Gun Review: Palmetto State Armory Freedom 16″ AR-15 Carbine

Whenever I review an AR-15 over $1k, readers complain. “My PSA costs half that and it’s just as good.” So TTAG reached out to Palmetto State Armory for one of their lower priced model. After putting the Palmetto State Armory Freedom 16″ Carbine through my standard tests, I’m here to report . . .

It’s no Wilson Combat.

It is, however, a completely adequate rifle for what most people want an AR-15 for. And it’s a lot closer to what Uncle Sugar issues than many higher end AR owners would like to admit.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine BCG (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Palmetto State Armory Freedom 16″ AR-15 Carbine’s guts couldn’t be more MIL-STD.

The rifle’s upper and lower are forged 7075-T6 A3 and hard anodized. I pulled it apart and gave the BCG a good look and some time under the pin-gauges and calipers.

You’re getting a shot peened Carpenter 158 bolt. The gas key is hardened, lined and properly staked. The carrier is 8620, chrome lined and phosphate coated. Everything falls within tolerances. If you want a Mil-Spec bolt carrier group, this is exactly it.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine receiver (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

And that’s ok. But just ok.

Adhering to the specified Military Standard gives you a good enough product and a completely known quantity. And not a bad one either. It’s just not a great one.

For example, the Palmetto State Armory Freedom 16″ AR-15 Carbine’s phosphate coating is durable, but rough. Over time, it tends to catch tiny debris and it’s little harsher on the surrounding aluminum receiver.

Phosphate coating isn’t the best finish for durability and reliability but it ‘s good enough for the vast amount of people. Owners who will likely never put more than 6K rounds through their rifle.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine barrel (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The same could be said for the chrome moly steel barrel. It’s going to outlast most of the people who will buy it. Just clean your rifle before you put it away and everything will be fine.

The fast 1:7 twist is appreciated on the military profile tube, and with the barrel and hand guards as they are, of course it’s a carbine-length gas system.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine trigger (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Palmetto rifle’s trigger is true to the Military Standard as well. A standard that varies in performance. This one falls in the middle.

The single stage trigger breaks at an average of 6 lbs. 10oz with three to five ounces of play on either side. There’s some slop, grit, starts and stops in the pull, and the reset is squishy.

In short, the trigger is truly Mil-Spec; unfortunately reminiscent of the guns I was issued on Sand Hill in Fort Benning, so so long ago.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine trigger shoe (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Just like with my issued guns, I could shoot the Palmetto State Armory Freedom 16″ AR-15 Carbine faster and more accurately when I put my whole finger through the trigger well, and instead of using the “power crease” near the tip of my finger, used the meat of my finger closest to my palm.

We always called that “gorilla gripping” the trigger. For fast shooting with poor semi-auto triggers, it’s the best method I’ve found to date.

Want to mount a light?  IR laser? Forward grip? Too bad. This model includes round hand guard halves held together by the annoying-to-disassemble ring on the front of the receiver.

This set up was always billed as “tool-less” to remove the hand guard. That was true — as long as you were born with at least three hands. You young’uns likely have no idea what I am talking about. Be grateful.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine hand guards (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Palmetto State Armory Freedom 16″ AR-15 Carbine’s hand guards wobble a bit in my grip — exactly the same as the original M16A2s. They’re also slick, which doesn’t do you any favors when your hands get sweaty and the gun gets hot.

Other than being wobbly and a PITA to disassemble, the set-up means there is no Key Mod, no MLock and no easy way to reliably attach accessories to the gun. You’ll need to shoot in daylight or have a friend with a flashlight. Or two if you are running iron sights.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine rail (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Speaking of sights, you get one with the Palmetto State Armory Freedom 16″ AR-15 Carbine. That’s the standard front sight/gas block base. There is no rear sight, but you can mount a rear iron sight or an optic on the flat top rail.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine stock (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Palmetto State Armory Freedom 16″ AR-15 Carbine’s stock is the same horrible standard stock on so many rifles, including the currently issued M4. Some are worse than others, and this one is actually better than some of the ones I’ve seen issued to our troops.

There’s some slop and wobble to it. Those of you with beards, beware. A tax was paid  by the strands of my glorious face mane. Again, this is pretty standard with this stock, and this stock has become sadly standard.

Out on the range, I put 500 rounds through the gun. I used GI style steel magazine, Surefire 60 round magazines, and the ubiquitous 30 round PMag.

I never had any issues loading, firing, or ejecting . I shot 55gr M193 and 62gr M855, both from IMI.  I also ran some 69gr Winchester SMK’s. I lubed the gun with Rogue American Apparel’s Gun Oil prior to shooting and never performed any maintenance or lubrication on the gun again.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine accuracy testing (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The length and weight of the Palmetto State Armory Freedom 16″ AR-15 Carbine make it easy to shoot. At over seven pounds loaded it turns fast, shoots fast, and returns to the target quickly.

I performed a series of rifle drills and transitions with the Freedom Rifle. It felt familiar and everything was right where I expected it to be. The slightly wobbly and difficult hand guard may be a pain in so many ways, but it’s wide and easy for me to hold, as long as it’s dry.

Reloads are quick and sure, even without ambidextrous anything or any kind of special magazine well. It’s a simple, easy-to-use rifle. Anyone can shoot this gun well enough.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine groups (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Precision was . . . acceptable.

I shot my best five round group shot using IMI 55gr FMJ: 1.4″ at 100 yards. The average for four five-round groups was 1.7″.  The worst group was IMI’s 62gr M855, printing a whopping 2.5″ group.  Again, the average told a different tale, at 1.9″.

