American fans of the Steyr Armee Universal Gewehr, better known as the AUG, can rejoice now that Steyr Arms of Trussville, Ala., has relaunched it as the semi-automatic AUG/A3 SA USA.
The AUG, which dates to 1977, is one of the most successful bullpups of all time, having been adopted by a handful of militaries worldwide. But its availability in the U.S. commercial market has been limited for the past two decades owing to restrictions imposed on semi-automatics by the 1989 importation ban.
Although the AUG/A3 SA USA’s basic design remains true to the original, Steyr configured it for better suitability to the modern shooter. The gas-piston-operated AUG/A3 SA USA includes a bolt hold-open/release lever and a top-mounted Picatinny rail, rather than the original’s integrated optic housing/carry handle. In addition, a short strip of Picatinny rail on the receiver’s right side allows mounting of a light or a small close-quarters reflex sight. Although the new gun’s investment cast aluminum receiver and steel barrel are made in the United States by Steyr partner Sabre Defence Industries of Nashville, Tenn., it benefits from oversight by Austrian engineers and from the use of some Austrian components.
The barrel, which can be quickly changed out, passes through a channel in the top of the receiver’s triangular cross section. A sleeve mounted on its right side holds the gas tube, regulator and piston and provides a mounting boss for the folding vertical fore-grip. The regulator has two settings: one for normal use and one allowing more gas flow when the rifle is dirty. A 10-port brake is threaded to the muzzle.
Two rows of eight lugs at the barrel’s rear engage the front of a steel trunion pressed into the receiver. At the trunion’s rear are the recesses for the bolt head’s eight locking lugs, one of which is located on the pivoting extractor. The bolt carrier is brazed to a pair of stainless steel tubes that pass through channels in the lower portion of the receiver. A steel projection at the front of the left tube contacts the charging handle, while a steel projection at the front of the longer right tube contacts the gas piston’s rear. The tubes contain and guide the recoil springs that act against steel rods affixed to the buttstock’s interior.
The non-reciprocating polymer charging handle on the receiver’s left side is used to retract the bolt and can be locked against a projection on the receiver by rotating it about 30 degrees clockwise when at its rearmost position. The bolt can then be released simply by slapping the handle counterclockwise. The handle also serves as a forward assist. Located above the rear of the magazine well on the stock’s left side, the bolt hold-open/release button can be “set” by retracting the charging handle and simultaneously pressing in on its base. Pressing in on its top releases the bolt. The magazine follower lifts the bolt hold-open to lock the action open after the last round has been fired.
The push-button safety blocks the trigger when pressed to the right, exposing a white dot on its rear surface. When pressed to the left in the “fire” position a red dot is visible. The magazine release, a large, serrated aluminum lever at the rear center of the magazine well, allows ambidextrous operation. Magazines are of translucent polymer in a “waffle” pattern and feature a removable polymer baseplate.
We fired the AUG/A3 SA USA with a Leupold MR/T M2 1.5-5X illuminated reticle scope and with a Trijicon TriPower both off a bench and standing. After correcting our tendency to slightly ride the charging handle, which caused failures to properly chamber the first round, we started each magazine by either slapping the locked charging handle to the left or by pressing in on the top of the bolt hold-open/release. The gun exhibited no further malfunctions throughout the course of firing several hundred rounds with a variety of factory ammunition.
Although the AUG’s appearance lies somewhere between ungainly and futuristic, we found it to be quite comfortable to hold and aim. The shape and proportions of the buttstock afford a comfortable cheekweld. The pistol grip and folding fore-grip promote a comfortable, boxer-like stance. And the rubber-covered buttplate helps keep the rifle in position.
Bullpup designs, in general, dictate a long, friction-prone trigger bar, and the AUG is no exception. Our example exhibited approximately 1/8 inches of takeup followed by an indistinct engagement that required nearly 11 pounds of pull to release. Despite the fact that such a pull can induce fatigue when conducting accuracy testing, the AUG/A3 SA USA still managed to turn in several small groups.
There is no question that the AUG is a thoroughly tested and mature design, but its heavy trigger pull limits its accuracy potential. Still, it is ultra compact, functions reliably, exhibits inimitable style and elicits reactions wherever it goes. The new Steyr AUG/A3 SA USA is, all in all, worthy of the name and not unreasonably priced given its pedigree.
Manufacturer: Steyr Arms, Inc.; (205) 655-8299; www.steyrarms.com Caliber: 5.56x45 mm NATO (.223 Rem.) Action: Short-stroke gas-piston-operated semi-automatic rifle Receiver: Investment cast, Eloxal-coated aluminum Barrel: Phosphated, chrome-lined steel with quick-change capability; 16" (tested), 20" and 21.6" Rifling: Six-groove, 1:9" RH twist Magazine: 30-round translucent polymer “waffle” style Sights: None provided; 9¾"-long Picatinny rail top; 1¾" accessory rail on receiver’s right-hand side Trigger Pull: 10 lbs., 8 ozs. Stock: Black synthetic; length of pull, 15"; drop at comb, 0.57"; drop at heel, 1" Overall Length: 28.15" (16" barrel) Weight: 8 lbs. Accessories: Soft carry case, cleaning kit, sling, owner’s manual, two 30-round magazines Suggested Retail Price: $2,295