In a 2022 rollout of firearms that included various handgun and rifle models, Smith & Wesson’s new Volunteer lineup of AR rifles caught my eye pretty quickly. It might have been that I was on an AR kick and just finished reviewing a few Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II rifles, which are a nice entry-level, budget-friendly pick from my experience. But you could tell pretty quickly that the brand-new Volunteer line had some extras that bumped them up a few notches over your normal entry AR-15s. 

In fact, the guns hosted quite a few things that I just kind of started assuming I would always have to update or ignore missing myself. It was almost like these were some new ARs on the block that actually paid attention to the end consumer's needs and desires. So, we got one, and here’s how our test gun stood up to our first few range visits. 

Table of Contents

Initial Video Review
First Impressions
Specs & Function
First 100 Rounds
1,000+ Round Video Update
Final Thoughts

Initial Video Review


My first impressions of the new Volunteer were immensely positive, but I had some fairly high expectations for the new line given my past experience with the M&P15 Sport lineup. My biggest worries were around longevity, which I will get to below in a 1,000-round video update. But from an initial impression, the gun offered an improved trigger, better ergonomics, lightweight, and flat-recoiling package right out of the gate when compared to your standard AR.

RELATED: M&P15 Rifles Are Best-Selling AR-15s for a Good Reason

Better yet, it did all of those things without stacking on a ton of cost and while actually throwing in some nice extras. To see how it handled some higher round counts, just check out the next video later in this article.

First Impressions

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Volunteer   
The rifle hints at all the ways S&W considered adding just a bit more than what you might expect. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

When Smith & Wesson offered to send me a Volunteer with a 14.5-inch barrel, I had to jump online and check the specs. At under 16 inches, that barrel length would normally put you into the world of NFA, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to dive into it just to test the new guns.

However, the barrel does host a muzzle brake that is pinned and welded – so, don’t expect to swap it out on this specific model – but it’s a nice upgrade over the standard “birdcage” muzzle brake found on many ARs. Since it’s a permanent feature, the gun does safely come in at the proper barrel length. It’s actually quite wieldy in the hand, partially thanks to the slimming M-LOK handguard and shorter barrel.

I’ll dig into the specs more below, but I was pleased to see that there were already included folding iron sights and a 30-round mag. After getting in several guns that came without any sights, it’s nice to see that Smith & Wesson tossed in metal adjustable sights right out of the gate. 

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Volunteer
We put the gun through heavier than expected shooting, but these grip panels were awesome and an unexpected extra. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Smith & Wesson M&P15 Volunteer
The fact that S&W tossed in the Pic rail attachment was a nice touch given that is one of my normal M-LOK complaints. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

What I did not expect was the addition of six pieces of M-LOK grip attachments from Magpul – which I am seriously considering adding to my other M-LOK rails – or the bonus Picatinny rail piece that was M-LOK compatible. It just showed that there was an appreciation for the fact shooters would likely use aftermarket lights, bipods, grips, etc. It's just nice to be remembered as an end shooter when a gun is shipped.

Drop in the obvious addition of a flat trigger, keeping the gun in line with another trend, and it was clear that the Volunteer was meant to meet the more modern demands of AR buyers.

Specs & Function

One of the new features popping up on the entire Volunteer series is the standard adoption of the increasingly popular flat-faced triggers, with what I would term as better than a mil-spec pull and break. The reset was short and positive, with a bit of resisted take-up before the break. But as far as duty-style triggers go, it was controllable and above the average without entering into the realm of an overly sensitive, comp-style pull. For a duty or plinking gun, that would generally be something I would prefer.

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Volunteer
The flat-faced trigger joins the growing trend inside the industry. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

The gun also hosted an ambidextrous Radian Raptor charging handle, and a standard AR bolt release and safety lever. Notably, and bucking some current trends, the safety lever on this rifle was not ambidextrous. I’m going to come right out and say that I far prefer this because ambi safeties tend to impact my shooting grip – or are even blocked by my grip – and I appreciate that Smith & Wesson kept this feature more standard despite missing out on the marketing hype behind the trend. 

