I have previously commented upon the recent rise in the use of bolt-action rifles for military sniping, replacing the earlier semi-automatics. One of the first to make this move was the Austrian Army, and the Steyr SSG-69 was the weapon developed to their specifications.
When this rifle first appeared, most commentators suggested that it was simply the Greek Army Mannlicher-Schoenauer Model 1900 revived, but this was a gross simplification. In the first place the bolt is unusual in having its six locking lugs, in three pairs, at the rear and not in the front; in theory, this is liable to the giver is to compression stresses in the bolt and consequent inaccuracy, but in practice, it seems not to matter. By way of compensation the barrel is set extremely deeply into the receiver and the receiver itself is strengthened, so that whole assembly is rock-rigid.
The magazine is the Schoenauer rotating spool type, not seen on a military rifle since the fore mentioned 1900 model, and ti can be quickly removed from the bottom of the stock by squeezing in two grips on its base. The rear face of the magazine is closed by a transparent panel, so that the firer can slip the magazine out and, without moving it, can check on its contents and replace it. There is a specially-adapted 10-round box magazine which will fit in place of the spool should this be desired.
Iron sights are fitted for emergency use, a blade foresight and “V” notch backsight. In normal use this weapon will be aimed by a telescope and the receiver is ribbed to take the Kahles “Helia 6S2” which is standard issue. The same mounting can also be used for infrared or image intensifying night sights.
The stock and butt are made of olive-drab self-colored glass-reinforced fiber plastic material which is rot-resistant, impervious to rain, and fairly resistant to casual impact damage. It is also less likely to be seen than a wooden stock and has a matte surface which gives a good grip at all points, though the pistol grip and fore-end have additional stippling.
In use this weapon is very accurate, giving 3 ½ inch groups at 30 yards, though as with most rifles of this type the accuracy relies greatly upon the quality of the military-grade ammunition. It is now available commercially, with a walnut stock and Walther match grade adjustable sights; it makes an excellent full-bore match rifle.
Technical specification of Steyr-Mannlicher SSG-69