Earlier this year, Smith & Wesson re-launched its Bodyguard line incorporating Crimson Trace lasers, and invited a group of gunwriters to unveil its upgraded pistols. At the same time, the company was preparing to release a brand-new pistol—the new M&P22 Compact—and gave our group the first glimpses of the new hardware. Hints were dropped on the first day, and after a full day of testing the Bodyguards, touring the impressive Smith & Wesson factory and even running a sample stage of the Backup Gun Nationals, we were ready to see what this new mystery firearm might be. The next morning we had a brief introduction to the M&P22 Compact, then we were off to the range.
The M&P22 Compact differs from the full-size M&P22 in several key ways. The most obvious, of course, is size—the Compact is 15 percent smaller in all dimensions than the full-size M&P22, which was designed as a straight-up trainer for the full-size M&P series. Naturally, the M&P22 Compact is sized to be a trainer for the M&P Compact variant. However, it is not an exact match the way the M&P22 is to the full-size M&P line. The other major difference, one not apparent at first (or even second) glance, is the M&P22 Compact is 100-percent Smith & Wesson. Unlike the full-size M&P22, the Compact is not a Walther-made firearm.
Similar only in appearance to centerfire M&P variants, the hinged trigger is a single-action-only model.
One of the major points the company made about this new rimfire was reliability—engineers ran a series of tests using a variety of ammunition through the M&P22 Compact in tandem with other comparable rimfire handguns from several other manufacturers. They found the M&P22 Compact to have the fewest failures of all the models, and while our testing did produce a small handful of failures, we found the new pistol to be about as failure-free as a firearm dependent on rimfire ammunition can be. In one informal test, slightly less than 200 rounds were run through the pistol without a single failure. We've tested numerous centerfire handguns that didn't function as reliably.
In the hand, the M&P22 Compact fits well. Average-size hands should find full purchase, without any fingers hanging off the grip or curling under the bottom of the magazine. Trigger pull is quite reasonable, coming in slightly less than 7 pounds for a single-action trigger. The reset is crisp and distinct, the take-up is familiar to anyone who has shot the M&P series and the hinged trigger functions in the same manner as the rest of the M&P pistol line. After a day on the range firing the Bodyguard 38 and 380, the M&P22 Compact felt like a custom-tuned race gun (not a knock at either of the Bodyguards, mind you, just the difference between a double-action-only trigger meant for pocket carry and a single-action trigger on a rimfire pistol).
The barrel is threaded with a 3⁄8×24 pitch and can utilize an adapter to mount common suppressors. A cap protects the threads when the Compact is operated unsuppressed.
Controls on the newest Smith & Wesson are familiar, with the notable addition of the ambidextrous safety lever, included for peace of mind with the single-action trigger. Takedown of the handgun is quite simple: With theslide locked back (on a for-sure empty firearm, of course) and the takedown lever rotated 90 degrees clockwise, the slide is lifted up and off the frame. The barrel is fixed to the frame and the recoil spring fits into a notch under the barrel. Best of all, the entire assembly can be cleaned, oiled and reassembled in record time for a rimfire pistol.
Reliability was excellent, with full range sessions using entirely bulk, budget .22 LR ammo passing without incident. In excess of 500 rounds ran through the Compact with only two or three failures to load and no failures to fire or eject. Informal practice with the M&P22 Compact proved it to be handy, quick and accurate—a 10-inch steel plate at 25 yards was so easy to hit with the pistol, I decided to make it more challenging by letting the plate spin and trying to hit both sides, essentially dueling myself. Formal accuracy testing supported this hypothesis, with groups between 2 and 2.5 inches for all ammunition tested.
The Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact was billed as an accurate, reliable rimfire trainer for fans of the M&P Compact series. In formal and informal testing, it lived up to claims made for accuracy and reliability, but more importantly, it was a heck of a lot of fun to shoot.
Velocity measured in fps at the muzzle for 10 consecutive shots with an Oehler Model 36 chronograph. Temperature: 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Accuracy measured in inches for five consecutive, five-shot groups at 15 yards from a benchrest.