S&W M&P15T LiNQ: Continued Evolution of S&W’s AR Platform Combined with the Crimson Trace

By Todd Burgreen

S&W has taken its vision of the AR rifle another step forward with its M&P15T combined with Crimson Trace’s LiNQ wireless laser/light module. It is not unusual to see military pattern weapons embraced by civilian shooters outside of the armed services. This pattern can be discerned even before the AR rifle arrived on the scene ala Trapdoor, Springfield, M1 Garand etc. Why not take advantage of the time and effort expended by various nations’ armed forces in doing the initial leg work of what works in terms of reliability and effectiveness. This is not to say military weapons are to be blindly followed; just that millions of dollars and countless hours of research & development should not be ignored as a starting place. The AR’s modular nature combined with advances in CNC machine technology allows for enhancements beyond what could have been imagined 50+ years ago. This same concept can be applied to accessories mated to the AR.

For a rifle to be considered versatile it must be able to satisfy multiple roles with equal aplomb. A viable rifle candidate for this title is the S&W M&P15T. The M&P15T can be loosely characterized as an M4 type AR. The M4 evolved out of the Vietnam era’s CAR 15 Commando (XM-177) rifle. A light weight, fast handling rifle is a premium when having to react to a threat. The military had this figured out with the early Colt CAR 15 Commando rifle often photographed in the hands of MACV-SOG and other elite units in the Vietnam War. The currently fielded M4 evolved out of the CAR 15 XM-177 with it being modified with longer barrel (CAR 15s had a 10” or 11.5” barrels) and other design tweaks to increase reliability. The increase in barrel length to 14.5” facilitated the mounting of the M203 Grenade launcher; a huge boost in available firepower. The M4 was officially adopted into the US military in 1994. In 2010, the M4’s compactness led to it becoming the standard issue rifle for the US Army in lieu of its bigger brother M16A2. The Marines followed suit in late 2015 with a decision to phase in the M4 in favor of their M16A4s.

The S&W M&P15T shares all the military M4’s characteristics which are centered on compactness and ease of handling. The M&P15T follows the successful M4 pattern of a light weight potent direct impingement operated 5.56MM carbine. M4 style feed ramps are present. The feed ramps extend from the barrel extension into the upper receiver and help alleviate feeding problems which may occur as a result of the increased pressure of the shortened carbine gas system of the M4.

Of late, much attention seems to be on “improving” the AR platform via accessory enhancements to enable running it more efficiently. Crimson Trace (CTC) has introduced the LiNQ to address concerns of anyone, especially civilians in my opinion, requiring multiple accessories without occupying an undue amount of rail space or adversely impacting handling. The CTC LiNQ is the first production wireless laser & white light system. The LiNQ combines a green laser sight and 300-Lumen LED white light with secure wireless activation from the weapon’s pistol grip. The CTC grip is ergonomically designed for quick activation and mode changes, eliminating the need to reach for the rifle’s forend to operate. Currently, the LiNQ is available for AR and AK rifles.

The LiNQ combines a 515-532nm (5mW peak) Class 3R laser and an adjustable high intensity 300 lumen LED tactical light all on a compact forend mounted module. The LiNQ’s functions are very tactile and not prone to accidently activate either laser or light inadvertently with obvious adverse consequences in a tactical situation. Crimson Trace has designed the LiNQ so that the light and laser can be operated independently and with four different modes. The LiNQ is programmable via mode selection button (located either side of pistol grip) illumination modes consisting of light/laser combo, laser only, light only, and laser with strobing light. Activation is via button on front of CTC pistol grip. The CTC AR grip replaces the standard AR pistol grip. S&W does this for the user with the LiNQ forend module and pistol grip already installed on the M&P15T LiNQ model. The Crimson Trace LiNQ is powered via one CR123 battery installed in the light/laser module and a CR2 battery in the pistol grip. Battery life is listed as 2 hours of constant illumination.

The Crimson Trace LiNQ is multitasking at its best combining sighting laser and high intensity tactical light in one package. The CTC LiNQ allows a user to “clean up” forward rail of a weapon. This modularity is important to maximize accessory rail space as some weapons have minimal rail space due to short barrels or other design issues. The LiNQ offers light and laser functions while utilizing only the bottom rail, thus leaving side and top rails for other mission specific items. A further advantage offered by the LiNQ is that a user does not have to worry about running cables/wires and activation pads down to vertical grip or other locations on a weapon. This not only prevents snagging but minimizes weight at one point and allows users support hand to move freely without being tied to one spot on the weapon. The LiNQ keeps controls literally at your finger tips without having to change grip to activate either laser or light. The LiNQ can also be operated via a button on the back of the forend module versus the pistol grip if desired. The forend button is a constant on variant until pushed again compared to the momentary nature of the pistol grip activation. Mode change is possible with the forend end switch as well. The LiNQ enhances weapon capability with its versatility, while minimizing any adverse impact it may have on handling if both components were separate entities. It is probably the only weapon mounted accessory a civilian would need. It is hard to imagine what else would be required.

