Primary Weapons Systems–Modern Musket Review

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The logo is smart, and pushes the point home.

The logo is smart, and pushes the point home.

Concept of the Modern Musket

When Primary Weapon Systems introduced their Modern Musket, they were really trying to call attention to the rights that are guaranteed to us in the Second Amendment to the Constitution. As a matter of fact, their tagline was “It’s not a need. It’s your right.” Keeping with the theme of the musket, the value of this rifle is not measured only by its price, but what it could provide. The value of the musket was found in its ability to put game on the table, the tradition that could be passed down from generation to generation, and the means to cast aside the yolk of tyranny if called for. This is a pretty tall order if you ask me, but these are traits that we all want in our guns.

The rifles are available with 16", 14" barrels, and there are pistols versions, too.

The rifles are available with 16″, 14″ barrels, and there are pistols versions, too.

When an AR is Not Just an AR

It seems like these days you can have just about anything you want on the AR platform. But, as my dad used to tell me, “Just because it fits, doesn’t mean that it’s going to work well.” The good folks at Primary Weapons Systems wanted to create a light, reliable gun that had all the key features of a modern musket, and none of the junk that we so often see stuck onto rifles just to increase the price.

The PWS MM Enhanced Bolt Carrier.

The PWS MM Enhanced Bolt Carrier.

With this goal in mind, they started off with the PWS Enhanced Bolt Carrier, which is a precision-machined part. These bolt carriers have increased mass to extend the dwell time and delay the unlock. What exactly does that mean to the end-user? It allows for a lower chamber pressure, which translates into easier extraction. To reduce friction, they designed a custom bolt with fewer points of contact than a standard bolt carrier. The entire bolt carrier is coated in Isonite QPQ, which greatly reduces friction over standard parkerizing. A BCM Gunfighter charging handle is used to run the bolt.

The buffer tube.

The buffer tube.

This MM DI-16 comes equipped with the PWS Enhanced buffer-machined tube with an anti-tilt lip that has been fluted to reduce weight. The rifle also boasts a several QD mounts for quick sling attachment. This is not some rolled or extruded chunk of metal- this is a very nice piece of machine work in and of itself. The PWS DI hand guard is made from aluminum and allows endless possibilities for securing optics, lights, and slings; and yet it is extremely lightweight, at only 13.3 ounces, and almost indestructible. It also allows for a completely free-floated barrel. This hand guard features their key system, which allows you to add accessories anywhere along the hand guard without Picatinny rails running the entire length of it.

The barrel.

The barrel.

PWS turns all of their barrels in-house to assure the highest quality possible. They feature a one and eight twist, which works well for ammunition weighing 55 grains or more. They are also chambered in the .223 Wylde, which will allow you to shoot your choice of 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington rounds. One of the gems in this rifle’s design is the profile that they cut out of the outer barrel to reduce weight without compromising maximum strength. The machined PWS DI gas block significantly reduces the weight on the end of the barrel. On this rifle in particular, the barrel is topped off with PWS’s FSC series muzzle device, which is a combination muzzle brake, flash hider and suppressor mount.

Though the rifle makes use of some atypical design features, the controls are very traditional.

Though the rifle makes use of some atypical design features, the controls are very traditional.

We've got no complaints about the way this gun runs.

We’ve got no complaints about the way this gun runs.

On the Range

Prior to taking this rifle to the range, I mounted a Surefire X300 light, Magpul MBUS backup sights, and an Aimpoint Micro H1 2MOA. These make up my standard accessory package for an AR 15 rifle. I purposely did not lubricate this rifle prior to going to the range. I did a cursory disassembly and inspection just to take a look at the fit and finish, threw it back together and in the truck it went.

Topped with a Aimpoint T1, the rifle did very well at ranges out to 100 yards.

Topped with a Aimpoint H1, the rifle did very well at ranges out to 100 yards.

I fired approximately one hundred rounds at distances from 7 yards to 200 yards during my first day at the range with this gun. This gave me an appreciation of how the rifle would function under the conditions in which I would expect to potentially deploy it. The MM DI-16 was remarkably accurate, easy to handle and operated without a hiccup. My next opportunity to un-sheath this modern musket was during a night carbine class I was attending, and it happened to be raining outside. I fired an estimated 400 additional rounds through the rifle during a pretty significant downpour. Even under these circumstances, the rifle again performed flawlessly. As I had a long drive back from Ohio, the rifle was simply stuck back in the case wet when I was done shooting.

