The PTR 51P PDW is as large a pistol as any person should really consider carrying. Maybe Andre the Giant could manage a bigger pistol, but the 51P is pushing ergonomic limits. This pistol is big, and when I say big I mean it’s huge! This pistol comes in at 23.5 inches in the stock form, and stretches out to nearly 30 inches with the SB47 brace attached to the rear. It weights 7.5 pounds in its stock form. With the addition of the brace and a side-folder mechanism, the pistol comes in closer to 9 pounds.
But big is a relative term. The 51P PDW sports an 8 inch match grade barrel with a 1/10 twist. Its overall length is an astonishing 23 inches. Still, we all know this isn’t a gun you can lug around for concealed carry. While not impossible, concealment is difficult. The 51P is relatively easy to conceal inside a vehicle or inside a building, and that’s where the 51P shines. This pistol is for the person looking for a personal defense weapon (PDW) without all the hassle of the paper work associated with a Short Barreled Rifle (SBR). And it is a great platform for the person looking for the easiest way to build that SBR.
For me the appeal of the 51P PDW is the availability of firepower in a compact package. Like most things that are insanely powerful, shooting the .308 form a short barrel is also a lot of fun. So the 51P makes a great range gun, too. The PDW in its un-braced form is cumbersome and impractical at best, but that quickly goes out the window when you attach a SB47 arm brace to the rear. With the extra stability, the pistol comes to life. Without the brace, it is more of a why-the-hell-not?! fun gun. Yet when you add a folding brace to the gun, it becomes a viable defensive firearm that’s ideal for moving in and out of confined spaces.
The .308 is one hell of a round. The .308 round this pistol fires has to be one of the most attractive things about this gun. At the same time, it is (with out a doubt) one characteristic of this weapon that worries me. .308 is a round designed for long-range engagements. I never really felt it had much place in the PDW world, a world often defined by suburban and urban settings, and high population densities.
I feel more comfortable with pistol caliber carbines in any situation that has a a potential for collateral damage. Inside a house, for example, I worry about rounds punching through walls. That being said, the moment I step outside my door, the .308 no longer seems like overkill. This pistol is capable of making shots out to 200 meters, realistically. Past that, I’d rather be working with magnified optics and an actual stock. But with a real stock, the 51P isn’t a P anymore, and we’d have a much different set of expectations. The Century brace is a solid option for an improvised stock—but it isn’t a stock. It offers speed and flexibility, but it doesn’t offer the ergonomics of solid surfaces and optimal cheek-welds.
This pistol’s ability to turn cover into mere concealment, though, is invaluable in a situation where this PDW would be utilized. The .308 is able to punch through obstacles, and most vehicles, and can carry enough momentum through to prove effective on soft targets. It’s safe to say you will not be under gunned if you did decide to employ this firearm in a defensive manner. Granted, the 8″ barrel on the 51P gives up some velocity, but we’ll touch on that below.
For me, this pistol spend much of its life behind the seat of my truck. When it isn’t there, it will be at the range blowing through targets and blowing peoples preconceived notion of what a pistol truly can be.
Did I mention that the pistol is big? It it based on the H&K G3, which is already a big rifle. The 51P’s closest relative would be the H&K G3K. The G3K’s 12 inch barrel makes it a highly mobile battle rifle.
PTR-91 makes fantastic H&K clones. From any distance, this pistol looks like its ancestors. Yet the closer you look, the more the gun deviates from the formula. The barrel length is cut down to an all time low of 8 inches. The magazine release is transformed into a button, and the claw mount is replaced with a welded on 1913 rail. And of course, the stock is missing.
The loss of the magazine paddle will be a blow to H&K traditionalists. It restricts function and breaks form. Getting the magazine out and back may seems cumbersome at first, even worse with the brace wrapped around your arm–but after your first few attempts it quickly becomes rudimentary.
The gun runs dry and you hear that click we all dread hearing at the end of every string we fire. Remove your check weld and raise the barrel to the air. Muscle the charging handle out of its tight den and lock it to the rear. Then with your firing had, let go of the pistol grip and hit the magazine release button while ripping the magazine from the well. Next, find that pistol grip again. Rock a magazine in the pistol with your support hand and karate chop the charging handle. The gun is now ready to get back into the fight.
