This distinctive rifle, the AUG, is called the “Universal Army Rifle”. It was born in Austria in the 1960’s and is chambered in the universally adopted NATO 5.56 x 45mm round. The bullpup design places the action and the magazine behind the trigger which allows for shorter rifles with standard barrel lengths – maintaining maximum effective accuracy and muzzle velocities.
The was one of the world’s most advanced firearms of it’s time utilizing lightweight plastics and aluminum to keep the weight down. The rifle is so flexible and modular in military application that it can be configured from being a lightweight, short barreled carbine for CQC, a submachine gun, shooting the 9mm Parabellum round, to an open bolt squad automatic weapon, like the M-249 SAW used by US military forces. This rifle is a fine piece of work and has served soldiers faithfully around the world in armed conflicts from Iraq and Afghanistan to the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Background – Not an Ugly Duckling
The AUG has been manufactured for the world’s militaries since the 1960’s. These weapons are fully automatic and have an outstanding service records. However, we are going to focus on the semi-automatic civilian models and what applications they have in the US. The most popular variant of the military Steyr AUG is the M3 A1, essentially the identical twin to the military A3 SF (Special Forces), minus the full automatic option of course.
For many Americans, looking at and shoulding this bullpup rifle, may leave the shooter scratching their head. Having served in the First Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan and having carried both the M-16 and M-4 rifles on the battlefield, I felt really weird the first time I shot the AUG M3 A1 – it shouldered weird, the magazine location was awkward and the operation of the rifle seemed far from what I was used to. After firing a couple hundred rounds through the bullpup in the offhand, I finally got used to operating the charging handle, clicking the weapon to “fire” and changing out magazines. The short overall length of the AUG, at 28.1 inches, is significantly shorter than the M4 or AR-15, by more than 8 inches in fact. The key is, the shorter AUG still has a 16’’ barrel that allows for muzzle velocities similar to its Colt rivals.
This revolutionary, compact and standard 5.56mm rifle will be around for a long time. Many shooters just love the features offered by this bullpup, including the see through mags (great for a quick check on your ammo situation), a reversible, left or right, ejection port for you leftys out there, and the performance you get from a full 16’’ barrel. It’s a great gun, even if it takes a little getting used to.
|Cartridge||5.56 x 45mm NATO, 9 x 19mm Parabellum|
|Use||Civilian, military and police|
|Weight||7.3 lbs for the carbine|
|Total Length||27.2 in for the carbine|
|Barrel Length||13.8, 16 (carbine), 16.5, 20, 24.4|
|Operation||Gas operated, rotating bolt|
|Muzzle velocity||3,182 fps|
|Max effective range||980 ft|
Cost – You Pay for Quality
The “real” AUGs are going to be on the higher priced list than the M1A and the AR-15, and their variants and clones. AUG A3 M1s are currently listed by retailers on the internet at a low of $1,800, for a standard model, with scope or rail, and up to as high as $2,500 for the deluxe model with all the cool stuff. AUG Clones, on the other hand, can be purchased significantly cheaper, with models listings as low as $1,200. The price to shoot it is also a consideration. And it’s going to be affordable. The AUG chambers the 5.56mm x 45 NATO at .18 cents/round – dirt cheap, especially when you buy in bulk. The 5.56mm NATO chamber also allows the shooter to load the weapon with affordable .223 Remington ammunition for plinking and varmint shooting.
Models and Modularity – A Modular Carbine
The AUG is a great design in itself, and it’s modular as heck, and there are several variants available to meet your shooting requirements. The military variants and their options provide a lengthy list. And if your not planning on getting your FFL, it would just take too much time. Lets just look at the semi-automatic, police and civilian variants only.
The civilian and law enforcement model is known as the AUG P that comes with the 16” barrel. To only allow semi-automatic fire the “P” has a modified bolt and trigger assembly. Other than that you get all the great features of the military version of the AUG. The AUG P and SP are tailored for police and offers a semi-automatic rifle with a 16” barrel and the “Special” offers a Pic Rail for mounting scopes and other accessories. The true civilian model is the AUG SA or, semi-automatic, is the baby brother of the AUG A1 assault rifle, which was actually imported to the US for civilian used but importation was banned in 1989 thanks to President George H. W. Bush.
The AUG Z A3 came into the spotlight in 2010. It featured the Picatinny Rail and an external bolt release which allows the shooter to manually release the bolt and send it home after emptying one magazine and loading a fresh one. The AUG returned to the USA civilian market in the A3 USA variant in 2009 with the 16” barrel. The latest offering from Steyr came out in 2014 with the AUG A3 M1, which is the baby brother of the full auto A3 SF, the rifle of the Austrian Special forces, equipped with removable optics and a Pic rail and bolt release.
The civilian AUG has several more models available and there are several “clones” on the market. Knock-offs like the STG-556, from Mictrotech Small Arms Research, which debuted in 2007, offers the same AUG quality but with some engineering enhancements such as an “M-16 like” bolt lock button. It can be equipped with a telescopic sight or a Pic Rail. The rifle is available in semi-auto for folks like you and me or for police and miliaties in “select fire”.