Steyr AUG Assault Rifle / Carbine
The Steyr AUG was one of the first widely-accepted frontline standard issue bullpup configured assault rifles.
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Like other European nations during the Cold War, the Austrian Army made use of the excellent Belgian FN FAL Battle Rifle firing the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge. These weapons were produced locally under license as the "StG 58" (Sturmgewehr 58). The original FN FAL was introduced in 1954 and was ultimately produced in over 2,000,000 examples, seeing action in countless conflicts thereafter with widespread circulation still apparent today. Its design was rather robust and her full-power rifle cartridge was a proven man-stopper. By the 1975, the weapon system was already twenty years old. As such, design work on the Steyr AUG ("Armee Universal Gewehr" or "Army Universal Rifle") series of Austrian origin progressed throughout the middle and latter portion of the 1970s. After evaluation of the system, the Austrian Army formally adopted the 5.56mm weapon as the "StG 77" (Sturmgewehr 77) in 1977 (hence the weapon's designation). Quantitative production ensued beginning in 1978 to which the automatic weapon entered Austrian military service in 1979 and has since gone on to be used in the militaries, special forces groups and security units of various global entities.
The AUG was designed around the "bullpup" configuration concept in which all of the major internal working components of the action - and its corresponding magazine feed/ejection system - were concentrated to the rear of the pistol grip. While the style is notably gaining in popularity today, the bullpup configuration - when used in a frontline service rifle - was something of a drastic departure for the time. The rear-set placement of the internal workings allowed engineers to feature a full-length barrel within a more compact overall form. The heavier stock, when properly positioned against the body, allowed for a firmer three-point hold of the weapon, making its use in confined spaces more acceptable than traditional long guns. Accuracy at shorter ranges was improved and an operator could raise his weapon (in response) quicker than a traditional infantryman with a conventionally-arranged long gun could. Considering the ranges at which infantryman often engaged their targets - particularly in urban settings - this made the bullpup approach a rather sound one.
The Steyr AUG took on a most futuristic appearance for its time, showcasing well-contoured lines, minimal external detailing and proven internal functionality. The receiver was a large plastic (fiberglass-strengthened polyamide 66) assembly covering the various metal (aluminum and steel) parts within. The receiver also made up the fixed buttstock and sported the magazine feed as well as the ejection port - all aft of the pistol grip. The pistol grip itself was integrated cleanly into the design and ergonomically engineered for a firm hand hold. The grip was protected by a slim hand guard while the large curved trigger could clearly be identified. A safety was within easy reach of the firing hand. The forward region of the weapon contained the all-important barrel which protruded a distance ahead. A folding vertical foregrip was set beneath the barrel at its base and this grip was used to change out the "quick-change" barrel as needed. Over the top of the weapon was a two-point mounting system for the standard-issue optics (a 1.5x Swarovski scope) that doubled as a carrying handle. This installation could be removed and replaced by a standard Picatinny mounting rail (by way of an alternative receiver casting) for custom optics and accessories in follow-up production models. The steel barrel was capped by a slotted or three-pronged flash hider. In all, the AUG could be field-stripped into just six key components. Ambidextrous operation was made possible by covering the right ejection port and revealing the left side port with a left-handed bolt also replaced the standard right-hand bolt. A bayonet mounting and underslung grenade launcher (M203 40mm) were optional and broadened the tactical usefulness of the AUG family in-the-field. The barrel (16- and 20-inch flavors) was also designed to fire rifle grenades.