Some of us gun enthusiasts like to have a little bit of everything when it comes to firearms. Take AR-15s, for example. They’re easy to shoot, easy to operate, and easy to customize.
Now, take a Venn diagram of AR-15 lovers and handgun pistoleros, intersect them, and you get pistol caliber carbines, more specifically 9mm pistol caliber carbines.
With a 9mm PCC, we get the best of both worlds. These guns offer the handling of rifles and the versatility of handguns, and that’s without mentioning how abundant and cheap 9mm boxes are.
If you’re looking for a reliable, easy-to-use pistol caliber carbine for your humble firearm collection, get a load of the Palmetto State Armory Gen4 AR-9.
Today, I’ll be doing a PSA AR9 review. We’ll take a good look at its main features, pros & cons, and I’ll also list some cool alternatives for it.
As the name suggests, the PSA AR9 is an AR-style carbine that utilizes the almighty 9mm caliber instead of the regular AR-15 .223/5.56.
It’s reliable, customizable, and flexible enough to be compatible with AR accessories, but is it really for you?
Let’s check it out.
Palmetto State Armory’s Idea Behind the AR9
The AR-15 rifle is the definite DIY in the firearms business. Every AR-15 fan’s brain lights up like a Christmas tree when it comes to building one, so it’s no wonder they’re jokingly called Lego sets for adults.
Pistol caliber carbines are very similar. You can buy full-sized ones, but it’s always fun to build one yourself as well. Maybe an Aero Precision EPC-9 Lower Receiver, some grips and stocks, a good barrel with the length of your choice, and off you go.
Palmetto State Armory is well known for its AR-15 uppers, lowers, stocks, and grips, and it’s the first go-to place for your DIY AR-15 needs.
They craft everything themselves and aim to rack up points in the 9mm carbine business with the out-of-the-box Palmetto State Armory AR-9, also known as the PSA PA9.
It’s a definitive AR-style 9mm pistol that functions like one, and for the price, this might be the best deal you can squeeze out of the ever-increasing pistol caliber market.
I’m guessing PSA placed the mag release on a lever to suit the lower receiver, and the slick handguard and M-LOK slots are milled for a more lightweight feel, but more on its build a bit later.
For now, let’s just say that the AR-9’s highlight is its Glock magazine compatibility, which opens up aftermarket choices even further.
PSA AR9 Review
Pros & Cons of the PSA AR9
- Exceptional value for a good price
- Simple yet durable construction
- Minimal recoil
- Accepts Glock mags and Colt SMG mags
- Good AR trigger and AR-style ergonomics
- Boatload of aftermarket accessories
- Easy to dismantle and customize with PSA AR-15 parts
- Finicky (timing the bolt with the spring and buffer is tricky for follow-up shooting)
- Loud when suppressed
- Bolt hold is prone to failure
- Not as compact as other PCCs
- Manufacturer: Palmetto State Armory
- Model: Lightweight M-LOK MOE EPT Shockwave Pistol
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Gas system: Blowback
- Action: Semi-automatic
- Capacity: 31-round capacity
- Muzzle thread: 1/2-36
- Twist rate: 1:10
- Trigger: PSA enhanced polished trigger (EPT)
- Safety: Standard MIL-SPEC AR-style safety lever; Magazine release
- Barrel length: 10.5 inches
- Grips: Black Magpul MOE pistol grip
- Construction: 4150V Chrome Moly Steel barrel A2 profile; Forged 7075 T6 receiver; PSA 9″ Lightweight M-Lok handguard; 8620 bolt steel
- Muzzle: Birdcage flash hider
- Accessories: Charging handle, 31-round ETC clear magazine
- Finishes: Nitride barrel finish; Hardcoat anodized receiver finish
Grips and Ergonomics
Like most budget options, this PSA AR9 model comes with a Magpul pistol grip, but it’s easy to remove and install, so you can always change it to your liking.
Holding the gun makes you think that it’s a bit hefty for a PCC. That said, the ergonomics feel alright, and the controls are placed similarly to that of an AR-15.
Keep in mind that this isn’t the rubberized magpul model. Personally, I prefer the rubberized Magpul model, but this one’s alright as well because it feels familiar to an AR-15.
You’ll find countless models with various stocks, receivers, bolt carrier groups, grips, and barrel lengths.
