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Palmetto State Armory FDE AR-15 Review

Too many Social Media Warriors like to trash brands and gun models that don’t meet a minimum price or arbitrary style.

When I started checking into the AR-15 rifles made by Palmetto State Armory (PSA), I ran into a few people who badmouthed the brand without any firsthand experience.

I decided to find the truth for myself.

In today’s article, I review the Palmetto State Armory FDE AR-15 with Magpul MOE furniture.

Overview

Without a doubt, the most common semi-automatic rifle on the market is the AR-15. The adaptability of the platform to all kinds of shooters and purposes makes the gun ideal for hunting, home defense, law enforcement and sport shooting.

With an overwhelming number of AR-style rifles on the market, it can be tough to choose one that is right for you.

The Palmetto State Armory FDE AR-15 I am reviewing is a straightforward rifle with a number of nice upgrades. I’ll start with the basics and move into the upgrades.

Barrel & Gas System

M4 Profile Barrel on PSA AR-15

It is a direct impingement rifle with a carbine-length system. The M4-style barrel has an F-marked front sight base to go with the flat top upper receiver. It does have a bayonet lug.

Palmetto State Armory A2 Birdcage Muzzle Device

PSA uses a 16″ barrel with a 1:7″ twist. This should help in stabilizing the longer (and heavier) bullets used in some hunting and target loads. An A2 “birdcage” muzzle device is standard.

Bolt & Receivers

PSA AR15 receiver

Both the upper and lower are made of forged 7075-T6 aluminum and have a hardcoat anodized finish (black). M4 feed ramps are standard.

The upper has a forward assist and dust cover standard.

AR15 Bolt Carpenter 158 Steel marking

PSA uses a bolt made of Carpenter 158 steel. It is shot-peened to make it more resistant to cracking over time. The bolt is also MPI tested.

staking gas key

Palmetto uses an M16/full-auto profile bolt carrier with staked gas key screws. To my eye, the staking appeared sufficient to prevent screw movement.

FDE Magpul Furniture

One of the visually obvious things about the PSA rifle is its use of Magpul furniture. The handguard, pistol grip and buttstock are all Magpul products in flat dark earth.

Handguard

Palmetto State Armory uses a two-piece Magpul MOE M-LOK carbine length handguard. This handguard is a drop-in piece meaning you can quickly swap it out should you ever want to.

Magpul MOE Handguard on PSA AR15

It has M-LOK attachment points along the bottom and in the 2 and 10 o’clock positions. For me, I can use these slots to add a stubby grip along the bottom and a flashlight in the 10 o’clock position.

While the standard front sling attachment is included on this rifle, you can also use a M-LOK accessory to add a QD point on the handguard for your sling.

front end of Magpul MOE hand guard with sling attachment
The front of the Mapgul MOE handguard is relieved for the standard sling attachment.

Magpul vents the top of the handguard. This helps with barrel cooling, but it does not allow the direct attachment of additional accessories such as a EOTech ATPIAL-C.

Pistol Grip

Pistol grips are a highly personalized thing. Some folks love the standard A2-style grip while I despise the thing. For me, the Magpul MOE grip is a solid choice that seems to fit many people well.

Magpul MOE Pistol Grip in FDE mounted on AR15

I find the MOE grip fills my hand and gives me the perfect finger distance/placement on the trigger. I even put a Magpul grip on my AK.

Magpul designed the MOE grip to accept its storage core units. These units slip into the bottom of the grip and store things like spare batteries, a spare bolt and more.

Magpul MOE pistol grip on PSA rifle

Most home defense situations will never need such a thing, but if you use a rifle professionally, spare parts might be important.

The FDE color matches that of the hand guard, so it is aesthetically pleasing.

Stock

The MOE Carbine adjustable stock is a solid choice on the PSA rifle. It offers easy adjustment, low weight and – in my experience – excellent durability.

Magpul MOE stock on PSA FDE AR15

My first AR had a Magpul CTR stock on it. The MOE stock on this gun shares the same style and features save one: the secondary friction lock. That lock helps to remove wiggle and play in the stock.

While the MOE stock has a bit of wiggle in it – about the same as I’ve experienced with other AR/M4 stocks – it’s not a big deal.

Castle Nut Stake
PSA stakes the castle nut in two locations to ensure it does not come loose during normal use.

In addition to a comfortable fit, one of the features I appreciate on the MOE stock is the large lever for adjusting the length. It stays out of the way when not in use. However, when you want to make an adjustment the size and placement make it ideal.

