Gun Take a look at: Smith & Wesson M&P 10

By Ed Friedman, Shooting Illustrated

While the Smith & Wesson name might conjure up images of big wheel guns or the belligerent guy on the fists of a frat party, the renowned gun manufacturer has been building its reputation lately with its M&P line of semi-automatic handguns and AR platform rifles. These more modern firearms have earned awards from both shooters looking for practical self-defense weapons and competitive shooters thanks to the ergonomic and affordable pistols and high quality ARs from the Springfield, MA-based company at a similarly affordable price. Whether you’re looking for a quad rail forend, Magpul furniture, or even a California version, the 18 rifles and carbines in the Smith & Wesson range are likely to meet your needs. But so far we have been limited to 5.56 NATO in the selection of chambers. Thanks to the M&P10 – introduced in 2013 – those looking for more clout from their AR now have a .308 Win./7.62 NATO option from a trusted manufacturer and an affordable, high quality choice.

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The numbered rail section on the top receiver allows users to mount a variety of optics on the M&P10.

Weighing less than 8 pounds, the M&P10 is significantly lighter than many 5.56 NATO ARs, yet sturdy enough to handle the larger, more powerful .308 Win. This lightweight comes despite an additional 2 inch barrel length. Why an 18 inch barrel? Paul Pluff, director of marketing and communications at Smith & Wesson, explained that the company was looking for a “in between” run length. A sniper might prefer a 20 “or 24” barrel, while someone looking for a “tactical” carbine would likely choose a 16 “barrel. “Ultimately for our first .308 Win. AR, we had to choose a run length, ”said Pluff. “So we chose a length between the two extremes. The result has minimal impact on performance over long distances, but still allows the M & P10 to be maneuvered in tight spaces. ”I can attest to both the performance and maneuverability of the M & P10 as I used one of the first production models to hunt in Oklahoma . Sitting in a closed box, I was able to move the rifle from the front to the side windows without slamming it against the steel walls and alerting every animal for miles of my presence. When a running sow stormed my direction it was pretty easy to change the shooting position for a shot and when I pulled the trigger I was very happy to have the .308 win. Energy. Even from just 25 yards, a single 5.56 NATO cartridge rarely drops a boar on the spot, but the 250-pound hog couldn’t withstand my well-placed shot from the M&P10 and hit the ground instantly.

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A chrome-plated gas key and bolt carrier ensure reliability, even after intensive use of the direct-gas operated rifle.

On the other end of the spectrum, the M&P10 delivered consistent 2.5 to 4 inch groups at 250 yards on paper despite a constant breeze between 5 and 10 mph. Would a longer run produce tighter groups? Possibly. Would I have had any more maneuverability with a 16-inch barrel? Possibly. Did any of these factors play a role in real life? No. I think the compromises of Smith & Wesson’s choice of an 18-inch barrel are generally positive for the M & P10, especially when you look at the rifle as a whole. Starting at the mouth, Smith & Wesson immediately innovated with a patent-pending Enhanced Flash Hider (EFH). This device is screwed onto the shaft with a slight contour and is slightly longer than a standard A2 model. In addition to a notched face – which can also serve as a glass breaker or “chest knock” – the back of the single house has forward-facing holes. These holes blow gas outward and forward, which in my experience didn’t affect the felt recoil, but seemed to keep the muzzle lift to a minimum. Because the gas is blown away by the shooter, the likelihood of unburned powder or dirt being blown back into your face is much lower than with a standard muzzle brake or lightning stash.

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The M & P10’s mid-length gas system allows for cooler gas to clock the action without putting significant strain on the rifle.

The 4140 steel barrel has a corrosion-resistant finish and tapers to a slight contour in front of the gas block and then back in front of the detached house to accommodate most muzzle devices. A medium length gas system begins on the machined, flat gas block that has a rail section at 12 o’clock for mounting an aftermarket visor. Smith & Wesson chose the medium length gas system carefully for two reasons. First, while a full length gas system itself would not add much weight, the resulting need for longer handguards could potentially add significant weight to a rifle that is supposed to be relatively light. Second, carabiner length gas systems are simply not as reliable as longer options in the AR platform because the gas used to perform the action is tapped closer to the chamber and is therefore significantly hotter. The hot gas can wear out the bolt carrier and ultimately lead to standstills. A medium-length gas system mitigates this problem without adding unwanted bulk to the rifle – again a smart compromise that goes well with the M & P10’s intended role as an all-round firearm. Standard A2-style handguards provide a standard platform for gripping the rifle, but are obviously not ideal. However, they keep the price of the M&P10 down, which is nice, and they can be replaced with a large number of aftermarket options, with or without rails. Smith & Wesson mills spikes into the lower case on the front of the magazine slot. These prongs provide extra grip when the shooter is using a tight grip with the support hand, and I have found them helpful when using such a grip when crossing the rifle on a makeshift rest in the field starts to get quite interesting. A curved trigger guard increases the area inside and makes it easier to shoot with gloves. Many AR enthusiasts buy an aftermarket trigger guard to get that extra space, but it’s standard on the M&P10. The magazine release, bolt release, and safety selector lever are all ambidextrous, making both-handed operation a breeze. The safety selector has both a long and a short paddle and is reversible depending on your preference, but can be operated from both sides – you could call it “extra two-handed”.

