JAKL 5.56 vs AR-15

AR-15 rifles rule the rifle kingdom in the United States. I’m guessing it will be some time before another rifle can take its place. But there are alternatives out there for those looking for something just a little different. The JAKL is one of PSA’s more popular rifles and it has a unique look to it. However, the AR-15 rifle is well tested and produced, making it a safe choice for new gun owners.

My first AR-15 was an old Bushmaster with a top carry handle and plastic drop-in handguard. I shot it like a .22 because ammo was cheap back then. I have no idea how many rounds I’ve put through it over the years, but it’s in the thousands. My first AR-15 build was just as exciting to me and just as reliable. I put thousands of rounds through it as well.

JAKL and AR-15
The AR-15 rifle and the PSA JAKL. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
In some sense, I never get tired of upgrading my AR-15 rifles or working on a new build. But at some point, it’s nice to see something different. I like older, WWII-style guns with those classic wood stocks and modern version rifles alike. I’ve been intrigued by the JAKL since its release but have never had the opportunity to get my hands on one until now.

Because of the overall design of the gun, I find myself comparing it to the AR-15, and I’m sure others do the same. So, which one is better? Are there any advantages of one over the other? Let’s discuss each rifle and look at some of the differences between the two.

PSA JAKL MOE-SL-EPT

It’s not an AR, AK, or SCAR, but it resembles a mixture of all three. The JAKL uses a standard AR-15 lower receiver, including the trigger assembly, which I like. However, the JAKL upper requires a buffer/stock adaptor kit and bolt catch to work with the lower receiver. Having an AR lower is a huge benefit for those already used to shooting AR-15 rifles.

For me, having the safety selector, trigger, and grip from an AR is beneficial. It makes the learning curve with this rifle easier because I’m already used to parts of it. Standard AR-15 mags also work in the JAKL, so you don’t have to buy any additional magazines. This is my personal preference, but I would be happy if everyone just stuck with AR, Glock, and Scorpion mags for most guns. It makes life much easier when you don’t have to keep track of proprietary mags for a gun.

PSA JAKL 5.56 Rifle
PSA’s JAKL comes in multiple calibers and sizes. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
When you move to the upper receiver, the guns start to change dramatically. Of course, the first noticeable difference with the JAKL is that it’s a long-stoke piston design. The bolt and piston look much like an AR/AK hybrid, which is an interesting design. On the outside, the F5 folding stock and handguard make the JAKL look somewhat like the FN SCAR. This is one thing I like about it. A SCAR costs $$$ these days, and I’m always intrigued by alternatives.

What features stand out on the JAKL?

PSA used decent materials to build the JAKL. The barrel is made from Nitride 4150V Chrome Moly which is very common on AR-15 rifles. They also used a monolithic 6405 hard coat anodized receiver, 4340 carrier, and 8620 front trunnion. If you like running with a suppressor, it also comes with a JMAC Customs GFHCE-28-S-KM Muzzle Device. The muzzle device is pin & welded because the barrel is only 13.7 inches long.

Because the F5 stock folds to the side, the JAKL is about 25.25 inches long when folded and 32 inches long with the stock unfolded. Another interesting thing about the JAKL is that the upper receiver and handguard are one piece, at least on the top. A separate piece covers the bottom of the handguard, but the top rail and receiver are one piece. This means there is no break in the rail where the receiver normally meets with the handguard.

PSA JAKL 5.56 Rifle
This is where the JAKL starts to resemble an AK-47. The recoil spring fits into the back of the bolt. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
With this design, you can mount an optic as far forward as you wish. Typically, you don’t want to mount an optic on both the upper receiver and handguard rail, which is called bridging. The recoil will cause some movement between the handguard and receiver, and the optic will lose accuracy. I like this design, which, again, is somewhat like the SCAR.

Another feature I like with the JAKL is the ambidextrous side-charging handle. It’s a round steel handle that is just large enough to get a good grip on it but doesn’t get in the way. It’s non-reciprocating, so there are no worries about getting your hand too close to it. Mine came with the handle on the left side, which is where I wanted it, so I left it alone.

How does it stack up to the AR-15?

As I mentioned in the beginning, AR-15 rifles are the cream of the crop, and it’s this way for a reason. Their design produces an impressively low recoil for the size of cartridge it fires. They are also extremely accurate, making them ideal for up-close and long-distance shooting.

In general, the long-stroke piston (like the AK-47) is more reliable than other systems. A rifle with this system will generally continue to cycle and fire correctly regardless of how dirty the gun gets. It also shoots cleaner than a gas impingement system, but it comes at a cost. Long-stroke piston systems tend to kick more and are not as accurate.

UTG extended drop-in quad rail.
Is there still a reason to use a vertical foregrip? [Photo: Jason Mosher]
This is where the AR-15 really shines. Yes, it does need to be cleaned and oiled more often, but it’s a smooth shooting gun. After firing about 500 rounds through the JAKL, it appears to be reliable when the gas pressure is on the right setting. I’ve heard of others who have more than 5,000 rounds through the JAKL without a single issue.

But nothing can duplicate the test of battle and time. AR-15 rifles have been used all around the world by every branch of our military, and they are a proven rifle. Would the JAKL hold up the same? We may not have that answer for years to come. But, for all other practical purposes, the JAKL appears to be a well-made, reliable weapon.

On the range, the JAKL had more of a kick, making it just a little harder to stay on target when shooting fast. It did okay at longer distances, but the grouping was not as good as the AR once you got past 200 yards.

Is one better for you?

I think the AR-15 is the best firearm for someone who plans to buy only one rifle. That said, I like the JAKL and believe it has great potential. I like the design, the size, and the way it shoots. The M-LOK slots and Picatinny rail allow you to add just about any accessory you want.

PSA JAKL 5.56 Rifle
The F5 folding stock makes the JAKL easy to transport. It also extends in length. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
Because of the AR’s popularity, you can easily upgrade or replace any part of the rifle. While some parts of the JAKL are mil-spec, others are proprietary. That’s ok, but it does create a disadvantage compared to the AR-15. If you already have an AR-15 and want something different, I wouldn’t hesitate to try out the JAKL. It comes in a variety of configurations with different stocks, barrel lengths, and calibers.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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