SMITH & WES­SON’S SUPERB 6.5

SMITH & WES­SON’S M&P10 RI­FLE GETS THE PER­FOR­MANCE CEN­TER TREAT­MENT AND EMERGES, CHAM­BERED IN 6.5 CREEDMOOR, READY TO GO THE DIS­TANCE.

Gun World - - Contents - By Mike Dick­er­son

The M&P10 gets the Per­for­mance Cen­ter treat­ment and, cham­bered in 6.5 Creedmoor, emerges supreme.

The last time I tested a Smith & Wes­son M&P10 ri­fle, my ex­pec­ta­tions were shat­tered—in a most pos­i­tive way—be­cause the gun per­formed far bet­ter than I ex­pected it to.

I had just wrung the ri­fle out dur­ing an NRA Out­doors lon­grange shoot­ing school held in Utah and Wy­oming. Over the course of two days of high-in­ten­sity shoot­ing, Sev­eral other out­door scribes and I suc­cess­fully shot ba­sic, stock M&P10 ri­fles, with their pen­cil-thin, 18-inch bar­rels, at dis­tances up to 1,000 yards. The only mod­i­fi­ca­tion to the

308 Win.-cham­bered ri­fles was the ad­di­tion of a Magp­pul PRS butt­stock. Us­ing ri­fle scopes with cus­tom-cut tur­rets, we were, to a man, as­ton­ished at how well the M&P10 shot. The high­light of the school, for me, was shoot­ing a group at half a mile that you could cover with your hand.

Given that sort of per­for­mance from a stock M&P10, I nat­u­rally had high hopes for the new­est mem­ber of the M&P10 clan when Smith & Wes­son this year an­nounced the ar­rival of a new ver­sion of the ri­fle from S&W’s famed Per­for­mance Cen­ter. The new gun would be cham­bered in 6.5 Creedmoor— an inherently ac­cu­rate car­tridge.

For the unini­ti­ated, the Per­for­mance Cen­ter is where mod­ern gun-mak­ing tech­nol­ogy meets old-world crafts­man­ship. The gun­smiths at the cen­ter spe­cial­ize in tak­ing pro­duc­tion guns to the next level in terms of ap­pear­ance, re­li­a­bil­ity and ac­cu­racy.

Ac­cord­ing to S&W’s Matt Spaf­ford, “When de­sign­ing the Per­for­mance Cen­ter M&P10 6.5 Creedmoor, each com­po­nent was se­lected and man­u­fac­tured to en­able ac­cu­rate, lon­grange shots with the pop­u­lar 6.5 Creedmoor cal­iber.”

The ri­fle starts with the same ba­sic com­po­nents as any M&P10. The re­ceivers are ma­chined from 7075-T6 alu­minum and have a hard-an­odized black fin­ish to pro­tect the sur­face. Fit and fin­ish on the ri­fle are very good. The up­per mates to the lower re­ceiver with­out a hint of wob­ble, and noth­ing rat­tles on this gun. It has a beefed-up car­rier and bolt to han­dle larger cal­ibers. The car­rier and gas key are chrome lined, and the fir­ing pin is chrome plated.

FED­ERAL’S NEW GOLD MEDAL 130-GRAIN BERGER HY­BRID LOAD AC­TU­ALLY PER­FORMED A LIT­TLE BET­TER, IN MOA TERMS, AT 200 YARDS THAN IT DID AT 100 YARDS.

From this point, the Per­for­mance Cen­ter ri­fle di­verges sharply from the ba­sic M&P10. Here’s a closer look at what makes this gun wor­thy of the Per­for­mance Cen­ter stamp.

THE M&P10, REIMAG­INED

Start­ing at the busi­ness end, the new Per­for­mance Cen­ter M&P10 in 6.5 Creedmoor uses a 20-inch, medium-con­toured bar­rel ver­sus the 18-inch, thin-pro­filed bar­rel of the orig­i­nal M&P10. Made of 4140 car­bon steel, the bar­rel has a 1:8 twist rate and 5R ri­fling. Many claims have been made for 5R ri­fling, in­clud­ing higher ve­loc­ity, less foul­ing and bet­ter ac­cu­racy. I can’t vouch for that with any em­pir­i­cal data, but I can say that ev­ery ri­fle I’ve shot to date with 5R ri­fling has demon­strated de­cent ac­cu­racy. Ac­cord­ing to S&W’s Spaf­ford, 5R ri­fling ben­e­fits the shooter “by caus­ing less bul­let de­for­ma­tion for bet­ter con­sis­tency of ac­cu­racy from shot to shot and greater bul­let sta­bil­ity over mul­ti­ple shots.”