Inside the M & P10, Smith & Wesson spared no expense. The bolt carrier, the gas key and the firing pin are all chrome-plated and the bolt itself is made of 9310 steel. With this construction and attention to detail, the rifle is as robust as it can be and will withstand a lot of abuse. If you look at the firing pin like a sword, you will find a spring directly in front of the “guard” that surrounds the lower part of the “blade”. This spring fulfills an important function. Light firing pins can ricochet (albeit rarely) under recoil with enough energy to hit the primer on the next shot loaded into the chamber, resulting in an unintentional and therefore potentially dangerous discharge. The firing pin spring in the M & P10 ensures the device does not rebound, eliminating this unlikely event.

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Equipped with a rail-shaped, flat gas block, the M & P10 can accommodate aftermarket visors. Should the shooter prefer a traditional riflescope, the gas block does not interfere with the line of sight through the optics.

The upper receiver is a flat-top model with a Picatinny rail on its upper part for mounting optics. Assuming this is a .308 Win. AR most shooters will want to mount an enlarged scope for use at greater distances. I had no problem shooting the rifle with a Bushnell hunting telescope or a Trijicon ACOG, so those who prefer more “tactical” optics needn’t worry. Even so, in my opinion, a traditional, magnified rifle scope is a better choice for a rifle that seems perfect for the role of the designated shooter. Both the handle and the six-position collapsible shaft are generic models and are easily replaced if you’re looking for something a little fancier. I could think of a different buttstock butt plate, because although the M & P10’s recoil is certainly manageable, it is significantly stronger than that of a 5.56 NATO AR, for which the generic buttstock style was originally developed. As for the parts, there is only one real negative, and it’s M&P10 magazine. For some reason Smith & Wesson ships the rifle with a 10-round magazine instead of a more reasonable 20-round version. Fortunately, there are plenty of the right size AR-10 magazines in retail stores, so you shouldn’t have trouble getting a larger magazine if you live in a jurisdiction that respects the Second Amendment. That said, it would be nice if the M&P10 came with a standard capacity magazine, and since most M&P15 models come with 30-round versions, I’m amazed why Smith & Wesson chose to use a low-capacity option Delivering to the Larger At the shooting range, the M & P10 digested three different loads with no malfunction and turned in respectable groups under 2 inches at 100 yards. Add those results to a dollar at 150 yards, a deer at 175 yards, and two pigs at close range, and the M&P10 proved to be reliable, accurate for multiple uses, and able to handle almost any task. The two-stage trigger on my test rifle broke at just over 6 pounds but showed a hint of creep in the first stage. That said, it’s about average for an AR platform rifle and didn’t affect the accuracy of the gun (I can take care of it myself).

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The M & P10 comes standard with a six-position collapsible stock that can be easily swapped out if shooters prefer a fancier model.

Having had the opportunity to test the rifle out on the hunt as well as on a square shooting range, my experience matches the purpose of the M&P10 – it’s an AR for everything. The performance of .308 Win. in combat, competition, and play is well documented, so I won’t go into it any further here. However, I will bring an observation from a source who knows what he is talking about. I recently had the opportunity to meet with Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Dakota Meyer (USMC, retired). When I asked him if there was any equipment he would like to have in Afghanistan, he told me that he would have loved a 7.62 NATO rifle as opposed to his 5.56 NATO M4 issued, citing the range and Performance of the former. Meyer didn’t specifically talk about the M&P10, I think he would approve of the rifle. It makes the transition easier for anyone familiar with the AR platform, but offers significantly more power than a 5.56 NATO firearm without adding much, if any, weight. The acclaimed versatility of the .308 Win. fits in perfectly with the versatile capabilities of the M & P10, yet the rifle is quite affordable for an AR with a large receiver.

Ultimately, Smith & Wesson did more than just check a box to fill a void in its M&P line – it created what could be the epitome of a multipurpose rifle. If you want to increase the effective range or performance of your AR, you won’t go wrong with an M&P10.

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