Sights

As mentioned above, the rifle is equipped with an F-marked A2 front sight. PSA includes a Magpul MBUS rear sight that attaches to the flat top upper.

F-Marked Sight Base

Of course, the flat top upper allows you to install a nearly infinite number of optics. In addition to the included Magpul sight, I tried the Trijicon MRO and the Leupold Mark AR 1.5-4×20 I previously reviewed. Both fit and worked fine.

What’s In the Box?

Palmetto State Armory shipped my review FDE AR-15 in a sturdy cardboard storage box. Inside, the box contained a Magpul 30-round magazine, gun lock and paperwork.

Specifications

Here are the specs on the PSA FDE AR-15 with MOE furniture:

Model/SKU5165448152
Caliber5.56 NATO/.223 Rem
Magazine Capacity30
Barrel TypeM4 profile, 4150V steel
Twist Rate1:7″
Muzzle DeviceA2-style flash hider
Barrel Length16.0″
Overall Length33.0″
Weight (unloaded)6.5 lbs
Price (time of testing)$889.99

Range Time

Guns are intended to be shot, so all of my gun reviews involve time on the range.

At the time of this article, 5.56 NATO and .223 Remington ammunition is very expensive. So, I tested the gun with standard AR ammunition plus .22 LR ammo. Skip down to the section on “.22 LR Compatibility” for details on how to convert the gun to run cheap .22 rimfire ammo.

Testing the PSA rifle in the rain
I could not complete testing on an outdoor range due to the weather – hence the rain on the rifle and case.

I traveled to the range twice with the rifle: an informal plinking trip and a more serious trip when I shot for groups and measured ammo velocities.

All of the plinking was done with commonly available Remington UMC .223 55-grain FMJ rounds. These are easy shooters with respectable accuracy. The PSA AR-15 had no problems running these and experienced no malfunctions.

While a Magpul 30-round magazine ships with the gun, I also tested it with 30-rounders from Lancer and Hexmag. Further, I worked with some 10- and 20-round ASC magazines. All of them worked perfectly with the PSA AR-15.

My second range trip started as a trip to a nearby outdoor range to get some groups on paper at 100 yards. Unfortunately, Florida weather intervened and a fairly significant thunderstorm ran us off the range shortly after I set up.

Trijicon MRO mounted on PSA AR-15 rifle

I headed to an indoor range that allowed rifles on the line. While the air conditioning and automatic target retrieval are a bonus, the downside was the distance: 40 yards.

So, I set up and got to shooting. I did not have a proper rest to use, so all shooting was done off hand with the MRO optic with the most stable base I could get on a narrow shelf. With a solid bench and a magnified optic, I have no doubt that the gun would offer vastly improved performance.

However, I was pleased with the accuracy…

Ammunition Performance

Due to the current ammunition shortage, I was unable to procure 5.56 NATO ammo. All of the loads I used were .223 Remington cartridges. Here are the chronograph results from testing the PSA AR-15:

VelocityEnergyBest 5-Shot Group
Geco 55 gr FMJ2,959 fps1,069 ft-lbs1.53″
Gorilla Ammunition 69 gr Sierra MatchKing OTM2,728 fps1,140 ft-lbs0.84″
Hornady 55 gr V-Max2,873 fps1,008 ft-lbs1.40″
Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense 55 gr JHP2,999 fps1,098 ft-lbs1.24″
Remington 55 gr MC2,926 fps1,045 ft-lbs1.42″
SIG SAUER 77 gr OTM2,388 fps975 ft-lbs0.60″
All velocity measurements were made with a MagnetoSpeed V3 chronograph. Groups were shot at 40 yards.

It seemed pretty obvious to me that this gun prefers longer bullets. The Gorilla Ammunition load uses a 69-grain Sierra MatchKing Open Tip Match bullet. Even with the imperfect testing conditions, I managed a 0.8375″ group from outer edge to outer edge.

Gorilla Ammo Performance in PSA AR-15

Going even bigger, the 77-grain OTM load from SIG SAUER turned in a 0.5995″ group. With a 1:7″ barrel, I expected this load would make small, accurate groups. I was not disappointed.

SIG Ammunition Performance Target Photo

Extrapolating out, I fully expect that the Palmetto State Armory AR-15 would turn in 1-1.5″groups with longer bullets at 100 yards. For more typical 55-grain FMJ rounds, something in the 2-3″ range with a decent 4x optic and shooting prone seems reasonable.

The Liberty Ammunition load is a bit of a mashup in expectations. Liberty uses a monolithic copper bullet with a nickel jacket. The result is a longer bullet – similar to that of a standard 69-grain projectile – with a lighter weight: 55 grains.

