Did you know that an M.A./N.J. compliant PTR-9R is identical to a non-compliant 9R? Except that it ships with 10-round magazines. I didn’t, at least not until PTR sent me one to review. Opening the box on this beauty has probably made it into the top 5 of my favorite moments working for TFB. There’s just something incredibly sexy about an MP5, or in this case, an MP5 clone. Heckler and Koch worked some kraut space magic into that gun.
The PTR-9R – Ban State Compliant
Shooting the PTR-9R is almost identical to shooting the H&K SP5. Of course, PTR invested a lot of time and money in making the 9R as close to the original MP5 as they possibly could. The company has been focused on roller delayed blowback guns since their inception, and while initially imported most of their parts, has since switched to manufacturing “virtually every component of [PTR’s] firearms here in our own S.C. plant“. PTR lists the gun’s specs on their website, but I’ll cover the bare essentials here.
- OAL: 34.5″
- Barrel: 16.2″
- Weight: 6.32 lbs
- Trigger: 9lb pull
If you think you might be interested in purchasing a PTR-9R compliant model, they can be found for about $1,600 on Atlantic Firearms.
Roller-delayed goodness. Is there anything else that needs to be said? The PTR-9R runs smooth as all get out, and the recoil impulse is practically nonexistent. Admittedly, this is in no small part due to the fact that I was running 9mm out of a rifle. There should be no recoil impulse, it’s 9mm out of a rifle platform. Even keeping that in mind though, the roller-delayed system meant that the 9R had a much smoother recoil when compared to most AR-9s.
Additionally, I had no trouble running a variety of ammo through the gun. It ate steel-case Wolf 115gr FMJ, and brass-case Speer Lawman 115gr and 115gr +P FMJ, and Speer Gold Dot G2 147gr JHP with no problems. Surprisingly, Speer did not sponsor this review. I did get marginally tighter groups out of the 147gr JHPs. But, it wasn’t enough to definitely say that the PTR-9R likes heavier 9mm.
While shooting, as a lefty I did have to come up with a slightly unintuitive manner of reloading. The paddle mag release was a huge help with this. I would take my right hand off the grip, reach over the top of the gun to lock back the charging handle, strip out the empty magazine (thank you paddle mag release), load the fresh mag, and get that beautiful HK slap (at a slightly awkward angle). Even knowing that the MP5 doesn’t have a last round bolt hold open, it still took me a few magazines to get into the habit of counting my rounds. There were a lot of clicks when I expected to hear a bang while I was adapting. But once I was in the zone, the magazine transition felt smooth and unhurried, even when trying to be quick.
Despite the fact that the 9R comes with a 9# trigger, it didn’t feel like a 9# trigger. The uptake was smooth, the break clean, and there was almost zero over-travel. It felt like a 5# trigger if I had to choose a number to compare it to. The reset was tactile, and it was very easy to blast through a full magazine very quickly.
One last thought before I get into some of the things I didn’t like. The PTR-9R is plain fun. It is fun to shoot, it is fun to reload, and yes, it is fun to slap.
Alright, so since I’ve now probably convinced half of you that PTR has paid me to shill their gun, let’s talk about what I didn’t like. Fair warning, most of this is going to revolve around the ETS magazines that came with the gun. I’m not trying to cast shade, but I genuinely did not like these magazines. But, first things first. Things I didn’t really like about the 9R itself.
First, it was very easy to not fully seat the magazine if you’re trying to reload on a closed bolt. Obviously, reloading should happen on an open bolt with an MP5, but it is easy to accidentally try to reload on a closed bolt if you’re not paying attention. Second, the selector switch is very stiff. I mean, really stiff. It certainly had loosened up after I lubed the internals, flipped it back and forth a few hundred times, and shot about 1,000 rounds through the gun, but it was still noticeably stiff. For a lefty, this was actually a problem as the safety selector is not ambidextrous. Right-handed shooters might not feel this issue as sorely as I did.
Honestly, that’s it. I have just two gripes with the 9R. The first is frankly a training issue, and the second is one that a few days at the range gets close to solving.
Okay, I said I had gripes with the ETS magazines. Well, here they are. The PTR-9R runs dirty. I don’t actually have an issue with the 9R running dirty. That’s why I mention it here, instead of in the previous section. When a gun is designed to run dirty, it can take a lot of fouling without a problem. Make no mistake, the MP5 is designed to run dirty. Roller-delay blowback is just fancy direct blowback, which means that most of the fouling produced by the rounds gets sent right back into the chamber, and the magazines.
The ETS magazines provided with the PTR-9R produced several failures around the 200-300 round mark, probably due to fouling. It seemed to go away around 350-400, and then came back with a vengeance around the 800 round mark. In one of the magazines, it became impossible to load more than 4 rounds. If loaded and fired, it was a coinflip whether the magazine would feed properly.
The reason I’m putting the blame for this squarely on the magazines, instead of how dirty the gun gets, is because while at the range I met a guy named Kevin. Kevin was also shooting a PTR MP5 clone, only he’d Form 1 SBR’ed his, put H&K furniture on it, and was using 30-round metal magazines. Those magazines experienced no such failures.
The 9R hits a sweet spot for me. It’s a fun gun that while still ban-state legal, hasn’t been neutered to make it so. Sure, the 10-round magazines are a bit of a drag, and pre-ban MP5 magazines are expensive, running easily to $100 per mag. Despite that, it still has its place. Not just as a range toy either, although it certainly excels as one. For someone who is concerned about overpenetration, especially in an apartment or other urban setting, a pistol caliber carbine as a home defense weapon can make sense. At least here in Massachusetts, it is legal to Form 1 SBR a rifle. If you were to buy a pre-ban 30-round magazine, or at the very least some metal 10-rounders, this could definitely serve as a home defense gun.
Even if you don’t live in a ban state, PTR offers the 9R with stock 30-round magazines. I enjoyed my time with the PTR-9R, and I think most of you would too.