The best shooting round through the gun, on average, was the Winchester 69gr SMK, printing an average 1.5″ group at 100 yards for four five-round strings. I used the Atibal Nomad 3-12X44 scope turned to 11 for all of the accuracy testing.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine scoped (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

All in all, there’s a lot I don’t like about this gun.

It very much reminds of me of the first time I ever shot an AR pattern rifle: my issued M16 in basic training. I was used to shooting old, exceptionally well maintained hunting rifles in .30-30Win or larger. My “assault rifle” seemed like a wobbly plastic toy compared to those guns.

And that’s what the PSA Freedom 16″ feels like as well.  But read between all of that and you’ll see the value of the gun, and why a gun much like this was the mainstay of the US military for years.

It works, and it works pretty darn well.

It’s easy to control, maneuver and shoot. It’s perfectly reliable and it shoots groups tight enough to put rounds onto a human-sized target out to the reasonable maximum of the ballistic capability of its round.

In short, the Palmetto State Armory Freedom 16″ AR-15 Carbine does exactly what a service rifle is supposed to do. Even better, it does what it’s supposed to do at a price most folks can afford.

This model is current sold out on the PSA website, as well as any dealers that I can find. The last price I can find online at a major dealer was $549.

PSA did not respond to my emails for an update on price or availability. I also waited for more than 10 minutes on hold with their phone system before giving up, twice. A sales representative that spoke with Jeremy S. said that the rifle should be about $450 when on sale. Is it worth it? Yes. Yes it is.

PSA Freedom 16 Carbine with Vortex Razor Optic (image courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Specifications: Palmetto State Armory Freedom 16″ AR-15 Carbine

SKU: 508052
Caliber:  5.56 NATO
Barrel Length:  16 inches
Barrel Profile:  M4
Barrel Steel:  Chrome Moly
Barrel Finish:  Nitride
Chrome Lining:  No
Muzzle Thread Pattern:  1/2″ x 28
Twist Rate:  1 in 7″
Barrel Extension:  M4
Gas System Length:  Carbine
Diameter at Gas Block:  .750″
Gas Block Type:  F-marked FSB
Muzzle Device:  A2 -style
Receiver Material:  Forged 7075-T6
Receiver Type:  M4
Handguard Type:  M4 with heat shields
Bolt Material:  Carpenter 150 Steel
Bolt Carrier Profile:  Full Auto
Fire Control Group:  Std finish
Grip:  A2-style
Stock:  M4-style
Buffer Tube Length:  Carbine
Buffer Tube Diameter:  Mil-spec
Overall Length:  32 inches
Weight (as configured):  6.8 lbs
PRICE: $549 (last price found online, may not be current MSRP)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Finish * *
This is the standard finish, done well enough. The new FN M4s redefine what that standard is, and they set a high bar. The PSA Freedom 16 doesn’t quite reach the fit and finish of the new issued FN M4 service rifles, but they do a fine job meeting the actual Mil-Spec.

Customization * * * *
It’s an AR, and you can change just about everything on it. And you might, eventually. One star removed for nothing ambidextrous, which I hate anyway, and the old school rails making it very difficult to attach a light, or anything else.

Reliability * * * * *
Where it matters the most, the PSA’s got it. Zero issues across a variety of ammunition.

Accuracy * * *
Along with the basic gun, you get a basic level of precision. With a high magnification, you should expect 1.5 to 2″ five round groups. Iron sights will shoot as good as your eyes will let them.

Overall * * *
If you are looking for a basic AR15, this a good one, at a very reasonable price. Understand the limitations of a round hand guard, and don’t expect sub MOA groups from this inexpensive (but not cheap) rifle and you’ll be pleased. I was.

comments

  1. avatar Blackspike2710 says:

    I’m just here for the trolls…

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Then you really want to be here for the hunting posts.

  2. avatar jwm says:

    I’m one of those that mentions price. My complaint is based on something more simple than hurting my bank account.

    Rifle A is a semi auto 5.56 that sells for 500 bucks. Rifle B is a semi auto 5.56 that sells for 1500 bucks. Neither has glass or any accessories.

    Is rifle B 3x more accurate? More reliable? More durable? If it is then its worth the 3x more price.

    But if rifle A is capable of reliably functioning as a self defense/hunting rifle at 1/3 the price of rifle B then it’s not being ‘cheap’ or ‘miserly’ to go with rifle A.

    We had triangular,smooth as glass, handguards on our m16’s. Nobody had m4’s that I was aware of. My handguards had duct tape helping to hold them together.

    But every swinging dick in the outfit had the F/A giggle switch on their weapon.

    1. avatar Jack says:

      I understand, and mostly agree with, your price argument. Is a BWM 3-5x more of a car than a Honda? They’ll both get you to the grocery store. Comparable models will hold about the same amount of people/cargo. Most people will never realize the better performance of the more expensive option(speed, handling, etc). Sometimes people just like to have “nice” things. The difference in picking up a LWRC (DI) vs the above PSA rifle is distinct. Just as driving the BWM vs the Honda.

      It’s up to the user to determine if the higher price is worth it, for them. If it is, rock on. If not, get the PA. This stuff isn’t rocket science. At the end of the day they’re still just pushing a piece of metal out of a metal tube. Both camps (cheap vs “good”) can be d-bags about their opinions. As a PSA guy, realize it’s OK to spend more than $500 on an AR if you want to and that not everyone likes the old school furniture. As a LWRC guy, realize some guys just want something that realiably goes bang and thinks your spiral fluting is a complete waste of time, money and effort.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Agreed. Run your life and your funds how you see fit.

        Me, I’m a 4runner kind of guy.

      2. avatar Joel says:

        The best thing about the platform is the versatility. It is the 4 door sedan of rifles.

