The Steyr AUG M3 A1–A New Take on the Old Bullpup

The size, weight distribution, ease of maintenance, and versatility would make this carbine a great self defense rifle or patrol carbine. A 20th century rifle with 21st century looks.

The size, weight distribution, ease of maintenance, and versatility would make this carbine a great self defense rifle or patrol carbine. A 20th century rifle with 21st century looks.

Buy one on GunsAmerica: /Steyr

As an arms company, Steyr has had a long and storied history of making fine quality firearms that have been used all over the world. The Steyr AUG is one of the best known, which has been fascinating firearms enthusiasts and movie goers since the 1970’s. The AUG can trace its roots to Austria in the late 1960’s when the Austrian Army was looking for a replacement for their Stg-58 rifles, a licensed version of the venerable FN FAL. The AUG was selected for service in the late 1970’s as the Stg-77, in fact AUG stands for Armee Universal Gewehr, Universal Army Rifle. Although this rifle’s design is over 40 years old, its innovative design and futuristic looks are almost timeless and I don’t think it would look too out of place in the hands of a sci-fi star trooper. While there are other bullpup designs out there, some argue that the Steyr AUG was the first commercially successful design.

When the AUG was conceived it had features that had been seen sporadically throughout the firearms industry however the AUG was the first to incorporate them all in one rifle. At a time when many thought that standard military rifles should be made of wood and steel the AUG used gratuitous amounts of polymer for many of its components with the receiver and barrel being made from aluminum and steel respectively. It featured a built in forward pistol grip that helped with stability and folded up out of the way for a more sleek profile when moving in vehicles or buildings. The AUG is probably most recognizable for the integrated optic that took the place of traditional iron sights that were used on many of its contemporaries such as the M16. The optic had only 1.5 times magnification but it was designed for not only aiming but also for rough range estimation to about 300 meters. It provided a considerable advantage over other military rifles of the time and even helped shape 3-gun competition into what it is today.

Caliber – 5.56 NATO

Barrel – Hammer Forged, Chrome-Lined, 1:9 Twist

Barrel Length – 16″ (18.375″ with flash hider)

Overall Length – 28.15″

Action – Gas Piston, Semi-Automatic

Weight – Approximately 8 lbs 5 oz (No optic with empty magazine)

MSRP: $2,099 (either rail), $2,499 (1.5X optic), $2,599 (3X optic)

Check out the Steyr site: http://www.steyrarms.com/

The Steyr AUG is in service with nearly 40 countries and law enforcement agencies including the US, Austrailia, New Zealand, and Ireland.

The Steyr AUG is in service with nearly 40 countries and law enforcement agencies including the US, Austrailia, New Zealand, and Ireland.

The Steyr AUG of today appears the same in many respects as it did when it was first introduced although there are a few options available that should help it appeal to civilian customers. There are two rail height options and two options for an integrated optic to suit just about any shooter’s requirements. I selected the High Rail version for review because I felt it would provide the most flexibility when going between different types of optics. Steyr also offers a replacement stock that will allow the use of standard NATO magazines however this means that the rifle can only have a right hand ejection port and no bolt release. With Magpul about to start making AUG magazines, I think I’d probably just pick some of those up instead of springing for a new stock.

The AUG handles like a short barreled rifle but has the advantage of a 16 inch barrel for greater muzzle velocity.

The AUG handles like a short barreled rifle but has the advantage of a 16 inch barrel for greater muzzle velocity.

For anyone that is used to the AR-15, the AUG can feel somewhat alien at first, but it’s possible to become quite proficient with it with a little practice. Probably one of the more important things to remember is when you are operating the charging handle keep your palm up, because it’s never a good thing to leave skin behind on your optics mount. The safety is a cross bolt type so it’s different than the safety lever on the AR-15 but it is easily switched to fire with the right index finger when bringing the rifle into the shoulder. When I went to practice magazine changes they really weren’t nearly as awkward as I thought they would be. In fact with a little practice they can actually be performed very quickly.   Despite its peculiarities the rifle is pretty easy to learn how to operate safely and effectively with a generally good layout for righties. Manticore Arms produces an inexpensive brass deflector that clips on the stock that should help left handed shooters prevent getting brass to the face syndrome.

