that can interfere with your sight picture. Another thing to mention while we’re talking about the slide is that there are horizontal serrations at the rear also on both sides of the hammer cutout. Again, the purpose is to minimize glare.

The extractor is an external design, so that varies from the “purist” 1911. Personally, I don’t favor internal or external, as long as it works. You’ll also notice that the ejection port features a scooped cutout at the front to assist with easy ejection with a wide variety of load types.

The SW1911TA ships with two magazines with 8 round capacity, so the total carry load is nine including one in the chamber. The magazine release button is aggressively checkered and .145 inches is exposed above frame level. It’s easy to reach with your firing hand thumb if your’e right handed. When shooting left handed, I was able to operate the magazine release with my trigger finger without breaking my normal firing grip. Magazines easily fall free of the magazine well when empty.

Both sides of the frame behind the trigger are beveled to allow an unhindered reach to the trigger. The front of the grip is contoured and recessed to allow a high grip and secure resting place for your firing hand middle finger.

The front and back of the grip area are checkered with good, but not sharp texture. I counted somewhere in around a 17 or 18 lines per inch pattern, but all those dots kept getting blurry when counting, so let’s call it 17.5 lines per inch, OK? I’ll schedule a visit with my eye doc before the next time I have to count checkering patterns.

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Gun Review: Browning Citori 725 Feather Over & Under Shotgun

The Browning Citori 725 Feather is a beautiful gun, both in handling and appearance.

The Browning Citori 725 Feather is a beautiful gun, both in handling and appearance.

There are times when a heavier shotgun is nice to have—the trap or clays course, for example, where you’ll be popping off a hundred or so 12-gauge shells and have ample opportunity to set your (heavy) gun down. And there are other times when lugging around a gun that weighs the same as a gallon of house paint really, really hurts.

Much of the weight savings comes from use of an alloy receiver. However, key components like the breech face are constructed of steel for durability. You can see the steel inset here.

Much of the weight savings comes from use of an alloy receiver. However, key components like the breech face are constructed of steel for durability. You can see the steel inset here.

The primary design idea behind the Browning Citori 725 Feather is, you guessed it, light weight. My evaluation sample was a 12-gauge Feather model with 28-inch barrels. It weighs in at 6 pounds, 9 ounces. If you compare to the equivalent Field (non-Feather) model, the 28-inch barrel model weighs just about a full pound more at 7 pounds, 8 ounces. That adds up over a day in the field. Imagine taping a can of lima beans to the Citori 725 Feather, and now you’re carrying a standard weight over-and-under.

Where did the weight go? Unlike the Field model, with its all-steel receiver, the Feather uses an alloy receiver. The breech face and hinge pin are still constructed from steel for durability.

A Quick and Dirty Tour

OK, so we’ve established that the Citori 725 Feather is light. Now let’s take a look at what else it offers.

pistol grip checkering-1

The pistol grip area features cut 20-line-per-inch checkering.

Chambers are cut for 3-inch shells if you want to shoot the big-boy stuff. And you can do this thanks to a variety of felt-recoil-reducing features that we’ll talk about later. First on that list is that the Citori 725 has a lower-profile receiver. If you look at it compared to a “standard” over-and-under receiver, you’ll see that the top of the receiver is somewhere between ⅛ and ¼ inch lower than normal. This lowers the recoil force just a tad, which helps prevent muzzle jump. The more inline the bore, the more natural, and less painful, a gun feels.

In terms of dimensions, the overall length is 45 ¾ inches with a 14 ¼ inch length of pull. Drop at the comb is 1 ⅝ inches and drop at the heel is 2 ¼ inches. You can order the Feather with either 26-or 28-inch barrels.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

Fun and Games with the .257 Weatherby Magnum

The .257 Weatherby Magnum has a lot of cartridge case behind a little bullet.

The .257 Weatherby Magnum has a lot of cartridge case behind a little bullet. These handloads are using Nosler Custom brass and Hornady .257 117 grain SST bullets.

I’ve got a thing for the more unusual calibers. Probably because I’m a reloading addict. I just don’t care that commercial rounds of .300 AAC Blackout cost over a buck each. Or that .357 Sig pistol ammo is crazy expensive relative to 9mm. Or that no one stocks 6.8 SPC ammo. I don’t know why, but these oddball cartridges are some of my favorites.

