Monday, August 5, 2013

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport: KISS Rifle

I've often jokingly said, "How much can you hang on to a gun before you can't hang on to a gun?" The idea of a KISS rifle... a Keep It Simple, Stupid rifle... has been around for a long time. While different folks with far more knowledge than I have have weighed in on this matter... My gal and I thought we'd share ours with you.

Some are primarily concerned about weight, some about cost, some about purpose (or mission for you tacticool folks), and some are worried about all three or other concerns. Phil Morden took the approach of looking at weight, while some want no electronics or batteries which Andrew discussed over at the Vuurwapen Blog a few years back. My friend Matt over at Jerking the Trigger even has some excellent digression about the Cult of KISS and why maybe what one thinks is simple may not be.

My gal and I decided to set-up a KISS AR15 rifle a little over a year ago.  We already have a number of KISS rifles in the form of Ruger Mini-14s... stainless steel with a sling and iron sights, an Aimpoint 9000L mounted in the rock-solid Ruger stainless steel 30mm scope rings, or the latest with an Aimpoint H1, but I'm not debating the Mini-14 verses AR15 platform as both have done what we've needed them to do over the years.

While I have had the opportunity to fire both full-auto M16s and a lot of AR15s over the years, I'm still newer to owning the AR15 platform as a primary rifle system for home and self-defense, but having owned and extensively used an AR for some time now, we have researched and developed our own criteria for a KISS AR15 rifle.  I'll try to lay out our needs and thought process on a KISS AR15 and why we chose our rifle and accessories.

We tried to balance cost, weight, and technology with our multi-purpose needs and some reality thrown in for good measure. We wanted a KISS rifle for home and self-defense, plinking and fun, and maybe some three-gun competition... plus it is not our only AR15 rifle. While our Ruger SR-556 is a piston-driven AR, we didn't feel that was the best for a KISS rifle. The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport rifle is a solid platform with a good reputation of reliability to build on that is reasonably priced.

While the M&P15 Sport lacks a dust cover over the ejection port or a forward assist for the bolt... ninety-nine percent of the time, we are not crawling around in three-feet of muck and mud or diggin' in the dry sands of Afghan foot-hills. It has proven to have solid accuracy and reliability at a reasonable cost for us in fairly substantial usage under a variety of conditions including cold, heat, rain, etc. and we have yet to need the forward assist button to keep it up and running.

The A2-style front sight and the Magpul MBUS folding rear sight are factory standard and work very well, but we added the Aimpoint PRO red dot optic since for us, it helps greatly with speed of target acquisition and aiming.  You can still use the iron sights co-witnessing through the Aimpoint PRO optic or the Aimpoint and be quickly removed without tools if needed thanks to the large, torquing knob on the rail mount.  I know some don't think a battery operated device should be used on a KISS rifle, but we think it's worth it for quick aiming and the we've had years of experience with Aimpoint products and the PRO is an outstanding, reliable set-up... you can even just turn it on and leave it on 24/7 with it's three-plus year battery-life.

We decided to use the Streamlight TLR-S1 Weapon Light since we already have several, they are very reliable, and reasonably priced.  Unlike our other AR weapon light set-up, we didn't go with a remote pressure switch.

We mounted the light in the left side of the A2-style front sight with a rock-solid Midwest Industries MCTAR-01G2 Tactical Light Mount which allows mounting on either side and has quick-detach sling mount sockets if you want to connect a two-point sling of that far.

The mount positions the light for easy momentary-on using the shooter's left-hand thumb while keeping the grip and fingers and/or thumb off the A2-style front sight and barrel, which can get pretty hot... although I should note that the gals and I are all right-handed so it may not be ideal for a south-paw shooter.

Since most of our use of this rifle is for home and self-defense, plinking, fun, training, and maybe some three-gun... a single-point sling suits us just fine. We've had good luck and reliability with the well-made, single-point Troy Battle Sling with quick-detach swivel.  We connect it to a Troy Professional Grade Rifle Receiver Sling Adapter which offers both a left or right side quick-detach socket.

