As someone who spends a large percentage of my range time coaching shooters who are usually still quite new to firearms and are recoil/sound sensitive, I’m always on the lookout for any tool or technique that will make that time more productive and fun for everyone involved. My latest find, one I’m especially excited about, is the Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact (22c). The 22c fills a niche Smith & Wesson really had no good offering for. The 22c feels totally different from the larger M&P 22 made by Walther and is a true American-made tactical 22 handgun that is an appropriate addition to the M&P family of pistols.
My particular gun is suppressor ready from the factory with an attachment at the muzzle end of the barrel. The gun came with two 10-round magazines (multiple magazines are a definite bonus at the range), a tool for removing the thread adaptor and the usual factory test fire casing and safety lock. The safety and instruction manual gives clear instructions, as well as pictures, on how to disassemble and reassemble the gun as well, while the supplemental instructions for installing a sound suppressor remind us to never fire the gun without the adapter installed.
The impression the M&P 22c gives is that of a scaled-down M&P, which is precisely what it is. The ergonomics will be very familiar to anyone comfortable with the centerfire versions, making for a fairly easy transition to the rimfire version.
The immediate difference is the thickness of the grip, or lack of, in this case. The 22c is noticeably slimmer than the double stack and is reminiscent of the S&W Shield, making it an ideal training gun for that platform. The 22c does not come with the interchangeable backstraps that the centerfire guns come with, making it not as easy to customize to individual shooters. The 22c also differs from the original M&P line in that it has a magazine disconnect as a standard feature, making it difficult to practice some training drills that require firing with a dropped magazine.
Features include a large ambidextrous manual safety (which unfortunately lacks the common red mark of some kind to denote the gun is ready to fire), Picatinny accessory rail (perfect for setting up your training gun as an 87% scale version of your home/personal defense gun with lights/lasers/anything that sports the Picatinny bracket) and a magazine release that can be switched from right hand to left hand operation.
The real measure of any firearm is how it handles while at the range. Ergonomically, the 22c doesn’t disappoint. Shooters with larger hands may feel uncomfortable with the size of the gun, but it fits a smaller hand beautifully. Controls are easy to operate with one hand and the sights are clear and well marked. The gun is likely more accurate than the average shooter. Both sights are dovetailed for ease of changing the sights out in the future and the rear sights are adjustable for both windage and elevation. Changing the front sight to a different color could improve how quickly the shooter acquires the proper sight picture.
Felt recoil is almost nothing, even with an old wrist injury that shooting other firearms aggravates, however shooting the M&P 22c is a pleasure. This low felt recoil makes practicing follow up shots fast and easy and can be a phenomenal way to help retrain shooters out of bad habits. A flinch when firing is a very common issue for many shooters. A winter spent with far more teaching then shooting gave me a really bad flinch that was slowly improving using drills with a different .22 LR pistol. After running multiple magazines through the 22c, I saw a huge jump in progress and had the best targets I’ve had all year. The trigger is fairly good without being mushy with a nice short reset.
Both magazines functioned flawlessly with two different brands of hollow point .22 LR ammo. I was not able to run any lead round nose through it, but have no doubt the gun would function just as well as long as higher velocity ammunition is used. There were no experienced malfunctions of any type even with several hundred rounds put down range without any type of cleaning or maintenance. Simply put, the gun is a shooter and darn good at its job.
Disassembly is extremely easy. The only special consideration for a suppressor-ready model is to keep in mind that the slide cannot be removed while the thread adaptor is still attached to the barrel. As the directions in the instruction manual and supplemental instruction explain, the provided tool is used to remove the adaptor before starting to disassemble the rest of the gun. Once that is done, disassembly is quick and easy following the directions provided and will likely be detailed in any number of YouTube videos within a matter of months. Lock the slide to the rear, flip down the take down lever on the left hand side of the gun and then gently pull the slide backwards and up slightly at the rear slide scallops. You should hear a small click and the slide should then slide freely forward and off the gun. From there it’s a simple matter to remove the guide rod (with captured spring) and you’re done field stripping. This is one area the 22c wins hands down over its bigger M&P cousins. Takedown is quicker, easier and requires no tools.
Even though it is a new addition to the training pistol world, there are already several options available for holsters designed for the 22c. Drawing from a holster is an important part of training for defensive pistol use. Being able to draw and fire from a holster at a lower cost per round (thank you lowly .22 LR) while also enjoying the benefits of less recoil and noise is a fantastic opportunity for any serious shooter.
I especially see this particular gun as invaluable for shooters who suffer from arthritis or other hand strength issues or who are recoil or noise sensitive and want the feel of a larger gun. With an MSRP of just a touch over $400 for the suppressor-ready model—and noticeably lower for the non-suppressor model—the 22c has a viable place in the gun safe of every serious shooter and trainer.
A gun review written by Lori Winstead.