When I had a chance to start some serious tinkering with a .257 Weatherby Magnum, how could I resist? Word is that the .257 Weatherby Magnum was Roy Weatherby’s personal favorite, and that’s saying something. Developed starting back in 1944, it’s a belted cartridge derived from a .375 H&H Magnum case. That’s a lot of case capacity for a .25 caliber bullet. It likes projectiles in the 85 to 120 grain weight range with 100 grain bullets being the most common.

All that case capacity is put to good use as the .257 Weatherby is a true speed demon. An 85 grain bullet will move at over 3,800 feet per second, while a 100 grain projectile cooks along at just under 3,600 feet per second. Yes, you have to be considerate to your rifle barrel. Proper cleaning and cooling will extend its life.

If you look at energy, the “standard” .257 load exceeds both the “standard” .308 Winchester and .30-06 loads with over 2,900 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

If you have to say just one thing about the .257 Weatherby Magnum cartridge, that’s easy. It’s a flat shooter. How flat you ask? If you fire a 100 grain projectile from a .257 Weatherby Magnum parallel to the ground, it will drop about 46 inches by the time it reaches 500 yards. A .30-06 150 grain projectile will drop about 66 inches over the same distance.

The Weatherby Vanguard 2 Package comes with a Redfield scope, sling and case.

The Weatherby Vanguard 2 Package comes with a Redfield scope, sling and case.

I recently got my hot little hands on a new Weatherby Vanguard 2 Synthetic Package. As the name implies, you get everything you need with this model except ammo. The factory mounts and bore sights a 3-9x42mm Redfield Revenge scope, adds a sling and packages it all in an injection molded rifle case. The price of the complete package has a suggested retail of $999.00.

The stock is a monte carlo style with soft inserts in the grip and fore end areas. These felt great, improved grip and seemed to help dampen recoil impulse to the hands. The stock has a raised comb and contoured cheek rest area which positioned my face perfectly at scope height.

The barrel is 24 inches, cold hammer forged and features a 1 in 10 inch twist rate. Magazine capacity is three, plus a fourth round in the chamber. The magazine features a hinged bottom for easy dumping of unused rounds.

The trigger was crisp and clean. The face is flat with serrations and had no detectable creep. It’s a two-stage design with about ⅛ inch of take-up immediately followed by a clean break. It’s also adjustable down to 2 ½ pounds of pull weight.

The rifle with scope mounted weighed in at 8 ¾ pounds, although it felt lighter to me. It’s a nice handling rifle with a great feel.

Accuracy and velocity

I couldn’t bring myself to shoot factory ammo out of such an interesting gun, so I decided to give it a variety diet of carefully hand loaded ammunition. Being a brand new rifle, I broke it in very carefully. For the first 10 shots, I fired, cleaned and allowed the barrel to cool down between shots. For the next 20 rounds, I cleaned the bore after every several shots while still monitoring barrel temperature to guard against accuracy loss (and excess wear and tear) through overheating.

I used my very portable OTIS cleaning kit to scrub the bore frequently during the barrel break in period.

I used my very portable OTIS cleaning kit to scrub the bore frequently during the barrel break in period.

In my first outing, I recorded velocity of a variety of hand loads, and just for the heck of it, fired 5 shot groups. As the rifle was still in a break in period, I didn’t expect perfect accuracy performance (yet) but was curious about how it would shoot right out of the box.

I loaded a half dozen combinations for initial trial using Hornady 117 grain SST, Nosler 100 grain Ballistic Tip and Barnes 100 grain TTSX bullets. Powders were IMR 4351, Hodgdon 4350 and Reloader 25. While I won’t publish load data here (I’m a stickler for getting load data from manufacturer sources only) my load data was sourced from Barnes, Hornady and Hodgdon.

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10 Things I Like About the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield

Less than one inch wide, the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield packs up to 8+1 rounds of 9mm.

Less than one inch wide, the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield packs up to 8+1 rounds of 9mm.