I haven’t had the chance to try them all out. They’re all PSA-built, just with different stocks, grips, BCGs, and barrels, but we’ll stick to the 10.5-inch version, which I think has the best accuracy.
Upper and Lower Receivers
In contrast to the rounded upper in AR rifles, the PSA AR9 has a flat Billet 6061-T6 upper, and the blocky build might be off-putting for some in terms of aesthetics. However, it’s hardcoat anodized and offers decent durability for a long time.
The part where the upper receiver meets the handguard isn’t exactly flush on this model, but the lower receiver is thick and has a solid design on the magwell.
The lower is a hard coat anodized with a 7075 T6 forged aluminum buffer tube, assembled from a Shockwave lower build kit. The standard A2 break and AR-15 charging handle is pretty basic stuff, but it’s alright for the price.
It’s carefully designed to accept 9mm Glock models like the Magpul PMAG GL9 models or the Glock-branded OEM magazines, but it doesn’t include a last-round bolt hold open.
Bolt Carrier Group
The bolt carrier group is a Gen4 Hybrid 9mm BCG with a Nitride-treated 8620 steel bolt.
This BCG is compatible with all kinds of aftermarket parts for fire control, but you can check out our list of best bolt carrier groups for more info.
The firing pin is enhanced with an external .223/5.56-style extractor, and the lower very much reminds one of a FAL rifle. I bet PSA wanted to make it unique to distinguish it from the competitor’s PCCs.
You’d be surprised how many folks just lubed up the bolt and got instant results. Speaking of, here are some of the best gun oils right here.
Safety and Magazine Well
The safety on the PSA AR9 is your standard mil-spec AR-style safety lever, and you can find it on the left side of the gun or on the right side if you pick an ambidextrous model.
The lever style mag release’s “see-saw” motion feels alright and has just enough retention for a Glock magazine. It’s large enough for my finger, but you can replace the safety via any standard AR-15 selector switch you can find on the market.
The magazine releases on standard PCCs are built differently because the mags need to be retained and stay put, whether you’re dealing with Glock or AKV mags. You’ll notice the difference in release, as some models have tighter retention than others.
The magazine well has a nice little flair for fast reloading and feeding, with thick walls and a smooth funnel when you’re switching empty mags. Expect smooth reloading every time.
The model PSA AR9 is a pistol configuration with a KAK Shockwave Blade. You also have the SBA3 version as well if you feel that the stock doesn’t cut it for you.
If you’re looking for a smaller stock and convert this PCC into an SBR (short-barreled rifle), put a Form 1 stock on it and call it a day. Besides that, the KAK Shockwave feels alright on my shoulder.
That being said, make sure you’re well acquainted with your state’s laws on short-barreled rifles, so check your ATF Form 1 details before you do any of this stuff.
Ultimately, shooting the PSA AR9 was just right for me, and the recoil and A2 muzzle rise was minimal for a PCC.
Expect more kicking on the 8-inch version and even more on the 4-inch SBR, which is a feisty little monster to control.
The 10.5-inch barrel version of the PSA AR9 has a chrome moly-steel construction with a 1/10 twist rate, and it’s also nitride-treated for durability.
The M-LOK free-float rail and bird cage A2 flash hider works well for me, but you can also go for the 8-inch model with an SBA3 stock.
Trigger and Ammo Recommendation
The stock trigger is a bit stiff, but it felt a bit smoother after some breaking in. The AR9 has impeccable accuracy that can reach 100 yards, all thanks to the blowback system that sends the 9mm bullets flying. You don’t see that in many pistol-caliber carbines.
I shot around 800 rounds with all kinds of ammo boxes, and I didn’t mind the MOA groups much, but there were like 2-3 misfires and feed failures in 800 rounds. Nothing too serious.
For self-defense, go for hollow-point bullets, but I wouldn’t go as far for this. PCCs are not exactly your best bet for home defense or self-defense.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the PSA AR9 pistol caliber carbine.
Is the PSA AR9 Good for Self-Defense?
While the PSA AR9 is a very customizable and flexible AR-style pistol carbine, most PCCs aren’t viable for self-defense or home defense.
Generally, 9mm pistol caliber carbines are prone to misfires and feeding failures, so I wouldn’t recommend it for self-defense.
However, it’s a great pistol-caliber carbine for a decent price, and you can’t find many out-of-the-box, ready-made PCCs on the market today.
Does the PSA AR9 Accept Glock Magazines?
