Everyone who’s trained with me over the years knows I’m a BIG fan of the Kalashnikov. It’s just about everything you could ask for in a combat weapon; rugged, reliable, nearly idiot-proof, and as anyone who’s ever put metal in meat with it can tell you, effective. Over the years I’ve owned a large number of AK variants from pretty much every country that produces them, ranging from ratty old WASR-10 parts kits with the horrible trigger slap to very well built Yugo M-70s to converted Saigas to my current favorite, the new production WASR-10. I even owned an IO Inc AK along the way, and learned the hard way to look at American made AKs with a jaundiced eye. My thoughts were that if I can buy a foreign made AK built correctly on their machines for the past 60+ years, why would I buy an American made model that still might be beta testing?
It was a philosophy that I followed even up until not that long ago. I’m not going to waste my money on a weapon that may lose headspace in a couple thousand rounds, potentially losing accuracy at best and becoming a hazard to shoot at worst. The AK is a more complex weapon to manufacture than one might think at first glance, and there’s a high overhead cost on getting the metallurgy correct on the critical components. How hard could it be for an American company to get it right? A solid barrel, forged trunnions and a proper heat treat on the receiver? How about following established manufacturing practices with the weapon such as not using the barrel as a bucking bar when setting the rivets? Its simple things like attention to detail that separates the foreign military arsenals and the civilian hobby guns produced here in the states. Palmetto State Armory sought to fix the poor reputation American AKs have earned over the years, and having a few AK fanatics on staff has helped things to move in the right direction. They’re producing a TON of interesting AKs for the American market and are even sponsoring this year’s Kalash Bash out in Texas, so they’re serious about building a quality product.
I finally had a little bit of free time in the schedule so it was high time to put Palmetto State’s AK through its paces beyond what I’ve already done. I’ve got the triangle side folder to flesh out that inner C. Thomas Howell we all get from time to time, and besides, everyone needs a Khyber Pass look-alike to add to the war room. I tested every go-to combat magazine type I’ve got- Arsenal Circle 10, Xtech Tactical’s Mag 47, Bulgarian Slab Side, Magpul, and surplus steel. As all AK shooters know, every gun has mags it likes and some it doesn’t. It doesn’t always follow nation of manufacture either. I’ve got WASRs that like one mag and won’t seat another, while another WASR will seat that magazine just fine. Normally a little finesse with a finishing file does the trick, but I’m happy to report that every mag I’ve got fits the PSA GF3 with no issue. Running mag changes is a breeze and seating each of those is nearly effortless.
Zeroing the carbine’s irons was a quick process. A sight adjustment tool is a must have for the AK. I zero at 50m and put the rear sight on the 200m setting. Always adjust the front sight to the point of impact. Its a quick and simple process that gets shots on target out to 200m with no problem, and the AK irons, while derided by some, are perfectly adequate to their purpose.
Accuracy at 100m is good. The strip of tape in the center represents the front sight post picture at the same 100m distance, and after zeroing, the shots were going just slightly left but grouping very nice for prone unsupported out of the bed of my BOV. The carbine performs well within the 4 MOA combat accuracy threshold and absent mounting an optic, I can’t find anything to complain about.
I have zero malfunctions to report after a couple hundred rounds of close contact drills, reflexive fire, and magazine changes. The gun runs, period, eating every brand of ammo from Brown Bear to Wolf military classic to Tula, hard ball, soft point, and hollow point. Like all well-built AKs, the thing is boringly reliable.
Going inside the action, everything is appearing to perform just as designed, with no deformations, metal shavings, or unusual wear from binding. As dirty as Russian ammo has a reputation for being, even the internals don’t look exceptionally fouled after the workout it was given. I only cleaned it once to get the factory grease off when I first received it, while applying ball joint grease to the guide rails on the receiver and the cam on the bolt and bolt carrier group. These are the only real points on the AK that require lube from metal-on-metal contact, and the grease stays put with a long wear life while not attracting dirt. Its a trick I learned long ago from watching Jim Fuller give tips on AK maintenance while I was in Afghanistan and one that I’ve followed ever since.
There’s only a couple of real complaints from my end. The first one is the muzzle device- I know, I know, its easy enough to change. But the slant break was high tech in 1947. In 2020, its little more than a thread protector and basically a throwaway item. They’re not very effective at what they do and are hideously blinding at night. Dump that crap and put something better on it– a Type 81 birdcage or PKM flash hider like the one I’m running from CNC Warrior which are both lightweight, do their job in keeping muzzle rise down and are very effective at night. The second might be aesthetic as well- the grip, while a laminate to match the handguard, is a little slick. I get it- it matches the classic motif and that’s a great thing, but I’ve got to criticize something. They make another version with polymer handguards and a grip, so I digress. But then again that’s about all I can say in the improve column. Its a well made weapon.
So has PSA finally done what other American companies couldn’t? All signs point to yes. I’m going to be running this weapon much more in the classes coming up as well as making it available for the students to get hands on with as well. If you’re looking to get into the AK game this is a good option and I have no reservations on running it. The Kalashnikov is a good platform that any trigger puller should at least be familiar with due to its prevalence in the world- as a friend and very well seasoned SOF guy told me a couple weeks ago over dinner, “people who will eventually invade this country will be using the AK. So brushing up on our skills might be pretty important”. He’s right. Make sure you pick up a healthy stockpile of ammo and magazines and do what’s most important- get out there and train!