Palmetto State Armory JAKL
Palmetto State Armory JAKL
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The Palmetto State Armory JAKL was first introduced several years ago, but is now hitting its stride with consumers. The JAKL is an adjustable gas, long-stroke piston operated AR-15.  The JAKL has been billed as a “truck gun” by many.

Palmetto State Armory JAKL
The JAKL has been billed as a “truck gun” by many.

It has taken a couple years to really get off the ground, and even had a couple QC and parts compatibility hiccups along the way.  Palmetto State Armory now seems to be delivering everything that was initially promised, with multiple calibers and barrel lengths available and more on the way.

One note as we get started, I wasn’t sent a full firearm, rather the complete upper and the parts needed to convert a mil-spec lower to be JAKL compatible.

Palmetto State Armory JAKL
This is all it takes to convert a mil-spec lower to JAKL compatibility

Is it everything I’d hoped?  Read on.

Gun Background

The direct impingement system of the AR-15 platform of rifles has long been seen by some as its Achilles heel. Bleeding off gas from the barrel to push the bolt rearward results in faster buildup of carbon. Converting Stoner’s design to a piston system isn’t a recent idea, many companies have offered retrofit conversion kits over the years. Some have designed their own standalone systems, which is where PSA’s JAKL falls in line.

The JAKL bolt release (left) has a thinner paddle than standard (right)

The piston design makes the buffer tube unnecessary, so now the whole wide world of folding stocks and braces becomes available. The recoil assembly living inside the upper receiver also means you can fire the JAKL with the stock folded, or with no stock at all.

The JAKL also features a forward, nonreciprocating charging handle, similar in position to an Mp5, minus the HK detent for the HK slap. The handle can be switched from right- to left-handed if you’re weird.

Palmetto State Armory JAKL
The handle can be easily switched from right- to left-handed.

The lower you use (whether PSA JAKL branded or your own) is a standard mil-spec unit.  All you need to convert the lower is a modified bolt catch and JAKL buttcap/recoil buffer, which includes the rear 1913 picatinny mounting rail. Assembly onto a standard mil-spec lower takes about two minutes for the buttcap assembly and the usual time needed to install a bolt catch.

Palmetto State Armory JAKL
1913 Picatinny buttcap

First shown off at SHOT Show in 2020, I was one of the first to see the JAKL outside of PSA. It looked distinctive, it promised a working piston system (minus the bolt shear and carrier tilt issues that plagued other designs), bottom line? I was excited. But all the looks in the world can’t save a gun that can’t shoot. Charge on!


Besides a couple issues regarding the JAKL’s gas system in early models, the one common complaint I heard in early models was a significant drop in accuracy once a suppressor was attached. It wasn’t a good look for a gun with so much potential as a suppressor host. So, how did my JAKL work out?

Palmetto State Armory JAKL
Gas adjustment knob

I started with six types of ammo, from 90-gr. supersonic rounds to 220-gr. subs. I shot groups with each ammo type, both suppressed and unsuppressed. I was happy to see my gun favor the Barnes 110-gr. T-TSX, my preferred hunting and home defense round.

Palmetto State Armory JAKL
The JAKL performed well with a wide variety of ammo.

Overall, the gun shot between 1MOA and 3MOA, not liking the Federal Fusion 150-gr. round that much for some reason. The smallest groups with each brand of ammunition came with the suppressor on, which is consistent with my results on every other AR platform rifle I’ve ever shot.

Palmetto State Armory JAKL
The design of the JAKL makes it a little front heavy, especially with a suppressor, but was barely noticeable when shooting.

I found the JAKL to be reliable, as long as the gas setting is correct. Federal Power Shok 120-gr. ran fine on one setting, but Barnes 110-gr. needed another notch opened up to function at peak performance. It’s important to know your ammo and which setting it likes, or to err on the side of excess and run one position further open than expected, unless you run into overgassing.

