Palmetto State Armory AK-103 Review

by Travis Pike

April 19, 2022

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Palmetto State Armory might have had some issues getting into the world of AKs, but they seem to have figured it out. The GF3 variants passed Rob Ski’s 5,000 round torture test, and they might be the only American AK maker to do so. PSA intends to bring the AK 100 series to American hands, and today we are reviewing the first, the AK-103.

AK-103 Specs

  • Barrel Length 16 inches
  • Overall Length 37.1 inches
  • Weight 7.9 pounds
  • Caliber 7.62×39
  • Capacity 30

The AK-103 – Modernize It 

In the early 1990s, Russia teamed up with Mikhail Kalashnikov to modernize the AK series of assault rifles. These modernizations would aim to arm Russian military and security forces with modern variants of the famed AK design. On top of that, Russia is famous for exporting its AK series, and these new AK variants could also modernize a large variety of military forces. 

These became known as the AK-100 series, and it’s made up of several different rifles. The AK-103 modernized the AKM series and provided a modern choice for those seeking a 7.62x39mm. Palmetto State Armory has attempted to replicate the AK-103 as close as possible, or at least as close as a South Carolina company can do. 

The AK-103 drops wood and, heck, even bakelite furniture for modern polymer furniture. The stock is a traditional, non-wire type design, but it does fold. (Although PSA produces a non-folding model as well.) It’s the best of both worlds. The magazine is now polymer as well, but the old metal mags will work in the gun as well. At the tip of the barrel sits a very modern muzzle device. 

It’s a 7.62mm variant of the classic AK-74 rifle. The brake proved to be quite successful on the AK-74, so it made perfect sense to bring to the modern AK series. PSA copied all of these design upgrades and produced the AK-103 at a price and commonality that the average joe could own one without much difficulty. 

The PSA AK-103 isn’t the only AK-103 out there. However, it seems to be the most affordable and most widely produced. PSA cheekily calls it a Klone, and that describes it well. This allows us to own a close as possible clone to the actual AK-103, 

AK-103 Features

PSA AK-103 Features
1 Folding stock
2 Muzzle Brake 
3 Modern Polymer Furniture 
4 Cold Hammer Forged Chrome Lined Barrel 
5 Side Optics Rail 

AK-103 Gun Models 

When it comes to the Palmetto State Armory AK-103, we can find it in two variations, a fixed stock and and folding stock option.

Breaking Down the AK-103 – Our Take

Watching Rob Ski absolutely torture a PSA AK gave me a sense of hope for American AK manufacturers. After 5,000 rounds, the gun had some minimal issues, but it passed the torture test. The GF3 and newer models delivered a reliable AK with a forged trunnion. I didn’t have 5,000 rounds to try and burn down an AK, but I didn’t experience or see a single malfunction with the PSA AK-103. 

It chugged through round after round from various magazines. We had the classic metal mags, the new polymer, some Circle 10 mags, and more, and the gun didn’t care. It ate through that steel-cased goodness without complaint. Doesn’t the smell of steel cased 7.62x39mm warm your soul? 

A Classic 

The AK-103 doesn’t stray far from the classic AK ergonomics. Sadly our model didn’t have the folding stock. However, the stock offers a short length of pull that’s super comfy and allows you to square up nicely against your target. The stock provides a solid little cheek weld and makes it easy to get low and behind the sights. It wouldn’t be great for optics, but for irons, it’s solid. 

The dinky AK pistol grip is still here, and I’d likely swap it for a larger, thicker grip. My hands must be larger than the average Russian’s. If you’ve never shot an AK, it’s very much like a 1940s SMG. The massive safety bolted to the side isn’t ergonomic, and you’ll be shifting your hand from a firing grip to work with it. 

The right side only charging handle takes some creative movements to work without breaking your firing grip. The magazine release is ambidextrous, and you can do those fancy, Call of Duty style speed reloads with some practice. When compared to other AKs, it’s easy to handle, and everything pops and clicks without much resistance. If you know AKs, you know the AK-103.

Accuracy Standards 

AKs aren’t accurate! That’s the cry of AR owners who likely can’t shoot very well anyway. When compared to some very modern, high-end ARs, the AK might seem inaccurate. Within 200 yards, an iron-sighted AK is plenty easy to shoot and hit a target with. 

Will it be a 1 MOA gun? No, but that’s a tough standard for most guns to meet. The AK-103 is one of the more accurate AKs I’ve handled. I didn’t measure groups, but I did engage targets at 50, 100, and 150 yards with iron sights in the standing and kneeling. The targets varied in size at 50 yards. They were gongs, and at 100 and 150, they were torso-sized steel targets. 

