Until a few years ago, if you wanted to get into a firearm chambered in the blistering 5.7x28mm FN cartridge, you had to settle for an FN—either their P90 carbine or the Five-Seven pistol. Both are fine, but with a market share so closed, prices are higher and availability is spotty at best. But recently, the tide began to recede. A few companies are now making 5.7 AR uppers. In 2019, Ruger launched their 57 pistol. This year, Ruger’s arch rival, Smith & Wesson, launched their own take on the 5.7x28mm pistol design. A bit earlier in 2022, Palmetto State Armory took a stab at the market when they introduced a pistol that is heavy on features, light on price, and simple on name—the Rock.
In full disclosure, I have no personal experience with PSA products nor the 5.7×28 cartridge. When I came into a PSA Rock Optics Ready, it was a learning experience compounded with my lack of experience with red-dot and holographic optics that are quickly becoming the future of handgun sighting systems. This review of the PSA Rock will contain contradictions and insights of an average shooter becoming a new shooter all over again.
PSA Rock Specs
- Caliber 5.7x28mm FN
- Action Striker Fired
- Capacity 23+1
- Sights 3 Dot Night Sights
- Slide 416 Stainless Steel
- Frame Polymer
- Barrel Length 4.7 in
- Weight 25 oz
PSA Rock Background
Palmetto State Armory out of West Columbia, South Carolina has its roots as an ammo and firearm wholesaler, but over the last several years, the firm has put serious R&D into manufacturing firearms of their own, with an emphasis on affordability. While best known for their quality AR and AK copies, PSA has made serious inroads in the handgun market with their PSA Dagger, a stylish and affordable Glock 19 facsimile. It only seemed natural to expand into the 5.7x28mm cartridge, a round with many fans in a captive market.
In 2022, PSA debuted the Rock to that market. Outwardly, it is a polymer-framed striker-fired duty pistol and uses a full-length 5 ¼ inch barrel to make the most of the 5.7 cartridge. Like other 5.7mm pistols, the Rock holds quite a few rounds—twenty-three in the magazine. The Optics Ready version is perhaps the most versatile setup. The pistol comes with optics plates as well as a Holosun 407k holographic sight, high-profile sights, and a threaded barrel for the inclusion of a suppressor. Taken together, this package is generally priced less than bare-bones stock pistols from their competition.
PSA Rock Features
1 Low Bore Axis
High gripping surface and low-profile slide rails put the shooter’s hand closely in line with the barrel to lessen muzzle flip
2 23+1 Standard Magazines
Comes with two 23-round steel magazines. Double-feed and easy to load. Will work in the Ruger 57 pistol.
3 Full Sized
Generous grip, slide, and 5 ¼ inch barrel for easy manipulation of the controls.
4 Accessory Rail
Uses a standard 1913 Picatinny rail for mounting a conventional weapon’s light on the dust cover
5 Threaded Barrel (some models)
1/2x28mm threads for mounting a suppressor to dampen the blast of the 5.7 cartridge.
Models and Variations of the PSA Rock
The Rock comes in a few different configurations and colors and is priced to match. Those include:
- The Rock Optics Ready (featured)
- Base Model sans threaded barrel and optics
- Rock Suppressor Ready with threaded barrel and suppressor-height iron sights
Palmetto State Armory Rock – Our Take
They designed the 5.7x28mm FN cartridge as a replacement for the 9mm Luger round that both over-penetrated soft targets and failed to penetrate armored combatants. They never fully realized the replacement, and it is easy to look at the 5.7 and underestimate it. It uses a .22 caliber 40 grain bullet. On the surface, not much different from a garden variety 22 Long Rifle cartridge. But the 5.7 is no ordinary 22. Its 40 grain spitzer projectile is made to penetrate, and the bottlenecked case holds more than enough powder to throw a round to near-rifle speeds. I started shooting the Rock not by shooting at paper, but over my chronograph to see how fast these rounds were going. Using Federal American Eagle 40 grain ammunition, the 5 ¼ inch Rock sent them out at 1642 feet per second. Using lighter grain FN 27 grain lead-free rounds, velocity increased to over 2100 feet per second. At first, I thought my chronograph was malfunctioning. I didn’t experience rifle-like recoil of any kind. The Rock’s sights barely moved from my initial aiming point. The 5.7 follows the light and fast school of power and I was able to get a very high grip on the pistol, mitigating whatever recoil the 5.7 dealt. To put things into perspective, I shot the Rock side by side with my Walther PDP chambered in 9mm Luger. Although the 9mm isn’t prohibitive, I did notice my time between shots and overall felt recoil was lower with the Rock.
This firearm is the best shooting and most accurate pistol that I have ever brought into USPSA competition, including the ergonomics of it. Right off the bat you will notice the extended slide release, small undercut into the trigger grip, and magazine release button with ledge. These are all things that are needed when doing quick reloads on a stage or clearing a malfunction. My smaller hands have no issues with any of it including racking the slide. The slide also has a unique feature, it’s serrations. Most slides have serrations that cut into the slide however Walther actually made their serrations protrude from the slide adding more grip.
The 5.7×28 is long for a pistol round and anyone trying to design a conventional slide-operated pistol to use it cannot rest heavily on existing designs. The slide, ejection port, and recoil springs have to be elongated. Even the grip has to be wider to accommodate long, skinny magazines. Although I have only had three hundred rounds of ammunition through the Rock, I have counted zero malfunctions to date. I tested different grain loads from the light 27 grain FN load to 40 grain Federal and FN loads and there was no hesitation on the part of the Rock to fire, feed, or eject any of them.
