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PSA AK Blue Collar Build: The PSA GF3

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Among devout AK fans, the phrase “mass-produced American AK-47” will usually result in more grimaces than a string of expletives in church. We specify mass-produced because there are plenty of reputable shops in the U.S. that build custom AKs — Lee Armory, who helped us with this project, is one noteworthy example. However, those custom builds involve substantial hand-fitting, cost, and lead time. If you’re looking for an off-the-shelf AK with a sub-$1,000 price tag, the typical recommendation used to be an imported Eastern-bloc gun such as the WASR-10. Unfortunately, prices for those rifles have climbed rapidly over the last few years, so the idea of an inexpensive, domestically produced PSA AK has become more appealing.

The Palmetto State Armory GF3 AK-47 is offered in various configurations, some of which are priced under $800. Each has a hammer-forged bolt, carrier, and front trunnion, as well as a 4150 barrel with nitride finish. The model we selected also included a triangle side folder stock, “cheese grater” upper handguard, and dark red wood furniture. A Magpul 30-round mag comes with the rifle, but we switched that with a Bulgarian steel mag from GunMag Warehouse for a more traditional look.

Our first modification to the PSA AK was to replace its burgundy-stained lower handguard and pistol grip. We contacted Kalashnicarver, a craftsman in Missouri who specializes in custom AK furniture. After discussing options, we settled on a “Bandito” lower handguard and nearly vertical pistol grip, both sculpted from curly white oak and finished with an orange stain. Kalashnicarver also attached the Sabrewerks ALM light mount directly to the handguard. It positions a SureFire Scout or similar light — such as the Arisaka Defense 300 Series we used — in line with the shooter’s thumb for easy activation.

The PSA GF3 includes a side rail that’s compatible with aftermarket optic mounts, but we decided to go a sleeker route. The Sabrewerks KOP is a two-part modular optic mount system. Its base replaces the rear sight tower, and features slots and a locking pin to secure a variety of interchangeable mounts and rail sections. This is the only part of our build that required gunsmithing, since the base must be pressed and pinned onto the barrel. Lee Armory, in Phoenix, Arizona, handled that task with ease. A KOP 30mm mount allowed us to install a Vortex Strikefire II red dot and maintain iron sight cowitness at the bottom edge of the window.

PSA AK Blue Collar Build PSA GF3

We’ve grown used to crisp aftermarket AR triggers, so the original trigger on this PSA AK had to go. An ALG Defense Ultimate trigger reduces weight and shortens pull, and its flattened Lightning Bow shape feels more modern. We also installed an ALG main spring to maintain reliability with a variety of ammo and a recoil spring for softer shooting.

An Echo Nine Three rear sling mount offers an attachment point that doesn’t move based on folding stock position, and a Circle 10 knurled charging handle provides more grip during quick reloads. The GF3 is finished off with a JMac Customs two-chamber muzzle brake. The brake’s external 1.375×24-inch threads make it possible to add various suppressors or install a JMac blast diversion shield as we did. Anyone who shoots next to you will be thankful for that component.

Some of you may look at the finished price of this build — roughly $1,900 without accessories, or $2,400 with — and say that it doesn’t seem blue-collar. However, keep in mind that AK prices aren’t what they once were, and the days of sub-$500, new-in-box WASRs are long gone. As for hand-built American AKs, the difference in refinement is undeniable, but many of those rifles start in this price range before modifications. That said, there’s good value to be had with the PSA GF3, and our upgrades made it a lot more enjoyable to shoot. It’d be easy to tighten the budget further by starting with a fixed-stock model, using the original slant brake, and/or sticking with iron sights as Mr. Kalashnikov intended. 

Buildsheet: Blue Collar PSA AK

PSA GF3 AK-47 Triangle Side Folder: $1,050 |

Sabrewerks KOP Platform #1 with 30mm Red Dot Mount: $160
Kalashnicarver custom curly white oak handguard and pistol grip: $160
ALG Defense AK Trigger Ultimate with Lightning Bow: $140
ALG Defense High Energy Main Spring and Recoil Spring: $22
Circle 10 AK Extended Charging Handle: $25
Echo Nine Three V1 Sling Adapter: $24
JMac Customs RRD-2C X37 brake and BDS-37 blast shield: $193
GunMag Warehouse Bulgarian steel magazine: $20

Vortex Strikefire II Red-Dot Sight: $275
Sabrewerks ALM Light Mount: $50
Arisaka Defense 300 Series Flashlight: $200

Total: $2,408


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