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Thread: SSD's PTR44 / BD44 In Detail The Semi Automatic MP44

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    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    SSD's PTR44 / BD44 In Detail The Semi Automatic MP44

    To anyone who is interested in military firearms, the MP44 needs no introduction. It has been so well documented both in print and online that, like the P08, it is recognized even my many non shooters. Other than in a most general way and a few of my own musings, this is not an essay about that rifle. Rather, it is about the modern replica built in Germany by Sport Systeme Dittrich (SSD) and imported in small numbers back in 2009 by PTR Industries.
    When the first 200 were imported, it was supposed to be the beginning of regular shipments from SSD. Collectors were VERY excited because, while the rifles cost approximately $5000 new, that price tag was still far less expensive than the cost of an original example and you didn't have to register them on a Form 4 because they were not readily convertible to select fire.
    Called the BD44 by SSD but marked "PTR44" for US importation, the rifle was so precise a copy of the original that many (myself included) believe that they were/are made using WWII era stamping dies and molds. In essence, it is a "real" MP44, just made 65 years later. What was not to love?? Various things as it turned out. While the rifle appeared to be exquisitely made, serious fatal flaws started showing up almost immediately. Of the 200 imported, only about 150 were actually offered for sale due to serious issues running the gamut from poor quality control issues with both German and US compliance parts to accidents during the US conversion from importable "sporting guns" back to intended original configuration. Worse, the ones released for sale soon started having issues with parts breaking and flawed modification design intended to prevent original, fully automatic parts from being installed on the rifles. We will cover these issues in more detail as we study the PTR44. The problems were so severe that PTR cancelled further orders of the rifle from SSD after just one shipment, causing these replicas to begin climbing in value immediately despite their almost fatal flaws. Before long, they were selling on Gunbroker at prices as high as $8000. They were still so sought after that even many of the approx. 50 rifles that had originally not been available for sale were offered one at a time on Gunbroker for $5000 apiece......and they sold. Since that time, prices on Gunbroker have come down somewhat but they can still command relatively high prices. Over the years, there have been various rumors of other companies planning to import the BD44 into the United States. Even as I type this, there is word that more are coming. However, none of these rumors has yet come to fruition although the collecting community remains hopeful.
    So........what about the PTR44 almost eight years after it was imported? What has become of it? What exactly were the flaws and can they be corrected? Is it a useable rifle or just an expensive wall hanger that has a nasty tendency to self destruct? This thread intends to answer those questions. It is also intended to give a good detailed look at the rifle so that you can see just what you can expect to get when you buy one. I will also cover what should/must be done to it if you do plan on using it to any real extent. I will also document my experiences over time spanning from what I got when I bought it to through what will be done to improve it and ending with (hopefully) the first thousand rounds out the muzzle. Hopefully, my work and tears will help YOU make an informed decision about whether or not you want to actually buy one if you have been interested in owning one over these years. Or, if you are just curious about what the PTR44 is (and is not) you will get some amusement out of my stupidity! This thread is going to take a long time and many posts so let's get to work!


    It's late and I'm only going to post a few pictures tonight but ya' gotta start somewhere, even if it is a small beginning.

    Here it is.....the PTR44:





