Steyr AUG Z 5.56/.223

I first saw the straight-pull Steyr at Bisley when they began importing them a few years ago. It was more or less the same as the current incarnation, but featured a larger A1 style cocking handle, and apparently these had the quick change barrel, but I didn't check that closely. They may have been imported before this, not sure when exactly the first appeared. Apparently some very early ones had olive green furniture, however, I have never seen one.

Good Value

They were a very expensive rifle, the model I looked at was £1400 from recollection, so about £1200 was RRP at the time, although I may be wrong again. The triggers were a little different and came in at about 9lbs. Overall, it wasn't going to endear itself to many straight-pull buyers, despite being a nice rifle. This is probably why they seemed a bit thin on the ground to begin with.

Prices began tipping eventually, and now sit in the £750/£799 bracket new. This is around what I see more basic AR15s from the better builders go for S/H. When the Steyr appeared, there seemed to be quite a few cheaper ARs about from various makers which appear to have vanished now; Cactus Arms and Sabre spring to mind possibly, although they all seemed S/H too.

So, this came from Sportsman down in Exeter. They have these, plus self-loading models in stock which are cheaper for some reason. Good service as usual; it's an amazing American size shooting shop, well worth visiting.

It came in a basic cardboard box, supplied with 10rnd magazine and manual. I think they came with 10/20/30rnd included originally and still might at cost. The manual is OK; bit basic, but I worked it out without much trouble. They come screw cut as standard with thread protector; watch that, it works loose when firing. Not sure what sized thread.

Build Quality

They are basically the AUG A2 in civilian/Police format, but with a few differences. It has no quick change barrel feature on most models and no flash suppressor. Not sure what other differences there may be, apart from obvious lack of gas parts.

The build is very good with virtually everything being plastic, including the trigger unit. It is quite high strength and has a quality feel. The receiver and barrel are the main metal parts; I would say the receiver is aluminium.

Mounting options are good as far as optics go. It includes a weaver rail which is removable for fitting the proprietary optic I think. I managed to fit a 16X50 without trouble in medium mounts, but used a 10X42 for most shooting which worked well. I now have a SUSAT to go on it, and that will need an adapted base which also provides extra mounting range, it might be a bit short for compact scopes with poor eye-relief. Smaller conventional scopes do unusually well with the rifle, but I thought something more original would be fun.

Accessories

In terms of accessories, you are a bit stuffed. They do not really take a bipod, without investing quite a bit of cash. The A3 has a railed tube for all this; not sure why it isn't implemented on these. They have sling fitments as standard, so no bother there.

Ergonomically I think they are very good. It still beats the SA80 with the new vertical grip fitted, and certainly the original green tube. Not sure how it fairs next to Tavors or the Famas, but I would be impressed if they had the balance of this. These are usable with the grip folded as far as I know, but the self-loading models had a gas vent near it which made it dangerous. The lack of bipod can be quite limiting, but it does wok well for any freehold position.

The trigger and general mechanics are fairly poor. I find the trigger usable, although it takes care to use it accurately. Cocking effort is decent, but it takes more force than expected; seems to be wearing in already. It extracts everything I have tried, including RG (sometimes a bit tightly), and favours commercial .223.

Cleaning

Easy enough to strip and maintain. It comes apart with one button, and the trigger unit is removable if required. Some lubricant in the right places helps cocking effort. Pity the barrel doesn't come out.

I won't go in to accuracy greatly yet. They have a 20" inch 1/9 twist rate and the barrel is chrome lined, so hopefully excellent longevity. It shot about 1" inch with Dynamit Nobel at 100m, nearer 2" with RG; they can do far better. Did try at 300m, but the wind was bad, so I gave up.

In Conclusion

Quite pleased overall. They are more of a fun rifle, unless you hunt, but I will find a niche for competitive shooting with it.

Also worth mentioning after-market work isn't really available, but the trigger tamers should easily be done at home. Mark Bradley did offer various modification, but has apparently stopped.

Author Sam