Although I was completely new to handgun optics, setting up the Holosun 407k included with the pistol was not difficult. It took some playing with the brightness settings and the Shake Awake technology. But once I knew how it worked, it was easy to mark my targets and shoot. I didn’t torture the optic for theatrics, but it also performed better than I expected.
As before mentioned, the 5.7×28 requires some compromises to work effectively in a pistol that you and I can actually get our mitts on and shoot. The biggest ergonomic challenge is going to be in the grip. Designers engineered the pistol’s grip to be laterally wide to accommodate the 5.7 rounds in the magazine. The Rock’s grip is wide and I can see smaller-handed shooters compromising their grip to reach the trigger with their index finger. I have larger hands and no issues, but given what PSA had to work with, the Rock has the best grip I have felt on a 5.7 pistol, wide at the bottom and as tapered at the top as possible.
With the optic mounted and pistol loaded, the Rock feels a little rear heavy on the draw, but the sights simply seem to line up. The optic comes with a Doctor and RMR plates. Using the Doctor plate allows you to co-witness the red-dot with the iron sights while the RMR plate allows the dot to sit proud of the sights. I chose to mount the Holosun on the Doctor plate so I could feasibly use the Glock-compatible iron sights.
The magazine release and slide stop are not particularly high profile nor are they knurled much, but they are located for the thumb to reach them. You can switch the magazine release from the left to the right side of the pistol, but the slide stop is not ambidextrous.
Disassembling the Rock for cleaning took some getting used to because of the pistol’s low bore axis. I drew the unloaded pistol’s slide rearward a touch and pulled down the takedown pin inside the trigger guard. The slide can then be released and the pistol dry fired. From there, the slide comes off the frame. The recoil spring and fluted barrel can come off at this point. The thread-protector will have to come off first or you cannot get the barrel out of the slide. Reassembling is a trick because the slide rails on the frame sit very low, but with some patience, it goes back on.
A red-dot equipped pistol can shoot very accurately, provided you have good trigger control. But for accuracy testing, I chose to leave the optic off and use the iron sights. Offhand, I fired my test ammunition for groups at ten and twenty-five yards. The sights consistently hit about three inches high at ten yards and about two inches at the latter distance. Accuracy was exceptional and the variation between different ammunition was minimal, although Federal American Eagle 40 grain FMJ loads shot the best. At ten yards, I put five rounds into a group measuring 1.2 inches. At twenty-five yards, my group opened up to 4.5 inches.
I had to try to miss eight-inch steel plates at twenty-five yards. The Rock’s low bore axis combined with a bladed trigger that breaks at a clean 3 ½ pounds. The reset for every shot was short and audible, but not perceivably different from other polymer pistols of its class. In any case, I had no excuses for the Rock when I sent rounds awry. It was all on me.
Value is perhaps the single, biggest selling point to the PSA Rock. Prices will vary from place to place and any pricing reflected here should be used relatively, from model to model. PSA currently offers their base model for $499. This optics ready version goes for $699. Not long ago, it was hard to get into a 5.7mm handgun for any less than $1000. For the new shooter and the curious shooter, that price differential means something; but given that they mark it at half the price of its competitors, one has to ask: is it only half as good? To that I say no. Although 5.7×28 ammunition is still pricy and its advantages over conventional pistol rounds like 9mm Luger are factors to take into account when making your buy, if the 5.7 is for you, the PSA Rock is an excellent way to hook into the round.
PSA Rock Pros and Cons
- Delayed Blowback – Barrel is fixed in place during firing, increasing mechanical accuracy
- High Bore Axis – Recessed slide rails and high grip angle tames muzzle flip
- Capacity – 23+1 rounds of 5.7 is above average compared to other 5.7 handguns
- Economy – Priced at a discount compared to other handguns in its chambering
- Trigger – Crisp break and stout reset, but somewhat spongy on initial take up
- Sights – High-profile sights could stand to be higher when paired with the Doctor plate adapted optic
- Ammo Cost – This is not the gun’s fault, but shooting the 5.7 round is expensive
Not for tiny hands, but the learning curve is less than a typical 9mm handgun.
Fires all tested ammunition reliably.
Well-appointed controls, though the sights could stand to be a bit taller when paired with an optic.
Hand-sized at twenty-five yards on easy mode.
Will scratch the 5.7 itch, if it is the round for you.
PSA Rock Starter Pack
These three items are must haves for all firearms owners.
- Hearing Protection: The 5.7 round from a handgun is loud, so good hearing protection is a must.
- Eye Protection: Here you can find our favorite shooting glasses.
- Gun Cleaning Kit: A 5.7 uses a 22lr cleaning kit. Here are our favorite gun cleaning kits.
PSA Rock Gun Deals
Upgrades and Accessories for the PSA Rock
For handguns we always recommend a good holster. We found a kydex holster for the PSA Rock that you can have customized to meet your needs.
We also recommend the Surfire weapon mounted light to help you identify your targets at night or in low light.
Finally, you can never have too many spare magazines. The ones here are factory magazines from PSA.
Upgrades and Accessories for the PSA Rock
|See On Amazon|
PSA Rock 5.7 23 Round Magazine
Best Ammo for Your PSA Rock
The Rock shoots the 5.7x28mm. It is not the most common round out there, but more and more manufacturers making guns for it. Below we have some range and defensive rounds for the 5.7x28mm.
Other Pistols of its Class to Check Out
Here are three competitors of the PSA Rock. We have not done reviews on them yet, so stay tuned for those reviews in the future!
How to Care for Your PSA Rock
The PSA Rock has a simple disassembly and reassembly, but it is a little unique. Check out this short video from Pew Pew Tactical showing you the process.
Important Links and Manuals for Your PSA Rock
Check out the links below for the manufacturer’s website and operator’s manual.
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