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Palmetto State Armory: Dagger Pistol [Hands-On Review]



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A BUDGET PISTOL THAT BRINGS MORE THAN YOU EXPECT

We’re in a golden age of budget-priced pistols that are also durable and reliable. While there are lots of options out there, one of the best might be the Palmetto State Armory Dagger line.

A clone of the ever-popular Glock Gen 3, the Dagger has some new tricks that deserve a closer look.

PSA DAGGER SPECS

  • Model: Palmetto Dagger Compact
  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Action: Striker Fired
  • Weight: 22.4oz (unloaded)
  • Overall Length: 7.15″
  • Overall Width: 1.28″
  • Overall Height: 4.78″ (Without Mag)
  • Barrel Length: 3.9″
  • Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
  • Barrel Finish: DLC Coating
  • Twist Rate: SAAMI Spec 1:10
  • Slide Material: Stainless Steel
  • Slide Finish: DLC Coating
  • Frame: Polymer
  • Front Sight: Steel – White Dot
  • Rear Sight: Steel – White Two Dot
  • Safety: Striker Block Safety & Trigger Safety
  • Magazine: Comes with One (1) 15rd Magazine

A GLOCK BY ANY OTHER NAME

The Glock 17 was invented in 1982, and the Glock 19 would follow a few years later in ‘88. Here we are 35 years later, and while Glock is on their 5th generation of “Perfection,” there are also at least a dozen Glock 17/19 clones on the market. Mostly clones of the Gen 3, since that has become more or less the defacto standard. 

Why? Because it works. It works really, really well. And it’s pretty inexpensive to make. The Glock 17/19 isn’t a complex design, that’s part of what makes it work so well, and it’s a well-understood design. 

Feel free to roast me in the comments, but I would almost equate Glock’s design to the AR-15. As long as it is made to spec, the parts aren’t crummy, and there isn’t a major deviation from the standard, it’s actually pretty hard to make a bad AR-15 or, in our case, a bad Glock.

Does that mean every AR-15 is on par with Knights Armament? Of course not. But unless you’re doing Tier 1 green-eye-spooky stuff, will it matter?

There are a lot of brands in the firearms world that don’t really have much of a personal identity, but there are a few that stand out as being unique in what they offer.

Palmetto State Armory, in my experience, is one such brand. Their place in the world is exactly what they claim it is – “We want to sell as many AR-15 and AK-47 rifles as we can and put them into common use in America today.

I would say that now extends to their Dagger line as well. Not that Glock clones weren’t in common use already, but more is more.

The PSA Dagger is mechanically a Glock 19 Gen 3 clone. Parts are interchangeable, from the slide to the sights to the trigger to the magazines. The Dagger Compact is a G19 with different clothes, some different features, and a much lower price.

One major feature that does make the Dagger stand out is the fact that much like a SIG Sauer P320, Dagger Compact, and Dagger full-size parts are mix-and-match. A compact slide can go on a full-size frame, a full-size slide on a compact frame, etc.

This is something Glock can't do. The G17 and G19 use a radically different barrel geometry that makes the two incompatible. The Dagger solving this issue opens the door for some really cool options if you're so inclined.

OPTIONS, LOTS OF OPTIONS

PSA offers its Dagger in a huge range of options. Full-size (Glock 17 size), Compact (Glock 19 size), or Micro (Glock 43x size) 

Honestly, it’s a little overwhelming. Customizing your Glock or Glock-clone is a hobby in itself for some people, but with the Dagger, you can probably order exactly what you want without too much trouble. 

Threaded barrels, TiN coated barrels, optics ready, rear sight forward of the optic cut, green slides, FDE slides, colored frames, suppressor sights, get a Dagger and an AR-15 package, Dagger with 10 magazines package, American flag Cerakote Dagger, just the frame, just the slide, the list goes on, and on.

All of these for way, way less than you might expect. The base Dagger is about $300. Dagger + 10 magazines run about $400.

Even the fanciest Dagger still tops out at about $400 and comes optics ready, threaded and TiN coated barrel, rear sight forward of the optic, with a slide that has extra cuts.

ON THE RANGE

This Dagger is as basic as they come. Iron sights, no optic, just a standard Compact sized Dagger with nothing fancy. MSRP is $300, and it came with a single Magpul Glock 19 magazine.

I made zero changes or modifications to this gun before review. Just shot it clean as is. 

I used an even mix of Glock magazines, Magpul PMAGs for Glock, and a couple of Torkmags that were sent to me to try out.