Running the JAKL through some CQB drills was enlightening. I figured the front heavy nature of the JAKL (especially with a suppressor) would stand out in a negative way, but it wasn’t a major detriment. It kind of feels like it’s already front heavy, so I might as well choose this gun to host my heaviest suppressor.

The balance stands out when I’m hefting it in the gun room or while hiking, but much less so at the range.  One could further balance the JAKL out by choosing a heavier stock/brace, but I didn’t mind it too much. I enjoy shooting the JAKL, off the bench, tripod or in some light run-n-gun drills. For a longer hunting hike, I’ll certainly be using a sling.

Adjusting the gas block is easy. The knob sticks out past the handguard and rotates easily, no tools needed. The .300 Blk version is six-position knob with a spring loaded detent preventing the knob from going into the disassembly position.

The piston-operated design means there’s a lot less carbon fouling coming back into the receiver. If you’re not running a suppressor, there’s a decent chance you haven’t run into serious fouling issues unless you’re a high-round count kind of shooter. With a can on, the backpressure means a lot more crap spewing into the receiver. Nearly every round I’ve shot through the JAKL has been suppressed. The receiver is not only clean-ish, but the original batch of lube I put on the rifle is still there, a testament to the lower operating temperature a pistol receiver experiences versus a DI receiver that has blazing hot jets of gas shot in again and again.

Palmetto State Armory JAKL
A couple hundred rounds of suppressed fire usually results in a lot more build-up

Recoil is lower than in comparable short-barreled AR rifles and pistols in .300 Blk. I’ve run about two dozen guns in this caliber, with barrels from 4.75 inches to 16 inches. Being able to dial down the gas so easily means the bolt carrier can be running at a significantly slower velocity, reducing recoil by a wide margin. It certainly beats my current favorite, a Noveske Ghetto Blaster, in the recoil department.

The big difference in the recoil impulse is that you have a heavier carrier group traveling much slower, versus a direct impingement AR with a lighter BCG traveling much faster.  The JAKL has a slow push, versus the quick snap a standard AR sends.

Also, the JAKL feels solid. A monolithic upper really makes this feel like a well-built gun.


I’m a fan of the charging handle, which is nonreciprocating and, as mentioned, is reversible. This is really the only ergonomic difference between the JAKL and any other mainline AR. With one hand you can easily bring the bolt back and lock it in place, negating the need for ambi-controls or a BAD lever style addition.  While the charging handle lacks a detent that would give you the “HK slap,” it is functional and ergonomic. A definite improvement over the standard AR platform charging handle location. There have been a few complaints about the charging handle hitting the front of its channel when it slams forward causing a minor cosmetic blemish. Mine is starting to show this. It’s pretty minor, though probably of concern to owners of “safe queens.”

Palmetto State Armory JAKL
Charging handle “damage” to the forend shown at the top of the channel.

Besides the weight of the JAKL (which is totally subjective, as any “hit the gym bro” will tell you), the only real downside for me right now is the limited aftermarket. Handguards are some of the most commonly customized parts on an AR. I’m not saying PSA’s handguard is a huge issue, but if it isn’t to your liking you don’t have many options. A magnesium forend from V Seven or Dark Hour Defense would be a great way to cut weight, but this gun will be a little “chonky” regardless.

Tech Specs

  • Operating system: Long-stroke piston with 6 gas settings (.300 Blackout), or 4 settings (5.56)
  • Trigger: PSA brand mil-spec
  • Caliber: .300 Blackout, 5.56mm available
  • Stock: None. JMAC Customs TM-8 (SBR) and PSA Triangle Brace available. Compatible with all 1913 stocks/braces.
  • Barrel: Nitride 4150V Chrome Moly Steel. Twist rate 1:8 in. (.300 Blackout), 1:7 in. (5.56)
  • Threads: 5/8×24 (.300 Blackout), 1/2×28 (5.56)
  • Muzzle device: A2 flash hider
  • Barrel length: 8.5 in. (.300 Blackout), 10.5 in. (5.56)
  • Overall length:  18.125 in. (from flash hider to rear of 1913 adaptor, no stock or brace since lengths vary)
  • Weight: 5lbs, 8oz
  • Price: $649.99 for the complete upper, $99.99 for the parts to convert a mil-spec lower to JAKL compatible.
  • Visit:

Ratings (out of Five Stars)

Accuracy * * * *

While not a precision rifle, my JAKL meets and exceeds the standard for guns in this price range.

