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PSA Premium Mid-length AR 6k round review

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by NWcityguy2, May 4, 2015.

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  1. NWcityguy2

    NWcityguy2 Member

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    Many people know about Palmetto State Armory, or PSA for short as a new player in the AR world. Specializing in online sales, with store-fronts in only South Carolina, they have been flooding the market with low priced uppers and lowers for the past few years. They follow the mold of many other companies in that they don't manufacture any of their own parts, preferring instead to outsource and assemble them into uppers and lowers. To many, including myself, they are the TJ Maxx of the AR world, with a rotating stock of goods that changes by the month. For their AR uppers, they focus on providing a high quality barrel and a high quality BCG for one of the lowest prices around. I personally am a big fan, as most other parts of an upper are generic and rarely fail or develop problems.

    The barreled upper that I own is from their Premium line, which sports a FN-made chrome lined barrel that is button rifled (as opposed to hammer forged). Mine specifically is a 16" government profile mid-length barrel, 1:7 twist, made from CMV steel, and is HPT/MPI tested. It is phosphate finished and has a pinned F-marked FSB. Also included were a pair of single heat-shield handguards, which I have replaced with Magpul MOE handguards. The flat top upper receiver is forged 7075, has a T-marked rail and M4 feed ramps. When they are in stock they sell for between $260-280 (as of 2013-2015 time frame) and may or may not come with a BCG, charging handle or rear sight. I bought mine for $280 (without the BCG/CH/Sight) plus $15 shipping. The lower is a PSA blem. I have replaced the 6061 buffer tube with one that is 7075. I'm also using a B5 grip and a BlackHawk buttstock (which is made by Knoxx).

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    A big topic of conversation in the AR world is about how an upper is "gassed". That is to say, how much gas from the burned powder is being used to cycle the action. Over-gas the rifle and you are putting extra stress on the extractor and it can even lead to malfunctions. Under-gas the rifle and the bolt won't lock back on empty magazines or it might even start short stroking. In proper context, whether or not a AR in over/under gassed is relative to how much gas is being put through the system. A rifle that is fine shooting lower powered ammo like steel cased of PMC Bronze might be over-gassed when shooting Independence 5.56. The opposite is also true. In my experience, PSA's 16" mid-length upper will run anything from steel cased 223 to full power 5.56 without malfunction, but it is over-gassed at the high end with a basic carbine buffer and spring. I also tried an H2 buffer for a while, but didn't notice any real difference in perceived recoil or ejection pattern, which was slightly forward of 2 o'clock. Since I shoot reloads at about max pressure for 223 ammo, I have started using an extra powered Tubbs flatwire spring with the carbine buffer. I think it offers the best overall solution for full powered 223 and 5.56. If I were shooting steel cased Monarch/Wolf, I'd stick with the included buffer and spring. If I were shooting exclusively 5.56, I'd probably use the extra powered spring and H2 buffer. Ejection pattern isn't gospel, but I do prefer to have it in the 3-4 o'clock range.

    So lets talk about accuracy for a moment, which is important but often over-rated. I think many shooters, especially new shooters, focus on things that are measurable but don't put them in the proper context. When looking at a firearm as customizable as an AR, one needs to think of it as a system. There is no point in focusing on one part and neglecting another, like buying a highly accurate barrel and shooting cheap, inaccurate ammo out of it, or shooting it without a support, or with a red dot/low powered optic. Any accuracy advantage gained is completely negated by one or more other factors. That is why I am a big fan of chrome lined barrels. They last a long, long time and are accurate enough for most peoples shooting styles and abilities. My PSA specifically is good for an AR, without being amazing. Using a sandbag for a support and my Weaver Super Slam 2-10x42mm scope for testing, I was consistently able to shoot at or around 1.5moa with ammo it liked. Using some cheap FMJBT bullets, the accuracy went down to about 3-5moa. These are all 5 round groups at 100 yards, with 55gr Hornady SP w/c, 52gr Hornady BTHP (both reloads) and 55gr HP Hornady Steel Match.

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    The bolt carrier group (BCG) is a premium PSA blem which has no markings on it. I bought this before the PSA upper and used it in my 20" A2 rifle for 2-3k rounds. It is approaching 9k rounds. The bolt is made from 158 Carpenter steel, has been MPI'ed and shot peened. It was not HPT, nor is it marked MPI on the bolt. It came with a standard extractor spring, black insert but no O-ring. The bolt carrier is 8620 steel with phosphate outside and chrome lined inside. The gas key is staked heavily, which is in favor right now because almost no one ever has to replace one. The only wear has been to the finish and some erosion on the carrier at the gas ports. I have replaced the extractor and insert with new one as part of preventative maintenance.