Much has been said about the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm Shield. A true pocket-sized 9mm, it’s smaller in almost all dimensions (except height) than a Glock 26 and can easily be concealed in a milliondy-seven different ways. Pocket, inside the waistband or outside the waistband holster, ankle, purse, fanny pack, crotch carry holster, you name it. The less-than-one-inch width goes a long way to making this handgun exceptionally portable.

Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm Galco 1963 Even with the Crimson Trace LG-489 Laser installed, it weighs almost exactly the same as my morning cup of coffee. Coincidence? I think not. Both are life-saving devices and daily necessities.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1935 I like that it’s a 9mm. Of course you can now get the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield in .40 Smith & Wesson. Although 9mm and .380 ACP have lot’s of similarities on paper, I see a noticeable performance difference when each load is shot through tough clothing barriers. The extra velocity of the 9mm helps it expand more reliably than most of the .380 loads I’ve tested. I’ve found the Shield to be a very controllable gun, even with its small size and light weight. It’s a gun that’s enjoyable to shoot just for fun, unlike many other pocket cannons.
Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm Galco 1960 The Shield has a positive safety. Without getting into the debate of whether or not you need one on a striker-fired pistol, I will say that it’s comforting on a gun that may be carried in a pocket holster. The safety lever is inset to the frame and unlikely to move without deliberate action, so you can choose to carry with the safety engaged or not. Moving from safe to fire position is very easy with the shooting hand thumb, assuming you’re right handed. The safety is not ambidextrous, so lefties have a little more work to do.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1933 I like that the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield will fire with its magazine removed. I don’t really appreciate that the lawyers at Smith & Wesson chose to print “CAUTION – CAPABLE OF FIRING WITH MAGAZINE REMOVED” right on the slide of an otherwise very attractive pistol. Can someone please put the lawyers back in their aquarium?
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1928 I like the capacity options. The more concealable standard magazine gives the Shield 8 (7+1) rounds of 9mm while the extended magazine adds one more for a total of 9 rounds. This is a great compromise of capacity versus size.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1940 Both front and rear sights are dovetail mounted and easily adjustable for windage. I found elevation on the test gun to be right on target. Notice how the rear sight surface is grooved to reduce glare around the sighting dots.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1937 The trigger on the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield simply rocks. For a striker-fired pistol, it’s exceptionally smooth and crisp. It’s got just about 1/4 inch of take-up prior to a 6.5 pound crisp break. If you like to keep your finger in place until reset, you can count on just about 1/4 inch forward travel before a positive reset click. The Shield has one of the best striker design triggers on the market.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1936 The flush magazine configuration with 7+1 capacity makes this a true pocket gun. Try it with a Galco Pocket Pro holster! I like this configuration with the extended magazine stowed elsewhere as a backup.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1931 I dig the grip texture. It’s sure, even with sweaty hands, but you don’t lose traction during shots. Even more importantly, when using an Inside the waistband holster like the Galco Stow-N-Go, it won’t abrade your insides nearly as much as Gilbert Godfried’s voice abrades your ears.
Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm Galco 1962 How about a grip-activated laser? The Crimson Trace LG-489 Laser for the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield mounts just in front of the trigger guard. Just grip the pistol and the laser is on. Couldn’t be simpler.

Gun Review: Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle

Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle

Springfield Armory M1A Standard

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard model is the civilian version of the battle classic M14

This rifle is beast. Not a beast. Just beast. If you have teenage kids, you might have already heard things like video games, high school athletes and cars described as “beast.” Apparently it’s a subtle, yet cool, form of praise. Kids these days don’t generally describe praise-worthy things as “richly robust with just the proper hint of panache.”

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard rifle is beast because of its homage (another non-teen word) to military history. The M1A is the Springfield Armory produced civilian version of the battle-tested M14 rifle. The M14 was introduced to field use during the Korean war and is (roughly speaking) the next generation of the famous M1 Garand that had such a dramatic impact during World War II. In fact, the famous World War II general, George S. Patton, called the M1 Garand “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” We’re not exactly sure what actor George C. Scott had to say about it, but he did play Patton on TV.