        In keeping with that analogy, I would say a base line AR is more like a Ford Focus and a $3k AR the beemer. An Accord or Camry is probably compareable to a $1k AR, and in my mind, where you get the best value.

        1. avatar Jack says:

          If an accord is a $1k AR, what’s the PSA? A yugo?

        2. avatar That One Guy says:

          I think he pretty clearly suggested that the $500 AR would be the Focus.

        3. avatar PWinKY says:

          I guess reading is for fools.

          I agree most with this analogy. An accord is not the base model of the car world. You get into some of the more expensive models and you’re really only about 2x down from a normal BMW, not 3-5x.

        4. avatar Rattlerjake says:

          Again PISS POOR analogy/comparison – a FORD focus isn’t anything like an accord in shape, size, or materials used; that’s like comparing an AR15 to a Barrett 50 cal. AR#1 is the same as AR#2 other than a few “after market” changes, just like buying a Jeep CJ and turning it into a Jeep Rubicon with a bunch of add-ons; BUT you get to choose the upgrades!

      3. avatar Rattlerjake says:

        What an absolutely STUPID comparison – a Honda is NOT a BMW (nothing similar about the two), but an AR is an AR. Now if you wanted to compare a cheaper BMW to a top of the line BMW remaining in the same basic model then that would be a comparison. So would a cheaper BMW be as good as a top end? ABSOLUTELY, so what if you don’t get all of the “bells and whistles”, you can add aftermarket parts just as you can with a basic AR. I can turn a cheaper PSA into an expensive AR by simply buying a drop in trigger, add different handguards, change stocks, or even go with a better barrel – in fact you/I can buy a stripped lower, a lower build kit with better stock, drop in trigger, a chrome bolt, add an abi-selector and mag catch, and a complete upper from PSA and have a $1500 AR still well under $1000!!!; (so what if I have to assemble it!) AND if you subscribe to the PSA website they will send you daily SALES. While you’re at it you can order ammo, magazines, and sights to round out your weapon at better prices than 99% of the competition. Add in the free shipping on many sale items, no tax if you live outside of SC, and all but the lower recvr is delivered to your door, I don’t think you’re giving enough credit to the value of PSA.

  3. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    Seen worse performance out of costlier guns. The nice thing about this is you can buy a lot of the parts piecemeal and upgrade where you want, e.g. $150 for a trigger. I have seen people just mount a section of rail on hand guards before, I don’t see it being a huge deal for this one either.

    For under 500 a couple spares for the safe isn’t a horrible gamble at all.

    1. avatar Anon in Ct says:

      For $65 ALG will sell you a trigger that is a nice upgrade to the standard trigger, without being fussy or too light for newbies. This is my go-to trigger for AR builds (other than my DMR build).

      https://www.aimsurplus.com/product.aspx?item=XALGACT&name=ALG+Defense+ACT+Combat+Trigger&search=alg+trigger

      1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

        Actually, what I would do is a “grip screw” mod followed by knocking the spur off the back of the hammer for the full auto stuff that’s not there then some JP reduced power springs, or maybe the medium ones if I was using it for SD.

        Perhaps even combine the above the the ALG Trigger.

  4. avatar Conservatarian says:

    Its a good serviceable rifle just as it comes. I don’t know anyone who leaves it that way though. They eventually add/upgrade things later as they discover more specifically how they want to use it. Bottom line is that PSA seems to offer a reliable starting point to work from. I’ve never had a problem with mine.

    1. avatar Ardent says:

      I was waiting for someone to say it. What you have there is a rifle that is as reliable and accurate as it has any need to be. . . that is, it has yet to fail or give cause to think it will fail, and more than accurate enough to perform its original function (a quick,light, rapid firing short to mid range combat weapon). As for the furniture, which seems to be the primary complaint. . . a complete set of Magpul furniture for this would still only get the price up to what $700-$750? It’s really a non-issue at this price point. The carbine works as shipped, and can be upgraded almost without limitation.

      I’m usually on your side, or at least kind of JWT. . . but the stuff about the roughness of the coating on the BCG sounds a little disingenuous. You seem to imply that the thing is going to be reaching the end of its service life in 6000 rounds. . . something that sounds dubious to me. . . I suspect the real number is 2-3 times higher, and that to get to heavy maintenance, not scrapping the gun level problems.

      The trigger. . . well, when you are spoiled by really good triggers on everything, I’m sure the one on this carbine is horrible. . . when you’re used to stock triggers, I’m sure it’s not even noticeable. Again, with the ranges and conditions this thing is intended for, the trigger isn’t much of a drawback, if any, and again, putting a super nice trigger in it, and new/better furniture, still keeps the price at something around 1/2 to 1/4 of the guns that get griped about around here.

      It’s not that we don’t appreciate fine things, or understand that you can get more by paying more. . . I think what TTAG keeps missing in the push back on the expensive guns is mostly this: It’s not that you can’t sing the praises of a $4k AR, it’s that you can’t continue to disparage the ARs most of us have. . . and you can’t keep saying things like ‘well. . . it’s good enough, I guess. . . ‘ when the thing is more accurate than it needs to be and flawlessly reliable. Tell the ‘truth’ about these guns. . . which is that they are good guns for 99% of users and uses. I don’t need a race car or serious off road truck to get groceries and I don’t need a $2k plus AR for anything at all.

    2. avatar Carrucan says:

      hello. Nice to meet you. I have the Delton Sport equivalent. I haven’t modified it, except to put a cheapo red dot on it. I can shoot man-sized groups regularly and accurately out to 100 yards with it, but enjoy shooting it a little closer. I will likely not modify it, and will likely not shoot more than 1200 rounds a year. I clean it well after every use, keep it lubed well, and it is one zipper pull away from coming out for bumps in the night out here in the sticks. I wanted an AR just to put lead down the range with my dad and friends. My eyesight is failing, so I am never going to shoot accurately. I don’t hunt. $431.99 including FFL fee. Even that seems too much for a fun gun. I can’t imagine spending much more.

