PTR 91 Rifle is a Slam Dunk

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms, Reviews

The .30-caliber battle rifle has a proud heritage. The M1 Garand and M14 rifles, not to mention the FN FAL and Heckler and Koch G3, are excellent examples of the breed. However, an American-made rifle currently is garnering a lot of attention.

Why a .308?

Gray haired man in red shirt and ear protection shows the cocking rod for the black PTR 91 with a wooded area in the background

The cocking rod is above the barrel. It does not reciprocate when firing the PTR 91.

Originally envisioned as a short-range weapon for jungle warfare, the .223 certainly fits that niche well. In urban use, the .223 is a great rifle. However, for 500 yards plus, target use at very long range and hunting medium-sized game, the .223 falls short.

The .308 is a popular designated marksman rifle at the squad level. Shooting through walls and taking out a sniper in a bell tower still falls to the .308 (my younger son, an Army captain, said he would probably call in a rocket, although the .308 has its place). We do not have to find a niche to support the .308. If you like the looks of the rifle, buy it—and buy more than one.

It is satisfying to some to fire a lot of .223 after varmints or in three-gun matches and then go prone the next weekend with the .308 and match-grade loads. And that is how it should be.

The PTR 91 rifle relies on the proven HK G3 mechanism. That action is not gas operated; it relies on a roller-locking cam for performance. The remarkable action is long-lived and durable. Be certain you know what you are getting into. The PTR 91 is heavier than an AR-15, kicks more and is more expensive to feed. It will do things that the AR-15 cannot; it is more powerful and as accurate as most AR-15s and more accurate than others.

If you want a .308-caliber self-loader, the original HK rifles proves the design, refined in the PTR 91. The military rifle is a fine rifle in the G3 variant. The PTR 91 (and I have fired each) seems more tightly fitted and accurate. Either is more accurate than I may demonstrate off the bench rest; this is simply an impression. The PTR 91 is far more affordable. From a shooter’s viewpoint, rather than a collector’s, the PTR 91 is a great rifle.

Firing the PTR 91

Young man in light shirt and protective eyeware shoots the PTR 91 from a standing position toward a wooded area.

While paper accuracy is interesting, the PTR 91 showed soda can accuracy to 100 yards.

I tested the PTR GI model rifle which was well lubricated beforehand. PTR recommends a 100-round break-in before reliable function begins. That is reasonable and a mark of precision manufacturing. The break-in period with Winchester USA ball ammunition was uneventful. In the intervening time, I also fired the rifle with Federal American Eagle FMJ and Federal 168-grain BTHP, with good results from both.

To ready the rifle….

  1. Be certain the magazine is removed
  2. Make sure the the rifle is empty.
  3. Load the magazine.
  4. Grasp the cocking handle on top of the barrel.
  5. Bring it to the rear and lock the handle in place. That locks the bolt to the rear.
  6. Insert a loaded 20-round magazine.
  7. Ensure the magazine locks into place and is seated properly.
  8. Release the cocking handle, allowing the bolt to run forward, stripping a cartridge from the magazine and loading it into the chamber. The PTR may be placed on safe if you are not going to fire immediately.

The sights are proven HK type, with a bold, protected front post. The rear sight is a turret-style battle sight with an open leaf for 100 yards and aperture rear sight for 200, 300 and 400 yards, with the smaller aperture for longer range. The sight is turned to each setting depending on the range.

Trigger press is smooth and crisp. The rifle is comfortable to fire. The push is more than the .223, of course, yet not uncomfortable. The roller-cam action absorbs much of the recoil of the powerful .308 Winchester cartridge. I fired the rifle off hand in fast-moving drills with excellent results. To 100 yards…

  1. Place the front sight on the target.
  2. Line up the aperture rear sight.
  3. Squeeze the trigger and you have a hit.

Firing from a solid bench-rest firing position, the rifle exhibited excellent accuracy potential. To confirm reliability with sporting loads, I fired the rifle with Fiocchi 165-grain SST. Reliability was good in firing a single magazine of that accurate, powerful hunting load (a single magazine is a 20-round box).

Gray haired man in red shirt and ear protection shows the cocking rod for the black PTR 91 with a wooded area in the background

Firing off hand but braced barricade, the PTR 91 gave excellent accuracy with good control.

Accuracy testing involved firing three-shot groups at 100 yards. Firing with iron sights for accuracy demands attention to detail, including sight alignment, sight picture and trigger control. The results reflect the shooter’s skill more than the accuracy potential of the rifle.

On several occasions, two-shot groups hovered around 1 MOA, with the third shot bringing the group to 1.5 inches. Suffice it to say, the rifle is accurate enough for practical application in the hunting field and as a recreational shooter. You would increase practical accuracy with an optical sight. However, the intrinsic accuracy of the rifle is excellent.

The PTR 91 is well made of good material and among its most important attributes is a well-defined pride of ownership.

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You ready to go out and fire the PTR 91 and enjoy this powerful rifle? Already shot one? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (44)

  • CoopJ

    |

    My son bought one and your article is right on the mark. He paid the ATF fees and built a nice semiauto version of the HK51,putting a collapsible stock & 8″ barrel, since us lowly civilians can’t buy one. Even with an 8″ barrel it’s 3 different shooters put holes in a 7 inch target at 240 yds. It’s a great rifle, and as a SBR, the Secret Service would love.

    Reply

  • Phil

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    I’ve had my H&K-91 for 20+ years. It’s my go to rifle.I sold the AR-15 because all it did was sit in the save. I target shoot, plink and hunt with it. I’ll have it for a lifetime and leave it to my oldest Grandson.

    Reply

  • SS NNNN

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    “Release the cocking handle, allowing the bolt to run forward, stripping a cartridge from the magazine and loading it into the chamber. ”

    This bit of the drill is very important if you want to avoid jams on loading. Proud owner of a PTR91 and I let a reasonably
    experienced (Kalashnikov shooter) try it at the range…he
    jammed it twice. Let the bolt slam home. This are rugged
    accurate and AFFORDABLE…always dreamed of getting an
    HK91 growing up but would I drag one out into the forest to
    deer hunt…probably not…the PTR91 no such worries 8-]
    h

    Reply

  • US Army (retired)

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    I have owned a CETME and now have a PTR 91. There is very little difference between them except for the sights. The sights on the 91 are a definite improvement. The comments on here are consistent about the 91 not having a BHO and I agree that it needs one. I have used mine for hunting using a 5 round magazine that I got when I bought the CETME. I have dropped deer at 100-320 yards with the 91. It is a very accurate rifle especially when fitted with a good scope. I find it to be as dirty as a DI system but it just does not have the problems that I experienced in the 24 years I was in the US Army. I really just detest the M-16 series due to the too early fielding without proper vetting in Vietnam. I have a Mini-14 and have never had problems with it. I highly prefer the 7.62 round over the 5.56. I have put over 10,000 rounds through my 91 and it just eats whatever you feed it. Cleaning is very easy just make sure you scrub the bolt face and the flutes in the chamber. Cheap ammo will do but accuracy suffers. I use a 155 grain A-Max for hunting and it is excellent out to over 300 yards.

    Reply

  • Johanne

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    These rifles aren’t just for long range shooting. They are capable of excellent stopping power at close range, much more so than a .223, and as such are excellent “close range stoppers” if you will. They also penetrate even the heaviest of body armor, stuff that will stop a .223, so again excellent for close range use as well.

    Reply

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