The unfortunate truth is that many law enforcement agencies, large or small, are strapped for cash. Firearms are just one of the many line items on the budget, and whether they are outfitting a couple of officers or the entire department, money matters. Smith & Wesson catalogs 17 different M&P15 rifles for law enforcement use. The least expensive (non-rimfire) rifle in this line is the M&P15 ORC (Optics-Ready Carbine) with a suggested retail price of $1,069. That is, until now, with the introduction of the S&W M&P15 Sport 5.56mm.
The M&P15 Sport is not cataloged as a law enforcement rifle, but that isn’t an issue. At the basic level, a patrol or tactical carbine for law enforcement only needs to be reliable, accurate and compact enough to answer the call. The idea behind the M&P15 Sport was to offer a high-performance AR at an affordable price, and S&W has accomplished this. The suggested retail is a surprising $739.
This is indeed a bargain, regardless if you are comparing the M&P15 Sport to other S&W rifles or rifles from other manufacturers. I recently built an AR-15 similar in configuration to the M&P15 Sport using the least expensive parts I could find. The total cost was just a shade over $600. The difference is that this firearm was cobbled together with parts from various manufacturers and had no implied comprehensive warranty. With the S&W M&P15 Sport, you know you are buying a rifle that a reputable manufacturer will stand behind.
Did Smith & Wesson cut corners to get the M&P15 Sport priced so low? That’s a valid question. However, it’s not the case. The S&W M&P15 Sport does differ in several ways from the rest of the rifles in their line, but as far as I am concerned, some of these differences are actually upgrades, features that make this rifle not only unique but as good as—if not better—than more expensive alternatives.
I think the most notable enhancement or difference has to do with the lower receiver. Typical Mil-Spec lower receivers and the lower receivers for all S&W M&P15 rifles have a cut-out under the triggerguard. They require a separate piece be attached, pinned to the receiver, to close in the triggerguard. With Mil-Spec parts commonly used by most AR manufacturers, it leaves a gap at the back of the triggerguard. When you place your hand on the grip, the first knuckle of the middle finger on your shooting hand will become sore and blistered after less than a half day on the range.
With the Sport, S&W took a different approach to this problem. After all, there is no reason a rifle at any price should be uncomfortable to shoot. By forging an integral, full triggerguard into the lower receiver, S&W eliminated this issue completely. There are no gaps, recesses or anything else to attack your fingers or knuckles. It creates a very comfortable grip. If it were left up to me, this new lower receiver would become the standard receiver for all S&W M&P15 rifles. It’s that nice.