PSA 10.5 Pistol Kit Review: An AR Pistol Build on a Budget

PSA 10.5 Pistol Kit Review: An AR Pistol Build on a Budget

Why an AR Pistol?

Why not? In all seriousness, it’s because of the NFA. For those of you who don’t know, any rifle under 26 inches overall length, or with a barrel under 16 inches, needs an accepted ATF form 1 to make your shawty legal. If you assemble a rifle less than 26” overall or less than a 16-inch barrel you have committed a felony and if caught you will lose your gun rights. With an AR pistol, you can more or less get around those NFA laws courtesy of the Obama administration. It’s like the only good thing the ATF ever did. Aside from that, the pros to having a pistol vs a Short Barreled Rifle are great. With a pistol and the ability to legally concealed carry for instance… You can have your AR pistol loaded in the car, (local CCW laws permitting) which is great for trunk guns. You can also take it across state lines without having to ask permission from the government! That is huge for me because I live on the border of Oregon and Washington, I live in Washington and drive 30 minutes to shoot in Oregon. If I had to file NFA paperwork with the government every time I wanted to shoot, I would be put on a watch list. Pistols just make sense.

There’s something about shortys that just look good.

There’s something about shortys that just look good.

Why did I choose PSA?

   I chose PSA for my AR pistol build because it’s what I could afford. (Editor: We just featured an article on the affordability of PSA! Hatas gonna hate.) Everyone is tight on money and that’s where PSA comes in. They offer a high-VALUE product… they’re inexpensive but great quality. PSA focuses its products at the everyday person, they to be a manufacturer that anyone can afford and still get a good firearm. The owner of PSA also wants to get as many rifles in the hands of American people as possible because he hates gun laws. He hates gun laws so much that he wants there to be SO MANY rifles in circulation that if any sort of gun law makes it through, there will be enough of his rifles in circulation that the gun law will have no effect. I support that 110%!! That’s about as American of a company as there is! 

As an avid gun lover and business man, he soon noticed that there did not seem to be a customer friendly company available for the everyday gun enthusiast. -PSA About US

I can’t stress this enough; the quality of PSA products, their baseline freedom series, is more than good enough for most any shooter. It serves as a great starting point for a rifle. It gives you the ability to shoot an AR15 and learn what works for you and what doesn’t. As you discover what you need, you then upgrade it. It might not be perfect, and it won’t be as smooth as a $1500 BCM or Daniel Defense rifle, but they’re not trying to be those guys. They want their rifles to be reliable, so they’re over gassed a little. They want them to be accurate enough, and they are accurate, but they’re not match grade accurate. While these rifles leave plenty of room for improvement, they let the shooter decide what needs upgrading.

Specification Overview

The PSA Pistol kit that I got is a 10.5 inch, 1:7 twist, nitrided barrel. Their website does not say whether or not it is a 4150 CMV barrel or something else. It has M4 feed ramps. It came with an “F” marked front sight base that was pinned to the barrel. It took me a few hours, with the wrong tools none the less, to remove the damn thing to put a free-float handguard on it. I have faith it wouldn’t budge for anything if I kept it on. And the standard drop-in handguard it came with had a metal heat shield. The upper is a 7075 T6 forged upper.

The PSA Pistol in its natural Northwest habitat

The PSA Pistol in its natural Northwest habitat

My build:

The 10.5 inch upper was ordered stripped and mated to some components I had handy. I already had an aero precision lower, and I bought a PSA sba3 pistol lower kit to complete the build. The lower kit came with everything I need to complete my build on the lower. The upper did not come with a BCG and charging handle which I was okay with. I planned on changing that anyway, I decided to go with a Toolcraft black nitride bolt carrier group and a Radian Raptor LT charging handle. So far I have invested $550 for everything I just said and a Midwest Industries 9.5” free float MLOK handguard. Changing the handguard out, specifically the front sight to put on the free float handguard, was a PAIN!! 

