U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- AK-100 style guns like the PSA AK-103 inhabit an unusual spot in the American firearm market. They're highly sought-after by a die-hard select group of shooters, and appreciated by those who just love AKs, but are becoming increasingly difficult to find.
This is due to a combination of world events, and the nature of quality AKs as a whole. Since the majority of quality AK rifles and carbines originated in former Warsaw Pact countries, the supply of them and their components were directly effected by any political upheaval or turmoil within their host nation. Most recently, the Obama administration put a hard stop to Russian firearm imports and effectively destroyed the Russian Saigamarket with the stroke of a pen.
Suddenly, Russian 100-series guns like the Arsenal SGL carbines became exponentially more expensive and uncommon than before – leaving shooters with ever-dwindling options if they wanted a more modern Kalashnikov.
And while several American companies made attempts at producing AKs, nearly all went with the safe AKM-pattern carbine with either Magpul or traditional wooden furniture. At least, that was the case until PSA announced the production of several AK variants at SHOT Show 2020.
That said, tons of awesome products are announced at SHOT every year, but a countless number of them end up as vaporware, never seeing the light of day. And given the pandemic and the buying habits of shooters gravitating towards AR-15s, 5.56mm, and 9mm handguns and ammo, I honestly didn't expect the PSA AK-103 to hit shelves at all in 2020. Apparently, I was mistaken.
PSA AK-103 Rifle
That's right, AK-lovers' prayers have been answered, the PSA AK-103 is a reality. Boasting black polymer furniture, a folding rear trunnion utilizing a standard Russian 5.5mm pin and the iconic 24mm AK-74-style brake, the PSA AK-103 is the first 100 series style AK to hit shelves under a grand in a very long time. And while it sure looks like an AK-103, can it really hold up to the Russian gold standard for reliability? Let's take a look.
That's right, yours truly was fortunate enough to get some trigger time with the new AK carbines courtesy of Palmetto State Armory. So I drove the short distance from my house in South Carolina to PSA's HQ in Columbia, SC to get the full scoop on the guns.
I pulled in to the Clinton House parking lot around 9 am and was greeted by a few PSA reps, some non-descript cardboard boxes, and a boatload of ammo. The first thing I noticed when handling the 103, it how familiar it felt compared to my Russian SGL-21 carbine. Ostensibly, the PSA AK-103 is a very close facsimile of the original gun, but it definitely deviates from the original in a few noteworthy ways.
First off, the external components of the stock's locking mechanism are the wrong color and likely the wrong material from a purist's perspective. Not to say the PSA AK-103 folding mechanism isn't on par with the original's in terms of durability or functionality. But aesthetically, they're incorrect – though 90% of shooters would never notice.
The other biggest differentiating factor is the bolt, it's not a true AK-103 bolt. It lacks the plunger and proper ejector and instead retains the AKM-pattern one. But given the legendary reliability of basically all major AK variants, this is a non-issue for anyone except collectors. And arguably, these guys aren't the target demographic of the PSA AK-103.
So it looks like an AK, and feels like one – but how does it perform?
Well, in my limited time with the gun (roughly 150 rounds) the PSA AK-103 ran flawlessly. The dimpled magazine well allowed magazines to lock up solid with no perceivable wobble (though we only ran PMAGs) and the gun cycled through rounds like a starved man at a rib-eating contest. At the risk of oversimplifying, the gun just ran. Accuracy too was solid, with A-zone hits on a paper target being effortless at 100 yards with iron sights fired unsupported.
Recoil too was very pleasant. Due in large part to the massive AK-74 style brake, the PSA AK-103 felt lively yet controllable enough for hammered pairs. Truthfully, I found that it handled identically to my Arsenal AKs, even if the materials used were different.
Just like with the PSA Dagger I didn't have enough trigger time to make a definitive call on whether the gun stands up to its Russian progenitor. But from my somewhat limited experience, this AK-103 is going to be a game-changer. No longer will shooters be beholden to spending $2,000+ on “real” Eastern European AKs if they're in search of a modern 100-series carbine. Sure, it might not be a perfect reproduction, but for the overwhelming majority of shooters, the PSA AK-103 is a slam-dunk!
About Jim Grant
Jim is one of the elite editors for AmmoLand.com, who in addition to his mastery of prose, can wield a camera with expert finesse. He loves anything and everything guns but holds firearms from the Cold War in a special place in his heart.
When he’s not reviewing guns or shooting for fun and competition, Jim can be found hiking and hunting with his wife Kimberly, and their dog Peanut in the South Carolina low country.