Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

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Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby manithree » Sat 13 Jun 2015 9:01 pm

My first AR-15 rifle came from Palmetto State Armory. I just put the upper on the lower and started shooting it. It's been flawless, and I've gained a real appreciation for the AR platform, and PSA's value proposition.

Since I love that rifle, when the need (seriously) arose for a longer barrel pistol, I decided on a PSA kit. For tapatalk users who don't see links, that's a 10.5 chromoly barrel in a complete upper with bcg, and free-float quad-rail, plus the 9mm magazine block and lower parts kit. I found a second-hand brand new Tegra lower locally and put it all together.

The trigger is surprisingly good for a cheap AR trigger. It's still heavy but wasn't as gritty as my first PSA trigger started out. I don't love the quad rail, but it works. I added a SIG SBX brace, and after handling and dry-firing the (so-far) final product, I was impressed. It doesn't feel like a pistol, but I like the way it feels. It feels nimble compared to a carbine, and I'm excited about its potential for HD.

The original need for this pistol is for use in a science project. But if it works out, I love the idea of a suppressed hi-capacity pistol spitting subsonic 147gr weapons of mass defense. I should be able to do the whole infuriating NFA process within a year, maybe two.

Plus, it's purty:
PSAR9-small.jpg
PSAR9-small.jpg (208.26 KiB) Viewed 16596 times

Unfortunately, the luster of my PSA fanboy fervor was tarnished at the range tonight. Using a ProMag polymer and an IWI Tavor steel magazine, I think our record was 5 rounds in a row once or twice without a failure. It's a jam-o-matic.

The round would catch and not chamber. Like this:
FTF-small.jpg
FTF-small.jpg (100.27 KiB) Viewed 16596 times


One of the rounds (I didn't look at all the ones that initially failed to feed) was obviously bent out of shape about it's lack of performance:
DamagedCartridge.jpg
DamagedCartridge.jpg (109.31 KiB) Viewed 16596 times

I've sent an e-mail to PSA customer service. I didn't use their lower, or their magazines, so I don't know if they'll help me. But I'll update when they respond.

Since the IWI steel magazine was drastically worse than the the polymer mag, it could just be a magazine problem. If PSA's advice is to buy one of their magazines (they're only $27), that'll be my next step.

In spite of the current problems, it was fun to shoot because it is so easy to fire accurately. At 15 yards, a 10 round 2" group was easy. If I was trying to shoot it accurately, and not just swearing and clearing jams, I suspect I could do even better. I'm still hoping there's an easy fix for the issues I've seen so far. I really want to like this pistol.

Forgot to mention this, but the ammo used on this range trip was Federal 115gr FMJ.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby Snurd » Sun 14 Jun 2015 6:14 am

When it comes to magazines, I have found that Promag is the biggest suck that ever sucked. I had a Sig P229 and wanted a couple extra mags, so I went the cheap route and bought those instead of factory mags. Massive mistake.

These were the steel version, not polymer, but the problem was quite easy to spot. I had only inserted the magazines into the gun maybe ten times each. I was shooting at the range and the failure began. This was the first time I went to the range and used them. I loaded up the mag, inserted it, chambered a round, fired at the target, and the magazine fell to the ground. No, I didn't hit the mag release. I was shocked. I tried it again, and the magazine fell out. The hole in the magazine that the magazine release holds on to was totally bent. It wouldn't stay in the gun. I threw them away and have never used them since.

My advice is to use those Promags as your next target.

By the way, nice review! I wouldn't mind getting a 9mm AR someday. They would be a fun little suppressed goody to have.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby manithree » Sun 14 Jun 2015 7:41 am

Snurd wrote:When it comes to magazines, I have found that Promag is the biggest suck that ever sucked.


Don't hold back, Snurd, let me know what you really think :D.

I bought the Promags because I could get them locally, they were inexpensive, and from what I could find on THR and arf.com people had fewer problems with those than the PSA mags. As recently as January, multiple people were modifying the PSA mags to get them to work.

The Promag and the IWI lock in and release just fine. They're both a little tight to drop free (I have to pull them out), but they're already starting to loosen up after very little use.

Actually, I thought my kit would include a magazine, and didn't realize until after the order arrived that the kit that included the mag was the out-of-stock one, not the one I had ordered. So I decided to go with what Gunnies had instead of ordering from PSA and waiting again. I hear if you complete an AR kit and don't take it to the range for 2 weeks, any 15 year-old sons you have might suffer irreparable damage.

Snurd wrote:By the way, nice review! I wouldn't mind getting a 9mm AR someday. They would be a fun little suppressed goody to have.


Thanks!
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby MarshallDodge » Tue 16 Jun 2015 2:53 pm

Will the AR feed ammo reliably when cycled by hand?
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby dewittdj » Tue 16 Jun 2015 8:01 pm

My first guess would be that the tolerances on the products from three different manufacturers (PSA + Tegra + ProMag) are loose enough that there is an alignment problem between the round in the top of the mag, the position of the mag with respect to the lower and/or upper, the distance of the rear of the mag from the path of the forward moving bolt, and, finally, the distance between the nose of the round and the feed ramp/breech/chamber entry point. A slight deviation from the exact center line of the engineered path of the round as it gets feed from the mag is all it takes to create the scenario that you've described.

Anyone have a complete PSA AR-9 setup? Similar problems?