Now you’ve probably seen the part in an action movie where the character effortlessly snaps a barrel into a rifle and gets ready to do some business; well the Steyr literally makes it that easy. Removing the barrel from the AUG is as easy as one, two, three by locking the bolt back, pressing a small button by the front grip and giving the whole thing a slight twist while holding onto the foregrip.   This helps make for probably one of the easiest barrel cleaning sessions ever but it also allows different barrels to be switched onto the rifle for different purposes. The original concept behind this was so that the rifle could be configured for different roles and missions from basic rifleman to automatic rifleman to grenadier in just seconds. A gas regulator for the piston operating system is integral to the barrel and has two positions, one for normal operation and another for adverse conditions. The ease at which the rifle can be disassembled for maintenance and reconfiguration continues throughout the rifle, which can be taken down to its major components in well under 30 seconds. Removing the cross pin/sling swivel loop at the end also allows access to the fire control group and a small compartment for cleaning equipment. Cleaning kit compartments such as these are common to some battle rifles so that soldiers could always have the tools that they needed to keep their rifles functioning in the field. I don’t believe Steyr ships the guns with a cleaning kit but one is available from them that includes everything a shooter needs.

The AUG is a snap to field strip into its major components for maintenance. An experienced shooter should be able to disassemble and reassemble it in less than a minute.

The AUG is a snap to field strip into its major components for maintenance. An experienced shooter should be able to disassemble and reassemble it in less than a minute.

One aspect of this rifle that I both like and somewhat loathe is the limited amount of rail space available to mount modern optics and accessories.   The simple, straightforward configuration of the AUG though makes it an excellent choice for a reliable basic carbine that can serve many purposes. The high rail version of the AUG in particular can allow the mounting of a variety of optics using some of the same mounts that can be used on the AR-15. However, the limited amount of rail space can also require some creative solutions when adding accessories such as a weaponlight in combination with a red dot or magnified optic. Not wanting to focus on the negative though I tested the rifle’s full capabilities the best I could using two optics that are essentially at opposite ends of the spectrum. To test accuracy and the feasibility of the rifle to engage smaller, precision type targets I mounted a Nightforce 2.5-10X42 Compact NXS scope in Nightforce rings. To use the rifle in a more conventional sense I affixed an Aimpoint CompM non-magnified optic for CQB-type environments. Mounting both optics came with its own considerations, mainly making sure that the path the charging handle must follow is clear. This is not only for functional reasons but also personal comfort as it’s not fun leaving bits of yourself on the optic’s mounts when you go to load the rifle. Flipping the mount so that the mounting nuts were on the right side cured this issue with both optics.

The sloping sides of the stock create a very comfortable and ergonomic cheek rest whether you are using a magnified or non-magnified optic.

The sloping sides of the stock create a very comfortable and ergonomic cheek rest whether you are using a magnified or non-magnified optic.

