Palmetto State Armory AR9 Lightweight Pistol Review [2022]: Low Price but High-Value

Looking for an affordable and lightweight AR-9 pistol? Look no further than the Palmetto State Armory AR9 Gen4....

pistols 9mm psa ar9 reviews
Palmetto State Armory AR9 Lightweight Pistol Review [2022]: Low Price but High-Value
ImageProductPrice
PSA Gen4 AR9Palmetto State Armory AR9 Gen4 PistolCheck Price

Introduction

The PSA AR9 was my first Palmetto State Armory firearm, and to be honest, I don’t see it being the last. As much as I love my AR-15s, I’ve been getting into the pistol arena more lately and am really enjoying it. 

The versatility that the compact size brings makes them ideal for home protection, and they are great fun at the range. With this specific pistol being chambered in 9mm, you have even less to worry about with potential over-penetration, and it’s much more affordable to shoot all day than its 5.56 counterpart.

I’ve been able to spend some time shooting, cleaning, and familiarizing myself with the PSA Gen4 10.5” Pistol, and I am excited to share my experience so far in this PSA AR9 review. 

Palmetto State Armory (PSA) AR-9 Pistol Review

PSA Gen4 AR9

Specifications

Caliber9mm
Capacity31 Rounds
Weight8.2 Pounds
Barrel Length10.5 Inches
Barrel Twist1:10 Twist Rate
Upper and Lower ReceiverForged 7075 T6 Aluminum
Bolt Carrier GroupGen 4 Hybrid 9mm
Muzzle Thread1/2 – 28
Muzzle DeviceBirdcage Flash Hider
Fire Control GroupSingle-Stage, Mil-Spec 
HandguardPSA 9” Lightweight M-Lok

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Low price point
  • Upgraded and custom furniture
  • Reliable with the right magazines
  • Lightweight but durable

Cons

  • ETS magazine is unreliable
  • No backup sights

Unboxing

Unboxings are still always exciting to me. They make you feel like you’re opening a present on Christmas morning. 

The box is one of the nicest I’ve seen in a while. Aside from the standard literature and lock, you’ll find the pistol itself and a 31-round clear Elite Tactical Systems (ETS) magazine. It doesn’t come with any sights or optics, so I added the optic you see below after getting it home. I didn’t expect to find anything else in the box, so I’d say expectations were met. 

Palmetto State Armory Gen4 10.5” 9mm
For what it’s worth, the Palmetto State Armory box is one of the nicest I’ve seen in a long time. Everything was nicely tucked away with egg crate foam holding it in place.

Features

At such an impressive price point, it’s nice to see the upgraded furniture and custom PSA parts. While you’ve probably seen some of the furniture on other guns, this AR-9 includes everything you need, plus more, such as the custom PSA lightweight handguard. 

Palmetto State Armory Gen4 10.5” 9mm
30+ round 9mm magazines call for a ton of ammo! These MTM Case-gard ammo cans and organizer are great keeping a lot of ammo organized ready to go.

Handguard

The pistol features a 9” lightweight M-Lok free-float handguard with a pretty unique rail. As you’ll notice in the photo below, there is a break in the rail about two-thirds of the way down the barrel, before it resumes at the end to allow for mounting backup sights if you want. 

I would assume it’s to reduce as much weight as possible, but it also creates an extremely comfortable place to grip. There is still plenty of space to mount your favorite optic or attach any M-Lok compatible accessories on the handguard. Overall, I really like this handguard and would even potentially upgrade to it if it were an option.

Palmetto State Armory Gen4 10.5” 9mm
The break in the top portion of the rail helps keep a comfortable grip and reduces weight slightly. You’ll also find plenty of M-Lok attachment points.

Pistol Brace

Probably one of the most popular pistol stabilizing braces on the market, the SB Tactical SBA3 is a great choice for this gun. It has five adjustable positions, an ambidextrous QD sling socket and is made in the USA. Its minimalist design helps to cut weight as well. It was a great option to go with the lightweight theme. I do prefer a slightly more robust cheek weld, though.

