Reviewed: Smith & Wesson M&P15T II

Customers can buy a bargain AR-15 and upgrade all the parts — or you can sell them the M&P15T II, which comes with higher-end features to start with.

Reviewed: Smith & Wesson M&P15T II

Many customers in the market for a new AR-15 purposely buy an entry-level rifle, fully intending to accessorize it “up.” That upgrade usually means a better trigger, a different handguard and other higher-quality features. Of course, these customers are very important to the tactical retailer, both for the initial rifle sale and the purchase of accessories to follow.

But just as important are the number of shooters who want a higher quality AR-15 from day one. These customers have the disposable income to make such a purchase, and they often feel they do not have the time or experience to go about refurbishing a gun. 

For these customers, you will want to have several of the new Smith and Wesson M&P15T II rifles on hand. Chambered in 5.56mm NATO, the new M&P15T II comes loaded with premium features, including a full-length aluminum M-Lok handguard, a flat face trigger, ambidextrous fire controls, and a Magpul CTR carbine-length stock.

The M&P 15T II rifle features a free-floating, 16-inch barrel with 5R rifling and a twist rate of 1:8. The latter is the effective middle-of-the-road twist that allows a rifle to easily and accurately employ both heavier and light projectiles. The rifle is equipped with a mid-length gas system for reduced recoil and efficient cycling. The M&P15T II features a forged, oversized trigger guard to provide maximum clearance when wearing gloves and comes standard with a Radian Raptor-LT charging handle for ambidextrous manipulation of the handle.

One of the really thoughtful features of the M&P15T II are the four palm swells included with the rifle. These fit into the rear of the M&P pistol grip and can be swapped out to adjust the grip size to the shooter’s hand.

I received a new-in-the-box M&P15T II, and after several range sessions and over 250 rounds shot, I found it was a very accurate rifle. It functioned smoothly without a single malfunction. It was a real pleasure to shoot, in large part due to the above-listed features, and it will check the boxes for the customers who want an AR-platform rifle for home defense, competitive and target shooting, and general plinking. No doubt law enforcement personnel will also have an interest in the M&P15T II given the rifle’s accuracy and reliability (see below).

My M&P15T II arrived with Magpul MBUS sights installed. When not in use, the sights can lay against the rifle and out of the way. They popped up nicely, presented a good sight picture at my range, and were easily adjusted to a bull’s-eye at 50 yards.

But to really find out the accuracy potential, I needed an optic, so I mounted a Trijicon Credo HX 2.5-15X42 riflescope onto the rifle. I had used this particular Credo HX many times before and knew it was quality glass. A second-focal-plane optic, the Credo HX featured a rugged 30mm main tube, precise ¼-MOA controls, and a red illuminated reticle, and it possessed very good low-light capabilities.

I first zeroed the rifle and optic at 50 yards and then proceeded to find out what the rifle could do at 100 yards, shooting from a sandbagged rest.

I used a number of brands of 5.56mm and .223 Rem. ammunition in my accuracy and function testing, including: Federal’s American Eagle MSR in 5.56x45mm firing a 55-grain full metal jacket bullet; American Eagle .223 Rem. Varmint and Predator round loaded with a 50-grain jacketed hollow point projectile; Hornady’s Varmint Express in .223 Rem. with a 55-grain V-Max bullet; and Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection .223 and its 55-grain Gold Dot Soft Point bullet.

The M&P15T II proved to be a very accurate AR-15, with groups of between 1.25- and 1.5-inches very easy to achieve. As the barrel got broken in and I became more used to the rifle, groups shrunk. 

My best was an .85-inch group of five shots with the Hornady V-Max, while the Speer Gold Dot pegged two 1-inch groups.

The trigger pull on the M&P15T II measured at an average of 3 pounds, 2 ounces, according to my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. The measurement, it should be noted, was at the end of my shooting. Initially, the rifle’s trigger was stiff — stiff enough to help the shooter pull a shot. The trigger did loosen up as more rounds were put through the rifle. But even then, there was a noticeable bit of takeup in the trigger.

With the mid-length gas tube operation, the M&P15T II’s recoil was reduced to a quick rearward pulse.

The ambidextrous fire control worked smoothly from either side. The Radian Raptor-LT charging handle was a real plus, too — it was nearly effortless to pull back and was easy to access even with the scope in place. The rifle sports very ample rail space, while the M-LOK attachment points on the handguard will make adding accessories a snap.

I was also very glad to see that the M&P15T II was manufactured with a forward assist. A good number of AR-15 makers have abandoned the forward assist, and, no doubt, these rifles are less expensive to make. However, I’ve found the forward assist a very needed feature for any AR-platform rifle for the most basic of reasons: AR bolts do hang up from time to time. A dinged-up brass cartridge case can hold up the bolt, and dirt, grit and moisture can and will work its way into the upper receiver. When the bolt only goes partway forward? It’s the forward assist to the rescue.

Speaking of dirt and grit, the M&P15T II also sports a dust cover, another needed accessory for shooters whose rifles are rarely in gun safes!

So, how to attract and sell to those customers who may be looking for a higher quality AR-15?

“The biggest thing everyone loves about the new M&P15T, straight from the get-go, is the new pistol-grip design,” said Jarrod McDevitt, Smith and Wesson’s channel marketing manager for firearm distributor and the dealer network. “Stress that feature. Partner the grip design with a really nice and slim M-LOK handguard, a mid-length and softer recoiling gas system and a Raptor charging handle, and your customers can have a high-class shooter right out of the box.”

As McDevitt noted, the replaceable palm swells should be a major selling point. The M&P15T II comes with four different sized palm swells, and they are easily switched out by use of the included take-down tool. This way, a shooter with larger hands can have the rifle set up for them, but within a minute the grips can be switched out to accommodate another shooter with smaller hands who might not be able to get a firm hold on the rifle otherwise.

Smart sales tactic: Have the various palm swells and the take-down tool handy. Lay these out on the sales counter with the rifle, and then do a quick change of the palm swells to see which one fits the customer best. Then, let them perform the changeover on another palm swell.

Display? Get this rifle out of the standard vertical gun rack. It really needs to be displayed horizontally so that customers can instantly spot the many higher-end features. Mount a red-dot or other optic on the M&P15T II, as much to show off the rifle as to help generate an additional optic sale or two.

For the M&P15T II, and Smith and Wesson firearms in general, Smith and Wesson can and will provide dealers with in-store marketing help, including counter mats, banners and signage, as well as brochures and videos.

“Our dealer support managers regularly visit retailers in their territories and provide sales training and Smith and Wesson branded goods,” McDevitt noted. “Dealers also have access to our dealer portal to pull digital assets at”

Most sales training by support managers is done in person, but managers can also do so via Brandlive events. On a case-by-case basis, Smith and Wesson will also consider co-op advertising strategies with its dealers.

Smith and Wesson only sells its firearms through distributors, not dealer direct, and works with all major distributors.

Many customers will likely arrive at your establishment with the M&P15T II already on their list of rifles to consider. That’s because, as McDevitt noted, the initial consumer buzz and media response to the M&P15T II has been strong, helped considerably by early and very positive reviews. More written reviews in both print and digital platforms are forthcoming, as are various YouTube reviews of the rifle.

There had been speculation the last few years that the market for AR-platform rifles would likely see a so-called “correction,” meaning a general decline in demand. And there was a pause of sorts several years back. But as we’ve seen, recent elections and various anti-Second Amendment statements by politicians have actually pushed the AR market in the other direction.

The smart FFL will not only offer the hot selling entry-level models but will also plan to have some of the upgraded versions on hand, including the new M&P15T II.


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