For anyone that likes to shoot and lives on the east coast of the United States, you know that it’s been a particularly challenging winter. The way things worked out with the range openings and closings I had the opportunity to shoot the AUG for accuracy first. Accuracy testing consisted of 100 yard groups with a variety of ammunition and engaging steel targets from 200-300 yards. This was hardly scientific or conclusive but it could provide a somewhat base line for accuracy and give me an idea of what I was working with. Seeing a magnified optic atop the AUG may look a little strange but it was actually quite comfortable to get down behind. A majority of the accuracy testing was performed with Federal 69gr Gold Metal Match ammunition but I also tried a few rounds of American Eagle 50gr Tipped Varmint Bullets.   While the AUG was a comfortable rifle to shoot I felt that the trigger was the largest hindrance in obtaining the best possible accuracy. It wasn’t so much that it was heavy but that the trigger pull weight felt inconsistent so at times it felt as if the trigger was actually pushing back. A common complaint amongst many bullpup designs though is that the triggers are often pretty nasty compared to its more conventional brethren so I won’t hold it against the AUG. That being said the groups weren’t too horrible all things considered. The Federal Gold Medal Match yielded two 10 shot groups that averaged just under 2″ center to center and a 3 shot group of the tipped varmint was right around inch. Now that isn’t going to win any benchrest matches but I believe that with a skilled marksman you’ll have a reasonable hit percentage as longer ranges.

Results of accuracy and return to zero testing at 50 and 100 yards. The top targets were shot at 50 yards while the bottom targets were shot at 100 yards.

Results of accuracy and return to zero testing at 50 and 100 yards. The top targets were shot at 50 yards while the bottom targets were shot at 100 yards.

Since I had the Nightforce already mounted up and I thought I’d do another little test to determine if there was a zero shift from disassembling the rifle and then reassembling it. It was something that was always in the back of the mind because of how the rifle has to be disassembled for cleaning and maintenance. The test was pretty simple, shoot a five shot group, remove the barrel, shoot another 5 shot group and see if the mean center of the group is drastically off paper or otherwise not where I intended it. After shooting and removing the barrel three times I came to the conclusion that there was no discernible zero shift when removing and replacing the barrel in the receiver. Granted, I was using XM193 ammunition that in the best of circumstances is good for about 3″ give or take at 100 yards so the 4″ group size wasn’t all that bad when taking the trigger into account also. I stretched the rifle out to 300 yards on steel at Peacemaker National Training Center’s Independence Range and even with 55 grain ball I didn’t have much trouble connecting copper to steel. All of this was also after I’d removed the barrel multiple times and even completely disassembled it on the bench prior to shooting. I was pretty impressed by this point.

A little while later the weather turned and I was able to switch configurations to the Aimpoint and get it zeroed at 50 yards back at PNTC’s Independence Range. For this trip I also took a good friend and shooting buddy with me to assist and it wasn’t long before we made our way to the Training Bay for some CQB-type drills with the AUG.   Up close the rifle was nothing short of amazing. I guess because much of the weight is towards the rear of the stock the recoil impulse is very smooth and it’s easy to stay on target. The rear weight bias also makes it easy to present and get on target quickly or when transitioning from target to target. The forward grip lent itself to a comfortable fighting stance to further deal with the recoil, although this is another area where AR-15 shooters used to a more extended arm grip could feel a bit awkward. AR-15 shooters that are used to a magazine well grip will probably find the stance pretty similar when picking up and firing the AUG. I think the thing that surprised me the most when shooting with the AUG at close range was that I didn’t really notice the extra-heavy trigger pull like I thought I would. To me it felt like a slightly heavy standard mil-spec trigger, not good for precision work but serviceable for just about everything else. By the end of the day I’d gone through half a dozen magazines and all in all I was pretty happy with the rifle. It was utterly reliable, comfortable, accurate enough for a general purpose rifle, and user friendly once you got used it.

Before I picked up this rifle I was not a fan of the bullpup configuration because it was so different from what I was used to. It looked funny, I’d heard stories about how awkward they were to operate, and that the triggers were horrible. Spending time with the Steyr AUG has definitely changed my perspective and while I don’t think it would replace any of the AR-15’s in my safe I think there’s certainly a space for it.

The AUG's bolt carrier group and bolt can be easily disassembled without any tools, perfect for any rifle that may see field use. The parts are also pretty big so there's less chance of losing them.

The AUG’s bolt carrier group and bolt can be easily disassembled without any tools, perfect for any rifle that may see field use. The parts are also pretty big so there’s less chance of losing them.

