When I first fired the PTR-91C from PTR 91 Inc it felt just right. The pushback into my shoulder and the exclamation from my shooting partner as he got hit with the spent casing 20+ feet to the right was just as it should be for a weapon based on its service history in countless conflicts. This is one of those rifles that just begs you to “cowboy-up” and put rounds downrange.
The PTR-91C (C = muzzle compensator rather than the F = flash suppressor since we are in the state of New York) has an 18” barrel and shoots very well right out of the box. Although I would prefer a 21” barrel since it provides better accuracy and energy levels at longer ranges, 18” is a suitable compromise between maneuverability and “reaching out” to 500+ yards.
With iron sights, it consistently groups inside 4” at 100 yards even when firing fairly quickly. Remember this is not your wife’s 5.56 mm, (okay an unfair dig at the round but I grew up on 7.62X51 and like to bug my training partners who love 5.56 mm). The PTR’s roller-lockback system transmits lots of energy rearward and takes effort to control under rapid firing drills, so your rate of fire to stay accurate will be far slower than an AR. Past that the adjustable iron sights let me stay on the target’s torso out to 500 yards with little problem as long as I did my part meaning pay attention to wind and ground factors. Past that I recommend optics.
Although you can get a 16” barrel in the rare K model, in my mind a barrel less than 18” on a rifle chambered in 7.62X51 doesn’t take full advantage of the rounds full potential. In turn this sets the stage for debates whether the extra weight of the rifle and ammunition warrants even carrying the shorter version versus a lighter 5.56 carbine like the AR and its ammunition.
I mounted a Trijicon TA-55A with a .308 bullet drop compensation reticle. And I have to tell you that it is phenomenal. The 5.5X magnification is so clean and clear and the target acquisition so easy using the sight system it is more than worth the expensive price tag. With this optic configuration on the PTR, we shot bowling pins at 100 yards all day with ease even in the multiple target engagement sessions.
But it’s not all flowers because there are definite drawbacks to this weapon. The cocking mechanism is a pain to operate. This is especially true when it is in the prone position and is because of its location on the rifle. For example, when it is locked rearward, the folding cocking handle can be difficult to manipulate if you have a large scope mounted. And treating this weapon daintily will make it a bear to operate—it was designed for harsh use and abuse and it functions well when you rack it with intent.
I also preferred the original paddle magazine release as it was ambidextrous and better accommodates one’s gross motor skills and the AR style button release that PTR adopted has never been a favorite of mine.
But non of these compare to my number one pet peeve: there is no hold open on the bolt following last round. In my thinking this is ridiculous, since if used in a stress setting the very worst sound to hear is a chamber click empty. When combined with the charging handle issue, this becomes a real pain. Get in the habit of tactical reloads with this rifle; it is a good survival strategy that mitigates having to operate the cocking mechanism every time the magazine runs dry.
The one other point of caution to consider if you’re considering taking the plunge into a PTR-91C is the alignment of the mounts on the stamped receiver. The clamp mounts are slightly off on one of the receivers in our collection of PTRs and I am not sure if that is common to a particular shipment of them, which would make sense since if it is a stamping issue, or whether I just got one that slipped through the cracks of the manufacturer’s quality control net (which does happen). The irregularity causes the scope mounts, especially the low profile ones, to cant (fall into an unparallel position) and makes it impossible for the rear left claw to engage successfully on low profile mounts. At first we thought it was the mount supplied by HKPARTS and manufactured by MFI, but after testing on several receivers only the one PTR-91C had this issue. After talking to the folks at both HKPARTS and MFI (both of whom provided superb customer service follow up) we went back and found the receiver mounting positions to be off a hair. It should be noted this only affected optics performance as the rifle did not suffer any accuracy issues with the standard iron sights.
Now, having said that, the PTR has definite pros too. It’s a hog when it comes to ammo; it will eat any literally any kind of ammunition. While accuracy may be moderately affected by using some of the really junky Pakistani surplus stuff I’ve seen floating around, the single failure I’ve witnessed on this weapon was after more than 6000 successful rounds and was the result of a bad primer on a surplus round.
Another real bonus is the cost of parts. Most parts are easily found and reasonably priced including magazines. Magazines are cheap and plentiful; try to stick to European manufactured ones as the magazines vary in dimensions from some other countries and that can cause seating issues.
Aside from the aforementioned problem of your range partner catching an ejecting casing, and I have never seen any weapon toss out casings like the PTR which equates to zero failures to feed on the part of the rifle. It is oblivious to sand, water, snow, mud and ice. On top of that, it went for 1000 rounds without cleaning of any of the mud or other environmental dirt and powder from old surplus rounds without any hiccups. Honestly, I believe that I could probably have put several thousand more through it with few worries given the way it is built.
One last MAJOR point, and it is the one that will ensure there is always a PTR in my vault; it is just about the most indestructible piece of kit I have ever used. It has been dropped, used as a crutch and a stretcher rail, and nothing seems to bother its ability to function as intended. If you could have only one rifle for a survival setting, this would be my pick. It is accurate enough to hunt with, has tremendous knock-down power, and, most importantly, it can take abuse and will survive and function reliably with minimal care.