Today’s rifle is not quite an Austrian military StG-77, but it is virtually identical. This is one of the commemorative rifles sold by Steyr, which has been rebuilt with military parts and is a registered dealer sample machine gun (which is why I can show you the complete full-auto functionality in the trigger group.
The AUG (Armee Universal Gewehr) was one of the wave of bullpup-style military rifles developed and adopted in the 1970s, along with the British SA80 and French FAMAS F1. The AUG embodied a number of very forward-looking elements in its design, including extensive use of polymers (including the entire fire control group), a completely modular barrel, and standard integrated optical sight (albeit one considered obsolete today). Mechanically, the rifle’s operating mechanism is a derivative of the Armalite AR-18, as are many other service rifles from this period.
Special thanks to Bear Arms in Scottsdale, AZ for providing this rifle for video!
I was on the development team for the trials of the AUG and the US M16A2 for the Australian Defence Force, for selection to replace the L1A1 SLR. The AUG came out a very poor second to the M16A2, and not one person on the team had anything good to say about it. Our major concerns re its safety subsequently saw three men killed in weapon handling accidents in Somalia and East Timor, and a substantial number of injuries!
In their wisdom the ADF has selected a replacement rifle based on the Austrian company’s A3 variant, which the company is offering for sale (but not in manufacture). Australia is manufacturing it for military service (all police and prison’s organisations in Australia refused to buy the original AUG (the F88) and so with new variant). Australia Special Operations units remain using the US M4 Carbine, having never used the F88, while the Chief of NZ Army is on record as saying “we will not be buying this piece of junk”, the NZ Defence Force bought 27,000 from Australia, with nothing being said in its favour, the NZ SAS like the AUstralian SFs use the M4. With 9,040 MARS-L rifles from Lewis Machines & Tools. And apart with problems with firing pins due to the South African made ammunition, have taken to new rifle with great joy.
You said it; I should have read your memo earlier. This said, those variations of M16 with direct impingement might sound better, but they are not really the home-run solution either. I know a bit about it, since I was involved in process of its adoption to Canadian forces. But they were perhaps the best pick at the moment and were greatly improved since.
The reason the F88 was selected was on ideological political grounds. Namely, Austria was non-aligned. The same can be said for the disasterous Collins Class submarines. I have used the F88 on a number of occassions as well as the M16A2 in the 1990’s. I preferred the M16A2.
What were the safety concerns with the AUG?
The selection process was before my time, but I have been using the F88 since they were introduced in 92 and used the carbine version F88 extensively on operations and it was a fantastic weapon. Compact and handy, rock solid reliability, no fiddly parts to lose, no special tools, accurate, easy to disassemble, easy to clean, if you could be bothered because it didn’t need it. The only stoppage I ever saw with ball rounds on ops was an empty magazine. The only safety issue was behind the part behind the butt plate. i.e. troops forgetting to remove the magazine when clearing it, which I saw just as often with M4s and pistols. The trigger guard looks like it is too big but works well, I’ve never heard of the weapon discharging becuase of the trigger snagging or being pushed by an obstruction. I never found the double pull trigger to be an issue, but poor shooters are prone to putting a burst down range when they wanted a single shot.
Fascinating. Looks quite modern & “space age”. But we’d just landed on the Moon and Star Wars & Star Trek were all over the media, so a lot of designs for all sorts products followed that style. Curious about the polymer fire control group – was that an original design or was it a later development?
The progressive trigger is an interesting idea, but more like full-auto only in practical use. Only a calm, well trained shooter making deliberate shots would be able to use it effectively. Personally, I’d like 2 selectors: one for fire & safe, the other for semi & full. Swinging the selector 180 degrees on an M4 is 2 step procedure: swipe it down to semi, then push it forward to auto. The selector design on HK rifles usually results in it being rotated past where you want it set. If I’m not mistaken, didn’t the STG44 have dual selectors? I like the idea of being able to set the rate of fire & leaving it where I want it, then being able to just flip between fire & safe.
