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Palmetto State Armory PSAK-102: Not Perfect [Hands-On Review]



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GOOD DOG WITH SOME FLEAS

I’m not a huge AK guy, but I like them. I also like modern upgrades like M-LOK, adjustable stocks, and optics. And I like 5.56 NATO. It’s America’s caliber.

A 5.56 AK has been on my list for a long time, so I was excited when PSA finally released their version of it. This is my first chance of getting to try it since release, and it came at the perfect time. 

Soon after PSA offered to send out this rifle, I found a Red Oktober match being held not too far from me that was perfect for giving this little AK a hard run.

In ways, it was perfect. In ways, it was a problem. More on that in a moment.

Big thanks to AmmunitionToGo.com for providing me with enough 5.56 NATO ammo for this review!

SPECS

  • Caliber: 5.56x45MM
  • Barrel Length: 12.5″ (16.2″ with Pin & Welded Krink Brake)
  • Barrel Twist Rate: 1:8”
  • Barrel Material: 4150 Steel
  • Barrel Finish: Gas Nitride
  • Muzzle Device: Extended Krink Brake
  • Muzzle Thread: M24x1.5 RH
  • Receiver: Stamped Steel
  • Front Trunnion: Toolcraft Hammer Forged 4340AQ
  • Bolt: Toolcraft Hammer Forged
  • Carrier: Toolcraft Hammer Forged
  • Handguard Type: Soviet Arms 11″ Rail and Railed Gas Tube
  • Grip: Magpul Moe Grip, Black
  • Stock: Metal Triangle Folding Stock
  • Fire Control Group: ALG AKT Enhanced Trigger With Lightning Bow
  • Sights: 90 Degree Combo Sight/Gas Block, Hinged Picatinny Dustcover With Rear Peep Sight
  • Magazine: AC Unity 30 Round Magazine (1); Where Allowed by Law LRBHO function is not Guaranteed
  • Includes: Side Rail Optics Mount
  • Cleaning Rod: Not Included

THE BASE RIFLE

Just so we understand each other, I really liked the way my PSAK-102 came from PSA. The triangle stock is peak aesthetics, and everything about the rifle fits exactly what I hoped it would be.

I do admit there is a bit of a mismatch between the fancy handguard and the very barebones stock. I didn’t think of it at the time, but I think picking either a classic style or a modern style right from the start would have been a better choice.

That said, I still dug it.

Functionally, the base rifle ran perfectly. Zero malfunctions of any kind, the gun just ran. For putting rounds through the gun, the PSAK-102 has been perfect. But a couple of issues did crop up later that we need to look at.

The trigger is fantastic, ALG does an amazing job on AK triggers. Smooth, light, and almost as good as a high-quality AR match trigger.

The extended Krink Brake is also pretty amazing. Very robust and throws a lot of gas to the side, keeping the rifle dead steady. Not fun to be next to the shooter, but it’s a gun range and not a library. 

RANGE TIME

Before I changed anything, I put about 500 rounds through the PSAK-102 just as-is.

I shot it mostly with just a simple Primary Arms Classic Series 24mm Mini Reflex Sight. This is their super cheap pistol red dot, but it came with a 1913 rail adaptor also, so I threw it on the AK using the dust cover rail.

Frankly, I didn’t expect much from a $150 pistol red dot, but it actually worked really well. Dot was bright; it held zero through multiple range sessions and a 2-gun match, so I was happy.

The PSAK-102 also comes with iron sights. The front sight is normal AK, but the rear sight was on the dust cover rail and a peep. I’m not much of an iron sight guy, but this worked really well and was a nice little upgrade over normal AK sights.

I’m totally blown away by how smooth and comfortable this rifle is to shoot. It’s just wonderful. Even out to 300 yards, hits are pretty easy because you just stay right on target for follow-up shots.

As far as shooting the PSAK-102 goes, I love it. 10/10.

UPGRADES

PSA does the heavy lifting by adding their new MLOK handguard, 1913 railed dust cover, and the pin & weld Krink brake. But since my plan was to take this into a major competition, I needed to be critical about what I didn’t love.

While the triangle stock looks really cool, the part actually touching you is smooth metal. It feels fine to shoot, but when you’re trying to reload fast and on the clock, it makes it difficult to hold the rifle without tucking it under your arm or some other maneuver. I also used this rifle when shooting in divisions that require wearing body armor, so an adjustable stock would be nice, too.

I picked up a 1913 rail conversion from JMAC and used an old SIG Sauer MPX stock to replace the triangle. Aesthetically, I actually still love it. Functionally, this was a huge improvement. And it still folds flat.

Out front in the handguard, there is a cut out for a sling loop that is connected to the barrel. This little loop gets warm after about 1 magazine. After two, it will burn you. This is fairly normal with AKs, they get hot out front no matter what. That’s the nature of their design. Since I want to be able to use something like a c-clamp grip when shooting, I needed to change this a little.

A Magpul VFG and a MDT thumb rest gave me the perfect things to grip. 

It still gets hot, but I’m fine for at least 2 mags now. I still wear a glove on my left hand, just in case.