Ergonomics * * * *

The front-heavy nature of the JAKL is the only real detriment. I’d like a bigger cut out around the bolt lock/release paddle to allow for more non-proprietary options. The charging handle is excellent. Earlier QC issues that others have run into seem to have been ironed out.

Reliability * * * * *

The caveat that comes with options is that you have choose the right one. When I run my JAKL on the right gas setting, it is not only reliable, it performs with even less recoil than a direct impingement AR.

Overall * * * *

Palmetto State Armory is working overtime on Research and Development.  In the time I’ve had this T&E gun, they’ve already offered more barrel lengths, handguard options and have announced a .308/7.62×51 version.  A bullpup lower has even been announced, using the lack of a buffer tube to convert the JAKL upper into a different category of gun. QC and engineering issues have been resolved pretty quickly, and look to be all but ironed out. If storage space is a concern, or if you feel like the piston system is the way of the future, or if you just want a SCAR/ACR at home, the JAKL is worth checking out.


For more articles and reviews by the author click on Jens “Rex Nanorum” Hammer or to follow him on social media visit @Rexnanorum.

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  1. I followed the link just now to purchase one immediately- but they don’t offer a 16″ 300 BLK complete JAKL rifle or upper. That’s odd.

    Hey PSA, make a 300 BLK carbine and I’ll buy one- if not, I guess I won’t be buying a JAKL. And that’d be a bummer.

    • Don’t those so-called glock switches come from china jr? I guess suing GLOCK© is easier for the intellectually challenged block club Chiraq than China🙄 I have no interest in this gat even when we make the trek east…

    • “Glock does not manufacture the switch, but the company hasn’t done anything to prevent the use of them on its guns, according to the lawsuit.”

      Neither has the government of Chicago/Illinois. :rofl:

  2. Finally, a AR15-ish rifle I can actually get somewhat excited about.
    Hopefully more and more will adopt this kind of gas piston design and the Stoner DI will fade away.

    • yeah because who wants a well balanced, mildly recoiling system that runs great with modern flow-through suppressors when you can have a front heavy gun with more recoil with the same ballistics but wow a folding stock.

      • Especially when a CMMG Dissent can offer the well balanced, mildly recoiling system AND a fully collapsing stock

      • Delta force ditched the Stoner DI for a gas piston rifle as soon as they were cleared to do so.
        The Marines M27 is a HK short stroke, gas piston rifle.
        The FN SCAR is a short stroke, gas piston rifle.
        The Sig Sauer which won the Army contract for a 10-year contract to produce the XM7 rifle, a gas piston rifle.
        Must be some reason for the military to be ditching the Stoner DI for gas piston rifles.

  3. T-Rex arms tested this gun and it hilariously fell apart and failed to run, with abnormal wear after only 5,000 rounds.

  4. Mine (5.56 in OD green) is a little finicky when suppressed, but I really like it.
    PSA is leading the way in firearms manufacturing. Produce what people want at a reasonable price and you will wildly succeed.

  5. It’s nice to see gunm companies mAKing gunms closer to the Kalashnikov design.
    Also I think a truck gunm should be a little bigger, trucks are hard to stop.
    All the ph truckbusters Ive talked to reccomend nothing smaller. then 416 Rigby.
    I got a nice Chevy while it was Fording a river last year.

  6. I see what you did there you rascal. This blaster looks pretty nice if only I could afford 5.56. Anybody wanna buy my old lady? Don’t cook or clean but dog damn she can snore!