I've seen dozens of AR-9's at the WSA range over the past couple of years and have never seen one experiencing the problems that you describe.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby dewittdj » Tue 16 Jun 2015 8:02 pm

MarshallDodge wrote:Will the AR feed ammo reliably when cycled by hand?

If it does, then you may have a timing or a spring(s) tension issue.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby manithree » Wed 17 Jun 2015 9:48 am

MarshallDodge wrote:Will the AR feed ammo reliably when cycled by hand?


Dunno. I'll try that tonight.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby manithree » Wed 17 Jun 2015 11:51 am

I got a response from PSA CS today:

Good afternoon,

If you'd like to send the upper receiver and BCG to our rifle division, we can have the issue repaired and your upper re-shipped as soon as possible. Please let us know if that would suffice.​

Thank you,

Customer Service
Palmetto State Armory


That's nice of them (I think), but I'm not convinced yet that the upper is the problem. Or not convinced enough that I want to ship it back.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby manithree » Thu 18 Jun 2015 9:03 pm

MarshallDodge wrote:Will the AR feed ammo reliably when cycled by hand?


I could not reproduce the feeding issue cycling it by hand. So, yes, apparently it does feed reliably when cycled by hand.

What would you more experienced AR tuners do at this point? I suspect PSA will just get my upper, function check it, and send it back to me. That's the only part that they assembled for me, so I suspect that's what their willing to warranty. It seems likely to be a waste of time.

But I did order one of their metalform magazines. As soon as I get it, I'll probably head to the range again.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby MarshallDodge » Fri 19 Jun 2015 11:14 pm

Will the bolt lock back on the last round? Put one round in the mag and load the gun Shoot and see if it will lock back.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby manithree » Sat 20 Jun 2015 7:29 am

MarshallDodge wrote:Will the bolt lock back on the last round? Put one round in the mag and load the gun Shoot and see if it will lock back.

Yeah, it locked back at least once at our first range session. I don't think we actually emptied the magazine much more than that.

I don't know if it matters, but it locked back when I was manually cycling it. With the steel IWI mag and the ProMag.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby MarshallDodge » Sat 20 Jun 2015 8:58 am

What I am trying to figure out is how far back the bolt cycles when the gun fires. If it isn't coming back far enough then the loads are too light or the buffer is too heavy. I would try the lock back test 4-5 times just to be sure.

Also, make sure the hammer in the lower parts kit is compatible with the 9mm upper.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby dewittdj » Sat 20 Jun 2015 9:54 am

Most problems are caused by either an ammunition malfunction or a firearm malfunction or, rarely, both at the same time. In your case it is still unclear as to which may be the culprit.

A gun stoppage, similar to the symptoms that you describe is an interruption in the cycle of operation of a gun, which stops the gun from operating properly.
Stoppages can be cleared quickly, returning the firearm back to a fully operational condition. Some examples of stoppages are:
The bolt fails to lock a cartridge into position.
A stove-pipe in a semi-automatic pistol.
Double-feed.

The most common cycles of operation are:
1. Feeding
2. Chambering
3. Locking
4. Firing
5. Unlocking
6. Extracting
7. Ejecting
8. Cocking

A firearm malfunction is the failure of a gun to function as designed or fire satisfactorily.
Gun malfunctions require the gun to be repaired to make it function properly.
Example: A broken sear that causes the rifle to fire all rounds in the magazine.

Kirk is trying to help you troubleshoot by taking you through one of the steps in the cycle of operation.

Here's an animation (AR-15 platform) that enables you to make the various parts visible or hidden in order to see what is happening (mechanically) during the sequence of operation.
http://www.bushmaster.com/anatomy_bushmaster.asp

If the bolt is not traveling far enough backward, due to the issues that Kirk brought up, then solving those issues may return the gun to a fully operational status. That's provided the problem is not a compound problem (several issues affecting the performance at the same time).
Last edited by dewittdj on Sun 21 Jun 2015 10:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby manithree » Sat 20 Jun 2015 11:12 am

MarshallDodge wrote:What I am trying to figure out is how far back the bolt cycles when the gun fires. If it isn't coming back far enough then the loads are too light or the buffer is too heavy. I would try the lock back test 4-5 times just to be sure.


Ah, I see. I'll do that. I think I can get to the woods this week.

MarshallDodge wrote:Also, make sure the hammer in the lower parts kit is compatible with the 9mm upper.


I bought the complete upper and lower parts as one kit, hoping to avoid figuring out all that myself, since this is my first 9mm AR. The hammer looks just like my 5.56 hammer (no notches). My buffer looks like this one. It says 'PA-9' and weighs a ton.

Is there anything specific I should look for on the hammer? PSA's complete lower says it includes an "Un-notched Hammer compatible with 9mm use" so I don't know how or if it's different than a 5.56 hammer. I don't see a separate 9mm hammer in their inventory, so I'm not sure how I would tell if they sent me the wrong thing.

I didn't chronograph anything, so I don't know if the Federal ammo I was shooting is light or not. They are 115 gr projectiles. I think I have a box of Freedom Munitions I can try, but they're 115 gr also. My 9mm re-loads are as light as I can get to cycle my CZs, so I probably won't bother with those.

I'm just trying to think of everything I can try on my next range trip. I'll bring my chronograph and see what kind of speed I'm getting. I'm curious what the 10.5 barrel does for me, anyway.
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Re: Palmetto State Armory AR-9 initial review

Postby MarshallDodge » Sun 28 Jun 2015 9:38 pm

Kirk
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