Mechanically, I changed nothing. The gun just runs and shoots super crazy smoothly, so I didn’t feel the need to change anything on the inside.

RED OKTOBER: COLD WAR

If you’re not familiar, Red Oktober is an AK-focused match that started in Utah several years ago. Rifle Dynamics now sponsors it, and from what I hear, it’s pretty awesome. The Red Oktober I went to is not that.

Because of how awesome the OG Red Oktober was/is, others like it have spawned across the nation. While not really affiliated with each other, they do hold true to the main idea of being AK-focused.

The one I went to was Red Oktober: Cold War, which was held in Phoenix, AZ. 8 stages, one day, targets to over 300 meters. Round count was about 350 total on a mix of paper and steel targets.

Pre-Game Optics

Having used the PA red dot for most of my shooting so far, I knew hits to 150-ish yards was pretty easy. But knowing that Red Oktober would have targets at over 300 yards, I wanted some kind of magnification. As such, I threw a 3x Primary Arms prism scope on my PSAK-102 and hit the range.

Zeroing this was a mess. 60 rounds and over an hour later, and I still couldn’t get a zero. Frustrated and confused, I finally realized that the railed dust cover on the PSAK-102 had come loose.

The dust cover is attached to the rifle via a hinge right behind where the rear sight would be if this had a rear sight leaf. The two parts are not very well tolerated and are actually pretty loose, even when mated together. On top of that, they are only actually held together by one screw. A screw that wasn’t even Loctited from the factory.

All of this put together, meant that the screw backed out slightly, and the whole rail became loose and would wobble from side to side. At 50 yards, this slight loose wobble meant about 4 inches of POI change. Not acceptable.

Sadly, the only Loctite I had was blue, and it was a super old bottle. I tried to tighten the screw and lock it down, but I don’t think it had time to cure since this was literally the morning before Red Oktober. 

The Match Itself

Functionally, the rifle again performed flawlessly. Zero malfunctions even in the nasty moondust of the Arizona desert. Wacking steel at over 300 yards was pretty easy for most of the day, and I was very pleased with how the gun ran. 

From a purely shooting experience, this is honestly one of my favorite rifles now. It’s just smooth, easy, and a whole lot of fun.

But the last couple of stages, I felt like I wasn’t getting the hits I should be getting. Turns out, the screw on the dust cover came loose again, and I was getting zero shift with my optic because of it. It cost me a little time on two stages with targets at about 200-250 yards, but I was able to compensate for it.

Aftermath

By the end of the match, the dust cover was loose (again). The handguard was loose. And I was pretty annoyed. 

Good news is that the Primary Arms 3x prism worked really well. Losing zero wasn’t its fault, and even with my zero tweaked, getting hits wasn’t very hard. The glass was clear and the brightness was enough to overcome the hell desert’s sun.

I also used a Bushnell RXM-300 on an Arisaka 45-degree offset mount for paper targets. There was… a lot of paper up close, so I’m glad I went with the offset dot.

PSAK-102 PROBLEMS

Mechanically, the rifle was perfect. About 800 rounds so far and zero issues of any kind. When the rifle is zeroed, it’s accurate even out to distance and a real joy to shoot.

However, two major upgrades PSA has done to this rifle are kind of… not the best.

As discussed, the dust cover is kind of a miss. While the idea is amazing, this implementation of it is not robust. The tolerances should be tighter to start with, and it should have more than just 1 screw to hold it together. I would much rather lose a couple more pic rail slots if it means they had room for two screws. A single screw is a pivot point waiting to happen. Two screws are secure.

Lowest hanging fruit, there is simply no excuse for the single screw not to have Loctite applied at the factory.

Speaking of Loctite, the handguard worked itself a little loose during the range sessions and multiple matches. This was an easy fix of just tightening the screws. Just to be sure, I took each screw out completely, added red Loctite, and reinstalled it.

IS IT FIXED?

After letting everything cure, I took the PSAK-102 out again for another range and training session. 200 rounds later, everything is still tight, zeroed, and working flawlessly.

~1,000 rounds isn’t a huge round count for a decent rifle, but it does at least show that mechanically, the PSAK-102 is pretty sound for what most people are going to do with it.

While the upgrades of the handguard and railed dust cover are nice, I think PSA could and should do a little better.

That said, some Loctite at home can cure most of the problem with no fuss.

If you still don’t trust the railed dust cover, the PSAK-102 does have a side mount for an optic rail.

LOOSE ROUNDS

Overall, I really like this rifle. It’s simply a joy to shoot. The railed dust cover not being great is a letdown, but I think it has been mostly solved with just red Loctite. That said, I simply wouldn’t trust the design to stand up to more than just range or casual match use. And it is something I will check regularly before matches.

While I guess technically that is robust enough for the vast majority of users – it would be nice if PSA made a minor change to that design and made it better.

For more bomb-proof optic mounting, picking up a side rail is recommended.

Bottomline – I like the rifle. From the triangle stock for peak aesthetics to the smooth shooting nature of the gun to having a wonderful base to build off of, I like it.

Perfect? Clearly not. Decent return on your investment? Yes.

I do recommend grabbing some red Loctite.

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