Regarding bullpups in general; I will never fire a round out of one. Take a look at this: https://imgur.com/a/fLV2W#8bQOmc9 In a bullpup, that little grenade is right under your face. The operator of this rifle only had minor injuries. Had this been an AUG, Tavor, etc., well, if he didn’t die, he’d probably wish he had. I know the odds of a kaboom are 1 in a million, but I don’t care for their handling characteristics, either.
The AUG safety set to semi blocks the trigger from moving to full auto. It’s a neat solution to the issue of fire selection on a bullpup. Better than having to reach back and fiddle around near your armpit.
A lot of mostly early selective fire rifles use separate safeties and selectors. MP43/44/SG44, AVT and SVS36 (I think), FG42, M2 carbine, M14, Ruger AC-556, EM2,, SA80, among others.
I’m not sure the MP43/44/SG44 was deliberately designed that way. The earlier Mkb42H was an open bolt gun, so the safety was (MP40 style) the bolt handle, with a separate selector. The decision was made to convert the design to closed-bolt, creating a requirement for a manual safety that I doubt could easily have been engineered as part of the existing selector. Interesting, though, that the Luftwaffe’s parallel FG42 development went the same way.
The combined safety-selector is easier to make with fewer parts, usually. And, above all, US experience with the M2 in Korea was that expert troops went into combat with it set (correctly) on single fire, but novices set it to full auto, then blazed off a whole magazine (mostly into the sky) as soon as they made contact.
That being said, dual selectors would give Pvt. Numbnuts one less excuse for carrying his M4 around on auto or getting a surprise burst from your MP5 when you thought the selector just made one click.
Ease of manufacture is no longer an issue. With CNC machining, investment cast & MIM parts and heavy use of polymer, adding a couple extra parts adds seconds to per-unit production time & adds minimally to per-unit cost.
I wasn’t aware the AUG had a 3 position ‘selector’, but I’ve only shot civilian semi’s.
That’s fascinating. Can you tell us more?
I never saw the point of a “trigger guard” that covered the whole hand rather than, er, guarding the trigger. Looked like an ND waiting to happen. Was that one of the issues?
How did they compare on reliability? Accuracy? Has anyone published the trials reports?
PS – this was a comment on G A Mackinlay’s post re the Oz trials.
The AUG’s “sword guard” was to allow the rifle to be used in cold weather while wearing mittens. Remember, it was originally designed for the Austrian Army, and they have part of the Alps to deal with.
The AUG’s one sovereign virtue is its quick-change barrel, which makes the LSW version a better bet than the L86 LSW, which has a fixed barrel.
I still maintain that no amount of good engineering (which the AUG at least has a bit of) can make a bullpup a good idea.
“The AUG’s “sword guard” was to allow the rifle to be used in cold weather while wearing mittens. Remember, it was originally designed for the Austrian Army, and they have part of the Alps to deal with.”
I would say it is easier to issue 3-finger gloves, than using peculiar trigger guard.
” maintain that no amount of good engineering (which the AUG at least has a bit of) can make a bullpup a good idea”
What about ТКБ-0145С? See 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th image from top here: https://www.kalashnikov.ru/tulskij-karabiner/
It is self-loading rifle, which is folding bull-pup for compactness, as it was planned as weapon for VDV (see image showing bag for that). Project was abandoned due to financial problems in 1990s Russia.
While it might be ideal for special operations (or a 007 or Marvel movie- I could see it in the hands of the Black Widow), as a general-issue weapon I believe it would once more prove the logic of the old axiom about overcomplication in design never being a virtue.
I dare to say this rifle is the lucky one in the bunch, rest of B-pups are problematic to say it mildly. Why someone would bother with it in first place is a serious question. If there is need for short close-up weapon, any SMG will do the job better.