I skinned the poor PWS rifle from its case about a week later when I was teaching a class. Over the next several days, I and other instructors ran the rifle, demonstrating various shooting techniques. The only complaint, which was given by one of my instructors standing next to me in line, was that the muzzle blast was quite significant. The rifle again ran without operational issue. At this point, this rifle has run close to 2,000 rounds, fired by at least half a dozen different shooters, without any care or lubrication. I’m not a big proponent of the torture test (do you judge a car by how well it runs without regular oil changes?) and that’s not what I set out to do, but I have certainly made this rifle my beast of burden and it has not complained. I will eventually clean and properly care for this rifle, but its performance without being maintained is certainly worth noting.

Is the price worth it? There are certainly extras that the discerning shooter will appreciate, like the muzzle device.

Is the price worth it? There are certainly extras that the discerning shooter will appreciate, like the muzzle device.

When $1,499.95 Looks like a Bargain

Unless you’ve been living under a rock without Internet access for the last year, you’re aware that the price of ARs has been in freefall. I can say without exaggeration that what used to be an $800 or $900 rifle is now easily found for $600. Every day. Rifles that were previously unobtainable are now on bargain closeout websites. So how on Earth can this rifle be valued at close to $1,500? When you compare it to any of the MK2 rifles that PWS makes in the $2600 price range, or perhaps the MK1 rifles in the $2000 price range, $1,500 starts to look like a smaller number.

I think the folks at PWS are in the business of building rifles that are serious, purpose-driven guns. I’ve often suggested to many of my friends that although quantity has a quality of its own, most of us are not in a position as individuals to take advantage of that. The vast majority of us would be better off relying on limited amounts of high quality. To put it less poetically, instead of buying a bunch of cheap guns, by one really good gun, cause you can only shoot one rifle at a time.

Final Thoughts

Has this gun from PWS set the standard of the modern musket? I think exploring the answer to that is compelling, but you’re going to have to be willing to commit. There’s an old adage: “The man with one gun probably knows how to use it.” I would even go further and add “He knows what it’s capable of, as well as himself.” If you’re looking for that “one gun,” this rifle might just be for you.

Many of the features, like the stock and grip, can be found on the less expensive AR models, but that's about where the comparisons end.

Many of the features, like the stock and grip, can be found on the less expensive AR models, but that’s about where the comparisons end.


  • Weight – 6 lbs, 12 oz
  • Overall Length – 33”
  • Barrel Length – 16”
  • Muzzle Velocity – 2993 ft/sec
  • Muzzle Energy – 1233 ft-lbs
  • Muzzle Device – FSC 556

The MM series bolt carriers are finished with ISONITE QPQ (Salt Bath Nitriding): The ISONITE QPQ process (AMS2753C) is a high-performance variety of salt bath nitrocarburizing. It is a thermo-chemical diffusion process whereby nitrogen-bearing salts generate a controlled release of nitrogen at the interface of a ferrous part.


  • Improved Durability
  • Corrosion Resistance Better than Chrome Plating
  • Low Material Distortion
  • Greater Resistance To abrasion And seizure
  • Fatigue Endurance is Extended
  • Heat Resistance
  • Uniform Black Appearance
Unlike the higher end guns in the PWS line, this one is direct impingement. But this one lives up to the PWS reputation.

Though the gun is stripped down a bit, it still has QD points and a forward assist.


{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Dusty February 23, 2016, 1:43 pm

    Before the screaming starts- I own and shoot AR’s. They may indeed be the modern day ‘musket’ in some ways- but I have better platforms I will use for a hunting rifle for any game larger than 40-50#. (I know there are states that allow them to be used for deer hunting. I’m sure they work fine within the 5.56’s limits.) They are an adequate varmint rifle.
    The upside of AR’s? Reliable if kept clean, relatively accurate, fun and easy to shoot and ideal for some defense applications. The downside of my AR’s? They are heavy for caliber, cold in the hands and against the face, and ‘edgy’- I always make sure to wear gloves when shooting them… They do not extract the available ballistics from their cartridges when using 16 ” barrels. They tend to be noisy in the woods, don’t sling as well for shoulder carry, and require a different position when I shoot prone using 30 rd. mags. They were a design compromise from cartridge to length, weight, et al, and work well within their limits. Those who know them best seem to have been trying to fix the “flaws” ever since they were invented.

