Palmetto State Armory (PSA) has made a name for itself in the firearms community by providing quality firearms at affordable prices. Despite those lower price points, PSA’s AR-15s and AK-47s are solid performers that allow more people to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
PSA is not content with only manufacturing those two platforms, though. It has sought to expand that line-up to ensure an offering can meet the needs of as many shooters as possible; enter the PSA AK-74.
PSA AK-74 Review
Before we talk about the specifics of the PSA AK-74, a brief discussion of the AK-74 is in order to help you understand why you would want an AK chambered in 5.45×39 instead of 7.62×39.
The design of the 5.45×39 bullet made it one of the most effective lightweight, high-velocity cartridges in service with the world’s militaries. It has several advantages over the 7.62×39. Compared to 7.62×39, 5.45×39 is more accurate, has better range, and is lighter, allowing the average infantryman to carry a larger ammo load.
The bullet for the 5.45×39 cartridge is designed with an air pocket in the nose and a lead plug crimped into the bullet’s base. The lead plug, combined with the air space in the nose, shifts the bullet’s center of gravity rearward. When hitting a target, the crumbling effect of the air cavity, combined with the rear center of gravity, means that 5.45 projectiles yaw and tumble on contact with the target. The results are devastating for whomever or whatever is shot.
To fire this new cartridge, renowned firearms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov adapted the AK-47/AKM rifle, and the result was the AK-74.
Looking at the functionality of the AK-74 and comparing it to the AK-47, they are very similar firearms. Roughly half the parts are interchangeable. The firing and reloading operations are identical. If you are familiar with an AK-47, you can operate an AK-74.
As mentioned, the PSA AK-74 is part of Palmetto State Armory’s growing stable of firearms that bring quality American-built guns to the general public. Not everyone in America owns a gun, but Palmetto State Armory is working to solve that problem. The PSA AK-74 is a prime example of how PSA keeps its offerings affordable without sacrificing quality.
Looking at it, it has the classic lines of an AK-style rifle. On the left side of the receiver is the attachment rail for an optic rail like the RS Regulate rail.
The magazines have the right amount of snugness to not be wobbly but not too tight to make insertion overly difficult. In addition, the folding stock is solid and locks up well.
|Barrel Length||16.3 inches|
|Barrel Twist Rate||1:6.5|
|Thread Pitch||M24x1.5 RH|
|Sights||Adjustable traditional front post with 1,000 Rear Sight leaf|
Pros & Cons
- Shoots the effective cartridge 5.45×39
- Light recoiling AK platform
- PSA is a reputable company with quality customer support
- Lots of aftermarket support
- Easy to maintain
- Expensive ammunition
- Can be picky with magazines
- Early versions have reported quality control issues
The PSA AK-74 is an enjoyable gun to shoot. Like the 5.56 cartridge, the 5.45 cartridge is a very light shooting cartridge, and it is possible to go to the range and shoot all day with minimal fatigue.
Before I get into the reliability, I did want to note that the magazines I have used with my PSA AK-74 have been mostly foreign-made. I like a quality magazine with metal locking hardware and not polymer. Magazines with polymer locking hardware tend to wear out over time with AK-style rifles, and that is something I didn’t want to deal with.
Admittedly, I have not put the 2000+ round counts some have with their AK-74, but I can only speak from personal experience, and mine has been solid. Since owning the gun, I have shot around 250 rounds through it, and so far, the rifle has been one hundred percent reliable.
I wish I had fired more rounds with the rifle, but I have experienced one of the most significant negatives of rifles chambered in 5.45×39…ammunition availability and prices. When I bought my first rifle chambered in 5.45×39, a Tantal-style rifle, the ammo was cheap and plentiful. After a few presidential elections and a war in Ukraine, you are now looking at prices approaching $0.75 per round.
The PSA AK-74s with issues are those with higher round counts and earlier serial numbers. At this point, PSA has been producing AK-74s for several years, so I expect anyone purchasing a PSA AK-74 in 2023 or later to have zero issues with their rifle.
In the unfortunate circumstance that you do, Palmetto State Armory customer service will take care of you. I know people who have had issues with their high round count AK-74s, and PSA sent them a brand-new rifle.
I will be the first to admit that my eyesight is not what it used to be. While I am not old by any means, my eyes are starting to dislike using the iron sights on many rifles.
The sights on the PSA AK-74 are perfectly serviceable, and I was able to adjust them easily using an AK sight tool; however, I just wasn’t able to make the rifle produce great groupings. I would call my results with the rifle completely functional for a battle rifle, though.
Eventually, I will break down and buy a rail and red dot to put on the rifle, at which point my accuracy results should improve dramatically. But, that is more money spent on a rifle that I don’t shoot that often because the price of the ammunition to feed it is not as affordable as 5.56 or .22LR.
The overall feel of the rifle is excellent. The PSA AK-74 has the classic AK controls that help make the AK-47/AKM and AK-74 so iconic. When shooting the PSA AK-74, you will notice that it feels like a quality rifle and something you could carry for long periods of time and effectively use if the need ever arose.
The folding stock on the PSA AK-74, assuming you decide you want a model with a folding stock, is excellent for reducing the footprint of the rifle.
The rifle’s recoil is light enough that you could shoot the rifle with the stock folded, but I can’t think of many instances where you would want to. The stock is solid when in the locked-out position, and I never once worried it would come unlocked or felt it was wobbly.
The PSA AK-74 has the classic AK-74 muzzle brake. This break looks excellent and really adds to the aesthetics of the rifle. The break isn’t all-looks, either.