  5. avatar Dan l says:

    Psa rules!

  6. avatar Alex Waits says:

    Awesome review.

    While I can appreciate all the bells and whistles of the “Operator” AR15s, they are not specifically needed. Current culture tacitly implies that if you don’t have a 1200 dollar AR fitted with a hand lapped barrel boasting 1/2 MOA, rails, lasers and lights, 800 dollar electro-optics, and 30 mags of 77gr SMKs, your doing it “wrong” and don’t even show up to the range.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      Really it depends on what you want from the gun. See my post below.

      Yeah, some people just want tacticool and will throw money at it but there’s also a whole world of “precision AR’s” out there which are not the lower end of the price scale.

  7. avatar Steve S. says:

    I went with the same PSA configuration except I ordered the mid-length gas system, stainless steel barrel, EPT fire control Group (polished nickel trigger), and premium Nickel Boron bolt carrier group.

    1. avatar Ing says:

      I went with the stainless barrel and mid-length gas system too, but with the mil-std guts. It came with a 13″ M-lok handguard, which makes the whole thing look really sweet. I can hang anything I want on it…but I choose not to. 🙂

      Last year I caught the complete parts kit w/assembled upper on sale for (iirc) $389 and put it on a $40 Anderson lower. They’re going for even lower prices now, if you can catch one in stock at the right time.

      I’ve put several hundred rounds through mine with nary a hiccup. Really happy with it. I don’t know how accurate it can really be yet because my eyesight sucks, but given that my groups with just about everything are twice what they used to be, I expect it would shoot somewhere under 2 moa if my eyesight were up to par.

      As far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat PSA even at twice the price.

  8. avatar achmed says:

    Good review. Probably not my cup of tea because I’m willing to pay some more for an extra 3/4 – 1″ of precision at 100 yards. As the reviewer says looks like a great value rifle.

  9. avatar Anon in Ct says:

    They might as well use the cheapest stock available, since almost everybody will replace it with one that they like better.

    On the handguards – brand-new they are a PITA, but once they get some wear and tear on them, they are much easier to manipulate. As long as you aren’t looking to free-float, Magpu MOEs are a cheap and easy replacement that will give you M-Lok capability.

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      “They might as well use the cheapest stock available”
      and the cheapest trigger available
      and the cheapest handguard available
      and the cheapest grip available
      and the cheapest rear sight available (it doesn’t get any cheaper than “not included.”)

  10. avatar MiserableBastard says:

    I never fired either the PSA Freedom or Ptac rifles. I did take a PSA Premium in trade a couple of years ago (FN mpi chrome lined barrel and BCA etc…) One interesting note, the upper and lower are a perfect match, closer than my Seekin matched set with tension screw. Since the AR prices have dropped I decided to keep it and use it in classes. I will happily knock the crap out of it without worry.

  11. avatar strych9 says:

    Like almost everything in the world of guns the question is what you want out of the rifle.

    For it’s price point this rifle covers a hell of a lot of bases. OTOH if you want something that cloverleafs and keyholes at 100 yards or more you’re SOL with a rifle like this. Again, it’s all about where you place your priorities and what you want to accomplish with the rifle in question.

    At $450 I’d take a couple for more mundane tasks where toting around a precision build is overkill/silly/runs risks I don’t want to take and I probably won’t be shooting it much anyway.

    As usual: Good review.

    1. avatar Willliam Munn says:

      The PSA freedom line of rifles, especially those with free floated rails and stainless steel barrels are shockingly accurate. Sub MOA with quality optics mounted. I would attach some target results from mine but I don’t think I can on this reply.

      Suffice to say, .5 MOA is a regular result with mine. This is not to say they all will do it, but I know of 3 that do. All built at different periods of time using their freedom rifle kits.

  12. avatar Grant says:

    PSA is listing the parts kit for this rifle for $299.99 with free shipping.

    Today’s email also list stripped lowers for $39.99. I’d add $35 for shipping & transfer, so you would have about $375 in the rifle + a rear sight.

    For $369 you can get a MOE / EPT parts kit that has MagPul furniture & a little better trigger. That would solve your flashlight problem.

    I’m probably going to spring for one of their MOE / EPT mid-length carbine kits this year. I’ve got a Colt OEM1 and a BCM, I’d like to see how a $450 rifle compares.

    Overall, I think that for the money, the PSA kits with nitrided barrels or the S&W Sport 2 are great deals. If someone wants to build a kit I’d recommend PSA. If they want a complete rifle S&W would be the way to go for better warranty support, higher resale and probably a little higher quality.

    1. avatar Chainman says:

