Most of those who recognize the name Steyr immediately think of the Steyr AUG series rifles with their unique European minded design that sets them apart from most patrol rifles used in the United States. That design creates a very sleek profile that places the rifle’s magazine to the rear of the trigger assembly and generates a profile like no other.
Designed to meet the strict specifications of the Austrian Special Forces, Steyr rifles make a bold statement of excellence in the tradition of European engineering. And what many may not know is that Steyr has made a strong bid in the American market with its Trussville, Alabama manufacturing plant.
Now the Steyr AUG rifles sold in the United States will be manufactured in the United States in a partnership with Saber Defense. Some parts are still manufactured in Austria, but more and more these rifles are becoming home grown.
While the company is quite famous for its AUG assault rifles, what many people in the United States shooting community might not know is that Steyr (officially Steyr Mannlicher) is also the producer of high quality sniper rifles.
The latest release is the Steyr SSG 08, available in .308 Winchester and 300 Win Mag. This rifle incorporates many of the latest trends in mission ready sniper rifles. For instance, the Austrian engineers have used light weight aircraft aluminum in the stock, as well as highly durable synthetic components to keep the rifle’s weight easily manageable.
The SSG 08 also comes out of the box with a fully adjustable stock, with adjustments at the butt and the cheek. This allows the shooter can create the optimum shooting platform without having to try to manhandle the rifle to fit an uncomfortable stance. No need for duct tape and foam padding on this rifle. And the stock is foldable for easy transport or carry.
The bi-pod extends from a support rod that runs through the center of the stock in the front. Folding this bi-pod up allows for a more compact and sleek carry method than traditional below stock bi-pod mounts.
The ergonomically designed finger-mold pistol grip is designed to enhance the shooter’s grasp of the rifle during trigger pull. The barrel comes with a muzzle break and in 20” or 23.6” lengths. There is a Picatinny style rail on the top of the receiver for easy and secure scope attachment. And the rifle just looks damn good to boot.
The Steyr SSG 08 also has a unique feature that allows the shooter to open the bolt and lock the bolt in place, up-side-down on the opposite side of the stock. This way a tactical operator could quickly and safely lock the bolt, while leaving the loaded magazine in the rifle while moving to a new location. There is no need to remove the bolt for safe movement.
The 10-round box magazine is a great addition to any sniper rifle as it gives the shooter greater firepower and quicker follow-up shots for multiple targets. The magazine is designed to fit completely in the stock so there is no chance that an inadvertent bump could dislodge the magazine and render the rifle out of battery. The magazine also has a double notch system for added safety. The first notch secures the magazine into the stock for firing, while a second, lower notch is an added safety feature that allows the shooter to lock the magazine partially out of the stock while moving the rifle. So even if the bolt was manipulated the bullets in the magazine are not in position to enter the chamber.
These two safety features; a locking bolt and magazine, provide a fast way to render the rifle safe for movement, while making a very quick transition to ready the rifle to fire. These are innovative design features that anyone in the tactical precision rifle environment will recognize as huge benefits, especially when low crawling through tight situations.
At the 2010 SHOT SHOW in Las Vegas, I got to shoot one of the SSG 08 rifles. The trigger pull was set at a nice 3.5 pounds, which is light enough for accurate precision shooting while not so light that the trigger becomes a liability.
In a matter of seconds I was able to make proper adjustments to the stock to fit a shooting platform that was comfortable for me to shoot. The particular SSG 08 rifle I shot was equipped with a 24×56 mm scope that made the 100 yard range target look like it was within arm’s reach.
The ergonomic pistol grip fit my hand like glove and made trigger pull easy and natural. Squeezing off my first shot I felt a very balanced trigger pull that was smooth and without glitch. The bolt action is smooth and allows the shooter to be back on target very quickly.
I fired three shots in the bull’s eye with a rifle I had never handled before. That type of accuracy speaks volumes for the design and manufacturing from Steyr.
If there is a draw back to the Steyr SSG 08 rifle it is the price. At $5895, the Steyr SSG 08 rises to a level that only the gun enthusiast, collector or very large agency can afford. Maybe that’s why all the media pictures of Steyr rifles have a military Special Forces guy holding their rifle.
For large agencies or military forces I’m sure price is no matter of concern. For the individual or medium sized law enforcement agency, a $6000 rifle is all but out of the question. I wouldn’t want to see Steyr compromise its engineering prowess to produce a cheap rifle, but to get this rifle into the hands of more operators in the United States is going to require developing a rifle that can compete with a Remington 700 that can be fully decked out for around $2500.
Another issue that could become a problem is the availability of armorer and instructor training, as well as replacement parts.
Speaking from the point of view of the hard-working, under-paid, working-class stiff, contemplating a $6000 rifle purchase is like believing WWF wrestling is headed to the Olympics. It just ain’t going to happen!