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The Vault

Steyr GB

After World War II, the Austrian military used a mixture of Browning High Power and Walther P38 pistols – they were effective and available in large numbers so why not? However, by the early 1970s it had been decided to replace them with a new standard pistol. To fulfill the military requirements, Steyr (a preeminent Austrian firearms and heavy equipment manufacturer) designs the GB pistol.

Steyr GB and Browning High Power

Steyr GB and Browning High Power

Steyr’s design was quite a good one, offering both light recoil and better than average accuracy. It did this by utilizing a gas delayed blowback system virtually identical to the last ditch German Volkssturm Gustloffwerke (VG1-5) rifle. Basically, the front half of the slide acts as a gas piston, and ports in the barrel allow gas into that piston while the bullet is still in the barrel, thus slowing down rearward movement of the slide. In the photo below, you can see the gas sealing rings machined into the barrel, to prevent that gas from venting down around the recoil spring. The piston sleeve rotates to unlock from the slide for disassembly.

Steyr GB pistol disassembled

Steyr GB pistol disassembled

The fixed barrel necessary for this type of gas delayed action has the happy side effect of allowing very good accuracy. In most service handguns the barrel moves on firing as do the sights (being mounted on the slide), requiring two major parts to realign precisely for accurate fire. In the Steyr, only the sights move – not as good an arrangement as one where the sights are fixed to the barrel, but better than the norm. The gas delay system also slows down the recoil energy transmitted to the shooter. In conjunction with the mass of the gun (approximately 2 lb – it’s a full-size steel-framed pistol) this provides a pleasant soft-shooting feel. Italso came standard with an 18-round magazine capacity, which is large even by today’s standards.

Steyr GB barrel and gas port

Steyr GB barrel and gas port

Steyr expected the GB to be a shoo-in for the Austrian military contract, as it was well understood that a domestic Austrian design would receive preferential consideration. However, a no-name bayonet supplier named Gaston Glock appeared out of nowhere and won the military trials with his polymer-framed G17. Steyr certainly hadn’t expected that, and they proceeded to enter the GB in the 1983 US military pistol trials – where it lost out to the Beretta 92 despite many good qualities. Steyr’s management must have found all this rather unbelievable (losing to a fellow Austrian is one thing, but Austria being beaten by the Italians?) and fell back to marketing the gun to police and civilian buyers. Sales trickled in slowly, but it never gained a major official departmental sale and by 1988 they threw in the towel and stopped manufacturing the guns.

As an aside, we should note the stereotypical Germanic flair for creative naming – the “GB” stands for “gas bremse”, which translates into simply “gas braked”. Kind of like Steyr’s previous service pistol design, the 1912 Steyr-Hahn or “hammer”. In recognition of, well, the fact that it used an external hammer.

Photos

Photos kindly provided by reader Chris B – thanks, Chris!

8 comments to Steyr GB

  • Chris Morton

    There was a offshoot of the same design marketed in the U.S. in the late ’70s(?) called the Rogak.

    It was to put it diplomatically, less than enthusiastically received. “Soldier of Fortune” magazine reviewed it and were not exactly fulsome in their praise of its functioning and reliability. Included in the review was a series of photos of it being fired… or rather ATTEMPTING to be fired. The last photograph depicted the tester throwing the Rogak downrange like a boomerang…

  • Vince

    I owned both the Rogak P-18 which was a fully machined frame in stainless steel and the Steyr GB just like the one pictured in this review back in the late 1970′s when the Rogak came out. They were both pigs; unreliable and poor accuracy despite the theory behind the fixed barrel and gas delayed blowback system, not to mention that they are both huge and heavy. I ditched both of them and stayed with the Browning High Power which I already had. The BHP worked much more reliably and was much more accurate even with it’s more moving parts. A few years later I got a second BHP; had it customized by the late, great Austin Behlert and own it to this day. It never fails to operate and is one of the most accurate pistols I have ever owned.

