If you feel the 7.62×39 meets your anticipated needs, then the rifle to go with is an AK. If you think your needs are best met with .223, then getting anything other than an AR variant puts you at a logistical and economical disadvantage. Things get weird when you hit the .308, though. No particular platform has the overwhelming advantage of numbers like those other two have within their respective calibers. The AR in .223 is in first place and whatever is in second is probably outnumbered by an order of ten. The AK is in top place in 7.62×39, and beats the second place gun by a pretty heavy margin as well.
And the .308? Well, just off the top of my head: AR, AK, HK, FAL, M1A, and a few other platforms are out there. And whichever one is in first place has the next-ran pretty close behind.
Years ago, I bought a copy of the HK91 made by JLD (now PTR). HK-style rifles are notorious for being tough to clone well. PTR makes one of the best, and the most affordable, clones out there. A couple of detractions about the HK platform were it’s unsuitability for optics and it’s magazine release. PTR brought out a new version of their PTR-91 line that specifically addresses those issues.
The new PTR-91 rifles have, as an option, a Picatinny rail mounted to the top of the receiver. This eliminates the need for the old style ‘claw mount’ that put the scope waaaay above the bore axis. This is a nice improvement, but not nearly as nice as the next improvement: paddle mag release.
Real G3 rifles (the basis of the HK91) have an AK-style paddle mag release. But, to be approved by ATF for import, the semi-auto versions required some modifications to prevent the use of full-auto parts. One of the easy ways to do that was to modify the area of the gun where that paddle release was. As a result, the semi-autos just have the button mag release, whereas the G3 has the button and a paddle release. Now, you could gunsmith a paddle release if you were careful, and some gunsmiths did offer that service. But now you can get it straight form the factory.
That’s two of the greatest complaints about the HK platform resolved. Still present is the rather brutal recoil from the roller-locked system that operates the gun. There’s no free lunch in physics, and the awesome reliability of the gasless system is paid for with a bit more pronounced recoil.
A couple other changes PTR has made include changing the muzzle threads from the original metric 1×15 metric pitch to the more common 5/8×24 that will allow virtually any aftermarket .308 muzzle device to be used. Additionally, in the last year or so, PTR changed the fluting back to the original HK-style after people complained about issues with tar-sealed ammo gumming up the flutes and causing problems.
And, finally, while they still offer the ‘Navy’-style polymer lowers, the “GI” series is available with the traditional steel lower…making for slightly heavier but more robust firearm.
Although the days of ninety-seven cent mags from Cheaper Than Dirt are behind us, you can still find HK91 mags for less than $5…which puts them leaps ahead of most other .308 rifle mags.
So, if you’re in the market for a .308 battle rifle, and you need to watch your pennies, the PTR is an outrageous bargain.
Which is why I have one sitting here……let’s check it out.
Here’s one of the biggest differences that immediately catches the eye: the newer GI model appears to use surplus steel lower receivers whereas many of the earlier PTR’s had the polymer ‘Navy’ receivers. And, yes, the lower is marked S-E-F..which, along with the paddle mag release, makes this thing a dead ringer for a real G3 if you ignore that rail. Naturally someone will chime in with something about how you’ll get popped by overzealous cops who think you’re toting a real full-auto G3. :::eyeroll::: First of all, how many cops have you met that know gun minutiae enough to tell the difference at a glance between a G3 and an HK91? Second, if you’re waltzing around with a .308 battle rifle and draw the attention of a cop, odds are pretty good he’s going to come up and have a conversation with you anyway…full auto or semi auto. So..non-issue.
Notice the newer style has the paddle magazine release whereas the older style does not.
The picatinny rail….
And the new 5/8×24 threaded muzzle device. This rifle will now take any muzzle brake or suppressor that takes the far more common Imperial thread.
And about a year or so ago, they went back to the original HK-style chamber fluting…for those of us who still have tar-sealed ammo floating around.
Older style chamber fluting on left, current chamber fluting
PTR moved their factory from Ct to SC a few years back and I was worried about that move creating some quality issues. There are a few things on this new PTR I’m not liking.
- The parkerizing is great, but they parked everything. Parts that move against each other are a bit gritty and will need to wear in. The paddle mag release, for example, is pretty stiff and I think thats because the contact surfaces were parkerized as well.
- The takedown pins are tight in those holes. Again, I think thats the parkerizing. Should loosen up a tad over time.
- Same story for the charging of rifle. A little gritty. Not as smooth as my old PTRs.
- Surplus furniture doesn’t fit perfectly. Forward handguard is a little loose. Easily remedied with a shim. However, when you use surplus parts you should expect some issues like that. I’m not going to fuss.
Rifle shipped with one mag. No sling. No instructions. No nothin’. Just a surplus (ca.1969) aluminum mag.
Many vendors are discounting the older style of PTR to move them out and make room for these newer versions. If you can live without the rail, thread change, and paddle (which many people do on their $3000 original HK91s) go snap some up at the closeout prices. When you order, make sure you find out which model of PTR youre getting…the older or the newer. The newer models have different model numbers than the older style. The newer guns are PTR100, PTR101, etc. Older style use completely different SKU’s.
One other thing, may people like to say that the HK rifles eat up the brass so it can’tbe reloaded. Nonsense. The case mouths get dinged sometimes but they are easily un-dinged with a bullet or other tool. And those distinctive flutes do nothing to keep you from resizing the brass and re-using it. It’s a non-issue.