MY “HK91” HISTORY
Back in the early 90’s, I bought an HK91 (Semi-Auto German G-3) to use as my primary “Survivalist Rifle”. As it turned out some time later, it was one of the best firearms investments (bought it off a guy who needed some quick cash) I had made up to that point. This was because the primary reason I got rid of it at that time, was to trade a guy straight up for an M1A, a B-West “Type 56” AK, and a CAR-15 (Still have the CAR-15). It was the first ownership of all three rifle types, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Another reason I wasn’t adverse to parting with it, was the cost of spare parts and mags from HK. There weren’t surplus parts and accessories on the market at the time, and as most things, “HK”, they were very expensive. Don’t get me wrong, it was a super reliable, durable and accurate rifle, but I was more interested in having guns I could outfit more readily and cheaply than the HK91 was capable of at that time.
A couple years later, I came across a Springfield Armory SAR-3 (Greek contract G-3), and purchased it. I was making more than I did when I had the original HK91, so I figured I could afford to square away the “needs” of that model rifle. Although it was easier to afford the parts and accessories for the SAR-3, the ’94 Federal Gun Ban was in effect, and it was still a lot to buy things like 20 round mags (example, used 13 round Glock 21 mags were between $60-$80).
Leading up to the impending Y2K debacle, I had a Buddy that told me he would trade me two Imbel FAL’s for that SAR-3. As much as I liked the SAR-3, I knew I could get a load of cheap mags and parts for those FALs (remember all the STG-58 kits and parts?). The implications of the severity of a possible impending Y2K crisis, did not look good, so I did it (While keeping the HK accessories). Thus I started down my “FAL path”.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the M1A or the FAL, as a matter of fact, anyone who knows me or has read my writing on those two systems, knows I am a huge advocate of both. That being said, a conversation with my Son, a while back, caused me to reflect on what was the most robust and reliable 308 battle rifle on the market, and I had to admit that it was the G-3/HK91 platform, and it is pretty accurate, to boot.
Back in the 2017ish timeframe, after PTR reorganized it’s PTR91 model numbers, and got some it’s reliability issues worked out (was told they went back to the deeper, spec chamber flute depth), I purchase a PTR100, which was the GI spec model, which has no optics rail welded on top.
Why did I get the one without the optics rail? Well, I still had accessories from my HK91/SAR-3 that I planned on putting on it, and I believe the Ejection Port buffer is essential to that rifle system for the Survivalist (We’ll talk about this later).
MY FIRST PTR91, A QUALITY HK91 CLONE
Although, I still had my original “B-Square” scope mount, I chose not to put it on my first PTR91 at that time. That rifle originally (as I first set it up) had the collapsible stock, wide handguard (with right side, sling loop stock pins) with bipod, the ejection port buffer, Meprolight-tritium night sights, and an HK polymer lower fitted with an ambidextrous safety (cuz Lefty).
I zeroed the rifle, put about 300 rounds through it for a reliability and accuracy check, then I cleaned it and put it in the safe. Why did I even bother getting one if I was only gonna put it in the safe and not regularly use it like my M1A’s or FAL’s? The short answer is, “I got a good deal on it”.
I knew it was what many in the past have referred to as a “Mad Max” Battle Rifle, due to it’s durability (My prior experience between the other two rifles never had a part break with over 10,000 rounds between them), reliability (Never had a stoppage with those two rifles), and accuracy (Regularly shot out to 600 meters with them and both were 1.5MOA rifles).
When my Son (He bought one about a year after I did) and I had the “Group Standard” discussion earlier this year, and the decision was made to put the PTR91 in the “Heavy Rifle Standard” category, I pulled the PTR91 out of the safe, and started deciding what I wanted to add to the rifle, if anything.
What did I decide to do? Well, I decided to buy another one. Why? (Do you ask this while owning multiple AR-15’s?) Because in all the ways that matter, they are quality clones of the original HK91 I had, and have the added benefit of the paddle mag release (not on HK91’s) as well as the the normal, right side button. Except for the mil type gray parkerized finish (fixed with earth-tone krylon), instead of the “HK Black”, they are pretty much identical, as I remember it.
Riots, Home Invasions….here’s a method of “Deterrence”.
To the first rifle I added my old “B-Square” scope mount with a Primary Arms 1x Cyclops (not made now, there’s a newer model at PA that I’ve put on myM1A Socom) on top of the receiver (every rifle should have some type of optic if at all possible), an HK21 charging handle (easier to grab hold of) and a bayonet mount under the front sight and called it, “Good To Go”. When the second PTR91 (another GI100 model) came in, the first thing I did was zero it and make sure there were no reliability issues, by putting 100 rounds of various ball ammo through it.
Next, I bought all the things I’d originally put on rifle #1. After that, I purchased an ARMS #1 scope mount (B-Square is no longer made, and the ARMS#1 is “The Standard” for HK91’s), a folding carrying handle, and a Midwest Industries aluminum M-Lok handguard. Finally, I put one of my Primary Arms 1-6X ACSS scopes on the ARMS mount with Leupold QR rings.
Since this is not only a Defensive Rifle, but a Survival Tool, I bought the .22LR kit. Although they are expensive, the training value and cost savings add up, and I’ve already saved a lot of cash with its use (Today’s .22LR price averages $.08 a round, compared to cheap 7.62N being around $.60 a round). It is also plenty accurate for small game hunting. Using the full sized ammo.
