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A year ago, I picked up my first AR-15 platform, a used Eagle Arms EA-15 chambered in 5.56 mm. The only drawback to it was the rail on the receiver.....it was a Weaver derivative and not a spec Picatinny. While it came with a rail adapter that worked with some rings I had, the adapter still didn't provide a Picatinny dimensioned rail. I finally grew tired of trying to find a suitable adapter. When a local store put a Smith & Wesson M&P15OR (Optic Ready) on sale, and I also just happened to have a $75 off coupon in hand that would handle the tax, I decided to pick one up. I had browsed enough forum threads discussing the M&P15 and didn't really find any major issues with it....at least not as far as I was concerned.
I've changed a few of the stock components already. Hey,
it is, after all, an AR-15, right? We all know how many aftermarket parts
there are available for these rifles. Since this M&P15 was an OR model, I
had to put an optic and mount on it. I opted for a new handguard and also
a pistol grip. Last, but not least, I put a vertical grip on it too.
I also had a
Bill Springfield trigger sitting in the parts bin and it was
looking for a good home. I was originally going to install it in my M&P15-22 but changed my mind at the last minute and put it in this one. (Glad
I did.....I really like it!)
Smith & Wesson offers approximately 20 different M&P15 models. As I mentioned earlier, I bought the Optic Ready (OR) version. As delivered, it has no iron sights and the receiver has a MIL-STD-M1913 Picatinny rail for mounting some kind of optic. If a rear open sight is used, the top of the gas block also has a rail for a front sight.
The 4140 steel barrel measures 16" and has a 1 in 9" twist. While
some folks prefer a faster rate of twist, I've no intentions of going higher
than the 60 something grain weight. The 1 in 9" twist will stabilize those
bullets without a problem. Along with the barrel bore, the chamber and the
gas key bolt carrier are also chromed. The barrel is chambered for 5.6 mm
I replaced the factory handguard with Magpul's M.O.E. version. The MOE handguard supports optional M1913 rails that can be purchased from Mapgul in a variety of lengths. The bottom and sides of the handguard can be fitted with the Picatinny rails. No tools, other than an Allen wrench, are required for rail attachment. A separate write-up covering the MOE handguard installation is available here on the site.
Since I wanted a side mounted front sling attachment point, I
installed a GG&G Sling Thing on the
MOE Picatinny rail. I opted for a VTAC sling from
I added a vertical grip to the MOE handguard's bottom rail.
It is a no-name grip (read cheap knockoff). I got it mainly to see
how the pop-out bipod worked with the rifle. I'll be attending a practical
rifle course at Front Sight later this year. I'm not even going to pretend
to be good enough to accurately manage the 200 yard off-hand shooting we will be
doing. I'll be going prone with the bipod....at least that is the plan
right now. If this setup goes well, I'll opt for a quality grip/bipod if
this one doesn't hold up during our range practice sessions.
Moving to the opposite end, Smith & Wesson delivers the M&P15 with a 6 position CAR stock (shown above fully collapsed). I did find a little bit of "wobble" in the stock because of the fit between the buffer tube and the stock. It's not really all that bad....at this point, I'm not worried about it.
From Smith & Wesson, the OR model tips the scales at 6.5 pounds. It comes with a single 30 round MagPul magazine and the rifle is packed in a polymer gun case. While the case is good enough for local range trips, I wouldn't want to trust it on an airlines flight. After I mounted my scope, it would no longer fit in the case. I have to question Smith & Wesson's decision regarding their selling a firearm with no sights in a case that becomes too small once the optic is installed. Hmmm........