By Jeff W. Zimba
With an ever-increasing interest in the civilian ownership of military-style firearms, several companies have emerged in order to fill this demand. There are many new designs and ideas, some big and some small, and there are a number of upgrades to existing platforms to satisfy the desires of this huge influx of new buyers, all while keeping up with those who have been ahead of the curve in this area for years.. PTR91, Inc. is one company that has embraced the extremely popular HK platform, purchased the original, licensed tooling and has been making quality, near-original versions in the United States for a number of years. They have added their own custom angle to many of the models and with the recent introduction of their own version of the HK32, a very rare, seldom-seen firearm that was originally made for export but never seen in the United States, it seems that PTR91, Inc. has gone from a participant in a large field to a ground-breaker.
In the Beginning
In 1997, Jose Luis Diaz founded JLD, a company that made clones of the popular HK rifles that were becoming extremely expensive, increasingly rare and gaining popularity in the wake of the numerous “Assault Weapon” bills affecting both importation and domestic manufacture. In 2006 he was joined by P. Everett Weed to found the new company, PTR91, Inc.
Located in Farmington, CT they developed the PTR91, their flagship rifle, using original, H&K licensed tooling from the G3 plant in Portugal. Since the vast majority of the parts used are now manufactured in the United States, their rifles are all 922r compliant.
PTR91, Inc has several offerings in the proven and popular .308 rifle category. The quality, fit and finish of all the latest models is reminiscent of the German originals that have been praised for so many years. Along with this superior quality are numerous custom upgrades and PRT91, Inc. exclusive designs. On most models the original style synthetic forend has been replaced with a rugged and attractive hard anodized aluminum forend, bringing the operator more durability while being slotted to allow for much greater cooling. These metal forends are all drilled and tapped in several places to allow the addition of accessory rails used with so many popular accessories on the market today.
Some PTR91 models employ the original receiver pattern allowing the use of older, factory and aftermarket mounting devices while others have a section of Picatinny rail on top (like a flat-top AR-15/M16/M4) for more traditional mounting of newer optics and devices. All models employ the well-liked “barrel-type” rear sight, field adjustable for several distances and the popular and effective hooded front sight that H&K fans have come to love for decades.
Regardless of the specific model and configuration, all other receiver dimensions are accurate to the originals allowing the use of standard HK91 type stocks, trigger packs, magazines, etc. For areas where it is permitted, the flash hiders are threaded on in their normal fashion permitting the use of such accessories as muzzle brakes, flash suppressors, muzzle devices and sound suppressors. For more restrictive states there are even compliant versions available with a welded-on muzzle compensator and shipped with a 10-round magazine.
PTR, Inc. Rifle Mechanics
The PTR .308 rifle barrels are .70-inch OD and have a 1 in 12-inch rate of twist. They are manufactured by TC Contender. The SC and MSG models are fluted from the front sight to the muzzle and the Super Sniper barrels are fluted full-length. The barrels are not chrome lined. The muzzle thread (on those threaded) is 15x1mm.
All receivers are made on original H&K machinery to the German specifications, and are all .059 steel. Accessories such as German claw scope mounts and original stocks are compatible with the PTR rifles although some accessories and parts need fitting prior to installation. Standard 20-round alloy and steel magazines typically fit and feed fine.
The sights are just like the original German sights. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation and the front sight is a fixed hooded post.
The handguard on the PTR rifles is machined, hard-anodized aluminum. They are drilled and tapped in several places for the addition of rails and accessories at the 3, 6 and 9-o’clock positions. Unlike original handguards, PTR handguards are secured by screws rather than push pins.
The U.S. part count is seven, in order to comply with the 922r restrictions. They typically include the receiver, barrel, pistol grip, stock, bolt, bolt carrier and handguard. Some utilize a U.S. trigger, hammer, sear and cocking handle.
Meet the “New Guy”
Many years ago in Germany there was a little-known (but heavily desired) rifle called the HK32. It was based on the G3 (original, fully automatic HK91) and it was chambered in the Soviet 7.62x39mm cartridge. It has been rumored that this gun never left the conceptual stage though a few photos have surfaced of complete guns in the recent past. Very little is available about this gun except for the unified certainty of its rarity.
Several years ago Fleming Firearms had a custom version they marketed as the Model 52. It was a modified HK91, chambered in 7.62x39mm. They were even tested in the A3 configuration in the April 1992 issue of Machine Gun News and received high marks. It was said to be remarkably controllable compared to the original 91/G3 in 7.62x51mm (.308 NATO). This writer has no idea how many were produced and has yet to see one on the firing line, even to this day.
The people at PRT91, Inc. have decided to pull the shroud of secrecy off this caliber configuration and now offer several models of their PTR32 chambered in 7.62x39mm, which is currently available. From a short distance they look almost identical to the standard PTR91 with the most noticeable difference being the magazine release portion of the magazine well. They were designed to look like the standard .308 guns and use standard AK-47 magazines. Like the rest of the PTR91, Inc. rifles the PTR32 is available in several configurations and can be ordered as compliant for those living in the more restrictive states. We received one to test, along with a standard PTR91 and a PTR-MSG91.
