Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review Recently there has been a growing trend towards semiautomatic .308s rifles, the most popular being the AR-10.  Although still a relatively niche group, […]

ammo-comparison-2Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review

Recently there has been a growing trend towards semiautomatic .308s rifles, the most popular being the AR-10.  Although still a relatively niche group, manufactures have steadily introduced more products into the marketplace for this category including DPMS, Ruger, and Aero Precision ($1549).  Brownell’s has a wide range of .308 semi-auto, direct impingement rifles (link). Today I’ll be taking a closer look at one of those, the Smith & Wesson M&P10.  Released in 2013, the rifle is backed by Smith & Wesson’s lifetime service warranty and retails at a suggested $1,619.00 (it is $1,449 at Brownell’s)

Big brother to the Smith & Wesson M&P15, the .308 Winchester version is a versatile and modestly optioned rifle.  From their website it comes from the factory with the following features.

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - featuresSmith & Wesson M&P10 Features

  • Ambidextrous Magazine Catch, Bolt Catch
  • Ambidextrous Safety Selector
  • Patented S&W Enhanced Flash Suppressor
  • Gas Block with Integral Picatinny-Style Rail
  • QD Sling Swivel Attachment Point
  • 5R Rifling
  • Armornite® Barrel Finish
  • 9310 steel bolt
  • Chromed Firing Pin
  • Optics Ready

Initial Impressions

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - defender ammunition company ammo testing

Initial function test with a Vortex scope

M&P10 Furniture

At first glance, the M&P10 shares several components with its AR-15 brethren.  Clamped on the barrel is a mid-length A2-style handguard.  The gun also arrived with a standard A2-style grip and six position M4 style stock.  It’s one of those loose fitting, hard plastic units without any rubber on the butt pad. While understandable that Smith & Wesson is trying to keep costs down in order to achieve a certain price point, a few small upgrades can go a long way in making a gun feel special.  C’mon Smith and Wesson, is it really asking too much for a Magpul MOE grip?

Smith & Wesson M&P10 Barrel

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - barrel comparison

PSA heavy barrel above, M&P10 thin barrel below

The M&P10 boasts an 18” thin contour barrel constructed from 4010 steel with a 1 in 10” twist and 5R rifling. The barrel itself isn’t chrome lined however the bore has been treated with a corrosion resistant finish. The asymmetrical pattern produces lands which are not as sharp as a conventional 4 or 6 groove. This results in less squeezing of the bullet as it travels down the barrel leading to reduced deformation and potentially higher accuracy. 5R rifling is also known for less copper buildup and being easier to clean.  From experience I’ve come to trust this type of rifling in my own long distance rigs in the form of Bartelin and Remington 5R barrels.

M&P10 Weight

To be honest I was somewhat shocked at how light the rifle was.  At just under 8 pounds unloaded, it felt more akin to an AR-15 than any AR-10 I’ve held.  The rifle was remarkably maneuverable due to its short overall length and balanced weight distribution due in large part to the skinny barrel.  Most able bodies could certainly carry this gun for several hours without too much exertion.

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - barrel comparisonM&P 10 Fit and Finish

The fit and finish on this gun is superb.  There weren’t any noticeable tooling marks, and the finish is smooth and evenly applied.  One particular pet peeve of mine is a disdain for sloppy fit between the upper and lower receivers resulting in excessive play.  While it doesn’t affect accuracy, given the choice, I much prefer a tighter lockup which the M&P10 delivered with no wobble whatsoever between the upper and lower receivers.

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - trigger pullM&P10 Trigger

Moving to the firing mechanism, another big positive is the trigger.  It felt clean and crisp for a single stage.  Admittedly not quite a Timney or Geissele, it broke at an average of 5 pounds 7 ounces from five attempts on my Lyman digital trigger pull gauge.  The pull is significantly lighter and more polished than a standard mil-spec trigger or even the horrid one my FN SCAR 16S came with.  Both of those can only be described and gritty and heavy.

