The popularity of .22 as a training tool exploded a few years back just before the great ammo drought, ushering in a golden age of rimfire lookalikes mimicking popular defense handguns. It seemed like the next logical step up from expensive conversion kits that nearly cost as much as a standalone rimfire pistol by themselves and were often difficult to find in stock. For a while every .22 lookalike pistol that hit the market seemed plagued with issues, the Walther P22 and Sig Mosquito were at one time famously problematic as they fought through their growing pains. It took Smith & Wesson a few years to catch up, but they appear to have spent their time wisely and learned from the failings of other guns to make the M&P22 a reliable little package.
I recently had the opportunity to compare the newer Compact model alongside the full size example that I’ll be ripping apart in this guide, so I’ve included a few notes along the way to highlight design changes on the newer pistol.
This guide also covers removing the magazine disconnector “safety” which can be omitted with no negative effects on the gun’s function and no parts or spacers are needed.
- Unload, clear, you know the drill.
- For threaded barrel models, remove the thread adapter.
- Rotate takedown lever down, then pull it outward. On the Compact the lever doesn’t pull out, however.
- Retract the slide fully, then lift it at the rear and remove the slide forward.
- Optional, remove the recoil spring and guide assembly.
Note: When reassembling the recoil assembly, make sure the U shaped block on the guide rod has the flat surface facing upward toward the barrel.
- Drive out the roll pin. This is the main retainer for both the firing pin block and the breech face assembly.
- Fish out the firing pin block plunger and spring. If you don’t do this, the breech face assembly won’t slide forward.
- Slide the breech face assembly forward until it lines up with the cutouts in the slide.
- CAREFULLY remove the assembly. The extractor, retaining plunger and spring will try to run away on you.
- Remove the firing pin and spring.
- Firing pin and spring. Drop the firing pin spring in the slot on the top, drop the firing pin in after it and push it into place where it’ll stay put for now.
- Assemble the breech face unit. You can’t keep the extractor parts in place, so drop the spring and plunger in and align the assembly with the cuts in the slide. Leaving the front of the unit tilted “upward” (we’re working with the belly of the slide facing up as pictured) will give the extractor just enough space to push the plunger aside and snap into place.
- Insert breech face assembly. Once the extractor is in and spring loaded properly, insert the whole group and slide it to the rear as far as it’ll go.
- Drop in the block plunger and spring. There’s a little hole in the slide for it, so if it’s misaligned it won’t depress fully.
- Roll pin and firing pin block. Align the firing pin block and start the roll pin from that side to make it easier to keep it in position. Drive the roll pin in and center it up.
- Remove the takedown lever. Rotate it 90 degrees clockwise and it will wiggle out.
- Drive out the frame roll pins. These two identical pins retain the actual serial numbered frame into the plastic grip shell, and the hammer spring pushes upward making your job a little more annoying.
- Lift the frame out of the grip shell, then remove the hammer spring and cup.
- Remove the thumb safety. Pull the right side lever off and the little cog that blocks the trigger bar, then pull the left side straight out. Note the TINY U-shaped detent spring and lift it out.
- Remove the hammer. Push the loose fitted pin out and the hammer lifts out easily.
- Remove the sideplate. This gets finnicky, but after you back out the two screws you’ll have to do three things: push the trigger pin in part way, push the disconnector in a bit to keep it from catching and lift the slide stop upward. With a bit of wiggling you’ll get the angle just right and off comes the sideplate.
- Lift out the sear and spring. The hole through the sear is where the thumb safety shaft goes and acts as a pivot for the sear. The small nub on the right side of the sear engages the trigger bar.
- Lift out the firing pin block lever. Note the small dished out portion which lines up with the hammer pin hole.
- Remove the magazine disconnector. It’s best to keep the pin in place and remove the group, then forget it exists because magazine disconnectors have no real purpose in the first place. If your goal is to remove this, you can stop here and backtrack to reassemble everything and get back to the range!