The AUG's magazine was probably one of the first commercially successful polymer magazines in the industry. The waffle pattern is easy to grip and I experienced no feeding issues throughout our shooting sessions

The AUG’s magazine was probably one of the first commercially successful polymer magazines in the industry. The waffle pattern is easy to grip and I experienced no feeding issues throughout our shooting sessions

[/one_half_last]

Typical shooting stance for the AUG. The High Rail on the AUG also creates plenty of mounting space for additional accessories or larger optics.

Typical shooting stance for the AUG. The High Rail on the AUG also creates plenty of mounting space for additional accessories or larger optics.

This small space in the heel of the stock has enough room for essential cleaning supplies.

This small space in the heel of the stock has enough room for essential cleaning supplies.

While it might not look like much the locking lugs on the AUG's barrel allow it to lock back in place the same way every time for excellent zero retention.

While it might not look like much the locking lugs on the AUG’s barrel allow it to lock back in place the same way every time for excellent zero retention.

The Nightforce 2.5-10X42 didn't turn the AUG into a tack driver but it did turn in some respectable groups at 100 yards for a basic carbine using match ammunition.

The Nightforce 2.5-10X42 didn’t turn the AUG into a tack driver but it did turn in some respectable groups at 100 yards for a basic carbine using match ammunition.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Scouse November 20, 2015, 6:53 am

    A while back, AUG USA went nuts, and sold the 30 round magazines for $10.00 each! I bought 10 of them, perfect factory ones.

  • Jaeger April 22, 2015, 9:27 pm

    I have two A3 AUGS. One still original with a Steyr scope and one that I changed the stock to the NATO version so I could use AR mags, since I also have several of those, a Trijicon sight on top, and a Crimson Trace laser/light on the side Yes the triggers aren’t the best feature, but if you grow up a little, take deep breath and learn trigger control they work fine. Have yet to have either one malfunction after countless rounds. Swithced the one to AR mags for those bad times when things go wrong and you run out of ammo I can just grab a friends mag and keep going. As a last note 9mm conversions are available, just have to look a little.

  • tharmagnum April 22, 2015, 6:20 pm

    mag change looks awkward…must take some getting use too,especially if you need to keep your head down and your eyes forward.

  • nestor April 20, 2015, 11:01 pm

    desert tech is about to make this obselete

    • name April 22, 2015, 5:18 am

      That’s funny Nestor! :^D
      Too bad for D-Teck that the RFB long beat them to the 308 punchline, and with a way more streamlined package.
      I’ve got the Hunter RFB as well as a USR (thumbhole AUG); both are amazing. I won’t be pissing away $3.5K on a D-Tech.

  • Sleuth April 20, 2015, 4:41 pm

    I was the lead instructor for my LE agency on the AUG – we loved it! For durability testing, I fired 14,000 (repeat, 14,000) rounds through one AUG w/o cleaning over a period of several months. The gun still measured within spec.
    I have engaged targets out to 600 yards with the 1.5X sight, and careful trigger pulls produced hits every time.
    The AUG is a fighting rifle, NOT a match/competition rifle. Ours saved lives. Plus, with the bullpup config, it is easy to deploy from cars, boats, and airplanes, or employ in confined spaces like single wide trailers.
    The fast mag change on the A1 is: obtain loaded mag, use back of loaded mag to press mag release (behind mag), empty drops free, insert loaded, pull & release cocking handle, return to the fight. This ONLY works with 30 rnd mags, the 43’s do not drop free. In my prime, I could fire the next shot just as the empty mag hit the ground.
    Ours were 3 round burst, selector in the trigger. A hard pull was burst, an easy pull was a single.
    It’s my go-to 5.56 rifle. (I used a clamp to mount a light to the barrel, on the left side. I activated the light w/my left thumb.)

