[Review] Smith & Wesson M&P .22 Compact

The M&P line of semi-auto pistols is a big seller for Smith & Wesson. Coming in calibers .22 LR, .380, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, these guns are solid choices for concealed carry or competition. Heck, they’re fun just shooting in the back yard. I surely think you could do worse when it comes to selecting a full-size carry or competition pistol. There is a small cottage industry grown up around aftermarket parts for M&P guns. Along the “do-worse” line, you could really do worse than choosing a slightly-smaller rimfire version of your main gun to practice with. That’s where this gun comes in – a stand-in for your centerfire boomer. This Compact is 15% smaller than a full-size M&P 22. Speaking of M&P… I have been asked before, when talking about the M&P Shield, what that stands for and where did it come from – let’s check that out now.

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The M&P Story

The original M&P handgun was of the revolver persuasion, not a semi-auto. The M&P moniker officially appeared in 1899 when S&W brought out the “.38 Military & Police” revolver. This was shortened to .38 M&P. This revolver, chambered in .38 Spl., was the standard police weapon well into the 20th century. The “military” aspect occurred during WWII, when approximately a million of these guns were produced for the military. The gun, which was later named the Model 10, is still going strong today. Featuring a 6-shot cylinder and fixed sights, the four-inch version of the Model 10 is purchased for several purposes, not the least of which is home defense and/or concealed carry. (I know some old-timers, older than me if that’s possible, who swear by the Model 10 four-inch .38 Special and will carry nothing else).

Fast-forward to 2005. S&W decided to expand its M&P line by bringing out a series of semi-auto pistols, branded M&P. The first handgun calibers included 9mm and .40 S&W. Eventually, .45 ACP, .22 LR and .380 pistols were introduced. The name was even carried over to rifles with the introduction of the M&P15 series, S&W’s take on the AR platform. A 5.56mm version came out in 2005, with a .22 LR variant out in 2009. Our gun, the .22 Compact, dates to 2013. The M&P line has been good to S&W since that first revolver was introduced 121 years ago – it’s hard to say if we’ve seen the end of the introduction of M&P-branded guns.

Specs & Pictures

Before we examine our Compact, here are its specs…

Caliber:.22 LR
Capacity:10 rounds
Overall Length:6.65 inches
Barrel Length:3.56 inches
Width:1.48 inches
Height:5.03 inches
Weight:15.3 ounces
Construction:Slide, aluminum alloy with Armornite finish; Frame, polymer
Sights:Front, white dot; rear, dual white dots, fully adjustable
Grip:Polymer
Features:Ambidextrous safeties, magazine disconnect safety, reversible magazine release, loaded chamber viewport, internal key lock, Picatinny rail, spare magazine, lock, and owner's manual
MSRP:$389
“Real-World” Price:~$340

Now, let’s take a look at the gun up-close…

M&P 22 Compact left

M&P 22 Compact right

slide branding on the Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact

field stripped Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact
Field-stripped

You can’t see it, but there is a hammer there – no striker on this gun. Note the barrel is fixed to the frame, as many .22 pistol barrels are. The takedown lever makes field-stripping easy. This is a good place to insert some quick take-down instructions…

  1. First, make sure the gun is unloaded.
  2. Rotate the takedown lever 90 degrees down.
  3. Slightly pull the slide to the rear and then lift it off the back of the frame.
  4. Separate the recoil spring from the frame. Clean and reverse process to re-assemble.
Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact rear sight
Fully-adjustable rear sight and front sight.

Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact front sight

Smith & Wesson logo

Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact muzzle
The business end.
M&P 22 Compact picatinny rail
Picatinny rail for laser, light or whatever else your heart desires
M&P 22 Compact slide underside
Slide
recoil spring of the M&P 22 Compact
Recoil Spring

Note the recoil spring guide extension – it fits into a slot in the frame.

slide serrations on the M&P 22 Compact
“Fish-scale” slide serrations and ambidextrous safety.
M&P 22 Compact trigger
S&W’s hinged trigger

This is a different type of trigger safety than the bladed-trigger safety that Glock among others employs. You simply have to pull on the lower, hinged part in order to allow the trigger to move to the rear. This is protection against the gun going off if it is dropped, among other scenarios.

Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact mags

Magazines with the follower pull-down button.

This button is more comfortable than that on its larger .22 pistol cousin, the Victory.

Shooting The M&P Compact

I shot three different types of .22 ammo. They were: CCI MiniiMag, Winchester Super-Speed and Federal Champion. Here is a sample target for each load…

target shot with CCI
CCI MiniMags. Not so good.
target shot with Federal
Federal Champion.

Not bad, getting there. This load, of the three, merits more experimentation.

target shot with winchester
Winchester Super-Speed.

All loads utilize 40-grain bullets. The CCI is a hollow point, with the other two round-nose versions.

What do these targets tell me? The first thing I see when I look at these is that I’m not a very good shot with open sights. That’s plainly obvious. Secondly, I think I’d like to experiment with the Federal some more, then add more types of ammo to the testing process as I can. Ammo is hard to find right now, and .22 LR is included in that scarcity. I used the Federal Champion to sight my Victory pistol’s red dot sight in at 25 yards. That gun and sight combo can be very accurate if I do my part.

