A decade or so ago, were inexpensive and offered shooters a battle-proven rifle design that could take hellacious abuse and still keep shooting. It helped that its ammo was inexpensive, too, and readily available. Back then, most U.S. shooters’ opinions of the AK were largely based on the quality of the rifle they first encountered. Some were good while others were not. Eventually, as more guns came onto the market and we became better at understanding the pluses and minuses of AKs built in particular countries, we became less jaded and more appreciative of the AK design. But the fact is that the AK rifle market in the United States has always been in a constant state of flux. At one moment the market is flush with parts kits and complete builds while at other times the supply of AKs can quickly dry up. In addition, the price of these AKs slowly inched its way out of the reach of the average shooter.
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Palmetto State Armory (PSA) intends to change that fact. Early in 2015, PSA showed off some prototypes of a U.S.-made AK-47 called the PSAK-47 with a retail price of around $699 depending on furniture. People were impressed. It was compared to AKs that retail at $1,200 or more. Larry Vickers gave the PSAK-47 high praise, calling it the “Cadillac of AKs.”
PSA had a lot to live up to as it pushed forward with production, and after testing a PSAK-47 MOE Edition rifle, I have to agree that the PSAK-47 is impressive, well made, outfitted for the modern shooter and affordable. PSA has indeed remastered the AKM.
The PSAK-47 is truly Americanized. It is not Russian nor Bulgarian nor even Chinese, but an amalgamation of all the good design traits of an AK made into one. When asked what AK-47 design blueprint the company used for the PSAK-47, Adam Ruonala, chief marketing officer at PSA, responded with not just one AK-47 design plan but numerous. “We looked at the Russian, Chinese, Romanian and Bulgarian blueprints and we took what we felt were the best features from each and incorporated them into our AK design.”
The quality control PSA places on these rifles is rigorous. PSA takes about one and a half hours to assemble a rifle, not including range testing. On AK builds, the company fires 15 to 20 rounds using brass- and steel-cased ammunition. “We want to make sure our rifles perform, so we test with ammo of all quality types, from inexpensive steel-case surplus ammo to U.S.-made factory-fresh brass ammunition,” said Ruonala.
While in development, PSA took 25 PSAK-47s and ran them through a 10,000-round torture test. The company wanted to ensure its AK-47 would run smoothly and reliably. “We wanted our rifle to not only perform exceptionally but look good doing it,” Ruonala explained. “PSA wouldn’t produce a gun that was not 100 percent.”
Not only does the company check for accuracy—4 MOA or better—but it also looks for things that most shooters wouldn’t notice, like ejection patterns. This is just one of several metrics PSA looks at to ensure its AKs are running smoothly and reliably.
One of the things I noticed immediately with the PSAK-47 MOE Edition was how smoothly the action cycled. I hate to use the term “silky,” but it is an appropriate description. Also, and this is a minor thing, the safety selector was precise and moved securely without scratching the receiver. On some AKs, the safety selector can be loose and scratch the receiver when actuated. The third thing was the price. My guess upon opening the carton was the rifle would cost us average shooters easily $800 to $900. The PSAK-47 MOE Edition costs only $700.
“When we first started to make the AKs, we made them to mil-spec,” said Ruonala. “They were tight and right on, and we found that tight…was not such a good thing for an AK. It has to have some play in it to run well,” Ruonala explained. “Of the things we could control with higher tolerances was the smoothness of the action. We also wanted to make it as pristine as possible.”
This indigenous AK is made of U.S. parts—except for two—and is built in South Carolina. The rear trunnion is similar to the Russian design with the curved radius on the back. It is cast and machined outside the U.S., but it is finished here in the U.S. It is slightly modified on the PSAK-47 so it more easily accepts different types of furniture. We all know that depending on the origin of an AK, aftermarket furniture may or may not work. PSA also uses the Bulgarian bolt design. These are the only two parts not manufactured in the U.S. All the rest are either made by PSA, made by a PSA partner or provided through a vetted supplier. PSA outsourced these two parts while ensuring quality, sourcing them from a Korean-American company and an Israeli company.
