Steyr AUG: One of the most recognizable assault rifles in the world

Steyr AUG A1 bullpup assault rifle
Steyr AUG A1 bullpup assault rifle (Photo: Steyr)

The Steyr AUG (Armee-Universal-Gewehr) gets its name from its ability to be configured in four different ways, depending upon the length of the barrel and the presence or absence of a bipod. The basic mechanism, receiver, and stock remain the same in all cases.

Introduction

In appearance, the Steyr AUG is, to say the least, futuristic, the plastic stock material and shape giving it the appearance of a toy or something from a space program. But its performance puts it well into the front rank of contemporary assault rifles. It has already been adopted by Austria, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia, with others currently making evaluations and comparisons preparatory to possible orders.

EKO Cobra operators armed with Steyr AUG assault rifle
Steyr AUG is one of the main rifles used by EKO Cobra (Photo: Austrian Police)

Design

The plastic stock unit forms a major part of the weapon; the principal feature is the main pistol grip with an enormous trigger guard, which accepts the whole hand. Behind this is the magazine and its housing and release, and then the shoulder stock. It follows from this sequence that the Steyr AUG is a ‘bullpup,’ having the action under the firer’s check and the trigger well forward of the bolt and magazine.

The receiver unit is an aluminum die-casting, which includes the seating for the barrel, bearings for the two-bolt guides, the carrying handle, and the optical sight. The bolt is the usual rotating multi-lug type held in the receiver; thus, there is no direct contact between receiver and bolt and, therefore, no need for expensive machining of the boltway. The return springs are concealed within the guide rods; in addition, the left-hand rod acts with the cocking lever to operate the bolt when loading, and the right-hand rod acts with the cocking lever to operate the bolt when loading and the right-hand rod acts as the gas piston.

Steyr AUG technical data chart
Steyr AUG is bullpup designed assault rifle still in use by various armies and law enforcement agencies around the world (Photo: Steyr)

The barrel unit consists of the barrel, gas port and cylinder, gas regulator, and a folding forward handgrip. This grip can be used to change barrels since the barrel locks into the receiver by interrupted lugs. Once the barrel is aligned, the gas cylinder unit, which carries a short-stroke piston, lines up with the right-hand bolt guide rod. One might expect some degree of imbalance with the gas impulse working off-axis, but there is no torque effect in practice, and no deviation of shooting is detectable.

The magazine is a clear plastic unit so that its contents can be seen at all times. The trigger group, containing the safety and selective fire mechanism, is a removable unit, much of it plastic. Selective fire is achieved by trigger pressure; a light pressure gives single shots, a harder pressure automatic fire. Again, this is something which, at first, one would expect to lead to inaccuracy, but once the technique is mastered, it gives no trouble. Automatic fire can be delivered as accurately with the AUG as with any other comparable rifle.

Variants

The various models are as follows:

  • Commando with 14in (315 mm) barrel;
  • Machine Carbine with 16in (407 mm) barrel;
  • Assault Rifle (standard version) with 20in (508 mm) barrel;
  • Heavy Barrel Rifle with 24in (610 mm) barrel and bipod;

All models can be modified by removing the receiver casting and replacing it with another type that carries a low telescope mount instead of the optical sight and integral telescope; this is intended to cater to sniping telescopes or night vision sights.

F88 Austeyr is an Australian version of the Steyr AUG bullpup assault rifle
F88 Austeyr is an Australian version of the Steyr AUG bullpup assault rifle (Photo: Royal Australian Navy)

A Steyr AUG 9 Para is based on a standard Steyr AUG rifle but chambered in 9 mm.

Easy of use

Firing the Steyr AUG holds no surprises; it can be set up for left or right-hand firing very quickly by changing the ejector to one or other side of the bolt and rotating the ejection port cover in the butt to expose the port on the selected side. For those not accustomed to bullpup rifles, the weight distribution feels strange and distinctly light at the muzzle, but this is soon mastered, and the rifle is extremely handy for use in quick combat situations. Accuracy is as good as, if not slightly, better than most other rifles of this caliber. The rifling is one turn in 41 calibers, tighter than the usual 1/54, which suggests it will shoot equally well with a wide variety of service ammunition types.

Technical specifications

Manufacturer: Steyr-Mannlicher GmbH, Steyr, Austria
Type:  gas-operated, selective fire
Caliber: 5.56 mm (.223)
Barrel: various
Weight: 7.9 lbs (3.6 kg) (508 mm barrel)
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds
Cyclic rate of fire: 650 rounds per minute
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