Both PTR91’s average shooting mid quality 150 grain ball (Red Army Standard) into 1.5″ at 100 meters, and average about 2,450FPS. As a comparison, Federal 175gr Match throws it out at approximately 2,400FPS. We’ll see if this can be improved upon by a rifle with a Match barrel, and a trigger job and modified recoil buffer from Bill Springfield. It should be here in the next week, and I’ll do a separate eval of those mods.
The delayed roller-lock system used in the HK rifles is pretty bomb proof. There isn’t much to it (no gas tube or piston), and even less than the average gas system to go wrong under adverse conditions. The 18″ barrel has 1-10″ rifling twist (original HK’s had a 1-12″ twist), and the standard rifle, as pictured in the lead photo is approximately 9.5lbs. (11lbs. with a loaded 20 round mag), and is 40.5″ long with the standard stock, and 33″ with the collapsible stock collapsed.
A nice addition that PTR does to all it’s PTR91’s is that the barrel muzzle is threaded 5/8×24, which is a standard .30 caliber muzzle threading. Due to this, many muzzle devices not available for the original HK91 thread pitch, will fit the PTR91. With an average price tag of $1,000-$1,200, the PTR91 beats the reliable competition in cost as well. We’ll talk about this below.
I use three mag sizes with my PTR91’s. I have a 5 round mag for bench shooting, a couple dozen 20 round mags for normal use, and an “X-Products” 50 round drum for “Special” occasions.
I’ve always been a fan of the HK Diopter sights. On my SAR-3, I had added the Trijicon version of the Meprolight night sights ($25 cheaper) I use now. The HK type sights are easy to use, fast on target, and easy to adjust for ranges out to 400 meters (Zero the 200 meter aperture at 30 meters according to HK). What’s not easy is adjusting your rear sight when you are zeroing initially. You have to buy a tool to adjust the elevation.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND SOME COMPARISONS
I’ve loved shooting and using M1A/M14 type rifles since the first one I fired in the late 80’s. That being said, after owning a half dozen (and still having a couple), I’ve had parts break and you have to be careful what bullet weights you are using in them to not cause damage to certain parts in the operating system.
Parts are less available and more expensive than 20 years ago (If someone starts making new ones, great, but as of now, custom parts are exorbitantly expensive). Mags also are expensive, especially when compared to HK91 mags at $8. Finally, the cheapest M1A’s on the market (Springfield) start around $1450.
Although I love FAL’s, and have a few, including a DSA 11″ OSW as a super compact bugout weapon (More compact than the 12″ PTR91, and that PTR is not available without the optics rail), there are some things about the FAL that are a pain in the ass. First, the adjustable gas system is great for tuning to a specific load, but if you start using another load, you have to make sure your rifle is set to reliably function.
I’ve had parts break on FAL’s, similar to the M1A’s, and those parts are not nearly as available as they were 20 years ago. What is available with parts and mags aren’t nearly as cheap as those items for the HK91 type rifles. Except for some custom builders out there, the only FAL manufacturer that I would recommend is DSA, and their rifles start in the $1400 range.
Although I have an AR-10 (Springfield Armory Saint), and the AR-10’s are the closest you’ll get in price to a PTR91, I would never consider a Direct-Gas Impingement (DI) AR-10 type rifle, a “Survivalist Rifle”. There are too many issues, with too many variants out there (What part fits what type), to make me feel like it could be relied upon to perform in a life saving manner.
The excellent ergonomics of the AR-type rifle can not be disputed, and the AR-15 system for Intermediate Cartridges has gotten to a point where it can be relied upon as a “Go To” weapon. That being said, that’s the AR-15, not the AR-10. The AR-10’s lack of standardization (The manufacturers should take a hint from AR-15 manufacturers), and lack of overall reliability, make it a less than optimal choice for the Survivalist, and the cheapest decent mags available, cost $20 or more.
I’m not even gonna talk about the SCAR-17 as a “Survivalist Rifle”, simply because a basic rifle that starts at $3,000, and still has some issues in certain areas doesn’t make the cut. $45 twenty-round mags and very expensive parts, put this rifle in the “Non-starter” category for me, especially when compared to any of the above mentioned rifles.
You might say it’s not ergonomic, but to that I’ll tell you that the AK is one of the least ergonomic rifles ever designed, but training makes all the difference, so GET IT, no matter what you’re using. If you decide to go the PTR91 route, this post gives you some places to look for accessories, parts and modifications to make it what you would like in a “Survivalist Rifle”.
Great article. Added things to my “go buy” list. Consider-
Excellent write up. I know a lot of people don’t like it because of the sharp recoil impulse and it’s heavy and foreign, but you obviously have spent enough years with it to do a fair and proper evaluation.
I did most of the mods myself, like welding a short steel Weaver rail on top for my PA scope (got tired of the high ARMS mount) and fabricating a copy of the factory shell deflector and welding it on. A larger HK-21 recoil pad helped also. 16″ bbl with factory F/S. I went with mag paddle mod and with the all steel early model charging handle. Sure miss the days of cheap parts and new $2 alum. mags.
Even though I went thru Navy boot camp with the M-1 rifle and USMC boot camp with the M-14, and I’m super familiar with that nostalgic platform, my Germanic roots tell me that G-3k is my grab and go gun. I love the ergonomics of that short heavy karbine and the reliability is unmatched. As Boston T’ Party said in his “Gun Bible”, they’re the AK of the 7.62N world, they never break.
You mentioned M1A parts breaking, as a newby to the M1A, can you elaborate please?
I’ve broken a firing pin and had a fracture on the face of an extractor is what comes to mind.