    • Merril ZumMallen March 15, 2016, 3:17 pm

      Dear Dusty, Please do not take this as an insult to you personally, but your post is quite short sighted and, well, ignorant (strict dictionary definition and not an insult).

      I applaud you for being able to use different guns for your hunting forays. I agree fully that other guns exist for doing different things.

      You state AR’s are reliable if kept clean. The author just got done relating how he neglected to clean his AR and went through “close to 2,000 rounds, fired by at least half a dozen different shooters, without any care or lubrication.” While both the author and I agree that regular cleaning is optimum, this AR (and probably several others, especially those made with advanced materials with increased lubricity) work just fine dirty. Maybe you should keep the historical (early Viet Nam) accounts of poor performance, due to poor choice of powder and poor maintenance instruction, just where they are – in the past. Today’s AR’s and ammunition work just fine.

      “Heavy for caliber”? Subjective. I have a 18 pound .243 bolt rifle and a 6.5 pound .300 Win. Mag. You can have any gun be relatively heavy or relatively light depending on the materials used. They DO make lightweight AR’s. Rock River Arms has Lightweight AR’s that range from 5.6 pounds to 6.1 pounds. Do you feel that is too heavy? I guess the weight of AR-15’s have never bothered me. I am a farmer and after throwing 500 to 800 bales of hay around, a 7 to 9 pound rifle wasn’t all that bad. Also, the built-up calluses on my hands probably didn’t let me feel all the ‘edges’ on the AR. But if you need gloves to shoot, I will not fault you for that. After all, we are all different, aren’t we?

      “They do not extract the available ballistics from their cartridges when using 16 ” barrels.” Umm, they do make longer barrels. You can get 18″, 20″, 22″, 24″, and probably even longer ones in order to suit your ballistic extraction needs.

      Noisy in the woods? Really? It is a gun, you know. They all go “BANG”. Could you possibly list some quiet woods guns?

      “require a different position when I shoot prone using 30 rd. mags.” They make 20, 10, and 5-round magazines. You may want to try one of those.

      Try reading several MODERN articles on AR’s. It really isn’t so much about flaws as it is making tweaks here and there to make an already good rifle a bit better or to suit it to a particular need (benchrest shooting vs. coyote hunting vs. combat). And if that AR you own and shoot really bothers you that much, get rid of it and buy the type of rifle you need.

  • wildbill55 February 22, 2016, 10:28 pm

    For the life of me i can’t understand how any gun owner can vote for a democrat,but i know many who do and they really don’t believe that the govt.would ever confiscate their guns.that’s what people in England and Australia also thought.Once america is disarmed they can tell you to bend over and grab your ankles and all you can do is take it.

  • BJG February 22, 2016, 6:06 pm

    Why would anyone who is a firearm owner ever vote democratic? Give one good reason They (democrats) are all traitors, those who aren’t, should switch parties. If that Liar or the Commie who are running for President ever win we are finished as a Nation. Anyone who votes democratic and owns firearms is merely a hobby shooter not at all concerned about the 2nd Amendment or our rights. You don’t deserve to own a firearm or have any freedoms.

    • Gary Williams February 23, 2016, 6:29 pm

      Hell yeah, you have got it !!!

    • Matt February 23, 2016, 8:06 pm

      What do you think about the PWS in this article? I’m a Democrat, am I allowed to own one?

  • Evan February 22, 2016, 3:00 pm

    I like the name and the little logo on the mag well, but I wouldn’t pay that kind of money for a DI rifle. Especially with that Keymod handguard. Give me a piston rifle with a quad rail, and we’ll talk.