Palmetto State Armory Gen4 10.5” 9mm
The design may be minimalistic on the SBA3 pistol brace, but the features don’t leave you with the same feeling.

Grip

I despise the standard A2 pistol grip that comes on many of the budget rifles or pistols. It’s uncomfortable, unattractive, and non-value adding. There are honestly too many well-priced aftermarket grips that are so much better. I don’t see why any companies ever wouldn’t include a better one on their builds. Luckily, PSA must have agreed for this one. 

The Magpul MOE is one of those affordable grips that are super popular. It has a nice 25-degree grip angle and internal storage for your batteries or an extra couple of rounds. The texturing is average, allowing you to keep a solid grip in most conditions. 

Palmetto State Armory Gen4 10.5” 9mm
The classic Magpul MOE grip is one of the more popular that you’ll find on entry-level ARs or PCCs. I do love that it has the grip cap for storage potential.

Magazine

The 31-round Elite Tactical Systems magazine is by far my least favorite aspect of this setup. On a positive note, it’s not made by PSA, so you can’t really fault them per se. 

Every five to ten rounds or so, I would get a failure to eject or a round stuck in the feedlips of the magazine. Once I switched over to a Glock OEM mag or Amend2 mag, I literally did not have another failure. The capacity is nice, but useless if the mag keeps failing!

Palmetto State Armory Gen4 10.5” 9mm
From left to right: 31-round ETS mag, 15-round Glock mag and 34-round Amend2 mag. The ETS mag was the only mag that I experienced malfunctions with.

Controls

The only real basic aspect of the gun is some of the controls. You won’t get an ambidextrous safety or charging handle, but I wouldn’t expect it at this price point. Both of which I’ll likely upgrade eventually. 

The stock trigger is your standard single-stage, mil-spec version that you find on many entry-level AR-15s and pistol caliber carbines. The trigger pull is consistent and functions well enough to not need replacing.

Palmetto State Armory Gen4 10.5” 9mm
I wouldn’t expect ambidextrous controls at this price point, but an ambi-safety selector would have been much appreciated.

The magazine release, though, is wonderful. It’s placed perfectly and is very easy to manipulate. I like it better than many of the others found on even the most expensive pistol caliber carbines. It made practicing reloads very easy from the get-go. 

Palmetto State Armory Gen4 10.5” 9mm
The mag release is one of my favorite parts of the gun, due to how easy it is to manipulate.

Range Report: Reliability and Accuracy

Reliability

Reviewing AR-9s like this is always a blast when it comes to the range time…pun intended! I’ve quickly put 225 rounds through it, with very few issues. As I mentioned earlier, I experienced several failure-to-ejects and jammed magazines, but only with one specific magazine, which is why I still consider there to be only a “few issues”. 

The 31-round ETS mag that came with the gun wouldn’t go more than 10-rounds without having a round get stuck in the feed lips or causing a failure to eject. I made sure to test several different types of ammo as well, so I can confirm it wasn’t an ammo issue. Thankfully, we had plenty of ammo to also test the different magazines with, thanks to GunMag Warehouse, who helped stock us up right before the review. Once I switched over to Glock OEM mags and Amend2 mags, I literally did not have one more issue. 

Here is an example of how the ETS mag caused issues, while the Glock OEM and Amend2 mags did not. 

Accuracy

The 10.5” chrome-moly steel barrel features a 1:10 twist and is nitride treated for durability. Being a tad longer than a few of the other pistols I’ve shot recently, it seemed to make the accuracy all that much easier to attain. 

I decided to add my Swampfox Liberator II red dot sight and had no problems from three yards to 50 yards, and every distance in between. I have a range day coming up at my not-so-local 200-yard outdoor range, so I’m excited to see how far I can push the AR pistol.