The M&P15T serves as the mounting platform for CTC LiNQ. While the CTC LiNQ is the immediate distinctive feature, the same S&W quality and attention to detail in providing accurate, rugged, and reliable weapons is present. 1:8 5R rifling is used with the 16” Armornite finished barrel surrounded by 13” M&P free float rail system featuring Magpul M-LOK mounting system. Magpul MBUS flip up iron sights are standard equipment. The M&P15T’s upper and lower receivers are forged from 7075 aluminum and then hardcoat anodized. The upper receiver is M4 style “flat top” with M 1913 MIL-STD rail. A carbine length gas system is used with the rifle. The tale of the tape indicates a 6.6 pound weight and measurements of 33.5” and 36.75” depending on stock adjustment.

The M&P15T is one of lighter AR versions on the market, especially considering that it features a full length rail and 16 inch barrel, weighing less than 7 pounds. The M&P15T shows versatility in satisfying customer needs by not using full length quad rails, but instead a lower profile handguard in the form of the S&W forend. The S&W handguard minimizes weight and contributes to the excellent balance of the M&P15T. Some full length rails cause a front heavy feel. Side benefits of the rail consist of effective cooling of the barrel, secure mounting of sling swivels and other accessories deemed necessary. The minimalist approach of the S&W rail is maintained with the use of CTC LiNQ.

S&W’s overarching theme is evident with the M&P15T with LiNQ. S&W is not advocating going retro and breaking out retired M16A1s for use. The involvement of the CTC LiNQ gives a nod to realism that high intensity flashlights and/or lasers serve a role and have a place with a personal defense rifle. However, the need for full length quad rails adding weight and unbalancing the AR by making it front heavy is resisted. The ability to mount infrared laser designators, night vision devices, or other sorts of tactical hardware is not something most of us require in a fighting rifle. The S&W M&P15T LiNQ balances performance with handling. I urge any doubters to attend a rifle course from a reputable trainer with a rifle weighing 10lbs or more laden with accessories and compare it to a rifle configured like the M&P15T. I guarantee which rifle allows its user to perform more dynamically, especially during cover, movement, barricade, or unorthodox firing position drills.

Readers deserved to see what base line accuracy was like with the M&P15T before focusing on the CTC LiNQ aspect of the package; thus the decision to mount a Trijicon AccuPower 1-8x28MM before installing a Trijicon SRS red dot for the majority of testing. With premium loads from SIG SAUER, Hornady and Black Hills, the M&P15T easily maintained 1MOA.

The S&W M&P15T LiNQ was evaluated at Echo Valley Training Center (EVTC). The layout and availability of various range configurations at EVTC is conducive for full spectrum firearm evaluations. The M&P15T was used within Range #2’s large three sided bay firing from barricades and engaging multiple targets. Numerous drills were run involving magazine changes and moving between barricades. Several magazines’ worth of ammunition was spent engaging plate racks and man-sized steel targets. Drills quickly moved past stand and deliver drills to more dynamic drills involving movement, magazine reloads, and firing from behind cover. The LiNQ’s green laser was easily visible, especially in dusk conditions. Something important noticed was keeping the lenses wiped off after any type of high volume firing. EVTC’s newly installed Hesco Shoot House was also explored with the M&P15T LiNQ. This proved a perfect setting for the close range nature associated with deploying a laser/flashlight on a rifle. Allegiance Ammunition’s frangible .223Rem was in the EVTC Shoot House. The M&P15T LiNQ made short work of striking targets in quick fashion. Over 350 rounds were fired during T&E.

The M&P15T LiNQ T&E helped to revive previous experience/training working with lasers. Rediscovered was the best practice of focusing on the target to pick up projected laser versus through your other sights. A benefit of laser use is not requiring a stereotypical mounting of the weapon or sight picture for effective use. Imagine crouching behind a car trunk with head below bumper with rifle held out at arm’s with CTC LiNQ green laser on target allowing for engagement from such an untypical position.

S&W thought process with the M&P15T LiNQ was to create a lightweight, simple to operate AR rifle enhanced via Crimson Trace LiNQ. All M&P15T features are intended for maximizing effectiveness during a fight or realistic training on the range. Selection of a fighting rifle is as personal as it gets. This is further complicated by the presence of the LiNQ module. Light/laser usage has pros/cons all its own. The M&P15T LiNQ is intended for serious practitioners who plan on using it for patrolling, training, or defense.


Smith & Wesson

Crimson Trace Corporation


Hornady Mfg. Inc.

Black Hills Ammunition


Echo Valley Training Center

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N1 (January 2018)
and was posted online on November 17, 2017


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