    • Mike Hargreaves February 26, 2016, 6:34 am

      The original 1.5 power scope, is by far the best of all, and great at poor light shooting. Drop it on concrete, still keeps running!
      And yes, it is a fighting Rifle, not a target one!

  • Frank April 20, 2015, 2:36 pm

    I have the USA version manufactured by Microtech (MSAR). It is the Gen.4 version, which solved my big issue which was to be able to take standard AR mags. Amber translucent ones are avail from them too. I agree with the initial trigger issues, which primarily relate to polymer on polymer sear surfaces. I installed a $30 Neu-Trigger and it is now polymer on polished Stainless and is much smoother, although still heavy. Definately more predictable. I will look into the Trigger Tamer as well. Another nice add-on is the Manticore Arms Raptor Charging Handle ($30), which is almost a must if using an optic on the rail system as your hand hits the optic when locking the action open. (Theirs is angled )

  • Charlie Weakland April 20, 2015, 2:29 pm

    Steyr magazines are worth the money, I drove over one in my Jeep on asphalt and it still worked fine! These polymer magazines were the first ones that functioned perfectly, in the 1980’s and 90’s everything but Glock & AUG magazines were JUNK.

  • Michael Grimler April 20, 2015, 2:20 pm

    I was lucky to get a black A1 with a 16″ barrel under the law enforcement officer purchase program in 1991 for about $1,750 from Gun South, Inc.

    Three of my fellow OCSD (CA) buddies also got them and we were the first to use them in that year’s Soldier of Fortune 3-Gun Match in Las Vegas. They caused quite a stir because of the integrated 1.5X optic and had to go round and round with the match rulemakers to allow them. We finally prevailed.

    The flippable foregrip also received a fair amount of derision from fellow shooters…it’s funny how that vertical foregrip has come more into favor in the last few years.

    Prior comments about trigger pull are true…it’s awful for anything other than battle conditions but for most, that will suit them just fine. I tried a trigger tamer, but the one I got made it go into a strange mode in which a round would fire with a pull, then when the trigger was released to reset, it would fire a round again. I guess I could have gotten used to that, but decided to put the original back in.

  • Bill Schoettler April 20, 2015, 12:31 pm

    Purchased an AUG way back when they were legal in California. Loved the mechanics, simplicity. The rifle (at least mine could) can be fitted inside the stock and the package is waterproof. Wasn’t mentioned in this article. My biggest complaint was the short barrel and bull pup design puts the muzzle too close to the left ear (right ear for left-handed shooters) of the shooter. Without ear plugs (which you wouldn’t be likely to wear in a combat situation) your hearing will be severely compromised. Other than that the entire design is intelligent and competent.

    • The Raven April 21, 2015, 1:16 pm

      You’re talking just to hear your own voice. Everything you wrote is bullshit, and we are all dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  • Will Drider April 20, 2015, 11:37 am

    All bullpup designs suffer from a common design flaw. Just as boxers “reach” matters in the ring, so does effective bayonet reach. Not just the over all length of the weapon with bayonet, but distance from forward hand to tip of bayonet. If you don’t recognize situations where this matters, happily move on with you belief window.

    Rough estimate is 90% of the worlds military forces that are issued a rifle are not issued a sidearm. So the bayonet is their secondary weapon. Smart troops will pickup one the first chance they get. Transitations from engagement to close combat through to hand to hand can and does happen in seconds, and urban warfare increases close (in your face) encounters.

    For the armed Civies, I don’t think anyone that has a long gun, would not also have a sidearm. They also probably don’t have the skill set for attached bayonet work.

  • Joe April 20, 2015, 10:04 am

    I love the style but hate the price
    I have an AR 10 and an AR 15 and together they equal the price of this gunsafe princess.

