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Steyr AUG Assault Rifle / Carbine / DMR / LMG (1978)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 8/19/2014

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.

One of the distinct features of the AUG action was its "two-stage" trigger system. There was no conventional fire selector per se - as common to other automatic firearms incorporating modes beyond that of semi-automatic - as the trigger was pressure-guided to respond through single-shot firing and full-automatic firing. The first pressure level revealed the basic single-shot fire mode while additional pressure would bring the weapon into full-automatic fire mode.

The AUG is categorized as a gas-operated weapon featuring an internal rotating bolt function. The gas is tapped at the barrel in the traditional sense but the gas cylinder itself is actually offset to the side of the barrel as opposed to directly over or under it (as in the AK47 or M16 respectively). As such, the cylinder doubles as a bolt guide rod during the firing operation. The AUG family is primarily chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge (SS109 NATO or M193 bullet) and fed from a standard 30-round curved detachable box magazine that is transparent, allowing the operator to visibly see his current ammunition supply. There is also a 42-round box magazine and support for a Beta C-Mag ammunition drum of 100 rounds. The submachine gun (Para) form utilizes a thinner magazine for its 9mm cartridges of 25- or 32-round counts.

The Steyr AUG was really one of the first "true" modular weapon systems of note, designed around a standard receiver unit which could be adapted for other combat roles beyond that of assault rifle with little modification to the core weapon. Essentially, a change of barrel could create a carbine form, a sub-carbine form and a light machine gun version as needed. A submachine gun form was also possible, though with a bit more internal modification involved. All barrels were steel in their manufacture and inserted by way of an interrupted thread. The standard assault rifle utilizes a 31 inch barrel while the carbine and sub-carbine versions make use of a 27- and 25-inch barrel length respectively. The light machine gun (HBAR) version utilizes a 35 inch barrel assembly and operates with a "heavy barrel" (hence the designation) and a bipod for stabilization in the sustained fire role. The AUG Para submachine gun fires from a 16.5 inch length barrel.

The initial AUG production model became the AUG A1 of 1977. This was followed by the AUG A2 which sported a new cocking handle and support for the MIL-STD-1913 accessories/optics rail. The AUG A3 incorporated the changes of the A2 but brought about an external bolt release feature. The AUG M203 designation was nothing more than an AUG system with support for the M203 40mm breech-loading single-shot grenade launcher in an under-barrel placement. The AUG NATO was developed to support NATO STANAG magazines and came in a right-handed version only.

The AUG A3 SF "Special Forces" (also AUG A2 "Commando") model was a specially-designed compact special forces version. The AUG Para of 1988 was the submachine gun form chambered for the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge and internally reworked to fire the smaller cartridge through a blowback system of operation. The AUG A3 Para XS was similar in form and function though with a 13 inch barrel and support for Picatinny rail accessories and based on the AUG A3 rifle.

The various "machine gun" classified AUGs were the squad automatic weapon version as the AUG LSW (Light Support Weapon). The AUG HBAR (Heavy Barreled Automatic Rifle) was, therefore, the heavy-barreled version of this weapon which was, itself, essentially the AUG rifle modified for the sustained fire role with its heavy barrel and bipod. The AUG HBAR gave birth to the AUG LMG (Light Machine Gun) which incorporated a 4x scope and open bolt mechanism. Rail support (ala the AUG P Special Receiver) began the AUG LMG-T line. A "designated marksman" version became the AUG HBAR-T with its 6x42 standard optics.

The AUG Z was a civilian-minded semi-automatic only model as was the AUG SA, the latter intended for the American gun market. The USR was an AUG A2 developed to meet the requirements of the US Federal Assault Weapons Ban. The AUG P was a semi-automatic only version of the AUG A1 intended for civilian and police forces sale, incorporating a 16" barrel assembly. The AUG P "Special Receiver" was similar in scope though bringing with it the MIL-STD-1913 rail support.

The AUG family has gone on to see extensive use the world over. Argentina selected the AUG to replace their outgoing American M16A2 rifles. Australian took on the AUG in number beginning in 1989 as the standard issue assault rifle of the Army with local production through Thales Australia. Austria continues use of the AUG family to this day. Other operators include Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Croatia, Djibouti, Ecuador, the Falklands Defense Force, Gambia, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia (production under license), Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Taiwan, Tunisia, the United States (US Immigration and Customs) and Uruguay.

