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5.7x28mm Budget Blaster: Palmetto State Armory 5.7 Rock [Hands-On Review]


As a wise man once said, “MAIN POINT OF SELLING BELGIAN FIVE SEVEN PISTOL IS EXTREME PRICE OF WEAPON AND CARTRIDGE.” Maybe that was true when Ivan said it, but these days the price of both the weapons and the cartridge has come down enough it deserves a closer look, even from more casual shooters who don’t expect to meet thugs with body armor.

And if you do expect to meet thugs in body armor, the 5.7x28mm is a must-consider option.

Palmetto State Armory sent their 5.7 Rock out for us to test out, and honestly, it's surprisingly nice.


  • Model: PSA Full Size 5.7 Rock 
  • Caliber: 5.7x28mm
  • Capacity: 23+1
  • Weight with Empty Mag: 25 oz
  • Barrel Material: Carbon Steel With QPQ Finish; Fluted 
  • Barrel Length: 4.7″
  • Twist Rate: 1/9″
  • Slide Material: 416 Stainless Steel with QPQ Finish
  • Action: Delayed Blowback Striker-fired
  • Mag Catch: Reversible
  • Safety: Trigger & Striker
  • Accessory Rail: Picatinny 
  • Magazine: 23rd Steel 5.7x28mm Magazine (Ships With 2)
  • Designed to work with Glock™ compatible sights


The cold war was the best of times and the worst of times. On the upside, we had the space race, invented cool stuff like the SR-71 Blackbird, and got great movies like The Hunt For Red October, Red Dawn, and a dozen or so 007 films.

The downside, nuclear proliferation, the constant threat of planetary annihilation, and trillions of dollars wasted on black-box government spending.

In the middle of all of that – NATO asked for a new cartridge to replace the 9x19mm. The primary goal was a defensive cartridge and a weapon to fire it that would serve mainly with rear-echelon forces that needed an easy-to-use, easy-to-train, and effective firearm. 

People like truck drivers, train guards, and other critical points of logistical infrastructure needed to be defended but weren’t expected to be in the fight longer than necessary.

That role was mainly filled by submachine guns and pistols at the time. But with the threat of Soviet paratroopers attacking all those critical points, NATO wanted something better than 9mm.

FN designed and proposed the FN 5.7×28 cartridge, FN P90 SMG, and FN Five-seveN pistol.

SAS's Sentinel mounted on an FN P90

Depending on the loading, the 5.7x28mm cartridge sent a 31-grain bullet moving at about 2,350 FPS out of the FN P90’s 10-inch barrel and could defeat IIIA body armor at 200 meters.

The ammo was soft recoiling, flat shooting, lightweight, and you could pack a lot of ammo into a magazine – 50 rounds for the FN P90 and 20 rounds for the Five-seveN.

Sadly(?), the Soviet Union fell before the project got far in the adoption process and got backburnered for a long time. The cartridge and guns went on to great success among SF units, some LEO departments, and civilian shooters around the world – but NATO stopped caring until 2002.

In 2002 NATO tested the FN 5.7x28mm against the HK 4.6x30mm, with FN’s cartridge winning the recommendation. Germany didn’t like that, so they complained about it, and the adoption process was put on hold again.

Finally, in 2021, NATO adopted the FN 5.7x28mm as a standard cartridge.

5.7×28 Vs. 9mm (short version)

We’ll do a long version of this soon, complete with numbers and charts, but here are the quick and dirty facts.

9mm is a boss of a cartridge. With the right ammo, it offers high lethality on meat targets, decent penetration of soft tissue and barriers, is decently lightweight and can pack a fair amount of firepower in a magazine. Plus, it’s cheap to shoot. And it has moderate recoil.

(left to right) AAC 5.7x28mm, 9mm FMJ, and 10mm FMJ

The 5.7x28mm, with the right ammo, offers high lethality on meat targets due to the rounds tumbling once they hit a body cavity, great penetration through soft tissue but pretty bad penetration of barriers, very lightweight ammo, barely any recoil, and can really cram in a ton of rounds per magazine. On top of all of that, it cuts through IIIA body armor like a hot knife through butter. 9mm gets stopped cold by IIIA body armor.