After the war, The M14 brought a few changes to the M1 Garand era. Fully automatic capability, 7.62mm / .308 ammo chambering and a detachable box magazine – to name a few. The M1A as a civilian rifle does not offer fully automatic capability, but maintains the detachable box magazine feature and chambers the .308 round. One other notable difference is the lack of a bayonet lug on the M1A. I know, it’s tragic, but it keeps the politicians from hemorrhaging bio-diesel. If you’re hell-bent on mounting an infantry charge down your street, you’ll just have to improvise with duct tape and a Ka-Bar knife.

A Closer Look at the Springfield Armory M1A Standard

 Springfield Armory M1A safety

Safety first! Just like the M1 Garand, the Springfield Armory M1A uses a lever in the front of the trigger guard as the safety. As shown in this picture, the gun is on safe. Nudge the lever forward with the back of your knuckle and it will snap forward, out of the trigger guard, into the firing position. It’s the same basic mechanism used on the M1 Garand. Be careful with this type of safety – to put the rifle on safe, you’re pulling backwards with your trigger finger! Make sure you’re pulling the safety and not the trigger!

 Springfield Armory M1A rear sight

The rear sight on the Springfield Armory M1A has a windage adjustment dial on the right and an elevation adjustment dial on the left. On the M1A Standard rifle, elevation and windage are adjustable in 1 minute of angle (about 1 inch at 100 yards) clicks. The windage dial gives you 16 clicks in either direction and you have sufficient elevation adjustment to compensate to about 1,100 yards. Springfield Armory includes a nifty article by Scott Duff and John Miller that tells you exactly how to properly zero your M1A. The elevation adjustment knob was tight, as to be expected and desired in my opinion. I found the windage elevation knob on the test rifle to be somewhat beyond tight, and I’ve been working out to get in shape for the upcoming Thumb Wars of the Stars special. I tried smothering it with Activia Butt-Modulating Yogurt to “loosen things up” but that didn’t seem to help. Don’t tell the folks at Springfield Armory, but I had to cover it with a cleaning rag and muscle it the first few times. Whatever you do, DON’T use pliers – this will almost certainly crack the adjustment dial. Don’t get me wrong, this adjustment should be firm and very deliberate as you don’t want it moving around on its own. Just be aware that there might be some break-in period required to get things loosened up. And it did loosen up with some use. Before venturing off to any foreign wars, be sure to try the adjustments and break in accordingly.

Springfield Armory M1A mag release

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard rifle ships with a 10 round box magazine. You can order factory 5 or 20 round magazines using the nifty Springfield Loaded Coupon that we’ll talk about in a minute. The magazine release lever is on the back side of the magazine well and releases the magazine when pushed forward. It’s about an inch and a half forward of the safety lever, so you just barely have to adjust your grip to reach it with the firing hand. Seating a magazine in the M1A takes just a bit of practice. The easiest way is to insert it into the magazine well, angled backwards, and rock it into position. It sounds complicated, but is very smooth once you get the hang of it. And the magazine makes a satisfying click when it seats. You won’t be in doubt about it’s locked status.
 Springfield Armory M1A aperture sight The rear aperture sight features fine checkering on the back side to reduce glare. We found this to be a very useful feature! It’s one of those details that no one notices in the store, but really makes a difference on the range. Note the protective wings that help prevent the aperture sight from getting abused.

Springfield Armory M1A stripper clip guide

On the top of the receiver, at the back of the magazine well, you’ll see a stripper clip guide. While the M1A has detachable box magazines, it can still be reloaded with stripper clips from the top. We didn’t use this in testing, but know it’s there. In case you want to get super authentic. The dovetail for the stripper clip guide has a second use as a mounting point for the scope base. We’ll cover that in detail in the next article where we mount a rail base and scope to this M1A.
 Springfield Armory M1A front sling A sturdy sling mount is placed towards the front of the stock on the bottom side. It swivels back and forth, but not side to side. At the rear, just ahead of the rifle butt, is a similar, but fixed, sling mount. Somehow the Springfield Armory M1A Standard just screams for a traditional leather loop sling. No worries, you can get one cheap using the Springfield Loaded Coupon mentioned a little later!

