Finally after waiting for the Steyr AUG A3's to drop down to pre-panic pricing, I finally have my own. Ahead are a plethora of pictures, and quite the wall of text!
Why Choose an AUG?
One thing I have to point out, as my friends so often to: I am a plethora of "retarded" ideas according to them. All of my friends, and myself have shot AR's for quite some time. It is nice that we all have the same parts and same magazines. Still, I wanted something different. For the longest time I wanted to build a short barreled AR, something with a 10.5" barrel is what I had in mind. I wanted something that was compact, and quick handling. Some downsides with the short barreled AR are as follows:
- $200 tax stamp and the whole NFA process
- Harder on parts
- The damned things are LOUD
- They can be somewhat finicky to run at times
- Ballistics are not optimal with a short barrel
- In the end it is still an AR and my dad's undying hatred of them would cause me to tuck my head in shame everytime that I go home with the damned thing
Now, I had seen the AUG in the past, but with the built in optic and the high price of Pre 1989 guns, they did not appeal to me. Once I saw that they were now making the AUG A3 in the US, I actually started thinking about them seriously. And, well, being different it definitely appealed to me. The AUG with its short overall length and a 16" barrel is comparable sized to a short barreled AR seemed to be just the ticket. I told my friends that I was going to get one, and as expected by good friends, I was chastised. The Giant Ginger chastised me the most. He pointed out all of the flaws in the system, as follows:
- It takes odd mags
- The trigger sucks
- Wrong handed people such as himself cannot shoot them
- It's expensive
- Everyone has AR's!
I took all of those into consideration.........and bought one.
A Brief History
The AUG was designed by Steyr Mannlicher in the early 1970's for use by the Austrian Army. It was designed as a bullpup for mechanized troops for ease of handling within vehicles. A bullpup is a firearm where the action is located behind the trigger, allowing for a full length barrel within a compact and easy to handle package. The AUG was adopted by the Austrian Military in 1977, and was designated the STG 77. Since its inception it has been used by over 30 countries.
The AUG was imported into the USA for commercial sales as the A1, A2 and USR models in the past. The A1 model featured a built in 1.5 power optic, which doubled as a carrying handle. Due to the 1989 Assault Weapon Import ban, the AUG could no longer be imported. After the 1989 ban, the AUG was changed a bit and renamed the USR for the US market. The changes were the addition of plastic behind the pistol grip to give it a "Thumbhole" stock, and an unthreaded barrel, to get rid of the "Evil Features". The AUG A2 model featured a receiver that you could remove the optic from and place a Picatinny rail on, so that you could choose what optic you would like to mount on it.
In order for the AUG A3 to be sold in the USA, it could not be imported into the country. As a result Steyr Arms teamed up with Sabre Defense to produce enough of the parts domestically so that the gun could be sold. Steyr had receivers cast stateside, and Sabre machined them and produced barrels domestically so that the gun could be sold in the USA. Sabre completed the first guns for the US market in early 2009. Unfortunately the production was short lived, as Sabre got caught up with quite a few legal issues, resulting in them shutting down shop.
Fortunately Steyr Arms announced in 2012 that production would be resuming, with VLTOR out of Arizona machining the receivers for them, and FN USA producing the barrels. These current production AUG's started hitting the market in August of 2012, which brings us to my AUG.
The AUG A3
The first thing that most people notice about the AUG is the short overall length. The overall length of the new production Steyr AUG A3 is right at 28" at the tip of the flash suppressor. My AR15 for comparison is 32" OAL with the buttstock collapsed, and 37" with the buttstock in the fully extended position. The AUG is 4" shorter, while still maintaining a 16" barrel, and a Title I status.
The flash suppressor is referred to as the "Tulip" flash suppressor, due to the shape of it....well....resembling a Tulip. It features 5 ports, with a closed bottom to minimize the dust kicked up while shooting from the prone position.
The barrel on the current production A3's is a 1/9 twist Cold Hammer Forged and chrome lined, produced by FN USA. It is 16" and measures slightly over 18" when removed from the gun and with the flashider installed. (It looks bigger than it really is in the picture......I swear I have not used that line on a woman before)
On the right side of the barrel is the Gas Regulator assembly. The AUG is a piston operated weapon, with an adjustable gas system. The gas system features two settings, normal and adverse. The normal position is used when firing normal or quality ammunition, and the adverse setting is used when the gun is dirty, using underpowered ammunition (such as Wolf, Tula, Silver Bear), or when the gun is iced up. When the Gas Regulator is on normal, you can see a large hole through the gas port. When on adverse you see a small hole through the gas port, which allows more gas to drive the piston back, making sure that the weapon has enough energy to properly cycle the bolt group. To adjust from normal, you press the black "pressure piece" downward and rotate the Gas Regulator counter clockwise. As a note from experience, you may not want to do this after you have ran several magazines through the weapon, as it may be a bit hot on your bare fingers.
Gas Regulator in Normal position. Note the large gas port.