If you're really concerned about costs, there isn't much more we'd spend money on in setting up this rifle, but we did add a B5 Systems Bravo adjustable stock. The standard M4-style adjustable stock provided by Smith & Wesson appears to be as good a stock as any, but it does wobble a bit much like many do. We did add the Bravo stock which fits a little more snuggly and has a rubber butt-plate that is angled better for myself and my gal's mounting position.

The B5 Bravo also adds two more quick-detach sling mounts giving our rifle six total quick-detach sling mounts (although one is covered by the weapon light) to allow for many quickly changeable and detachable sling configurations. We also like the cheek weld we have with mounting the Bravo better than the standard M4-style stock.

I know some will be wondering specifically about the weight, so weighing the gun unloaded... and it comes in right at 7.6 pounds on a digital scale. As far as how much it will hit your bank account... the approximate consumer prices for the rifle ($700), optic ($400), light and mount ($140), sling and mount ($90)... so you're at right about $1,300 to $1,400 with tax and or shipping for most folks. The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport had a barrel spec change in 2012 moving to the current six-land-groove configuration, but either way it is hard to beat this KISS AR15 rifle set-up or something similar for a good balance between cost, weight, purpose, reliability, and quality.

We have quite a few rounds through this set-up over the last few months in all kinds of weather... and it is holding up well without and functioning or reliability problems... and the Aimpoint Pro has been left on continually now for several months. Sure, you can add more to it, change something out, or take some away in your own set-up, but if nothing else... you now have something to think about and compare to and this set-up may even be a cost-effective tool for law enforcement folks on a budget.

Not a single modification on this rifle required more than an simple allen wrench/hex-head wrench to accomplish, so anyone can do it.  Maybe you'd swap out for a better muzzle device if you feel the cost is worth it, maybe an ambidextrous safety, or a different charging handle... it's all personal preference. The AR is truly the Lego's version of rifles and this rifle works for me and my gals despite our variances in size, weight, arm-length, and hand-size.

Everyone has their own preferences... so what do you think... when you have a look at our... Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport: KISS Rifle

So, what kind of KISS rifle have you set-up? What are your requirements?


  1. Very nice review sir. I've been looking at the M&P 15 vs. the mini 14 here lately. I'm leaning towards the Ruger as I am tending towards eschewing the who tacticool thing, but there is still something to be said for the AR's versatility, utility and customizability.

    1. @Daddy Hawk... I have had extensive experience with the Mini-14s... and the 580 series and later stainless steel versions are terrific guns... I'd give the overall accuracy edge to the AR15, but the latest Mini-14s do well for game, hunting, and defense uses at a distance too...

      The Lego-land versatility of the AR15s is a plus, but they seem to need more care on a regular basis than any of our Mini-14s ever has...

      Here is a link to a recent post on our one Mini-14 set-up...

      Dann in Ohio

  2. Mine is much like yours. A Bushmaster with an A2 upper, Maglight with pressure switch and Aimpoint. The Aimpoint is shoot through so I can transition to irons immediately. It's simple, accurate and fast and dead reliable.

    We also bought 2 of the M&P 15-22s and we love them.

  3. Tried to post a response to your closing questions, but the comment went into Erehwon. . . probably for the best, since it was a beast. . .

  4. I'd say: Few other rifle designs make it that easy to free-float the barrel, so get rid of the A2 foregrip and put on a simple tube.

  5. A most excellent article, indeed.

    I confess to having a few ARs (and a Mini-14) around, each one somewhat different than the others, but the bottom line is that I like to keep them all simple and light, basically with little more than an optic and a light. I've seen ARs out there at the range that appear to be well in excess of 10lbs. just due to all of the junk clamped onto them and I can't help but think that it defeats the whole purpose of a "light" carbine.