Torture Testing:

Throughout this whole review and the time I have had this rifle, I have not gone easy on it. I have not dragged it behind a car or thrown it from a building, but I have treated it like crap. It just gets tossed around in the back of trucks, bouncing against different farm equipment and different guns. When I walk somewhere with it and get to where I’m going I just toss it on the ground. My expectations for guns and optics are just that it goes bang, and holds zero. I expect everything to work after getting dropped, after being leaned against something and tipping over. It needs to be able to be thrown around, beat against something, and not cleaned, and still go bang and hit what I am aiming at every single time, which this rifle and optic combo does very well. My only concern is the gas block now. If it were the stock A2 sight that was pinned, this rifle would be bomb proof. I wanted it free floated so I had to take the A2 off and put on a low profile gas block. The gas block does have two set screws that are just being held by friction to the barrel because there are no dimples. I have not had a problem yet with it though and if I do, it’s my fault, not PSA’s. Round count estimate 500-650. 10/10 would highly recommend the PSA based on its reliability.


After sighting it in I managed a good 3 shot group (not counting the flyer) at 50 yards with my MRO. My index finger covered the group. After sighting it in I immediately went to 200 yards and it was boring. It was hard to miss for me from prone. That is plenty acceptable for me from a 10.5” barrel. 200 yards with boring consistency? Needless to say, this barrel is plenty accurate with the Hornady Frontier M193 loading. 

Outside of the tape was a previous shot, the four shot group was my final sight in group at 50 yards!

Outside of the tape was a previous shot, the four-shot group was my final sight-in group at 50 yards!

I would also like to take a minute to talk about the Hornady Frontier ammo. Their Frontier line of ammo is being manufactured at the Lake City plant where American Eagle used to be manufactured. Hornady won the contract from the Lake City plant. What that means is that the Frontier brand is using Hornady bullets, cases and primers, with the amazing consistency and mass production the Lake City plant offers. The Frontier M193 loading is made at the same place as where the military gets its M193 ammo (editor: mostly the air force, I had to look that one up!). Hornady manufactures 55gr ammo up to 75gr. I highly recommend looking into the Hornady Frontier ammo. I have had amazing luck with it and it’s quite accurate for being cheap plinking ammo! An ammo review will be coming eventually.

Fit and finish

The fit and finish of the kit are good. The black anodizing matches up perfectly with my Aero precision lower… and is very close to the color of the Midwest industries handguard I put on it. The fit of the PSA upper to my Aero precision lower is very tight and precise. There is no wobble, and I would say the fit is perfect for being two different companies. 

The Palmetto State Armory Lower Parts Kit went together perfectly with the Aero Precision lower. This was one of the nicest parts kits to put in an AR that I have used. If you need an LPK, I cannot recommend PSA enough, especially for the price. I also highly recommend the polished trigger as that’s also a very good high-value trigger in my opinion. It’s very smooth and heavy, I wish they would offer a lighter spring!

Consistent ejection pattern at 3 o’clock! The small pile on the right was just the rifle breaking in.

Consistent ejection pattern at 3 o’clock! The small pile on the right was just the rifle breaking in.

The PSA Enhanced Trigger

The enhanced PSA trigger is very nice for the price. I still think my ALG is the best value, but the PSA is more than good enough. It’s smooth, but heavy with very little creep. It’s just a straight wall and a bang, I like it. No grit, just smooth and heavy. I am in no hurry to replace it, and I wouldn’t replace it with an ALG because they feel very similar. It’s one of those things where I could get the ALG trigger and it would be better, but the price isn’t worth the minor performance boost. I will wait and if I ever have the money, I will put a Geissele trigger in it instead. 

The SBA3 brace


Many of PSA’s pistol models are available with the SBA3. The SBA3 brace has been rock solid for me and I am enjoying it. The brace split kind of irritates me, but that’s just the way it goes (thanks pointless NFA laws.) I know you can get a “split fix” piece for your brace and I will look into getting one because I am OCD about that kind of stuff. But practically speaking, nothing has happened because of the split. The split does cause the rubber arm pieces to lean one way or another based on which side you are shouldering it on, but I have never noticed that while actually shooting. The cheek weld to the brace is perfectly fine. Nothing special, nothing wrong. It just works. Adjusting the brace was tight at first, really tight, but it has smoothed out just enough over time to be easy to adjust yet have little to no wobble. The SBA3 brace strikes me as a good product.