    I'd wanted one of these in the worst way since I was a kid playing with plastic army men in my yard back in the 70's!! None of them were carrying an MP44 but I had seen them in books and they just looked sooooo neato so I just pretended that my little plastic dudes were carrying one! I got crazy excited when I heard I.O Inc. was planning to import these back in 2007 or 2008 (I forget just exactly when but that's pretty close). I saved up all my money like a good boy. But they just kept dragging it out; promising that they were coming and making a list of people who wanted one but not delivering on those promises. Then the price started going up because they were deluged with phone calls and emails from potential buyers. I guess they figured they would soak us poor saps for all they could get out of us. After a while, I got tired of the delays and price hikes so I took my money and bought an NDM-86 (Chinese made SVD) instead. They never did show up through I.O. Inc.. A little while later, the PTR deal came about. By then, I had researched these rifles thoroughly and, even though I don't speak German, I meticulously translated everything I could find on European gun forums pertaining to the BD44. I was aware that people were having issues with parts breaking and I decided to hold off, waiting to see it the issues would be ironed out before I plunked down my hard earned money. I am NOT a wealthy man after all! Well, I've already told you what happened and there was NO WAY I was going to spend 5K on a rifle that I would potentially have to sink thousands more $$$ into if I wanted to MAYBE work. Nope, I didn't need one that bad.
    But it nagged at me. I still wanted one but I was angry too. Why couldn't they have just done it RIGHT the first time??? My pride wouldn't let me spend the money. Well, after 7 years of being pissed off about the whole affair, I decided that the whole thing was cursed. Despite MANY claims that more were coming, I came to feel that more simple were NOT coming. I still feel that way but I sincerely hope I am wrong. Whatever the case, I started looking again; casually at first but more actively as time went on. When this one came to my attention through a guy I know who has one of his own, I figured I had better get one now or accept that I was probably never going to get one at all. I contacted the owner who told me that he had put 50 rounds through the rifle when he first bought it new and then put it in the safe to sit. He still had everything it came with including the cheap Plano hard case, two magazines, manual, PTR supplied lock and other assorted paperwork thrown in by PTR such as a catalog and safety brochures. It even came with the cardboard shipping box. Well, knowing my luck and still believing that the whole modern MP44 thing was cursed, I drove to his town in a whole other state to transfer the rifle to me legally through an FFL. My thinking was that, if I was to have it shipped, it would probably get destroyed or lost in transit so I'd better cut that variable out of the equation!! It turned out to be fortuitous because the seller turned out to be just a really, really nice guy. He even bought me lunch at a local micro brewery with a bit of the money I had just given him. Thanks Richard! You have Class sir!!

    OK. Moving on. Before I get into the nitty gritty of the PTR44 proper I want to touch just briefly on my thoughts about the MP44 in general. The Sturmgewehr is something of an odd bird. Being that it is the first of it's kind in known History, it's a little crude by modern standards. It's very slim and not particularly long but it's also kind of bulky. By that I mean that, although it's about the same overall size as an AK47/VZ58/HK93/take your pick, it just looks bigger unless it's side by side with one of them. It feels like it was built for Lego people. <--You either get that or you don't. And it's HEAVY, weighing in at just a bit over 11 pounds. The action also feels ratchety. When you grab the charging handle and run the action back and forth, you can feel the parts locking and unlocking in there. I imagine that it feels about the same as something built in Ape City (Charlton Heston PotA, NOT that new stuff). It's not a smooth action at all. BUT, when you shoulder the rifle, you find that the ergonomics are spot on; even better than many of today's offerings. And the recoil impulse is just phenomenal. The straight line design coupled with the weight (in 1945, men were men and weight was not the issue it is for us modern wussies!) means that there is minimal muzzle rise. You can still feel and even hear all the innards gnashing around in there but it works. In many respects, the ancient and crude MP44 still feels like a relevant design today. Yes, you can tell it's old but it's competent.

    Here is an original (owned by a friend) compared to an AK, VZ58 and an HK93:




    And the PTR44 shown a bit closer with two of the above rifles:




    With SMG's FG42 showing just how small the FG42 really is considering it fires a full size 8mm round:




    That's it for tonight. In the next post, we'll do a short comparison of the PTR44 to the HK93 and a Zenith Z43 to show just how close many of the features are between the two designs. To my mind, it's really quite remarkable how closely one follows the other. Then we'll get into the real crux of the thread. See you soon!

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    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    In this post, we're going to look at just how similar the design of the HK93 (HK33 in military designation) is to the MP44. The following also applies to all of the HK roller lock (half lock if you want to get technical) designs in general but it is especially apparent in the 5.56 caliber rifle. Yes, the operating system is completely different. We all know that aspect of the HK is a near copy of the STG45. But many design features are derived straight from the MP44. I believe very possible that the STG45 would have shared a pin mounted swing down trigger group too were it not for the fact that they were trying to built them as absolutely inexpensively as they could. So, while the STG45 is the "missing link" between the MP44 and the post war HK's, I think it most accurate to describe the HK as an amalgam of the MP44 and the STG45. Let's take a look.

