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Reimagining The PTR 32K: A 7.62×39 Carbine That Isn’t An AK

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

We first covered PTR’s carbine way back in Issue 25, and since then the micro environment around it has changed — some good, some bad. 

There’s more in the way of aftermarket support, but cheap Russian 7.62×39 has gone away, subjected to sanctions in the wake of their invasion of Ukraine — which begs the question of whether the rifle makes sense anymore. With garbage-tier AKs now fetching the best part of a grand, we thought it was time to blow the dust off of PTR’s baby and see what we could do with it.

Following the end of the Cold War, HK surveyed the landscape and concluded that impoverished countries shaking off the chains of communism might like a Western rifle chambered in the Soviet round, as a wholesale switch to NATO logistics might be a bit of a stretch. 

By offering a way to tap into vast stockpiles of steel-cased x39, but with ergonomics vaguely designed around the human form, HK sought to tap a heretofore inaccessible market, with the added bonus of it being right on their doorstep. Like a lot of good ideas, things didn’t actually work as intended, and the only sales of the HK32 carbine were a few thousand to Mexican police.

The idea nonetheless had merit, and was resurrected by PTR, which offers three versions of the gun. A 16-inch barreled carbine is the most accessible and useful right off the shelf, but the 12.5- and 5-inch pistols, while pretty much useless in their Title 1 forms, make for very appealing SBR projects. We picked the middle child of the family for this build — but if we were to do it over, we might make a different choice. 

TO THE BATCAVE

Turning the 12.5-inch barreled PTR 32K into something a man might carry, unfortunately involves the dead hand of the state. Once we had an approved Form 1 in our possession, it was time to go forth and source goodies to complete the build — though if we’re honest with ourselves, does one ever truly “complete” something like this? There are always new doodads to research, covet, purchase, and install, so we should probably look at it as a work in progress, and its current state as a snapshot in an album, rather than as its culmination. 

The PTR 32 is built on a G3/HK91 receiver, which has both advantages and drawbacks. 

It’s overbuilt for the 7.62×39, and heavier than it needs to be in comparison with the smaller-statured HK33 and 93, which are designed around the 5.56 NATO cartridge. 

The PTR 32 disassembles like every other model in the roller-delayed catalog. The AC Unity magazine offers metal reinforcement where it matters and a clear window to check ammo levels.

There’s added bulk and weight in the trunnion area, the magazine well is 308-sized, and the bolt carrier is about 2 ounces heavier than required to handle the commie round. It’s a lardbeast, but due to being oversized, the carrier stroke is long, soaking up recoil over a longer timeframe and making for a very soft-shooting rifle — there’s almost no chance of it ever wearing out, beating itself to death, or causing flinch issues in the user.

As our test subject identified as a rifle, but was on paper a pistol, the first order of business was to source a stock. Our choices were fairly wide by roller locked standards — anything that would fit a G3 could bolt up to the PTR 32 — but after rejecting the standard fixed stock (boring) and the classic HK collapsible option (overly complicated meat tenderizer), we almost settled on a polymer, side folding stock from Choate, having used it before on a different build. 

Instead, we wound up with a stock adapter from Dan Haga at Haga Designs, which offers an elegant solution to add the MBT stock from B&T. One of the best bits of the Remington ACR before its untimely slide into oblivion was its stock that offered adjustments for length of pull and cheek riser height, as well as folding to reduce overall length. The MBT stock takes design cues from this, and despite being priced at B&T levels, is a great way add functionality to a carbine build — perfect for storing in the cramped confines of your G5.

Although the aluminum rail system on our stock gun was svelte and well-sculpted, we couldn’t leave well enough alone and decided to dip into the B&T catalog once more, spurred by an irrational desire to route the cable from our Scout Light’s tape switch out of the way and inside the handguard. On measuring the male end, we noticed that by shaving down the sides of the plug, it’d fit between the cocking tube and barrel, but there was no way it was ever going to squeeze through an M-LOK slot. 

Fortunately, the B&T handguard has larger vent holes and comes with detachable Pic rails, so it met our somewhat dubious criteria and allowed the pressure switch cable to tuck neatly out of the way. 

After the smallest amount of motherf@ckering caused by the lack of a third hand, we managed to thread the plug through various holes while at the same time sliding the handguard into place. A discretely placed, small zip tie held the cable away from the barrel, and even repeated mag dumps caused no adverse effects. Success!

Haga Designs adapter allows the B&T stock to fit and fold. The longer-than-normal receiver means you’re probably going to run it on its shortest setting.

As we’re not sh*t-spattered heathens, wallowing in our own ignorance and filth, the original muzzle device had to go, replaced by a direct-thread 30-cal suppressor from Maxim Defense. Their micro can is a collaboration with CGS Suppressors and is 3D printed from 718 Inconel specifically for short barrel use and features the “can within a can” design that has become prevalent in low back-pressure designs. 

Adding just 4.6 inches to the overall length, the Micro goes some way to offset the length of the PTR 32’s receiver, which, for comparison purposes, is 2 inches longer than an AK, trunnion to endcap. The downside is its weight, which, at 16 ounces, is firmly in the Ashley Graham, rather than Kate Moss camp. 