What is going to be the purpose of this firearm?

My reasoning behind this build is because I personally think AR pistols are cool. But also to be a home defense gun my wife can easily use, or even as a vehicle gun for myself if I want to. I want to do more camping and exploring this year so it would be easier to carry an AR pistol with me instead of a rifle, due to the size and laws… especially interstate travel. I also like the idea of me going places and having more than just a handgun with 15 rounds of 9mm and a few extra 15 round mags. Now I can have a 5.56 blaster with a 30 round mag and a few extras. This rifle will mainly stay home with my wife while I am at work so she has something to protect herself and our kid with. It’s lightweight enough she can easily handle it, more so than a full-size AR15.

Final Thoughts: 

My experiences with PSA have been mostly good. The quality is great for the price, but sometimes the customer service can test your patience. They lost my gen 2 AK I had sent in for repair and sent me a new gen 3 after they lost my AK for about 3 months. However, I have the ability to do any work on my AR so I don’t worry about sending it in if something happens. With the two AR’s I have had, they have been nothing but dependable and of good quality. PSA is a very American company that wants to get guns in the hands of Americans and they fully support the 2nd amendment, so I support them. If you are wanting a good gun for a good price, it’s hard to beat PSA. I say buy with confidence, but if you should have to send your gun in for work, be patient. My AK situation was possibly a freak accident I believe, and aside from that have had ZERO bad experiences with their customer service. 

Written by D.S.


    • lothaen · March 10, 2020

      Thanks for sharing Bob! I hope that was a once in a lifetime experience. What did Hornady say?

      • Bob · March 10, 2020

        Haha, thanks. I told them I had a light buffer, so that might have contributed to it. They said all the reports they got of blown up cases were likely because the guns were dirty. They said I should try Bore Tech Eliminator.

        I am unimpressed.

        • lothaen · March 10, 2020

          That looks like overpressure to me. The brass pushed into the bolt so hard the brass pressed into your ejector. The extreme pressure blew the case out as the rifle tried to extract and the weakest, most unsupported place on the bolt was the ejector cutout and ejector.

          Man that’s wild!

          • Bob · March 10, 2020

            For a while I thought the case was deformed at the F in Frontier, which caused it to stay out of battery, casing the blow out. Brighter minds than myself described what you said, saying the F was in line with the ejector.
            This was after about 430 rounds, getting dozens of popped primers. Sounds like it’s overpressured, indeed.

            Additionally, it key holed a few times at 10 yards. 55gr should be OK out of a 1 in 8 twist Criterion barrel, right?

            The pictured case was stuck in the chamber and required some hammering to get out. Gun and shooter are ok, besides the bent extractor, so no hard feelings towards Hornady.

    • Tom Vick · October 29, 2020

      Wow that sucks! I have shot plenty of Frontier ammo, and of course that never happened! Have you contacted them to repair or replace your rifle?