The muz­zle of the bar­rel is threaded 5/8x24 for at­tach­ing a muz­zle brake or sup­pres­sor and comes with a thread pro­tec­tor in place. The bar­rel sur­face is hard­ened and pro­tected, in­side and out, with S&W’s Ar­mor­nite fin­ish, which is ac­tu­ally a salt bath ni­tride process that hard­ens the sur­face of the steel, giv­ing it greater cor­ro­sion re­sis­tance and slightly greater lu­bric­ity.

An­other big change from the stock M&P10 is the use of a fixedlength Mag­pul MOE ri­fle stock, which mates to a ri­fle-length re­ceiver ex­ten­sion tube. The stock feels more sub­stan­tial and solid than col­laps­ing stocks and might con­trib­ute to ac­cu­racy as a re­sult. How­ever, its straight-back lines will re­quire you to ex­per­i­ment when mount­ing op­tics to achieve com­fort­able eye align­ment. The stock has a 1.25-inch sling loop at the bot­tom rear and 1.5-inch push-but­ton QD swivels front and rear.

For the hand­guard, the Per­for­mance Cen­ter part­nered with Troy In­dus­tries to de­sign and man­u­fac­ture the Per­for­mance Cen­ter-spe­cific 15-inch Troy Al­pha M-LOK free-float hand­guard. There’s a host of ac­ces­sory mount­ing op­tions with a full-length Pi­catinny rail up top and a to­tal of 52 M-LOK slots at the 1,3, 5, 6,7, 9 and 11 o’clock po­si­tions. The Per­for­mance Cen­ter made a solid choice of pis­tol grips for the ri­fle, choos­ing to use the Mag­pul MOE Plus grip, which com­ple­ments the ri­fle nicely. This grip has a one-piece re­in­forced poly­mer body with wrap­around rub­ber over­mold­ing to pro­vide a sure grip un­der all weather con­di­tions. It has a beaver­tail back­strap for im­proved er­gonomics and a hard poly­mer pro­tec­tive bot­tom edge. The stan­dard grip cap ac­cepts op­tional bat­tery and lube stor­age cores.

With the new bar­rel and fur­ni­ture boost­ing the un­loaded gun’s weight from 7.7 pounds to slightly more than 9 pounds, this Per­for­mance Cen­ter ri­fle is no light­weight. Then, again, it wasn’t de­signed to be a feather­weight moun­tain ri­fle; it was

de­signed to be a sta­ble, solid plat­form to help you place bul­lets on tar­get at dis­tance. Even so, the com­bi­na­tion of the Mag­pul grip and Troy hand­guard gives this ri­fle a trim, handy feel. It still has a def­i­nite weight-for­ward bal­ance, but that can be an as­set when shoot­ing off sticks or a rest at dis­tance in wind.

South­paws will love this gun, be­cause con­trols on the ri­fle are truly am­bidex­trous. On the left side of the re­ceiver, you’ll find a stan­dard safety se­lec­tor, along with a pad­dle-style mag­a­zine re­lease and bolt re­lease. The right side of the re­ceiver has a stan­dard safety se­lec­tor and pad­dle-style bolt re­lease but uses a tra­di­tional push-but­ton mag­a­zine re­lease.

One of my gripes with the orig­i­nal M&P10 (and most fac­tory AR-plat­forms ri­fles, for that mat­ter) is the trig­ger. The one on the gun I used in the long-range school broke at an av­er­age pull weight of 5 pounds, 15 ounces and had a lit­tle creep in it. The Per­for­mance Cen­ter gun’s two-stage matchde­sign trig­ger, ma­chined by hand to Per­for­mance Cen­ter spec­i­fi­ca­tions for op­ti­mal trig­ger pull weight and feel, is a con­sid­er­able im­prove­ment. Af­ter a very light ini­tial take up, it stacks quickly and breaks cleanly and crisply, with no creep. I found that it broke at an av­er­age pull weight of 4 pounds, 9 ounces, as mea­sured on a Ly­man trig­ger gauge. That 1-pound-and-change re­duc­tion in pull weight might not sound like much, but it makes a big dif­fer­ence in a trig­ger that breaks as cleanly as this one.

REACH­ING OUT

Func­tion­ally, the ri­fle ran flaw­lessly through­out test­ing. It fed, fired and ejected with no is­sues us­ing the sup­plied P-MAG 10 LR/SR Gen M3 7.62X51 (308 Win.) mag­a­zine. It was a lit­tle rough on spent 6.5 Creedmoor brass from a cou­ple of fac­tory loads, but that’s to be ex­pected.

SOUTH­PAWS WILL LOVE THIS GUN, BE­CAUSE CON­TROLS ON THE RI­FLE ARE TRULY AM­BIDEX­TROUS.

For ac­cu­racy test­ing, I set the ri­fle up with a Steiner GS3 4-20X50mm scope, which has be­come one of my fa­vorites for test­ing. The scope was mounted in a rock-solid, can­tilevered Weaver Tac­ti­cal SPR 30 mount. It proved to be a great com­bi­na­tion.