For instance, he QBZ-97 – is awfully misconceived (I fired the civilian version) and Chinese troops do not like it. There will be no more bullpups for PLA after this. Russians were wise to avoid them save for Groza https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OTs-14_Groza
Why Australia, land of broad and open views got involved with it is beyond me.
The rationale for bullpups is not a great secret, but surprisingly few people seem to realize it: they were intended to make exiting and entering a cramped APC or IFV easier while still maintaining a full rifle length barrel. The alternative are folding or telescoping buttstocks in a conventional rifle, which however are significantly slower to deploy when exiting the vehicle.
Bullpups were cold war developments designed for high intensity symmetric warfare. Patrolling in the open was not a priority for infantry in the minds of their designers. Getting in and out of vehicles, defending and taking trenches and urban warfare were the what infantry was supposed to do. In the open artillery, air strikes and even tactical nukes were expected to make infantrymen’s life expectancy very short indeed.
Valid points, there. Compact weapons are for CRAMPED conditions, such as those found in urban skirmishes or trench fights. Fights in the open anywhere else would require more conventional weapons (for obvious reasons).
Bullpups actually predate the 1970s, going back to WW2. John Garand designed a bullpup in .308 in 1945, intended as a paratroop weapon with more range and power than the M1A1 carbine;
In 1942, Melvin Johnson developed a semi-bullpup version of his rifle with the same general idea;
After the war, there was a brief vogue for bullpups in bolt action and single-shot types as custom hunting rifles for paraplegics. That trend died rather quickly, as shooting from the sitting position, even in a wheelchair, was and is fairly easy to achieve with a “conventional” rifle even in the field, with such aids as a photographer’s camera tripod or especially the old buffalo hunters’ standby, a pair of shooting sticks.
What made everybody leery of bullpups, then as now, was the idea of cuddling 60,000 PSI of breech pressure up to your cheek and hoping there were no flaws in the bolt or receiver. As seen with the AR-15 linked above, the consequences could be unpleasant if there was such a flaw.
As for OAL inside an IFV, the problem isn’t the length of rifles, it’s that IFV designers in the 1970s were trying to create light tanks that had a secondary function as “battle taxis” for infantry. To do that, something had to give in terms of internal space vs. armor and weapons, and it was the space for the infantry.
As it turned out, their dreamed of “IFV vs. IFV” battles never materialized (due to the wonder of CAS) and attempting to use IFVs with ATGWs as ersatz tank destroyers didn’t work, either. They simply rediscovered the hard way that when thinly-armored AFVs get within main gun range of MBTs, it isn’t the MBTs that end up dead.
The only sure cure for an enemy MBT is one of your own with tougher armor and a better main gun. Or else a combat helo with better range and LoS for the ATGWs, assuming you can’t whistle up an A-10 or F-16 loaded with Mavericks.
This is why the M113 has hung on in service as long as it has, in spite of age and being considered antiquated. Armor hates them because they’re slow compared to the Abrams. Infantry don’t like their thin armor. But an actual infantry half-section (10) with rifles can get into an M113 and get out of it in a hurry when they need to. You can’t say the same thing for most later Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicles, notably the Bradley and the Warrior.
We don’t need bullpup rifles. We need to rethink what an infantry armored troop carrier is actually for. And it isn’t trying to duke it out with MBTs.
“Bullpups actually predate the 1970s, going back to WW2.”
Also there was such avtomat by Korovin which took part in 1940s trials,
see Korovin AK-45 entry here: https://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2015/12/09/9-prototype-soviet-assault-rifles-wwii/
What does CAS means here?
Close air support, which means calling in some patrolling attack planes or helicopters, has effectively made most of the old tank to tank fights of open space a thing of the past. Unlike artillery, planes can see their victims in real time and unless said victims have missiles or flak cannons, the planes will likely win…
What I had on mind here is practicality for military use, not necessarily technical proves. I do have respect and admiration for clever mechanical solutions, be it on firearms or elsewhere. One such example is Tavor X95 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMjrI-55fYw
Yet, one has to respect this creation (and call it “cunning” if you will), however it remains unduly complex. This ‘civilian’ version retails in Canada for mere $ 2,799.99 CDN
It is VERY complex system indeed. Look for comparison at FN FNC; the difference in conception is stunning.
