Review: PSA KS47

After a long journey to build my own Palmetto State Armory KS47, piece by piece, I finally have a fully functioning gun. It took some patience, creativity, and innovation to get the gun where I wanted it, but I’ve achieved victory… Right? Let’s explore, shall we?

Screenshot_20170630-091657

Built upon a foundation established by Rock River Arms, CMMG, and MGI, the PSA KS47 is definitely not the first hombre to saddle up in the AK-mag-AR rodeo. It might be, however, the most affordable choice of the lot. I’ve seen the PSA KS47 ‘Classic Carbine‘ on sale in June of 2017 for $699.99. Considering the closest alternative would be the LAR-47 CAR A4 at $1270.00, the KS47 is just a bit over half of the price of its nearest competitor. But, what exactly are you getting for your hard earned coin?

Firearm: Palmetto State Armory KS47
Caliber: 7.62x39mm
Barrel Length: Carbine
Gas system: Carbine or Mid-length (depends on model)
Base Price: $699.99 (from PSA at the time of this review’s conception)

The gun used in this review is a home-assembled gun with the following features:
– Osprey Defense OPS-416 carbine length short-stroke piston system (bolt carrier modified)
– Ghetto post-ban Olympic Arms barrel
– Apex Machining Gator Grips free-float hand guard
– Bushnell TRS25 red dot with ghetto-rigged risers for mount
– Ruger Elite 452 trigger (it’s really not great, but not bad)
– Devil Dog Concepts Hard Charger (modified to work with billet upper)

If you are interesting in reading about my build, you can find it here.

The Palmetto State Armory KS47 is a hybrid weapon system (ooh, that’s tactical). It’s an AR-15 chambered in 7.62x39mm, but feeds from the venerable AK-47 magazine… Well, it’s not a true hybrid, in that it’s still a direct impingement gun that’s forced into feeding from AK-47 magazines, so I suppose it’s more like a… ‘Trans-Platform’… weapon system?… Anyway, there are four parts that separate the KS47 from a standard AR-15:

  1. A lower that accepts AK-47 pattern magazines
  2. An upper with the proper clearance for AK-47 pattern magazines
  3. A bolt carrier with the proper clearance for AK-47 pattern magazines
  4. An AK-47 magazine

That’s it. All other parts are standard AR-15 parts. BE STILL, MY SOUL! That means that standard buffer tubes, lower parts, triggers, furniture, sights, optics, charging handles, etc fit in the gun (ooh, that’s practical)! The only exception to that statement is that some one-piece drop-in triggers (like CMC, Timney, POF, etc) might need to be modified to allow clearance for the magazine catch spring that intrudes ever so slightly into the trigger area. Standard two-piece triggers will not need modification.

When shooting the KS47, it’s just like shooting an AR-15, except there is a slightly different manual of arms. AK-47s don’t have an internal mechanism to hold the bolt open on an empty magazine, nor do their magazines employ any means of tripping such a mechanism. Thus, the KS47 does not have a bolt catch. While that sounds like a fairly simple omission, it considerably changes the way you run the gun.

First, when you run empty on a standard AR-15, the bolt hold open function gives you physical feedback when the bolt locks to the rear on the empty magazine. Unlike the rest of the magazine, the recoil impulse is different on the last shot, giving you a tactile indicator that tells you ‘I’m out, feed me’. Since the KS47 doesn’t have the bolt hold open feature, that tactile indicator isn’t there. You won’t know you are dry unless you:

A) Are a freak and actually count your rounds; or
B) Squeeze the trigger and the hammer falls on an empty chamber.

This segues into the second difference: On a standard AR-15, you would normally dump the spent magazine with the push of a button, insert a new magazine, and release the bolt stop to chamber a round. With the KS47, however, once you swap the empty magazine for a new magazine, you have no choice but to rack the charging handle to load the weapon. This added task makes for a slower reload sequence than a standard AR-15.

There is one positive about the KS47s reload sequence, however. You can flick magazines out of the gun. Have you ever flicked a magazine out of a gun? I REALLY like flicking magazines out of guns. Sure, you can do a tacticool mag flip with a standard AR-15, but there is something deep and visceral about using your thumb to flick out an empty magazine. Even more so if you’ve got a fresh mag in your hand already, and load it quickly into the gun. I could do that all day.

KS47 Flick Reload Gif
Seriously, I could do this all day!

Speaking of locking magazines in, unlike a standard AR-15, when you lock a magazine into a KS47, it is solid and confident. How so, you ask? Well, if you’ve ever shoved a fully loaded AR magazine into a standard AR-15 on a closed bolt, you are well aware of the precarious feeling you get the moment you let go of that magazine. You know… the, “Is this magazine actually locked in, or will it fall out?” feeling. Why do you get that feeling? Because you’ve done it before. You’ve gone to the range, inserted a magazine into your beloved AR on a closed bolt, and failed to fully seat the magazine. What happens next? You bring the gun up to charge it, and you hear the ominous and surprisingly unique ‘thud’ that a fully loaded magazine makes when it hits the ground (I know you are hearing the sound in your head right now).

Yes… That feeling… The feeling that everyone is watching… Everyone is judging… Everyone is laughing… Laughing at you… No… NO you will NOT have that happen again… So you perform the preventative dance ritual; an unnecessary sequence of slapping, tapping, ramming, and tugging to ensure the magazine is actually locked in place (ooh, that’s… not tactical?). How do I know you do this? Because I too perform this dance. But, seeing that I’ve lived thirty years on this Earth, I can sit and philosophize upon the situation.

Why do we, as highly evolved organisms, subject ourselves to such uncertainty? Why must we perform this trivial ritual to ensure security in our ego? Why can’t the magazine just securely lock with certainty upon insertion?

Well, I’ve come to realize that inserting a magazine into the KS47 dispels those thoughts. In fact, I’d say it’s even easier than inserting a magazine into an actual AK-47. For example, there are two types of AK users in this world: Those that have missed getting the front lip of the magazine into the AK receiver, but still managed to lock the rear tab into the mag catch; and EFFING LIARS…

I’d say that failing to catch the front lip when inserting a magazine into an AK is on par with not seating the magazine in all the way on an AR-15. Not only do you render the gun useless, you then begin a fight of desperation to get the magazine out of the gun. It’s awful, hurtful, and damaging, man…

Fortunately, the procedure for inserting a magazine into the KS47 is beautifully simple. In fact… The act of doing so might even verge on the cusp of fornication…

Caressing the hard lines of the magazine, you anxiously lift it up toward the empty firearm, eager to accept your full and heavy magazine. You first insert the front of the magazine into the magazine well; the petite magazine well is fairly shallow, so finding the locking pin at the front of the mag well is quite simple and quick. Once in, the tab on the front of the magazine catches on the locking pin, creating a fulcrum point to lever against. You then pivot the magazine rearward until the rear tab on the magazine glides up along the magazine catch tab, and finally stops as it clicks, seating securely into place.

Romance novel aside, the solid lockup of the magazine offers a welcomed relief in a world full of uncertainty. But alas, while I’ve spent way too long discussing magazine insertion, it’s important to note that this is where the certainty and relief ends.

Inherent Problems

Being a trans-gun makes for a hard life. From the factory, the KS47 is severely flawed in two very significant ways:

1. The Bolt is Givin’ Me Lip

First, I will say that all AK-47 magazines I’ve tried to insert into the KS47 fit in the gun. They rock in and lock in with no excessive force needed. Totally dope, right? WELL, just because they fit in the gun does not ensure they will function. I’m not sure if you are aware if this, but AK-47 magazines are not designed to fit in AR-15s. I know, I know. Mind blown. The bolts and carriers for the AK-47 and the AR-15 are designed for two very different levels of tolerance. The AK is designed with fairly loose tolerances, allowing for function with magazines that may have varying magazine lip dimensions. AR-15s, on the other hand, are designed with fairly tight tolerances, requiring magazine lips of a specific size. While the bolt carrier on an AR-15 can be cut to allow clearance for AK-47 magazines, the 7-lug AR-15 bolt does not have loose enough tolerances to function with all AK magazines.

Let’s extrapolate:

If you use steel magazines, bolt clearance is not a problem. Rounds get stripped and fed right quick into the chamber, and the bolt never even contacts the magazine. However, if you decide to use one of the many inexpensive and abundant polymer magazines on the market, you might find the bolt both catching and digging deep into the magazine lips. Нехорошем (nyeharoshem)! You are either left to modify your bolt to allow extra clearance:

06-bolt-lug-grind-2
No, that’s not rust

OR you run the crap out of the polymer magazine so the bolt clears its own path in the feed lips:

KS47 Magazine cut by bolt
Cut paths of KS47 bolt through magazine lips

In either case, the situation is less than ideal.

2. The gun can choke on its magazine

The Second, and probably most infuriating flaw, is that the gun lacks any kind of magazine over-insertion mitigation. That’s a fancy way of saying nothing stops the magazine from getting pushed too far up into the action, causing the gun to gag.

So, if you have a lapse in judgment and grab onto the magazine with your meaty reaction hand, or bump the magazine on the shooting table while shooting, you can lock the gun up something fierce. I don’t like that. I don’t like that one bit.

While I take pride in the fact that I solved this problem by drilling, tapping, and screwing the upper receiver, this should NOT be an issue to begin with. A little bit of material left in the upper receiver would solve this problem, but NooOOoo. PSA wanted the upper to be compatible with standard AR-15 lowers and magazines. Well, that really defeats the purpose of making a PROPRIETARY UPPER if you don’t plan to use it with AK-47 magazines, now doesn’t it!

I’m not bitter…

Anyway, if you are curious about the fix, you can find my tutorial here. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s an effective solution.

Once you’ve got the magazine stops in place and you are using a magazine that works with your tans-bolt, the gun actually runs well. Very well, in fact. Too well, even… So well that I keep running out of ammunition quickly. It devours cheap steel-cased Tula like a Labrador puppy eating kibble. Also, from what I can tell, AK-47 drum magazines do work in the gun… Well, I should say drum magazines work in the KS47 when the drums actually function the way they should. The one I borrowed had serious problems, the majority of which were likely operator error (ooh, that’s a… tactical error…)… Here’s a little video of me utilizing my hard-earned master’s degree trying to get the effing thing to feed continuously:

“That thing’s cool…” huehuehue… As you can see, when the rounds actually made it to the feed lips of the magazine, they fed just fine. However, since they kept jamming inside of the magazine, most of them never made it that far. I can conclude that the drum is either crappy, or I’m too dumb to figure it out. Either way, it makes for boring video.

I like the idea of running cheap 7.62x39mm ammunition through an AR platform, and I really like using AK style magazines. My end goal is to turn this gun into a cheap bump fire platform. Something that I can shoot the crap out of and not worry about ammo costs. It will get there, eventually… I hope.

As for the gas system, the gun runs exceptionally well in a direct impingement setup. Unless you hate yourself and want to do a lot of work, keep it as a direct impingement gun. Yes, I am running the gun with a short-stroke piston and you can read about my struggles making a Piston KS47 here.

To sum up the experience, I can conclude that most piston kits are designed for taming high pressure 5.56 cartridges, and aren’t the slightest bit optimized for 7.62x39mm. Most of them don’t let in enough gas to get a hard and confident cycle, and ain’t nobody got time for that! That is, however, unless Primary Weapon Systems decides to start selling their piston gas blocks and other piston parts separately from their guns (hint hint nudge nudge PWS). I mean, think about it… a PWS Diablo using AK-47 magazines… Long stroke piston… AK magazine… total trans-chub material… I digress…

Aside from the inherent problems the gun has, I have only one other irrelevant quibble with the platform. Since the trigger guard is so large, the magazine catch tab is forced to sit quite far forward. This doesn’t have any effect on standard AK-47 magazines, but it prevents using magazines from other AK-based platforms in various calibers.

20161103_205349
300 Blackout KS47 with Steel Galil Magazine

No, I’m not talking about AK-74 magazines. I’m talking Galil magazines. Since the Galil magazines have such a shallow curvature, the magazine catch tab smacks into the back of the magazine and prevents it from locking into place. If they could redesign the trigger guard to allow a little more space for the magazine catch tab, you could then potentially get KS47s chambered in 5.56 and .300 Blackout. You might ask, “Why on Earth would you even want that when standard AR-15 magazines work perfectly fine?” BECAUSE OF THE MAGAZINE FLICK! Come on, pay attention! That’s like Tier 1 Operator level Tactical (like,  make your beard grow, tacti-chub level).

I did make a .300 blackout upper work by heavily modifying a steel Galil mag. It looked a little something like this:

But be that as it may, I’d like to see a better mag catch setup to allow function with factory Galil mags. It will never happen, but I can dream, can’t I?

So, what is my final disposition on the gun? Well, I’m torn about it. I really like the concept of using an AK-47 magazine in a gun that’s lighter, more ergonomic, and more accurate than an AK-47. HOWEVER, the gun was a real thorn in my ass to get running properly. To keep it from choking on magazines, I had to modify the gun. Furthermore, adding a piston took four months of gathering, assembling, testing, drilling, modifying, testing again, disassembling, modifying again, and reassembling before it actually began to run correctly. A direct impingement version of this gun won’t have the cyclic issues I had, so sans piston, you could probably cut down your build time by about 3 months.

RANGE TIME:

Firearm: Palmetto State Armory KS47 (piston converted)
Magazines: Magpul G2 AK magazines x2 (work better than G3) & a Romanian 75 round drum (kind of)
Caliber: 7.62x39mm
Ammunition: Tula 7.62x39mm 122gr FMJ
Elevation: Between 100 and 150 feet above sea level
Rounds Spent: 160
Final Disposition: Meh, Indifferent… but dat mag flick though…

Pros:

  • Chambered in 7.62x39mm
  • Uses AK-47 Magazines
  • Can flick magazines out

Cons:

  • Has serious design flaws
  • Have to modify to get any kind of reliability
  • Is not a good host for current gen piston systems

On my rating scale, I think I’ll leave this gun as indifferent. I really wanted to be blown away by this platform. I mean, I was genuinely hyped when I got the upper and lower, and I expected to have a gun I adored by the time I finished it. I wanted it to be a functional and practical gun, one that I could use for competition or zombie apocalypse. However, I’m instead left in a bit of an imbroglio. The gun has incredible potential, but it will take a bit of work by PSA to unlock. As for now, I’m in possession of a gun that I don’t trust as reliable because it doesn’t work universally with any AK magazine, and isn’t as tacti-chub inducing as I anticipated… But hey, at least I can flick magazines out…

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