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Staff member
Dec 20, 2002
I finally hit the range yesterday with several ARs. Two I had for several years, but hadn't found the chance to shoot them while in MD.

Palmetto State Armory has a number of attractively priced AR variants, and some of you have probably wondered if the bargain-priced rifles are worth it. Fired:

DSA 1 in 9" twist pistol-length 5.56x45mm flat-top with Valdada micro RDS;

PSA 16" midlength 1 in 7" 5.56 with Bushnell 1-4x24 scope;

PSA "AR-9" 10.5" upper with dedicated pistol-length 9mm lower for Glock mags with Aimpoint PRO;

S&W 5.45x39mm upper with Bushnell 1x28 RDS;

PSA 7.62x39mm upper on un-remembered lower.

I should immediately point out that issues with receiver pins- too loose or too tight- were experienced on 3 of 4 PSA receivers. These may all be related to improperly fitted springs and detents, all of these lowers in question factory assembled.

9mm AR: a real pleasure to shoot. Minimal recoil, and plenty accurate. Brain pain shots at 25 yards were easy with the PRO, once sighted in. The ETS 31-round mags won't take a full magload yet, but I only encountered one malfunction, a FTF, in about 80 rounds, including about 12 rounds of 124 grain HSTs. Once I figured where to hold, I could hit the 200 yard steel with most shots.
Cons: rear take-down pin is so loose, it sometimes can slip out without even being bumped. The detent spring can be seen hanging out above the PG.

PSA 7.62x39mm upper: numerous light strikes/ignition failures on Wolf HP and SP. This tended to disrupt the tidy groups I was building as I sighted in.

S&W 5.45x39mm upper: I originally had this mounted on a PSA M4 lower, but problems with the takedown pins led to me finally shooting with the PSA "pistol" lower I had used with both 5.56 ARs. In some ways, this rifle was the most frustrating. It was showing a tendency towards very good accuracy, even with the Silver Bear Russian ammo I was using, and the cheap Bushnell RDS, but I was plagued with continual FTFs from the new 5.45x39mm mags I was using. I believe I also had 1 ignition failure.

Both 5.56x45mm upper experienced no negative issues whatsoever. It was almost like the whole system was designed and perfected for this cartridge! Go figure. (I was also lucky, in that the AR-15 pistol lower was the only 1 of the 4 PSA lowers with no problems.)

The surprise for me was how much I enjoyed using the little mini AR. Even with the tiny Valdada RDS, brainpain shots were quick and easy at 25 and 50 yards. Contact your congressman, and urge them to support the Hearing Protection.Act today.

There you have it. PSA offers AR-15 pattern rifles at very affordable prices. QC does seem to be somewhat lacking, and I strongly suggest carefully testing your PSA before putting it to serious use. On the bright side, poor fitting of lower parts kits is not very hard to resolve, just annoying when the factory does a poor job of it.

I really hope to find functional mags for the 5.45x39, and hope reliable ignition can happen with the 7.62x39mm. Various ARs.jpg Range Day.jpg
I'm surprised you had so many issues.
I have a PSA lower and upper combo. The pins are a little tight but nothing to cause any problems.
I wish they'd make a 9mm lower that uses S&W M&P mags
I recently installed a PSA upper to my Oracle and fit is perfect. Really like the new upper. Went ahead and got another red dot for the new upper and a set of MBUS. Holosun HS503C. Wanted to try a dot with a circle option. I like it. Got a new Riser Armament RA-140 I'll be installing shortly. Crap, after reading this I see I added a lot of stuff. :eek:

I was told by the owner of our LGS that an AK is needed to get reliable ignition on Russian 7.62x39 ammo, and that light strikes are common with AR's.
I bought a PSA 7.62X39 upper when they had them on sale. It has never failed to fire with brass reloads or factory steel cased, shoots reasonably well (Never got real serious with it yet), and has been 100% with ten round mags. 20 and 30 round mags are another thing entirely. I have built up two stripped PSA "blem" lowers and they have been good to go.
9mm AR: a real pleasure to shoot.
So true.
My own 7.62x39 upper suffered from light strikes on steel case ammo - although more correctly I'd call them shallow strikes. Probably 3/20 rounds on average, and Midway warned me about that issue when I bought it so it wasn't unexpected. Since that is probably all I will ever shoot with it, I shaved a tiny bit of length off the bolt tail so the firing pin can travel a touch further and it's been 100% ever since. I think you can also buy a FP with a slightly longer reach specifically for the Russian 7.62x39 ammo.
PSA 7.62x39mm upper: numerous light strikes/ignition failures on Wolf HP and SP.
My PSA 7.62x39 upper on a PSA lower had light primer strikes about 1/20. Used an extra power hammer spring, did not help much. PSA sent me a firing pin, same thing, sent the upper back and they swapped the BCG, down to 1/30-1/40. One day I noticed the bolt was not fully closed when trigger pulled and failed to fire, push on the fwd assist fixed it! I now run it with heavier buffer and buffer spring, have no issue since.
PSA 7.62x39mm upper: numerous light strikes/ignition failures on Wolf HP and SP.

Go to Model 1 Sales (or elsewhere) and buy an enhanced AR 7.62x39 firing pin. Problem solved. Can't remember the last time any of the steel cased 7.62x39 ammo failed to ignite in ours since I swapped these in.

I was told by the owner of our LGS that an AK is needed to get reliable ignition on Russian 7.62x39 ammo, and that light strikes are common with AR's.
Obviously he'd rather sell you a gun instead of giving good advice. See above, sometimes you can do it with an "extra power" hammer spring, but this doesn't do good things to the trigger pull, so an "enhanced" firing pin modified to have a bit more protrusion is the preferred solution.

I find all the steel cased ammo to shoot a solid 2 moa our 7.62x39 ARs, none of our AKs will do this as 3-4 moa is typical, a few are worse with certain lots of ammo. I find shooting 2 moa ammo at 4 moa steel plates is a lot more shooting fun than trying to put them all in the same hole with ammo that costs 4-5X more per round.
PSA 7.62x39 uppers already have 7.62x39 "enhanced" firing pins. Try an extra power hammer spring.
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Thanks for the advice, gentlemen. I also have a handy little Rossi 7.62x39mm that I don't shoot because it was no more than 1 ignition in 3 strikes. The PSA was probably 65%, which does beat the hell out of 33%!
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