If you own or use a Smith & Wesson M&P15/22 rifle, similar to those illustrated below (click the image for a larger view):
then you would do well to avoid shooting it until potential problems have been resolved.
Project Appleseed is a widespread and very highly regarded shooter training program, teaching people of all ages how to use a rifle accurately and competently. (I've recommended them in these pages before.) They've just warned all their instructors that the M&P15/22 rifle is banned from their ranges until further notice. Here's their warning in full.
To: All Appleseed Instructors
Subject: TEMPORARY BAN ON SMITH & WESSON M&P 15/22 USE AT APPLESEED
EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, THE USE OF SMITH AND WESSON M&P 15/22’S AT AN APPLESEED IS HEREBY BANNED UNTIL SMITH & WESSON FORMALLY INVESTIGATES THE PROBLEM AND ISSUES AN OFFICIAL CORRECTIVE ACTION. THE AOC WILL NOTIFY THE CADRE WHEN THIS BAN IS LIFTED.
The AOC has received a rash of reports regarding safety issues with the Smith & Wesson M&P 15/22, including a shooter getting injured as a result of an out-of-battery discharge (see reports below).
As responsible Instructors, we have a duty to maintain safety at our events. If we know a rifle to be potentially unsafe, we shouldn’t allow it on the line at all.
At this time the least risk course of action would be to exclude the Smith & Wesson M&P 15/22 from future events until Smith & Wesson formally investigates the problem and issues an official corrective action.
REPORTS TO BE AWARE OF:
Bowie, MD: A shooter (RHS) firing a M&P 15/22 with Remington 22 Thunderbolt Ammo had an out of battery discharge. A Metal Fragment hit the arm of a shooter next to her (LHS) in her right arm. She, did not realize that she had been hit with fragments at first and continued to fire until blood begin to pool (time est. 11:10am) feeling only a warm sting. Instructors rendered first aid applying a compression type bandage to stop the bleeding. Shoot boss suggested that she go to local hospital or emergency clinic. She was able to drive herself to the hospital. They took x-rays of the area and found a fragment deep in her arm. Hospital suggested that she see an Orthopedic surgeon or her Doctor on Monday to have the object removed but surgery should not be required.
Casper, WY: This past weekend we had a student show up with a 15/22. She had been using it pretty regular, since she had also attended our recent boot camp. After about 8 sets of squares, she began to notice the malfunction. Upon careful observation, it was noticed that as she reset the sear the rifle would discharge. We called cease fire and immediately removed this rifle from the line, and replaced it with a loaner.
Once off line, it was field stripped and upon inspection, found that not only was it firing at reset, but also when the safety was engaged. Further inspection found that the trigger pin and the hammer pin were both loose. They both had moved about 1/16th of an inch to the right. Just enough to be loose on the left side of the receiver. The pins were gently hammered back in and function checks performed. After about 3 sets, the hammer pin slid out again.
The rifle was reassembled and tagged out, student was told that 1) the rifle needed to be seen by her gunsmith; or 2) (my recommendation) sent back to the manufacturer for repair/replacement.
Michigan Senior Instructor: The SI wanted to shoot an AQT with his 15/22, but he needed to verify the zero. Another instructor volunteered to take the rifle over to another range, put it on a bench, and confirm zero. While shooting the first string, after pulling the trigger, the extractor shot out the ejection port along with the case and the extractor spring. The case was retrieved and it was observed to be split down the side, indicating that the rifle fired out of battery. Fortunately, the instructor was alone on the range, and no one was injured. The rifle was sent back to S&W, and it was repaired and returned. A copy of one page of the manual was enclosed, highlighting the need to keep the rifle clean and only use certain types of ammunition, insinuating that the problem was operator error, not a design flaw. The Senior Instructor sold the rifle shortly thereafter.
Michigan Instructor: “Back before I was more familiar with this model, we had a malfunction of the Extractor during an event – it simply fell apart during a course of fire. I took it to Williams and they said it needed to go back to S&W. To save time I just bought a new extractor, springs and dowel pins and replaced them myself. Tested it and it worked fine, that’s until it malfunctioned again after several hundred rounds down range.
“As the old saying goes 'two is one and one is none' – I had purchased several extractors, springs and dowel pins – replaced it a second time and it worked fine all up until I had a 'Run-Away...' Luckily I had the muzzle pointed down range as it spit out the balance of 30 rounds down range without the need to have a finger on the trigger...
“I contacted S&W and they sent me a repair tag and shipped it back to them. Upon its return I noticed that they replaced the hammer, sear and all the springs were replaced with “Blue” springs. The rifle performed well the after that but I never brought it back to an Appleseed. It now sits in the vault as an expensive club.”
Montpelier, VA: I’ve witnessed out-of-battery firing and squib from M&P 15/22’s twice but never from a 10/22.
As Bob Owens of Bearing Arms concluded:
As a general rule of thumb, out of battery discharges are rare, and run away guns even more so. The fact that a national rifle training program feels compelled to ban the entire line of M&P firearms because of these issues is disconcerting, to put it mildly.
I couldn't agree more! I don't own an M&P15/22, but if I did, I would immediately retire it to the gun safe until Smith & Wesson investigates the problem and comes up with a solution that, in Appleseed's opinion, will render the rifles safe to have on their ranges once more.
Meanwhile, if you want a semi-automatic .22LR rifle, the time-honored Ruger 10/22 is ubiquitous, and has a well-earned reputation for reliability and accuracy. Another, sometimes lower-cost alternative, which uses a tubular magazine beneath the barrel rather than a detachable unit, is the equally popular Marlin Model 60. I've used both rifles, and can recommend them from my own experience. Base models are usually available in the $175-$250 range (although a highly customized 10/22 can run well into the four-figure bracket, if you've got that kind of money to burn and feel so inclined).