Firearms Fridays: Evaluating The PSA AK-103 Side Folder As A “Survivalist Rifle” And Accessorizing It.

I shot my first AK (A wore out Egyptian Maadi) in 1989. We shot a lot of rounds that day, and I was left with a few thoughts about AK’s. First, they were utterly reliable shot after shot after shot. Second, they were easy to learn how to run, and being a left hander, gave me an advantage with a rifle that has a right side charging handle. Third, within typical combat ranges, they were plenty accurate to hit your target.

While raising my kids, I’ve taught them how to run different types of weapons systems. Although they own an AR-15, a rifle they shot a lot was an underfolder AKM. Learning how to run an AR or an AK could be a huge asset, if ever you’re in a Without Rule of Law (WROL) or societal collapse situation, because they are two of the most likely semi-automatic or automatic rifles you would come across.

My oldest Daughter at 14 years old, training with an AK underfolder.

In the past 30 years, I’ve owned 15 AK’s. I still own several, and believe the combination of rifle and thirty caliber cartridge it was originally chambered for, make a great “Survivalist Rifle”. I bought a Palmetto State Armory (PSA) AK-103 side folder about a year ago, and can say unequivocally, that it is the most accurate 7.62x39S caliber rifle I have ever fired.

Although I have had several fixed stock AK’s and RPK’s, I’m a bigger fan of the collapsible stocked versions. Unless I would happen to get another “RPK”, or I’m buying a rifle to hand off to an unarmed Friend in a SHTF scenario, I won’t be buying any fixed stocked AK’s.

Over the last few years, I’ve heard a lot of good things about PSA, so I finally decided to buy one early last year. The model I picked was their standard AK-103 with polymer side folder. I’ve used a number of AK folder types, ranging from the German and Norinco side folders, to an ACE “FAL/Galil” folding stock copy (when they first started up) and an underfolder. I hadn’t used a solid polymer folding model, but, believing it would be the most comfortable of the lot, I decided to get that version.

AK-103 folding stock has a solid lock up, but cant be folded if a mount is attached to the scope rail, which is mounted to the side of the receiver.


As I said earlier, the PSA AK-103 is the most accurate AK I’ve ever shot. Keep in mind that in the late 90’s, I owned a Bulgarian milled AK47 with a 4x optic, that would shoot 2MOA all day long with S&B ammo. At the time, that was considered a fluke, but obviously, I didn’t have a problem with it.

When I first got the AK-103 squared away and took it to the range, I had already had a Primary Arms ACSS 1-6x scope mounted on it, so I was interested what kind of groups I’d get out of it. I shot one “Best” which measured 1″ with five shots. My average group size throughout 100 rounds was 1.75″ (1.75MOA) at 100 meters, and was around 5″ (2.5MOA) at 200 meters. Out of an AK, I’d be happy with 3-4MOA, so I was ecstatic with these results. I don’t know if this due to having an FN Cold Hammer Forged Chrome Lined barrel or not, but something is being done right.

The fit and finish of the rifle was to a higher standard than many AK’s I’ve seen and owned. The fit of the folding stock was tight, but not hard to release, and the comfort level of this stock compared to many, mostly metal folders was very high. The only thing more comfortable would have been if it was made out of wood. Also, the non-metal construction could be very important in an artic environment, when it’s against your face.

AK-103 “AK74 type” Muzzle Brake

Although I’m normally not big on compensators, the AK74 type muzzle brake worked well and also suppressed more flash than I thought it would. This is a real AK74 Brake, not just one that cosmetically looks like an AK74 Brake. Unlike most AKM 7.62x39S type muzzles with the 14x1LH thread pitch, the PSA AK-103 has the M24x1.5RH thread pitch.

As you can see from this pic, this AK74 type Brake actually has an expansion chamber within the device.

The safety on the AK-103 is the modified/updated version many manufacturers are now using, which has an extra finger shelf closer to the firing hand, and makes it an easy reach for the index finger of a right handed shooter. This isn’t an issue for me, since I’m left handed and use my right thumb.

Modified and updated AK safety used on the AK-103

The Ak47/AKM (and now the AK-100 series) system has a reputation for reliability, that exceeds many other rifle systems. It also has a rep for durability, due to the design, that outshines most other military rifle platforms. As far as any other “Pros”, I’m sure the usual benefits an AK type rifle has, like I’ve mentioned above, are inherent in all the AK-103’s that PSA builds.


A big “Con” that most will mention about the AK type rifle system, is a lack of ergonomics. Although this is a problem, it can be overcome with proper training on the weapon’s system in question. Getting that training from a qualified and experienced instructor is the most important part of the learning curve with any weapon.

Like the M1 Garand/M-14 rifles, the charging handle is on the right side of the receiver, making it harder for a right hander to charge the weapon than a left hander. As I mentioned earlier, this can be overcome with proper training, just like anything else. As a right hander, whether you reach under the weapon or over the weapon to charge it doesn’t matter. Just get good at doing it through constant practice.

Many don’t like the factory iron sights that the AK type rifles come with. Yeah, they aren’t peep sights with a longer sight radius and they don’t have a rear aperture that your brain naturally centers the front sight post in. What they do have, is the ability to line up quickly and engage moving targets, better than most aperture sighted rifles can.


First up is Magazines. The standard mag I use in my AK-103 is the Bulgarian 30 round synthetic mag. It is very reliable and more durable than many other polymer mags. I have a number of MagPul 30 rounders and one 20 rounder, and they function fine. The U.S. Palm 30 round mag works well, but is bulkier than most AK .30 caliber mags. The standard issue “Old School” steel 30 round mags also work well, but they are obviously heavier than polymer mags and tend to wiggle and be noisy in the mag well of many rifles.

