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STEYR AUG A3 M1: UP-TO-DATE, MOD­U­LAR AND U.S.-MADE

Firepower - - CONTENTS - TEXT BY TODD BURGREEN PHO­TOS BY TODD BURGREEN & ROBB MAN­NING

Steyr AUG A3 M1: Up-to-date, mod­u­lar and Amer­i­can-made

"THE STEYR AUG IS THE REC­OG­NIZED FLAG-BEARER FOR BULLPUPS."

A“bullpup” is a carbine con­fig­ured so the ac­tion is lo­cated be­hind the trig­ger group in the space tra­di­tion­ally re­served for the grip and stock. The big­gest plus is that for the same bar­rel length, a bullpup will be at least 7 to 10 inches shorter than a tra­di­tional ri­fle, thus im­prov­ing ma­neu­ver­abil­ity, han­dling and re­duc­ing weight. Bullpup pro and con ad­vo­cates put forth a litany of rea­sons re­gard­ing the con­cept to sup­port their re­spec­tive po­si­tions. Ad­vo­cates claim that noth­ing more than point­less, mori­bund tra­di­tion­al­ism is sti­fling bullpup-style weapons from be­ing adopted wide­spread, with de­trac­tors den­i­grat­ing bullpup ef­fec­tive­ness to the point of chal­leng­ing the ba­sic rai­son d’être for the de­sign. The weapon re­viewed here is the Steyr AUG A3 M1 cham­bered in 5.56mm NATO and fea­tur­ing the in­te­gral 1.5x op­tic rail (more on this later). The Steyr AUG is the rec­og­nized flag-bearer for bullpups. De­signed and proofed in the late 1960s by Steyr, the AUG was se­lected by the Aus­trian Army in 1977 to re­place the li­censed-built FN FAL vari­ant STG 58. Full AUG pro­duc­tion com­menced in 1978. This rep­re­sented un­prece­dented suc­cess for the bullpups in terms of use by a re­spected mil­i­tary. The AUG bullpup de­sign went on to serve in more than 20 other coun­tries’ mil­i­tary, LE or spe­cial op­er­a­tion units.

Whereas the mil­i­tary AUG is a se­lect-fire weapon, the A3 M1 is semi­au­to­matic. The AUG is op­er­ated via a short-stroke ad­justable pis­ton sys­tem fir­ing from a closed bolt. This pis­ton op­er­at­ing method, com­bined with the weight of the AUG’S bolt group, pro­vides ruth­less ex­trac­tion and cham­ber­ing—per­fect for harsh en­vi­ron­ments or when weapon care is ne­glected for what­ever rea­son.

The AUG’S stain­less steel op­er­a­tion and guide rods af­fixed to the bolt car­rier glide ef­fort­lessly in­side the re­ceiver for un­par­al­leled smooth­ness in op­er­a­tion, as well as ex­cep­tional re­li­a­bil­ity. Dual gas-ad­just­ment set­tings en­sure its op­er­a­tion, even with the dirt­i­est am­mu­ni­tion and in ad­verse con­di­tions. Ejec­tion ports are present on both sides of the weapon and can be se­lected by in­stalling the bolt with the ejec­tor mounted on the right or on the left. The non-re­cip­ro­cat­ing charg­ing han­dle is lo­cated at the front-left side of the gun.

BULLPUP NUANCES

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the trig­gers found on bullpups are not as crisp as other de­signs due to the link­age re­quired be­tween for­ward-lo­cated trig­ger and rear­ward-lo­cated ac­tion. Good ad­vice here is to treat bullpup trig­gers like a Glock or dou­ble-ac­tion re­volver trig­ger. One should not try to stage the trig­ger, but in­stead work it smoothly. The AUG A3 M1 trig­ger took ap­prox­i­mately 9 pounds of pres­sure to fire the round.

A sim­ple cross-bolt safety is eas­ily ac­cessed, lo­cated be­hind the trig­ger. The shell of the ri­fle is made of nearly in­de­struc­tible fiber-re­in­forced syn­thetic ma­te­rial called Polyamide 66. The AUG A3 M1 is de­signed to be fed from translu­cent poly­mer 10-,

30- or 42-round AUG mag­a­zines. Deter­min­ing the num­ber of rounds left in an AUG mag­a­zine is as sim­ple as look­ing at it.