M&P10 Flash Hider

Lastly the uniquely shaped flash hider is worth mentioning.  At 3.5” it is significantly longer than its peers.  I don’t understand the reasoning behind choosing this over a shorter one such as an A2 birdcage.  The added length essentially negates the advantages going with an 18” barrel over a 20”.  Fortunately the barrel is threaded in the commonly accepted 5/8×24 pitch allowing the owner to choose between a host of different muzzle devices.

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - flash hider

M&P10 Manual of Arms

Ergonomically the rifle is easy to maneuver for both right and left handed shooters.  The M&P10 is configured with ambidextrous controls for the magazine catch, bolt catch and safety available on either side of the lower receiver.  For those experienced with the AR platform, the skillset should translate directly over to the M&P10.  No extensive retraining required.

Styrka S7 Magnified Optics

Styrka provided the scope for our testing.  You can find the full review of the Styrka S7 series (Amazon link) 3-12X42 SH-BDC with side focus HERE.

Mounting longer optics onto the M&P10 could pose a problem.  Due to the handguard, there is no Picatinny rail up front therefore one may run out of rail over the upper receiver when fitting optics with lengthy eye relief.  Luckily for us Vortex Optics was nice enough to send over a 30mm Precision Extended Cantilever mount effectively moving the optic forward to make this a non-issue.

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - shooting RangeAccuracy Testing

After driving to my home range, Frontline Defense located in Warrenton, NC, I was ready to begin some live fire tests. They offer ranges out to 1000 yards, perfect for the long distance shooter. I brought seven different types of ammunition to try out. I didn’t get a chance to setup my barrel attaching MagnetoSpeed V3 chronograph since Ammo was limited and I wasn’t sure I would have enough to both chrono and test for accuracy (ideally done separately). Conditions were rather rough with gusts blowing up to 15 mph. As can be seen from the results, I’ll be the first to admit my shooting was largely subpar that day. However we did manage to test against an 18” Palmetto State AR-10 rifle with similar specs. After verifying both guns I’m confident the results at least appear to provide a general sense of accuracy.

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - accuracy testingMethodology

As for the accuracy testing methodology, 5 shot groups were fired at a target 100 yards away.  Accuracy was overall impressive for a gun of this type. It was unusual to see a rifle shoot well across such a wide variety of different bullet weights and seating depths. Felt recoil was noticeably stronger with Defender and Federal Gold Medal Match ammo.

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - accuracy testing targetTested Ammo

.308 Win Cartridge Advertised Velocity 5 Shot Group
Colt 168 grain FMJ 2559 2.78”
Freedom Munitions 175 grain HPBT Remanufactured 2620 1.59”
Hornady Steel Match 155 grain BTHP 2610 1.49”
Noveske Varmageddon 110 grain Ballistic Tip 2950 1.62”
Defender 165 grain Soft Point 2650 2.38”
Creedmoor 167 grain Lapua Scenar 2660 1.57”
Federal Gold Medal Match  168 grain BTHP 2650 1.34”

Comparison: S&W M&P10 vs Palmetto State Armory AR10

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - compare to PSACost

My friend Dom brought along his Palmetto State Armory AR-10 to compare.  It is equipped with an equivalently long 18” stainless barrel.  His rig ran a few hundred dollars less overall coming in at roughly $900, pieced together from a $650 upper and $250 lower.

Weight

The PSA AR10 weighed about a pound and a half more than the S&W M&P10 due primarily to its heavy profile barrel and quad rail.

Accuracy

To compare accuracy we shot a group from each type of ammo on an adjacent target. Group after group the two went neck and neck all afternoon. We were particularly amazed at the consistency of the groups. We did not find one load where one rifle completely outshot the other. In fact, they even exhibited similar point of impact shifts relative to zero when switching between loads. Perhaps over longer distances the differences in barrel harmonics and timing would make a more noticeable change to the POI.

