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While many manufacturers have only gotten into the “black” gun business in the last decade, Steyr Arms has been building high-quality firearms since the 14th century! For today’s black rifle shopper, they offer one of the most accurate sniper systems available, as well as one of the most iconic assault-style rifles ever made. It was back in 1885 that the Steyr factory began shipping their accurate bolt-action rifle to the armies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to replace the breechloader that they had supplied for nearly 20 years. The Steyr reputation for quality military bolt-action rifles continued with the creation of the SSG rifle in 1969. The 7.62x51mm NATO chambered SSG 69 was a revolutionary design that used a “Cycolac” green synthetic stock and a polymer rotary magazine.

Sniper Rifles
I bought my first SSG back in 1988, topped with a Kahles ZF69 fixed 6X scope in Steyr’s proprietary ring mounts. While my traditionalist hunting buddies thumbed their noses at the “plastic” stock, I was so impressed by the accuracy of the cold-hammer-forged barrel that I quickly followed it up by buying a SSG PII IV, which featured a shorter, heavier barrel and an integral muzzle brake—and I even got my hands on the rare wood-stocked Match version.

Issued to police and military sniper teams worldwide, the original green SSG 69 is still in the Steyr lineup 40 years later, but several evolutionary tactical turn-bolts, including its direct descendant, the SSG 04, have joined it. The SSG 04 adds an adjustable cheekpiece to the slimmer plastic stock, loses the 69’s iron sights but adds a Picatinny rail for easier scope mounting, and throws in a bipod and a 10-round magazine as standard equipment. While the SSG 04 is a fantastic out-of-the-box choice for a police department or sportsman, for those who have the money and want the ultimate in .30-caliber performance, Steyr offers the SSG 08.

The SSG 08 is about as far from that first SSG as the space shuttle is from a World War II biplane. Designed with the input of police and military snipers to be the “ultimate Steyr,” a gun that can deliver the goods in the modern world of international terrorism and drug interdiction, the SSG 08 features an aluminum alloy stock with a side-folding, fully adjustable butt and cheekpiece, forward Mil-Spec rails for mounting lights, lasers and other accessories, and like the SSG 04, is available in 7.62mm NATO and .300 Winchester Magnum.

For operators who need or want to go further out, Steyr recently developed a platform for the massive .50-caliber BMG round, the HS .50. The HS is a single-shot bolt-action that uses all that Steyr knows about rifle accuracy to give the shooter true 1,500-meter capability. For gun owners in states where .50-caliber rounds have been declared “evil,” the HS is available for the .460 Steyr cartridge, with BMG brass necked down and delivering 500-grain .458 bullets at 3,000 FPS (feet per second).

Colonel Jeff Cooper, the founder of modern pistol craft and the Gunsite Academy, is known for his work with handguns. But he was also instrumental in championing the concept of the “scout rifle.” As described on the scout fan site, steyrscout.org (not part of the Steyr company), Cooper’s idea for an ideal bolt-action rifle is a “general purpose rifle suitable for taking targets of up to 880 pounds at ranges to the limit of 300 meters,” with a forward and low-mounted (ahead of the action opening) long eye relief scope, detachable box magazine, built-in bipod and capable of shooting into 2-MOA or less at 200 yards.

In 1997, after nearly seven years of direct development between Cooper and the Steyr engineers, the first commercially available scout rifle hit the gun stores. The gray-stocked Steyr Scout SBS was based on Steyr’s new “Safe Bolt System,” featured all of Cooper’s requirements, and was chambered for .308, .223, and the heavy game .376 Steyr cartridge. A Tactical version with a black stock and a 20-inch barrel was made for a while, and right now the standard rifle remains in the Steyr catalog in .243 Remington, 7mm-08 and .308. This gun is a good choice for anyone looking for a solid hunting rifle platform.

The AUG
The Steyr tactical rifle line may include some of the most varied and tested bolt-action military rifles out there, but the black gun that brings a thrill to most shooters is the Steyr AUG. While Steyr’s SSG was one of the first military bolt-action rifles to use space-age material, its 5.56mm NATO “Army Universal Gun” was the one of the first truly “space-age”-looking weapons. A radical bullpup (the magazine is located behind the fire control mechanism), the AUG has a telescopic sight built into the receiver, a flip-down forward grip, a skinny barrel that can be removed without tools, and clear plastic magazines—no one in my shooting circles had ever seen a battle rifle like it.

I bought my first AUG as soon as they became available to American civilians. While they disappeared from shelves during some of the ban years in the 1980 and 1990s, the 2011 model of the AUG is back in the catalog and for sale to U.S. gun owners as the Steyr AUG/A3. The Steyr AUG/A3 SA USA model differs from the original model in one major way: a long Picatinny rail for mounting your choice of optics has replaced the integral 1X scope/carry handle. Want to buy your first AUG but you’ve stocked up on AR-15 magazines? While the translucent AUG magazines are cutting edge polymer, they are not inexpensive at $45 per 30-rounder, so Steyr offers a NATO conversion kit, a replacement stock and trigger assembly package, that converts your AUG to use U.S.-pattern AR-15 magazines.

With the SSG, HS and AUG, Steyr has the tactical world covered from 5.56mm to .50 BMG. Check out their product lineup to see some of the finest black guns on the market. Whatever your department, unit or personal requirements, you can fill them with a Steyr.

Steyr Arms
steyrarms.com; 205-655-8299

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