    Here again is an original Steyr produced MP44 sitting with it's grandkid:




    The take down pins compared:








    Stocks:



    To be honest, to my knowledge no HK33 ever came with a wooden stock from the factory; it would have been polymer. The one shown was taken off of a G3 and mounted to the HK33 stock ferrule. I like wood. I especially like walnut.


    Bottom of ferrules:



    The HK is more eloquent in its overall design and has a nice beaded weld compared to the drunk spot welds on the MP44 but both get the job done.


    MP44 is on top:



    The operating spring fits inside the MP44 stock whereas the HK spring rests in the cup at the top of the ferrule. The HK has a buffer built into it as well while the MP44 just has a steel tube at the top for the back of the bolt carrier to ram into. Quite sophisticated!


    A shot showing the trigger groups swung down:



    The rifle on the bottom is Turkish made. I used it because it retains the pivot pin for the lower. All of the fire control bits are contained in a removable box on the HK and that box is held into the lower by the safety lever. The STG45 has a similar trigger box but no swing down lower. The MP44 has no such box; the innards are just mounted on axle pins mounted in the grip frame in a traditional manner. In fact, the fire control bits are not even intended to be dismounted because their axles are peened in place!


    Bottom of the receivers:



    Notice how much more polished the work is on the HK. Original MP44's are just as crudely put together as the SSD model.


    Rear of the receivers:



    Even though the operating systems are night and day different, the family lineage is readily apparent.


    A close up of the sock mounting pin holes: HK is at the front:



    SSD has slightly modified this pin area in an effort to make it so that you cannot install an original WWII bolt and/or bolt carrier. We'll look at that more closely later.


    Here we see a general shot of the receivers compared:



    They are very different yet very much the same. The HK clearly displays the benefit of decades of advancements and experience but it wouldn't exist without granddad.


    Magazines compared:





    Sorry about all those fiber strands. You're going to see them all over the place in these pictures because there was a new rug underneath the liebermuster backdrop and it acted like a magnet for those cursed stray fibers. The more I moved it around, the more the tagalongs that attached themselves to it. I really do vacuum....I swear!


    That's it for tonight. In the next post, we'll start looking at the details of the PTR44. We'll do it in much the same way as we did the FG42; that is to say starting at the front and working our way back. As we go along, I'll tell you what you are looking at and point out potential problems and flaws. Thanks for your time and patience!

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    Senior Veteran jbruney's Avatar
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    Good. Thanks and keep it coming.
    Joe
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    Buckshot's Avatar
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    Nice report
    Occam's razor, the simplest explanation will be the most plausible

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    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    Thank you!



    We start looking at the PTR44 proper with the front of the rifle.....what a novel idea!

    Here are a few shots of the front sight:







    One of the neato things about the SSD reproduction is that they built it authentically. That is to say that stamped, cast and machined parts on an original are stamped cast and machined on the new made one as well. And they didn't drastically over prep the parts either. Notice the casting pits on the side and the mold line at the rear of the front sight tower. Similar to an original, dressing of the casting was mostly limited to what was needed for it to function as designed. Little thought was put into cosmetics. Still, the SSD's cast parts could be a little more rough. Here is the rear of a sight tower mounted on a 1945 produced MP44 for comparison purposes:



    So, a little more rough would be a little more better! Nice grammer huh? The above holds true for all of the cast parts on the SSD; they are close to originals and even interchange but they are just a bit too good. For me, part of the MP44's allure is the utilitarian look to it. If it was pretty, it wouldn't be as interesting and, for the most part, this rifle very much captures that utilitarian look. The only other slight drawback is the deep bluing on everything. Personally, I think the rifles look better with the mix of blued, phosphate and bare steel parts so often seen on late war examples. Of course, earlier ones were totally blued like the SSD so it is still "authentic" but it would look better with either a mixed and/or well worn finish.


    The muzzle nut is removed by pushing in on the retaining pin and unscrewing it:



    The retaining pin is supposed to stick out farther but it wants to catch inside the sight tower for some reason. It presses in fine but you have to fiddle with it a
    little for it to pop out completely. It still works fine either way. Notice that the barrel is NOT chrome lined. Originals weren't either.


