Tag Archives: AR-15

PSA AR Build Kits Are Affordable and Fun To Build

I’ve pointed thius out before – I really enjoy building firearms. I don’t have the hardcore machinist skills to build one from scratch – I wish I could though – but I do enjoy assembling and tinkering plus I don’t mind some fitting / fabricating. With this in mind, I have a lot of fun building ARs from PSA kits because they are affordable, reliable and accurate. I’m not going to waste time with the whole manufacturing tiering or the rediculous “poor” labels – that’s all they are. Now, if you are in the military and you need special weapons, you aren’t reading this post – it’s that simple. If you are like most folks and want to build an AR that you can enjoy with friends and family, then read on.

Founded in 2008

For those of you who do not know Palmetto State Armory (PSA) – they have been around since 2008. It was founded by Josiah McCallum after his Iraq deployment and he started it in his garage. To put it mildly, he has been growing PSA ever since into the powerhouse it is today. Folks, PSA has a ton of offerings now – ARs, AKs, pistols, ammo, parts … the list goes on and on. One thing you will notice is that they are constantly learning and evolving.

I’ve Only Had One Problem

So, I bought and built my first PSA AR many years back – I looked at my order history and it looks like it was 2014. In all the years, I can only remember one problem – they forgot to include the disconnector. I contacted customer service and had one a few days later. That was probably a year or two after my first one and I’ve not had a problem since. You’ll notice now they bag their parts by grouping so this probably helps with quality control considerably.

Have I ever had a part fail? No – not that I recall. I normally will put a few hundred rounds through a build, eventually get bored of it and have my FFL, Michigan Gun Exchange, sell it to fund another project. So all I can tell you is that my experience with their AR kits has been very favorable and have no reservations telling someone to use them – especially if they want to start and learn.

What options do they have?

Whew – they have tons and tons of kits and parts you can choose from. Different barrel lengths, handguards, furniture, triggers, and so forth. You can buy a kit with everything except for a stripped lower receiver or you can buy assemblies such as a build kit for a stripped lower to then use with whatever upper receiver you want.

The point is that they have something for everyone and if you are patient and watch their Daily Deals (you can sign up for their emails) then you can get a great deal. For example, the kit I built this time is their “PSA 16″ 5.56 NATO 1:7 MIDLENGTH NITRIDE 13.5″ LIGHTWEIGHT M-LOK MOE EPT RIFLE KIT W/ MBUS SIGHT SET” – which means in has a 16″ barrel that is chambered for 5.56 NATO with a 1:7 twist and black nitried finish, has a 13.5″ M-LOK handguard, comes with Magpul MOE grip and buttstock, their enhanced polished trigger (EPT) fire control group and has a set of Magpul BackUp Iron Sights (BUIS). Yeah, they pack a lot into that description. The kit comes with everything you need except for a stripped lower receiver (I used an Anderson I already happened to have) and the best part was that it was only $479.99 vs. the list of $799.99.

This is PSA’s Model 516446780 parts kit that comes with everything you need except for a stripped mil-spec lower receiver.

Serves as a foundation

The AR parts are all Mil-Spec – what this means is that rifles that use parts built to the original military specification dimensions can use other parts. For example, I prefer the Magpul ACS stocks – they just feel better to me. Because the PSA buffer tube is Mil-Spec, that meant I coul easily replace the MOE buttstock that came with the kit with an ACS.

My point is that a PSA kit can serve as a foundation that you can very readily build on. Down, the road if you want to change out barrels, triggers, uppers, etc. you can easily do so. If something has a problem and you need to replace, again, there will not be a problem finding parts.

By the way, I would recommend a spare parts kit regardless of brand AR you are using – they are usually relatively inexpensive and include wear items, such as the firing pin, plus parts that get lost – for example, the takedown detents.

A quick comment on the EPT triggers

The PSA EPT triggers are a decent. I recently did a test on a number of triggers and a Mil-Spec Aero brand trigger had an average pull of 6 pounds 12.4oz. The PSA EPT had an average pull of 6 pounds 12.3oz and that was with both lubricated by oil. So, not a huge benefit but I do like them – just don’t expect a world of difference is my point.

