Over the past several years, the volatile trends in the ammunition market have had a serious impact on the shooting public. The only thing consistent about these trends is that they have been inconsistent. Who would have ever thought that .22 LR ammunition would be next to impossible to find and that a brick would sell for upwards of $75? Thankfully, the situation has improved for major retailers and online distributors. The prices, while not at 2010 levels, have returned to “reasonable” levels.
The benefits of .22 LR pistols and rifles are well known to the shooting community and firearm manufacturers. A rimfire makes a great training pistol for beginners as well as helps experienced shooters practice fundamentals. Smith & Wesson has long realized the potential for quality pistols and revolvers chambered in .22 LR and .22 Magnum. Both the Model 17 (K-22) revolver and the Model 41 pistol are legendary for their quality and accuracy. In recent years, the popularity of the centerfire M&P series of pistols led S&W to produce a .22 LR version.
The M&P22 Compact is perhaps the best .22 LR autoloader on the market today. S&W first took the standard M&P and shrunk it by approximately 15 percent. This makes the M&P22 Compact the perfect size at 7.25 inches in length and 5.03 inches in height. The overall weight of the pistol is 15.3 ounces. As with its big brother, the M&P22 Compact features a polymer frame that retains the same profile as the centerfire M&Ps. This includes the same trigger geometry, grip texture and accessory rail. The operating controls include a well-designed ambidextrous thumb safety and a reversible magazine release. The .22 version of the M&P only lacks the ambidextrous slide release.
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The slide is constructed from aluminum alloy and finished in a hardcoat black anodizing. Internally, the recoil spring is a captured system for easier disassembly and assembly. A magazine safety is standard on the M&P22s, and the metal, 10-round magazines are well designed. A thumb tab on the side of the magazine assists the user in depressing the follower during loading. Unlike the centerfire M&P pistols, the .22 versions are hammer-fired, not striker-fired. The trigger pull on the sample I tested averaged 5.75 pounds.
One area where many .22 LR pistols are lacking is sights. I found the M&P22 sights exceptionally easy to see and index. The front sight is dovetailed into the slide instead of staked, which makes it durable and easy to replace. The rear sight is also dovetailed and is fully adjustable for elevation. Windage adjustments are made by drifting the front sight. A three-dot white pattern is standard on the pistol to improve visibility and sight alignment.
Smith & Wesson has recognized the tremendous growth in the NFA market and, in particular, the suppressor market. Once considered exotic, suppressors have now entered the mainstream of the shooting market. The latest version of the M&P22 Compact is a suppressor-ready pistol with a threaded barrel. The barrel on the new Suppressor Ready model measures 3.56 inches in length and features 1/2×28 threading, allowing it to accept most rimfire sound suppressors. The adaptor is threaded on to the barrel and must be removed for cleaning prior to disassembly.
I selected the new Gemtech GM-22 suppressor for evaluation with the M&P22 Compact. The GM-22 features Gemtech’s new G-Core. The G-Core is a monocore baffle core that was designed using the latest computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software. The CFD software allows the core to be designed, modified and tested in a digital environment. The monolithic baffle is machined from a solid block of 7075 aluminum. The angle and dimensions of each baffle are specifically designed for maximum gas and heat dispersal. The GM-22 has a 1-inch diameter, is 5 inches in length and weighs a mere 2.5 ounces. Rated for .22 LR, .22 WMR and .17 HMR ammunition, Gemtech data indicates that the GM-22 achieves a 36- to 39-decibel (dB) reduction in sound.
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The GM-22 is a user-serviceable suppressor. The end cap features the Gemtech logo and the square bore allows the use of a socket to disassemble the unit. This allows the user to clean the carbon fouling that builds up in the baffles. It should be noted that a dirty suppressor is actually quieter than a clean one. In internal durability testing, 5,000 rounds were fired through a GM-22. At the end of the test, the GM-22 was easily disassembled and there was no noticeable wear or corrosion of the key components.
During the first trip to the range, we found that the GM-22’s 2.5-ounce weight actually has a minimal effect on the balance of the pistol. An additional advantage is that the suppressor’s 1-inch-diameter tube did not obstruct the sights. The initial rounds through the GM-22 were louder than I had expected until I remembered I was shooting a brand new suppressor that had a new and clean baffle core. As the round count increased, the Gemtech GM-22 became quieter and the first-round pop decreased.
During several range trips, we put close to 500 rounds through the M&P22 Compact Suppressor without cleaning or lubrication. The little pistol proved 100-percent reliable with a wide variety of ammunition that included subsonic loads and the hot CCI Mini-Mags.
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One thing about a .22 pistol with a suppressor is that the fun factor increases exponentially to the availability of ammunition. We ran through the first 200 rounds just having fun. The M&P22 Compact seemed to be a real tack driver when sniping debris on the backstop of the range. Golf-ball-sized targets, at 15 yards or so, never stood a chance.
The formal testing confirmed our first impressions. I selected three of my favorite .22 LR loads to test for velocity and accuracy at 7 yards. The Gemtech subsonic load we used averaged 855 fps and produced a group that measured 0.76 inches. CCI’s 40-grain subsonic load has long been a favorite of suppressor owners for its consistency and accuracy, and it averaged 875 fps with a group that measured 0.83 inches. The final load I tested was CCI’s Mini-Mag, which averaged 989 fps and produced the smallest five-shot group of the afternoon, which measured a mere 0.59 inches.
I received a Crimson Trace CMR-206 Rail Master green laser just as I was completing this article. The CMR-206 is the newest compact, rail-mounted laser from Crimson Trace. The human eye processes the color green more than any other color, and the CMR-206 is the brightest green laser allowed by law. To say it is a significant improvement over red lasers is a dramatic understatement. The CMR-206 is clearly visible in daylight conditions well past the range of traditional red lasers. Powered by one CR2 lithium battery, the CMR-206 has a run time of over two hours and features an auto shut-off after five minutes. The Crimson Trace CMR-206 is a great addition for plinking, pest control or serious personal-defense situations.
The M&P22 Compact Suppressor fits the hand well, is reliable and exudes fun. I also came to realize that, while not optimal, the little .22 was capable of serving as a personal defense weapon for someone who is unable to manage a centerfire pistol.
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