A combination of a cold hammer-forged barrel and a nice single-stage trigger delivers some excellent accuracy. In the beginning, I might have missed a few shots, but with just a little practice, I’m talking less than a magazine. I was scoring hits. Lots of hits, and out to 100 yards, I rang the targets in the standing without issue.

To reach out further, it was easier to duck into the kneeling and get a little more support. It might not be a match-grade gun, but in terms of usable accuracy, you’d be surprised at how much accuracy you can squeeze out of the old AK platform. 

Holding On 

7.62x39mm AKs aren’t exactly shoulder-busting recoil cannons but compared to some 5.56 rifles, they might be described as stout. Even the worst recoiling AK is plenty controllable and easy to handle. The AK-103 features the classic AK-74 muzzle brake, and that thing does a fantastic job of reducing recoil and cutting down muzzle rise. 

Enough recoil and muzzle rise is cut that I felt like I was handling a 5.56 caliber rifle. It’s super soft shooting and incredibly pleasant to deal with. That made my follow-up shots a lot easier and reduced fatigue after a long day at the range. Firing the AK-103 was downright pleasant. 

AK-103 Pros and Cons 

  • Soft Recoil 
  • Modern, comfy folding stock 
  • Accurate 
  • Louder than Most AKs

Report Card

Shootability

It’s a super shot shooting AK. Most AKs feature a little recoil and muzzle rise, but the muzzle device takes some sting out of it, but dang, it’s loud. 

A
Reliability

AKs are known for their reliability, and the AK-103 won’t disappoint. It’s a rock-solid, well-made AK that cycled without issue. 

A+
Ergonomics

The AK-103 is a nice Ak, but it’s still an AK. The ergonomics come out of the 1940s, and you can tell. It’s plenty usable, and lots of modern manual of arms techniques are out there and worth learning. 

C
Accuracy

While you won’t take this to a bench rest contest, if you need to hit a target in AK range, the AK-103 can get it done. 

B
Value

It’s an AK that costs a grand. You can get a more modern, more accurate rifle for a grand. However, if you want an AK, you’ll pay a premium for the experience. 

C
PSA AK-103 Final Grade

Our Grade

B

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

C-

Based on 2 Reviews

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PSA AK-103 Gun Deals

PSA AK-103 Ammo

FEDERAL Federal American Eagle, 7.62x39mm, FMJ, 124 Grain

Federal American Eagle 7.62x39mm FMJ 124 Grain

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Sportsman’s Guide $1.09

Wolf WPA 7.62x39mm HP 123 Grain

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Sportsman’s Guide $0.47

PSA AK-103 Starter Pack

If you’ve decided to pick up the AK-103, or found another firearm that suits your needs, there are some bare essentials you’re going to need to pick up in order to maximize its potential and your safety regardless of if it’s your first firearm or not.

  • Gun Cleaning Kit: Otis All Caliber Elite Range Box on Amazon or build your own personalized cleaning kit with premium components.
  • Shooting Glasses: All it takes is one piece of rogue hot brass, and you’ll learn the importance of shooting glasses. But not all glasses are built the same. See our recommendations for the Best Shooting Glasses.
  • Hearing Protection: Firing a gun without wearing proper ear pro can be very dangerous and detrimental to your hearing. Find out the best hearing protection for you in our full length review.
  • Storage: Check our our article on the Best Biometric Gun Safes
  • Targets – If you’re wanting a great resource for shooting practice or zeroing your optics on your optics rifle or pistol, download our FREE Sighting in Targets below.

Upgrades and Accessories

AK-103 Accessories

Aimpoint CompM5b
  • Quickly adjust the reticle in accordance with projectile ballistics and distance to target
  • Wind compensation adjustment in 3 levels
  • Compatible with the Aimpoint 3X & 6XMag-1 magnifiers
Check Price
Surefire M600U Scout Light
  • Virtually indestructible ultra-high-output LED
  • Rugged and reliable; built for conflict
  • Mil-Spec Hard Anodized finish, and O-ring sealed to keep out the elements.
Check Price
Viking Tactics VTAC Padded Sling
  • Quick and easy adjustment from any position
  • Wide shoulder strap
  • Made with closed cell foam and resin treated nylon.
Check Amazon
Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs
  • Great In-Ear option
  • Custom molded – super easy and comfortable
  • NRR: 31
Check Amazon

PSA AK-103

Owning and storing a firearm safely is one thing, but knowing how to field strip and clean it is another. But not to worry if you’ve never done this before, below we have a great video on this topic.

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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