If you really want a remarkable trigger, buy the PSA 2-stage trigger that has an average pull of 4 pounds 9.5 oz when lubed. It’s a must-have upgrade for only $64.99 and yes, you can always change to it later.

How do you assemble these kits?

Really, the only thing you need to assemble is the lower. PSA has already done the upper and headspaced it just to be safe. In theory, Mil-Spec barrels going into Mil-Spec uppers should not need headspacing but the reality is that you better check it just to be safe and PSA does.

I did a whole series of posts back in 2017 about building AR lowers – click here for a list that will open in a new browser tab.

The reference source I used to learn how to assemble AR lowers way back when is the guide on ar15.com. There are now tons of videos out there as well and you can learn a great deal by investing a little time to watch them. For example, here is one from PSA and here is one from Midway USA.

This is my latest 16″ PSA AR build. It has a MOE stock, Magpul BUIS and a Vortex Optics UH-1 sight.

Recommended Tools

Over the years, I have bought and tried quite a few tools but there are just a few that have stood the test of time that I still use. I figured it might help you to have a list so you can consider whether you want to pick them up or not.

  • Trigger Guard Jig – there are a ton of ways to do the trigger guard roll pin but a tool makes it really simple and reduces the odds of marring the finish or snapping an ear off the receiver.
  • Magazine Catch Punches – folks, Wheeler and others make long roll pin punches that have a vinyl coating to help install the mag catch. They are totally worth it. No more tearing up your finish or having to apply duct tape – these tools help you get it right the first time.
  • Front Pivot Pin Detent Jig – installing front pivot pin’s detent and spring is next to impossible without the right tools. Wheeler and others make a very simple pin set to help you save your sanity.
  • Trigger slave pin – greatly simplifies installation of the assembled trigger, disconnector and spring assembly. We make one 🙂
  • Magpul Castle Nut Wrench – I have used a wide variety of tools over the years ranging from the old GI tool to bizarre looking combination wrenches. If you want a solid tool that will hold up over time, the Magpul wrench is the way to go.
  • Gunsmith Punch Set – there are tons of makers. Basically you want a wide range of punches and roll pin punches. I have a mix of punches from Tekton, Weaver and Wheeler plus ones that I have no idea where they came from.
  • Non-Marring Hammer – You’ll need a small hammer from time to time that will not tear up your finish – I use Vaughan hammers.
  • Automatic Punch – I have a tremor so my hands shake. To stake the rear castle nut, I just use a good General brand automatic punch. It’s not as deep/good of a stake as a hammer driven punch but I do the automatic punch repeatedly to deform the surface and lock the nut.
  • Magpul BEV-Block – If you plan to install barrel nuts or muzzle devices, you will need a really secure means to hold the barrel and receiver securely. DO NOT use the blocks that just use the pivot and rear pin holes your you are apt to bend them. I did that once. Get a BEV block. It’s way, way easier and does a great job.

In Conclusion

If you are looking for something fun to do and there are tons and tons of tutorials out there – build an AR. The PSA kits are reliable and very affordable with different options to suit your tastes.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.


Do You Want A Remarkable Two Stage Trigger For Your AR That Doesn’t Cost a Fortune?

I appreciate a good trigger – in firearms in general and definitely in ARs. To me, this usually means a two-stage trigger that doesn’t have a heavy pull and I can feel the second stage starting to engage with a relatively clean break. I can tolerate military heavy triggers (5-8 pounds usually with long pulls) but they are not my first choice and I really don’t like them in any form of rifle where I am trying to get a degree of precision.

I’ve tried many different triggers over the years and have typically gone in two directions – living with the stock trigger in the rifle / the trigger that came with the kit if it was for self-defense or I went with a Geissele SSA-E. That is an amazing trigger but is expensive even on sale.