  • Michael April 20, 2015, 9:57 am

    I have one as well A3 (accepts AR magazines) haven’t fired too many rounds through it…certainly no reliability issues. However, the trigger sucks, I have mine outfitted with an ACOG 3x. I understand it’s a battle rifle, however, do not expect AR type accuracy with this thing, since the trigger is the limiting factor. There are some trigger mods, which I still have to explore, but to do it again, I would say stay away. Like all of you, my dream gun is/was the Steyr AUG. I have fired the Tavor, cannot say I’m a huge fan of that platform, but at least the trigger can be improved. This new version might/should be an improvement, I’m not sold on the A3 version, since it doesn’t have the same bolt/release as the other version.

  • Curtis Green April 20, 2015, 9:39 am

    I purchased my first AUG because I am left handed and like the option it offers for lefties. I agree the factory trigger is terrible, but I installed a “AUG Trigger Tamer” and now it is my go to rifle. The part can be installed in minutes and cost about $50. I did not measure the change, but my guess is travel reduced by 50-70% and the pull weight is about 4.5 lbs. Reset is very good. It is not as good as my Geissele trigger in my AR’s, but you can never make that happen with a bull pup.
    I also installed one in my Registered Flemming full auto AUG pack and it works great. Before giving up on this great rifle because of the trigger try a Trigger Tamer.

  • Ringo Lapua April 20, 2015, 9:33 am

    Have owned a Steyr Aug for a couple years now and added a suppressor mount as well. Really like the clean piston and feel of this 5.56 rifle as well as it’s ease of field stripping. This is a well written article which needs to need copied or printed by every Steyr owner. EXCELLENT WORK and THANKS FOR ALL THE GREAT INFORMATION.

  • Alvarado April 20, 2015, 6:39 am

    Let’s wait until Magpul makes the Aug Mags?? Right now the price on factory mags is rediculous compared to every day AR mags!! Might look at a Tavor? Also at least you can convert it to 9mm!! Still undecided??

    • Rudolf April 21, 2015, 9:12 am

      My AUG has a 9mm conversion.

  • Mike K April 20, 2015, 6:25 am

    I wanted one of these for years and was finally able to afford one. BAD mistake! It has the worst trigger I have ever experienced. How anyone can get even reasonable accuracy beyond close quarter battle range is beyond me. Looks neat! Shoots like *#+* And no, there is no way to improve it.

    • Tim Norris April 20, 2015, 4:26 pm

      Try the 20/20 Precision Sear from Rat Worx for $100.00 it is the best trigger mod I have found for the AUG. It lightens the pull and shortens the length of travel and eliminates the stacking and over travel. It makes for a clean and crisp trigger and very easy to install.

    • Brian K April 20, 2015, 4:48 pm

      I purchased the Steyr that takes standard AR mags and love it. The trigger is heavy but manageable. To improve it, though, I sent away for the Neu-Trigger. It was about $25-$30 and improved the trigger dramatically. They have them on GunBroker or their web site. It’s was very easy to install and made a world of difference. Give it a try. You may change your mind about your AUG.

  • Scouse April 20, 2015, 5:01 am

    The grip that enhances stability with the AUG (mine is fitted with the original 1.5 swarskie optic) is to grip the front of the trigger guard and tuck the left elbow into the body.
    This not only tucks a lot of you out of the way, to me it is better at recoil control, not that the 5,56 round is that hard to control.
    The AUG magazines are amongst the most robust of magazines made, they are also very easy to load. Glancing at the translucent magazine mounted into the rifle, and seeing one round exposed, you have 15 rounds left in that magazine.
    The 42 round magazine was designed as a 40 round item! Till they were loaded at the factory to test fire, Then it was found you could load it with 42 rounds!
    They recut the mold to show the number 42! And soldiered on.

  • jay April 20, 2015, 4:33 am

    Next on my procurement list, I just picked up a bunch of magazines for a sweet price, now just have to steadily save for a spell and decide on the version..integrated optics or no? And if integrated optic, which one? 1.5x or 3x..Hmm..

    It really is a great carbine, very reliable, easy to maintain and clean

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend