Steyr AUG, the Austrian Wonder ‘Pup

Like most people when they saw Die Hard for the first time, I fell in love with the Beretta 92FS. But the movie also sparked my love for bullpups. When Karl pulled the Steyr AUG out of the bag and locked the barrel in place, I thought it was the most excellent rifle I had ever seen.

This excellent shot of Karl on the hunt is featured on a shirt sold by Steyr
This excellent shot of Karl on the hunt is featured on a shirt sold by Steyr. (Image source: Steyr Arms)

Getting to watch Karl put the AUG through its paces as he hunted down John McClane piqued my interest even more. Die Hard made me covet two great firearms. I already have a 92FS, so now I want a Steyr AUG. Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about this wonder pup except for what I have seen from Hollywood (and we all know how “factual” they can be). Lucky for me, Garand Thumb recently released his review of the AUG and all its best and worst features.

Chambered in 5.56x45mm and featuring a short-stroke gas-piston system paired with a 16-inch barrel, the AUG has an overall length of just 25.18 inches. Having a small package but all the ballistic advantage of a 16-inch barrel makes it a good contender with a rifle such as the MK18 sporting a 10.3-inch barrel (which is just barely shorter than AUG with the stock pushed in).

Garand Thumb looking through optic
Good action shot with his head up looking through that red dot. With Garand Thumb’s superb acting skills as he fights his enemy Ron Jeremy, we can see the Steyr AUG showing off its great compact body and snappy recoil.
Steyr AUG compared to M18 with stock pushed in.
The AUG’s size compared to the MK18 with the stock pushed in

According to Garand Thumb, the MK18 platform is on the “bleeding edge of reliability and lethality” with the 5.56 round. The AUG’s 16in barrel boosts the reliability with longer dwell time, and the increased velocity boosts the lethality of the 5.56 round. The longer barrel also helps with muzzle flash compared to short barrel rifles around the same size. Having a longer barrel allows more time for the powder to burn for better ballistics. 

The AUG’s short build makes it great for maneuvering. It allows you to football-tuck it and haul ass. But the AUG is not problem-free. Two specific issues are the trigger and stock. The latter is fixed and doesn’t allow the 15-inch length of pull to be changed. So, in the words of GT, “if it doesn’t fit you, well, you’re kind of screwed.”

Tip to Butt

Steyr AUG left and right profile
Showing off the Steyr AUG’s sexy profile. It’s so sexy it might just start singing Santa Baby.

The AUG features a standard A2 birdcage muzzle device with a locking collar to ensure it doesn’t go anywhere. And, of course, it has a closed bottom to make sure you don’t kick up any dust while prone. The barrel on the AUG is cold hammer-forged, giving it a long life even with sustained fire. The short-stroke gas-piston system provides the AUG with a similar recoil to the ARX160, HK416, and G36. It does, however, have a snappier recoil with the 5.56 round. Like many other military weapons, the AUG is over-gassed to ensure it can power through harsh conditions. Some military trials have shown that the AUG’s reliability is on par with or much better than other rifles in adverse conditions.

Austrian soldier with Steyr AUG
Austrian Soldier with decked-out AUG. ANZAC and Austrian SOF units have used the AUG since the late ‘70s.

The short length of pull could cause the difference in recoil. With weapons like the MK18, you can lock your arms and reduce the kick. The AUG is so short you can’t really extend your arms and lock it down as effectively, resulting in a little less control. You can, however, carry it longer due to its weight being shifted more towards the rear of the rifle. Its compact style also helps in CQB. The AUG features a well-made bolt carrier group known to last two to three times longer than what you would typically see in an AR15, scoring more points for the rifle’s overall reliability and longevity. 

Garand Thumb looking at the bolt carrier
That strange but reliable bolt carrier that makes sure the AUG fires every time you pull the trigger.

There are still quirks even with the great things like the cold hammer-forged barrel, well-gassed system, and long bolt carrier life. First on the list is the front grip. Most tend to run it in the down position, but that does come with some trouble. The problem with the standard grip is how easy it is to pull it down when you are shooting hard and moving between firing positions. Pulling it down causes it to move around and makes it harder to handle. You can avoid problems by replacing it with a rail from Corvus Defensio, but the standard is acceptable for most people. Those who have used the AUG say finding a way to keep it from unlocking is the way to go. 

