| At first glance, the Steyr AUG looks like something storm troopers in the movie Star Wars should be carrying. On closer scrutiny, however, the AUG demonstrates itself to be an extremely logical and user-friendly rifle - even though its looks are questionable to many. |
The Steyr AUG has been in service with the Austrian Federal Army since 1973, and the AUG has also been adopted by Saudi Arabia, Oman, Tunisia, Malaysia, Djibouti, and Morocco since then. It is also used by the U.S Navy Seals, the British SAS, and the Cambridge (England) police. More recently, the Australian army conducted trials to consider whether to arm its infantry with the Colt M16 or the AUG. The results of the test proved the AUG to be superior in all battle conditions and hence it was chosen over the M16.
Undoubtedly, bull-pup rifles have had a turbulent history, with designers and armies alike arguing for the last century of the merits of such a design.
Identifying a bull-pup is very easy - beyond the obvious space gun look, key features make them easy to discern: the magazine is in the butt-stock and the trigger is halfway down the barrel. While this may seem odd at first, deeper thought makes you realize that this makes good sense. Placing the magazine and hence the chamber rear-ward means that a longer barrel can be installed in less room. In fact, a Steyr AUG with a 16-inch barrel is a foot shorter than the standard service M16 - making the AUG extremely versatile and compact, yet powerful at the same time.
Bullpups were invented in 1902 by British engineer J.B. Thorneycroft, and were championed by the British throughout the 20th century, though bullpup rifles have never gained acceptance by the U.S. military. While early designs were admittedly more primitive with some tradeoffs, the advancement in rifle design over the past century has brought bull-pup designs into the limelight again. While there is still much debate today about the advantages and applications of bull-pup rifles, more and more countries are considering deploying them for their troops.
The Steyr AUG was developed by the Austrian Office of Military Technology under a project headed by Colonel Walter Stoll. By the end of the 1960's it was clear that the international trend in military small arms was moving toward lighter and more compact rifles.
NATO's 5.56x45mm cartridge was becoming a proven performer in combat, and in Austrian military trials that compared the AUG with the FN FAL (Austrian Stg 58 in 7.62mm NATO), the Czech Vz58 in 7.62x39 ComBloc, and the 5.56mm NATO FN CAL and Colt M16A1 - the AUG proved to be at least as reliable and better than all the guns tested. It proved to be superior in accuracy potential, target acquisition, handling characteristics, and full-auto fire controllability. In short, the AUG clearly was of a superior design and won the hearts of Austrian military officials.
Tokyo Marui's AUG is one of the best AEGs on the market today - for it's realism, it's weight, extremely authentic cocking motion, body rigidity, accuracy and upgradability potential. While it personally took me some time to accept the space-age looking gun (I first favored the more traditional rifle designs by H&K and Colt), my positive experience with it and growing understanding of the AUG's history and the AEG's power potential has warmed me up to it over the years. To make things even more interesting, this review will showcase two custom AUGs (the Shadow Phantom AUG and the AUG M203) that add even more flair to this unique rifle.
Tokyo Marui makes two versions of the AUG - the RT, or black civilian version that offers an integrated scope rail, and a drab olive Military version that has an integrated cross-hair scope (with integrated stock iron sights on top of the scope). In stock form, the AUG is very heavy to hold at 3.4Kg for the civilian version, and 3.5Kg for the military version.
As on the real steel version, the AUG has a composite ABS receiver with much of the other parts made of metal, including the upper receiver, barrel, detachable 3-prong flash hider, carrying handle, scope on the Military version, sling mount, etc. Holding the AUG, the bulk of the weight is on the rear but the metal barrel adds a lot of heft when pointing it around, and that makes the gun a very realistic. Of all the Tokyo Marui AEGs, the AUG is also one of the most rigid with close to no flex whatsoever - it feels like its made of one piece, thanks to Tokyo Marui's high quality fit and finish. No rattles and no wobbles. The cocking lever is also made of solid high-quality metal (wrapped in a plastic encasing as in the real-steel version) which provides higher durability and more aggressive cocking motions.