    On the right side of the barrel is the caliber marking. The "k" stands for "kurz" or "short":




    Above the barrel and sticking out of the gas block is the antenna used to transmit and receive transmissions from Haunebu craft and the secret base in New Swabia:





    It also doubles as the gas plug and stacking hook. I don't know what the copper colored gook is on the antenna. I assume it's anti seize grease as it wipes off pretty easily but it may also be some sort of futuristic superconducting compound used to increase the range of the antenna. It's a long way to Antarctica for low powered R.F transmissions to travel you know. I've seen other PTR44's with this stuff on the gas plug too.


    To remove the gas plug, it simply unscrews:





    Notice that it is a cast part. I assume the fine threads are intended to prevent gas blow-by. The hole is to pass a rod through to help unscrew the plug if it sticks. This part should only be hand tightened, NOT torqued down.


    Here is the gas block with the plug removed:



    Again, notice the casting marks. With the plug removed, it is a simple thing to run a cleaning patch through the gas tube for cleaning. You can just make out the mold line on the bottom of the gas block and hole where the bit passed through during manufacturing to drill the gas port prior to assembly onto the barrel.


    The left side of the gas block:



    Notice the two pins holding it in place on the barrel. Also seen towards the left of the picture is one of the two gas vents on the gas tube.


    The handguard is held onto the barrel by spring tension. There are no mounting bits as the shape of the part itself does the job. To remove it, simply grab the front and pull down, pivoting it at the rear. Just keep pulling and it will pop off with a metallic "twang". If you drop it on the floor it sounds a cheap as it really is. In typical German fashion, the stamping is overcomplicated but that just makes it look more interesting. I'm a sucker for stamped parts. I just find it fascinating that you can take a flat an flimsy sheet of steel and origami the hell out of it into something useable. Take a look:








    Note imperfections or stretch marks in the steel:



    Or maybe they are just scratches in the steel underneath the bluing. Whatever they are, they just make it look that much more utilitarian and that just makes me like it that much more.


    We'll finish this post with a look at the rest of the markings on the barrel. We already saw the caliber marking on the right side of the barrel between the gas block and front sight tower. There are three more marking on the bottom hidden by the handguard. The first one is "DE":



    This stands for "Deutschland" (Germany) If I remember correctly, the German government requires all German made export firearms to be marked with this stamp.


    Number two is the serial number:




    And the last marking on the bottom of the barrel is the SSD logo:



    To the right of the picture, we see the front of the milled trunnion with the pressed steel receiver shell wrapped around it. We'll pick up there in the next post.

  6. #6
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    Picking up right where we let off, lets move on to the receiver.

    In front of the magazine well on the bottom of the receiver we see some markings just like an original would have:



    Starting at the upper left and moving clockwise we have:
    fxo: This is the code for Haenel. If this was produced in WWII, that would be the company that assembled the rifle
    cos: This is the code for Merz Werke, the company that made the receiver stamping. If I understand correctly, they just stamped it while Haenel then formed it.
    SSD mark: The company that actually built it and the only marking here that has any real meaning! The others are on there just for fun.
    E/37 waffenamt. This would be a Quality control mark applied by Haenel during assembly.
    The line running along the center of the receiver is where it meets and is crimped and welded together once formed around the trunnion.


    Here are some spot welds at the front of the magazine well where the stamping overlaps once shaping is complete:



    Looks kinda' cheap and shoddy doesn't it? Originals do too. Steel origami.....I love it.


    Looking up into the magazine well, we see something interesting going on:





    Notice on the outside left and right sides of the magazine well that there are two corrugated bumps (also known as reinforcement ribs) stamped into it for strength. There should be corresponding divots apparent on the inside and there are on the upper corrugations . But the lower corrugations appear to be welded over on the inside; that's because they were. You see, in order for these to be imported, the magazine well was required to be incapable of accepting standard double stack magazines in order for them to be considered as "sporting firearms" so.....they welded a plate up in there. After they were here, that plate was milled out and the weld smoothed over a bit so that magazines could be inserted but evidence of what was done remains. It looks like they applied some cold blue up in there too. I talked to a guy who bought a stripped receiver from one of the 50 unsold rifles. Apparently, someone slipped during the removal process and milled an approximately 1/4" notch out the side of the mag well....oops! That one became a parts gun is a split second.