Steyr AUG laser controls
I don’t think those laser controls could be in a better spot. Very easy to get to from the front grip.

There isn’t much room for attachments such as lights and lasers on the standard AUG, but Steyr has released a new rail with more space (as seen on GT’s video). The rifle’s size makes it very easy to move your front hand onto the buttons and use the laser as needed. Slings on the AUG are tricky, but it has a QD mount at the front and on both sides of the stock. 

GT uses the Corvus extended charging handle, but he says nothing is wrong with the standard. The charging handle on the left side is non-reciprocating and can be locked up similarly to the MP5. If you pull it back and push it up, it locks the bolt back so you can clear malfunctions or anything else. And while it’s not the official way to release the bolt, you can slap it down like an MP5.

The top of GT’s AUG does have an extended rail with an Elcan Specter optic, and according to GT, it’s probably the only rifle that looks good with the Specter. Even after 5,000 rounds, GT claims it hasn’t had any shift in zero. The push-button safety on the AUG is located just behind the trigger, which should make it quick and easy to switch from safe to fire or vice versa. And then we have the grip: GT says it’s comfortable, but it does look pretty bizarre. 

I have heard many people (including GT) claim that bullpup triggers are pretty bad. GT says the AUG is no exception to his classification of triggers.

  • Best: a custom 1911 or Korth revolver.
  • Good: AK and AR triggers like the Geissele SSA-E.
  • Bad: Glock, G36, and GLX 160 grenade launcher triggers.

GT says it’s not as bad as the GLX 160 grenade launcher, but it’s still not great. He also says the all-plastic trigger pack leaves a lot to be desired, even while using an updated pack from Steyr. GT describes the five to six-pound trigger as having a mushy feel and a slow reset, stating that it doesn’t push evenly to the rear, and “it kind of like shimmies back and forth.” He says you can feel the plastic parts rubbing when you pull the trigger. Unlike the standard civilian trigger pack, the original full-auto pack offers an interesting take on selecting your desired rate of fire. The half pull gives you semi-auto while pulling all the way back gives you full auto. While GT and I think the trigger might hold the AUG back, the rifle does have a few more cool features. 

Garand Thumb pulling out and looking at the trigger pack
The plastic trigger pack is easily pulled from the rear of the rifle.


  • Caliber: 5.56x45mm (.223 Remington)
  • Barrel: 16.375-inch mannox-lined (nitride) CHF barrel (18.375 inches with muzzle brake)
  • Rifling: 6 grooves, 1:9 RH Twist
  • Safety: Two-position trigger-blocking
  • Trigger type: Single-stage
  • Pull weight: 9 pounds, 8 ounces
  • Length of pull: 15 inches
  • Weight, empty: 7.7 pounds
  • Overall length: 28.15 inches

The standard Steyr mags are translucent and are of excellent quality. The mag release is in a perfect spot just behind the mag well, with the bolt release just above it. This makes it easy to change mags while still having the rifle shouldered. Magpul also has AUG mags that look pretty “bitchin’” while in the gun, according to GT. You can also purchase the 42 round mags made by Steyr for their LMG version of the AUG.


  • Easy disassembly
  • Longevity of internal systems
  • 28.15in overall length
  • Cold hammer-forged 16in barrel
  • Maneuverability in CQB situations 


  • Poor trigger quality
  • Set length of pull
  • Sharp recoil
  • Front grip stability 


The Steyr AUG has many drawbacks, but it is still reliable. It needs to be updated, but the Australian army has already started on that front, and Corvus Defensio has many great aftermarket parts. Even with its reliability and durability, the AUG still leaves much to be desired, mainly with the trigger and recoil. Those problems alone make the AUG a bit difficult with follow-up shots, especially when shooting at longer ranges. The AUG is not a bad rifle, but it has its trade-offs.

With all its ups and downs, the Steyr AUG is a remarkable weapon and seems to have earned Garand Thumb’s seal of approval. Just make sure you are willing to put in the training to make the rifle as great as it can be. Because, as Garand Thumb always says, “Honestly, you could have the Gucci-ist gun, but if you’re not training with it, you’re still gonna die.”

Will Lawson is simply a nerdy dad trying to gain a more significant foothold in the gun world. He enjoys collecting old firearms, movies of all genres, and firing his hex receiver Mosin Nagant like his shoulder is invincible.

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