As far as these targets go, it seems that all handguns I shoot, I shoot to the right. Not sure what’s up with that, but adjustable sights make it a non-issue. At any rate, this little under-four-inch barrel, less-than-a-pound gun shot well considering the weather conditions today. I would think this might make a great little trainer or a gun to carry in your 4-wheeler or truck glove compartment. It would do just fine on up-close varmints.

Comparing The Compact To Other .22 Pistols

I had just reviewed this gun’s larger cousin, the SW22 Victory. This rimfire, at 36 ounces, is no lightweight but is one great shooter. The bull barrel just hangs on the target. It comes with good, adjustable fiber-optic open sights. I chose to use the included Picatinny rail to install an inexpensive red dot that I own. I figured that one dot in one sight plane is easier to focus on than trying to line up a front sight in the rear notch, balance the target on top of that front sight and then focus on the front sight. The red dot works for me, at least. I got a decent group at 25 yards with the Victory – that will become a squirrel gun. What’s that got to do with the M&P Compact? Well…they’re both made by the same company. Applicable technology is shared within the company which means that all rimfire pistols should benefit. Plus, remember that this is the company that makes the excellent Model 41 target pistol. That is one of the most accurate rimfire handguns on the market. As that great sitcom of the early ‘70s called it, it is “all in the family” with S&W when it comes to designing and building good rimfire pistols.

The reason I mentioned the Victory is that this Compact has nothing in common with it when it comes to shooting both of them. Huh? I just went on and on about how all that in-house knowledge makes for great rimfire pistols. That is true, no doubt. What I am talking about here is that they are two totally different guns and that is obvious when you shoot them.

Difference Between Big & Little

Pardon me if I over-simplify the differences between the Compact and the Victory. (That’s the mode my head is in, dealing with our 9 grandkids – over-simplifying things). At any rate, this is not a re-hash of my Victory review but I think it’s important to compare the Compact with other .22 pistols out there and that’s the “other” one I have quick access to. As for the big-little difference…my Victory is big and this Compact is little.

SW22 Victory on Bag

Little in length, little in weight, little in overall size. This guy doesn’t even weigh a pound, empty while my Victory comes in at a chunky 36 ounces. It’s almost like hoisting a 1911, when you shoot the V. gun. Why is that important? Well, if you are buying this Compact to shoot in competitions or to hunt with, you may want to re-think that. In my humble view this little gun excels at what is was designed to do – be a trainer for its larger M&P centerfire cousins. You could use it, of course, in any capacity that you desire – it’s just that there might be a better gun out there to fulfill other uses. The M&P .22 Compact would make a decent truck gun, as I said above. I could even see a recoil- and noise-shy person using it in a concealed-carry or home-defense role, with the right ammo. Heck, for a nightstand gun, you could even put a light or laser under the barrel, on the rail. Make no mistake – it IS accurate enough for just about any rimfire pursuit you care to pursue, with the possible exception of bullseye competition. It’s just very small, and very light. My Victory would be at home in the woods or target range – carried as a concealed-carry gun, not so much. Every gun has at least one place and use. The Compact is not designed to be a target gun. It’s just too hard to hold it on target, with its under-sixteen-ounce weight. This is a gun meant to be taken on a camping trip or a hike – it would excel at that. I could also see it going with me as I roam our woods when I wouldn’t want to tote a two-and-a-quarter pound gun with a red dot around all day. It would almost fit in a pocket, certainly a coat’s pocket for sure. With 10 + 1 of good .22 ammo in the gun and another 10 in the extra magazine, you’d be set. There are many uses I see for this gun. Probably one of the main uses I haven’t mentioned yet is as an introductory gun for new shooters. It isn’t so heavy that they couldn’t hold it on target, and the recoil certainly isn’t much. Start at about 10 yards, have them shoot at a large target and watch the holes appear in the target and the smiles appear on their faces. This is a non-intimidating gun, to be sure. I really like it.

Conclusion

We have explored this Compact .22 and have found it worthy. Worthy of further shooting in an attempt to get better groups. Worthy of being used by a new shooter. Worthy of being a trainer for your full-sized M&P 9mm or other. Worthy of being carried with you, either on your person or in your glove compartment. (Let’s not get into the “.22-is-no-good-for-self-defense” argument – some folks just can’t tolerate heavier calibers).

This gun has a pretty dedicated following, for good reason. It is handy – light weight, small dimensions, thin – and so will always be one of the first guns you grab when you just want to go make some noise. Sure, buy a Victory, Buckmark or Ruger for hunting or other .22 purposes but don’t discount this little gun. Many big things have fallen to little .22 pistols, including the fear of guns in general when a former “anti” has a chance to actually shoot something like this and decides, hey, this is a lot of fun. Small, light guns have a purpose. If you are looking for a “fun gun” that won’t break the bank and will be ready to go when you are, give this M&P a look. When you pick one up for the first time, there will be a smile cross your face – trust me. As always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe!

Written by Mike

Mike has been a shooter, bullet caster and reloader for over 40 years. Never one to be satisfied with the status quo, he is often found at his reloading bench concocting yet another load. With a target range in his backyard and after 40 years of shooting, his knowledge of firearms and reloading is fairly extensive. He is married, with four sons and daughters-law and 9-and-counting grandkids.

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