  7. I bought a Palmetto State AR two or three years ago because it was a good price and seems well made for an AR. Figured I could use it for trade fodder if nothing else. I ended up giving it to my son when he moved to Tallahassee to use as a ready rifle. I told him his .308 Tavor was a bit heavy for use in a suburban middle class neighborhood. He keeps it loaded with 55 gr SP. I never fired it, but he says it is accurate and has had no malfunctions, but he usually only shoots a couple of hundred rounds at a time. That’s hardly a torture test, but he should be okay if the villagers show up on the front yard with torches and pitchforks.

    • Villagers on the lawn with pitchforks and torches. ???? I’ve seen your son and he looks nothing like Quasimodo

      • Possum, I was thinking of Frankenstein when I made the metaphor, or was it an analogy? I could never keep them straight.

  8. Bullets or Bitxhes, hmmmmm?
    Don’t cook, or clean.
    Nahh, but thanx anyway. Shiny brass over shiny ass any day, times are tuff.
    (And hey don’t get mad I could have said Cartridges or Cnts)

    • Debbie, you really are petty and vindictive and you should a ashamed of yourself. Possum called me a few minutes ago. He’s in the middle of a long drive and wanted to pass the time. He’s enroute to visit his vision impaired mother. She needs him to read some documents for her. You attack people when they don’t even address you.

  9. “ The handle can be switched from right- to left-handed if you’re weird.”
    Who’re you calling weird? You know you righties commit almost 90% of all base-rate errors, right?

    • SteamTroller:
      Admittedly, we righties do commit almost 90% of the errors. However:
      Lefties break the law anytime they speak out, pick up a gun, or even assemble together… because they have no rights.

  10. Not the least bit interested in wasting ammo trying to dail in soot flow by closing an opening that maybe .080″ or less. Get it the way you want it and 2 boxes of ammo later its back to screwing around. Folding stock no thanks, another rickety headache I do not want. If I ever go suppressed it will be when tax stamps are history and it’s on a bolt rifle.
    As for using PSA stuff my go to is Aero Precision for their M4E1 stripped upper receivers and their high tang M5E1.308 Receiver sets. PSA uses a proprietary lower tang .308 upper receiver that’s machined thin between the charge handle channel and rail notches…no can do.

  11. In it’s current state, does it do anything a BRN-180 doesn’t already do? I understand PSA has plans to expand caliber selection, etc. but the same could be said for Brownells and the BRN platform. Not all the plans panned-out well (9mm upper was discontinued, 7.62×39 upper had questionable reliability without work, and didn’t take AK mags without EXTENSIVE work).

    Not saying the JAKL isn’t a slick idea – just wondering if there’s a reason to own both. The BRN doesn’t require a change in the bolt catch and frankly, it surprised me by becoming one of my favorite range guns after I picked one up.

    • Obviously, worth mentioning the BRN is short-stroke… but typically that’s preferable due to reduced recoil (can’t cheat physics) and higher accuracy (subjective… not a hard/fast rule) than a long-stroke system.

    • Also, the RA XCR. Mine is an SBR in .300 BLK with A 9.5” bbl. Accurate and reliable suppressed or not. It’s a truck gun that, converted back to 5.56, I use in some carbine courses and some competition. Probably 6k rounds by now.

  12. I became a fan of PSA a few years back. Before that, I rarely even visited their site. But the word got around. Even the Haters are having a hard time getting anyone to listen to them anymore. Many have even reluctantly joined the PSA Fan Boys. It’s hard to ignore just how much they have improved over the years and what they have to offer the gun community.

    • BTW, the Jakl is a solid and accurate firearm after going through the break-in period. Guns with tight tolerances usually need a break-in period to loosen up to perform 100% and the Jakl is no different. I purchased the 10.5″ 556. I reload for it with many different bullet profiles and it’s been shooting 100% for me and doing it well.


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