I recently noticed that Palmetto State Armory (PSA) is now selling their own two-stage trigger and the reviews were very favorable so I ordered one in as an experiment to go in an AR DMR I was building using a mix of parts – the barrel was a 20″ model by Ballistic Advantage on an Aero Precision upper with a MI Combat rail handguard. I wanted a decent trigger for the rifle but really didn’t have the budget for a SSA-E but didn’t want to use a Mil-Spec-ish trigger either. Guess what I paid? $64.99 with free shipping!

The PSA 2-Stage AR Trigger

I’ve read in several places that Schmid is making the trigger for them. It has a Nickel Boron finish to enhance lubricity, the first stage breaks at 2.0lbs. The second is 2.5 pounds and the total comes in at 4.5 pounds. The trigger isn’t adjustable.

The trigger comes with everything you see – the trigger, hammer, disconnector, pins and springs.

Installation

The trigger installs just like any other AR trigger. Click here for a post I wrote some years back on installing an AR trigger and it will open in a new tab.

The reference source I used to learn how to assemble AR lowers way back when is the guide on ar15.com and has a section on the trigger. A good installation video is from Brownells:

When you are done it will look something like this:

Comparisons

On top is an Aero Precision Mil-Spec fire control group. I’m using one of our AR trigger slave pins to pre-assemble the trigger, disconnector and the disconnector spring.

Okay, I had a couple of triggers that I could do pull tests on to give you some comparisons. Testing was done with a Wheeler trigger pull gauge that I really like.

This is my Wheeler Professional Digital Trigger Pull Gauge.

I created the following table by using the Wheeler gauge to do 10 test pulls of each trigger so you could see the average, minimum and maximum pull.

TriggerMinMaxAvg
Aero Mil-Spec6# 4.8oz7# 2.3oz6# 12.4oz
PSA EPT – Enhanced Polished
Trigger Group
6# 3.9oz6# 15.9oz6# 12.3oz
PSA 2-Stage Trigger4# 6.0oz4# 12.1oz4# 9.5oz
Minimum, Maximum and Average Trigger Pull in Pounds and Ounces Per Trigger

Conclusion

How did it feel? Well, there was a bit of pre-travel slack to pick up but then it broke pretty nicely. For $64, I was impressed! It’s kind of a no-brainer for me now that the next time I build a basic AR, I will use this trigger.

Maybe some day when I have time I’ll compare it to a Geiselle SSA-E side by side but for now, I’ll tell you that you can’t go wrong for the price. I actually ordered in another to replace the EPT trigger I have in another basic 16″ PSA AR that I have.

I hope this helps you out.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Top Four PSA AR-15 Kits

Hi folks. I like building AR rifles and sometimes I just want a kit with all of the parts. Sometimes I will then swap stuff out and the original parts go in a bin but they are nice to have as spares and sometimes I will build the kit with the included parts – it just depends on my mood and budget to be perfectly honest. For years now, my main source for kits has been Palmetto State Armory (PSA) headquartered in Columbia, SC.

I almost always get my stuff off their website but they do have some very cool retail stores scattered around South Carolina. I had an opportunity to go to one a couple years back and it was very cool. Unfortunately, I lacked funds at the time and just picked up a couple of items. A person could put a serious dent in their credit card by going in one of their stores … or their website for that matter 🙂

People used to complain that they were slow to ship and to respond. First off, I always knew they were trying to keep costs low – they always shipped and they did respond – just not right away. For over a year now, I have noticed they are far faster at shipping – sometimes even the same day – and they are also faster at responding. So, if you hear bad stuff about this, I wouldn’t worry about it.

I’ve also heard people question their quality. Folks, if you want a tier one rifle, go buy a tier one rifle or the parts from them. Palmetto gives you a decent combination of quality and price. For folks planning on hunting and target shooting with their friends, I have no reservation to recommend them. If you are shooting in competition or planning to use this rifle in some kind if law enforcement situation or somewhere that requires high reliability, I think you probably need to look at the higher end ARs that are designed to handle tens of thousands of rounds. Look, I’m just being candid – the PSA AR rifles and pistols are solid but they have a different intended audience. There are reasons besides “coolness” where certain buyers must move to suppliers like Daniel Defense, BCM, Knights, LMT, H&K, LWRC, etc.

