Palmetto State Armory Dagger 9mm Review - One to watch - literally - it has an issue
Updated: Jul 27, 2021
The PSA Dagger was announced at SHOT Show 2020. Everyone got excited - then nothing happened. Well - a lot happened. COVID happened. A run on guns happened as all time high NICS checks happened month after month. This lead to a shortage in Glock parts as everyone tried to stock up. I remember when the first batch of these guns dropped - I was driving to the USPSA Area 4 Championship in 2020 and pulled over somewhere on the Arkansas / Oklahoma border and unsuccessfully tried to buy one in September of 2020. The website couldn't handle all the traffic and myself and many others were unsuccessful at getting PSA just to "take my money" Then the Dagger went silent.
Fast forward until now and the Dagger has been coming back in stock over on PSA - I connected on a model and for $349 the Two Tone FDE with Carry Cuts was on it's way to my FFL. Immediately upon examining the gun as we transferred it - I was stuck with the feel of quality form the firearm. Despite being a price point gun - it feels as though it's on the level with true service pistols. The slide to frame fit is excellent. The machining is clean and the finish is well done. There aren't many clues that this is an inexpensive pistol until you examine the box and what's in it - it's a cardboard box with one PMAG GL9 15 round magazine. If you decided you wanted to up your game with a Dagger pistol rug and additional magazines - PSA sells a proper pistol rug in three colors for the Dagger for an extra $30 and an additional GL9 magazines would set you back another $13 - so the price tag before shipping for the standard two magazines and a case that come on most guns would be $393 - still a pretty fair deal for what you're getting.
In hand - the Dagger was worth the wait. Previously - Glock clones competed purely on features and quality - the result was the price was astronomical. They could justify it for a long time because you couldn't get into the Glock ecosystem for any less. The problem is this lead a bunch of $900-$1000 Glock clones - a gun that famously has a very low production cost. At some point - someone had to figure it out how to come to market for less.
The frame is fantastic. It's not a true clone in so much as the locking block and associated pin was redesigned - but it is a very close facsimile otherwise. The shape of the grip is significantly better than the OG Austrian. There is only one finger groove, a very well relieved trigger guard, a lip at the base of the grip that flows your hand up into the guard. The grip tang has a pseudo beavertail to protect you from slide bite and more importantly the sculpt allows it to sit more naturally in the web of the hand and feel less like a 2x4 with eased edges. Interestingly - they added a slight palmswell to the grip - letting it fill up the hollow of your strong hand when you hold it. The take down tabs and the mag catch are both relieved on the frame so they're very easy to use - which is a nice feature. Since the frame is domestically produced they don't have to have the little thumb shelf in the wrong place for import points. Top all that off with a texture that they bill as "aggressive" which is actually a solid "medium" and that's the PSA Frame. In hand - it's my favorite aftermarket Glock frame I have yet to try.
I wish that it was entirely upside however - the trigger guard sculpt on the gun leads to holster fit in traditional. I tested this in a few different holsters - an array of Harry's Holster's inside-the-waistband options (save 10% with code "TheHumbleMarksman" at checkout) and a Ghost 5.2 duty holster (save 10% with code "gearup10" at check out). The fit in the Ghost holster was excellent. It functions exactly as my Gen 5 19 MOS does in the holster. No more play than the original - which is probably due to the level 3 active retention on the holster. The Harry's Holster - the fit is a different story - it's passable - in fact I spent a week or so carrying the gun in my Singleton and retention was acceptable if not ideal. Since I'm a holster snob - spoiled by carrying Harry's for years - I would eventually want a holster that is made specifically for this.
Moving on from the frame - the trigger was the other big change on the gun. Gone is the trigger blade safety traditionally used on Glocks and enter the hinged trigger - much like the M&P. At this point you're likely thinking "palmswell grip, hinged trigger - this is an M&P that takes Glock mags" - and honestly you're not that far off base. The experience is very M&P like - despite being a Glock clone. The face of the trigger is quite broad and totally flat across the front - it breaks at near 90 degrees. It takes getting used to if you're a seasoned Glock shooter - as Glocks have very narrow triggers with a hump across the face. Once you do settle in - I actually prefer the profile of the Dagger trigger - especially at speed. The combination of the enhanced geometry of the grip with the broad trigger make for a shooting experience that is far, far better to work with.
You may have read that last paragraph and thought "well did they improve the quality of the trigger or is typical Glock mush". No it's definitely typical Glock mush. The trigger is no different than a gen 3 Glock - light take up until the trigger hits the false wall of disabling the firing pin block, then it creeps past to the actual wall to the true wall - where it hangs out until you put about five pounds of pressure and the trigger breaks to a pretty clean release with a slight amount of over travel. Reset is exactly Glock-ish as well - with the swing forward push you're accustomed to with a tactile and audible reset - pretty short.
The slide is billed as having "carry cuts" - which is code for meaning it's trigger topped and the rear corners are de-horned - possibly to reduce the snag of your garment on an inside-the-waistband draw on your shirt. The serrations are usable at both the fore and aft of the pistol. I appreciate the understated slide work on the gun - they didn't hog out a bunch of steel making the recoil impulse be a lot snappier - they kept it truer to Glock spec and the result is a gun that's very controllable due to the improved grip and trigger.
They capped the slide with metal 3 dot sights - which aren't my favorite. The sights are actually machined quite well - but 3 dot sights are so 1980. Manufacturers need to get on board with the high vis front blacked out rear combo. For iron sight shooting it is THE combination to generate the best results. Getting off my soap box and preaching the result is acceptable. The lines of the sights are machined well and allow for precision when aligning the sights. The rear sight is serrated to knock down glare - which is a phenomenon I have never encountered yet the feature is there anyway.
Coming to the front of the gun - you may notice there is no barrel sticking out the front of the slide which is pretty standard stuff for Glocks. That's because it's not there! They gave the barrel a target crown and it goes exactly flush with the front of the slide - which is a high end look yet it reduces the barrel length of the Dagger to 3.9" versus the original 4" of the Glock - but what's .1" between friends - right? It definitely gives the gun a higher end look on such a fine detail.
There was one quirk when shooting the gun - the trigger pin would walk out to the right as I shot it. I had it at the range a couple times - the first range session a couple-few hundred rounds for filming the video review netted the pin walking out to the right a solid 1/16" or so - enough to completely protrude from the frame. I can't tell precise round count as the ammo was bulk and I don't math good when shooting. The next visit being much shorter - 50 rounds or so - the pin had shifted in the hole but not gone proud of the frame yet. So this is something to watch. I'm curious if this is a widespread issue or if I'm the lucky guy. I'm going to continue to shoot this gun and see if I can induce a malfunction from the pin walking out or if it walks to a point then is captured- which is what I suspect will happen. Time will tell.
Assuming the trigger pin walking is not a widespread issue that leads to problems - I think PSA has a real winner on their hands with the Dagger. Coming in sub $400 for the Glock ecosystem is a real win. I can't justify the purchase of any sub $400 guns - like the Ruger Security 9 when there is a legit Glock Clone available.
To bottom line it - I'll be picking up the enhanced version of the Dagger complete with the optics cut to see how it compares to my favorite EDC pistols. It competes very favorably in a very crowded market niche. Please note that the links and codes provided above are affiliate links generating a small commission for sales at no additional cost to you.