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    The charging handle is forged 7075 and has an extended steel latch. The cost came to $40 between the two items, which puts it in the same price range as the enhanced CHs like the BCM Gunfighter. I don't regret the purchase, but for the price of CH + aftermarket latch, there are other options out there. Extensive use of an extended latch will lead to uneven wear in the finish, as can be clearly seen.

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    The rear sight is PSA brand, but they are also included on some Sig ARs. This is the newer version (which has been around for at least 2 years) and are improved over the older ones, which had trouble clamping on the some rails. These do sit a bit low compared to other rear flip-up sights, which means most people with them will have to lower the front post quite a bit, but mine has no zeroing problems from it. It also comes with a large and small aperture, which is a perk on a budget rear sight.
     
  2. NWcityguy2

    NWcityguy2 Member

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    The compensator is a BCM Gunfighter Mod 0, which I got for free on a 16" BCM upper I bought last year. The normal retail price is $80 for the comp. I know when I received the comp there was some literature about it showing excessive wear and losing effectiveness, and how that concern was over-rated. BCM advised that it could wear significantly and not suffer from it, but in my experience wear hasn't been an issue. This is more of an issue for people who want to use a 14.5" barrel with a pinned/welded muzzle device, as the muzzle device needs to last the life of the barrel. I personally have mixed feelings about the Gunfighter comp. The short answer is I think it's way overpriced for what it does. While it's still effective as a flash hider, and doesn't have nearly the side concussion of other muzzle devices on the market, it doesn't reduce felt recoil all that much either. I think of it as a modified A2 birdcage, at 10x the price. Now I got mine for free, but if I had to pay, I'd probably go with a Yankee Hill Comp, which isn't all that different, for 1/3rd the price. If I was going to spend closer to $100, I'd get the FCS556, which from my personal experience is head and shoulders above the Gunfighter in reducing felt recoil, at the cost of increased side concussion. In the end, there isn't a "free lunch" to be found between felt recoil and concussion to the shooters around you, but I don't think the Gunfighter offers enough of a difference compared to the A2 to be worth ten times the price. There was a semi-scientic study done which compared a variety of muzzle devices and how they effected recoil, in which the Gunfighter came in last among the hybrid type devices, reaffirming what I already suspected after shooting it myself. http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2014/11/jeremy-s/556-muzzle-device-shootout/

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    The MOE handguards are good and are one of the best ways to attach items to the rifle for cheap. The only down side that I can think of is the way the heat shield is attached. Because it is held on by a metal screw that is exposed on the outside, heat can transfer directly from the heat shield and to my hand. When shooting multiple magazine in a row, or less in the summer, the front of the guard gets uncomfortably hot. It isn't a deal-breaker, but is still something to be aware of.

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    Overall I have a little less than $1000 invested in the rifle, which is including the Aimpoint PRO. The think the strong points of this setup are;
    - Very fast shooting at close ranges
    - It can shoot respectable groups at 100 yards and hit torso size targets at 300 yards.
    - Everything on the rifle will last a very long time and isn't sensitive to bumps or scrapes.
    - The rifle will shoot all the 223/5.56 ammo I have tried with it, and is adjustable to be better suited with higher pressure 5.56.
    - Reliability has been great. I know lots of non-AR people on the outside looking in think that ARs are finicky. The truth is the system does take some maintenance and knowledge to get the most out of it, but those needs are greatly over exaggerated. The biggest thing is don't shoot your rifle bone dry if you don't want problems.
    - I could of spent more money and not gotten more out of the rifle. For the AR, shooting skill is much more important than high end components, outside of dedicated competition based equipment.

    I think in conclusion I think that PSA barreled uppers are a great value and when looked at from the perspective of "guns shoot bullets", there isn't anything separating it from higher priced options. The same can be said for PSA BCGs. Reliability has been flawless with the exception of some bolt over base jams with an E-lander magazine that I eventually threw away. PSA lowers do have 6061 buffer tubes, which is a deviation from some of the higher priced lowers available, but I replaced mine with a 7075 one for all of $40, so it is an easy upgrade for those who think it is important.

    I think PSA should appeal to people who are looking to get a quality rifle with basic features. They certainly don't offer the variety that other brands offer in terms of rails, but those can really drive up the price with sometimes questionable gains. They also don't have the resale value of other brands, but cost less to begin with. Generally speaking, the true cost to own a PSA rifle, with everything that a person needs to shoot it minus ammo, is around $600-800. If you are looking at buying an AR, or PSA specifically, my advice is not to spend your entire budget on the gun itself. Sights, optics, magazines, a sling, and maybe a light will all add cost to the rifle. You'll be better off factoring in those costs as well. The good thing about a PSA Premium (or CHF) upper, along with a PSA lower, is that they aren't starter guns which will need to be replaced after a few years.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2015
  3. MJD

    MJD Member

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    Thanks for the detailed write-up. I have an almost identical set up, sans red dot. Nary a hiccup yet, though admittedly it hasn't been tortured.