Yes, the PSA AR9 accepts Glock mags as well as Colt mags.
Specifically, the Magpul PMAG GL9 models and the Glock-branded OEM magazines are very affordable and super easy to find.
Will 9mm Uppers Work With a Standard AR Lower With Mag Block?
You can assemble PSA’s 9mm rifle kit on a lower with a mag well block.
For example, an Anderson lower might work, but it might need a ramped bolt carrier. You don’t have to add a PSA-specific lower.
Can I Use a Different Brand Upper With a PSA Lower?
If you want to use an upper from a different brand like, let’s say a 1/2-28 threaded barrel Ballistic Advantage 5.5-inch, you must take into consideration if the PSA lower is compatible.
PSA advises that their hybrid upper isn’t compatible with most lowers, but if you want to stick a different upper, make sure you use a Hybrid BCG with a cut slot on the underside for the ejector.
For example, a Spinta Precision blem BCG works well with a PSA Colt 9mm lower, but it’s a tight fit, so it needs cutting and lubing. You also need to know if the muzzle needs rethreading.
Consult with your local gunsmith for this.
What Do Others Have to Say?
Here are some interesting testimonials and review snippets from customers that bought the PSA AR9.
Alternatives to the PSA AR9
Here are some alternative pistol caliber carbines that are similar to the PSA AR9.
If you’re serious about 9mm pistol caliber carbines, the Sig Sauer MPX K AR Pistol offers the ultimate in shootability. 9mm PCCs are known to misfire, so expect unmatched reliability and performance with the god-tier SIG MPX K.
It has completely ambidextrous controls, a fully closed and locked rotating bolt, and a short-stroke gas piston that can run any 9mm ammo box you feed it.
The full-length picatinny rail allows you to mount any optics and lasers you please, and the 4.5-inch barrel and aluminum KeyMod handguard with hand stop are ergonomic enough for anyone.
It’s a serious weapon with a serious price, but it suppresses really well with the delayed blowback, and I bet you won’t find any 9mm pistol carbine with a smoother recoil.
Here’s a people’s favorite. The CZ Scorpion EVO3 S1 Carbine is an extremely versatile Czech 9mm pistol caliber carbine with a 20-round capacity, 6.1-pound weight, and a cold hammer-forged barrel for close-quarter combat.
The black polymer folding and adjustable stock, adjustable trigger system, adjustable sights, and forend with M-LOK attachment points make it a highly customizable machine.
I personally love the double-stack magazine and how easy it is to reload. With your purchase, you’ll receive a compensating muzzle brake or a faux suppressor.
It has a heavy trigger pull, but best believe it’ll serve you for a long time.
The CMMG line of calibers and rifles are famous for their competition-grade quality, and the Banshee is a fantastic 9mm PCC with a high-quality build and features.
The Banshee has unique, state-of-the-art engineering and a radial delayed system that significantly lowers recoil and doesn’t require bolts, buffers, or recoil springs like ordinary PCCs.
Compatible with Glock mags, it’s a lightweight powerhouse that can eat 115- to 180-grain bullets with ease, and it offers rapid follow-up shots.
It’s a high-end option, and the parts are really difficult to find and build, but the CMMG Banshee is one of the best 9mm pistol caliber carbines money can buy.
Conclusion – A Very Affordable 9mm PCC That Effortlessly Mimics the Essence of an AR-15 Rifle
If you’re new to AR-style pistols, this one should be your first choice because the value it offers can’t be beat.
The reliability drawbacks are there, but knowing how to fix them, and how to prevent them with aftermarket options is part of the PCC package. For some, merely installing a new trigger makes a world of difference.
All things considered, this is one of the rare pistol caliber carbines with a great price. It’s really hard to find already built ones that shoot straight out of the box and actually work.
Would I recommend the Palmetto State Armory AR-9? Absolutely.
Would I recommend it for self-defense? Definitely not.
Most pistol caliber carbines are not optimized to run smoothly without misfires and feeding failures. Though failures happen once in a while, “once in a while” is definitely not the chance you should be taking when self-defense is in question.
Just remember to keep the bolt lubed at all times, and you’ll have lots of fun with this one, I promise.
Stay safe, and shoot straight.
Hi there, I'm Brady and I'm the owner of GunMade.com. I have been an avid gun enthusiast and hunter since I moved to the Midwest over 15 years ago. It's my passion to share my knowledge and expertise to help you find the best guns in your price range.