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When Smith & Wesson entered the AR-15 market in late 2007, it was understandable that the firm would soon offer a high-grade version of the rifle: the M&P 15PC, with “PC” standing for “Perfor­mance Center,” chambered in 5.56×45 mm NATO/.223 Rem. What sets this Performance Cen­ter rifle apart from other S&W M&P 15 rifles is its finish. Every­thing-except the barrel, grip and a few small parts-is covered with Advantage MAX-1 camou­flage. The rifle has a stainless steel 20″ semi-bull barrel with 1:8″ rifling and a matte finish. Manufactured by sister company Thompson/Center, the barrel measures 0.734″ in diameter at the muzzle, which is finished with an 11-degree “precision” crown. The 1:8″ twist rate allows the use of heavier bullets for better long ­range work, augmented further by the free-floating barrel fitted with a Yankee Hill Machine Co. (YHMC) Single Rail Gas Block. Unlike an A2-style gas block, which can obstruct the sight picture of certain optics, this low-profile block allows a clear sight picture for optical sights. A front sight can be attached to the top rail on the gas block, and the YHMC aluminum free-floating fore-end tube has a knurled sur­face. A single sling swivel stud is mounted 1″ from the front of the handguard. The barrel nut is fit­ted with a Yankee Hill jam nut.

The forged aluminum upper receiver includes a forward assist and an ejection port dust cover. It is a flat-top design with an integral Picatinny rail along the top for mounting sights. A black-oxide finish covers the bolt and carrier, which are of the standard configu­ration with a plunger-style ejector. The charging handle has a single release catch on the left side.

The forged aluminum lower receiver has a standard left ­side, two-position safety lever. A Hogue rubber grip is com­fortable and well-designed, featuring a solid, dark green color bearing the S&W logo. Its pebbled texture provides excel­lent purchase.

Our sample rifle’s JP Indus­tries two-stage trigger had a listed pull-weight of 41bs., 8 ozs., although the first stage bottomed at 2lbs., 11 ozs., and the well defined second stage broke at 3 lbs., 14 ozs. It was extremely crisp and clean-one of the best assets of this rifle. In essence, once the shooter is holding the first stage, the trigger breaks with only an additional 1 lb., 3 ozs. of trigger weight, which makes this an ideal trigger for precision work.

Although standard AR-15-type detachable magazines fit the rifle, it comes with a single 10-round unit made by C-Products that fits into the magazine well with less than 0.4″ protruding out the back and 0.8″ at the front. The short magazine makes the M&P I5PC much easier to carryon a sling when hunting compared with a longer magazine. Also, the la-rounder is a good all-around hunting magazine, but, be aware; it may be illegal for hunting in some states.

Other than the camouflage coat­ing, the buttstock is a standard A2 style. It has a fixed rear sling loop and checkered plastic buttplate. A metal trapdoor in the buttplate allows access to a compartment for storage of a cleaning kit or other small items.

We tested the rifle with two different factory loads and one handload of proven accuracy. The overall average for five-shot, l00-yd. groups was 1.61″, with the handload being the most accurate with a 1.35″ average. The single best group was also with the handload and measured 0.75″, center to center.

Smith & Wesson’s M&P 15PC looks good and runs well. The design and execution are excel­lent, with good ergonomics and a nice trigger. It is an excellent rifle for a predator hunter looking for an AR-15-style rifle.