Both rounds can penetrate a car windshield, but 5.7×28 suffers a lot of destabilization doing so.

Major downside to 5.7×28 is that it costs about twice as much per round.

Is 5.7×28 Right For You?

For the vast majority of people, I would say a gun in 9mm, like PSA’s Dagger, is a much better choice for most applications. CCW, home defense, plinking, 9mm does it all.

That said, 5.7×28 is really fun to shoot, and that’s definitely a decent reason to get it. It has low recoil, and the Rock’s slide is easier to rack than most 9mm guns, making it a good cartridge for people with low or compromised grip strength. 

And if you foresee a need to defeat soft body armor, 5.7×28 is a clear winner. There is a good argument to be made for 5.7×28 in bug-out bags, get-home bags, etc.

Looking at how lightweight the ammo is, that might be a big deal to you if you’re doing something that puts ounces at a premium, like long hikes, bike rides, etc. 5.7x28mm ammo weighs about half as much that of 9mm.


With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about the Palmetto State Armory 5.7 Rock! 

I have a little over 300 rounds through mine with 4 malfunctions, all of those in the first ~50 rounds of shooting. Two of those malfs were my fault (didn’t seat the mag enough), and 2 of those were failures to feed – both of those happened with the same magazine and while that magazine has run fine since it could be either the gun settling in or the mag.

Past that, everything was gravy. The recoil of the 5.7×28 is very mild with the 5.7 Rock. Even shooting irons, fast follow-up shots were super easy and highly accurate.

The 23 rounds in the mag go a long way, but the gun still feels lightweight and easy to control. 

Dot drills, Mozambique drills, 3-2-1 drills, everything I tried was just easy

The Rock’s slide is thinner than you might expect but racks smoothly and is easy to grasp with serrations on the front and rear.

The grip texture isn’t as aggressive as I normally like, but it doesn’t matter as much since the recoil is so mild to start with. A less aggressive texture makes sense and works really well.

Because of how long the 5.7×28 cartridge is, it’s hard to make a small grip for it. The Rock’s about as small as it can go but still feels a bit long and rectangular – like holding a yardstick instead of holding a broom handle. 

I have XL-sized hands, and this isn’t a problem for me, but smaller hands might struggle a little. Surprisingly, the magazine release is perfectly placed for me, and I have short thumbs.

For a plinker with a cool caliber, I think this basic tier Rock is pretty great. It’s inexpensive, shoots well, and is showing great reliability. 

If this were a defensive pistol, I would strongly recommend the optic-ready version of the Rock.

My only downside to this gun was the magazine well. I’m a big fan of flared mag wells, and most pistols these days at least have some molding and angles to help slide in the mag. The Rock, none at all.

Reloads aren’t hard, but they aren’t butter smooth, either. If this were a gun I bet my life on, I would spend extra dry fire time practicing reloads. It kind of feels like reloading a thick M1911A1.

AAC 5.7×28 Ammo

In addition to supplying the gun, PSA also sent out the AAC ammo used for this review. 

The ammo was great. AAC’s 5.7x28mm was fitted with a Hornady V-MAX bullet, brass case, and the lacquer that 5.7 ammo is known for to aid in extraction. 

I have nothing bad to say about this ammo. It ran great, it shot cleanly, and it was very accurate. Loading it in the mags was pretty easy, if a little messy, but that’s normal for 5.7 ammo. The cases look dark and like they might be steel, but they are brass. 

From 10 yards out to 50 yards, this ammo was point-and-hit.


5.7x28mm isn’t my go-to round. I dig the history, the design, and the goal – but for now, at least, the cost puts me off pretty hard. 

That said, it’s really fun. Kind of like other semi-pricey calibers, I still want one just to have one, even if it doesn’t make every range trip with me.

For that, the 5.7 Rock is kind of perfect. It’s a good gun in its own right, it’s not expensive, and it lets me get my toe in the door of 5.7x28mm. 

If you’re in the same boat, I think the Rock is a great buy.

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