It functions very well and helps control muzzle rise on the rifle. Combining the quality break with the already light recoiling of the 5.45 cartridge, you have a very easy rifle to have quick and accurate follow-up shots with.
One of my biggest complaints regarding AK-style rifles is the safety selector. It is not easy to operate and requires the user to completely remove either hand from the pistol grip to actuate it.
PSA has sought to eliminate some of the frustration of using the AK-74 safety selector by adding a second shelf to it to make using the selector more functional and less of a hindrance.
How We Tested
I tested the PSA AK-74 at my local outdoor range, Trinity Armory. I could not do any sort of moving and shooting drills with the rifle and shot exclusively from the bench. Under these circumstances, the rifle was fun to shoot and functioned well.
This rifle would shine in an environment more closely aligned to real-world situations. Being able to move and shoot, using the rifle where the light recoil helps keep your sights on the target, would help demonstrate the rifle’s best features. Next time!
For the review, I shot Silver Bear 65-grain 5.45×39 ammunition. This ammo is imported from Russia, and if it hasn’t already been banned from import, I would expect it to be soon.
It is still possible to find new 5.45×39 ammo on the market, though other manufacturers are stepping in to meet the market’s needs. Palmetto State Armory is also tooling up to produce ammunition, but it all takes time.
My AK-74 is a solid 10/10.
The rifle is still an AK. The safety is not an AR-style safety. Some quirky things about the rifle are both endearing and frustrating, like getting the magazines to fit and lock up immediately. The rifle is good for the most part.
Palmetto State Armory has worked hard to build an ecosystem for its rifles, and the PSA AK-74 is no exception. There are lots of parts you can buy for your rifle that are made by PSA. There is also a large number of aftermarket parts available for purchase. If you want to make changes to your PSA AK-74, you can.
The PSA-74 is a good-looking rifle, but it isn’t perfect. I personally find some of their 100 series rifles to be more visually pleasing, but everyone has their own preferences. The rifle looks fine and shoots better.
The value here is a 10/10 as long as you exclude the price of ammo. The PSA AK-74 is basically the only player in town. PSA could charge significantly more for the gun, but they don’t. That makes further makes it a 10/10 in my book.
I discussed putting an optic on the PSA-74 when discussing the rifle earlier. The Texas Weapon Systems Dog Leg Rail is one of the ways that you can put an optic on your rifle without impeding its functionality.
One of the downsides of other types of rails for AK-style rifles is they prevent the dust cover from being removed without first removing the rail and, therefore, the optic as well. Texas Weapon Systems has come up with a way to merge the rail and dust cover into a single unit and make maintenance of your rifle.
RS Regulate is one of, if not the best, manufacturers of rails for the AK platform for the American firearms market. A quick perusal of firearms forums and websites will reveal testimonial after testimonial to the quality of RS Regulate products. This is the gold standard if you want to attach an optic of any type to your AK-style rifle.
There are plenty of options for putting an optic on your AK-74. The Vortex Strike Eagle is just one of those options. I like Low Power Variable Optics like the Strike Eagle and feel they are a perfect fit for a rifle like the AK-74.
This isn’t to say this is the only option, and a simple red dot like the Sig Romeo 5 would be a great choice too. Pick one you like and train with it.
The high price and shortage of 5.45×39 on the market in the United States has helped to lead to a rise in AK-style rifles chambered in 5.56. The soft recoiling characteristics and the cartridge’s inherent accuracy have combined well with the AK platform to create excellent rifles.
The WBP Jack is a popular rifle for these very reasons. WBP, out of Poland, is known for creating high-quality, highly sought-after firearms. Anyone looking for an AK-style rifle that is in a high-velocity intermediate cartridge but doesn’t have to have to be a 5.45 should check out the WPB Jack
Riley Defense is one of the few manufacturers in the United States making AK-74 rifles. The Riley Defense AK-74 has a mixed reputation in the AK community, with some people saying your money is better spent on a PSA AK and others saying that the Riley Defense AKs are good rifles. If you are considering an AK-74, give the Riley Defense AK a look and decide for yourself if it is the right rifle for you.
The 100 series rifles produced by PSA are the main competitors in 5.45 to the PSA AK-74 in the current market. These rifles follow the AK-100 or Century series rifles that were designed to be exported from Russia. Many of these rifles come with M-Lok handguards and rails already attached to the rifle. The AK-100 series from Palmetto State Armory is also available as pistols if you want to make your AK a short-barreled rifle.
Like the WBP Jack, the Zastava M90 brings you an AK-style rifle chambered to fire 5.56×45. Zastava is well known in the AK community for its quality AK-47 clone, the Zastava ZPAP M70.
The M90 is another quality rifle made by Zastava to meet the demand for AK-style rifles in the American firearms market and is a rifle that you should check out.
I really like the PSA AK-74. The way it shoots and feels in my hands is great. The light recoil, solid feel, and easy-to-point nature of the rifle are precisely what I was looking for. Unfortunately, the price of the ammunition on the market in 2023 will limit the usefulness of the rifle for some shooters.
If the price of ammunition isn’t a cause for concern for you, then I highly recommend you grab a Palmetto State Armory AK-74. I feel that the ammunition situation will also improve once 2024 rolls around and more companies begin to manufacture ammunition in 5.45×39.
If you are in the market for an AK that is reliable, functional, a good value, and just plain cool, give the PSA AK-74 a look.
What do you all think of the AK-74 platform? Do you have questions about one or any AK-style rifle? Drop your thoughts or questions in the comments!