When you talk bullpups, the name Steyr AUG rises to the top of the discussion almost immediately. While the bullpup market seems to be getting new additions every few years, the original doesn’t get left behind. The AUG A3 is the product of VLTOR and Steyr USA working together to bring back America’s favorite bullpup.
Originally designed in the 1960’s, the AUG was adopted by the Austrian army in 1978, where it replaced the heavy .308 chambered FAL variant (stg-58). Since its inception, it has been fielded by armies around the world, with versions ranging from the super short CQB version to light machine guns, with the only major difference being an easy to swap barrel. When it was banned from import in its original form, Steyr introduced the USR, which was a mildly neutered version of the AUG, featuring a goofy (but required for import) thumbhole stock and no muzzle device. Once the AWB of the 90’s died its much deserved death, Steyr teamed up with Sabre Defense to produce A3 AUG’s in America, but legal issues within Sabre led to this version being short-lived as well. There have also been knockoffs produced, such as the MSAR, but the new VLTOR and Steyr is the first real AUG in a long time.
The obvious feature of the AUG A3 is that this thing is very short. With an overall length on the rifle of about 28”, it just squeaks by the SBR line saving you time, money, and hassle over an NFA rifle. This makes the AUG A3 a solid CQB or home defense rifle. When you giddily get handed your first AUG, the first thing you notice is that it is way heavier than it looks. This is a good thing because it does help to underscore the ruggedness of the AUG platform. It’s only around 8lbs in weight, but the size of the gun makes this weight feel like more. The second striking feature of the gun is the finish. The finish and machining on the AUG A3 is in a class that stands apart from the crowd. With incredibly smooth metal and a slight texture on the polymer, you know you’re holding a well-made rifle. Other cool features of the AUG include a reliable, piston-driven gas system that allows for adjustment if you’re in a sandbox country or simply don’t clean your rifles enough. A cold, hammer-forged, chrome-lined barrel with a 1:9 twist *1:7 twist (this is unclear) is available direct from SteyrUSA. This allows for ambidextrous use with the change of a bolt and good sling mounting points from the factory.
Shooting The AUG
Shooting the AUG is a dream come true; ever since the first time I watched Diehard as a kid, I have wanted one of these fine rifles. I tested the AUG with a variety of ammunition from 55 grain TULammo to some 62 grain reloads from a family friend. Shooting from a 50 yard range with a vortex strikefire optic, the rifle consistently grouped inside 3 moa, from positions ranging from standing offhand to stronghand prone. Recoil on the AUG is light and pleasant when compared to a standard AR-15, which definitely aids in accuracy. The feel of the rifle is positively solid and gives you the utmost confidence in the weapon that you are holding. I will say that following the instructions that come with the gun and charging the weapon with your palm facing up is required; I managed to completely avoid the rail rash most people have complained about. Many reviews and forums claim that the trigger is “awful”, and it needs to be changed from the get-go. Personally, I found no issue with the trigger itself, but it was just a bit awkward to get used to the very straight pull backwards of this over a standard trigger. Once you figure out the mechanics of the trigger, it is a nice, relatively easy trigger that gives you repeatable shots without trouble. The only real issue that I have had with this rifle throughout the shooting of about 500 rounds is that ejected brass leaves some noticeable dings in the poly stock about an inch behind the ejection port. I also had one magazine (30 rnd) out of my 20 mags not perform perfectly, as it liked to not feed the rounds in semi reliably. A touch of filing on the top lips did, however, remedy the problem entirely.
The AUG A3 is a gorgeous and easy to shoot rifle, with a history and a quality that will make any owner proud. The only real detractor from this platform is that the cost of Steyr official magazines is more expensive than AR-15 Magazines. This can be fixed by purchasing the NATO version of this rifle or the NATO stock to swap onto your standard AUG A3. I wholeheartedly recommend the AUG to anyone who is looking for a reliable, smooth, and accurate rifle and consider the AUG my go-to .223/.556, and it appears it will continue as such for the foreseeable future.
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