Glock 19 magazine with a +5 extension plate (20-round total), Torkmag (20-round), and Magpul PMAG (15-round)

The Glock and PMAGs are nothing special, but the Torkmags are interesting. Glock pattern magazines that are G17 with a +2 extension size but hold 20 rounds.

I’ve run about 500 rounds through the Dagger. Most of that was standard FMJ, but about 100 rounds of various defensive rounds like Hornady Critical Defense. So far, 500 for 500. No malfs, no failures, zero problems. This shouldn’t be surprising since, at this point, this should be exactly what we expect from a gun like this.

Big thanks to Hornady for providing some of the defensive ammo, and to AmmunitionToGo.com for sending a big package of FMJ out.

The Good

I really like the texturing of the grip. It doesn’t look like it would be very aggressive, but it’s actually really grippy and feels good in my hand. It isn’t harsh or sharp, so it doesn’t wear to badly when you carry IWB, but it does grab your hand when you grip down on it. Huge props for that, and, to me, a major improvement over Glock’s texturing.

Slide serrations aren’t groundbreaking, but they’re deep, easy to grab, and are on the front and rear of the slide.

The 3-dot metal iron sights are a nice plus and a lot more durable than other options. I would have liked the base Dagger to have night sights, but that’s an upgrade.

The slide release is as expected, but the takedown lever is nice. Very easy to grab and use. While Glock’s isn’t bad, I would say the Dagger’s is easier.

Cutout in the bottom of the frame makes stripping magazines out super easy. Big fan of this.

The Okay

Trigger pull isn’t 2011, but it’s not the worst, either. My old EDC Glock had an Apex kit and a TyrentCNC trigger shoe to make the trigger shorter, slightly lighter, and much crisper.

Side-by-side, the Dagger’s trigger is as good as my upgraded Glock trigger and much better than the stock Glock trigger. It’s a little different, but it is as good, in my opinion.

The Dagger’s trigger is a hinged trigger that acts the same as Glock’s trigger safety, just a different presentation of it. Hinged triggers aren’t my favorite since they tend to feel squishy, but at least you don’t have a trigger blade digging into your finger.

The pull itself is a bit long and soft, but that in itself is a safety feature. 

When you hit the wall, it’s decently firm and well-defined. Not a glass-rod break, but not horrible either. Overtravel is extremely short (love that), and the reset is also very short (love it also.)

Overall, I like the trigger of the Dagger – but at the same time, it isn’t competition quality or something that will knock your socks off. It’s good for what it is, a compact CCW trigger.

The Bad

This is mostly a “me” problem, but I can’t reach the magazine release. My thumbs are a little short, and I normally like extended magazine releases on nearly all of my pistols (my EDC Glock had an extended mag release), so I recognize this is partly just my physiology. That said, the mag release on the Dagger is really short. I can normally at least touch the magazine release with my thumb, but on the Dagger, I can’t at all. 

Not really a problem and something that is easy to fix if you want, but it’s something that exists. Arguably, this is a feature and not a bug since it’s harder to drop your mag accidentally, and that’s not horrible on a CCW.

Flat-out not a fan of the rail on the dust cover of the Dagger. I know it’s Glock-spec, and this means that all of your Glock-spec lights and lasers will fit the Dagger, but I really hate Glock has made this a standard thing, and it limits people (and the market) as a whole. I’ll spare you my rant on this topic, but the bottom line is I would rather see a true 1913 Pic rail spec on the dust cover.

That being said, there isn’t anything wrong with it since it does work for what it is. My lights with their Glock fitment blocks had zero issues locking into the rail.

LOOSE ROUNDS

Dollar for dollar, I’m not sure there is a pistol on the market that can touch the Dagger line. The price is just crazy low, and you get a ton of gun for the money. 

Sure, the Dagger isn’t the fanciest 2011 or anything super sexy like that. It is exactly what it presents itself to be, a high-value pistol that anyone and everyone can own that will get the job done.

Getting a good defensive pistol has never been easier. Or, for a little more money, you can get an optics-ready home defense/CCW pistol or get your pistol with 10 magazines for loads of range training. All of these are great options and still come in at a rock-bottom price.

The Dagger isn’t my new CCW or my new favorite gun, but I wouldn’t feel unsafe or under-armed carrying one or keeping one on my bedside table. For me, this is likely going to be a secondary home-defense gun, like a bathroom gun or an ottoman gun. For the price, I might get a few more and just sprinkle them throughout the house.

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