The Palmetto State Armory PA-10 cuts an attractive silhouette. It is shown here with a Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4x20 scope with an illuminated firedot MOA ring and a Magpul M-LOK Bipod.

PSA AR10 Review – Steak Features for Hamburger Prices

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Summary

  • Palmetto State Armory’s Gen3 PA10 platform (PSA AR10) is a solid and well-made performer in the AR-10 space, and at its price point (MSRP of $1349, but it can sometimes be found for $1179) it is tough to beat.
  • PSA’s superb reputation for after-service support shouldn’t be necessary, but it’s comforting to know that it’s there.
  • The full-length picatinny rail and floating M-LOK handguard is a durable and high quality component that makes this gun infinitely extendible.

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Introduction

Palmetto State Armory has quickly grown to become one of the standard bearers of the sporting rifle industry. While they have an extensive range of offerings, their most well-known rifle is undoubtedly their PA-15 rifles, which are built on the AR-15 architecture. Given the near-ubiquity of the AR-15, it’s easy to overlook their other offerings, but their AR-10 platform rifle is equally deserving of serious consideration.

The AR-10 was a predecessor to the AR-15, having made its debut in 1956. Chambered in the 7.62x51mm NATO round that was developed specifically for use in semi-automatic rifles, the AR-10 took a decidedly different design path from prior rifles. Its two-piece receiver (colloquially referred to as the upper and lower) and its unique charging handle design seems obvious now, but back then it was groundbreaking stuff.

Palmetto State Armory’s AR10 rifle is a thoroughly modern reinterpretation of ArmaLite’s design. The gun we tested had a 20” barrel with a 1:10 twist ratio. It features a flat-top receiver with a full-length picatinny rail and M-LOK attachment points on the handguard for attaching accessories. Yes, it’s a direct impingement gun, but that’s to be expected at this price point. It’s also a tried-and-proven system that works well for most shooters.

For this test, we chose to kit the PSA AR10 out with a Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 scope with an illuminated firedot MOA ring, and a Magpul M-LOK Bipod. We ran a variety of milsurp ammunition through the PSA AR10 to test its resiliency, but accuracy testing was done with our current go-to ammo for range work: Norma’s .308 Winchester Tactical 150 grain FMJ, loaded into Magpul’s GEN M3 PMAGs.

The Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4x20 scope mounts cleanly on the PSA AR10's picatinny rail.
The Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 scope mounts cleanly on the Palmetto State Armory PSA AR10’s picatinny rail.

The PSA AR10 In Hand

The abundance of “me-too” AR-10’s and AR-15’s on the market mean that out-of-the-box quality can run the gamut from superb to terrible. My first impression when I picked up the PSA AR10 was that this is a high quality firearm; well-made and well-fitted. Assembly between the upper and the lower fit tightly and smoothly and exhibited none of the slop that I’ve felt in cheaper AR platform guns. Edges were smoothed nicely, the finish is consistent and feels substantial, and there’s no sense that this gun was assembled from a hodgepodge of parts from various suppliers. Indeed, Palmetto State Armory is one of the few companies that makes virtually every part in their guns, and that was clearly reflected in the PA-10.

Nice trigger and grip

PSA’s overmolded rubber grip has plenty of meat for thickly gloved paws to grab onto, and Magpul’s superb STR adjustable stock should need no introduction to readers here. I had no problem getting the length of pull adjusted to my liking. The trigger well is a large and accommodating place, and gloved fingers should have no problem there.

The forward assist, magazine release, and ejection port cover of the PSA AR10. Note the wide charging handle, which is well contoured and comfortable to use.
The forward assist, magazine release, and ejection port cover of the PSA AR10. Note the wide charging handle, which is well contoured and comfortable to use.

Gas block included

The more subtle details of the PSA AR10 are similarly impressive. The beefy gas block has a five position “click switch” for adjusting the gas pressures, and the system works well. With the included allen key, I was able to quickly dial in some surprisingly low recoil (spoiler: it only took one click). Lots of other companies offer adjustable gas blocks, but score a point for PSA for equipping such an affordable rifle thus.