      Everyone buys entry usually, goes out, discovers the AR world, retreats to refit with aftermarket upgrades, just like kids with a new truck, add5k wheels and off road hummers, a 5k sound system, and any other chick magnetics that catches their eye.
      DELTA TEAM TACTICAL, Lr-.308 KIT, UPPER, no bcg, $299.00, assembled, 307.00. I can’t buy the parts or build for that, 4150, or 416R.
      Creedmoor, same ball park.
      As for the PSA AR, …I’ll build my own all BILLET for that.
      Buying components on sale: Rodgers Locking, 30 bucks ( same as on Wilson Combat) or, MOE SCL…45 -50, or, Complete A2 duty stock w/rifle buffer, 48.00, on 6 pos. adj., buffer kit, Delta Tac, 20 bucks.
      Sota Arms Billet lower with winterized trigger guard, 40 bucks, NiB infused 3 lb. single stage, JP spngs, & ADK heavy hammer spgs. to eat anything, ADK enhanced firing pin (in quantity) 8 bucks. LPK, A.R.Stoner, very high quality QPQ Lpk, …..30.00 (Sale price.)
      Top line stock…48.00 to 70.00 w/ buffer kits, billet lower, 40.00, trigger, 25 -50…springs, 10-15.00 , LPK, 30.00…Complete lower, $158-210.
      BILLET UPPER: Billet upper recvr, Sota Arms, 57.00, call it 60, comp. S.S. muzz brk, 30, gas block/tube, under 20 for black, just above 20 for s.s. Call it 20, Black Wolf, QPQ, nitride, 416R S.S., match grade, 75, (normally 149.)
      Charging handle, with enhanced lever, 8 bucks, in quantity.
      Next, 8620 bolt carrier, QPQ Nitride, with ONLY 9310 steel, no Carpenter 158 chit, $54 bucks in 7.62×39, or similar for 5.56/223/300.
      My QPQ Grendel 6.5 Type II bolts, 74.99…I’m forgetting something??? Oh yea, best I can find: Squirrel Daddy Anti-Walk pins, std. .154. Around 15 or 20, call it 20. (Yes, I can buy NiB for under 100. I just got a Lr.308/Creedmoor bolt carrier group, QPQ Nitride, limit ONE, for 87.00…real msrp, 285.00. Next one will come ftom ADK, BIONIC BOLT, ENHANCED SPFS., Warranted for 50,000 rounds. Yrs, 50k. Not many folks will run 50k total in all arms.)
      This is why there is pushback, every at entry level.
      I’ll take free floating rails cerakoted, s.s. eye candy match grade barrels with functional s.s. muzzle brake, a 3 pound trigger without going over 100, and I despise PHOS. ..I can build or get built, a 3K gun for well under 700.
      Buy in quantity, or watch for shipping thresholds for free.
      So, complete upper, with BCG, $225.00, 245.00 max with anti-walkers.
      No thank you, I think I’ll build 3 times the rifle for equal or under budget, and, ON TIME!

  13. avatar Hunter427 says:

    I have upgraded just about ever gun I own, from glass bedding, stock sealing, trigger jobs and their all shooter

  14. avatar TheUnspoken says:

    PSA has different lines as well, the freedom line tends to be cheaper parts, you can get premium with a better bcg, better barrels hammer forged or stainless, with all the magpul furniture, mi rails, etc. The price goes up but not drastically depending on the sale. I have a PSA stripped lower and some parts kits, they are fine, of course I upgraded the trigger. That said I decided to go BCM for my upper and eventually got a matching BCM lower once they sold them. I am sure that would be another debate, is BCM better than so and so, or BCM vs Daniel Defense…

    But I would get PSA over Anderson or bear Creek or radical.

  15. avatar raptor jesus says:

    I built my own PSA for $600 – so at $450 this is a screaming deal.

    And yes, it’s a gun. That’s about all I can say about it.

  16. avatar Juice says:

    I don’t buy cheap tools from Harbor Freight. They may work fine, but I can afford to buy things that are more expensive, with features or characteristics that I value and enjoy. I don’t know if my grandpa ever bought cheap tools, but I know the ones he passed down to me were not. And neither were the guns.

    1. avatar Chad says:

      Other than really high end (Snap on) not sure anyone makes quality tools any more at the every man’s pricing… Craftsman isn’t anything near what it once was, won’t even replace in store any more (that was 10 years ago I last tried)… At least Harbor Freight will stand behind their tools and replace in store…

  17. avatar Lowell says:

    This review is appreciated.

    People looking for cheap rails Should look no further than Firefield. I have a PSA M4 upper wearing a Firefield carbine length rail that was shipped to my door in FDE for $35.

    Every American adult – Preppers, militia, patriots – should own a standard DI AR15, specifically for logistics reasons. If you HATE the rifle(I’m only a recent convert thanks to my extensive M16A2 experience 20 years ago) and therefore don’t want to drop a ton of money, well, one of these PSAs is your best bet. Also makes a good truck rifle at that price. Remember this is a milspec M4orgery, so put a Primary Arms/Holosun optic on it, run 77gr through it, and you have something that will get you through a gunfight or even drop a deer in a pinch. And you can find parts and mags EVERYWHERE.

  18. avatar former water walker says:

    Hmmm…there’s a barely used PSA(with box) at my LGS with a very nifty scope on it. Mebbe I’ll see if they’d drop the $500 price for a layaway. Or not.

  19. avatar TexTed says:

    I’m just glad to see ANY review with three stars or anything other than 4 stars. I swear, it seems like 98% of the guns this site reviews get four stars.

  20. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    Honor Defense didn’t get near 3 stars if I remember right. That said, I’d rather go by the criteria than the overall rating. The reason being that I weigh differently than they may. For instance this would be 3.5-4 stars within its category for me. 1.5 MOA with good ammo and good reliability in that price bracket is a winner. That said, you put it against a $1200+ AR yeah it’s a 3 star gun. They’re going to have stuff (trigger, hand guard, stock) that you’re just not going to see on a gun in this price range.

    The one thing I’d have liked to see is some steel case through this gun though. One of these is bound to see a lot of Wolf or Tula on average.

  21. avatar Maxi says:

    $500 is hard to beat.
    I myself prefer the savgage msr these days. Better barrel profile, nicer furniture, better gas system. Freefloat mlok handguard if you buy the recon version. A little heavier and a few shekels more, but you absolutely see the quality difference. Especially the 1in8 twist 5r 223wylde barrel. Love it. Government cut pencil barrel? Not for me.
    Triggers will be upgraded anyway, same goes for all the internal parts. If you want that ambi or short throw safety or a cool charging handle you buy that, but the more expensive rifles nearly never have the exact thing you wanted.
    I have found the msr to be a perfect start for a customisation project. Accurate barrel with fitted boltand a solid forged reciever set. Everything else can be changed – or just left the way it is.

