Firearms Handguns Reviews

Palmetto State Armory Dagger Compact Pistol

Is the Palmetto State Armory Dagger Compact Pistol a viable budget-friendly pistol for defensive carry? Is it trash? Being completely honest, I think folks who are on a budget should take a close hard look at it.

So, I got my hands on a Dagger. I mentioned this on social media and a bunch of folks started asking me about my thoughts on it. The context of the queries varied noticeably. Some folks wanted to know if it was a viable defensive carry pistol. Other folks wanted to know what the quality to price ratio was. A handful just wanted to know if a Glock 19 style clone that wasn’t trash was possible at the Dagger’s price point. I don’t know that I can offer any insight just yet as I’ve just started getting to know the pistol, but I can at least share my first impressions and provide some context to my reasons for getting my hands on one.

I think the best place to start is with the context. As some of y’all know, I’ve reviewed a few red dot sights over the past year or so. Additionally, it’s no secret that I’m a fan of pistol mounted red dot sights and have been shooting a bit with them for a little while. Recently, I’ve had a couple of manufacturers send me a couple of pistol mounted dots to review and decided it would be prudent to find an inexpensive optics-ready pistol to use for those reviews rather than putting additional wear and tear on my carry and competition VP9s for the purposes of reviewing those dots. Initially, I considered getting another optics-ready VP9 but I could justify the cost. Then I considered looking at a Glock 19 MOS given their reputation and me not having found the circumstances to spend a lot of time with one. While looking for available Glock 19s and becoming frustrated with availability and prices, I came across the Palmetto State Armory Dagger and became very intrigued given it’s sub $400 price point. It didn’t take long for me to decide to roll the dice on a G19 like clone that I could run hard without feeling bad about the investment if the gun died a fiery death during dot reviews. The decision was made even easier given I had a $100 off coupon at Palmetto State Armory after signing up for a Right to Bear Insurance policy a little while ago.

Lo and behold! I got my hands on a Dagger. Then I let folks know. The questions flowed and here we are.

The Dagger is offered in a wide array of variants. This includes, but is not limited to, standard or threaded barrel variants, optics-ready with suppressor height sights or not optics-ready with standard height variants, and various slide colors. These variants range from $299 to $399 without a dot or $499 with a Vortex Venom dot included. Let that sink in… $499 for a G19 clone with a dot, suppressor height sights, and a threaded barrel for under $500 MSRP. The optics-ready variants have slides that are cut specifically for either the Doctor or RMR footprint as far as I could tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find them or additional slides cut for some of the other prolific footprints.

The variant I got my hands on included, blacked-out serrated suppressor height sights, a threaded barrel, an RMR optic mounting footprint, and a flat dark earth (FDE) colored slide with “extreme carry” cuts. This variant was priced at $399. Here is what was included for that price:

  • A pretty nice soft case,
  • a manual,
  • a large Palmetto State Armory sticker,
  • an optic cut cover,
  • screws for the optic cut cover,
  • optics mounting screws,
  • a manual,
  • a cable gun lock,
  • a clear chamber indicator,
  • a single G19-compatible 15-round 9mm PMAG GL9 Magpul magazine,
  • the gun itself.

Let’s walk this gun from muzzle to grip and top to bottom.

At the very front, we find the threaded barrel with a protective cover. The threads on the barrel are 1/2×28 TPI which is the most common threading for muzzle devices like compensators and pistons used by pistol caliber suppressors. The barrel itself is 4.5″ with a SAAMI spec 1:10 twist.

Around the barrel we find the slide. In the case of this specific pistol, it’s the FDE colored slide with “extreme carry” cuts which is intended to have smoother edges to the front and rear of the slide to assist with a snagless draw.

At the front of the slide, we find the suppressor height Ameriglo serrated front sight. At the rear of the slide, we find the suppressor height Ameriglo serrated rear sight. These sights are designed to provide a 1/3 co-witness to the pistol mounted dot. Having mounted a couple of different red dot sights on this pistol, I found the co-witness height to fluctuate depending on the height of the red dot sight base. The sights are certainly visible and usable with a dot, but weren’t exactly 1/3 co-witness with the dots tested.

