Reviews Palmetto State Armory SABRE: PSA’s New Duty Grade AR-15 David Lane July 13, 2023 Join the Conversation A RIFLE BUILT FOR SHOOTERS BUT AT AN AFFORDABLE PRICE Palmetto State Armory has been in the budget rifle business for a long time. They’ve offered upgraded versions before, but the difference between an expensive PSA and a cheap PSA is normally just delta ring Vs. free-float and maybe a chrome-lined barrel. The SABRE line is a whole new beast. Combining some of the best parts on the market, this is a rifle spec’d out to take a beating and keep on shooting. I was pretty interested to see if this rifle was as good on the range as it was on paper, so PSA sent one out for review. I’ve beaten it up pretty good since then, and the results are better than expected. SABRE SPECS Barrel Length: 14.5″ Gas System: Carbine-Length Barrel Steel: Cold Hammer Forged Chrome Moly Vanadium Barrel Finish: Phosphate Muzzle Thread: 1/2-28 Chamber: 5.56 Twist Rate: 1:7 Barrel Extension: M4 Gas Block Type: Geissele .750″ Super Gas Block; Pinned to Barrel Muzzle Device: Pin/Weld SilencerCo ASR Receiver Material: Forged 7075 T6 Receiver Type: M4 T-Marked Hand Guard Type: Geissele 13.5″ Super Modular MK14 M-Lok Rail Bolt Carrier Group: PSA Custom Fathers of Freedom BCG by MicroBest with Sprinco Extractor Spring Bolt Steel: Carpenter 158 Bolt Carrier Finish: Mag-Phosphate Finish Charging Handle: Radian Raptor LT Trigger: Hiperfire RBT Trigger with JP Reduced Power Springs Takedown/Pivot Pins: Battle Arms Development Buffer: Carbine Safety: Radian Talon 45/90 Safety Buffer Spring: Sprinco White Pistol Grip: Magpul SL-S Stock: Magpul SL-S Finish: Black Furniture Color: Black Material: Forged Aluminum Upper: Forged 7075-T6 A3 AR upper is made to MIL-SPECS and hard coat anodized black for durability. These uppers are T-Marked engraved. ON THE RANGE Before I hit the range, I added a 5.11 VTAC sling, a Lead & Steel Promethean red dot, and a SIG Sauer Juliet 4 magnifier. I also changed the Radian safety from 90-degrees to 45-degrees, that’s just how I like my safeties, and since it has the ability to switch – I did it. Super easy and took maybe 10 minutes. Otherwise, the rifle was left as it came from PSA. A little over 1,000 rounds later, and I have zero malfunctions and zero problems. The rifle just hammers. Its accuracy proved as good as the ammo it was fed. With Norma 72gr Match ammo I’m getting about 1.2 MOA at 100 yards. With ultra-crap Tula steel case ammo I’ve been hoarding since before the pandemic, more like 2.5 MOA. That’s actually pretty good for this horrible ammo. Also, for groups, I took the red dot off and threw on a SIG MSR LPVO. The SABRE is really well balanced, the 14.5-inch P&W barrel makes for a great length for maneuverability while staying legal rifle length. For me, the SilencerCo ASR is little more than a really fancy flash hider, but does a great job at what it’s meant to do. If I had some SilencerCo suppressors, the ASR would help a lot more. Often PSA rifles are a little over-gassed, at least the ones I’ve owned were, but this one feels just about perfect. Ejection is right at 3-4 o’clock, and it runs smoothly with everything from XM193 to Wolf steel-cased ammo to Black Hills match ammo. 2-Gun Match I like to run gear I’m reviewing in competition whenever possible. You learn more about a product when you have to use it on the clock and under pressure. My flavor of competition is normally whatever I can find that has a Hard Mode. USPSA doesn’t do it for me, I want to suffer. For this review, I took the SABRE to my local club’s 2-Gun Action Challenge Match and shot in the Armored division. Basically, you have to shoot the match while wearing rifle plates. My club also has this really fine desert moon dust that loves to get in everything. Rifles that normally work fine often get gummed up by this crud. At this match, at least four people failed to finish a stage because their rifles had a catastrophic malfunction. The SABRE ran without a problem. After three stages of getting thrown in the dust, dragged around, and shooting small targets offhand, the SABRE had no issue. I was also feeding her my trash-tier Tula ammo. The 14.5-inch pin and weld barrel felt great for movement and getting in and out of positions, the balance of the rifle made for good precision shots, and the accuracy was great, especially considering the dog-crap ammo. I dropped this rifle on concrete, I dragged it through the dust, I shot it on and off the clock. It runs. It runs hard, and it eats whatever you feed it. DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS When you're building a rifle that is meant to take a beating, there are some extra steps you need to ensure are done right. For an average plinker, these normally aren't a big deal. But if you plan on abusing the rifle or putting a lot of rounds through it, dropping the ball on these small things will bite you eventually. Anti-walk trigger pins, staking the castle nut, making sure the BCG is staked well, and making sure everything is torqued down. These little things are where a lot of builds fall flat, and where a lot of