Smith & Wesson M&P 15 MOE SL Autoloading Carbine

By Randy Wakeman

Smith & Wesson M&P 15 MOE SL

The Armalite AR-15 rifle is hardly news. It was designed in 1957, a downsized version of the AR-10, and has been around since 1958. It was originally a target rifle for the U.S. Air Force. It impressed General Curtis LeMay by destroying watermelons at a 4th of July picnic. Over the early years, the AR-15 / M16 deservedly received a poor reputation from a tragic comedy of errors: cleaning issues, ammunition issues, cost-cutting issues, jamming issues, barrel twist issues and so forth. The original versions just plain sucked.

The "AR" design was filed for patent by Eugene Stoner back on Aug 14, 1956. In September 1960, US Patent #2951424 was granted.

In the last fifty years, the M16 has seen its ups and downs, with more downs than ups. While Fairchild Armalite sold its rights to the AR-10 and AR-15 back in 1959, the AR-15 went from a light, sub-6 pound rifle to a bloated nine pounds or more with all the goodies hanging off of it.

The original .223 Remington / 5.56mm NATO caliber AR-15 had a 1:14 rate of twist barrel. This was changed to 1:12 to better stabilize the standard 55 grain bullets and changed again to 1:7 in the M16A2 (Colt Model 645) to stabilize very heavy for caliber bullets. Now, 60 years later, this rifle has been designed, redesigned, modified, and re-modified (over 47 times!) and has become the most popular rifle in the United States.

It is the current every man's ranch and utility rifle. Some years back, the Winchester Model 1894 (Model 94) lever action served essentially the same purpose. It has sold over 7.5 million units. With a 20 inch carbine barrel it weighs 6.75 to 7.0 pounds. It is still being made today. The 20 inch barreled Model 94 Short Rifle of today has a MSRP of $1229.99, a 7 round capacity and weighs 6-3/4 pounds. It was and is a popular short to medium range deer and black bear rifle. It has also been used for home defense, predator control and you name it.

The Model 94 in .30-30 handles well and has moderate recoil. The AR-15 Armalite platform of today is America's rifle, fulfilling the same utilitarian roles as the vintage Model 94, while being more appropriate for varmint control. (The .223 is, after all, basically a varmint cartridge, not a big game cartridge, and should never be used for hunting Class 2 animals. -Editor.)

The .223 Remington / 5.56 NATO is considered to be on the weak side for deer and similar size animals; it is far less lethal the old 30-30. However, ammunition improvements, such as the 60 grain Nosler Partition factory loads, have greatly helped the .223 for hunting feral hogs and the smallest medium game. There are more ammunition choices for the .223 today, with factory loads available with bullets weighing from 40 to 77 grains. It is also more convenient and quicker to completely unload an AR-15 type detachable magazine rifle than one with a tubular magazine.

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 MOE can be a good home defense arm. It is easy for women, senior citizens and most everyone to use. The recoil is moderate and it is more accurate, and intimidating, than a handgun.

The persons who have the most need for 30 round magazines are those who would have difficulty changing a magazine, such as the elderly, or persons with disabilities. Although an experienced user can can quickly change magazines, people being attacked by criminals will typically prefer not to spend even a few seconds for a magazine change.

It was only a matter of weeks ago when, in Oswego Illinois, an AR-15 was put to good use. A maniac started stabbing a pregnant woman. A quick thinking neighbor grabbed his AR-15 and confronted the mad stabber in progress, with words to the effect of, "stop killing people or you are going to get shot." The stabbing instantly ceased, the victim is recovering and the suspect is in custody. Not a shot was fired.

This is a story that is constantly repeated in the United States and illustrates how responsible armed citizens save lives. Unarmed citizens cannot do very much to protect themselves and others. Armed citizens can and do . . . over 500,000 times annually.


  • SKU: 11553
  • Model: M&P 15 MOE SL Mid Magpul Spec Series Stealth Gray
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO/.223 Rem.
  • Capacity: 30
  • Safety: Manual Safety on Lower
  • Barrel Length: 16"
  • Overall Length: 37.0"
  • Front Sight: Adj. A2 Post
  • Rear Sight: Folding Magpul MBUS
  • Action: Gas Operated Semi-Auto
  • Grip: Magpul MOE SL
  • Weight: 6 lbs. 9 oz.
  • Barrel Material: 4140 steel
  • Barrel Rate of Twist: 1:8 (5R rifling)
  • Purpose: Home Protection, Hunting
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • 2018 MSRP: $1239

The S&W MOE is one of the most satisfying AR-15 rifles I have reviewed in a while. Without the magazine, the MOE weighs 6 pounds, 9 ounces. The trigger is better than a run-of-the-mill AR, breaking crisply at 5-1/2 pounds and with very little take-up. The Ruger AR-556 previously tested had an eight pound trigger.

Smith & Wesson's version of Liquid Salt Bath Ferritic Nitrocarburizing Non-Cyanide Bath (Melonite) is called "Armornite." It is quite durable, based on my experience with the Thompson/Center Strike muzzleloader and several S&W pistols that have the same inside and out, corrosion-resistant treatment.

The Magpul stock has the following features:

  1. Sloping cheek weld combines a slim profile with user comfort.
  2. Dual-side release latch provides easy adjustment while remaining anti-snag.
  3. Premium chrome-silicon lock spring provides positive locking and long service life.
  4. Internal anti-rattle feature minimizes wobble on receiver extension tube.
  5. Rubber butt-pad offers an anti-slip surface and increases impact protection.

The butt stock addresses one of my long standing niggles about many AR-15 rifles. They tend to shoot loose, with an annoying wobbly feel. The Magpul stock on the M&P 15 MOE gives this rifle a more satisfying, solid feel than most other Armalite rifles.

The Magpul forearm, pistol grip and butt stock all combine to make this a pleasant, fun and easy to handle family rifle. The Stealth Gray is a very dark, almost blackish gray that still sets off the rifle nicely. The Magpul MBUS Rear Sight has two aperture sizes. For the larger aperture, you just push the insert down with your nail. This rifle is ready to shoot right out of the box, without adding anything.

The A2 front sight is a coarse sight. I have not yet added any optics, but I do have a ROMEO5 1x20mm 2 MOA Red Dot sight incoming that should co-witness well with the front sight and claims 50,000 hours of life with one CR2032 battery.

The discount retail price of this rifle runs in the $1050 area. Smith & Wesson has an extensive line of M&P 15 rifles and models such as the M&P 15 Sport II can be had for the impressively low cost of $650.

You can get an M&P 15 MOE for a fraction of what some older AR-15 platform rifles sold for and you are getting a far better product. The current M&P MOE has a noticeably more comfortable stock and forearm, a better trigger, better grip and better corrosion-resistance. The result is a steadier shooting, more practical household rifle and it comes with a Lifetime Service Policy.


What sets this rifle apart is the comfortable Magpul stock, forearm and pistol grip. It has a satisfying, solid feel and it is one of the best feeling, most comfortable AR platform rifles I have used. While no AR-15 rifle is attractive, the stealth gray stock is a nice change from the all too common basic black.

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Copyright 2018 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.