    What kind of sling is that?
     
  4. NWcityguy2

    NWcityguy2 Member

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    It's a V-Tac sling, I like it because I can quickly cinch it up or let it out. They are good slings.
     
  5. Quentin

    Quentin Member

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    Excellent post, NWcityguy2! Thank you.

    I also bought a PSA Premium Mid-length 16" upper two years ago for $280. It has a lighter profile FN barrel with a weight that falls between government profile and pencil. I already had a spare BCM BCG which I use with this upper.

    I find very little difference between this PSA upper and my BCM 16" midlength upper. Both have button rifling. The PSA was a bargain.

    I did buy a couple PSA BCGs but that ended up being a confusing mess. I got a Premium model with the PSA logo that's probably ok and another Premium that does not have the logo or HPT mark. On both the gas key bolts don't look nearly as good as yours. To be fair PSA and everyone else at the time was scrambling to find BCGs, any BCGs. I got both of my BCM BCGs well before the shortages of 2013.

    I also upgraded to BCM 7075 receiver extensions in my main ARs but moved a 6061 tube and the better PSA BCG to a lighter use AR. The worst PSA BCG does function so it makes a good spare. I also use Magpul MOE handguards and find them comfortable and all I need. I kept the stock birdcage flash hiders that came with the PSA and BCM. Like you I went with VTAC slings.
     
  6. NWcityguy2

    NWcityguy2 Member

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    Thank you. Gas key staking has become somewhat of a measuring stick among BCGs, but I've seen plenty of lightly staked ones out there that have never had a problem. So while it certainly doesn't hurt, it doesn't always seem to make a difference either.

    BCM has become a better value as far as uppers are concerned now that they aren't charging $200 plus for a BCG, CH and grips. You know, the stuff that is 100% necessary for a functional upper. Still though, I don't see the difference between budget BCM and PSA Premium. Either does the job the same.
     
  7. Inebriated

    Inebriated Member

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    My biggest complaint with the BCM comp is that it's not cheaper. Mine was free as well, and I really do like it a lot for what it does, but I don't think I'd pay the $95 they ask for it. That said, I also have a PWS FSC-556, and while it does keep the muzzle quite still, the nasally feeling I get is annoying, and while the flash is low enough to not distract me, it's still enough to be seen down range. I like it, but there's a reason I kept the BCM on my go-to rifle. If my rifle didn't come with the BCM, chances are I'd either stick with an A2, or just pay a little more than the PWS or BCM for an EFAB.
     
  8. Fishbed77

    Fishbed77 Member

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    Agreed on most all counts. I have the BCM comp on a BCM KMR 16" midlength, and for what it is (a compromise flash hider/comp that isn't obnoxiously loud), it works good enough. It does a decent job hiding flash, and it does reduce recoil noticeably over an A2, but not by a great deal.

    But is it worth $90 versus the $7 or so you would spend on an A2? No way. It is vastly overpriced, which is interesting, considering how much of a value most BCM components represent.
     
  9. sappyg

    sappyg Member

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    Excellent post.

    I'm a PSA fan. Several months ago they had a pallet of Ptac uppers on the floor for $180. WTH, I bought one and have a 3rd working AR now. The guy at the counter said the Ptac was a PSA brand. Nothing special. Non chrome lined non FN whatever barrel.... Big deal. Picked up an auto bolt for a hunsky. Works just fine. It only Has ~200 rounds through it and that's fine with me. Got another working rifle for cheap.

    I drop by every other week or so just to see what new goodies they have next. Picked up a nice Ergo grip today for a great price.
     
  10. Tomac

    Tomac Member

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    I like my BCM Mod 0 for what it is: a "jack of all trades" that's good at several things but excels at nothing. However, I'd be hard-pressed to find a better hybrid muzzle device that's as small as the Mod 0.
    Tomac
     
  11. Comrade Mike

    Comrade Mike Member

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    I still won't buy anything from them based on their abhorrent customer service.
     
  12. NWcityguy2

    NWcityguy2 Member

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    I don't recall this review being about their customer service... However, I have ordered from them several times over the past 2 years and only had one hiccup, where they oversold an item I ordered. They called me about it and upgraded me to a more expensive item for free.

    One time I went to Jack in the Box and they forgot to bring me my food for 30 minutes. I got a free milkshake and I still eat at Jack in the Box.
     
  13. Inebriated

    Inebriated Member

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    At least PSA isn't bad for your health.
     