The cocking motion on the AUG is immensely satisfying, emitting multiple clicks and clacks as it is drawn backward. Pulling it all the way back and locking into position as shown in the photos also opens the dust cover on the rear and reveals the hop-up adjuster knob. The button on top of the charging handle is used on the real steel to push the lever forward fully for loading rounds but is for authenticity's sake only on the Tokyo Marui AUG (serves no functional purpose).
The AUG was set out to be a human engineered rifle catering to both left and right handed users. Replicating the real-steel design, the AUG has two shell ejection ports - one of each side of the gun. A rubberized cover is provided that allows owners to block either the left or right side ejection port - obviously, left hand users would have shells ejected into their face if the port was on the right hand side. The beauty of Steyr's design is that you can select which side the shells eject from by placing the rubberized cover over the unneeded side. While Tokyo Marui's AUG does not eject shells, it replicates this feature by providing a similar rubber cover that comes placed over the left ejection port (for right handed users). Left handed users may peel this ejection port away from the body and attach it to the right side ejection port. Tokyo Marui goes as far to make the hop-up lever accessible from both the left and right side ports - so when you cover the right port, you can still access the adjuster knob from the left port when you pull the cocking lever all the way back! For all you left-handers out there, this gun was designed for you.
|The standard magazine stores 80 rounds of BBs loaded with a loading tool. The magazine is semi-transparent and authentically replicates the real AUG magazine (though you can't see the BBs within). Loading is a snap with the included loading tool and a 330 round high capacity magazine is available separately. Inserting the magazine into the magazine well is a snap and the large magazine release button as pictured on the right is very easy to engage (just push with your thumb).|
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|Undoubtedly the best feature on the AUG is the trigger. As pictured, you will notice that the AUG has a safety button located just above and rearward of the trigger (see below). When the button is positioned so that the red-dot is visible, then the AUG is "hot" and ready to fire. What is interesting is that the AUG does not have a firing mode selector. So you might wonder how to select between semi-auto and full-auto fire. Not to beat a dead horse, you will recall that the AUG was human-engineered and Steyr's human interaction testing showed that a pressure sensitive trigger to control the two modes resulted in the most effective design. |
As such, users wishing to fire in semi-auto mode need only depress the trigger half-way with about 4 pounds of force. You will distinctly feel a stopping point in the trigger action - on which a shot will be fired. Letting go of the trigger and depressing again with another 4 pound pull will result in another shot fired. Hence you have control of semi-auto like on any other automatic rifle. After you have pulled the trigger half-way, you can switch to full auto mode by pulling harder with approximately 6 - 7 pounds of trigger force. The trigger will depress some more and go into full-auto mode. While difficult to explain and visualize, this system is extremely intuitive.
The system did take a bit of time to get completely used to but the closest analogy would be washing your car - where you are pulling the trigger on the garden hose valve. Pull the trigger half way to get a steady stream of water, and fully for a full spray. In our field testing, we found the AUG trigger system to provide easier control of moving between semi and full-auto, which in effect allowed greater conservation of BB's.
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|The 2 x 15mm Tasco crosshair scope on the AUG military version is aim adjustable by way of adjuster screws located on the right and bottom of the scope. Adjustments are made with the included key. Note that the crosshairs are not tuned when the gun comes out of the box, and requires tuning before use. For those preferring stock sights, integrated iron sights are built on top of the scope (see picture on right). The scope (or the scope rail as on the Civilian Special version of the AUG) also acts as a carrying handle for the gun.|
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|The AUG is extremely comfortable to hold with its large ergonomic grip, though the grip does not have finger grooves. There is no trigger guard per se but a large handguard that runs the entire height of the grip. The trigger itself is grooved to provide a good grip for the trigger finger. Both versions of the AUG also come with a front folding vertical grip that can also be positioned at an angle (45 degrees forward). Repositioning the grip is easy - just pull down to disengage the lock and it swivels effortless along its vertical axis. |
When holding the gun, it feels extremely well balanced with the majority of its bulk tucked under your firing armpit. Hoisted upward into firing position, the large stock fits snugly against your shoulder and your cheek literally falls into place onto the receiver, leaving your aiming eye 1 inch away from the scope - the perfect position for viewing the crosshairs and your would-be target. Raising your eye level by one inch allows you to peer right down the stock iron sights. For skirmishing, pivoted metal sling mounts on front and rear allow attachment of straight or even 3 point tactical slings.
