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Palmetto State Armory AR-V Review: Best Affordable PCC?



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MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

PSA has a pile of rifles it's cooked up. From AKs to M110 budget clones to rifles that only exist because the mad lads at PSA said, “we can build it.” 

But so far, the AR-V might be my favorite. Or at least in the top 3 for sure. A PSA PCC that takes CZ Skorpooan magazines — this isn’t your average PCC and has a lot more going on than you might think.

If you’re in the market for a PCC, you need to read on.

WHY A PCC?

If you’re already sold on the idea of a PCC, you might not care about this section. If you’re on the fence about the class of firearms as a whole, here are some pros and cons to the pistol caliber carbine.

A PCC is basically a diet rifle. Same-ish controls and manual of arms, less power, and less cost per trigger pull, but it is still pretty effective in a lot of roles.

I like PCCs because shooting sports like USPSA, Steel Challenge, and others allow them. It’s an easy and cheaper way of shooting and having a lot of fun.

I also like the class of gun because, as a home defense weapon, it offers effective enough ballistics, and easy-to-use controls and is better than just a pistol. Although, I admit my go-to home defense rifle is a real AR in 5.56.

The real big selling point for me is that PCCs are a lot cheaper to feed. For me, for what I buy, I spent about 26 cents per round of 9mm for 124gr stuff that I can trust. For .223 Rem, even poopy Wolf steel case ammo is 37 cents per round, brass-cased ammo is 41 cents, and 5.56 is north of 46 cents.

Shaving two or three hundred off my ammo bill makes a difference. 

Although, for this review, a large part of the ammo was provided by AmmunitionToGo – thanks to them for that!

PALMETTO STATE ARMORY AR-V SPECS

  • Barrel Length: 16″
  • Gas System: Blowback
  • Barrel Profile: A2
  • Barrel Steel: 4150V Chrome Moly Steel
  • Barrel Finish: Nitride
  • Chrome Lining: None
  • Muzzle Thread: 1/2-28
  • Chamber: 9mm (9×19)
  • Twist Rate: 1 in 10″
  • Barrel Extension: Blowback
  • Diameter at Gas Block: N/A
  • Gas Block Type: N/A
  • Muzzle Device: Birdcage Flash Hider
  • Receiver Material: Forged 7075 T6
  • Receiver Type: AR-V Slick Side Upper
  • Handguard Type: PSA 13.5″ Lightweight M-Lok
  • Bolt Carrier Group Included: Yes
  • Bolt Steel: 8620
  • Bolt Carrier Profile: AR-V 9mm Bolt Carrier Group
  • Last Round Bolt Hold Open: Yes
  • Charging Handle Included: Yes
  • Lower Receiver: Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum
  • Receiver Finish: Hardcoat Anodized
  • Fire Control Group: Single-Stage, Enhanced Polished Trigger (EPT)
  • Grip: Magpul, Black
  • Buffer Tube: 7075 T6 Aluminum 
  • Adjustment: 5-Position
  • Stock: Magpul MOE Stock, Black
  • Magazine: PSA AK-V U9 35 Round 9x19mm Magazine, Black (Also compatible with CZ Scorpion Mags)

HIGHLIGHT REEL

What makes this PCC different? Really, it’s all about the magazines, but those magazines make a huge difference and allow for some special perks.

Most PCCs on the market take Glock magazines. This is nice since Glock mags are super reliable and easy to find, but this facet has some major limitations since Glock mags were never designed for a PCC. 

The PSA AR-V uses CZ Scorpion pattern magazines. These are double-stack, double-feed mags that are designed for a PCC. The CZ Scorpion has been around for a long time and has a well-proven record. But that wasn’t good enough for PSA. While the mags are CZ pattern, PSA has upgraded them.

PSA mags carry 35 rounds instead of the standard CZ 30 rounds. Those 5 rounds are pretty nice to have when you need them. Glock mags, without aftermarket extensions, max out at 33 rounds.