  14. Eb1

    Eb1 Member

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    Nice rifle. I'll try to share a pic of my PSA when I find it. A server went down, and I'll probably have to retake the pic.
     
  15. javelinablanco

    javelinablanco Member

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    ImageUploadedByTapatalk1431087875.569086.jpg
    Got mine a few weeks back. Still not finished (need lower build) but the build quality seems good. Got this one with magpul furniture, stainless pencil barrel, with bcg and charging handle for around $330 free shipping. From their freedom line. Will have to wait and see how it functions on completion.
     
  16. Gtscotty

    Gtscotty Member

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    Thanks for the informative post. Out of curiosity, what lube do you use on your ARs?
     
  17. NWcityguy2

    NWcityguy2 Member

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    I just use regular old motor oil. I find that on a 16" barrel, unsuppressed, the rifle doesn't cook off the lube hardly at all. I'll put on a medium film, not to where it is leaking everywhere, and after 500 rounds most of it will still be left.
     
  18. Gtscotty

    Gtscotty Member

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    That's what I like to hear, I lubed my AR's with Mobil1 for a while, and was pleased with the performance and ease of cleaning. Then for some unknown, or unremembered reason I decided I should go back to a far more expensive gun specific lube. I can't honestly say I can tell a difference with the more expensive stuff, and as little as I shoot my AR's (I'm kind of a bolt gun addict) I suspect I'd be just as well off going back to Mobil1.
     
  19. Jackal

    Jackal Member

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    Lube: If its good enough for your engine, its good enough for your rifle.
     
  20. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    If you keep an eye out for folks throwing away oil cans (Gosh I'm getting old) plastic oil things, you can turn them up and drain them and have enough oil for months. Or use it to oil chains etc, but the point is, people throw out a lot of oil. if you're not picky, you never have to buy lube for little jobs.
     
  21. LiquidTension

    LiquidTension Member

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    The issue with PSA is not the quality of their parts. Those they get from the usual sources - FN, LW Schneider, etc. The problem is with the assembly of said parts. I've seen some really stupid stuff come out of their assembly shop. A2 flash hiders upside down. Carbine gas tube on a mid length barrel. Castle nuts not staked. PSA has the potential to be a great bargain, but it's best if you can inspect what you're buying prior to purchase. I also recognize that not everyone lives a mile away from the store to be able to do so.

    On a somewhat related note, I am fairly impressed with the bare 1911 frame and slide I picked up from them last week.
     
  22. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    I have never heard of anyone getting a PSA rifle or upper with the first 2 problems. Ever.

    I've bought a half dozen uppers from them, all were built correctly. Several of my friends have purchased, at least 20 altogether, and theirs have also been fine.

    As for not staking the castle nut on the RE, who cares? I have never staked it on any of my builds, and have seen more unstaked than staked on factory guns. If they're torqued decently, they're not going anywhere, and unstaked won't tear up threads on the RE if you ever remove it.
     
  23. NWcityguy2

    NWcityguy2 Member

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    The two biggest problems I've heard of, that being a canted FSB and the wrong gas tube, all seem to be coming from 2-3 years ago. My understanding is that PSA made those wrongs right as well. These days PSA moves a ton of product, I think if there were still persistent QC problems, we would be hearing more about it.
     
  24. Ibmikey

    Ibmikey Member

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    I have no issues with the quality of PSA parts nor the integrity of their builds. The only time I had a problem was with one upper in an order of several was incorrect. A new one was shipped within hours of my dropping off the return at UPS with the PSA provided return authorization. I have spent untold thousands with them over the years without other incidents.
     
  25. LiquidTension

    LiquidTension Member

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    And an acquaintance of mine had to send a brand new one back that wouldn't cycle just last week. We can go back and forth with anecdotal evidence all day long.

    In the interest of full disclosure, the two uppers that I've purchased have been 100% - albeit with a very low round count. I'm completely pleased with all of the lowers and LPKs I've bought from them. I've just seen too many of their complete uppers and rifles have issues to trust buying one sight unseen. I'm also in the shop 3-4 times per week so I hear a lot of the complaints. The number of complaints I hear and see locally is obviously a small fraction of the business they do nation-wide.

    As I stated before, I'm not trying to bash PSA. They get a substantial amount of my disposable income. I do, however, consider their rifles to be hobby guns, not work guns. But hey, my opinion is worth what you paid for it :)

    And since I neglected to do it initially, I'd like to thank NWcityguy2 for the excellent, detailed review. You're running a very similar setup to mine. Any chance you have both the BCM mod 0 and mod 1 that you could run side by side? I ask only because I've been pretty impressed with my mod 1 but have no trigger time with the mod 0.
     
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