The PSAK-47 features a stamped 1045 carbon-steel receiver, 1mm thick and heat-treated. A mil-spec, double- hook trigger is used along with a standard magazine release. A side mount allows a user to mount a scope. The 16.2-inch, 4150 steel barrel is Melonite treated and has six-groove rifling with a 1-in-9.5-inch twist. The classic slanted muzzle brake is screwed onto the muzzle. The rifle’s sights are also traditionally classic, with an 800-meter rear sight and adjustable front sight. A cleaning rod is also included.
The PSAK-47 MOE Edition is completely tricked out in Magpul furniture. This includes a fixed MOE AK stock with a 12.8-inch length of pull, an MOE AK handguard with a larger gripping area than the classic handguard and an integrated heat shield, as well as an MOE AK grip with improved ergonomics over a standard mil-spec grip and an aggressive pebbled texture for enhanced control.
The PSAK-47 also comes with a 30-round Magpul PMAG. With Magpul furniture, the AK loses a bit of weight and becomes more of a contemporary carbine. A classic wood-stocked AK weighs close to 8 pounds while the Magpul Edition is lithe at 6.8 pounds. The PSAK-47 had better balance and I could control it better during rapid fire. The shorter length of pull also means that if you train in full kit, the rifle is still comfortable to fire. The fit and finish were superb.
Target In Sight
Since PSA offers side mounts on its AKs, I opted to mount a red-dot optic, which makes an excellent close- to mid-range sight—right in the AK platform’s sweet spot. Kalinka Optics offers a variety of surplus and new Russian-built optics, and the PK-01 VS red dot is just like the kind in use with Russian special operations forces.
The PK-01 VS is a simple, no-nonsense red dot that’s as rugged as a tank and is compatible with nearly any AK or AK variant. It features a 1-MOA red-dot reticle with eight brightness settings. Elevation and windage directions are in both Russian and English, so I didn’t have to rely on my high-school Russian—or what I remembered of it—to zero in the PSA. The optic’s turrets are open, which is typical of Russian-designed military optics. It also runs off one AA battery. To install, just run the scope mount over the side mount of the PSAK-47’s receiver and it clamps down tight.
Using an assortment of surplus and U.S. factory ammo, I wanted to be sure the PSAK-47 would run on whatever ammo it was fed. I also didn’t wait for a sunny sky to fire the rifle. The rain was hard, heavy and unending. I took the PSAK-47 in the rain and popped off a few magazines. The PSAK-47, equipped with the PK-01 VS red dot, ran without a hitch.
For more precision work, I waited for the rain to end. Warming the AK up at 25 yards again showed me that PSA had delivered on the goods. In rapid fire, it ran smooth, with none of the clunky cycling issues I’ve experience with some AKs. Setting out a target at 100 yards and using a rest, the PK-01 VS’s red-dot reticle filled the bullseye of the target. While it hardly possesses a “target trigger,” I was still able to get decent accuracy out of the rifle. I had no issues while running the rifle. The bolt was smooth to operate and magazine insertion was sure, providing a confident click every time.
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PSA’s aim is to make the AK affordable while still producing a reliable and quality product that shooters will be proud to own. The PSAK-47s MOE Edition will cause AK enthusiasts to take notice—not only because it is made in the U.S., but also because of the way PSA sets up the rifles and, more importantly, how they perform.
For more information, visit palmettostatearmory.com or call 803-724-6950.
- Caliber: 7.62x39mm
- Barrel: 16.2 inches
- OA Length: 35.25 inches
- Weight: 6.75 pounds (empty)
- Stock: Magpul MOE
- Sights: Front post, adjustable rear
- Action: Piston-operated semi-auto
- Finish: Matte black
- Capacity: 30+1
- MSRP: $700