The new PTR-91 rifles

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.

IMG_2208 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.

IMG_2209 IMG_2210The picatinny rail….

IMG_2212 IMG_2213And 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.

IMG_2211And 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.



20 thoughts on “The new PTR-91 rifles

  1. I have 3 PTR rifles. The oldest is a 91F with a paddle installed by Bill Springfield at It is a very clean job and fells smooth. I have a GI R purchased a couple of months ago. This has all of the improvements you have mentioned. And, yes, the paddle does feel gritty. I’ve been having paddle break-in sessions. Not a whole lot of improvement after a few hundred manipulations. Gonna need a few hundred more. My 3rd rifle is a 91SC. I am sending this one off to Springfield tomorrow for a paddle install. I bought this rifle early last year. It was made in Connecticut. The current model of the 91SC has all the same updates as the GI. Mine has only the rail.

    One thing you didn’t touch on was the fact that the M-14, FN FAL, and the G3 are the only 7.62×51 main battle rifles to see widespread use. One could argue about the AR10/SR25, but they are nowhere near as common as the other 3. And none are the excellent price that the PTR is. I’m glad I loaded up on cheap mags when I did. I also managed to get a hold of a Rheinmetall bolt carrier. One piece construction, definitely a geek-boy piece.

    One thing I would love to see from PTR would be some of the more uncommon furniture. Maybe a clone of the SG stock, or Namibian furniture. Or an option for MLok or Keymod handguards. Or an extended ambidextrous safety. Or a really good recoil buffer.

    This is such a great platform. With a few updates it can continue to be viable for a long time to come.

    • If I understand you, you would like PTR to have these as custom options from the factory, because there are all manor of aftermarket parts for the platform.

      While not as bad as the Barbie for Men, the G3 has plenty of upgrades available out there to fondle and hold.

      • Yes, there are plenty of aftermarket mods available. PTR offers quite a few variants. Look at Atlantic Firearms website. A few are exclusive to Atlantic. PTR does seem to have a cozy relationship with HK Parts. Nothing wrong with that. I have an HK SG1 stock on my 91F. It was pretty expensive. Maybe one from PTR would cost less. Same goes for the Namibian furniture, rare and expensive. MLok or KeyMod handguards wouldn’t be much of a stretch since they already offer their own modular handguards along with a few 1913 rail models. What I’m really looking forward to is the Spuhr stock adapter. It’s been vaporware for the last couple of years but they promise it’ll come to market by the end of 2016.

  2. All need trigger work, about the worse trigger, I’ve ever seen. Makes shooting harder then need’s to be, one other thing is no bolt hold open. Although, saying that, I really like my, and $1.50 mags, were a deal. I wish, some of the newer, AR platform 308’s, would be set up for these mag’s, would lower the overall cost.

    • From what I’ve read, the heavy trigger pull was a requirement for safety requirements….something about the unsafed rifle being dropped from a height of several meters and not going off.

  3. for Bill Springfield’s website indicates that address is for sale but will get you there.

  4. This is the second or third article I’ve read that mentions heavy recoil from this type of rifle. I don’t remember my HK91 having much recoil at all. I was in my 20s and 30s when I owned it, but still… I’ll admit that it was heavy, though.

  5. I can’t find my original comment to one of your PTR91 articles a few years ago. Your search function doesn’t bring them up.
    By memory:
    Anyway, I had talked to the PTR guys at SHOT Show a few years ago about the chamber fluting issue, and was told that they were making two versions, and it depended on which model you bought as to which chamber you ended up with. The target versions had the new one, and the GI/issue/std model used the original. IIRC, they were saying that the brochures/documents the company had written/printed weren’t very clear on the subject, and there had been some confusion as a result.
    The target model was intended to use US manufactured quality ammo, not mil-spec imported stuff. I think .308, not the 7.62 military fodder.

    What the current situation is I can’t answer to, but I would be inclined to examine the chamber to verify which one was in hand before purchasing. What’s the intended purpose of the rifle, and choose appropriately.

  6. I just got my PTR91SC back from Bill Springfield. I had the paddle mag release installed. It is significantly smoother than the Parkerized paddle on my GI R. He also works pretty fast. I mailed it to Colorado Springs on Thursday, it arrived on Saturday, and back in my hands today. Super clean work too.

  7. I have purchased a PTR91 GI without the rail. Any advice on scopes and mounts, or should I just look for the surplus claw mount and scope?

    • The claw mounts put the scope way too high. There are some low profile mounts available. Check out

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