The PTRS was designed alongside the PTRD, which was designed by Vasily Degtyaryov of DP-28 fame. Both were designed when the Soviets discovered that the existing 12.7×108mm cartridge proved to be ineffective against tanks and reinforced armor. While the PTRS held more rounds and could fire more rapidly, it was harder to use and was less reliable but yielded similar performance, so the PTRD was seen more on the field.
While the 14.5×114 cartridge had penetration power, it was not effective against most tanks at the time, as the bullet could shatter with this muzzle velocity produced if it struck a tank at the wrong angle. Due to obsolescence and inefficiency, the PTRS and its sister design, the PTRD, were pulled out of service and relegated to an anti-materiel rifle role due to poor performance.
The PTRS is gas-operated with a vertically-tilting bolt and a short-stroke gas piston. The rifle is fed by a 5-round en-bloc clip from the bottom. There is a hatch that covers all the internal workings on the bottom, which can only be operated with the bolt locked back. The PTRS has a strange trigger that hinges downwards when pulled.
The loading process of the rifle is a little bit unusual; push a button on the bottom of the rifle, which opens up a hatch. Push the en-bloc clip into the bottom of the rifle and seat it in firmly (it will not click into place). Pull back on the charging handle and the first round will be brought into battery. The rounds on the en-bloc clip are tilted very slightly to allow for more reliable feeding.
Once all the ammunition is expended, the charging handle will lock back. Then, one can open up the hatch and pull out the en-bloc clip and dispose of it.
The PTRS has appeared in many World War II-themed video games, such as Call of Duty: World at War and Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad.
- In Call of Duty: World at War, the PTRS is treated like a regular sniper rifle; it is even held like one, like how one holds a Mosin-Nagant or a M1903 Springfield. This is incorrect and impractical, as the PTRS is not meant to be fired unsupported. The gun is heavy, and with the combined force of the weight and the recoil, it can break the wielder's shoulder in real life.