The AUG’S translu­cent mag­a­zines were some of the ear­li­est ex­am­ples of poly­mer mag­a­zines. The AUG mag­a­zine’s 42-round ca­pac­ity proved a troop fa­vorite, with other

“When it comes to ef­fec­tive­ness, the han­dling ad­van­tages of SBR ri­fles are often touted as the dif­fer­ence-mak­ers.”

ri­fles con­fined to 20- or 30-round mag­a­zines. Other ver­sions of the AUG were de­vel­oped at a later date that cater to AR-15/ M16 mag­a­zines.

The mag­a­zine re­lease but­ton is in­stalled be­hind the mag­a­zine well, fa­cil­i­tat­ing am­bidex­trous ac­cess. The re­lease is over­sized and eas­ily ac­tu­ated/pushed down, even when wear­ing gloves. The hand is nat­u­rally po­si­tioned to re­move the mag­a­zine as the thumb en­gages the catch. Many will wax po­etic about a ri­fle en­cour­ag­ing mag­a­zine re­ten­tion ver­sus drop­ping mag­a­zines hap­haz­ardly on the deck. The AUG A3 M1 does have a last-round bolt hold-open fea­ture. Prior AUGS did not. The non-re­cip­ro­cat­ing charg­ing han­dle is placed on the left side of the re­ceiver along the hand­guard, just as on the HK G3. Over­all, the AUG de­sign is sealed tightly, with few points for dirt or de­bris; even the charg­ing han­dle slot is sealed.

AUG AD­VAN­TAGE

Com­pact­ness is one of the most of­ten­re­peated pos­i­tive at­tributes of bullpup ri­fles while main­tain­ing a full-length bar­rel to max­i­mize car­tridge per­for­mance. The AUG

A3 M1 fea­tures a 16.3-inch ham­mer-forged, chrome-lined bar­rel while still only mea­sur­ing a to­tal of 28 inches in length. An ex­am­ple of this ben­e­fi­cial com­pact­ness would be work­ing in and around ve­hi­cles. As a driver or pas­sen­ger, you can have the A3 M1 bullpup ri­fle pointed, muz­zle down, be­tween your legs with the butt­stock rest­ing on the seat cush­ion.

Move­ment with the AUG bullpup in­side of build­ing struc­tures is much eas­ier and very sim­i­lar to the size ad­van­tage of­fered by an Smg—but with­out the ter­mi­nal bal­lis­tic penalty. It is easy to ma­nip­u­late the AUG A3 M1 with one hand, be­cause the cen­ter of grav­ity is far­ther back. As a re­sult, if you have to open a door or other sim­i­lar task, the bullpup of­fers you an ad­van­tage.

You can ef­fec­tively treat the AUG A3 M1 like a big pistol if the sit­u­a­tion de­mands. Bullpups are gen­er­ally the same size as spe­cial­ized short-bar­reled ri­fles (SBR) with­out hav­ing to re­sort to sub-16-inch bar­rels to achieve this size.

Cit­ing var­i­ous rea­sons, there are shoot­ers who crit­i­cize, or even com­pletely ig­nore, the bullpup de­sign. Some of th­ese rea­sons are that they can't get past the looks and “strange­ness” in terms of er­gonomics. Shoot­ers’ hes­i­ta­tion to adapt to the bullpup stems from its man­ual of arms, com­pared to those of tra­di­tional ri­fles, with which most of us have more ex­pe­ri­ence.

For ex­am­ple, bullpup mag­a­zine changes are dif­fer­ent, com­bined with the ac­tion not be­ing as read­ily vis­i­ble. The ac­tion is con­tained in the stock and thus out of view in most bullpup de­signs; the AUG is in­cluded in this cat­e­gory. An­other point raised is that some bullpups are not as am­bidex­trous as others. It seems an is­sue of in­grained mil­i­tary con­ser­vatism/in­sti­tu­tion­al­ism within the “old guard” more than any­thing else re­gard­ing why more stand­ing armies—along with the U.S. shoot­ing pub­lic—have not taken a lik­ing to bullpups.

RANGE TIME—LIV­ING UP TO THE AUG REP­U­TA­TION

I put more than 400 rounds through the Steyr A3 M1 us­ing var­i­ous cour­ses of fire I ex­pe­ri­enced while at­tend­ing train­ing fo­cused on op­er­at­ing around ve­hi­cles, as well as CQB tech­niques. In ad­di­tion to the Fed­eral, Amer­i­can Ea­gle and SIG ammo that was tested for per­for­mance, Hor­nady TAP 55-grain and Black Hills 69-grain OTM were used for re­li­a­bil­ity test­ing.

