The Smith & Wesson M&P line of polymer pistols has been a huge hit for the Springfield, Massachusetts gunmaker. That’s not exactly a news flash. After some comparatively uninspired initial efforts at countering the GLOCK polymer pistol onslaught almost a generation ago, the M&P line has developed a dedicated following that appreciates the pistols’ ergonomics, options and reliability. But looking across the M&P product line, there had been one model missing. Yes, Smith offered the M&P22, but that’s a full-size gun that’s still made in Germany by Walther, a holdover from their former corporate partnership. With other smaller options out there like the the Walther P22 and Ruger’s relatively new SR22, Smith needed their own “tactical .22” to compete. Hence the M&P22 Compact . . .
The M&P22 Compact isn’t a shrunken version of the larger Walther .22. As Smith has gone to great pains to emphasize, this is a brand-new-from-the-ground-up design that’s made right here in the good ol’ US of A.
If you’re an M&P devotee – and they are legion – nothing about this new, littler .22 will be unfamiliar. Smith says the M&P22 Compact is exactly 87.5% (not 87%, not 88%) the size of the full-size M&P9 and definitely looks the part, featuring the same grip angle you’ve come to know and love. It’s a single-action, hammer-fired blowback affair with an aluminum slide and carbon steel barrel that’s fixed to the frame. Oh, and that barrel is threaded, too, just begging you to jump through all the ATF’s requisite hoops to get yourself a can.
As for controls, there are ambidextrous frame-mounted safety paddles that are large enough to flip on and off with ease. The mag release is on the left side, right where God intended, but southpaws who are at all handy can switch it over to the wrong side if they so choose. In case you’re wondering if you racked a round, there’s a loaded chamber peep hole on top of the slide. And if you intend to actually fire your 22 Compact, you’ll need to insert a magazine, because the magazine safety won’t let the gun go bang without one.
Speaking of mags, the M&P22 Compact comes with two 10-rounders. They also pack the gun box with a hex wrench for zeroing the fully-adjustable rear sight, a gun lock, a fired casing and a key for the gun’s integrated safety lock. Do yourself a favor and just throw that away.
The 22 Compact’s hinged trigger (a safety feature) is actually pretty good, particularly for a polymer .22, breaking consistently at a little under 6 lbs. It’s not as mushy as a GLOCK’s, but you probably guessed that. Reset is quick and short, making follow-up shots a cinch.
In case you missed it, this is a tactical 22. That means that like every other M&P out there, it comes equipped with a length of Picatinny railage for your attachment pleasure. Lights, lasers, mounting brackets, blades…if it has the required clamp, knock yourself out because you can hang it from your 22 Compact.
Note the captured spring on the guide rod.
Takedown is exactly as you’d expect. Drop the mag, clear the chamber and lock the slide back, then move the takedown lever ninety degrees until it’s pointing down. Pull back on the slide and lift up. Once the rear disengages, move the whole thing forward to clear the barrel and Robert’s your father’s brother.
The M&P22 Compact has a conventional sight arrangement featuring three easily visible white dots. The nice part: the rear sight is very adjustable for both windage and elevation. And both front and rear sights are dovetail-mounted for easy changing should you so desire.
Don’t like handguns with frame safeties? Join the club. There are plenty who won’t have a pistol without one, though, and the this is a single-action only gun, after all. So the M&P22 Compact’s double-sided safeties aren’t what you normally get on a small rimfire gun of this type. A frame safety should be easily engaged and disengaged. Something you can train to operate that works easily without any fumbling. That’s exactly what Smith’s engineers have done here. Think 1911 safeties, the kind you can snick on and off with a casual flick of your thumb.
Which brings us to shooting the thing. Like most guns, with good ammo the 22 Compact is as accurate as you are. Probably more so. The only problem I encountered with the gun was when we first pulled them out of their boxes at the Smith & Wesson range. They’d brought a supply of two types of Federal loads. If memory serves, the Federal Champion at 1260 fps worked like a champ. The slightly lower-powered Federal Gold Medal, however, at 1080 fps didn’t always cycle the gun.
Since then, I’ve tested the gun with five or six different flavors of rimfire rounds including Aguila, CCI Mini Mags, CCI Blazers, Wolf Match Target and even Thunderbolts. None have presented any problems for the M&P22 Compact. Twenty-two semi-auto pistols are notoriously finicky about the ammo they like, so I’m not bothered by having to find out which ones a gun likes to eat. And given the more recent smooth performance – about 600 trouble-free rounds or so – I’m chalking the initial balking up to box-fresh growing pains.
All in all, Smith & Wesson has build themselves a very nice pistol here. It’s true to the M&P tradition in design and function, so it will be a nice addition for those wanting to train with something that’s lighter-shooting than their full-size carry gun. It’s accurate and soft-shooting enough to be two tons o’ fun picking off prairie dogs or knocking cans off of a fence at 20 paces. And if you’re taking a noob to the range to introduce them to the joys of der boomenschutzen, the M&P22 Compact would be a great choice.
And yes, if you’re a small-framed person, have limited or impaired upper body strength or just a serious aversion to recoil, the M&P22 Compact wouldn’t make a bad home defense gun either (no matter what the inevitable comments below to the contrary may claim). All that and a street price in the $350 range make the gun very hard to resist.
Caliber: .22 LR
Action: Single Action (Internal Hammer)
Capacity: 10+1 Rounds
Barrel Length: 3.56”
Front Sight: White Dot
Rear Sight: White 2-Dot – Screw adjustable for windage & elevation
Overall Length: 6.65″
Overall Height: 5.03”
Overall Width: 1.48”
Weight: 15.3 oz
Barrel Material: Carbon steel
Slide Material: Aluminum alloy
Finish: Black, hard coat anodize
Ratings: (0ut of five stars):
Reliability: * * * *
Once I eliminated a lower-powered load that it didn’t like early on, it was 100% reliable. No failures to feed or eject in hundreds of rounds.
Ergonomics (carry): * * * *
No, this isn’t intended primarily as a carry gun. It’s a .22 for John Moses Browning’s sake. But that doesn’t mean some people won’t tote one. For them, keep in mind that isn’t a small gun. Again, it’s only 13% smaller than a full-sized M&P9. That said, you won’t have a problem carrying or concealing the M&P22 Compact in a good holster.
Ergonomics (shooting): * * * * *
Please. It’s a .22LR pistol that weighs almost a pound. Recoil isn’t even a consideration. Add to that the M&P line’s shooter-friendly layout that so many people know and love and you have an exceptionally shootable gun here.
Fit and Finish: * * * * *
This is a very nicely made 22LR pistol. It doesn’t have the solid feel of a Mark III or a Buck Mark. Then again, those aren’t “tactical” .22s and they weigh more than twice as much as the M&P22 Compact. This is a polymer-framed gun with an aluminum slide, a different animal altogether that feels substantial and lays nicely in the hand.
Overall: * * * * *
Smith & Wesson needed something to compete with the SR22 and P22 that they build themselves. The M&P22 Compact certainly fills that bill with bells on. It’s an extremely reliable, soft-shooting pistol that’s perfectly suited to training to shoot your bigger M&Ps, getting a new shooter started, or just plinking. It’s hard to see what the M&P22 Compact doesn’t do extremely well for what it is. And at only $389 (MSRP) it’s a bargain.