Initial Review: New S&W Volunteer AR Shows Off Nice Upgrades
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.
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.
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.