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Smith & Wesson M&P15: The AR-15 Rifle To Buy on a Budget?

Smith & Wesson M&P15
Image Credit: Smith & Wesson.

Smith and Wesson is known as one of the oldest firearms makers in the United States, and they’re famous for their budget guns. Will their M&P AR platform live up to the test? Let’s find out.


The M&P15 isn’t exactly a competition gun, but the accuracy is very respectable. At fifty yards, I was consistently keeping 1.5 inch groupings on man-sized targets which pleasantly surprised me.

It’s extremely easy to acquire targets with this AR, and the nearly pinpoint accuracy made me feel like I was firing a high-end AR. Great accuracy means great effect, so easily a 10/10 on accuracy in my book.


Despite being a budget AR, the M&P15 is built to military specs and therefore not always the smoothest. However, this rifle is definitely tough and able to perform. I only encountered one malfunction with this AR, which was more than likely due to switching to an extremely low-tier ammo.

I fired this all day in a humid, extremely rainy environment and I was blown away by how durable it was. Smith and Wesson built this rifle to be tough as nails, and it will stand the tests thrown at it. For budget ARs it is one of the most reliable on the market.


Built to be tough and work when you need it most, this AR isn’t going to fire like some tricked-out SIG AR variant. It handles well but isn’t buttery smooth, which is perfectly fine as it’s intended to be reliable, not a sports car.

Reloads, however, were exceptionally smooth on the M&P15, and I was extremely happy with it’s user-friendliness, making it excellent for gun users of any experience level. Taking corners or quickly acquiring new targets was also very good to the excellent ergonomics of this rifle.


With about 6.5 pounds of trigger pull, the M&P is a relatively light trigger pull, which was surprising. This allows for a pleasurable rifle to shoot for even the most novice shooter; a huge plus for this rifle.

Even with dirt and grit getting inside the inner-workings of the M&P15, the trigger never once failed to function properly. You may feel a bit of grittiness, but it will not let you down, arguably the most important trait in any rifle’s trigger mechanism.

Magazine & Reloading

The thirty round MAGPUL magazine that comes with the M&P15 is no frills, but extremely reliable and functional. This is perfectly up to par with even high-priced AR configurations, so I give this a 10/10.

Reloading was identical to any other AR platform, and my reloads were consistently under six seconds. For a ‘budget’ AR, you will feel like you are using a customized weapon and shooters of any experience level will have no trouble during reloads.

Length and Weight

At thirty-five inches, the M&P15 is standard for most M4-based AR designs and is extremely suitable for all situations and environments. Even while maneuvering in close quarters, I had no issues moving this rifle through doorways or narrow hallways, a very pleasant surprise for a budget AR.

Right below seven pounds, I found this to be an ideal weight since it will be a comfortable feel for those who are just being introduced to the AR platforms. I found no unreasonable climb in the rifle due to the light weight, and because of this light weight I experienced no fatigue after long-term firing.

Recoil Management

Recoil? It’s pretty much non-existent on the M&P15. This helps contribute to its exceptional accuracy, and truly makes it a fun rifle to shoot. The ability to keep on target and put accurate lead downrange makes this the best budget AR I’ve ever fired.


For $600, there is literally no better deal on the market for a high-quality budget AR. This low price allows you to also put money into customizing your weapon to your particular preferences or needs, like holographic sights, ACOGs, scopes, etc.

My Verdict

You would be foolish to not purchase this rifle. It is such a quality piece for such a low price, and is truly one of the best weapons Smith & Wesson has ever made. It’s tough, reliable, and extremely modular, making it modern and relevant in an era of ever-growing popularity of AR platforms.

Richard Douglas is a long time shooter, outdoor enthusiast and technologist. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field. Columnist at The National Interest, Cheaper Than Dirt, Daily Caller and other publications.

Written By

Richard Douglas is a long-time shooter, outdoor enthusiast, and technologist. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field, and a columnist at The National Interest, Cheaper Than Dirt, Daily Caller, and other publications.