    [IMG]http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y161/vjbknife/firearms/DSC01946.jpg[/IMG]

  • George

    Hello All, I own a Steyr GB that I purchased used about 7 years ago, and I shoot a lot. Up front: it is a workhorse! with great precision and it has NEVER failed me. 9x19mm is a great caliber; I shot different brands, grains and bullet types, and it never gave me problems. No jams! I love the long barrel with polygonal rifling that brings out the best accuracy / bullet-speed-ratio over any regular rifling pistol barrel. The barrel is fixed to frame which also helps improve accuracy. The grips fit my hand perfectly and the “old” 18 rd mags are awesome (I do wish someone made more of these, and lower their price too). The trigger pull is good, with a small nip after let off (an over travel stop screw or a trigger shoe with such can solve that). The trigger could use the touch of a gunsmith if fired from the double action. The decocker is very well located and has a correct amount of spring pressure. The factory sights are fixed and practically large (I did see a picture of somebody’s GB with a custom adjustable rear sight). Better than other guns, I like the gas delayed blow back system; just try to avoid high residue ammo. Yes, the Steyr GB is a large buffed pistol, but it can still be concealed if you know what you are doing. The massive size of this pistol can turn it into a blunt weapon; if you need more than one mag it will be a bad day for you, but if you go through your spare mags and business isn’t yet finished, you will be having a terrible day. So, though not excesivelly heavy, since the size of the GB makes it an intimidating and persuading handgun, you can also use this gun like Thor’s war hammer to crush an oponent.

  • Bruce

    Hi All. Let me start with saying I own many firearm as In some gun shops have fewer hand guns. That said I only own One 9MM and that’s a Steyr GB. I honestly believe if Glocks had not been deveoloped we would all be using these. I like my guns made out of steel or alloy and big calibers so a 9MM as they are made today would not have be my first choice. Till I picked up a GB. For my big hands it fill them well and the GB has digested every round I have put through it with no malfuctions and it shoots straighter than I can.
    The finish had to go though, so mine is finished in guncoat titanium and grey. Two tone guns are cool.
    A 115gr jhp with 4.2 of reddot works very well as a reload And having 18rds. on the firing line make for some truely ragged targets. They can be found though the mags are scarey expensive 225.00. If you find one for sale. Find a GB with two mags for sale and sell one mag and that gets you a GB cheap. With 18rd.s do you really need another mag anyway?

  • George

    Take a spare mag, and if you need to pull the GB, you can lay some rapid fire and put the rage of God down range…

  • J.P. Scoseria

    I have had it on my wish list for years , and finally got one with 3 mags.
    Unconventional guns exert a particular attraction on me.
    Not disappointed at all , love the system , it is brilliant because of its simplicity.
    Oh Lord ! WHY didn’t they make it in 45ACP ? that would have been the ideal pistol.
    The only but could be a better trigger , It’s a little scary to tinker with it because no replacement parts seem to be available if I goof.
    I still have to experiment with different loads to see if the system will compensate by “locking” proportionally to how hot or mild the load can be .

  • Matthew Groom

    I’ve got one that I traded a spare-parts AR for, and it works like a champ! I wish I had more than one mag for it, though. I saw one for sale a few years ago with three mags that was less than the three mags would have sold for separately, but I didn’t have the money for it!

    It’s a truly brilliant design. If you get one that works, you see how good the engineering truly is. Fewer parts than any gun that I know of, except perhaps the Makarov (which has fewer parts than a Glock, as I recall). This is truly difficult to do. Glock has 35 parts.
    The Makarov has 27. I can’t find an exact count, but I think the GB has around 30-40 parts. While this gun must have been very difficult to produce on small scale, it would have be been extremely cheap on a large scale had it been adopted.

  • Jae Lee

    Guys, has anyone actually seen the rifling pattern of a Rogak P-18 pistol? I heard that it used a sort of polygonal rifling, which supposedly gave it a big boost in muzzle velocity, but I’ve never actually been able to see it. I looked all over the internet but I couldn’t find a single, clear image of what the rifling looks like. Can someone send me a photo or something? Thank you in advance.

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