Primary Weapons Systems has been building some of the best piston-driven AR uppers for a few years now. They also make muzzle brakes and flash hiders for many of the big name brands. Their accessories are some of the most well thought out devices being made. Most are geared to make any system better, not just look cool. They have come to be respected by many who take these weapons to war or work. Their systems have been proven reliable and are of high quality. To top it off they have always been priced fairly and the company has some of the best customer service in the business. Having met pretty much everyone involved in this company they are all good, hard-working people who just plain love guns.
Many other companies make and have made fine piston-driven guns, but they can be close to two grand just for an upper. That may be what a good chunk of the market may bear, but it is just too much for most in the law enforcement or contracting world. For years anything that even approached a grand was pretty much the ceiling for most cops. Troops certainly don’t make any more real money and contrary to popular belief not every contractor out there is a rich former secret squirrel. The vast majority of those working in the executive protection field, whether here or abroad are hard-working folks who need to save where they can when buying their weapons just like any weapons carrying professional.
With the dive the AR market has taken in the last year or so, complete rifle prices for piston-driven guns are generally in the $2,000 to $2,500 range with uppers ranging from about a grand all the way up to two grand. Either way it is a ton of money extra to justify the piston system given that a good gas impingement system will do just fine for most everyone out there. What was really needed was a complete gun with all the attention to detail that PWS provides at a reasonable price. It looks like PWS has come through with just what the doctor ordered.
When PWS said they were sending me their first ground-up complete gun, it really piqued my interest. Too my surprise not only was the first gun sent my direction, but gun serial number one. Now that takes some confidence for sure. This gun is truly a PWS gun with pretty much everything but the stock, grip, charging handle and barrel being made in house. It is definitely a rifle designed with the operator in mind. It is all about simplicity, easy of care, and ease of operation. It starts with their proprietary handguard that allows each rail to be replaced as needed without removing the barrel nut. It also includes cups for quick-detach swivels on both sides and the bottom. TangoDown SCAR rail covers are provided for the rails. The bolt group is their own design including the carrier and bolt and both are “Micro-slicked” for operational reliability. The barrel is hard-chromed and button- rifled with a 1-in-8-inch twist.
The lower receiver includes their enhanced buffer tube and internals. This tube has proven to be an excellent upgrade on my existing lowers. It is made from one-piece of CNC machined aluminum and eliminates the castle nut and aligns the buffer to the carrier. There is an ambidextrous quick detach as part of the tube. It also has a support for the bolt carrier that helps to deal with carrier tilt on some piston-driven systems. It is indexed, fluted, and very nicely made. The trigger is a nice Mil-Spec single-stage and the lower is very nicely melded to the upper. It is topped with the Magpul MBUS sights. Their newest version, these do not have that annoying gap between the base and the post. They look like pretty much any flip up sight from behind the rifle. Having tested a few rifles with these sights they are more than adequate for most, but any rail type sight could be added to suit the user. If you really feel the need for metal sights they will work just fine.
The stock is a Magpul MOE and is well suited to any real duty use. The barrel on this gun is a 14.5 inches with a permanently attached SM556 flash hider. This was a bit disconcerting to me at first, as suppressors are usually on my guns. But, this particular flash hider will accommodate the KMC QDSS-NT4 and Gemtech HALO suppressors. Honestly though, those of us that use suppressors comprise a very small percentage of overall rifle users, so for most it is just a fantastic flash hider. What it gives you is a true 16.1-inch platform that can accept two of the most popular suppressors out there without modification. It comes with one Magpul 30-round PMag and that ever so important locking device. Here is the best part — the list price on this rifle is $1,549.95. Considering that several companies sell uppers for more than that, it is a great price for what looks to be a great rifle.
In order to facilitate accuracy testing a U.S. Optics SN6 scope was attached. This is a 1.5-6 power scope that has seen action on a number of my rifles. It has proven to be incredibly solid and incredibly precise. It is really perfect for a weapon like this as it is smaller, yet powerful enough to get far beyond the range of the caliber. It normally sits on my DMR-10 and has been used on a couple of hunts and with great success as a precision riflescope. It was mounted in a GG&G mount and zeroed.
There is a platform at the range that is used for multiple rifle position shooting. It sits at about 4 feet high and is very solid. My drag bag was coiled up and used as a rest providing for a very solid platform, yet one that may be found in the field. In order to provide a broader spectrum three different rounds of different bullet weights were tested. The good old 55-grain M193 as that is used most often in the law enforcment world, as well as the 62-grain Federal Tactical. That is the round chosen after extensive testing by the FBI and many departments use it to this day. The last was the 69-grain Gold Medal Match. Still used by some, but mostly it provides a good indication of heavier bullet accuracy in the rifle.
Well, the grouping deities were with me that day as the grouping was pretty impressive for this type of gun. Granted, the gun is clearly incredibly accurate, but so much goes into group shooting even a good rifle can look bad when the shooter has a bad day. The largest group produced was the 62-grain tactical. This round has never been known for its accuracy, but today it measured a whopping 0.75 of an inch. It really liked the 55-grain as well, but to my surprise it shot the 69-grain equally as well. It put everything into a 0.75 of an inch group or less, and that is pretty impressive for a gun in that price range.
The rest of the testing was spent on the range moving, then in and around the shoot house. Not a single malfunction, as expected. What you really notice after awhile is the weight of only 6.9 pounds. That is kind of on the rare side for piston guns and is actually lighter than some gas guns. It really is a testament to the effort PWS made to keep this thing light. Having cut my teeth on an AR during two weeks at Thunder Ranch this rifle would have been a gift from heaven. You can hold this thing in the pocket all day long and given the next to non-existent recoil it is just a joy to shoot. Many of the other piston guns in this price range are downright heavy so this was a pleasant surprise. Given the lack of weight it swings from target to target really fast and the piston system gives it fast shot to shot times. Right out of the box this rifle would work well either on duty, or on the competition range.