Gas Regulator in Adverse position. Note the small gas port.
Attached to the bottom of the Gas Regulator assembly is the assembly is a built in foldable foregrip. With the grip in the vertical position simply pulling down on it and pressing it forward will fold it horizontal. While shooting it I have found this to be the optimal position for shooting off of a pack or rest. By simply pulling it down it will return to the vertical position.
On the left side of the receiver, directly next to the foregrip is the Barrel Lock Pin, which allows for removal of the barrel. We will go into further detail on this once we go over the disassembly.
On the forward left of the receiver is the charging handle. Before I get into it I must stress the following, quoted directly from the manual on page 10: "Caution, always pull the cocking slide back with your palm facing up as in the accompanying photograph to prevent your knuckles from being cut or scraped on any devices, such as optics, that may be mounted on the Picatinny rail of the receiver."
By that, they mean to do it like so:
Do NOT do it like this.......
Don't do this!
I did it like that. Once.
"Learning what not to do is also part of the learning process!" Now that I learned the hard way, I surely make sure to operate the charging handle properly! Once that I had made a blood sacrifice to the Steyr Gods, and cleaned up the O Negative off of my new gun, and bandaged myself I kept going.
The charging handle on the AUG A3 can be used as a forward assist. To do so you retract the charging handle approximately one inch, and fold it towards the receiver. This allows you to manually place the gun into battery in the event that you ride the charging handle forward, or it fails to chamber completely.
All bandaged up and ready to go!
By retracting the charging handle all of the way to the rear and rotating it clockwise you can also manually lock the bolt to the rear. Very simple and easy to do.....unless you are running an EOTech.
Bolt locked to the rear using the charging handle
The right side of the receiver contains the markings for Steyr, and a short piece of Picatinny rail, where you could mount a light or laser. As of yet, I am not sure what light I will place on it, but surely I will figure it out as I go along. The Surefire that I have will not mount on there due to the thumbscrews, so I may get a different mount for it.
Located directly behind the trigger is the safety for the AUG. It is a simple cross bolt safety that blocks the rearward travel of the trigger. Pressing the safety from the right side to the left places the weapon on fire and reveals a red dot on the safety where it protrudes from the left side of the rifle. Pressing it from the left side to the right places the weapon on safe, with a white dot visible on the safety where it protrudes from the right of the grip. With how the safety is situated it brings the mantra "Smooth on the right, ready to fight".
The trigger, unlike most rifles is a sliding trigger, versus a hinged trigger. Pulling it presses it straight to the rear. One of the biggest complains on the AUG is that they have "A horrible trigger". Brand new out of the box my trigger broke at a consistent 8 pounds 10 ounces. This may seem like a lot, but it did so with very little creep. The trigger has an extremely positive reset. For lack of better terms, it feels very "Glockish". I personally do not think it is a bad trigger for a combat weapon by any means. The trigger pull on an AUG is definitely longer than that of an AR (exact length unknown at this time). We all know that you can get a Geissele or other aftermarket trigger for the AR that breaks at 4 pounds or less, but as an apples to apples comparison I took a reading of the trigger on my AR. The trigger on my AR is from a standard CMT (Stag) Lower Parts Kit. It has over 10,000 rounds through it, so it has been thoroughly broken in. The average of 10 pulls for my AR trigger was 7 pounds 4 ounces. The AUG trigger new is only 1 pound 6 ounces heavier. As it gets some rounds through it we will see what it settles into.
Safety in the Safe position.
Safety in the Fire position.
On the top of the receiver is a Picatinny rail with 25 positions to mount various optics and accessories. Currently I am using an EOTech mounted in position 4. On the front of the rail there is a sling swivel which swivels 360 degrees. The rail is held to the receiver by several Allen head bolts. PJ Investments offers several different rail models, varying in height and length if you wish to change this out. For my uses, this rail suits me just fine. Now, as for the EOTech.....we will talk about that later.
A few inches to the rear of the receiver on the stock are ejection ports. With the AUG being a bullpup, in its standard configuration it ejects spent casings to the right of the weapon. If you are wrong handed, this can be rather problematic, as getting hot brass ejected into your face can be rather detrimental to being able to shoot accurately. But no worries, Steyr offers a wrong handed bolt kit so that even wrong handed people can shoot the AUG!. You simply replace the right handed bolt with the wrong handed bolt, and switch the ejection port cover to the right side of the weapon.
Note the writing on the ejection port cover. Reading is not only fun, it's fundamental!
Ejection port without cover.
The magazines are specific to the Steyr AUG. They are made out of translucent polymer which allows you to see how many rounds you have remaining at a glace. The locking point is on the rear of the magazine. To insert a magazine you simply place the magazine in the magwell and press straight up. The magazines themselves are very well made, being a much thicker polymer than that of a Magpul PMAG (no doubt in them being designed for this system). They are a waffle design, and are very beefy. On the bottom of the magazine You must depress two buttons on the floorplate in order to disassemble the magazine. There are two options for capacity; 30 and 42 rounds. Here is how the different magazines look in the weapon.