The AR-V also has a last-round bolt hold open, something Glock-pattern PCCs rarely have, and when they do it’s normally expensive. 

By combining the two systems, an AR with CZ mags, you get a PCC that takes all of the upgrades normally available for the former, but with a much better magazine system and last-round bolt hold open.

The only really fancy feature that the AR-V doesn’t have that something like a SIG MPX does is a delayed firing system. But we can’t have everything, can we?

The Price Of Magazines Are Too Damn High (Except For The AR-V)

I’m on a kick lately about being pissed off about the price of magazines. SIG Sauer P320 and P365 mags are $50 a pop. Glock 17 mags are $25 each, that’s not so bad. But Glock 33-round happy sticks are $40 each. 

At least when it comes to things like 2011 mags and AICS mags being $100 plus each, it’s because they’re all metal and precision made, and getting them to run well can be a little finicky. But still, that’s a lot of money for a magazine.

Glock mags have been around forever and are produced by the metric boatload. They just cannot be expensive to make. SIG mags are made by Mec-Gar, in addition to this, the company has those sweet, sweet military contacts for millions of dollars. Both factors drive down the per-unit price nto the dirt. 

So, if you ask me, some of these brands are really putting the screws to us shooters. 

The AR-V mags? Those are cheap. Not like cheap, cheap, but pretty flipping cheap. They run $15 each for a standard 35-round mag from PSA or $20 per mag from Magpul. The 50-round Magpul drum is pricey at $125, but that’s a fringe case, and I’m not surprised it is pricy. 

For $150 you can get 10 magazines from PSA. That’s a good pile of mags for barely any money. 

ON THE RANGE

First off, mil-spec parts are mil-spec. The AR-V trigger being the upgraded EPT is crisp, smooth, and not horrible. But it does have a good amount of trigger slap that isn’t wonderful to feel.

That’s pretty easy to ignore, though, because of how much fun this rifle is. Most PCCs are a ton of fun, but the AR-V is a bit extra to me. Maybe it’s the CZ mags, but it just rocks — even without any upgrades.

Blowback PCCs are a little jarring with their recoil, and the AR-V isn’t really an exception, but it is surprisingly flat to shoot, even with just a simple A2 birdcage on the muzzle.

If you’re looking for plinking fun, this rifle hits all the marks.

Since I like the idea of PCCs as home defense rifles, I ran a handful of defensive ammo to make sure it worked. Thankfully, it all did perfectly. Federal HST, HST Punch, Hornady Critical Duty, and SIG V-Crown all fed and fired without a problem. Weights were almost all 124gr, except the Hornady, which was 115gr.

For normal ammo, Blazer 115gr and Remington 115gr bulk green and white box were 90 percent of the diet for the 400ish rounds I went through with an AR-V sporting the basic out-of-the-box parts.

But then the real fun began…

PIMP MY PCC

Part of what I love about PSA rifles is that they leave room in the budget for upgrades. And I have a compulsion to upgrade.

I’ve been shooting USPSA PCC lately, and while my last rifle was a range toy turned competition rifle, I wanted this AR-V to be a dedicated USPSA rifle. To that end, I replaced the trigger with a Rise Armament Rave PCC trigger, 3.5lb single-stage pull with a very crisp reset. The first 200 rounds with the RA Rave was fine, but then I started getting 2-3 light strikes per magazine. Unacceptable, so the Rave will go back to RA for work.

Replacing it is the KE Arms Rekluse trigger. I had the Rekluse in my KP-9 PCC, and it was flawless. Another 500 rounds in this AR-V build, and it remains perfect.

I also switched out the charging handle for a Radian Raptor Lite. A Kynshot buffer weight went in, the stock came off and was replaced with a Magpul CTR, and I added an upgrade kit from TACCOM. The kit includes a mag well, a new magazine release, and a new bolt catch button.

For $100, the TACCOM kit is pretty impressive. The parts are Delron, a fancy plastic, but they’re well-made and durable. The magazine well is huge now, the magazine release is easy to drop fast, and the bolt catch is so much easier to use on the clock.

