Firearms

PTR 91 Rifle is a Slam Dunk

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 .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.

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.

[bob]

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (44)

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. “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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. My HK91 is an ’82 model. I don’t know how many rounds have been down the pipe, but it has been reliable from day one. It’s accurate, well made and uses my favorite cartridge for a battle rifle, the .308. I have mounted a set of XS Ghost Ring sights on mine and use it out to 200 yards. This design has been around since the post war CETME which was designed by German engineers in Spain. Germany wasn’t allowed to produce the weapon do to treaty considerations. While the AR15 is much lighter there is something about throwing a .308 downrange that give you confidence your intended target is likely to go down if your shot placement is good.

    1. I always felt the move from the M14 to the M16 was stupid. Don’t get me wrong, the M-16 vs AK 47 with distance is better performance, but knock down with one shot and a FMJ goes to the .308 caliber every day.

  7. HK 91 and 93 were my first rifles, I loved them until. . . I met the AR and discovered ergonomics. For bench shooting, the PTR/HK 91 are superb. But you CAN’T shoot them with a sling a la Service Rifle competition shooting–the side mounted forward sling point attaches directly to the barrel and pulls the muzzle down and to the left on every shot. And don’t even try for an efficient re-load of a new magazine. Between the paddle release (because you can’t reach the button with your trigger finger) requiring you to manually remove the empty mag–AFTER you lock the bolt to the rear with your support hand–you finally go back for a reload, then you have to slap the bolt home, pushing the rifle away from you toward the ground. Who came up with this?? Awful, just awful. If you want a .308 battle rifle, go AR-10 or the SCAR 17. If you want to bench rest, the PTR is great.

  8. I had an H&K 91, 308 years ago, had to sell it, was the worst thing I ever did, bought a PTR,91 in 308, the parts are interchangeable, love it, made it into a G3,it’s one of my best guns, it has the same weight, and feel!! just love it!!

  9. I’ve had my PTR-91 GI for about 6 mos. Iron sights are good, I mounted a 3-15x 50mm Pentax using the claw mount for a G-3, at 100 yards I can shoot through the same hole consistently…saves money on targets.Takes some time to get used to the weight but I love this rifle. I wonder what three gun would be like using a .308

  10. Great rifle. I have an AR -10 as well as others. Heavy and balance is well forward but it is very accurate with iron sites. My 15 year old always gets a lot of looks when she shoots it at the range. If looks could kill, this rifle does it. It looks like a serious tool.

  11. I have two of these rifles. I have an older match barrel with a surplus Hensoldt scope. I also have a newer C with wood furniture. I love these rifles. Can’t beat the these for the price and the classic lines seal the deal.

  12. I have fired approx. 100 rounds with no problems at all (not even one). I replaced the stock with a retractable stock and still no problems (at all). This rifle does the job. If i had money i would buy two. I love it! Ammo isn’t cheap but what can you expect from 308. I just installed a scope mount and hope to try it this weekend. Buy this gun it is fun and has a lot of possibility. I have a cor 15 AR-15 and this takes the cake. If you want chap ammo go AR-15 if you want a blast go with a PTR91. Once again fun fun fun! take note I’m 135lb and this rifle is heavy but don’t be a pus*y its a battle rifle. Have fun and be safe!

  13. Actually my CETME threw expended rounds about 20-25 feet to the right of me causing a couple of interesting moments on the firing line. Most guys just wanted to shoot it a couple of times and they loved it.

  14. I have the 91-SC, Squad Carbine and over 1,000 rounds have passed its way in the year and change I have had it.

    Shoulder fired over 550 and 600 yards with predictable results, I missed when I figured I missed and hit when I paid attention. Sights or Leatherwood M-1200 sitting on a half inch riser, results were the same. the rifle is better than I am.

    A little heavy, yes, hard on brass, well the cheap varnished steel case WOLF gets beaten a bit, the brass, it did fine, the Teflon steel case is fine and the German blue plastic rounds, damned things buried themselves in an oak tree at 65 yards and accurate at 200 yards to a few inches in calm weather. Actually fired one plastic into a tire casings steel belts, the tread had separated off the tire.

    The primer only plastic rounds do not cycle the action and must manually be ejected every time. They feed from the magazine well enough.

