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Product Review: Steyr AUG A3 CQC

By: Greg Chabot

Photos by: Sasha Steadman

The Steyr AUG (Armee-Universal-Gewehr) began development in the late 1960s as a replacement for the StG 58, a licensed produced FN-FAL. In 1978, after extensive testing, it was adopted by the Austrian army as the StG 77 (Sturmgewehr 77). In constant production since 1978, the AUG is now being used by various armies and police agencies around the world. It is a battle-proven, bullpup design, seeing action in various conflicts worldwide since the end of the Cold War.

Recently, I was given the chance to test a rare version of the AUG: the AUG A3 CQC NATO model, which was produced in limited numbers by PJA Investments company, a US distributor specializing in the AUG for more than 37 years.

The original CQC models were prototypes developed by Steyr but never put into production. PJA acquired five of the prototypes and retrofitted AUG A3 variants for sale to the public. There were also a small number of kits produced for AUG owners to retrofit their weapon.

I will start off by discussing the differences between the NATO and Standard AUG configurations to avoid confusion. Note: Test weapon was a NATO model.

1) Magazines: the NATO version uses STANAG magazines as opposed to proprietary mags used by the standard AUG.

2) The standard AUG has a bolt hold open/release. The NATO does not; one will have to use the charging handle during reloads.

3) The NATO is not lefty friendly. The standard version can be converted for a left-hand shooter.

The Steyr AUG is a bullpup weapon that fires from a closed bolt using a short stroke piston system. The gas valve has three positions: a small dot for normal operation, a larger dot for adverse conditions. The final position is marked “GR” for use with rifle grenades. It closes off the gas, making the weapon into a single-shot weapon that must be manually cycled.

What makes the CQC model unique from the rest of the A3 models is the full 1913 rail system that covers the barrel to just short of the muzzle, allowing end users to place lights or lasers closer to the muzzle compared to the AUG A3. Attachment is done via a modification to the top rail, which allows the rail system to slide into place and secured by a spring-loaded lever. The rail system is made from aluminum and does add some weight to the system, making it slightly muzzle heavy. I tried the weapon with both the rail on and off. In my opinion, it did not throw off the balance of the weapon. While shooting, I preferred the extra weight at the muzzle. The rail system must be removed to change the barrel. Personally, unless I am shooting a belt-fed weapon, I do not worry about a quick barrel change. There are plenty of weapons that run fine without that feature.

Test specimen came equipped with a 16” barrel which made for a very compact package at 27.2 inches OAL (overall length). Weight was just shy of 8.5 pounds unloaded on my scale. Trigger weighed in at six pounds. The test weapon was equipped with a “Trigger Tamer” available from triggertamer.com.

Speaking with other AUG shooters, most stock triggers are nine pounds from the factory. I was unable to procure a stock trigger pack to compare the differences. Before shooting, the weapon was field stripped and lubed. Disassembly was simple and straight-forward, as most modern military weapons are. If readers are curious how the AUG is fieldstripped, there are plenty of videos available online. Weapon was not cleaned during the test phase.

Range Report

Testing took place over a six-month period. As I do with handguns, mixed ammo of various weights and brands were used. The weapon came with a Holosun green dot sight, which was used throughout most of testing. Irons were used for longer ranges.

I began by doing ready up drills, as this version was designed for close quarters use. I found it quick to get on target during drills. Transitioning between targets was fast due to the OAL of the weapon. The weight of the rail system made this weapon extremely easy to control, with little to no muzzle rise while shooting controlled or hammer pairs. It was almost cheating, when using this weapon for Mozambique drills. The AUG really shined when shooting from a vehicle with its OAL. It was quite easy to manipulate from both the driver and passenger seats to engage targets. Not once did it get hung up while performing dismount drills. Overall, I find this an excellent weapon for use in confined spaces.

Accuracy

The AUG was designed as a combat weapon, not a precision rifle. Test weapon came with a cold hammer forged barrel with a true 5.56 chamber. Mainstream writers like to go on how accurate CHF barrels are. I personally believe it is the shooter, not the barrel, that gets results. I was pleased with the AUG’s accuracy. I consistently hit steel at 300 yards if I did my part. At 100 yards, with mixed ammo, my best group was 1 ½”, with the worst being just shy of 3”, which was completely on me. I do believe the trigger tamer helped with the accuracy.

Bullpups have a reputation for poor triggers compared to conventional designs. The lighter weight of the trigger tamer did help with the break; take up was long and gritty. If you are a trigger snob, the Bullpup design is not for you.

Another thing to remember: the AUG was designed as a select fire weapon. The select fire trigger pack works as such. The first position is semi-auto; if the shooter keeps squeezing back, the weapon will fire fully automatic. The long take-up carried over to the civilian models. After a few range sessions, I got over it and drove on.

Pros and Cons of the AUG CQC

Pros:

1) Ergonomics: this is an extremely comfortable weapon to shoot and carry.

2) Reliability: 3.5k rounds of mixed ammo no malfunctions.

3) Versatility: with the rail system, end users will have more options to attach accessories compared to standard models.

4) SBR sized weapon without the Tax Stamp hassle: The AUG is the best of both worlds in my opinion. Compact size with a full-length barrel for engagements at longer ranges.

5) Ability to use AR15 magazines in NATO models: I used various magazines from all the major manufacturers without issue. 60 round Sure-Fire magazines fit very tight in the magwell; it functioned without issues but would not drop free during reloads.

Cons:

1) Slow reloads, compared to the AR family. The NATO model does not come with a bolt release. For reloading, I would use a technique similar to the “AK bump,” then lightly pull the charging handle to chamber a round. The standard AUG is slightly faster to reload.

2) Aftermarket support: not much out there for AUGs.

3) Trigger: it takes getting used to and only a few options are available from the aftermarket.

4) Cost: compared to the AR series, you will pay a premium on either version of the AUG.

5) Proprietary parts.

6) Only available in .223/5.56. Note: There have been 9mm kits available in the past. Rare and expensive

Final Thoughts

Overall shooting the AUG CQC was very enjoyable. It pointed naturally with little felt recoil and ran like a top. Would I trust my life to this weapon? Yes, it is a battle proven design that is still a viable option for shooters today. The CQC is a rare bird and best of luck finding one. If you do, be prepared to pay. If you are not into hanging every gadget on a weapon, the standard AUG might be a better option, as they are easier to find and price out better. The Steyr AUG impressed me enough that I am now on the hunt for an AUG of my own.

Big thanks to The War Room.

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