When we spent time at the range, we visited the Small Arms Research Test Facility with three different models of the PTR lineup. We tested the PTR91F, the PTR-MSG91 (both chambered in .308) and the new PTR32 chambered in 7.62x39mm. All testing was done with Wolf Performance Ammunition. The PTR32 was chosen to be the first gun to test.
The PTR32 we tested had a 16-inch heavy barrel and fixed compensator. With an overall weight of 9.8 pounds it was heavier than the majority of guns we fire regularly in the same caliber and the lower recoil we anticipated was proven to be correct.
The PTR32 does indeed use standard AK-47 magazines but due to tighter tolerances than the guns the magazines were designed for we found it to be a little finicky on magazines it would feed from reliably. The magazine it came with and a few other surplus variants we tested worked fine while several other inexpensive magazines that accompanied us to the range did not work reliably in this rifle. While all seemed to lockup fine, the problems we encountered were feeding problems, mostly associated with improper round presentation. When we finally sorted out the magazines that would run correctly, (Bulgarian mags worked best) and after an initial cleaning, lubrication application, and a brief break-in of about 100 rounds, it ran excellent and without problems of any kind.
Since we were shooting with open-sights on an overcast day with “blasting ammo” rather than running it scoped with match-grade ammo we did the majority of our shooting at 50 yards. All groups were very acceptable given the circumstances. There was absolutely no point of impact shift and all shooters had the same experience. The recoil was indeed light as expected and the rifle grouped as well as anyone behind it had the ability to control.
The next to the line was the PTR91F. This is the baseline 7.62x51mm (.308) rifle with a 16-inch barrel and threaded muzzle with original style flash hider. With 20-round factory H&K magazines it ran perfect out of the box and never encountered any problem of any kind. While the recoil was more noticeable than the PTR32, it was still extremely manageable and comfortable to shoot, even during long volleys. The ejection path of the empty casings was quite far though, all landing over 20 feet away from the shooter at a 2 o’clock angle.
The last candidate for testing was the PTR-MSG91. This rifle is the top performer in the PTR line and has several factory upgrades to enhance accuracy. Starting with the base PTR91 it has a 5.25 inch Picatinny rail on the receiver directly above the trigger. Another 3 inch section of Picatinny rail is mounted on the bottom of the forend and sports a Harris bipod. The stock barrel has been replaced with an 18 inch, fluted and threaded barrel (15x1mm), topped with a factory style flash hider. The stock is adjustable for length of pull and cheek rest height.
Although we did not question the enhanced quality of the PTR-MSG91, once we fired the first 20-round group, it was almost sinful it was not scoped during this range session to test its true ability. This rifle has some serious performance capabilities. With the same ammo, at the same distance, using the same sights, the consistent group size was a mere fraction of those fired with the standard PTR91. This was the case for every shooter, with every 20-round string. It was VERY obvious that there were many differences between the PTR-MSG91 and the basic PTR91 that went well beyond the visible characteristics.
Those who are fans of the original HK full-size rifle line may have a new reason to smile these days. While many of the “HK clones” we have tested in the past have been of excellent quality and extremely reliable, they have all been based on the more “exotic” flavors, such as the SBR versions and modeled after the HK51, HK53, and ever-popular MP5. The PTR91, Inc. guns we tested here are all modeled on the true and tried “work-horse” original size rifles. Although we usually lean toward the exotics in Small Arms Review, we realize that there is an important role for the full-size guns too. All test rifles exceeded our expectations in fit, finish and function. They are solid and look great. The welds are clean and the dark finish is uniform and attractive. The aluminum handguard is a great upgrade from the original rifles, allowing several mounting options not available on the German guns. Each rifle had points we thought were individually important but the overall impression was extremely favorable for all of them.
The 7.62×39 PTR32 is a fun gun to shoot and with ammo cost far less than the NATO rounds, not to mention the availability of high-capacity magazines, we are certain these will go over very well in the recreational shooting community.
The PTR91 we tested has the look and feel of the original HK91 rifle with the exception of the aluminum forend. Once you get past the different look it seems more like an upgrade than something different. The function was solid right out of the box and the recoil was not excessive.
The PTR-MSG91 was an absolute delight to shoot. Not only is it extremely comfortable to shoot with the upgraded, adjustable stock, but the accuracy, even with open sights and bulk quality ammunition was exceptional. It will not be long before a good piece of glass is added to this configuration and some match quality ammo is brought back to the range for more testing. From the first shot to the last it was extremely obvious that this rifle delivers much more than an enhanced look.
With all these configurations, and several more available to meet the specific needs or legal requirements of the owner, it is the opinion of this writer than these rifles will be viewed as a good addition to any gun collection – even the most ardent H&K collector.
Maine Military Supply
735 Wilson Street
Brewer, ME 04412
Ph: (207) 989-6783
Wolf Performance Ammunition
PO Box 757
Placentia, CA 92871
Ph: (888) 757-9653
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V13N10 (July 2010)|