Springfield Armory M1A front sight wings

Like the rear sight, the front post is protected by sturdy steel wings on either side. And the post is not a wimpy little AR type either – it’s a steel blade that tapers like a wedge towards the front. This helps the post look sharp and crisp from the back. And it’s more aerodynamic when charging the trenches at a full run. The sight blade and wings assembly is movable side to side so you can zero the rifle (for windage) and have your windage dial on the receiver exactly centered. A hex locking screw keeps everything in place once you’ve got it set. One other thing to note about the front sight blade. It’s width can be used for rough range estimation. It will exactly cover a 20 inch wide target at about 300 yards.
 Springfield Armory M1A buttplate No, it’s not a collapsible bayonet to protect the rear flank. Nor does it make the M1A more aerodynamic, although you can probably use it while speed walking. But seriously, the fold-out butt plate has a purpose. You can lean it on top of your shoulder for a little extra stability. It’s an interesting feature, especially when shooting from a standing position or moving. It’s one of those things you just have to try to see if it works for you.

Springfield Armory M1A cleaning kit

Unfortunately you can’t quite fit two rolls of Mentos breath mints in the stock storage compartments. However, you can fit the original Springfield Armory cleaning and oiling kit. The top hole is about 10 inches deep while the bottom one is about 6 ½ inches deep. Why waste all that potential storage space in the stock? Later, we’ll mention some factory cleaning and maintenance supplies that will fit perfectly into these two chambers.
 Springfield Armory M1A bolt lock On the left side of the receiver is the bolt lock lever. If the magazine is in place, and empty, the bolt will lock back on it’s own. If you want it locked open while the magazine is out, or full, use the bolt lock lever.

 Springfield Armory M1A gas

About six inches behind the front  sight is the gas port in the barrel and the gas tube below. The nut on the end is removable for cleaning and maintenance. The handy multi-purpose tool (discussed below) will remove this easily. Remember when cleaning that the gas system is supposed to be dry, so no oil or grease in there!

 

Shooting Performance

As the Springfield Armory M1A Standard comes with iron peep sights and no provision for mounting a scope without accessories, we’re not going to address accuracy in this article. Trying to do so would tell you more about the poor state of our eyesight than performance of this rifle! However, we have a second part of this article coming out shortly which details the process of mounting and using the optional scope mounting base. Once we get a scope mounted, we’ll do some accuracy testing with various .308 loads and report on the results.

We did shoot a variety of ammunition through the M1A for function testing and just plain fun. As you might expect from this design, digesting lots and lots of different ammunition was not a problem!

We shot and choreographed the following loads:

American Eagle 7.62x51mm M1A – 2,637 feet per second

Black Hills Match Hollow Point – 2,565 fps

Nosler Match Grade 168 grain Custom Competition – 2,548 fps

Winchester 120 grain PDX1 Defender – 3,034 fps

In addition to the factory loads, we assembled four different hand loads – all with 168 grain Sierra Matchking projectiles. We developed upper mid-range loads for 2,550 to 2,650 feet per second velocity performance using Hodgdon BL-C(2), IMR 4064, IMR 4895 and Ramshot TAC powders. We experienced no feed or function issues with any of the loads tested.

Felt recoil on this rifle was polite and relatively genteel considering that it has a not very soft steel butt plate. Between the M1A’s 9.3 pound weight and gas-driven semi-automatic action, much of the perceived recoil is dampened.

Paperwork

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle arrives in a large cardboard box which includes a variety of instruction paperwork and other extra-special surprises.

The nicest surprise was a printed “booklet bound” copy of the  TM 9-1005-223-12 Department of the Army Technical Manual. Subtitled Operator and Organizational Maintenance Manual – 7.62mm Rifle M14 and Rifle Bipod M2, this 76 page booklet, dated January 1963, is the lightly burnt sugar on Creme Brûlée for any self-respecting gun geek.

Another bonus surprise is a reproduced article by Wayne Faatz entitled The Mysterious Slam Fire.

Springfield also includes a reproduced article by Scott A. Duff and John M. Miller. This one, From the Bench – Zeroing M1 and M1A Service Rifles, walks the reader through easy to understand instructions on how to zero either standard or National Match M1A rifles.

