This is Part Two of my Palmetto State Armory (PSA) visit in South Carolina.

The day started out hot and sticky as we boarded the bus for Summerville, SC. The plan for the day was to visit DC Machines, the machine shop that turns out PSA barrels, another machine shop that produced the lower receivers, and the PSA flagship retail store all about 2-hours from Columbia, SC.

Due to a fatality accident about ¼ of a mile in front of our bus, we arrived to the store at 1330 hrs. – 3-hours late. Ate lunch and headed right away over to the barrel making machine shop at DC Machine.

Photo by Hawkeye – UW Gear

I was pleasantly surprised to see automated, computer controlled milling machines mostly from Haas of Oxnard, California. An American made firearm made with American made milling machines…Ya’ got to love it.

The machine shop operates two shifts during the week and one shift on the weekend. If they run at top production, they will mill 14,000 barrels a week. Keep in mind that not all barrels will be used in a PSA built firearm. Some barrels are made to fill orders from retail customers building their own AR or AK and also for other AR/AK rifle manufactures. The breakdown of AR vs. AK barrels are 1,500/500-barrels a day.

Barrel Blanks Photo by Hawkeye – UW Gear

Besides the automatic milling machines what impressed me to no end was the dedication to turning out a quality product. There was testing standards at each level of the barrel production process executed by computer operated testing equipment. When I commented to the plant manager about all the testing, he told me, “we do not turn out mil spec barrels. We turn out barrels that are 4-times better than mil spec.” Amen!

Testing Barrels

Testing screens at each milling machine showing quality stats

Finished barrels

Last, I purposely went off the tour’s trail to speak to individual plant employees. You always find out more from the folks who do the work than management. To the man or women, everybody spoke enthusiastically about working at DC Machines. Most of the folks shot and had favorite rifles that they made. Many of the women working not only at this plant but each PSA facility belonged to women handgun and rifle leagues around the state.

The plant sports a 50-yard indoor rifle range which is used to test periodically, barrels ready to ship to the anodizing/assembly process facility.

Cards split in half by PSA barrels

Upon the completion of the barrel plant tour we were supposed to go to the lower receiver milling plant but due to the aforementioned accident we skipped that visit due to time and went over to the retail store.

PSA has a total of five retail stores throughout South Carolina. The Summerville PSA store is their flagship store and has the largest footprint at 35,000 sf. The store has what you would find in a small Cabela’s or Bass Pro store plus a 25-yard firearm and a 25-yard archery range.

Some things that impressed me with the store were:

  • The store carried a full line of fishing equipment – Good margin there.
  • The store not only carried a complete line of firearms both handgun and rifle, which were not just PSA branded, and archery equipment too.
  • Hunting tools like tree stands, hunting & tactical clothing, along with a lot of firearm related accessories like optics, cleaning equipment, ammunition etc. made it a “one stop store outdoor store” for all fishing, hunting, and shooting sports.
  • A section of the store was set up with a half a dozen or so working gun benches which were used as a classroom for folks who wanted to build their own rifles. Under the benches were all of the tools of the trade plus the bits and pieces that go into a AR or AK build. GREAT IDEA PSA!

Having 35+ years of retail experience under my belt, I saw that they were leaving some money on the table in the areas of merchandising, lighting, customer service, and product selection. With that written they are learning as they go and will make changes for the better as time, skill, and money are available. I give PSA a whole hearty “good job” tackling a retail store. Retail is never easy to do.

My next report will be on the upper manufacturing part of the equation, Lead Star Arms operations, anodizing, and assembly. Stay tuned.

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