30 round magazine
42 round magazine
Located towards the rear of the stock is the bolt release on the left hand side, and the magazine release, centered directly behind the magazine well. The bolt release is simple to use by pressing the top of it in while the bolt is held to the rear. The magazine release is also a simple press on the lever to release the magazine. I found that all 21 magazines I have will drop free once the magazine release is pressed.
Out of the box, this thing is short. Shorter than my AR with the stock collapsed. One thing I was not expecting is the weight. It is deceivingly stout. The manual states that it weighs 7.8 pounds, a full 3 pounds lighter than my AR. Being so much more compact though, it feels heavier. But, that being said, the balance on it is superb. You can hold it in the firing position much longer than you can an AR, and it is even easy to shoulder and aim one handed.
The fit and finish is superb, with no apparent machining flaws or dings. One thing I must say is the factory packaging is somewhat mediocre. The box definitely shouts to the world though, with STEYR AUG in huge print on the front of the box.
Currently the charging handle is pretty stiff to operate. I am sure that with more use, it will become easier. The magazine release is very firm, you definitely will not actuate it by accident. The safety is a bit sharp on the edges, if you have delicate hands, it will definitely take some skin off.
For the moment, I have an EOTech on the rifle. The EOTech is currently my favorite red dot optic offered, but on the AUG it does not work well. Due to how the stock charging handle is, it is a bit of a pain in the ass to operate easily. This is due to how the EOTech overhangs off of the rail. With the EOTech on the rifle it is a bit tricky to lock the bolt to the rear using the charging handle. In the next few days I will be trying a Trijicon TA31RCOM4, so we shall see how that works out.
One of the biggest complaints I hear is that "Bullpups have horrible triggers". Personally, I think the AUG has a good trigger. Yes, it is a bit heavy, but it does not have much creep and it breaks clean. Many people compare it to aftermarket AR triggers, but that is not a fair comparison. When you compare it to stock, production triggers it is pretty close in pull weight, and is much cleaner than triggers I have felt on DPMS or Bushmaster AR's. Tomorrow The Giant Ginger will be shooting it, and since he is a trigger whore, we will see what he thinks.
Initial Range Report
With the EOTech mounted, I went to the range with a total of 230 rounds of various ammunition. The ammo was a mix of Wolf 55gr FMJ, Federal 55gr FMJ, LC M855, and 55gr FMJ reloads. It took me 4 rounds for me to get the EOTech on target. I then produced this 20 round group using M855 at 50 yards. This was roughly shooting 1 round per second or so and with no magnifier shot from the prone position.
There are a few holes in there from 17 HMR, but I was pretty happy with that grouping using a red dot on it. In the next few weeks when I take a trip back to Elko County I will be doing some 100 yard groups using a 10x scope, so we will see how well it does.
Recoil was very mild, seemingly less so than that of my AR. Also, not having a buffer tube and spring, it was nice not to hear a SPRONG every time that I shot. Once I established zero, I had no problem nailing clay pigeons and soda cans from 100 to 300 yards within one to two rounds. The muzzle report is definitely more than that of an AR, just due to the muzzle being closer to the shooter. I found that the foregrip folded up worked great for shooting from the prone position off of a pack. Everyone who shot it commented on how well it shot, and how balanced it is. I think more than anything, the balance is what appeals to me the most. The gun is much easier to hold on target for longer periods of time, and having most of the weight centered above and behind the trigger definitely makes for the gun swinging faster.
Reliability was superb, as expected. When shooting Wolf I noticed ejection to not be very positive, and the bolt sounded sluggish. I switched to the adverse gas setting and it promptly started ejecting cases 15 feet or so. I did a bit of shooting wrong handed. and found with the EOTech I could get far enough back on the stock so that I did not eat brass to my face. Intentionally I shot it wrong handed with my face up to the ejection port so that I did eat a few pieces of brass, and it was not that bad (more than likely due to having a beard, and it taking the brunt). It can be done if you must. I plan on trying a few different things over the next few weeks when shooting wrong handed to see how I can do so more efficiently.
For the remainder of 2013, I will be running only the AUG, with the exception of shooting my AR for comparisons on things such as accuracy, malfunction clearance drills, reloads, and things like that. After shooting today I cleaned it, and that will be the last time I clean it until I have issues with it. Over the next month or so, before squirrel season, I will be working up some varmint loads. And yes, I will be using an AUG to shoot ground squirrels this spring. My whole goal is to see if switching to the AUG offers enough advantages over the AR. I plan on going into detail into comparing and contrasting it versus my experience with the AR, especially when it comes to things that people say are downsides of the AUG, such as the trigger, and magazine changes. Check back, as I hope to be adding new content, and some videos on this in the coming weeks.
For now, I will be leaving you with some gun porn, because hey, who doesn't like that?!
AUG vs 16" AR with stock collapsed
AUG vs 16" AR with stock extended