Malfunctions

Although the Palmetto State AR-10 shot with comparable precision, it suffered three embarrassing stovepipes caused by failures to eject.  The likely reason is an excessively dirty bolt or chamber, which Dom admits he rarely cleans. Luckily, a bit of lube sprayed directly into the receiver kept the rifle, for most part operational, albeit limping through the remaining firing sequences.

I was very impressed of the performance from the lighter M&P10. It was able to compete admirably against the much heavier barreled Palmetto State AR-10.  No barrel break-in or a thorough initial cleaning, and of course zero stoppages all day.

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - 1000 yardsM&P10 Long Distance

With the sun quickly setting and the light fading by the minute, we brought the M&P10 over to the 1000 yard range to take a couple shots at longer distance.  To save time, instead of starting at 200 yards and moving back incrementally, I dialed into the ballistics calculator the Creedmoor 167gr Lapua load and trusted the velocity it spewed out.  I moved directly to 600 yards, dialed in the scope adjustments and the first shot fired, much to our surprise, rang the torso sized steel silhouette target downrange.  I have no doubt some a dose of luck was involved but I’ll certainly take it.  With limited rounds left, I was able to manage a single hit on the 800 yard target before expending the remaining rounds.  There wasn’t enough daylight remaining to switch to another load and start over.  Personally I feel with some more time, match grade ammo, and a higher power scope, stretching it out 1,000 yards would not have been difficult.  The rifle certainly proved it has the capability to shoot well at long distance.

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - M&P10 at the rangeOver all thoughts on the M&P10

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent shooting the Smith & Wesson M&P10. I thought I’d be in for a day of shoulder punishment but the light and handy rifle remained remarkably well-composed.  It chewed through a slew of ammo types with zero malfunctions. Although the price may seem somewhat stiff for a basic optioned rifle, actual street price comes in several hundred dollars lower. At my nearby North Carolina Bass Pro Shops, I saw one on the rack for right around $1,100.

Gears Rating

Gear Score
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I can understand why S&W chose the parts they did. Although plain in comparison to high-end models, the light weight, decent accuracy and excellent balance made handling a joy. You’re not going to see me complain about having reliable .308 firepower in an AR-15 sized package. Smith & Wesson have a winner on their hands with the M&P10.

Defender Ammunition CompanyThanks

Defender Ammunition Company

Without the support of our ammo suppliers we would not be able to do nearly the amount of gun reviews that we do today.

Big thanks go to our Ammo Sponsor Defender Ammunition Company for supplying ammo for our tests and reviews on an ongoing basis. For this review we shot a few magazines of Defender’s 165gr Soft Point .308 Winchester ammo with great success.

Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 AR10 Review - s&w logoSmith & Wesson

One of the world’s most iconic firearms brands, Smith & Wesson sent the M&P10 rifle for review.

Styrka

styrka_logoStyrka Optics is a relatively new company specializing in hunting scopes.  The scopes are backed by a lifetime warranty and even offer free annual cleanings.  Their product line is segmented into three groups, S3, S5, S7, each occupying a different price point. Styrka provided the S7 optic for this review.

Vortex OpticsVortex Optics

Vortex Optics provided the cantilever scope mount base that allowed use of the Styrka S7 scope on the S&W M&P10 rifle.

About Tom

Based in Morrisville NC, Tom is a project manager and software engineer by trade. A recent MBA graduate from UNC Chapel Hill, Tom holds multiple degrees in both IT and business. Tom logs a LOT of frequent flier miles setting up financial systems in exotic destinations like China, Korea, Japan and Mexico for an insurance company.

Tom’s other love is of course shooting. After being introduced in 2006 by his buddy Dom, he’s built up an impressive collection with particular focus on accurate long distance rigs. After taking several training courses from Academi (formerly Blackwater), Tom has participated in various handgun, 2-Gun and long range competitions.
Having met Jeff seemingly by luck at at the range one afternoon, he later became a regular Gear-Report team contributor in 2016 after finishing grad school. Having background knowledge in high end optics from his birdwatching days, Tom especially loves nitpicking at glass and scopes. Look for Tom’s product reviews throughout the Shooting section of Gear-Report!