And another! As with all Springfield Armory products we’ve received, a M1A Loaded Coupon allows you to order accessories like extra magazines, cheek pieces, tools, cases, and M1A cleaning accessories at deeply discounted prices. The discount depends on the specific item, but most are available at 20% to 70% off retail. As an example, the Springfield Armory factory .308 20 round magazine sells for $37.50 instead of $54.95. Of course, most of the items on the list are available in third party manufactured versions, but if you want genuine factory accessories, take advantage of the one time use coupon. You can order as much as you want of each item – but one time only.

Oh, and a basic instruction book is included that covers operation, ammo information (mil-spec only recommended), cleaning, and basic maintenance.

Stripping and Cleaning

The subtitle of this section got your attention didn’t it?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but we’re talking field stripping here – with the primary intention of cleaning and lubrication.

Basic takedown is simple. But first, remove the magazine, then check the chamber to make sure there is no cartridge there. Now check it again. Now flip on the safety just for good measure.

Springfield Armory M1A trigger housing removal

The barrel and receiver assembly is locked into the stock by the trigger assembly. To remove the trigger assembly, pull the rear base of the trigger guard (where it meets the stock) towards the butt of the rifle. It will take some muscle!

Springfield Armory M1A trigger system removal

Pulling the trigger guard backwards will release it from a catch, allowing it to pivot towards the muzzle of the rifle. Pull it up all the way and the trigger assembly will come out in one piece.

Springfield Armory M1A field strip

Now the barreled receiver will lift out of the stock. It may need a gentle nudge to get it moving.

There you have it! This simple, no-tools, field strip procedure will give you pretty good access for basic cleaning and lubrication of the main parts.

Accessories and Upgrades

Original Cleaning Kit

M1A cleaning kit

The M1A multi-purpose tool and cleaning kit are accessories that fit in two hollowed-out stock tubes

You can order an original military style maintenance and cleaning kit and store just about all of it in the stock. Shown in the photo is a four-piece cleaning rod, M1A multi-purpose tool, ratcheted chamber cleaning brush, bore cleaning brush and lubricant container. Pack that stuff into the stock compartments and you’ll have it when you need it!

Magazines

The rifle includes a single ten round magazine, but you can order  additional magazines from Springfield Armory in 5, 10, 15 and 20 round capacities. The 5 round magazine comes in a standard box configuration or a low-profile sporter configuration. Perhaps you want to hunt with your M1A? Check your state laws before trying to order different magazines!

Scope Mounts

Springfield Armory offers two different receiver scope mounts for the M1A – one constructed of solid steel and the other aluminum. Both are custom designed to attach to the receiver on the left side and via the stripper clip guide dovetail at the rear. We obtained a steel scope mount and installed it with a Hawke Optics Sidewinder 30 10x scope. We’ll cover that in a follow up article. Springfield Armory also offers a Scout Scope forward mount.

Other

Given the history of the M14 platform and Springfield Armory’s adherence to the core original design, a number of other accessories are readily available from Springfield and third party vendors. Cheek rests, replacement match sights, tritium night sight posts, muzzle brakes and more can all be found at Brownells.com.

Springfield Armory M1A Hawke Optics Sidewinder IR

In part 2 of this article, we’ll mount a Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical using the Springfield Armory steel receiver mount

Closing Arguments

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle is, well, kind of nostalgic. True to the basic M1 Garand and M14 military rifle design, it’s a sturdy and reliable war horse. The iron sights feel natural and are quite effective. A good rifleman is expected to hit targets out to 500 yards with them. We’re going to add a scope for fun and some accuracy testing, but odds are, the scope will come off as soon as we’re finished. Somehow, adding optics to this gun just seems wrong and unnecessary.

We loved the Springfield Armory M1A Standard. From it’s walnut stock to iron sights to classic action design, it’s a natural combination of form, function and fun.

Our Rating

4 Nuns Four Nuns! We’re not sure if this is a 4 Nun product because of the history of the design, Springfield Armory’s adherence to that design (mostly) or it’s construction and operation. Probably some of each. Like a Ruger 1022, every household needs one of these rifles.

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

 

Accessories available at Brownells

Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

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