Bank-vault solid construction

The floating handguard has a picatinny rail along the top and M-LOK attachments around it, and the entire assembly felt bank-vault solid.

One of the challenges with the AR-10 platform is that the design varies somewhat between manufacturers; more than the AR-15 typically does. That said, the PSA AR10 uses a standard AR-15 fire control group. This will delight tinkerers and competitive shooters that want to upgrade their guns, but the nickel boron plated trigger and sear that come with the gun have a surprisingly crisp break and audible reset. Anyone purchasing the PSA AR10 would do well to try the stock bang button before upgrading.

Entirely built in-house by Palmetto State Armory

It’s worth mentioning again that Palmetto State Armory makes virtually all of the parts for these guns in-house. This is something of a rarity in the industry. Many manufacturers (yes, even some of the “big” names) outsource parts manufacturing to other vendors, which can result in variable quality and reliability. This is undoubtedly part of the reason that this gun feels so tight and well-made – making all of the parts under one roof means that everything is made to fit.

The PSA AR10 cuts an attractive silhouette. It is shown here with a Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4x20 scope with an illuminated firedot MOA ring and a Magpul M-LOK Bipod.
The PSA AR10 cuts an attractive silhouette. It is shown here with a Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 scope with an illuminated firedot MOA ring and a Magpul M-LOK Bipod.

Shooting the PA-10

Manageable recoil

The .308 Winchester round (and its close sibling, the 7.62×51 NATO) has never been known for its gentle recoil. In a well-designed gun like the PSA AR10, though, it’s easy to forget that this is hurling almost a third of an inch (and a third of an ounce) of lead, and not the much smaller quarter inch slug that we’re used to in AR pattern rifles.

With nearly a turned screw (save attaching the scope and the bipod), the PSA AR10 performed flawlessly out of the box. This gun was fitted with the factory two stage trigger; the first stage settled in at 4.0 pounds, and the second stage broke at 5.25 pounds. For the range work that I was doing, this felt perfect. I didn’t find myself wanting to do any trigger work as I often do with rifles at this price point. And, as I mentioned earlier, a single click of the adjustable gas block (with the included allen key, measuring an eye-popping 12” long!) dialed the PSA AR10 into the Norma ammunition nicely. Recoil is still felt, but it’s very manageable.

Higher quality rifles have a bolt-carrier-to-upper tightness that is often lost in “franken-gun” builds, but the PA-10 exhibited none of that. Ditto for the bolt carrier parts, which all did their job in a quiet and business-like manner.

The business end of the PSA AR10. The muzzle brake provides a clean finish to Palmetto State Armory’s 1/10 twist stainless steel barrel.
The business end of the Palmetto State Armory PA-10. The muzzle brake provides a clean finish to Palmetto State Armory’s 1/10 twist stainless steel barrel.

Easily pulling 1-inch groups at 100 yards

Shooting from the bench with the bipod and a scope, I was easily pulling one inch groups at 100 yards—entirely respectable for an AR-10 pattern rifle that has an MSRP in the very low four figures. Admittedly, this gun had the longer 20” barrel fitted to it which was providing a bit of extra stability and velocity, but we chose that because we also wanted to see what sort of junk ammunition the PA-10 would swallow.

It turns out that the PSA AR10 did just fine. It munched on POF (Pakistani Ordnance Factory) 147 grain FMJ, some M80 Prvi Partizan 145 grain FNJBT, and some R1M1 7.62 ammo of questionable quality. Neither the milsurp Pakistani, the Serbian nor the South African ammo gave the PA-10 any feeding or extracting problems—and in some cases, they came close to the high quality Swedish rounds in terms of accuracy.

For reloading, the Magpul GEN3 SR25 PMAG magazines dropped from the magazine well with absolutely no binding or catching. I’m sure there are a lot of other magazines that will work fine in the PA-10, but PMAGs are ubiquitous and inexpensive and, in many cases, set the standard for reliability and compatibility.