    Here is a shot of the right front half of the receiver:



    There are lots of neato torpedo things to see here. First, we see several reinforcement ribs, two on the magazine well and a larger/longer one starting just in front of a round indented area. This whole section of the receiver pictured above is wrapped around and spot welded to a large milled trunnion. You can't see it but it's in there. All of the indents we see in this area, the round indent just referenced, the indent running parallel to and above the large reinforcement rib and the two vertical indents at the front of the receiver, all of these correspond to identical indents milled into the trunnion and they act as positioning and grasping points to locate the trunnion exactly where it needs to be inside the receiver shell and keep it there. Then spot welds were liberally applied all over the place to make sure everything stays put. This way of building things is straight up blasphemy to old world craftsmen but it works! In 1945, this was considered to be an extremely inexpensive way of building a rifle but modern technology has made it expensive and generally obsolete. There are still many rifles out there built this way but it's almost dead what with modern molded polymers being all the rage these days! I hate to see it go. It just has such cool utilitarian character.
    Just behind the vertical indents is the barrel retaining pin. Remember, these have press fit barrels, not threaded ones. Just below the large reinforcement rib is a line of four spot welds and to the rear of those are two pins that hold the ejector in place. Below that is the magazine catch, a few more random looking spot welds holding a reinforcement plate inside the receiver shell and, finally, we see the non-removable pivot pin for the swing down trigger housing.


    Above the long reinforcement rib is the spring loaded dust cover for the ejection port. Stoner pretty much straight up lifted this design for use on the M16. And, just like the M16, it automatically opens any time the bolt moves to the rear. Here, it is shown open and ready for dirt:




    Here is a close-up look at the right side of the trigger housing:



    Just like the receiver, it has a bunch of reinforcement ribs all over it. They are probably not all necessary but this was still a relatively new way of building and I guess they figured it was better to err on the side of caution. They make it look interesting but I'm sure that was not a consideration in the design stage! We see various pins holding the hammer, trigger and various other internal bits in place. Above the pistol grip is a checkered button. On an original, this button sticks out both sides of the trigger housing and is slid back and forth to select either semi or full automatic fire. On the SSD version, it does nothing and is screwed in place to a bracket welded inside the housing. Notice that the trigger guard has another piece of stamped steel circling inside it. This both strengthens it and seals up what would otherwise be a large opening to the insides of the trigger housing.


    Here's an even closer shot showing both the import mark and the how the axle pins are peened in place to their bearings:



    The import stamp is a bit hard to read in the photograph because it's imprinted so shallow but it reads "Made in Germany by SSD for PTR-91 inc Farmington CT. USA". At the top of the picture is the scope rail. It's spot welded in place and was designed to use the same scope mount as was used on the G43 rifle. I don't have an original mount anymore but, when I did, I tried it on a PTR44 owned by a friend of mine. The rail was cut too small so, while the mount would slide on, it would not properly tighten down and thus was pretty wobbly on there. I have seen these rifles with scopes attached so maybe one can be made to fit properly? I don't know but be aware of this potential problem if you plan to install a scope.


    Moving up top we have the rear sight:




    Left front side of the receiver:



    Much of what was observed on the right side is repeated here. We see the serial number in the same place it would have been back in the day. Missing are the manufacturer and year of production stamps. We can also see the magazine release button and charging handle.


    Left side of trigger housing:



    As with the receiver, much of what is seen here is a repeat of the right side. The safety is set in the "fire" position and the "PTR44" model designation stamp is seen just below the charging handle slot. Notice the large rectangular bump at the upper front of the trigger housing. On an original, this is a clearance bump for now absent full automatic internal parts. It is also where a waffenamt would be stamped. Some PTR44's do have a fake inspection stamp here but this one does not for some unknown reason.


    A close-up of the safety lever set between the "Safe" and "Fire" positions so that you can see both in one picture:



    There is WAYYY too much glare in the picture but it's better than none at all I guess. While the "F" and "S" stamps look fine, the position detents stamped into the housing are much less distinct than on original examples that I have seen. They do their job just fine though and hold the lever in place with a positive "click".