home-builders miss the mark. The good news is that the SABRE checked every box that I was able to inspect. Staked nut, check. Anti-walk pins, check. BCG staked really well, check. And as well as I can tell, everything that can be torqued down, was. The only thing I didn't check was the barrel nut because that would require a lot of disassembly. PSA has a history of cranking their barrel nuts with the power of Zeus, so I'm not worried. Something worth talking about is the MicroBest BCG. While not made by PSA, this is made for PSA and is their exclusive version. This is my first time using one, but I was happy with how it ran. I don't have the tooling to be able to inspect every point on the BCG to see if it passes spec, but the School Of The American Rifle does. If you're interested in a detailed look under the hood, I recommend taking a look at his video. It's a sample size of one, but according to his video, this BCG passes inspection with flying colors. Something that is pretty hard to do. PSA RIFLE OR PSA BUILD? In a lot of ways, the SABRE line is more of a PSA-built rifle than a true PSA rifle. While PSA makes a boatload of their own parts, either directly or under the name of their sister brands, most of the parts on my SABRE aren’t made by PSA. The barrel is FN, the gas block and handguard are Geissele, the safety and charging handle are by Radian, the trigger is made by Hiperfire and JP Enterprises, the buffer and extractor springs are from Sprinco, and the muzzle device is from SliencerCo. The BCG is made by Microbest, but it’s from a line that is exclusively made for PSA. As far as I know, the only parts truly made by PSA themselves are the upper, lower, maybe, the dust cover and forward assist. This is for my rifle, not all the SABREs have the same parts, and some models are more or less built by PSA. But for my rifle, that’s where it's at. At first, I thought this was kind of weird, but once I got to thinking about it… I really dig it. PSA, in my experience, makes solid guns. Not the best, but a huge return on the money you spend. For budget rifles, PSA is hard to beat in any category. But even their most premium options still aren’t the best on the market. Between patents, production, and supply chains, no one brand can build the best of everything. It just can’t be done. Not KAC, not LMT, not PSA. Fight me in the comments, but the best AR-15s are built from a mix of a half-dozen manufacturers. That’s one reason why the DIY community for ARs is so strong. Palmetto State Armory is basically taking that approach but on a commercial level. And knocking down the price through the power of economies of scale. Save A Dollar, Spend It On Ammo My numbers are a little rough and don’t account for sales and deals, but speaking on average, if I wanted to build a rifle to the same specs as this SABRE model, I would be looking at about $1,509 without tax, shipping, tools, and time. Plus, I’d have to spend a little extra since I can’t pin a gas block or a muzzle device myself. I’d either need some more tools and some extra parts to practice on or send it to a gunsmith. Gunsmith or tools and learning, I’m looking at least another $150. So total build price of around $1,650. Maybe a bit less if I shop sales. Or instead, just buy the SABRE from PSA for $1,230 MSRP. That’s a pretty respectable savings. ANYTHING NEEDS CHANGING? A good optic, sling, and light, this rifle is good to go. I changed the safety from 90 to 45 just because that’s how I like it, but that’s up to you. The 5.11 VTAC sling is my normal go-to sling, but that has to do more with the VTAC design. Blue Force Gear and a few others all make basically the same sling under license from VTAC. Big fan of this sling. You might not have heard about the Lead & Steel Promethean red dot before, but this is an outstanding red dot. Built like a tank, this little guy can take a beating. We got more info on it in our Best Red Dot Buyer's Guide. One small thing I would have liked to see on the SABRE line would have been an ambi-mag release, but it turns out that the billet versions of the SABRE have ambi-mag releases and ambi-bolt catches. But from what I’ve seen on PSA’s site, those SABREs aren’t offered with the upgrade handguard. I think the difference will be personal, but for me, I think I’d have gone for the billet version that is more ambi. LOOSE ROUNDS I’m going to put more rounds through my SABRE and see what happens, but I expect this to be a rifle that I use a lot going forward. Built to be used and used hard, the SABRE line is a huge upgrade to the standard PSA rifle but still does what PSA does best, return a huge amount of value for your money. For an average Joe looking for an upgraded rifle they can bet their life on for a long, long time to come, the SABRE gets my seal of approval. Explore RECOILweb:New CZ P-10M Single Stack 9mm & You Can't Have ItHornady A-Tip Bullets Used to Win 2019 Buckeye ClassicReptilia Launches Micro Red Dot Optic Mounts for Geissele Super Precision Scope MountEDC First-Aid Kits NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. 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