Smooth, trouble-free field stripping

Field stripping the PA-10 was similarly trouble-free, with the captured takedown pins sliding smoothly and the upper hinging without any snags. The charging handle is standard fare and popped out exactly as it was designed to. Getting the cam pin out of the bolt took some wiggling, but everything came apart as expected. The handrail is held in place with two locking screws and two set screws that clamp to a gargantuan barrel nut, which interestingly doesn’t require a proprietary wrench to remove (as most AR barrel nuts do).

For periodic cleanings and regular maintenance, the PA-10 presents no challenges of obstacles. Field stripping, cleaning and lubricating can easily be done in a few minutes.

Looking down into the fire control group of the Palmetto State Armory PA-10. The nickel boron plated trigger components provide a surprisingly smooth trigger break and reset.
Looking down into the fire control group of the Palmetto State Armory PA-10. The nickel boron plated trigger components provide a surprisingly smooth trigger break and reset.

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The Competition

The AR-10 platform rifle segment is not a sparsely populated one, with most of the major manufacturers—and a gaggle of boutique brands—offering everything from stubby CQC (close quarter combat) rifles to long distance precision guns. Such is the appeal of the AR platform, with its nearly infinite versatility and extensibility.

Our own review of the best AR-10’s for the money included the Smith & Wesson M&P 10, the Brownells BRN-10 Retro, and the Wilson Combat AR-10 Ranger. Of these three, only the Wilson Combat (at almost three times the price of the PA-10) had the full-length floating hand rail. Another popular competitor to the PA-10 is the Aero Precision M5E1—which, with its MSRP of $1,759, still comes in at several Benjamins more than the PA-10.

Sig Sauer surprises with the 716i TREAD, which brings ambidextrous controls and Sig’s name brand reputation to the table. Its MSRP of $1429 is still higher than the PA-10’s, which makes the PA-10 one of the best bangs for the buck right now.

The fire control group of the PSA AR10. Clean, business-like and everything just works.
The fire control group of the Palmetto State Armory PA-10. Clean, business-like and everything just works.

The Verdict

A solid AR-10 foundation at an accessible price point

It’s easy to talk about what the PSA AR10 could be, if a few more dollars were spent here and there. I happen to like guns that don’t stand out, though, and the PSA AR10 does a great job of going incognito by looking like every other black rifle on the market. But even if your goal is to dazzle and impress with sparkly gadgets and the latest “tacti-cool” parts, the PSA AR10 could still be a solid foundation to start with. Again: for just over a thousand dollars, this is a rifle manufactured almost entirely by one company. Its third generation design has worked out most of the kinks seen in earlier designs. And its AR-15 pattern trigger assembly means that this simple upgrade won’t require exotic or proprietary parts.

Excellent performance, right out of the box

We thus acknowledge that the PSA AR10 is a solidly built, solidly performing rifle at a very affordable price point. With some quality optics (or heck, even with iron sights), this out-of-the-box rifle will present no limitations to the vast majority of recreational shooters. Even at distance, the 20” barrel should deliver rounds well within the 9 point ring at 600 yards; accomplishing this will test the capabilities of the shooter far more than the limits of the rifle.

Yes, a homebuilt rifle could be made at a lower price point, and possibly with better performance. The AR-10 platform doesn’t enjoy the universality of specifications that the AR-15 does, though, and this could challenge the homebuilder with parts that don’t fit just so. Homebuilding also introduces the time factor; one could spend hours tuning and fiddling with a homebuild to get it to work reliably. Unboxing the PA-10 will take a fraction of that time, and have you out at the range shooting instead of turning screws and scratching your head.

Accordingly, we don’t hesitate to recommend Palmetto State Armory’s PA-10 rifle. At its price point, we are at a loss to find another rifle that bests it.

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2 comments
  1. Well thought out review Michael. I’ve been toying with the idea of picking up an AR10, just so I’ve something heavier and farther reaching than my AR15’s. My .300 Blackout is an all PSA build (other than the furniture), and I’m pleased with PSA’s quality. I’ m going to bump this to higher up on my list. Hopefully, by the time I’ve saved up for it, it’ll be easier to get a hold of.
    Thank you

  2. I have shot one of these and agree with your review. Well made tight-fitting and accurate enough for a shooter at my level. Price is very competitive and made in the USA.

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