  22. avatar William Ashbless says:

    For what I need PSA is going to be good enough. I’m not looking for sub moa accuracy, varmint busting, or any kind of competitive events.
    Just need it to go bang when I pull the trigger

  23. avatar Corky Budzek says:

    “Other than being wobbly and a PITA to disassemble, the set-up means there is no Key Mod, no MLock and no easy way to reliably attach accessories to the gun. You’ll need to shoot in daylight or have a friend with a flashlight. Or two if you are running iron sights.”

    Yeah. It’s not like anyone makes drop-in quads, keymods, M-Loks, etc. Oh wait… they do. C’mon, man! What kind of complaint is that? This is an M4gery, for people who want a a cheap M4gery configured carbine. Thus, the Delta Ring and standard hand guards. At least, it’s a standard Delta Ring and not the shitty proprietary one, like Ruger did on their 556. Yeah, they are hard to operate at first, but not impossible and they do loosen over time.

    Also, decking points for a mil spec trigger? You’d be crazy to expect anything else in a PSA Freedom. What really needs to piss more people off, is the fact that a lot of the fancy $1500+ ARs by Daniel Defense, BCM, Sig, etc, also come with the shitty, rough, mil spec triggers.

    In addition, mil spec parts here are good, when traditionally, budget ARs went bellow mil spec. A lot of them still are that way. So, I’d give PSA props for sticking to mostly mil spec parts on these.

    By the way, these were $400 all over this holiday reason and $300 as rifle kits. So, ~$350 for a rifle, if you wanted to build a lower. Rob Ski of AKOU torture-tested a PSA Freedom carbine over 5000 rounds with zero maintenance other than lube. It passed, mostly with flying colors. Great beater/starter ARs.

    PSA Premium and CHF lines of guns/uppers, which come with CHF/CL barrels made by FN, compete well with the likes of BCM, IMO. However, just like BCM, they are hard to find in stock.

    1. avatar Nigel the expat says:

      Yeah, you don’t see PSA FN CHF/CL or their FN CHF 410SS (even more rare) but once in a blue moon any more. They used to have them on a periodic basis, but they’ve been hen’s teeth more recently.

      I’ve got a few samples from years ago (both 4150 and 410SS) and they have been excellent performers.

  24. avatar Bob says:

    It might be helpful to remember that JWT gave a terrible review to the Windham CDI and (with a straight face) recomended a Mossberg instead. Look it up in the review section. I think we may be dealing with some ummmmm issues here not related objectively to the firearm in question. Just sayin………..

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Bob, you’re full of shit.
      I’ve never shot, much less reviewed that rifle.

      1. avatar Bob says:

        But despite the fact that I screwed up you’re still a dickhead.

    2. avatar luigi says:

      Nick Leghorn reviewed that gun, not jwt

      1. avatar Bob says:

        OOOPS. Sorry bout that JWT. Me bad.

  25. avatar ironicatbest says:

    “Mattel’s shooting shell” nothing says love me better then clearing a jam in the middle of a firfight. . An unreliable weapon, in a groundhog caliber.. No thanx

    1. avatar YARB0892 says:

      Right, because no other firearm has ever experienced a malfunction in combat…. GTFO with that BS.

      Don’t want it, then don’t buy it. I’ve got around 800 rounds through mine, zero malfunctions. Made a few minor additions, and she gets better n better every trip out.

  26. avatar Desert Dave says:

    The PSA Freedom rile is a great deal for the price, but you are missing the point of PSA and AR’s. Yes you can buy the Freedom rifle for <$450 on sale, which they usually are. I've seen the Ruger AR for a similar price on sale in the past year as well. But they also sell uppers and lowers in various configurations so you can build exactly what you want. What I wanted was a 24" 7:1 long range hunter. PSA has sales on their products, and for those with some patience and knowledge of what they want you can build a really nice gun of you dreams, no, not a Wilson Combat. But you will get an very functional rifle and save enough money to by an optic (Nikon 3X9 P-223 with a 20 MOA mount) many thousands of rounds of ammo. If you are on a budget, which is better a Wilson Combat and no optic or ammo or a good gun, optic and ammo?

    So a year ago I got the PSA 24″ Rifle Length 5.56 NATO 1:7 Nitride 15" M-lok Lightweight Upper – No BCG or CH – 7788894 go on sale for $279. I used it on my S&W sport lower and then for my Christmas present I had my wife buy me the PSA AR15 MOE EPT Lower, Black – 7780991 which has a somewhat upgraded trigger for $160 and the Premium 5.56 Nickel Boron BCG & PSA AR15/M16 Mil-Spec Charging Handle for $100. Cleaned lubed and snapped together and for about $550 great long range MOA shooter, with ammo it likes like Barnes 62 gr 5.56 and IMI 77 gr.

    Now the cool thing about this gun is that the 24" barrel gives me 200 FPS over the published velocity for these two, over the chrono. That is 2970 fps for the IMI 77's and per my ballistics calculator they stay supersonic out to 1000 yards. Mission accomplished, I got the gun, scope mount and some ammo for less and $1000.

    That is what PSA is all about.

  27. avatar S2k Chris says:

    When I first started playing golf, I got a department store $200 all-in-one set of clubs and started playing. After I had gotten a feel for the game, I upgraded here and there and eventually got to the point, like Washington’s axe, where there was nothing left of the old set. But had I not liked the game, I woulda only been out $200.