Because of the AUG's bull-pup design, we found the AUG extremely versatile and suited for CQB as well as outdoors skirmishing (thanks to it's long inner barrel for power). While its physical length almost matches that of an M4A1, it is more powerful in stock form.
Customizing The AUG
The AUG is beautiful in its stock form, and presents a platform for various customizations. In stock form, there are not a lot of accessories which can be added on, for the obvoius reason that it lacks any kind of RIS rail. The Civilian black version AUG does offer a scope rail but once you have installed a scope, you cannot attach anything else. The metal flash-hider can be replaced with a silencer (which screws right onto the barrel's 14mm anti-clockwise thread) but that does not make the AUG custom enough in our opinion. Given the AUG's high potential for upgrades thanks to its version 3 gearbox, we felt more could be done to make the AUG more attractive as a skirmish weapon. The battery compartment also spares enough room for custom batteries to fit - powering upgrades up to M150 - and hence allowing full internal battery concealment. The long AUG barrel also perfect for supporting upgrades. Two variations we will look at are the Shadow AUG and the M203 AUG.
The Shadow AUG is replaces the AUG stock barrel and flash hider with a integrated RIS rail silencer. The vertical foregrip is retained, though installation of the silencer means that the grip can no longer be folded upwards completely like before. It can still, however, be positioned at the 45 degree angle. The all metal silencer has a beautifully patterned end-cap with a five star bevel pattern. The silencer also comes with an extension unit that allows you to literally double its length (though in our opinion it looks rather too long in that configuration). However power buffs can make use of that extra length to house a massively long barrel for very high power upgrades - perfect for sniper projects.
The silencer also comes with rails on the bottom and on the left side. These are screwed on and can be left out if the user wishes. Attaching these rails allows installation of various lighting and laser equipment. The Sure-Fire flashlight unit is attached as pictured above.
We feel the thicker diameter silencer adds more heft and balance to the AUG, which looked a little thin at times (and somehow looked a bit like an accordion with its grooves).
|M203 AUG |
Many people have tried to put either the Sun Project or Tokyo Marui M203 on all sorts of AEGs and unfortunately, these are only easily applied to guns like the M16 / M4 series rifles. However, after scouring several real steel AUG books and websites, we realized that the M203 AUG (exists in real-steel) is extremely attractive and makes a formidable weapon (even to look at). Readers will either love or hate this project immediately. Critics will argue that it makes the AUG look even more like a space gun, with now the M203 looking like a pulse cannon installed on the front. The net result is also a gun that weighs 4.2Kg (without batteries and BBs), which makes carrying this gun around on a day of skirmish quite hectic and laborious. On the positive side, many also view this heavy weapon as attractive for the same reasons that it is extremely bulky and heavy, with lots of firepower to boot. Installed with a TM M203 (which is lighter than the Sun Project M203), you get both shotgun skirmishing capability (with its 30 round shell capacity) along with regular AEG combat capabilities. The hand-guard also makes a perfect "grip" for when firing the M203 unit.
Installing the M203 is not a standard task and requires custom fabrication of some parts to ensure it fits firmly onto the AUG. The M203 can be installed on both the Military as well as the black Civilian version AUG in much the same manner. If you want to use gas powered shells for maximum realism, then installing a Sun Project M203 is also possible though beware that the final weight will likely exceed 5Kg!
Whichever model you chose, we believe the M203 adds a much needed "oomph" to the AUG's look, and adds greater versatility to your skirmishing - AEG and shotgun in one, anyone?
As mentioned previously, upgrades are easy with the AUG given its ability to take custom high powered batteries in its stock (pictured right). To check out the full list of power upgrade options for the AUG, check out our modifications options for the AUG in our Tokyo Marui section.
Whether to install these custom packages onto the Military or Civilian versions of the AUG is a subjective choice. Both have their merits though admittedly the color matching of the black Civilian Special version goes well with both the M203 or the Shadow silencer. The choice is yours.