The AUG is known in Australian Army service as the "F88" and comes in various - though inherently similar - forms to suit battlefield requirements. Several US-based companies produce copies of the AUG in various guises for the civilian market.

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Specifications for the
Steyr AUG
Assault Rifle / Carbine / DMR / LMG


Country of Origin: Austria
Manufacturer: Steyr-Mannlicher AG - Austria / ADI Limited - Australia
Initial Year of Service: 1978


Overall Length: 790 mm (31.10 in)
Barrel Length: 508.00 mm (20.00 in)
Weight (Empty): 7.94 lb (3.60 kg)


Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO; 9x19mm Parabellum
Action: Gas-Operated; Rotating Bolt
Feed: 30- or 42-Round Detachable Box; 100-round drum
Muzzle Velocity: 3,084 ft/sec (940 m/sec)
Rate-of-Fire: 650 rounds per minute
Range: 984 ft (300 m; 328 yds)
Sights: Iron Sights; Swarovski 1.5x Telescopic Sight Standard


Variants:
AUG A1 - Base Assault Rifle Model.


AUG A2 - Based on AUG A1; revised charging handle; removable telescopic sight; MIL-STD-1913 rail system compatible.

AUG A3 - Based on AUG A2; fitted with MIL-STD-1913 rail system; external bolt release.

AUG A3 SF / AUG A2 Commando - Based on AUG A2; MIL-STD-1913 rail system (x2); external bolt release.

AUG A3 SA USA - Semi-Automatic version of the AUG A3 for civilian market; 16" barrel.

AUG P - Semi-Automatic version of AUG A1; 16" barrel.

AUG P Special Receiver - fitted with MIL-STD-1913 rail system; based on AUG P.

AUG 9mm / AUG SMG / AUG Para - Chambered for 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge; blowback operation; differing bolt, magazine and barrel from standard AUG A1.

AUG A3 9mm XS - 9mm variant based on the AUG A3 model; Picatinny rail system; 12.8" barrel.

AUG M203 - Modified to accept the American M203 under-slung 40mm grenade launcher.

AUG LSW - Light Support Weapon

AUG HBAR - Heavy-Barrel Automatic Rifle; longer design with heavier barrel for sustained fire role.

AUG LMG - Light Machine Gun; 4x optic scope; open bolt; based on the AUG HBAR.

AUG LMG-T - Light Machine Gun with differing rail system.

AUG HBAR-T - Designated Marksman Rifle; Kahles ZF69 6x42 optical sight.

AUG Z - Semi-automatic variant of AUG A2 for civilian market.

AUG SA - Semi-automatic variant of the AUG A1 for civilian market.

USR - US modified AUG A2 model for use by BATF.

MSAR STG-556 - American designation of AUG A1; production by Microtech Small Arms Research, Incorporated; bolt hold-open device; compatible with MIL-STD-1913 rail system or base telescopic sight; semi-automatic/selective fire on civilian/police-military models respectively.

TPD USA AXR - American designation of AUG A2; production by Tactical Products Design, Incorporated; police/civilian market; STANAG magazine compatible; semi-automatic fire only.

F88 Austeyr - Australian designation of AUG A1; bayonet lug; revised target reticle; production by Australian Defense Industries.

F88C Austeyr - Australian carbine form; 16" barrel.

F88S Austeyr - Fitted with Picatinny rail system.

F88S-A1C - F88 fitted with Picatinny rail system; 16" barrel.

F88 GLA - Fitted with American M203 40mm single-shot under-slung grenade launcher; sans bayonet lug and forward grip.

F88T - .22 caliber trainer model

F88A4 - Proposed Assault Rifle by ADI; to fit multiple Picatinny rail systems.

DSTO Advanced Individual Combat Weapon - Experimental Variant; revised receiver and stock; internal components of the F88 model; multi-shot 40mm grenade launcher.


Operators:
Algeria; Argentina; Austria; Australia; Bolivia; Bulgaria; Djibouti; Ecuador; France; Germany; Ireland; Italy; Luxembourg; Malaysia; Morocco; Oman; New Zealand; Pakistan; Philippines; Saudi Arabia; Tunisia; United States