At any rate, back in April of this year (2021), I asked what their top four complete kits were (meaning everything except the lower receiver) and they had a list! If you like building AR kits like I do, I thought you might find this interesting in terms of what is included:

PSA 16″ 5.56 NATO 1:7 MIDLENGTH NITRIDE 13.5″ LIGHTWEIGHT M-LOK MOE EPT RIFLE KIT W/ MBUS SIGHT SET (Model 516446780)

Noteworthy here is the entry level Magpul MOE buttstock and grip plus Magpul MBUS flip up sights. They are also including a PSA EPT fire control group – this means that the trigger and hammer have nickel boron finish causing them to move easier because friction is reduced.

It has one of the PSA 13.5″ long handguards set for M-Lok attachments. Everything else is typically found in any of their AR kits with a collapsible stock. They make and restock these kits all the time.

The price as of this writing is $669.

PSA 16″ M4 CARBINE-LENGTH 5.56 NATO 1:7 NITRIDE 15″ LIGHTWEIGHT M-LOK FREEDOM RIFLE KIT (Model 51655106915)

PSA Model 51655106915

Despite a cool looking 15″ handguard, this is a basic AR and you can replace the grip and buttstock later if you want. It’s selling so well that PSA is out of stock right now but you can be notified when it is back in stock. They tend to make and restock these kits all the time.

The price isn’t listed right now since they are out of stock but I would expect it to be slightly less than the first kit – unless they are charging a premium for that handguard.

PSA 16″ M4 CARBINE-LENGTH 5.56 NATO 1:7 NITRIDE 15″ LIGHTWEIGHT M-LOK FREEDOM RIFLE KIT (Model 5165450384)

Definitely a basic 15″ railed rifle kit. Everything looks entry level but you can always customize it down the road if you want.

Again, no price as they are out of stock. I’d expect it to be cheaper than the two kits above. You can sign up to be notified when they do get it in stock if you want. They tend to make and restock these kits all the time.

PSA 16″ MID-LENGTH 5.56 NATO 1:7 NITRIDE 15″ LIGHTWEIGHT M-LOK CLASSIC RIFLE KIT WITH MBUS SIGHT SET (Model 5165491598)

This one has the Magpul BUS sights, an interesting looking handguard … and that’s about it. Everything else is what you tend to see in any of their basic AR rifle kits with collapsing stocks.

The price as of today s $649.99

What rifle is in the top photo?

It started out as a PSA 16″ kit. It had an Anderson lower, WMD bolt, and a Magpul ACS-L stock – I like those because they lock in place and don’t rattle. It had a BMC Mod 3 charging handle, Vortex 1-6x scope on a Vortex 2″ offset mount, YHM extended push pins and a PSA ambidextrous selector lever. The fire control group is one of the PSA EPT sets – I do like them for basic triggers. I like Geissele SSA-E triggers the most though. I honestly don’t recall who made the offset sights.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to build a decent entry-level rifle from a kit with all of the parts you need other than the lower receiver, the above should work great for you. At a minimum, they will all give you a foundation to start with.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.




Very Good AR Lower Receiver Assembly Videos on Youtube

Have you ever wondered how to assemble an AR lower receiver and were curious  what free resources are available?  I spent some time on Youtube and collected  a list of videos that show the viewer how to assemble a lower receiver for an AR-type rifle.  I would recommend watching several as each presenter’s methods has pros and cons plus there are different details and camera angles in some cases.

“Gunsmithing – How to Build an AR-15 Lower Receiver” by MidwayUSA


“EASIEST AR15 lower build diy, step by step” by dutchofsc

“AR-15 Lower Receiver” by bgallaher77


I really liked all of the above and hope you find them useful.