    • Kivaari February 22, 2016, 7:04 pm

      Don’t knock DI guns. If you look around some makers of piston guns have also begun offering DI rifles. There is a good reason for doing so, they work. I find it hard to understand why the little extra effort required to clean a DI gun is an issue. Gun oil and hot soapy water is cheap. I have used water since the 60s, after I learned what corrosive primers do to guns. It’s cheap and effective.

      • Joe McHugh February 23, 2016, 5:12 pm

        Kivarri, do you know how many countries equip their troops with D.I. rifles? Unless they were given M-16 rifles as military aid from the United Sates, the answer is Zero! Eugene Stoner incorporated the D.I. gas system in what became the M-16 rifle only to save on manufacturing costs. Guess what? Even the super cheap to make AK-47 uses the “expensive” gas piston system.

        I’ll say it right now. The M16 family of rifles should be an embarrassment to the citizens of the United States. That this P.O.S. has been issued to the fighting servicemen, since it was adopted in 1967, is an insult to anyone who understands the reliability factor of the gas piston feature. Let’s see, build another destroyer for the Navy or replace the “Standard A” rifle of the armed fighting man? No contest, the public just doesn’t cheer for a new military rifle like it does at a ship commissioning. Almost half a century tolerating the weaknesses of the M16 rifle. Yup, it’s the cost of rearming that the politicians see, not the viability factor. But then, how many politicians have ever had to rely on the M16 for their very life?

        More than one soldier or Marine has faulted the M16/M4 rifle due to its sensitivity to wind driven grit in the Middle East. When the bad guys are coming at you during a long lasting firefight, you don’t always have the luxury of time-outs to clean the carbon gunk and grit out of the receiver/magazine areas.

        The most popular rifle being sold in the civilian market today is the AR-15 style semi-automatic. No mystery here because that’s all the ex-servicemen have had experience with since 1967.

  • Jdamn February 22, 2016, 1:11 pm

    Now all they need to do is to build one in .308/7.76 so it is truly a modern musket, right now all it is a “poodle gun” or squirrel gun in .223.

  • William Long February 22, 2016, 12:11 pm

    Wow. Another really great wonderful very specially made AR that is SO MUCH better than some cheap piece of $600 junk that is merely mil-spec.

    To bad our govt doesn’t buy these for our troops instead of that junk that is merely mil-spec.

    I can’t afford one of these, or a Patriot Arms, or even a Rock River. What I can afford is merely mil-spec. Guess I will just have to make do with what our troops are forced to rely on 24-7.

  • Chief February 22, 2016, 5:40 am

    Remember “Assault weapon ” is the gun grabbers term we own Defense Rifles.

    • Tom Horn February 22, 2016, 9:02 am

      Ah, “A rose by any other name…”

      Since Jon didn’t use the words ‘assault rifle,” in his article, I believe you must be replying to my post below. I thought the phrase, “so called,” and the quotation marks around the words, assault rifle, were indication enough that these were the words of other folks, namely the town idiot of Lexington, MA, and not my own.

      I believe the current politically correct term for this class of rifle these days (if your a patriotic, freedom loving American) is, “modern sporting rifle.” It seems to transition with political climate (M-16, AR-15, assault rifle, black rifle, etc.). I find the term, modern sporting rifle, absurd if you just use your rifle for defensive purposes. “Tally-Ho! there, Bob. I heard you shot your third intruder last night. You’re sure to win the Intruder Cup this year at that rate, ole boy.”

      “High capacity, semi auto rifle,” does it for me, but I suppose that this term is too scary for the liberals, so I will refrain from it use (the word, not the rifle). In Aurora, Illinois you are banned form owning a scary AR-15, “assault rifle.” But you can own a Ruger mini-14 Ranch Rifle. I guess the collapsible stock and pistol grip is what make them too dangerous for the public to own.

      Perhaps if we call them our, “warm, fuzzy, cuddle-up by the fire place rifle,” they will leave them alone. Guess not.

      See Lexington story here:

      • BJG February 22, 2016, 11:53 am

        It’s against the law to own a AR 15 type weapon in Aurora Illinois? Isn’t that against the Constitution of the U.S? Are people raising Hell over this? This is Outrageous, I believe I would move before living in a City like that!

