I agree with your analysis and reasoning 100% Childers.
Last Sunday I worked at the annual S&W Employee Product Demonstration Day event as a safety officer demonstrating the S&W M&P15-22.
I was on site all day from 10A when they officially opened doors through 2P when they shut things down. No malfs, no errors, no nothing as across three units available to demo across three ports of fire (I worked one port as alone).
I'd guesstimate I had close to 300 people come through my port alone with each firing 5 rounds as allowed.
Again no malfs, no errors, not nothing. Trigger pull...Pop!. That was all.
These units were literally off the shelf brand new out of the box commercial sale units. No spare/backup product was brought just in case...S&W was that confident in them.
The unit runs exactly like a normal AR.
As you noted being made of polymer and thus weighing exactly one pound less than their M&P15 .223/5.56 'MOE' model the recoil of the .22 is not completely soaked up to zero, as it would be in a heavier gun such as the Umarex manufactured and Colt branded M4-22.
This is important to note because for new shooters and for experienced persons it is important to have recoil be felt. With literally no recoil that can be felt then you might as well be training with a squirt gun. Recoil is a significant and functional component toward the fundamentals of shooting.
As to accuracy when I was setting up the booth two units were configured as in iron sights only form with the OEM detachable A2 style front and rear sights. The gun is an A3 style flat top design. The third unit was setup with a S&W branded red dot which IIRC I was told is supplied by their subsidiary Walther.
The barrels on the S&W M&P15-22 are produced by Thomposon Center(!). It's well known that TC makes some of the best and most accurate barrels in America muchless the firearm industry broadly. In my own hands across these three out of the box units this was reaffirmed as with the 15-22.
I took the guns out of the boxes, set them up as again 2x irons and 1x red dot and then fired them to set POA/POI. The red dot of course required some sighting in. Very easy to do. But I personally am not a fan of red dot. I prefer irons for close to intermediate range target shooting, inside of 100 yds. Our targets were only set to 50 yds. for this event, human torso & head silhouette shaped steel painted white.
My first shot was with one of the iron sighted units. Know that I have never seen muchless fired an M&P15-22 prior to Sunday morning during this setup. I was asked to participate in this event and run a booth but had been wholly expecting to be assigned 1911s or the S&W M&P handgun line. That made the most logical sense for me. I can do AR no problem, but it's not my preference.
As it turned out factory shooter Tom Yost was asked to participate as well and he was assigned the M&P line along with a S&W employee to their 1911 line up.
I was placed on the M&P15-22 along side the MOE and VLTOR models also on demo display.
So back to my port, I load the 25 rd. capacity mag to 15 rds. thinking I'll need to break it in some what for maybe 50 rds. to get it worn in. Nope.
I shoulder the firearm as seated at a shooting bench but in an off hand position, align the _iron sights_ without touching them as they were straight up out of the box, and I toggle the trigger.
DING! Dead center of the target. Repeat, toggle the trigger and DING!. Same result just next and left of the first shots black spot on white paint.
Fifteen rounds fired of fifteen loaded and the resulting grey/black spot on target was roughly an inch. I'd fired the latter 10 rounds as fast fire rather than slow and deliberate.
These things are stupid accurate! Literally as out the box!
I repeated same with the other iron sighted unit thumbing them on and then firing. The red dot unit was similar accuracy but not as tight a grouping. I attribute that to the sight not the gun.
Prior to Sunday I had not shot rifle at all in just under 90 days and had not handled an AR15/M4 in nearly two years.
Newbie shooters as well as clearly experienced shooters as based on their actions and results, rather than statements to me about their skills...which is a whole other thread topic!, agreed with my findings above.
Having the gun be made of polymer and thus have a felt recoil is beneficial...And it is stupid accurate IF you know how to shoot not just a rifle but an AR15/M4 in specific.
As to use in an Appleseed event, this would be _perfect_ for it.
S&W is working on release of a ten round magazine for the M&P15-22 as toward MA and other AWB states. Per the commercial products director it will be a shorty mag and they are working on a 30 rd. style mag like the current 25 rounder is but with an internal interrupt/block that will limit it to 10 rounds loaded.
I personally would prefer a 10 rd. short mag for this gun and would wholly skip the long 30 rd. style/look 25. rd. capacity unit altogether as for use in an Appleseed.
The S&W M&P15-22 very much shoots, and by having a real felt recoil makes for an excellent training gun be one a newbie or experienced shooter.
I have shot the Appleseed using a borrowed Ruger 10/22 and found it to be an exasperating experience with that gun. Very much not a fan of it even as much of the rest of the world is. I would have no qualm or second thought about doing another Appleseed running a S&W M&P15-22.
This thing would own at such an event.
I'm waiting to see how the Sig 522 pans out when ever it gets released.
Right now I am dead heat split between a Savage Mark II BTVS or this S&W 15-22 for a trainer, and use at Appleseed. Though the Savage does not come with any iron sights which would mean going aftermarket.
I am not an employee of Smith & Wesson Company.
I am not a factory sponsored shooter by them either.
I do though maintain a relationship with them as a volunteer instructor in relation to teaching firearms use, handling, and safety through various programs that S&W Company is involved in and that they and I both support. Thus my relationship with them.
Savage model 64 is another good choice for a semi automatic 22 rifle.
It's good to see someone else confirm my observations about the 15-22. In my opinion these guns are going to become one of the next new sleepers among shooters. If all are as good as mine and the ones I've read about, I'm glad I got my gun early while they are still available and relatively inexpensive. "Cult" guns have a way of becoming scarce and much more expensive in a very short time once the word starts to spread.