Then you might find interesting another bull-pup namely ADS:
is dual medium (for more data see description)
I know about this one too; it eclipses anything done in personal small arms to date. But, as much as I do, you know this is a specialist item, not general issue by any means.
ASVK is example of Russian bull-pup weapon which found some usage:
but it is quite heavy at 12 kg (w/o scope), especially when compared to self-loading OSV-96 with weight 12,9 kg and with second being shorter in transport mode. Both fire same cartridge (12,7 x 108)
Twelve kg for weapon of this caliber is not heavy. The same weight pack many MGs (namely MAG58). In fact, Soviet/ Russian designers managed to design many larger caliber weapons (including several artillery pieces) which were substantially lighter than comparable German guns during WWII. No wonder Germans were so keen to ‘adopt’ them.
“I do have respect and admiration for clever mechanical solutions, be it on firearms or elsewhere.”
Well, there existed at least one pattern of bull-pup belt-fed machine gun namely Krieghoff MG 302, see 5th image from top here: http://www.airwar.ru/weapon/guns/mg301.html
it fired 7,9×57 cartridge and might be set either to belt entering from top, exiting bottom or belt entering from bottom exiting top. It was proposed to Luftwaffe as defensive (turret) machine gun in 1940, but turned down. According to producer its mass was 7,5 kg and Rate-of-Fire up to 1500 RPM. This should be not surprise as they already have MG 81. Interestingly it was splinter of Krieghoff works to create what they dubbed Maschinengewehr eine Million Punkte that is 20 mm auto-cannon with muzzle velocity 1000 m/s and firing 1000 RPM. They also claimed it might be scaled-up and scaled-down freely and this 7,9 mm machine gun is example of such action. But it was also scaled up to create 30 mm AA gun for U-boot. History does not there as this AA gun was actually developed into ground AA gun in postwar Czechoslovakia namely М53, which was later used to create Praga PLDvK vz. 53/59 SPAAG.
Until I can lawfully acquire a HK MP-7 in the US, the A3 works just fine. Admittedly, I did change out the sear and trigger group for aftermarket which is much smoother. And I swapped the charging handle for a fold-down so I wouldn’t bark my knuckles on the sight mount. And I did put on that sight. And the magazines were proprietary but I didn’t want to drop $400 on a NATO-compliant stock so I spent almost that much on the mags.
So with just some complete disassembly and about $800 in additional parts it’s awesome!
I have an AUG A3. I have some quibbles about it (primarily the charging handle, magazine release, and lack of a brass deflector). I think it’s a very solid rifle but am annoyed at how a few simple fixes, including moving to metal sear, that could be done at the factory are relegated to the aftermarket.
I must admit that the compactness whilst retaining a full-length barrel–a “no win” solution in any number of cases–makes the “bull-pup” layout a potential solution.
I’m still mystified a bit that France is acquiring huge numbers of H und K 416s with 11.5-in. barrels so that they’ll be the same overall length as the very long serving FAMAS with steel-cased M193 ammunition and non-NATO 25-rd. magazines…
Boy, the Kiwis sure seemed highly dissatisfied with them… Although I’m not quite sure what to make of the claims that it was incapable of “helping them identify enemies” (a huge powerful scope? And how does one identify enemies when everyone wears the same outfits?) and that it was “under powered” beyond 200 meters…
Ecuador, to some degree or other Bolivia, and Uruguay have all adopted the AUG, while Galil accounts for Chile, Perú, Colombia, etc. The silliest arms purchase–well, at least in my view–was the acquisition of of T-54/55 MBTs by Uruguay that had been souped up and hot-rodded by the Israelis… IFVs with guided missiles might actually have made more sense! Ah well… The pendulum goes the other way, then swings back I suppose.