Left to Right: Romanian 75 rnd drum, Original Issue Steel 30 rndr, Bulgarian synthetic 30 rndr, U.S. Palm 30 rndr, MagPul 30 rndr and finally a MagPul 20 rndr.

The last mag I’ll mention is the 75 round drum, originally made by the Chinese and now made by many Countries throughout the world. The Chinese drum beats the Russian one, because the Russian drum is always under tension, meaning the mag spring will fail quicker than the Chinese version if kept loaded. The Chinese version allows you to place the loaded mag under minimal tension (half turn), till needed, then you can wind the key the 6 turns needed and run it like normal.

Zenitco B-10M handguard with a Perst-4 visible/IR laser and Surefire light attached.

Next is the handguard I put on the AK-103. Zenitco makes some great accessories for AK’s. The B-10M handguard is well made and a pain in the ass to install. I wanted an aluminum handguard with rails for mounting an IR laser and a light. The IR laser needs a solid metal rail to mount to and retain zero. The Zenitco does the job as a solid laser platform.

Overall length of the AK-103 with the stock open is 37″, while closed it’s 27.5″ and weighs in at 12.5 pounds with a loaded 30 round mag and the optic attached.

RS-Regulate makes the side scope mount for the AK-103. It is a two piece system (Top and Bottom) that sets up to fit exactly the scope or red dot you’re lookin’ to mount. I have removed it from the rifle a couple dozen times, and it always returns to zero. This is important, since storing the rifle with the stock folded, requires the scope mount to be removed. I used Millet Tactical Rings to attach the PA 1-6x ACSS optic to the top of the rifle. The reticle’s Bullet Drop Compensator is specifically set to the ballistic drop of the 7.62x39S cartridge.

Ten pocket Chinese bandoleer for stripper clip loaded ammo.

Besides all the carry systems made for carrying the mags for the AK, something that I’ve used for decades to carry extra ammo, is the “Old School” Chinese stripper clip bandoleer. If you have your ammo kept in stripper clips as a lot of your ammo should be, you can carry 210 rounds (a basic load for seven, 30 round mags) in the Chinese bandoleer. You should always have at least two “Basic Loads” of ammo stored this way for whatever weapon’s system you use.

Final Thoughts

As a “Survivalist Rifle”, the AK platform has many things going for it, and the AK-103 in particular. The AK works well with cast bullets (something I like in my “Survivalist Rifles”). The AK has a wide range of parts and accessories available for it, and many are economically priced.

There is a lot of .30 caliber AK ammo (7.62x39S) available in this country, and even some domestic manufacturers are loading it. Not only is the aforementioned ammo widely available, but it is one of the most reasonably priced rifle rounds available in bulk of any round on the market.

Finally, the 7.62x39S is a good “All Around” Survival cartridge, arriving at the lower end of the 30-30WIN. ballistic chart. The 7.62x39S puts out about 1500 ft lbs of energy while the 30-30 is putting out in the 1700-1800 ft lbs. range with comparable bullet weights. I have taken five deer with the 7.62x39S cartridge. One with an SKS (20″ barrel), and four with AK’s (16″ barrels). Three were with with 154gr soft points, and two with S&B 123gr hollow points.

Although the 154gr soft points did more tissue damage, the 123gr hollow points did fine, and also dropped the deer in it’s own foot prints. Bullet placement is everything, especially with a cartridge that doesn’t have the power of a Battle Rifle Cartridge. The bottom line is If the PSA AK-103 was the only rifle I had available in a SHTF scenario, I’d count myself very fortunate indeed.


The Bushbastard

6 thoughts on “Firearms Fridays: Evaluating The PSA AK-103 Side Folder As A “Survivalist Rifle” And Accessorizing It.

  1. I concur with your accuracy assessment of the PSA103. I thought that the 1″ group that I shot at 100M was a fluke. It was not. Certainly the most accurate AK I have ever owned or shot. I replaced the top handguard with an Ultimac and mounted a Sig Romeo 5 red dot. The rifle is compact with folded stock that can be fired folded or opened quickly. I carry a complement of pmags in a chest rig designed for the AK. (fumbling with stripper clips isn’t my idea of fun). I’ve owned and shot both ARs and AKs for a long time and am totally comfortable handed either. Oh, and PSA makes the very best American-made AK on the market… maybe the best AK, IMO.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. odd how many people consider the right hand charging handle to be a minus. I find that it allows doing mag changes using exclusively the right hand, which, being that youre out of ammo, isn’t going to be doing any shooting til youve reloaded anyway. especially on an AK where one sweep of the hand can release and grab and remove the empty, then you pop in a new mag and your hand is ready to cock the rifle and then get back on station – but your left hand can be holding everything steady and under control from the forestock the whole time without having to shift the weapon from one hand to another. When i was issued an HK G3 (HK91 in the us market), aside from all its other failings that to me were grounds for total rejection (those takedown pins get lost immediately if you’re out in the field, and then if you dont have some extras handy, you no longer have a rifle, for example!) , the left hand charging seemed like a horrible idea. the ergonomics of changing magazines was much less smooth than what i’d gotten used to with AKs i’d owned. The charging handle on the right, as with the garand and M14, as with swiss rifles (the 57 and the 92), etc, all seemed to be more intuitively ergonomic, to leave the ‘passive’ left hand to just hold the weapon and do any operations such as loading and shooting, with the right.
    AKs are downright brilliantly designed (especially as you say, in the original cartridge) , if one can grab only one weapon as he heads out the door, an AK is probably the best choice.


  3. On your photo holding the PSA AK-103, it looks like you are wearing a Safariland SPEAR ELCS vest. Could you describe or identify the mag pouches you are using for the AK? PSA makes excellent rifles period. Got 3 so far!😊


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