HK-pattern guns are notorious for their long, spongy, and heavy trigger pulls, but fortunately one of our neighbors in Arizona has an American solution to a Teutonic problem. Timney offers a drop-in trigger pack that uses the host gun’s ejector lever, allowing it to be used in everything from the MP5 to the G3 — just pop out the old pack, press out a pin, swap in the ejector (and its spring), and you’re off to the races. Our new trigger is a two-stage design that breaks at 4 pounds, with a crisp break and short reset. 

The combo of SIG optics and Haga/B&T stock brings a 1960s design into the 21st century.

The G3 from which the PTR 32 was spawned was a product of post-WWII small arms design, where optics were found only on sniper rifles. As a result, the official, factory means of mounting glass involved a cludgy saddle mount, which had the unfortunate tendency to deform the receiver if the user tightened its screws too much. Of course, your typical infantryman would never do this, so incidences of buggered-up guns and optics never occurred …

Which is not to say the stock iron sights are bad — far from it, they’re some of the best battle sights ever issued — but we’ve got so many great options in the world of optics that just a few years ago would’ve been priced out of the reach of most consumers. 

Thankfully, PTR recognizes this and endows their guns with a welded 1913 rail, so we took advantage of it. Given the limitations placed on us by the 7.62×39 cartridge, we envisioned this as a 0 to 300 yards carbine, so chose a sighting system in keeping with it, settling on the SIG Romeo4T Pro and Juliet 3 Micro magnifier. 

The 4T Pro offers several reticles in addition to your basic bitch red dot, the most versatile of which for our purposes is a central 2 MOA dot with three finer, cascading dots below it, giving holdovers for distance. When used in conjunction with the magnifier, it allowed us to deliver hits on steel further than we anticipated. 

ROUNDS DOWNRANGE

These days, dipping into our stash of steel-cased x39 brings on a general sense of ennui and longing for times past when things seemed simpler, a case of Tula could be had for a Benjamin, and Russia was just a gas station with nukes that would occasionally murder its political opponents using chemical weapons. 

Now that it’s fully expressed its imperialist and genocidal tendencies, where are we going to get cheap blasting fodder for our AKs so that we can train on the favored firearm of lunch room revolutionaries? Such are the problems we face …

The Julite 3 magnifier works well in this application, but factory rearsight means eye relief is only just sufficient. It could use another half inch, but couldn’t we all?

Having stroked the editorial beard, contemplated problems for which we had no answer and taken ourselves way too seriously, it was time to bomb up a few mags and let ’er rip, tater chip. Ah, the joy of watching cases fly over the berm and into the next bay. 

True to its DNA, the PTR 32’s ejection pattern is, erm, vigorous, but the combination of mass, roller-delayed operating system, and suppressor meant it was very controllable. Shot on paper at 100 yards, the not-so-little carbine could be counted on to turn in 2 MOA groups with various flavors of 123-grain steel-cased Eastern European ammo, which surprised us with its consistency. 

Roller-delayed guns, by their nature, are well suited to suppressor use, as there’s no gas system to fiddle with or dump propellant back into the action. 

There’s a chance you may have to change to a different locking piece with a lower angled shoulder, depending on how your gun is set up, but we got lucky out of the gate. There was a small puff of gas from the ejection port on every shot, but nowhere near the amount you’d find from an AR under the same conditions, and the action remained relatively clean, even after 300 rounds. 

Sprucing it up consisted of a quick spritz of SC14 gun cleaner and a wipe down with a paper towel — no ultrasonic tank or painstaking chipping away at carbon buildup required.

Moving out to field conditions, its SIG optics package was usable out to 650 yards, but at that distance, we’ll admit we were lobbing them in — 450 yards was about the maximum range we could engage IPSC silhouettes with a 75-percent probability of landing a hit, and at that yardage we were using the last dot in the reticle. 

The rifle was shot from a variety of positions and fed from both the recommended P Mags and some AC Unity magazines, made in Bosnia. Despite monopoding the gun, both fed flawlessly, with the AC Unity magazines offering the additional features of a clear window to check ammo levels, steel reinforcing, and a last round hold open follower. 

Although this allows the bolt to run forward when the empty mag is removed, it at least gives you a clue when it’s time to get more bullets into the gun. 

All told, this was one of the most fun projects of 2024 so far. If we were do things differently, the 8.5-inch barreled version might be our pick for a jumping-off point, as it would still offer decent velocities while cutting down the OAL. 

As it stands, the 12.5 would make a good choice for someone who regularly works in and around vehicles, as its weight would not be as much of a burden, and the 7.62 commie round performs way better against sheet metal than anything in 5.56. 

PTR Industries PTR32K

  • Caliber: 7.62×39
  • Capacity: 30 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 12.5 inches
  • Overall Length: 36.5 inches
  • Weight: 11.5 pounds, all up
  • MSRP: $1,850

As Outfitted:

  • Suppressor – Maxim CGS Micro
  • WML – SureFire Scout
  • Buttstock – B&T MBT with Haga Designs Adapter
  • Sights – SIG Romeo 4T Pro, Juliette 3 Magnifier
  • Magazines – Magpul, AC Unity
  • Trigger – Timney

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