Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P10 Sport Optics Ready Rifle

I’ve deployed with an M16 and an M4. When push came to shove, the AR-15 platform got it done. And yet the AR-15 never felt like a real battle rifle. It felt like the closest thing to a battle rifle that the military could get an 18-year-old girl right out of high school to shoulder and shoot. But the AR-10? The AR-10 feels like the real thing . . .

The core of the Smith & Wesson M&P10 Sport Optics Ready rifle: the barrel and receiver set.

The barrel is a 16-inch 4140 steel tube with a light weight contour, finished with “all the rage at the rage” 5R rifling. More and more popular rifles are now being mass produced with the cut prefered by many competition shooters; the same land and groove configuration of the US Army M24 sniper weapons system.

The touted benefits of 5R rifling: superior accuracy and longevity, as well as more consistency between long strings. So far, I haven’t been able to identify any significant difference in these mass-produced barrels with the 5R cut, as opposed to more traditional rifling, but time will tell.

Most shooters will find the M&P10 Sport Optic-Ready rifle’s lower receiver a significant improvement on other manufacturers’ AR-10 offerings at the same price.

The Smith’s dimensions are nothing out of the ordinary, but the completely ambidextrous controls are. Magazine release, bolt catch/release and safety are all mirrored on both the right and left of the rifle. The rifle’s magazine well is textured for a more secure grip if, for some reason, using your support hand on the hand guard just doesn’t work for you.

The upper receiver provides nothing out of the ordinary, with the usual forward assist and a solid rail on top of the gun. I was disappointed with the standard charging handle. It’s small and stiffer than normal. I like a “big boy” latch on an AR-15 and it’s a necessity on an AR-10, where the bolt’s a little harder to get moving backwards.

The M&P10 Sport comes with an old school round hand guard. It’s the kind that came on my issued M16 in basic training. I like that grip now and I always have. It feels good in my hand from standing, the prone or from the kneel.

Of course, there are no rail sections on the rifle and there won’t be. If you want those, you’re going to have to swap out those hand guards — which is easy enough to do. S&W has placed a rail section on top of the gas block on the mid-length gas system. You can mount a front sight to the rifle for either back up irons or, if you want to keep it real, go without glass entirely.

These rifles come in standard black, but some finishes are better than others. This is one of the better ones. Armorite is the S&W proprietary nitride finish, and they’ve covered the receiver as well as the barrel inside and out. It looks good with the right amount of deep blackness to it with just a touch of gloss. It’s the classic scary black rifle.

I made a lot of empty brass for this review by sending a full 500 rounds down range. About 200 of those were my own reloads, launching a 150gr soft point round at 2,775 fps. That’s more than enough for any deer out past 500 yards. The rest were commercial rounds of multiple weights and varieties. The rifle never had any issues with any of the rounds, save one.

The Hornady 125 grain SST Custom Reduced Recoil failed to cycle every time. That’s not surprising; I can’t ding the direct impingement rifle for failing to reliably run such a light load. For every other rounds, including FMJs from Fiocchi, soft points from Federal, and numerous types from Hornady, everything cycled just fine.

The magazines never failed to load or drop, and the bolt never failed to run fully forward into battery when I released the catch on a new magazine. The forward assist was there, but unnecessary.

As for accuracy, the M&P10 prints tight groups across a wide range of ammunition. The best-shooting five-round group averaged right at one inch using the Federal Premium 168gr Sierra Match King round from a rest at 100 yards. I’m not surprised as the 168gr SMK has been a standard for decades, and for good reason.

Just behind that were both the Hornady 125grain SST Custom Reduced Recoil load, and the Federal Gold Medal 185 grain Juggernaut round, both printing an average of 1.1 inch for four five round groups. The Federal 150 grain Non Typical round printed the widest five round average, at 1.4 inch.

That accuracy sure isn’t courtesy of the rifle’s “mil-spec” trigger. Because it’s horrible. It’s squishy, with tons of creep. It does break, eventually, somewhere. Of course, it’s an AR, so you can replace it easily, and I’m betting over time most folks will. (This the trigger that has spawned dozens of aftermarket companies.)

Also meant to be replaced: the pistol grip and butt stock. The grip is the standard one-finger notch hollow plastic variety. The stock is the common six position collapsible stock every AR shooter knows, and has come to replace.

Out on the range, I was smitten with the rifle. Then again, I’m smitten with just about every AR-10. Heck, the only battle rifle I like more than the AR-10 is the PTR 91. Sure, I’d change the Smith’s furniture and the trigger, at some point. But right now, it shoots very well. It feels good from the shoulder, with the shorter barrel and hand guard making for quick and sure target transitions.