I be­gan by run­ning five dif­fer­ent fac­tory loads, rang­ing from 120 to 143 grains, over my CED M2 chrono­graph and found that the dropoff in ve­loc­i­ties out of the 20inch bar­rel from fac­tory-stated ve­loc­i­ties wasn’t all that sig­nif­i­cant. Vari­a­tions ranged from 179 fps to 92 fps slower than fac­tory num­bers, with two Fed­eral loads show­ing the least ve­loc­ity loss.

Ac­cu­racy test­ing fol­lowed. Shoot­ing three fiveshot groups per load on a windy day, re­sults showed a lit­tle hor­i­zon­tal string­ing but were quite good for the con­di­tions. Three of the five loads pro­duced best groups of 1 inch or bet­ter, de­spite the wind. Top ac­cu­racy hon­ors went to Hor­nady’s Pro­fes­sional Hunter 143-grain ELD-X load, which pro­duced av­er­age groups mea­sur­ing 0.79 inch and a best group mea­sur­ing 0.76 inch.

How­ever, 100-yard groups only tell part of the story. Long, low-drag bul­lets may take a lit­tle time and dis­tance to fully sta­bi­lize. When they do, it’s not un­com­mon for such bul­lets to per­form as well or bet­ter, in minute of an­gle (MOA) terms, at longer dis­tances. That proved to be the case with a cou­ple of the tested loads.

While I didn’t have a chance to test the ri­fle at dis­tances I would con­sider to be truly long range, I did shoot sev­eral of the best­per­form­ing loads at 200 yards. The re­sults pro­vided a solid hint of the ri­fle’s true ac­cu­racy po­ten­tial. Fed­eral’s new Gold Medal 130-grain Berger Hy­brid load, for ex­am­ple, ac­tu­ally per­formed a lit­tle bet­ter at 200 yards, in MOA

terms, than it did at 100 yards. The load pro­duced av­er­age groups mea­sur­ing slightly over 1 inch (1 MOA) at 100 yards, with a 1-inch best group. But at 200 yards, it shot av­er­age groups close to ½ MOA (1 inch) and a best group mea­sur­ing 0.72 inch. Even that tight group showed a lit­tle hor­i­zon­tal string­ing, and I be­lieve the load would have done even bet­ter if I hadn’t had to con­tend with wind gust­ing to 16 mph.

Notably, at 200 yards, the Hor­nady ELD-X load also shot sub-MOA (2-inch or un­der) groups, as did the Winch­ester Match 140-grain BTHP load, and I have lit­tle doubt that any of th­ese loads would de­liver very good re­sults at longer dis­tance with this gun.

Coy­otes and game an­i­mals on the re­ceiv­ing end will, of course, be some­what less en­thu­si­as­tic about the new Per­for­mance Cen­ter ri­fle. GW

FOR THE UNINI­TI­ATED, THE PER­FOR­MANCE CEN­TER IS WHERE MOD­ERN GUNMAKING TECH­NOL­OGY MEETS OLD-WORLD CRAFTS­MAN­SHIP.

For test­ing, the au­thor mounted a Steiner GS3 4-20x50 scope in a Weaver Tac­ti­cal SPR 30 mount.

The ri­fle is sup­plied with a P-MAG 10 LR/SR Gen M3 mag­a­zine.

The ri­fle uses a Per­for­mance Cen­ter­spe­cific 15-inch Troy Al­pha M-Lok free-float hand­guard, pro­vid­ing a host of op­tions to mount op­tics and ac­ces­sories.

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The famed S&W Per­for­mance Cen­ter seal adorns the side of the mag­a­zine well, sig­ni­fy­ing that the gun meets the cen­ter’s high stan­dards for ap­pear­ance, re­li­a­bil­ity and ac­cu­racy.

As this right-side view il­lus­trates, the ri­fle’s con­trols are truly

am­bidex­trous.

Fed­eral’s new Gold Medal 130-grain Berger Hy­brid load pro­duced this 200-yard group mea­sur­ing sub ½ MOA, de­spite gust­ing winds, hint­ing at the ri­fle’s ac­cu­racy po­ten­tial. Fit and fin­ish on the ri­fle are very good. There’s no wob­ble be­tween the up­per and lower re­ceivers, and noth­ing rat­tles

on the gun.

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You’ll find small things

done right on the Per­for­mance Cen­ter M&P10, such as this prop­erly staked gas key.

The Per­for­mance Cen­ter ri­fle has a two-stage match trig­ger ma­chined by hand to Per­for­mance Cen­ter spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Also note the am­bidex­trous mag re­lease on the left side.

The new S&W Per­for­mance Cen­ter M&P10 cham­bered for the pop­u­lar 6.5 Creedmoor car­tridge worked flaw­lessly in test­ing. It fed, ex­tracted and ejected rounds with­out any is­sues.

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