After your initial attempts, loading gets easier. You can pick up real speed once you build a little muscle memory. It takes me around 2 seconds to reload this pistol. Behind cover, that’s less of an issue. And I’ll make the sacrifice for the benefits that come from the 30 caliber ballistics.
And the integral 1913 rail is a logical addition, and one we can all celebrate. Mounting optics is easy. Claw mounted optics, and add-on ails are not cheap additions to the G3 platform. Having the rail built into the gun is a big deal, and can save you $100-$200 bucks.
The 8 inch barrel means you can’t use standard H&K91 handguards. Yet the brains at PTR and Atlantic Firearms have found a way to utilize standard MP5/H&K94 handguards on the pistol. This means Accessories are easily accessible. Lights, railed handguards, angled grips are all made possible by aftermarket options designed for the MP5/H&K94.
Besides the rail, the 51P PDW is not a pistol with many modern innovations. It does not have ambidextrous controls, it does not lock open on the last round fired from a magazine, and the PDW lacks the modern ergonomics of the AR platform. Expect it to be difficult to run this gun at first. But stick with it.
Once you get over some of the pistol quirks, you’ll have a viable platform. The PDW is a devastating weapon. It is built off of a proven action that has fought and won many a battle. It is not intended to comfort you with gadgets or doodads that make the gun easy to run. The 51P is designed to work, and to stick, more or less, to a proven formula. In this regard, it is like an AK. And just as we see in the AK pistol market, these guns are getting smaller and smaller. These rifles are turning into great personal defense options.
Shooting the 51P
When I first took the PDW to the range, I Couldn’t wrap my head around why I would need this “pistol.” I couldn’t figure out why I would want to settle for what I first saw as shortcomings. Then it hit me–what other .308 on the market has the proven record of the H&K G3 platform? The AR10 isn’t as reliable. The FAL isn’t available in a non-SBR configuration, and the M14/1A isn’t nearly as short. It’s also safe to say none of its competition comes close to offering a viable .308 pistol at a price that’s half way competitive.
So it began to make more sense. Should the 51P PDW have different controls, or more up to date features? If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. The gun works in its natural form, so we have to train around that and learn how to run the gun. In its bare-bones pistol form, this learning curve is going to be exceptionally steep. But when you add the brace to the back end, learning the 51P will be like learning any of PTR’s rifles.
Despite its awkward size, I find shooting the PTR is easy enough. There are no rough edges to cut your hands on. The recoil is moderate for a .308. There’s enough kick to remind you that you’re sending 30 caliber slugs down range, but not enough to make rapid-fire impossible. The birdcage style flash hider does a good job of spreading the immense fireballs from rounds designed for much longer barrels.
Speaking of the fireballs…. How much velocity is lost from the 8″ barrel? 147 grain M80 7.62 x 51 should put up about 2,700 FPS at the muzzle from an 18″ barrel. The PTR-51P’s 8″ barrel drops that down by about 400 FPS. This is a serious detriment to the effective range of the .308, and makes the bullet’s drop at any distance an insurmountable obstacle to accuracy. But a 147 grain FMJ moving leaving the barrel at 2,300 is still devastating at close range. And the round penetrates much better than lighter 55 grain .223 rounds, and a better than a 7.62 x 39.
PTR-91 builds kickass guns that are known for their accuracy. With the 51P’s iron sights, you can expect some loose groups. Add the brace, and they’ll tighten up. The pistol is just too heavy to expect any long distance performance without the stabilization that comes form the brace. I got groups in the 2.5 to 3 inch range at 100 yards with the brace. Without, the same shots were in the 5-6 inch range. That said, the 8″ barrel is stabilizing rounds. With the wide variety of .308 available, finding the right round should be easy.
At the end
All in all the PTR 51P PDW is a pistol with allot to offer. It has its drawbacks, but the 51P will undoubtedly overcomes them with sheer firepower. Other accessories are available that make the pistol easier to operate, like magazine latches and pistol grip assemblies with more easily accessed controls. But if you are looking for rifle caliber firepower in a compact package, and are willing to work with a gun, the 51P will serve you well.
The fine folks at Atlantic Firearms have exclusive rights to the pistol, so shoot over there for more information. And for those of you living in the less-than-free states of America, Atlantic offers compliant options too. The pistol alone sells for $1,069.