Most gun reviews allow for a short acclimation period, a couple hundred rounds at the range and a rushed story and photos to meet an editorial deadline. We thought it might be interesting to do a “one year later” review on a gun – just to see how it holds up over time and use. While announced by Smith & Wesson all the way back in their 2009 new products catalog, I picked up the M&P VTAC I just under a year and a half ago. It was new in box, found with a small stash tucked away in a Smith & Wesson warehouse somewhere. Now in its second iteration, the M&P 15 VTAC remains as popular as ever. Let’s take a look.
A Tour of the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC I
Let’s take a look at what makes the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC special. The simple explanation is that the VTAC models are preconfigured factory produced hot rods. The VTAC is more than a “marketing bundle” where various third-party accessories are bolted on and factored into the price. The base rifle itself includes premium upgrades that set the VTAC apart before any toys are hung on the rails.
Core Component Upgrades
When talking premium upgrades, you have to start with the Barrel. The VTAC I features a 4140 steel 16 inch barrel with a 1:7 twist. The aggressive twist rate stabilizes longer (and heavier) projectiles like 77 grain bullets. Numerous components are chromed for wear and ease of cleaning including the bore, chamber, gas key and bolt carrier.
JP Enterprises Single Stage Match Trigger and Speed Hammer
The big deal about the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC is the inclusion of a first-rate trigger. AR type rifles aren’t exactly celebrated for their quality triggers, but the JP Enterprises Single Stage Match Trigger is outstanding. Oh, it also features the JP Enterprises Speed Hammer upgrade.
Even though I’ve become accustomed to the feel after shooting a few thousand rounds, it will still offer a surprise break when I’m concentrating on precise shots. It has no detectable take up and no over travel. By my measurement, it breaks extra crispy at 3 1/2 pounds.
Viking Tactics Handguard by JP Enterprises
The 12.5 inch aluminum handguard is attached to the receiver with a steel nut, resulting in a free floated barrel. The handguard itself is completely round, with a light texture applied to the aluminum surface. It’s insanely configurable with use of three included rail segments that can mount to the top of the hand guard via a line of seven screw holes or on the bottom or sides using rail backers that attach to the oblong grooves in the hand guard.
SureFire FH556-212A Flash Hider / Silencer Adapter
The included Surefire flash hider is a dual purpose accessory. It’s primary purpose is to reduce flash signature in order to protect the shooters night vision and conceal position. This one also helps prevent muzzle rise. This particular flash hider also serves as a no-tools mount for SureFire FA556K, FA556-212, FA556MG, or MINI suppressors. The Surefire flash hider attaches to the VTAC’s standard ½” by 28 tpi threaded barrel, so it’s easy to configure most any muzzle device you want.
VLTOR Modular Stock
The VLTOR stock offers six positions for varying lengths of pull. Not only does this accommodate different shooter dimensions, it allows quick reconfiguration to properly fit when the user is wearing body armor or other gear. The stock also contains two waterproof compartments large enough to house (3) CR123 or (2) AA batteries in each compartment. You might also want to use these compartments for critical spare parts – firing pin, springs, or perhaps beef jerky. The stock also has three different sling mounts: top, center and a quick-detach stud swivel mount if you prefer that to simple loops.
The gizmos are nice, but what I like most about this stock is the ergonomic design. The top offers an extra wide and smooth surface, owing to the storage compartments on either side. The shape makes for a comfortable and solid cheek weld surface. I also like the butt design. It slopes down and towards the muzzle, and is coated with a textured rubber pad which helps establish a solid position against your chest or shoulder.
Surefire G2 Light and VTAC Light Mount
Viking Tactics 2 Point Sling
If you haven’t used the Viking Tactics Quick Adjust Sling, try it. After one-time “permanent” length adjustment, you can use the quick adjust pull tab to cinch your rifle in tight or loosen it for firing flexibility. When sized correctly, you can even shoot from your offside shoulder without adjustment to the sling. It’s handy.
This rifle arrived pretty much loaded – with one exception. I immediately replaced the standard hard plastic grip with an Ergo Tactical Deluxe Grip. Now it was ready for the configuration games.