Right in front of the rear sights we find the optics-ready cut. In the case of this pistol, the cut was specific to an RMR footprint which I found no issues with when testing a couple of dots with a RMR footprint.

Under the slide, we find the frame. At the front, near the muzzle, the frame includes a common rail which will work with the vast majority of frame mounted weapon lights and lasers.

Moving towards the grip we find the Glock style take down which is followed by the trigger. I found the trigger to leave a lot to be desired. The take up is sloppy and gritty. The break is mushy. However, it’s not the worst trigger I’ve worked with and can easily be remedied by installing an aftermarket Glock trigger.

The trigger guard is large and is shaped with an undercut and can support trigger guard support hand grips well enough.

Next up we find the Glock style slide stop and magazine release. The slide stop, unsurprisingly, feels identical to Glock style stop and it fieldstrips exactly the same as a Glock does. I found the magazine thumb release to be pretty stiff, but functional nevertheless.

The grip was very intriguing. The angle felt more natural than the stereotypical Glock grip angle. I’m not sure if the actual grip angle is different or if it was just a perception from the side and rear swells which are atypical from a Glock grip. The texture is wonderful. It’s very grippy, but not so aggressive that it’s painful to hold. Frankly, it’s not the same as a Glock, but it’s very good. I’d argue better than a factory Glock, but it may not be aggressive enough for folks who enjoy custom stippling on their Glock frames.

Shooting the Dagger was something else. While I have almost non-existent experience shooting a G19, the Dagger didn’t feel like I was shooting a G19 nor did it bring back any memories of the times I have shot a G19. I suspect that had a lot to with the grip, which simply did not seem to exhibit any G19 qualities that I can recall. At the same time, it did feel like I was shooting a budget gun. It also didn’t feel like I was shooting a premium gun. It’s hard to describe. I’m not a fan of the stock trigger, but I am a fan of the grip. While the experience wasn’t stellar, it felt… Well, it felt good. It certainly wasn’t bad and it was better than okay.

In terms of how it performed, it was solid. While I’ve only put a few hundred rounds through it, it has yet to show any signs of odd wear or a lack of reliability. When taking my time shooting at common self defense distances, the groups were respectable. At close range, holes were stacked on top of each other. This analogy might be unfair, but given the price point and experience so far, I currently see this gun as a Nissan Sentra if I assumed the G19 was a Honda Civic.

Let’s return to some of the inquiries I’ve had.

Is it trash? No, I see absolutely no indications the Dagger is trash.

What’s the quality to price ratio like? Assuming one gets a pistol as the one I got, it’s very good. Keep in mind, the sample size of Daggers I’ve shot is exactly one. At this price point, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some folks experience some quality control issues. I say this because this isn’t the first Palmetto State Armory I’ve had my hands on and I’ve personally experienced a quality issue. By the same token, every single quality issue I’ve encountered PSA has taken care of. My advice remains the same, regardless of how “high-end” a gun a person acquires is, test the new gun for reliable operation.

Is this gun a viable budget-friendly value-priced pistol suitable for defensive carry? At this point, all signs point to yes. I’m still not sure it will have the same serviceable lifetime a Glock 19 will, but for the average armed citizen who has a tight budget the Dagger appears to be a viable candidate. I’ve had folks say “one day, you will wish you had spent the extra money on a Glock”. They might be right. The truth is I don’t know and I hope there is never an “I told you so” moment. What I do know is the folks who have said that to me have spent much more than $500 on their defensive carry pistol. That brings me back to thinking that given what I’ve experienced so far from the Dagger and the price point, the Dagger should work for folks that aren’t in a position to drop much more than $500 on a defensive handgun.

I suspect I will have a few more posts about the Dagger in the future. Given I was looking for an inexpensive pistol to beat up while reviewing pistol mounted red dot sights and it’s not a pistol I’m going to carry for defensive purposes, I’m not going to suggest it to anyone for that specific purpose. All I will say is that given the Dagger’s price point, it’s proved to be a reliable shooter so far.


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