Two nights ago, RF blogged the announcement of Smith and Wesson’s entry into the .22lr “clone” pistol market; the “new” M&P. One comment surfaced; why in the hell is there a giant 1911-esque thumb safety stuck on this thing?
Speaking with Paul Pluff, Director of Marketing Services, the answer became apparent: it’s another product rushed to market in attempts to ride a wave. In this case, it’s the wave of .22 pistols styled after their full-sized cousins. Smith and Wesson’s turn-around time from idea to production falls at approximately the two-year mark for most of their work. The M&P .22? barely one.
Visually and functionally, the M&P.22 is nearly identical to the rest of the M&P line. The primary alteration? S&W has opted for internal hammer-fire versus duplicating the striker-fire system found in other M&P’s. Why the change? In testing, they found the striker-fire system to be problematic with the .22lr cartridge, and moved to solve the problem before it presented itself. Kudos to them.
The M&P.22 comes to us from across the pond, manufactured on the Walther assembly lines and imported from Germany. Here, my friends, is your answer to the ugly thumb safety question.
Smith’s manufacturing base in the US wasn’t tooled up fast enough to bring this pistol for immediate release, so they’ve settled for abiding by firearms import restrictions and incorporating the thumb safety.
I queried on the plans to move manufacturing to the US – the short answer “who knows.” Are there plans to release the “cleaner” version at SHOT? – “[Smith and Wesson is a leading manufacturer in the industry, and brings several new products to market each year at SHOT, expect to see new and exciting things from Smith and Wesson at SHOT.]” This blogger’s interpretation of that statement – “We’ll get to it when we get to it, but not likely before SHOT.” That thumb safety? It’s here to stay for at least the next year.
The M&P22 enters the market with an MSRP of $419, a cool 150 bones lower than that of it’s full sized counterpart. Still, $419? for a .22? Especially if you’re exploiting an existing manufacturing process to bring your product to market ASAP? What gives?
Granted, you get drift-adjustable sights up front, click adjustable to the rear, Picatinny-Style rail and a reversible magazine release (who could forget that ambidextrous thumb safety!); but what do you lose?
For anyone with paws outside of the standard grip size, you lose the interchangeable back-straps which make the M&P series so mass-marketable. The draw of swappable back-straps attracted me to the series when I purchased my M&P9 a few years ago; I was looking for the same thing in the .22. If the .22lr “clones” allow us to practice with a cheaper caliber while maintaining functionality, handling and style – then ditching a major ergonomic feature seems ill-advised.
Bringing a new horse to the show is always a good idea; the firearms industry loves new toys. But let’s be honest here, Smith and Wesson is a wee bit late to the game with their February release of the M&P.22, and they’re still trying to bring production levels in line with demand. Additionally, they’ve ditched one of the features I considered key the the success of their existing line: the back-straps. We’ve had clone guns for a good while now – and much like the .380 craze the industry is just now recovering from, there’s a limit to how dead the .22 clone horse can get.