S&W has produced a relatively inexpensive AR-10 that’s made to be modified. It’s finished well with a better than average barrel and a great receiver set. As is, it’s more than good enough to shoot, hunt or protect for about a grand. Not bad at all.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Model: M&P®10 SPORT™ Optics Ready
Caliber: .308 WIN/7.62 x 51
Stock: 6-Position Telescopic
Grip: Synthetic
Weight: 128.0 oz / 3,628.7g
Barrel Material: 4140 Steel
Barrel Twist: 1 in 10″ – 5R Rifling
Receiver: Forged 7075 Aluminum Abidextrous
MSRP: $1,049

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Finish * * * *
It’s standard black rifle, but the black is a better black than most other rifle’s blacks.

Customization * * * * *
It’s an AR-10. No, still not quite as easy to replace everything as an AR-15, but close. By already shipping with an ambi lower receiver, S&W has given the customer upgraded guts, and leaves the simple bolt-on’s to the shooter.

Reliability * * * * 1/2
It cycles almost everything. A lighter load is still in spec, but there’s no way you should expect an AR to cycle everything from 125gr to 180gr loads without an adjustable gas block. Which is exactly what would have given this five stars.

Accuracy * * * *
1MOA and just above with multiple rounds is darn good shooting, but nothing broke the 1” mark.

Overall * * * *
This is three-star furniture with a four-star barrel on a five-star receiver. A great value firearm.

comments

  1. avatar Evey259 says:

    An MSRP north of 1000? My PSA AR10 shoots as well and comes with significantly nicer furniture for less than 700. I guess suckers really do buy ARs instead of making them.

    1. avatar Shotgun Sam says:

      Been thinking a lot about the AR10 platform especially after reading this:

      http://professorprepper.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-designated-marksman-carbine-dmc.html

      I like the DMC concept. And if I bother to “make one” it will be north of a K, maybe two.

    2. avatar Defens says:

      I just looked it up on Gallery of Guns – in my locale they are selling for around $850; a pretty great deal, when you consider that was the going price for AR15s just a few years ago (not counting the Post-Sandy-Hook panic).

      I think I prefer my DPMS Recon, which cost a bit more, but S&W does make a very serviceable AR platform rifle. I have the 5.56 MOE version, and it’s a great carbine.

      In theory, the 5R rifling is supposed to deform bullets less, providing for better accuracy. I can’t really confirm that, but the two Remy bolt guns I own in .308 have 5R barrels, and will shoot bugholes at 200 yards, and no issues in shooting head shots on an IPSC target at 600 yards. The 5R rifling does seem to clean very quickly and easily.

      1. avatar Matt says:

        I’ve been reading some conflicting info that the barrels are 5R rifling. S&W doesn’t even mention it on their site. I’m also finding a mixed info on rifling of it being 1-7 to 1-9. I also don’t see them being ambidextrous.
        Asking has given me mixed answers depending on whom answers the question. If they don’t know most will just make up an answer for fear of not knowing the answer. That’s been my experience.

    3. avatar jwtaylor says:

      http://palmettostatearmory.com/ar-10/pa-10-complete-rifles.html?limit=25

      Which rifle are you referring to? Every AR-10 they have is completely out of stock and unavailable.

      1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

        At PSA, if you put an out of stock item in your wish list the last price sold will be listed.

        You need to create an account to get the wish list capability.

      2. avatar Evey259 says:

        Th18″ stainless steel barreled AR10 with 15″ M-LOK handguard and Magpul ACSL stock and grip. It was a little south of 500 when I bought it, and the lower was 150. After transfer, it came out to just about 670. I installed a Taylor Tactical trigger kit and got it shooting just a touch below .9MOA with SMK HPBTs. It was on sale a few weeks ago and I couldn’t pass up. Give the upper a look at the very least. It got posted lower in the conversation thread.

    4. avatar JeffInCa says:

      I went the opposite way. I haven’t added up the receipts, but I’m going to estimate my hand built LR308 at around $3k. Aero Precision upper, Krieger 20″ barrel, adjustable gas block, JP BCG and bolt, Geissele SSA-E trigger, MagPul LRS stock, Ergo pistol grip, Millett LRS-1 optic, handful of pmags… Heavy, and worth every penny.

  2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Is it possible to make a hand load that is optimized for the shorter barrel that even exceeds Mr. Taylor’s velocities? If the relatively tiny brass casing of .300 ACC Blackout can push a .30 caliber, 125 grain bullet out of a 9-inch barrel at 2300 fps, it seems like someone should be able to develop a handload that pushes a .30 caliber, 150 grain bullet out of a 16-inch barrel at 2,830 fps.

