I can remember the days when a bone stock AR-15 with plastic furniture was easily $1000 and it was considered a high-end gun that you had to be serious about. Now fast forward to where the first (Budget AR-15) made its debut, you had your M&P Sport then the Ruger AR556 going for $600 – $650 the same price as an AK variant — WOW what a deal!! Up until Trump’s Victory we would sell their budget rifles daily and man was the demand there always on back order. Once Trump won the presidency we saw an overnight change of market, the sport models seized in sales and Palmetto State Armory lowers became daily transfers in the dozens, and Anderson lowers became a daily transfer as well. With every customer coming in proud of their purchase and me interested to know why, to say the least. I own Daniel Defense AR-15’s and my lowest end AR-15 was an M&P Sport II so for me this lower budget AR-15 was new.
Now it’s not my place to judge without knowing, I am in a never-ending journey to learn as a 25 year old gun shop owner. I have a lot of knowledge but obviously have much to learn in my new industry. So I took it upon myself to start the famous $400 Palmetto build. Now since Anderson and Palmetto are the most common transfers I get I decided to make the build with both companies components at regular price. Here is my breakdown:
– $35 Anderson stripped lower with built in trigger guard
– $40 Anderson lower parts kit
– $30 Anderson Buffer kit and assembly
– $300 Palmetto state armory Upper
(M-lock handguard-mid gas system-med barrel)
Total Cost : $405 for a complete m-lock mid gas AR-15 PSA / Anderson build
Initial Impressions: Oh man, this had the WORST trigger I ever felt. You have grit and slop both in the pull and reset of the trigger. Second, the screws on the gas block of the Palmetto upper appear to be backed out quite a bit, however, I could not get any tighter with an allen wrench so I left it. otherwise if you can overlook the different shades of black on the components of the build, the gun functioned fine in lock back and handling with all magazines.
Getting it range ready: I need 2 additional components for my range day which do not factor to the initial price of the gun due to the fact many complete AR-15 rifles don’t come with these: sights and a magazine. Even a Daniel Defense does not come with sights.
– UTG Flip up sights $35
– Hexmag ( free from a tacpack subscription ) retail $7.99
I am not going to compare this unfairly, I will try to do this as fair as possible. So no, I am not going to bust out my Daniel Defense or even a BCM – that’s not the market that Palmetto or Anderson is trying to go after. So the two that I have picked are closer to what people in the market for a complete AR-15, would choose between before the build-craze came upon us. I will be comparing my PMC (Poor Man’s Carbine) build to a CMMG RCE and a Smith & Wesson M&P Sport II. One is closer to the high-end market while the other is a more affordable option for those seeking for a complete rifle out-of-the box. With better triggers and well over 1,000 rounds through both the Smith and CMMG rifles which experienced no malfunctions and 1.5 MOA performance. the Poor Man’s Carbine (PMC) has big shoes to fill. However, since most Americans have switched to these PMC’s so they must be good… right????
Range Day 1 : I took my rifle into the desert with 300 rounds of brass and a magazine of Tula steel ammo. I brought my hexmag, Magul Pmags, USGI mags, a Daniel Defense magazine and a Troy Battlemag to test the build’s ability. I experienced ZERO malfunctions (even with steel ) with lock-back on every magazine. The trigger cleaned itself up a bit on the reset, now the grit is gone on the reset. However, it’s still a horrible trigger pull. Accuracy was combat effective at best, however, this could be due to the UTG sights. We would consistently pull a round 3 inches from the 50 yard bulls-eye between 3 shooters. However, that being said I was hitting shot for shot at a 200 yard steel target without any problems with iron sights. Upon coming home I realized the m-lock hand guard had walked forward and the screws had backed out, so I applied Loctite and it seemed to keep the hand guard secure since then.
Range Day 2 : Today we took the rifle out on a windy day up in the mountains in the desert to put another 400 rounds through the rifle. Keep in mind this gun has never been cleaned or oiled since it was put together. After putting a few magazines with no hiccups, I decided to mix it up and put sand into the magazines. Despite this, the rifle continued to cycle without any malfunctions. However, once I handed the rifle to my fiance, she had a round that failed to move into the chamber, but it extracted the spent casing just fine. She dropped the magazine, cleared it again so ti was confirmed empty. This was with a Magpul Pmag, so if you count that as our first malfunction, it was a failure to feed off the Pmag at around 700 rounds through the gun. After I took the rifle back and smacked the mag into the gun it ran without a hitch for another 120 rounds before we packed it up for the day. Accuracy was garbage at best. We put a steel silhouette at 300 yards, I was able to hit the target but not consistently. Rounds would fly above, below, left and right of the target much like my paper target at 50 yards, the rounds were stringing. You may think it’s user error — however, this was between 3 different shooters. I was able to connect all 30 rounds on steel with my Daniel Defense using similar iron sights. The steel target is a 12×20 silhouette, it’s huge!!! And yes, the rifles were being benched.
Final Thoughts: I am sold on these builds and now I assist my customers in building a similar setup. 600 rounds with steel, dirt and bad magazines this gun will exceed the average consumer’s’ needs considering the average American only shoots twice a year and about 150 rounds a year. The nitrite chrome barrel and mid length gas system really extends your service life for the money. Overall I give this gun 4 out of 5 stars. It loses a point for fit and finish and the fact the hand guard walked. However loc-tight is a cheap fix for a simple problem. If you are looking for a cheap intro into firearms or a beater to your collection then put serious consideration into one of these builds.