Liberty Ammunition accuracy testing in PSA rifle

In general, I would expect a fast velocity with excellent accuracy. However, another variable exists: the hollowpoint.

Compared to the narrow OTM-style bullets used by Gorilla and SIG, the hollowpoint on the Liberty is massive. Designed for incapacitation of a lethal threat, the hollow point design offers substantial expansion. It likely reduces the projectile’s accuracy potential.

For the 55-grain loads, the Liberty turned in both the highest velocity and the smallest groups. While the group sizes were larger than the Gorilla and SIG, the Liberty round should provide stopping power they can’t touch. For more information on this line of ammo, read my Liberty Civil Defense ammo review.

.22 LR Compatibility

With a CMMG .22 LR conversion kit, you can shoot inexpensive rimfire ammo from most AR-15 rifles. This is a great way of introducing new shooters to rifles.

Also, in the current ammo shortage, .22 LR can be easier to find and much cheaper than .223 Rem ammo.

Ammunition Performance with CMMG Kit

With the clean and lubed PSA AR-15, I installed the CMMG conversion kit and got to shooting.

While accuracy varied significantly between loads, all of the ammo I tried was reliable.

I’ve had problems with some standard velocity loads not wanting to cycle in my pistol conversion kits, but I experience none of those issues in the PSA FDE AR-15.

Here are the chronograph results from testing the PSA AR-15 with .22 LR ammo:

VelocityEnergyBest 5-Shot Group
CCI Mini-Mag 40 gr Plated RN 1,154 fps118 ft-lbs1.44″
Federal Auto Match 40 gr LRN1,200 fps128 ft-lbs1.81″
Federal Champion 40 gr LRN1,223 fps133 ft-lbs1.40″
Winchester 36 gr Plated HP1,204 fps116 ft-lbs0.88″
All velocity measurements made with a MagnetoSpeed V3 chronograph. Groups were shot at 25 yards.

Final Thoughts

It seems a lot of people in Facebook groups and online forums underestimate how much potential the PSA AR-15 rifle possesses. While the company does not position the rifle as a direct competitor to a Daniel Defense or Wilson Combat rifle, it is a credible offering for those with a reasonable budget.

The FDE version of the Palmetto State Armament AR-15 worked well on the range. It seems well assembled and equipped with a solid feature set.

Disclosure

As with all reviews, I provide a full disclosure so you are aware of any biases that may impact my opinions.

GHG is a “for-profit” website. It is part of my family’s business, and it’s how I feed the kids. I earn money with the site through the use of affiliate links. If you choose to use an affiliate link and purchase something from one of those companies, I earn a small commission on that sale.

The links do not change what you pay, nor do I get to see what any individual purchases.

Palmetto State Armory is one of the companies I link to. I’ve had an affiliate relationship with them for several years. I was a customer of theirs for years before that. Because I have received great service from them every time I’ve ordered, I am happy to work with them as an affiliate.

PSA provided the rifle in this review as a loaner. No one from PSA requested a positive review, and I did not offer to provide one. Hopefully, you can see in the article that I provided a complete look at the gun – warts and all.

Comments and feedback are always welcome on my reviews. Let us know what your experience has been with the PSA AR-15 line. Other shooters will benefit from your feedback. Disagreement is fine – I just ask that you keep things civil and free of profanity. I try to keep this family friendly.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

4 replies on “Palmetto State Armory FDE AR-15 Review”

I have had my hands on and shot several PSA AR-15’s. Each one has performed very admirably and I have never had a firing or feeding issue. If my research is correct, PSA contracts FN America to produce the barrels for the PSA rifles from their Columbia, South Carolina manufacturing facility. With an FN barrel and other fine features it is very hard to beat the PSA quality and affordability.

Your groupings and extrapolations are spot on with my experiences. Typical training ammo in 55gr. or 62 gr. have produced groups from 1.5 MOA to just under 1 MOA. With more defensive or higher quality ammunition, I have been able to consistently obtain sub-MOA groups.

Thanks for the review of a really great budget AR-15.

Hi AE!

Sorry I missed your comment earlier. I believe you are correct about the FN barrels. I failed to investigate that in my research, but I will reach out to PSA and see if they can confirm that information. Glad to hear you are getting similar groups with your rifles – I know you can shoot!

-Richard

Love this article! I just ordered a PSA upper and was worrying about the quality. I can’t wait to receive it. Hopefully it will confirm your research!

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