Finally, I added the cheapest 9mm brake I could find on Primary Arms, the Cross Machine Tool 9mm Mini Combat Recoil Compensator. 

Basically, this is kind of a “John Wick 3 MPX At Home” rifle. 

If you’re wondering, the JW3 MPX runs $4,400. My AR-V build is ~$1,300.

I also switched to feeding it exclusively 130gr Federal Syntech PCC ammo. Why? Clearly, because that is what all the cool kids that shoot PCC in USPSA use, and by using it, that means I’ll be one of the cool kids. Or I found a great deal on it and I have poor impulse control. You be the judge.

Either way, fancy parts, fancy ammo, let’s see what happens.

USPSA PCC PSA AR-V

My oh my, this rifle is nice. Smoother, much less jarring with the KynShot buffer, and crazy flat to shoot. Trigger is ultra crisp and allows for some silly, fast splits. 

Reloading on the clock isn’t something you need to do often with 35-round magazines, but when the stage forces it on you, the TACCOM mag well and mag catch is amazing.

I’ll be honest: I’m not really putting up much better scores in USPSA yet, but that is a skill issue. The rifle is slick and can be run harder and faster than I am able to push it. It’s like having a hemi in your daily driver. You know it’s there, you just need to unleash it.

Steel Challenge is especially fun to shoot because of the pure speed style of competition. 

I am entirely happy with these upgrades and love every bit of this rifle. The fun factor is dialed to 11.

MUST-HAVE UPGRADES

For a range gun, even an HD gun, or really anything where you’re not majorly worried about five-figure round counts or more, the stock AR-V is pretty solid. But there are two things I don’t love.

AR triggers aren’t really designed for blowback PCCs. The hammer gets hit with a lot of force, far more than a normal 5.56 AR does. This transfers a lot of energy from the hammer into the disconnector and then into your finger. Not only does this feel really bad after a mag or three, but it also does a lot of wear on the trigger.

PSA’s EPT triggers are able to take the abuse, but they still have a shorter expected life than if they were in a normal AR.

To resolve those issues, I went with an RTS-2 REKLUSE trigger. While not specifically designed for a PCC, the Rekluse has the improvements I was looking for.

Personally, I would rather see a better, more PCC-focused trigger in this from the factory, but the EPT does technically work fine.

However, I flat disagree with PSA’s choice of buffer. PCCs need a heavier weight buffer than a normal AR-15, and on that count, PSA got it mostly right by including a 5.5oz PCC weight buffer.

However, the other problem is that because the magazine is smaller and moved forward compared to a normal 5.56 mag, there is extra room between the bolt catch and the bolt when the bolt is all the way back. This means more room for acceleration and more force being whacked into the bolt catch. Plus, when all the way back, the bolt now leaves the trigger area exposed. 

If an angel decides to piss in your flintlock, a blown primer or even a spent case can get behind the bolt catch area and down into your trigger pack. If that happens, you’re kind of boned until you disassemble the rifle.

Easy fix for that is a longer buffer weight. The weight is the same, only the physical holder is longer. This means the bolt can’t go as far back, thus less wear on the bolt catch and less chance for bad stuff to get in the trigger area.

The KynShot buffer I used is about 2-inches longer than the stock buffer and greatly reduces the chance of bad stuff happening.

Neither of these are major concerns, and the stock parts from PSA do work fine. But if you want to Murphy-proof the AR-V a little, I would strongly recommend both upgrades. 

LOOSE ROUNDS

The stock AR-V is a great rifle. The upgraded AR-V is a great rifle. Both versions are durable, reliable, and shoot well. I’m at just under 1,000 rounds now, and I haven’t had a single malfunction at all.

I would personally recommend that users think about changing the trigger and buffer weight if they’re planning on putting high round counts through the AR-V, but that’s me.

If you’re interested in a JW MPX style PCC for about a third of the price, I highly recommend the TACCOM package and the other upgrades I mentioned.

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