- Remove the disconnector. The disconnector is three pieces and slots onto the tail of the trigger bar. Note the arrangement, the washer is vital to the function of the disconnector so don’t lose it!
- Remove the trigger and slide stop assembly. Push the trigger pin clear and keep an eye on the trigger spring. Everything is held together with a hollow slave pin, but you don’t want to mess up the springs. The slide stop spring has no really good way to remove it, so tilt the trigger assembly and fish it out as best you can.
Working backwards from where we left off removing the trigger assembly…
- Install the trigger assembly. It takes some wiggling and trial and error to get the slide stop over the receiver plate, and it’s best to squish the slide stop spring and prod it into place with a punch or hook then rotate the trigger assembly into place. Pushing the trigger pin part way from the outside (right side) will help keep it in place while you snag the trigger spring with a hook and wrestle it into position.
- Install disconnector. Pull the tail of the trigger bar out slightly and slot the disconnector peg over it. Remember the washer is key here!
- Drop in the sear and block lever. Both of these fall into place, the sear spring has a little hole for a seat on the sear.
- If you insist on putting the mag disconnector back in, you can install it now. The leg of the spring goes in the cutout on the backplate so the hook is spring loaded from inside the magazine well.
- Install the side plate. Keep the trigger pin flush with the trigger, align the hole below the slide rail with the disconnector peg and rotate the plate up under the slide stop, it should drop right in. Hand tighten the screws, push the trigger pin back in so it’s flush on both sides. Ensure the disconnector is spring loaded.
- Install the hammer. Drop the hammer in, ensuring the hammer strut goes through the small slot on the bottom of the receiver plates.
- Install the thumb safety. Insert the tiny U spring with the open end up, then use a hook or small screwdriver to push the leg over so the safety can engage it. Slot the little cog onto the shaft of the safety and plug the right hand lever on top of it. This has to be assembled BEFORE you drop the frame into the grip shell!
- Install the frame into the grip shell. Drop the hammer spring and cup into the hole in the plastic grip frame, then ensure the hammer is FORWARD before proceeding. Press the whole assembly down against the hammer spring, making sure the hammer strut is engaging it properly. Drive the frame roll pins in and center them up.
The M&P22 is a well designed .22 look-alike that follows the trend of abandoning the striker fire mechanism in favor of a conventional single action only internal hammer. Some parts of the design seem to be drawn from other S&W rimfires like the 22A and 41, while a few elements are drawn from the centerfire M&P itself. It’s a solid, reliable .22 that feeds a huge variety of ammo but ultimately doesn’t feel like its centerfire big brothers where it counts.
The Compact model remedies the biggest complaint I have with the M&P22 – the thumb safety. In the full size original model torn apart here, the safety doubles as the sear pin and this moves the pivot to a poor position. Coupled with the tiny U spring as a detent, the full size pistol’s thumb safety feels lackluster and the gun can’t function without it. The Compact model however changes this to a manual safety design that operates more like the regular centerfire M&P and pivots off of the frame pin, placing the pivot point further to the rear and resulting in a more 1911-like angle. As a side note, the M&P22 safety simply blocks the trigger bar from reaching the sear, while the centerfire M&P thumb safety models block the sear itself from rotating to drop the striker.
The pistol reviewed here has a touchy trigger typical of this style of SAO hammer fire design, which makes for a nice target gun but doesn’t do well as a training double for a 9/40/45 defense pistol. The trigger feels nothing like a “real” M&P, and in the case of the full size design the physical trigger shoe feels awful even compared to the controversial factory M&P trigger shoe. The Compact tweaks this to mimic the centerfire pistol more closely, along with a heavier letoff that feels more like the factory post-2009 M&P centerfire trigger out of the box.
As a final note, M&P22 buyers should beware the packing grease slathered all over these pistols inside and out. Clean this gunk off before you take it to the range, or it will collect fouling and potentially cause problems later!
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