“The big­gest plus is that for the same bar­rel length, a bullpup will be at least 7 to 10 inches shorter than a tra­di­tional ri­fle, thus im­prov­ing ma­neu­ver­abil­ity, han­dling and re­duc­ing weight.”

In th­ese tight quar­ters, I quickly found a key ben­e­fit: The AUG’S ex­te­rior is “slick,” with vir­tu­ally no pro­jec­tions to hang up on straps, lines, ve­hi­cle in­te­ri­ors, veg­e­ta­tion or any­thing else. A 30-round mag­a­zine pro­trudes only about 4 inches be­low the stock.

It did not take an in­or­di­nate amount of time to be­come fa­mil­iar with op­er­a­tion and han­dling dur­ing the test­ing and eval­u­a­tion. De­spite the rad­i­cal de­sign dif­fer­ence, it was no dif­fer­ent than switch­ing be­tween an AR and an AK. The mag­a­zine sit­ting closer to the body took a lit­tle get­ting used to dur­ing reloads, as well as ori­ent­ing hand location when rack­ing the charg­ing han­dle dur­ing weapon ma­nip­u­la­tion.

Range tests con­sisted of mov­ing around ve­hi­cles and sim­u­lated cover while en­gag­ing an as­sort­ment of pa­per and steel tar­gets; th­ese in­cluded au­to­mo­biles lo­cated at Echo Val­ley Train­ing Cen­ter (EVTC).

The Steyr AUG showed its true prom­ise by per­form­ing well—not only within the 100yard bays, en­gag­ing mul­ti­ple tar­gets, and in CQB sce­nar­ios in the 360-de­gree range, but also at the 300-yard pre­pared fir­ing po­si­tion line. The AUG A3 M1 proved to be very ac­cu­rate. In fact, it’s so com­pact that it makes one for­get it still fea­tures a full-length, 16-inch bar­rel.

The AUG feels lighter than it ac­tu­ally is, be­cause the weight dis­tri­bu­tion is heav­i­est to­ward the rear of the carbine. The

AUG’S cen­ter of grav­ity—with­out a loaded mag­a­zine—is at the fir­ing hand grip, which makes it a very bal­anced ri­fle. It also places most of the weight close to the body, which means you’re sup­port­ing the weight of the ri­fle with your large core mus­cles. Tra­di­tional ri­fles re­quire smaller mus­cles for sup­port, be­cause the weight ex­tends far­ther from your body. With the AUG, this also equates to bet­ter han­dling over longer time frames due to less­en­ing fa­tigue on the arms and shoul­ders—an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for CQB op­er­a­tion in­volv­ing struc­ture-clear­ing.

Some might ques­tion the ef­fects of a bullpup’s muz­zle blast, be­cause the bar­rel and ac­tion are ori­ented close to a user’s face dur­ing op­er­a­tion. How­ever, eval­u­a­tion did not find this trou­ble­some or no­tice­able. It was no dif­fer­ent than users ex­pe­ri­ence with an Sbr—and pos­si­bly less, con­sid­er­ing the Steyr AUG of­fers 16 inches of bar­rel, al­low­ing for the pow­der to burn fully.

One of the less-ap­pre­ci­ated/-touted as­pects of the AUG de­sign is its mod­u­lar­ity. As in so many ways, it was ahead of its time. Switch­ing out bar­rels of dif­fer­ent pro­files and lengths is eas­ily ac­com­plished via one but­ton lo­cated at the front of the forend: Just press the but­ton and twist the bar­rel about 10 de­grees.

Steyr has fol­lowed along with the times by now of­fer­ing users the abil­ity to forego the in­te­gral op­tic by re­mov­ing it and re­plac­ing it with Pi­catinny rails, al­low­ing for the mount­ing of red-dots or other op­tics-of­choice. The AUG A3 M1 is avail­able in a short-rail ver­sion and high-rail ver­sion, as well as an in­te­gral op­tic ver­sion with ei­ther a 1.5x or 3x scope. The scope tube on the in­te­gral op­tic ver­sion has ex­cep­tion­ally bright and clear op­ti­cal el­e­ments and is mod­ern­ized with the ad­di­tion of Pi­catinny rail sec­tions. The rail and op­tics plat­forms on all three AUG A3 M1 ver­sions are in­ter­change­able via the three base screws that thread from the un­der­side of the top of the re­ceiver. I de­cided to use the 1.5x in­te­gral op­tic ver­sion for this re­view in or­der to ex­pe­ri­ence a more tra­di­tional AUG pro­file.