Since it shipped without any sights, it’s hard to completely say how accurate the gun itself is, since optics play a huge part. However, since I’m used to the optic and know how well it can shoot, I felt the PSA AR-9 played its part in the accuracy just fine. 

Palmetto State Armory Gen4 10.5” 9mm
Shoutout to GunMag Warehouse for keeping us stocked up with ammo to make many of these reviews possible!

Accessories

ImageProductPrice
SB Tactical SBA3SB Tactical SBA3Check Price
SB Tactical SBA4SB Tactical SBA4Check Price
Swampfox Liberator IISwampfox Liberator IICheck Price
Sig Sauer Romeo5 Red Dot SightSig Sauer’s ROMEO5Check Price
Magpul Industries MBUS Gen 2 Flip-Up SightsMagpul MBUSCheck Price

Since the accessories can be a bit limited regarding pistols due to “legal” reasons, I’ll focus on braces, optics, and magazines. The PSA AR-9 already comes with one of my favorite braces, but doesn’t have any sights or optics. Let’s take a look at an alternative brace and some optics and mags to consider. 

Pistol Stabilizing Braces 

When it comes to stabilizing braces, I almost always stick with SB Tactical. They invented the original stabilizing brace and have rolled out several different models since. The SBA3 is great, but I prefer the aesthetic look of the SBA4, which is similar in features but doesn’t have the “minimalist” aspect. You still get the 5-position adjustability and ambidextrous QD sling socket. Both are very popular, and I have run them with no issues. 

Optics/Sights

This is where the options are seemingly endless, and personal preference plays a huge factor.

The one that I’ve been running is the Swampfox Liberator II. It features Shake n Wake motion sensing, a 2 MOA red or green dot, and is night vision compatible. Best of all, it retails for only $169 and is guaranteed to work for 50,000 rounds. While it may take me a very long time to reach that type of round count, I have no concerns that it will run for a long time. 

For an even more affordable option, check out Sig Sauer’s ROMEO5. It also features a 2 MOA red dot, motion-activated technology, and is night vision compatible. It’s IPX-7 rated and made in the USA.

Lastly, I’d recommend throwing on a set of flip-up backup sights. Magpul MBUS sights are always a good starting point from a price and performance perspective.

Magazines

Not all magazines are created equal, as you heard me complain about earlier in the article. If you want magazines that are almost “guaranteed” to run well, go and grab some Glock magazines. If you have another pistol caliber carbine, there is a good chance the Glock mags will work with it too. 

Alternatives

Ruger PC Carbine

Ruger PC Carbine

The Ruger PC Carbine is another extremely popular and relatively affordable option. There are probably a dozen different models, but if you opt for one similar to the PSA pistol, you’ll still get upgraded furniture, including a free-float M-Lok handguard and the ability to use Glock mags. You may find them a little heavier than the PSA lightweight models, but not to the point where it’s an issue. 

Sig Sauer MPX

Sig Sauer MPX

A high-end 9mm pistol that has become quite popular is the Sig Sauer MPX. It’s going to deliver all of the upgraded features, from a Timney MPX trigger to three chamber recoil-reducing compensator. However, it’s going to cost you. Depending on the model, you’ll be looking at two to three times the price of the PSA pistol. 

Final Thoughts

At this price point, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find another AR-9 pistol with the lightweight but quality features that this one does. I plan to continue putting many more rounds through it to test its longevity and durability, but I don’t feel like I’ll have an issue. Whether you’re looking for a new home defense gun or simply a fun range gun, I think you’d be pleased with the Palmetto State Armory 10.5” AR-9 pistol.

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Ryan Domke is a freelance writer, photographer and social media consultant with a passion for guns and tactical gear. He works with some of the largest manufacturers in the firearms industry, allowing him the opportunity to continuously learn from and knowledge share with the 2A community. When he’s not spending time with his family, you’ll likely find him at the range or starting a new DIY project.

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