    I ask because I seriously want one of these AR-10s and I do not want to give up any muzzle velocity if possible.

    Note: I am thinking of full-house .44 Magnum handgun loads with 240 grain bullets that launch from a 16-inch barrel at something like 1,700 fps — it seems like a substantially lighter bullet coming out of a brass casing with substantially more powder capacity should be able to achieve MUCH higher velocities.

    Full disclosure: I am not a reloader and my comments are all based on intuition. I openly admit that my intuition could be WAY off base.

  3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    If only Smith and Wesson had made this with an 18 or 20 inch barrel!

    And I really wish they would offer it in .243 Winchester!!!!!

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          They all ship with a single 20 round PMag.

        2. avatar ACP_arms says:

          The first one I linked to doesn’t. Model #811311 comes with a 10 rounder, the second one I linked #811308 comes with a 20 rounder.

        3. avatar jwtaylor says:

          ACP, hell, I stand corrected. Thanks. It’s weird how they have a Sport Optics Ready, and an Optics Ready, with no discernable difference other than one ships with a 10 round PMag and the other ships with a 20.

        4. avatar Stereodude says:

          It’s for the states that don’t allow 20rd magazines.

    1. avatar Stereodude says:

      They make an 18″ version and have for years. It’s also quite a bit more money. About $250 more with the current pricing I found online. It appears to be the same rifle aside from the barrel length and flash hider (by the specs/features).

      The shorter 16″ model JWT reviewed is the new one.

      Note there are some odd quirks with the M&P10. The charging handle is a non-standard size. You’re better off just replacing the latch with an extended one. A AR-15 grip with a “beaver tail” will have a gap above the “beaver tail” when installed on the M&P10 because the lower receiver has a different shape. You have to buy one without a “beaver tail” or one with a special, high “tail” / backstrap like the Magpul MIAD 1.1 Type 2.

      It uses an AR-15 trigger, but you have to remove the right side bolt catch to install the hammer.

  4. avatar Joel IV says:

    I wasn’t aware S&W made the AR10 in a full-auto “assault rifle” configuration.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I don’t know if they do or not, but the rifle was never referred to as an assault rifle anywhere in the article.

  5. avatar Astigmatism says:

    For a few hundred dollars more you can get a Sig 716 G2, DMR or patrol, and not have to replace anything.

  6. avatar OmnivorousBeorn says:

    I’d forgotten about the people with PSA guns who are like, X-nuumber of dollars for THAT? Are you kidding me? I got a PSA for this much less! It has these specs! It has these pieces of furniture on it! It costs this much after I put a decent scope on it! etc.

    1. avatar Astigmatism says:

      This is Mr. Leghorn’s review of the Sig, of which I speak.
      http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2017/09/foghorn/gun-review-sig-sauer-716-g2-dmr/

      …Grain of salt?

  7. avatar Bob999 says:

    If I have to hike a dozen miles or more with a thousand rounds or more, I will take an AR-15 in 5.56mm above an AR-10; otherwise, I would take an AR-10 over an AR-15 easily. Even in my younger, physically fit days of having to lug around an M-60, weight on a long hike was important.

    With that being said, and the fact that I can now use a cart to move my ammo from the car to the range, I am okay with carrying a thousand rounds of 7.62mm and an AR-10. I can even carry the brass off the range too. 🙂

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I have thought about exactly what you described.

      Here is the problem as I see it:
      5.56 x 45 mm is far easier to carry than 7.62 x 51 mm when you are carrying a LOT of ammunition a long distance on your person. Unfortunately, that light load traditionally means 55 grain full metal jacket bullets which can often be poor man stoppers even at close range and downright awful at 300+ yards.

      This has me wondering if the 5.56 x 45 mm cartridge loaded with 73 grain soft-point bullets would be enough of an improvement in man stopping ability (at all ranges) such that the added weight of 7.62 x 51 mm would not be worth it.

      Along the same lines, I wonder if .243 Winchester (with 100 grain soft-point bullets) is the answer to vastly improved man stopping ability at all ranges without increasing weight too much. Those .243 Winchester brass casings would weigh ever so slightly less than 7.62 x 51 casings and the bullets would of course be 2/3 the weight of 150 grain 7.62 mm bullets.

    2. avatar Stereodude says:

      The 18″ S&W M&P10 is one of the lighter out of the box .308 AR platform rifles out there in the lower end of the market at 123.2oz. Oddly enough, the 16″ S&W M&P10 is heavier at 128.0oz.

  8. avatar Timothy V Noecker says:

    Why Wasn’t The Brand/Power Of The Optic Used In This Review Ever Given Any Detail?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Because three different optics were used during the review as well as iron sights.