The low-pow­ered, mag­ni­fied op­tic with “doughnut” reticle was an­other fea­ture found on the AUG that was ahead of its time upon its in­tro­duc­tion in the late 1970s. I have read that both Meopta and Swarovski man­u­fac­ture the in­te­gral op­tic for Steyr.

The op­tic-and-reticle setup is in­tended as a com­bat sight. It con­tains a sim­ple black ring reticle with a ba­sic rangefinder that is de­signed so that at 300 me­ters (984.3 feet), a man-sized tar­get (180 cm/5.9 feet tall) will com­pletely fill it, giv­ing the shooter an ac­cu­rate method of es­ti­mat­ing range.

Re­mov­ing the bar­rel on the AUG is as sim­ple as push­ing one but­ton and twist­ing the bar­rel about 10 de­grees.

The sight can­not be set to a spe­cific range but can be ad­justed for windage and el­e­va­tion for an ini­tial zero and is de­signed to be cal­i­brated for 300 me­ters. When so set, aim­ing at the cen­ter of a tar­get will pro­duce a hit at all ranges out to 300 me­ters. Ob­vi­ously, this ar­range­ment is geared to­ward com­bat ap­pli­ca­tions and not sub-moa T&E re­sults.

The 5.56’s flat tra­jec­tory aids in mak­ing hits out to 300 yards with­out hav­ing to com­pen­sate ex­ces­sively for bul­let drop—es­pe­cially with the full-length AUG A3 M1 bar­rel.

THE “DIF­FER­ENCE-MAKER”

Arms afi­ciona­dos will find the Steyr AUG A3 M1 bullpup in­trigu­ing com­pared to typ­i­cal stan­dard-pat­tern ri­fles and might want one based on this unique­ness. Many will find the AUG A3 M1 de­sir­able due to its com­pact­ness, re­li­a­bil­ity and ac­cu­racy. Af­ter all, this is a com­bi­na­tion that’s hard to ar­gue against in terms of util­ity for any user.

When it comes to ef­fec­tive­ness, the han­dling ad­van­tages of SBR ri­fles are often touted as the dif­fer­ence-mak­ers. Why not en­joy this ad­van­tage while re­tain­ing bar­rel length that op­ti­mizes bal­lis­tic per­for­mance? This is what the Steyr AUG bullpup of­fers.

The in­di­vid­ual is the key to ef­fec­tive­ness, not the weapon. An operator with this type of mind­set will surely ap­pre­ci­ate the Steyr AUG A3 M1.

“The AUG’S stain­less steel op­er­a­tion and guide rods af­fixed to the bolt car­rier glide ef­fort­lessly in­side the re­ceiver for un­par­al­leled smooth­ness in op­er­a­tion, as well as ex­cep­tional re­li­a­bil­ity.”

One of the most unique as­pects of the Aug—the trig­ger mech­a­nism is re­moved rear­ward via the butt.

An ex­am­ple of the AUG'S ben­e­fi­cial com­pact­ness would be work­ing in and around ve­hi­cles; you can have the A3 M1 bullpup ri­fle pointed, muz­zle down, be­tween your legs with the butt­stock rest­ing on the seat cush­ion.

The bolt group, left to right: the bolt car­rier, cock­ing piece, fir­ing pin, bolt lock­ing piece (with spring and sleeve) and bolt. AUG A3 M1 can be had with an in­te­gral op­tic rail, short rail or long rail for mount­ing op­tics of the user’s choice.

The for­ward ver­ti­cal grip and two-po­si­tion ad­justable gas block are im­por­tant de­sign fea­tures of the AUG bullpup.

The bolt catch is lo­cated above the mag well just for­ward of the shooter’s chin.

(Left) A sim­ple cross-bolt safety is eas­ily ac­cessed; it is lo­cated be­hind the trig­ger. (Right) The mag re­lease is unique and is found just be­hind the mag well.

Even with its 16-inch bar­rel, the Steyr AUG A3 M1 still mea­sures only 28 inches in over­all length. This ri­vals many short-bar­reled ARS.

The user can mount the bar­rel length and/or pro­file that best suit the mis­sion. The bar­rel lugs lock the bar­rel se­curely in place with­out loss of zero. Gen5 pis­tols fit in Gen4 hol­sters. as long as the am­bidex­trous slide Tsthoeps­d­toey­er­sna'tuggeat3...

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