The Steyr AUG has been around for quite a while. It was designed in the 1970’s, an era where terrific advances in special effects and movie making technology led to some of the most spectacularly corny science fiction movies of all time. Consequently the AUG looks like an Austrian engineer went to his local cinema on all of his days off and was inspired. Even today the AUG is a bizarre looking firearm, and I can only imagine the reaction of folks back then when it was introduced (maybe some guys will be nice enough to chime in on the comments section and share with us some of their initial opinions). The AUG made use of polymers wherever possible and its bullpup configuration was by no means a new idea, but it certainly went mainstream with the AUG.
The AUG was the world’s first commercially successful bullpup rifle; It was quickly adopted by the Austrian army, and then made its way into the hands of the armed forces of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and quite a few other forces as well. It was even a success on the civilian market; Prior to 1989 the AUG was imported into the United States directly from Austria as a semi-automatic sporting rifle. Another interesting note is that since they were imported prior to 1986 a number of full-auto conversions exist for them, the mass of which are Fleming registered trigger packs. However it is worth noting that an AUG on full auto is one of the most bizarre shooting experiences you can have; My first time playing with one at a machine gun shoot I learned of the progressive trigger system. On an AUG capable of fully automatic fire, pulling the trigger half-way will result in semi-automatic fire. For rock-and-roll mode you need to smash that trigger in all the way with your pointer finger and the gun will chug along like a Swiss watch. You can always tell an inexperienced AUG shooter too, as you will hear the signature single shot followed up by a hellacious burst of full-auto fire. This feature is obviously not just an issue with civilian shooters either, as the Australians incorporated a full-auto lockout device on their F88 rifles (a license built copy of the AUG) to prevent the shooter from accidentally throwing around more rounds than needed.
Anyways, after the 1989 import ban Steyr sent the “USR” sporting rifle for a number of years over to the USA. It featured an odd thumb hole stock and no barrel device and was not a very hot seller. It seemed that the days of the commercially produced AUG were over until SABRE Defense was licensed by Steyr to build a domestic version. This was a godsend to AUG fans in the USA… until SABRE Defense went out of business due to legal troubles. Even the MSAR clones stoppped being made because I assume they were just not profitable (Microtechs website does however still list the STG E4 as one of their products). So the history of the AUG in the USA is one of sadness as it seems that every time someone tools up to give the people a variant, they go away in the blink of an eye. But hopefully this time is different as a new player has stepped in: VLTOR.
VLTOR is a company best known for making very high quality machined firearm accessories such as quad rails, gas blocks, muzzle devices, and more but they have recently tooled up to produce the Steyr AUG with great oversight from Steyr engineers. Just by looking at the receiver you can tell that VLTOR is working hard to protect its name as a maker of quality products.
Now the AUG A3 has some very cool features; Instead of the old Zeiss fixed optic you get a picatinny rail on which to mount the optic of your choice, a stock that can be configured to eject from the left or right with a bolt swap, a model that can accept AR15/M16 magazines is you prefer them over the translucent AUG mags, a remarkably quick barrel change method, and it is just about the simplest field strip of any 5.56 firearm I own.
All in all the VLTOR/Steyr AUG A3 is a well machined piece, but how does it perform and handle? Well here is where it gets a bit turbulent. I went out to my range with the Aug and several loaded magazines ready to run the gun through the paces. I shot about 60 rounds after I dialed in the ACOG and then all of a sudden the trigger would not reset. Here is the trigger in the normal position:
Here is how it remained after each trigger pull:
Ok, well that was a bummer but I continued to shoot the gun by manually resetting the trigger each time until it began to stovepipe or fail to extract every round. It chewed up my stock pretty good:
Not to mention, clearing each jam required charging the gun violently and it did a number on my left hand:
So major bummer. I was fuming as I had a brand new gun that was a paperweight, and it took me a while to cool down and call Steyr for support. I got on the horn with them and immediately they put me in touch with a technician who was incredibly kind and very eager to make this right (of course it would all be under warranty). I sent the gun via Fedex and after about 4 or 5 days I got a phone call from a man with a very thick German accent named Herbert who told me that he replaced the trigger pack, put in a new trigger bar (mine got bent somehow), adjusted my gas block, and put in a new bolt head:
Within ten days I had my gun back and ready to rock! I must say while I was disappointed that the gun had some initial problems, I can say that dealing with Steyr customer service was a breeze and they really made it right quickly and efficiently.
So anyways, the question now is did they fix my gun? Well an additional range trip was required.
I took the gun out with four 30 round magazines and a loaded up 42 round magazine to an annual shoot I attend and essentially just shot at random steel and targets.
So I shot 162 rounds through the gun with no jams to speak of and about 60 rounds were fired with suppressor. All in all I was satisfied and happy that the gun was running well and ejecting properly.
In one more instance I took it out on August 9th, 2013 and shot six 30 round magazines for a total of 180 rounds. Again, no jams or malfunctions to speak of, so I was very happy. Thus far.
So the real question is how accurate is this thing? Well only a range test can reveal that. On 8/18 I took the rifle and seven magazines out to shoot it at 100 yards and do some plinking on a 200 yard gong.
In this photo the paper on the left is at 50 yards and the far target is at 100. The 200 yard gong is not visible.
In order to get the best possible results, I employed the help of my friend CJ who is very handy with a rifle. We both shot several 5 shot groups using Fiocchi 62 grain ammunition.
At the end of the day I was left with 7 empty 30 round magazines for a total of 210 rounds and no malfunctions to speak of.
But how accurate was the rifle? Well calipers don’t lie:
To be honest I was not doing very well, nor was CJ. We averaged about 2.75 inches with this gun but were using very crumby ammo (that was doing poorly in our other rifles as well).
So lets do a breakdown here:
- Easy to handle
- Very fun to shoot
- Comfortable controls
- Quick barrel change (quicker than any other gun I own)
- Very compact
- Easy to clean
- Reliable after being worked over
- Threaded some oddball metric thread
- Mushy awful trigger
- Not the most accurate gun I own to say the least
- Can dig into your hand if you are not careful
- Oddball magazines (stocks that take M16 magazines exist)
- Left handed users need to buy an expensive bolt
- Gun immediately had to be sent back to the factory for repair
All in all I like this gun and will keep trying to get it to shoot accurately with different ammunition, and I will send Steve some updates for the TFB facebook page if I can eak out some better groups!