  1. RobertTheTxn · March 26, 2020

    Interesting you found BCM and DD together ad rate the BCM as a superior rifle. I’ve had nothing but shitty performance out of BCM barrels, to the point I won’t buy another. As for the lower receivers, I’d venture a bet that your PSA lowers are just as in spec as a BCM lower. Let me say that I’m not a PSA fanboy. I prefer Aero lowers on my builds and Vltor MUR-1A uppers. I’ve bought some PSA lowers, usually when they come out with some hilarious roll mark, and the finish and fit on all of them have been spot on. Even better quality than a couple of KAC stripped lowers but that’s a whole nother story. A couple of suggestions you may want to try where I’ve had huge success and that’s with Ballistic Advantage barrels. Especially when they have a 20-30% sale + my mil discount usually means I’m getting a sub-MOA barrel for les than $170 bucks. They are guaranteed sub MOA and everything from my 10.3 5.56 to an 18” SS 308 barrel have been true to that. The 308 was absolutely stupid accurate sub MOA out to 250m with 175gr Federal Gold SMK. They really are fantastic barrels. Another suggestion that will save you some coin is LaRue a MBT trigger. I have several I’d their MBT-2S which is their 2 star trigger and their MBT-1S which is their single stage. They break at around 4.5 LB with a heavier combat spring that gets 6lb of pull. I stick with the 4.5. I’m currently testing a Geissele Tricon trigger and an MBT-2S because I went to know is the Geissele’s additional $150 cost is truly worth it. I’m testing them in my 14.5 Noveske Afghan (SS) build and a 16” Rainier Arms Ultramatch Mod 2 build in 308. I still need some more range time and COVID is jacking that up and besides I’m not keen on burning through a crap ton of ammo at this point in time. Right now I’ll say the Geissele Tricon is a damn smooth trigger, but. It so much better than the LaRue that the cost is justified to me. Both have no issue on some German military surplus with hard Berdan primers (unlike my Timney trigger had) and both would make for an extremely fine trigger in any combat ready rifle, which is my build mantra (gotta have a build mantra). That said I still want some more time behind both together at the range and I’ll have my timer with me and test both triggers in the same rifle the same day and see if one has an edge over the other. In my precision shooting tests there was no clear advantage to either. They are both very clean breaking, no creep, and no grit, but the Geissele feels maybe a frog’s hair smoother, but not so much that it translated to better groups from 100 to 600 yards. So my point to yet another mile long reply is, safe some coin, buy an MBT. If you’re interested in testing one, I probably have a spare I could loan you for a few weeks once the insanity calms down. And I’m serious. I got the Tricon on loan so might as well pay it forward. Let me know if you’re interested . Great article and keep up the good, honest reviews. I enjoy your blog and appreciate the time you out in to test and do your write-ups.
    One last thought have you tried PSA’s CHF barrels? I know they are manufactured by FN, but I have yet to test one.

    • D.S. · March 26, 2020

      I appreciate the comment! And you bring up a lot of good points! When I brought up the BCM vs DD I wasn’t saying anything about the barrel performance, just how smooth the rifles run. Just because they are meant to run smoother with a better tuned gas system than a PSA or cheaper/inexpensive rifle. As for the ballistic advantage barrels. I am actually reviewing one, or was about to review one until this whole Coronavirus thing started. But I love it. I have the Hansen Pencil barrel in a Aero M4E1 upper and an Atlas handguard and the balance of it is incredible. I have only sighted it in, but in dry fire practice, I can hold it extremely steady due to the balance of it. I would be very interested in trying a LaRue trigger incense everything blows over, I’m always looking for the best value gear I can get! Which is why I love the PSA LPK with their enhanced trigger! I have an ALG trigger in my full size rifle and I love it. The PSA enhanced trigger is extremely similar to the ALG trigger maybe half a pound heavier pull both are very smooth with no take up. I really want to try a rise armament trigger because they are a good amount less than a geissele trigger but seem to have great performance! As for the LPK itself, I have put LPKs in from CMC and CMMG and they went together fine with a little finagling. The PSA kit for whatever reason just went together so effortlessly in the AERO lower. Everything about PSA is great, especially at the price. And while I haven’t tried one of the CHF barrels, I really want to eventually! And I highly recommend getting a Big Daddy Unlimited account because the savings aren’t incredible. The BA Hansen barrels are around $150-$170 and they have flat rate shipping! I’d look into it if I were you! That’s honestly where I get almost ALL of my gun stuff now!

      • RobertTxn · March 27, 2020

        Yeah, the BA Hanson is one of my favorite barrel profiles. I’ve never tried a pencil barrel, I’ve always gone with heavier barrels. Beat you to it on the Big Daddy unlimited deal. They are pretty awesome! Good luck with the AR projects you have going on!

        • D.S. · April 1, 2020

          I still want to try the faxon gunner profile, but the Hanson is going to be hard to beat! I also want to try the regular Hanson barrel to see how the weight of it does with fending off groups opening up from heat after a few mag dumps. Got a lot of projects to do but limited funding. Makes for a slow process unfortunately

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