    So when it came time to buy an AR, I did the same thing. I ordered a cheapo $500 Bear Creek. I did so right before the election thinking that if it went a certain way, at least I’d have AN AR, not no AR. Now that I’ve put about 1000 rounds through mine, I’ve tweaked it here and there and tried different things and had fun ffing around with it. And I’ll continue to f around with it, and plink at the range. And for my uses that’s all I really need to do. I’ve got a scoped hunting rifle for putting two rounds through the same hole, my AR is basically just Legos for me.

  28. avatar James69 says:

    I have two PSA Pistol “builds” – meaning I bought parts and put them together. Factory made uppers one in 7.62×39 (7 inch) odin keymod and 5.56 10.5 CHF GI style. Both shoot great and work well. Using TRS-25 red dots on both. After solving the 7.62 mag issues and the need for more backpressure -pig brake, flawless operation with both. Steel cased ammo? no problems. You get your moneys worth at PSA.

  29. avatar Hugo says:

    You can attach rails to this type of handguard (assuming you can get it off!) GG&G makes a rail that will fit on top or bottom of it (check Midway or ebay). It was easy to install on my Ruger because their delta ring screws off easily. The AR556 which I got for $460 is a very nice entry level AR.

  30. avatar int19h says:

    If you’re buying assembled PSA rifles, you’re doing it wrong – for the same money, you can get a [better] S&W Sport.

    But when it comes to cost, it’s hard to beat PSA part kits. You can actually build a rifle with Magpul furniture out of the box (so you get MLOK etc) for under $400.

  31. avatar JeffInCa says:

    My first AR build was a PSA kit with an 80% lower. I got the upgrade with a stainless barrel. MIL everything else. Like some other commenters mentioned, the trigger is crappy, but it’s MIL-SPEC and works. Once you try a Geissele, you’re ruined. Yes, the bolt carrier, and bolt, have a rough finish, but a few minutes with some flitz fixes that problem for good. The problem is with the coating, the actual metal is well machined. My review would include the fact that the bolt is impossible to clean. Carbon cooks into the thing and nothing short of a chisel gets it off. Again, once you clean a nickel-boron coated bolt and BCG, you’re ruined. The pistol grip was cheap plastic, the handguard is near impossible to remove, the buffer spring sounds like a pogo stick when you shoot. I put a vortex red dot on it, and dang if it doesn’t hit everything I aim it at. It’s around 1.25MOA with just about every cartridge I’ve tried in it, from PMC bronze to 77g hand loads. I’ve never shot it beyond 100 yards. Likes any/every mag I’ve ever tried. Compared to my more expensive AR’s, its very lightweight, handles well in a hallway, and is so cheap, I won’t care if I have to use it to pry a car door open.
    Would I compete with this rig? No.
    Would I hunt with this rig? No.
    Would it be the thing I grab when the SHTF? Yes.
    Would I trade it for a JP CTR-02? Immediately.

    This rifle represents a functional, dependable value. What it lacks in style and features, it makes up for in practicality, simplicity and cost.

  32. avatar gsyoung54 says:

    Back when I had hair and was into rock climbing and downhill skiing I also played a pretty mean blues rock guitar I had several Gibsons SG’s, Les Paul Customs and Fender Tele’s. Years went by and I played with some home boys at parties and weddings and had fun. I also shot and still do shoot a lot… I mean 5-6 days a week at the range for six to ten hours a day.. I’m just weird like that.
    So one day I’m at WalMart buying the Led Zep special edition Guitar Player or whatever the name of the magazine was… the young man behind the counter asked if my kid played guitar and I told him yes but this magazine was for me because that’s the kind of music I like to play… well, youngster got all excited and told me all about his Eddie Van Halen inspired custom re-issue of the famous red and white van Halen guitar. Plus he put on some kind of special when I made ba all about his Eddie Van Halen inspired custom re-issue of the famous red and white van Halen guitar. Plus he put on some kind of special whammy bar with a locking nut and more expensive tuners then with the guitar came with… Oh yeah, and some very expensive pick ups and a straplok system to keep his shoulder strap in place. So I asked him what kind of music he played and he said he was just learning, after owning the Holy Grail for a few years and he was only learning some hot leads from tablature published freely on the net. He didn’t know his open or barre chord major and minor forms and couldn’t play any rhythm at all.
    My point in all of this is that you could have a Jesse Ventura mini-gun and still not hit shit at 200 yards…. Me, I’ll take the three “cheap” 1-2 MOA guns over a Noveske because I simply get more bang for the buck. I do have a Noveske and they are worth it, but only if you can shoot. I’ve shot generic AR’s like the PSA with a military 28 1/2 pound gritty trigger at 4″ clays at 100 yards with my old eyes through iron sights better than the guy next to me with a $2,300 AR topped with a Nightforce 6×78 or whatever power scope… he just never learned the fundamentals… but he has one bad ass looking gun…

  33. avatar Mike says:

    Right now, PSA has this Rifle Kit for $299. Just needs a lower and the basic stripped lower is $39. $338 before taxes is decent. They also have this one in grey with a matching Springfield XDS .45 for $699.

  34. avatar Mark says:

    Thanks for the review, and yes, it is fine for entry level at the price. But as others have pointed out, the biggest benefits of PSA also covers most of your gripes.
    With that said, the number one rule….don’t buy a complete rifle. If you are new, buy a complete upper and a complete lower. That gives you an “other” instead of a “rifle”, and also allows you to move up to the next “level” for a low cost.

    Plastic hand guards? It is 2018 man, pretty much everyone is running MLOK or Keymod free float rails, or at worst, Magpul MOE plastic hand guards. Also, since it is 2018, Nitride that barrel.

    Trigger? – Find a lower or kit with their EPT upgrade (Enhanced Polished Trigger). I have this trigger on all 3 of my lowers.

