When Precision Target Rifle Inc. first entered the market, they vowed to build a civilian legal version of the German G3 battle rifle on par with those built by Heckler & Koch.
Based on the HK91 rifle, the resulting PTR 91 was both a critical and financial success. PTR later went on to develop slight variations of this rifle with different barrel lengths, handguards and furniture, but stuck to its standard .308 Win caliber, magazine-fed rifle.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that PTR decided to diversify its product lineup with the addition of a 7.62x39mm version of its rifle. This seemed like a strange choice, as the design isn’t battle-tested like other HK-derived roller-locked rifles and submachine guns. In fact, PTR based its new PTR 32 on a prototype developed by H&K during the height of the Cold War, the HK 32.
Like the HK 32, the PTR is a roller-locked, semi-automatic rifle chambered in 7.62x39mm. It feeds from a variety of staggered-column, box-type magazines ranging from five to 40 rounds.
Interestingly, both firearms were developed for the same reason: ammo availability. The HK 32 was more concerned with battlefield logistics and unit resupply in the event the Cold War went hot in Europe, while the PTR 32 addresses the 7.62 NATO cartridge’s high price point and limited availability during panic buying. These driving reasons may seem dissimilar, but both deal with the feasibility of resupply; for modern shooters, the 7.62x39mm round is substantially more affordable for plinking and range use than even reloaded .308 rounds.
Thought the PTR 32 doesn’t simply use the Soviet Union’s favorite cartridge, it also uses the AK-47’s bomb-proof, dirt-cheap magazines, making this rifle an incredibly affordable platform to feed and keep running. This is especially true given the plethora of ex-Soviet satellite nations that are still churning these mags out.
Like many rifles that can use AK magazines, it’s still important to check their mags for fit before stocking up. In testing, steel surplus, Magpul polymer PMAGs, slab-sided Bulgarian polymer and Bakelite magazines fit and fed without issue. But 75-round drums, waffle-pattern and US Palm magazines failed to properly lock up.
Rounds On Target
One substantial departure from the AKM, is the PTR’s potential for accuracy. Because of the lack of the long-stroke piston action that robs the AK of accuracy, the PTR is capable of solid “minute-of-soldier” precision.
Accuracy with a magnified optic is impressive, hovering around 2.2 MOA at 100 yards. However, with iron sights and targets beyond that range, the cartridge’s dramatic ballistic arc interferes with accurate fire. The round’s drop is so substantial that to compensate for it at a mere 450 yards, a shooter must aim five feet above the target — a trajectory that nearly mirrors subsonic 300 Blackout.
This is important, as it allows shooters to effectively use optics that feature 300 BLK bullet drop compensator reticles on their PTR 32, a great feature since most 7.62x39mm-calibrated scopes are of Soviet origin and poor quality.
The biggest downside of this cartridge is its limited variety of loadings. Shooters accustomed to more mainstream rounds like .308 or .223 will find the round’s half-dozen available recipes disappointingly similar. That said, Hornady makes an excellent 7.63×39 cartridge topped with its SST bullet that has phenomenal terminal ballistics. This makes it appropriate for both home defense and mid-sized game like white tailed deer. In many ways, the round’s ballistic performance is not dissimilar from the venerable .30-30 Win.
While not a new design, the PTR does include some improvements over the H&K prototype. For example, the rifle includes a built-in optics rail instead of forcing shooters to buy expensive claw mounts. It also has a removable muzzle device, but the thread pitch is an HK-standard 15x1RH, meant to take .30 caliber G3/HK91 brakes and flash suppressors.
The rifle itself has a few quirks as well. Since its earlier sibling was designed for the more powerful .308 round, the rifle itself is needlessly heavy — though that does cut down on the felt recoil. Additionally, the magazine release button and fire controls are difficult to reach for medium and small-handed shooters. The company attempted to fix this the same way H&K did with other designs years ago by adding a paddle release. While helpful, the hefty nature of the design coupled with the awkward fire controls make the manual of arms difficult for those accustomed to either ARs or AKs.
Small-framed shooters will find the bulk and nose heaviness of the rifle off-putting, but most large individuals can shoulder and shoot it comfortably without issue.
The PTR 32 is a strange amalgamation of East and West that offers fans of HK-style rifles and carbines a new, inexpensively-fed platform to enjoy. By combining H&K’s most reliable operating method with the gold standard for magazine durability and reliability, PTR made a rifle as robust as it is reliable — acing tests where it was fed five varieties of ammunition ranging from inexpensive Russian ammo to Hornady defensive loads.
Regardless of ammunition, the PTR 32 operated without any hiccups.
Shooters either not enamored with the AK’s rough ergonomics or restricted by local laws from owning them, can finally partake in the Russian rifle’s enviable array of affordable magazines and ammunition thanks to the PTR-32. It may not be the lightest option, but shooters looking for a reliable method of launching inexpensive 7.62x39mm rounds without having to resort to AK or AR-15 type rifles have an excellent third option with the PTR-32.
- Caliber: 7.62×39
- Action: Delayed Blowback Roller-Lock System
- Overall length: 39″
- Weight: 9.5 lb.
- Barrel: 16″ match grade, tapered barrel
- Magazine: 30 rd.
- Stock: standard fixed polymer stock
- MSRP: $1,029