        • Tom Horn February 22, 2016, 1:36 pm


          Yes, it is true. While I was working at a gun shop near Aurora, a man came in who had moved recently to Aurora, from Texas. He had brought his fine collection of firearms (many semi-auto, large capacity magazines). The ATF came with a warrant and confiscated them, and his ammo. He was later able to facilitate the return of his firearms through an attorney, when he moved from the city, but he never got his ammo back. This was 2012, I believe. We were unable to sell AR-15 style rifles to our customers from Aurora, but we could sell them mini-14’s.

          • Robert Smith February 22, 2016, 5:30 pm

            This story can’t be true. A number of suburban Chicago towns have AW bans, and were allowed to keep them even after Illinois passed a state pre-emption as part of the 2013 CCW law. HOWEVER, these are strictly local ordinances, enforceable only by the town PD. ATF has no jurisdiction to enforce state or local gun laws. If ATF did seize his guns, it must have been on some other grounds.

          • Joe McHugh February 23, 2016, 4:34 pm

            I live in the People’s Republic of New York. Our Dear Leader, Governor Andrew Cuomo, initiated the S.A.F.E. gun law in January of 2013. This law makes the selling of an AR-15 type rifle illegal in New York State. If one already owns such a rifle, one is required to register it with the New York State Police at Albany, just like a handgun.

            Worse, an AR-15 owner cannot sell it to another New York resident. Worse yet, such an owner cannot give it to a relative. And for a little salt in the wound, when an AR-15 owner dies, his estate has to surrender the rifle to the New York State Police for destruction.

            One of the features that makes the AR-15 so “dangerous” is the bayonet lug on some of these rifles. Guess how many rifles with bayonets were used to rob banks since 1934? The F.B.I. files show zero times!

            Now for the statistic that really torques Our Dear Leader. Out of the estimated 900,000 AR-15 type rifles in upstate New York, just over 45,000 were registered in the last three years. Cuomo has managed to make over 850,000 AR-15 owners in New York State, defacto felons.

            The worst news of all is that almost all of the Sheriffs north of Yonkers, NY refused to enforce the S.A.F.E. gun law. They simply declared, in a general letter to Cuomo, that since the legislature did not authorize state funds to enforce the law, they were unable to provide the manpower to do so.

            My gun club is thinking about sending a big red rubber nose piece and a clown rubber air horn to Our Dear Leader so he can look like he acts. Oh, did I mention that Cuomo is a Democrat?

  • praharin February 22, 2016, 3:27 am

    Yolk of Tyranny? Eggs of Oppression? Bring out the Bacon of Justice!!!!

    • Greywolf February 22, 2016, 6:55 am

      Saw that one, too – LOL. Remember, to bring the freedom omelette back to this country, we’re going to have to break a few eggs.

    • Eddie046 February 22, 2016, 7:29 am

      Don’t forget the syrup of truth!

    • Tom Horn February 22, 2016, 10:34 am

      Sorry, we’re currently out of those menu items. Can I interest you in some Spam of Obama-ism. Tomorrow’s special is Hillary Pop-tarts, and next week’s feature is the Globalization skillet. I’m sure you’ll want to stop back for a plate of that, eh?

      Ok, I’m done.

      • Pete Harrison February 23, 2016, 1:25 am

        Nah…Hillary’s not a pop-tart. She’s more like a fruit cake. And Obama’s nothin’ but a cold plate of scrapple…

  • Tom Horn February 22, 2016, 12:41 am

    I like the name and concept.

    Ironic: Heard today the City of Lexington, Massachusetts is trying to ban so called, “assault weapons,” and high capacity magazines. Do they realize the musket was the, “assault weapon,” of 1775, when the, ‘Shot Heard ‘Round the World,’ rang out in the Battle of Concord and Lexington?

    I’m just glad these numb skulls weren’t around back then. “Hey, Excuse me there Mr. Minuteman. You can’t have that assault musket in the City of Lexington. You’re restricted to sling shots in this town. Hope that don’t put a damper on your revolution thing, there.”

    • Eddie046 February 22, 2016, 7:32 am

      Don’t forget that during most of the revolution about 25% of the population were in favor, 25% against and about 50% on the fence waited to see how things would work out.

      • Tom Horn February 22, 2016, 9:37 am


        Your point being, there were idiots, scoundrels, and fools, even back then?

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