      1. avatar Timothy V Noecker says:

        Ahh, Thanks…

  9. avatar GS650G says:

    I have a DPMS LR308 and I’m very happy with it. I paid 1000 for it 9 years ago. I agree with replacing the furniture and trigger although the DPMS trigger us livable.
    If you haven’t tried a .30 AR yet you are missing a lot. This is what Stoner had in mind when he designed it.

    I might try those reduced recoil .308 rounds in my bolt gun, no concerns about cycling.

    1. avatar California Richard says:

      FINALLY!!! Someone brings up the LR-308… The M&P-10 rifle is an LR-308 pattern rifle and not an AR-10 pattern rifle. The differences can be minor but you cannot swap individual bolt components, gas tubes and barrels, reciever halves, or mags between the two and expect it to function reliably. Do your homework and, if you own a “.308 version” of an AR, know what you have and know what it isn’t…. trust me, it will save you a lot of headaches down the road.

  10. avatar Anonymous says:

    More and more popular rifles are now being mass produced with the cut prefered by many competition shooters; the same land and groove configuration of the US Army M24 sniper weapons system.

    And odd numbered rifling is nothing new. Opposing land and groove rifling was employed on the swiss schmidt rubin 1889 with 3 cuts instead of 5.

    https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/theswissriflesdotcommessageboard/1889-actual-bullet-diam-for-reloading-t3753.html

  11. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Not bad at all for the price. And getting around 1 inch groups? Pretty darned good.

  12. avatar Anonymous says:

    Why is there a shovel in the photo? Are you going to bury something after you shoot that gun?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Because a shovel was laying there when I took the photo.

  13. avatar Jross says:

    Mounts on backwards.

    1. avatar Stereodude says:

      Not necessarily. First, the upper is 1″ longer than a standard AR-15 upper. Second, the eye-relief of the scope and the position of the collapsible stock determines where the optic should sit.

      1. avatar Shotgun Sam says:

        Absolutely. Unless the mount is angled for long range shooting, flat is flat. But some mounts like quick release ones can interfere with rifle controls or case ejection.

  14. avatar Scotty Crawford says:

    BEST COMMENTS SECTION I’VE EVER SEEN ON TTAG. EVER.

    It’s been a pleasure to hear from every single one of you, everyone. Thank you!

    This was great: smart people who ask intelligent questions politely and get answers from the same kind of people. The comments and replies were helpful and made everybody smarter. Yeah, me too….
    The posters bothered to speak English, and to spell. I even believe they have real jobs.

    Hey TTAG staff…When anyone asks you what a Comments section should be, show ’em this one.

    1. avatar Shotgun Sam says:

      That’s a mighty fine thing to say. Thank you sir. Have a great day.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      The comments section is the best thing about TTAG. And for those of you who would like to be writers, it’s where the staff recruits its writers from.

  15. avatar Scotty Crawford says:

    I should have complimented Mr. Taylor as well. I apologize. Excellent writing, Mr. Taylor, absolutely excellent, not just technically, but with several nice flourishes which made the article interesting and fun.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Thank you sir.

  16. avatar TONy says:

    Vortex razor ii 1-6 $1400 nice. Love that optic on my ddm4. Seems overkill for this though. Maybe Burris best for $

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      There’s no such thing as overkill when it comes to a quality optic. The smart thing to do is buy the best glass you can afford, even if it means scrimping on the rifle. Upgrade the rifle later and move the glass over to it.

  17. avatar Glenn Cheney says:

    Have recently embarked on .308 mission. Three bbls., 2 16″ and an 18″.
    Going DPMS low profile.
    May go 6.5 Creedmore on one of the lowers.
    All billet. Bionic bolts 50k round rated, MOE ACS-L stock on 16’s, A-2 Duty for the 18’s.
    Have yet to buy the Creedmore bbl.
    Black Hole has polyrifling, rounded lands, no 90 degree angled cuts, better bullet seal, less bullet deformation, a superior bbl. imo, but pricey compared to current CNC production bbls., that still shoot sub MOA.
    Most low end bbls can outshoot most shooters.
    I have one ADK skeletonized heavy hammer springed single stage @ 3.1 pounds on the glass rod break.
    Bolts QPQ, carriers NiB, all 9310 bolts.
    I can build eye candy straight fluted 416R @ $99.99, mlok or keymod free floating, 4150 steel with steel gas blocks if not s.s.
    Hoag over molded’s grips, on backorder.
    QPQ LPK.
    My only non-necessary consideration, that charging handle that’s lazered PULL TO START.
    Normally, I eschew mousekateer club engravings, but, what the heck.

  18. avatar mark says:

    Why does it always bother me when someone puts the scope mount on backwards?

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