    Here, we have removed the walnut grips:



    The little blued washer looking thingees set into the backs of the grips go over the bumps stamped into the grip frame to keep them from moving around. The cutout in the grip frame is to hold one last round for yourself in case your position is overrun. No, no really but it is kinda' funny that it's bullet shaped.
    The grips are made in the USA. While we are on the subject.....supposedly, the US made parts are as follows:

    All wood parts, charging handle, trigger, hammer, sear, disconnector, magazine follower and magazine floor plate.

    BE ADVISED, there have been instances of broken hammers, triggers, and disconnectors. All can be replaced with original parts BUT remember that the axles for these parts are peened in place. Peening in place is "authentic" but it's also a vexing problem for the home gunsmith if any of these parts need to be replaced. Personally, I recommend replacing them BEFORE you have a breakage. I'm NOT going to get into a 922 compliance debate here so I'll just say that, with regards to sourcing Quality parts in this area, you need to figure that one out on your own. Whatever the case, you need to get someone who knows what they are doing if you wish to go about working on the trigger housing. Let me repeat that.....you NEED to get someone who knows what they are doing if you wish to go about working on the trigger housing. If you screw it up, you are REALLY going to screw it up!! Is that clear?


    Last picture for this post is the bottom of the pistol grip:





    Are they stress cracks? It sure looks like the one on the right is. I think the one on the left is just a stress mark. I wouldn't worry about it as this appears to be a common occurrence on originals too. The design of the MP44 was and is pushing the limits on what can be done with forming steel and similar marks are seen all over this rifle albeit not to the extreme seen here. It just adds character if you ask me.


    That's it for tonight. Stay tuned unless you are bored!
    Last edited by Combloc; 08-22-2017 at 12:35 AM.

  7. #7
    Norton's Avatar
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    This was an informative post with great detailed photos
    I like many military firearms collectors am fascinated with the Sturmgewehr and it's development.
    Later in history you could see it was still viewed as a valuable military aid item.
    Even when there when SKS, AK 47, Vz 58, were available from Eastern Block nations

    I thought this paragraph was very particularly interesting

    The Sturmgewehr is something of an odd bird. Being that it is the first of it's kind in known History, it's a little crude by modern standards. It's very slim and not particularly long but it's also kind of bulky. By that I mean that, although it's about the same overall size as an AK47/VZ58/HK93/take your pick, it just looks bigger unless it's side by side with one of them. It feels like it was built for Lego people. <--You either get that or you don't. And it's HEAVY, weighing in at just a bit over 11 pounds. The action also feels ratchety. When you grab the charging handle and run the action back and forth, you can feel the parts locking and unlocking in there. I imagine that it feels about the same as something built in Ape City (Charlton Heston PotA, NOT that new stuff). It's not a smooth action at all. BUT, when you shoulder the rifle, you find that the ergonomics are spot on; even better than many of today's offerings. And the recoil impulse is just phenomenal. The straight line design coupled with the weight (in 1945, men were men and weight was not the issue it is for us modern wussies!) means that there is minimal muzzle rise. You can still feel and even hear all the innards gnashing around in there but it works. In many respects, the ancient and crude MP44 still feels like a relevant design today. Yes, you can tell it's old but it's competent.
    Last edited by Norton; 08-22-2017 at 11:40 AM.
    We thought about it for a long time, "Endeavor to persevere." And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union

  8. #8
    holescreek's Avatar
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    Not knowing the history on the PTR version I'm curious why they ran such a limited production after all the expense of producing stamping dies and casting patterns.

  9. #9
    Senior Veteran sdk1968's Avatar
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    another awesome write up & compare job your doing here!

    never knew they were this similar! thanks for sharing.
    say what you mean & mean what you say!
    TEC Tactical=SOT/07 i work there.

  10. #10
    7.62guy's Avatar
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    Fantastic pictures and info as always. thanks for the thread.
    For those who fought for it, freedom holds a flavor the protected will never know. Those who hammer their guns into plows-will plow for those who do not. Thomas Jefferson

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