  15. Just bought one of these “used” two weeks ago off a guy on Armslist, when I say used he said he’s only ran about 200rds through it. And it’s fully decked out! Also came with 19 20rd mags and 340rds of ammo! It was over a $2000 package I got for $890!! He has a couple of real bad teeth causing severe pain and no dental insurance, his loss was my gain.

    1. Sounds like you got a good deal. I’ve been wanting one of these. Maybe I should find someone with a serious medical condition who needs money to pay for their care and I’ll exploit them so I can save some money on my toy.

  16. Have had a chance to fire an origional HK91 “back in the day”, some
    of the ’91 clones and recently a PTR….the last more then holds its
    own. Certainly these guns require you train with them regularly..;the
    manual of arms is…different 8-] The Carolinians are very wise to
    extend their welcome, the folks in Connecticut utter fools for chasing
    PTR off.

  17. I have a PTR PDW, the .308 “pistol” version of the PTR91 rifle with an 8.5″ barrel. I paid the $200 for the tax stamp to convert it to SBR and installed an adapter for attaching an AR buffer tube. Onto that I put a MAKO GL shock absorbing AR stock. This is great set up, the recoil is not a bad as my 20 ga shotgun, shorter than an AR, and the 308 round still provides decent velocity from short barrel. Only drawback is noise. I don’t recommend it for an indoor range.

  18. LOL, just traded a PTR-91 for an AR-15. Still love the PTR but was a tank to carry around. Also, the stock trigger on a PTR has got to be weighing in at like 12+Ibs of pull. That was my only complaint. If you polish the release sear and throw some teflon lube on it you’ll get a rifle that is easily 1″ moa or close at 100yds straight from the box. But if you end up carrying that thing around hunting good luck you will get tired of it.

  19. Plus, at $3 per magazine and German surplus accessories, it is a good value overall for a shooter. It can be rough on the brass for reloaders. In fact it throws the brass ahead of the firing line, which I am told is a tactical design.

  20. I have an H&K 91 which I have owned for over 20 years.
    The H&K action is in fact a gas operated system. It is a direct impingement system that uses the spent casing to unlock the bolt. After unlocking the recoil finishes the process.
    If you are a reloader this isn’t the rifle for you as the fluted chamber and the force of the extraction literally destroys the spent casing. This is a very accurate rifle if you have some trigger work done. I had mine done by a firm in Rock Island Illinois which improved the weight, length of pull and a redesigned trigger. The barrel is a fully floated design which improves shot to shot consistency. Without a doubt it has the potential to be an outstanding, accurate rifle with a bit of tweaking.

  21. I have a Ruger Mini-14 ( that’s in .223 ) and I also have a .308 Savage bolt action with a 3×9. I was looking for the best of two worlds, so I got two rifles. I also have reloading equipment for both calibers.

  22. Hi Phil,

    Other than both rifles being .308 / 7.62 caliber, they are 2 completely different platforms. The PTR uses a delayed roller-cam action to cycle the weapon and the the Ruger is a piston driven AR platform. Another notable difference between the 2 is that on the PTR there is no “Bolt Hold Open” (BHO). When the rifle is empty the bolt remains closed. You will need to cycle the cocking lever after changing the magazine. That said, it is one of the most reliable and accurate semi auto rifles I have fired. My wife and I each have one and believe they are reliable and represent a good value. Very accurate and rugged. We also own piston ARs in .223/5.56 and each type of rifle has its place. I think the PTR has one up on the ARs over reliability, as with any firearm you do have to train with them and get used to specifics of each. The no BHO and also if weight is an issue for you then you may want to take that into consideration. All depends on your preference and what you intend to use it for.

    Best regards,

    Robert

    1. Thanks Robert I appreciate the input – my AR is Adams Arms chambered in 5.56 nato and my .308 of choice to date is the Ruger SR762 chambered in 7.62 nato obviously – I’m very happy with both of them, I just always have an eye out for anything in .308 caliber and was not that familiar with PTR . Got my Ruger brand new @ around $1550 retails @ $2200 so a little more $ than the cost of a PTR – The Ruger is extremely rugged and accurate and have no complaints – it weighs in just under 8.5lbs. and by the way, I’m not the same “PHIL” in this thread that’s pictured holding a baby lol – so, I adjusted my name

  23. Nice rifle, but for the price you could build a nice AR 10. And have a lot more flexibility for personalization, and future changes.

  24. I had a CAI CETME rifle which was the predecessor to the G3 and it was reliable, fun to shoot, and would shoot everything I fed it. I had a muzzle break installed on it and it had the same recoil as an AR15!

  25. I have the HK SR9. Bought it back in 90. It digests everything I have fed it over the years without a hitch. My main go to rifle. Recently picked up a PTR in cal. 243. Wow what an experience. I now have a new favorite, to the point of buying an upper for the AR-10 in 243. Very impressive shooting experience. Really, really like the PTR. Expensive but very well worth every penny. My solution to the chewed up brass problem. I start with new brass and load it for the bolt actions, after a few loads I move them over to the AR-10 then as they show wear. Usually 10 to 12 loads. One more load for HK/PTR day at the range. That seems to maximize my hunting, shooting enjoyment while keeping my ammo costs down.

  26. I have a PTR-91 and it’s bastard cousin from Century International, a C-93. I love these rifles. The reliability has been top notch from both of them, there’s plenty of parts to be found (not at CTD, but other sites have plenty of stock and grip options, never mind bolt, trigger, and mag options), and they eat anything I put in them.
    Yes, the fluted chamber messes up the brass. For me this isn’t a worry because I don’t reload, but I’ve seen guys brass scavenging at the range and after first finding the ejected brass 2 miles from where it’s thrown out, they look at it like it has a disease.
    PTR’s fit and finish is much better than Century’s. I wish they’d go into the 93 build, as I love having that same style rifle in .223 and that rifle with a 40 round mag is a lot of fun.

  27. As for damage to the brass fired in the H&K, my experience has been that it is the fluted chamber that does the damage. Have tried different resizers and lubes to no avail. It`s one and done for cases.

  28. I’ve owned and fired a HK91 for quite a few years now. As a battle rifle this design can’t be beat IMHO. The rifle is reliable, well designed, built for hard use and best of all fires the .308/7.62×51 which in my opinion is the best military round out there.

    It is tough on the brass. First of all when using a battle rifle in ernest you aren’t thinking about reloading. Secondly with this design you never have to worry about a FTE. The HK91/PTR91 will put expended cases into low earth orbit. My HK91 still looks as good as new and its value only keeps climbing. I’m lucky to have bought it when the prices weren’t astronomical.

    I have a M1A Super Match as well, but if things got serious I would go to the HK91 any day over my M1A. Not that I don’t love my M1A, it’s just not as rugged as the 91. It is however more accurate. Battle rifles aren’t intended to be target rifles. They should be within minute of man at long ranges. That they do very well. When I intend to go for pure accuracy I have a scoped CZ550FS in .308. Different tools for different jobs.

    If I didn’t own a HK91 I would definitely look to the PTR 91. It’s based on the same design the HK is and we all know the G3 has been battle proven over the years and is in use to this very day. Which ever you own you can’t go wrong.

  29. Just recently got my PTR South Carolina Commemorative Rifle. Rock solid great rifle. My first .308 ….why did I wait so long?

  30. I agree with all points about having a .308 caliber battle rifle, and the PTR is a good rifle. However it’s worth noting that this Hk action destroys the brass as part of it’s normal ejection function. If you reload, that makes it a deal-breaker on this rifle. Consider an M1A, FAL, REPR, AR10 or other battle rifle instead.

    1. There are port buffers that prevent it from destroying brass. Also you can view a youtube video where a guy puts marine goop on the reciever to make a port buffer.

      However, you can always just fire steel case ammo. The Germans designed the 91 to fire steel case ammo. Hornady also has Steel Match Ammo, which is a steel case loaded with their match rounds.

    2. Good to know, and a great addition to the knowledge base for everyone. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Nice Looking Rifle! Welcome to the SOUTH! I wanted to point out another facet of breaking in a barrel. I only shoot about ten rounds on any new barrel. AND wait for it to cool completely in between rounds. Some people who don know this just walk out on the range and light er up.
    Bad idea. All my new rifles get this same treatment and a through cleaning after the first ten rounds. This can make so much difference in the accuracy of any rifle. I have some rifles which are hitting at 250 yards what the mfrs say is normal moa for 100yards. Trust me on this. Im an Indian..lol

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