    Butt stock? One of the first items to get replaced….even in upgraded kits (who does not have some black Magpul MOE parts laying around?).

    BCG? Nitride or NiB.

    Right now for the Memorial Day sale, this is IN STOCK.
    $199 with Free shipping – Complete Mid-gas, MLok free-float upper with a Nitrite 4150 barrel.
    http://palmettostatearmory.com/psa-16-mid-length-5-56-nato-1-7-nitride-13-5-lightweight-m-lok-upper-without-bcg-or-ch-5165448513.html

    $89 with Free shipping. Premium NiB BCG http://palmettostatearmory.com/psa-logoed-premium-5-56-nickel-boron-bcg-with-carpenter-158-bolt-516446450.html (There is also a Premium, Non-NIB BCG that comes with a 7075 charging handle for $89 shipped. I’m grabbing the Premium NIB version with the 7075 charging handle for $99 plus $8.50 shipping).

    $169 with free shipping – Complete Magpul Lower with EPT (have OD Green and FDE in stock, so you have a Magpul MOE trigger guard, Magpul MOE grip, Magpul MOE stock, and polished trigger) http://palmettostatearmory.com/psa-ar-15-complete-lower-magpul-moe-ept-edition-flat-dark-earth-no-magazine-8857.html

    The lower and the upper will run you what….$368 shipped! Depending on your BCG and charging handle, you can get both for as cheap as $89 shipped for a grand total of $467 shipped. For another $18.50, you can upgrade to an NIB BCG and 7075 charging handle. That is still less than the the $499 cost of the build Freedom rifle. At this point, the only thing missing are your choice of optics and other add-ons. A PAIR of Magpul MBUS sights will run you what, $75 to $80 shipped if you go that route? For around $560 or so, a better, and more accurate weapon has been built….and it actually includes a rear MBUS (something the Freedom does not have).

    Upgrades over Freedom for $60’ish dollars:
    *Free floated, nitrite barrel with MLOK rail.
    *NIB BCG (Premiums are actually tested!)
    *7075 charging handle
    *Polish trigger/FCG
    *Magpul MOE trigger guard, MOE grip, MOE stock, and flip up sights.

    I basically have the above for several builds…with the difference being I have a mix of PSA and Anderson lowers. I look for different packages on grips (I prefer Magpul + size and K2 models), I also grab 7075 buffer tubes. All my barrels are Nitrite or stainless PSA’s.

  35. avatar Connor H says:

    If you wait for sales (which happen weekly), you can do much better than this on the same budget through PSA. $40-50 stripped lower, $450 rifle kit includes: complete 16” mid-length upper with nitride 1:7” barrel, M-LOK free float handguard, nitride bcg, mil-spec charging handle, lower parts kit with buffer tube and internals, MOE stock and grip, and enhanced polished mil-spec trigger (gets rid of the grit, much better than the standard). Put the lower together (30-45 min job), slap the complete upper on.

    Now you have a $500 rifle (cheaper than the one reviewed) that is free floated with M-LOK handguard, has MOE furniture, and an above average factory trigger. If one is picky, throw in an SSA trigger and you’ve got a $700 that compares favorably with many $1500+ rifles.

    I can hammer out 1 MOA groups with good factory ammo all day, 2 MOA with cheap plinking ammo. That’s the same performance as many $1500 rifles, and in some cases beats them. If you know what you’re doing, PSA is the best way to build a great rifle on a budget.

  36. avatar Stephen Chalfa says:

    Gun snobs disparage PSA because PSA guns make them feel stupid for spending double or more to get a different roll mark. In ARs I have 2 colts, 2 bushmaster, and 3 psa’s, all LE/premium/chrome lined versions. They all work great, but the quality of the psa’s seem the best to me and they were definitely the best values. I like my colt a4 and m4, but if I’m being honest their is absolutely nothing superior about them than the psa equivalents which I also own. Even resale value isn’t as good on the colts. Yeah they’d bring much more, but I’d also lose more over what I paid new, compared to the PSAs.

  37. avatar Stephen Chalfa says:

    Oh and this “review” was mostly just a review by the author of how much he doesn’t like mil spec components. A side-by-side comparison with a fn or colt 6920 would have been more informative and objective…

  38. avatar Sora says:

    PSA BOLTS COME STANDARD WITH RUBBER DOUGHNUTS ON EXTRACTORS!!!!

    At least when I bought their products spring 2018. I bought uppers, I bought their Nickle Boron Bolts Carrier Groups.
    One Nickle Boron BCG would short stroke on 5.56 Winchester ammo, every round, using their MILSPEC carbine buffer. I swapped to their next Nickle Boron BCG and ALL ammo shot and recycled just fine.
    I got the doughnut from extractor spring pulled, replaced the extractor spring to another MILSPEC and then it shot perfectly on every round and cycled and chambered another round!

    In short, just pull out those rubber doughnuts around the extractor springs on PSA bolts. They will make you think something else is wrong with the gun but that’s just the doughnut.

  39. avatar MartyC says:

    Great review and well written. There is always a place for a firearm that does not cost a small fortune yet is totally reliable. My safe reflects mostly “working man” firearms as I like to call them. Most have been carried in the line of duty in some form or another. I appreciated your review as it reflects most of my thinking. Thank You.

  40. avatar A real America hrro says:

    PSA sells models with mlock handguards and better stocks, magpul and others. Cheaper thru them than buying each part elsewhere.

  41. avatar Amy says:

    Purchased an AR 10 and had to return it for repairs and it came back all dinged up and scratched. When I got it back it still wasn’t firing correctly and turning the bullet 180 degrees and not ejecting it. Their customer service was no help and they claim that they cannot return the gun yet the gun is not working properly and they do not stand behind their product. Will never purchase again and advise you not to as well.

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