Steyr SSG 69: A legendary bolt-action sniper rifle

Eric Sof

Steyr SSG 69 is a sniper rifle produced by Steyr-Mannlicher, and it is chambered for the 7.62×51 NATO cartridge (also known as the .308Win). I have previously commented upon the recent rise in 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. It quickly became popular and became considered one of the first “modern” bolt-action sniper rifles.

History

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.

Sniper Rifles are used as tactical advantage on the field
Sniper Rifles are used as a tactical advantage on the field (Photo: XY)

In 1969, most purpose-built sniper rifles were geared more for DMR-style battlefield snipings like the SVD Dragunov or XM21 or modified infantry rifles like the ZfK-55, L42, or FR F1 (though the FR F1 as significantly modified from the MAS-series of rifles).

Design

By way of compensation, the barrel is set extremely deeply into the receiver, and the receiver itself is strengthened so that the 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 it 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, check on its contents and replace it. A specially-adapted 10-round box magazine will fit in place of the spool should this be desired.

Steyr SSG 69 is the First 'Modern' Bolt-Action Sniper Rifle
Steyr SSG 69 is the First ‘Modern’ Bolt-Action Sniper Rifle produced in 1969 and still used by various police and military units worldwide (Photo: XY)

Iron sights are fitted for emergency use, a blade foresight, and a “V” notch backsight. Steyr SSG 69 will be aimed by a telescope in regular use, and the receiver is ribbed to take the Kahles “Helia 6S2,” which is a 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 relatively 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.

Accuracy

Steyr SSG 69 is very accurate in use, giving 3 ½ inch groups at 300 yards. However, as with most rifles of this type, the accuracy relies significantly 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.

Steyr SSG 69 is been one of the best sniper rifles in accuracy
Steyr SSG 69 has been one of the best sniper rifles in history (Photo: XY)

For many years, the Austrian-built Steyr SSG 69 has been one of the best sniper rifles in accuracy and precision. The rifle has been in service since 1969. It has been used in many conflicts in the Middle East and Asia and is currently the standard sniper rifle for the Austrian Army.

Version

In 2015, Steyr terminated the SSG 69, and the Steyr SSG 08 is touted to be its successor with the Austrian Army. The new Steyr SSG 08’s barrels are cold-hammered, allowing for a harder and smoother internal barrel that causes less friction and is less prone to corrosion.

Technical specification

Manufacturer: Steyr-Mannlicher GmbH, Steyr, Austria
Type: Bolt-action, magazine
Caliber: 7.62 mm NATO
Barrel: 25.6 in (650 mm)
Weight: 8.6 lbs (3.9 kg)
Magazine capacity: Five rounds

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2 thoughts on “Steyr SSG 69: A legendary bolt-action sniper rifle”

  1. I have owned my SSG 69 for many years. It is the shorter barrel version with black stock, 10 round mag and double triggers. When living in Zimbabwe it as most lethal on baboons/wild hogs/crocs out to 800 meters. The neatest thing I like is how the bolt slides like butter into the receiver – very slick. I will never part with Rebecca.