There are quite a few models available, but here are some additional specs for the shorter 14.5-inch variant I’ve been flirting around with:

Weight: 6.7 pounds
Shortest Length: 32 inches 
Longest Length: 35.25 inches 
Handrail: 13.5 inches 
Trigger: 5.9 pounds

This model also hosted an adjustable B5 Systems Bravo Stock that provided a generous space for a solid cheek weld and a grippy rear rubber pad. There was just a minor amount of play in the stock that I never noticed while firing or carrying the gun. The trigger pull is not the lightest by any measure, but it was a comfortable and predictable pull. I found that running repeated 30-round mags outstripped my normal ability to shoot accurately on a personal level. 

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Volunteer
While it is pinned and welded, the muzzle brake is an effective design. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Smith & Wesson M&P15 Volunteer
The texture on the pistol grip is positive and comfortable while shooting. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

Returning to the pinned and welded muzzle brake, I could see that being a concern for some people. If you wanted to host a suppressor or put a more custom brake on the gun, then I would choose a different model. That being said, it’s a fairly aggressive Primary Weapons muzzle brake, which did do a nice job of keeping the rifle flat shooting and in line with my shoulder. 

It is not the quietest break, and that is something to consider if you wanted to use this as a home defense gun. Though, it’s an AR, so don’t expect quiet shooting either way without a suppressor. Still, it was of a quality that I would not personally feel any need to improve.

First 100+ Rounds

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Volunteer
I found the B5 stock to be comfortable and rigid for an adjustable stock. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

We did actually bump this testing a good bit past the 100-120 rounds I was planning, but that is also a complement to the gun. It was enjoyable to shoot, low recoiling (not a shocker with an AR hosting a break), and happy to chew anything from steel-cased Wolf and Winchester M855 “Green Tip” to budget reloaded ammo that tends to come in it at lower powers and has proven unfriendly with other rifles. 

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Volunteer
I also appreciate that the gun came ready to shoot out of the box with some robust metal sights. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

In an effort to keep this a bit more in line with an average or above average and enthusiastic shooter in practical terms, I would relate this to the older M&P Sport II lineup. But it came with a healthy number of upgrades that kept it practical and more than functional for most shooters looking for a solid AR platform you can push hard at the range with a variety of ammo. 

(Spoiler: We did get it out for some extra range time recently. More on that below, but it did well on longer strings of fire and a long day at the range with a wide variety of mags).

I will say that the grip texture was also a nice surprise. I often come across somewhat slicker grips that lack the hump of the traditional A2-style pistol grip, so my hands will start to slide down as I shoot. The stippling on the sides and front of this grip felt nice and positive. 

1,000+ Round Video Update


Well, I had intended to push this to 500 rounds for my testing, but we quickly chewed through more than 1,000 rounds of a mix of Wolf and Tula steel-case ammo alongside a healthy diet of M855 green tip, Federal brass-cased ammo, and just about anything else I could score for a few more range trips. Magazines included your standard U.S. GI metal mags, Magpul PMags, some polymer ETS clear mags, ProMags, IMI Defense magazines, Thermold 20-round mags, and even a somewhat finicky 60-round magazine.

Long story short, the gun held up great. My only real stone to through at it is that the muzzle brake is aggressive. It shortens the gun, and there are other options to fix this. Perhaps more to the point, it worked at keeping the gun flat when shooting, which was aided by nice iron sights and plenty of other furniture. So, I guess, my only real complaint at this price range is the fact that guns are loud, and that should kind of be expected. 

As a shooter, it was comfortable and fast with no malfunctions with either the ammo, gun, or magazines to report. I cannot say that was true for all the ARs that joined it on the range – a few that were more pricey, actually – so take that for what it's worth.

Final Thoughts

I’ve had the chance to put several M&P15 Sport II rifles through their paces a bit, and I can feel the added attention to detail and robustness in this gun. I liked those older rifles, but I would rather have something like the Volunteer in my personal collection since I would plan on shooting it a heck of a lot more. 

For one thing, it is above average as a flat, fast shooter. It’s also been 100-percent reliable to date, controls well, and has been fed a decent diet of cheaper ammo without cleaning. I could throw stones at the pinned/welded muzzle brake, but it’s probably better than what I would add personally anyway. I’m also a fan of Pic rail, but the fact that it is lighter and included enough rail for a light was a pleasant surprise.  

I’ll come back with another range review on this gun once we push it a bit harder going into the summer. So we’ll have some mag dumps and other testing done to see how it behaves when you take the gloves off a bit more. My impressions, so far, are that it will be more than happy to keep pace.

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