In 1978, the Austrian army began fielding one of the most futuristic looking military assault rifles ever developed at that point in military history in the Steyr StG-77 "Armee-Universal-Gewehr: or AUG. Designed around a bullpup layout and firing 5.56mm from a plastic see-through magazine, the AUG soon became a raising star in both the realm of military small arms and entertainment. By the 1980's, the AUG was being used as a futuristic rifle in films like RoboCop, the Running Man, LifeForce, and Predator 2. By the 1990's, over 20 nations used the Steyr AUG as an military rifle for some element of their national defense and it was also popular among Law Enforcement circles. For this entry into the Guns from the Future serial, we are looking into one of the most popular real-steel future weapons: the Steyr AUG!
The Steyr AUG...by the Numbers
- Nation of Origin: Austria
- Company of Origin: Steyr Mannlicher AG
- Year Released: 1977 (A0), 1982, (A1)1997 (A2), 2005 (A3)
- Type of Weapon: Modular Military Service Rifle, DMR, SMG, Carbine, and LMG
- Calibers: 5.56x45mm NATO, .300 Blackout, and 9x19mm
- Weight: 8.6lbs - 7.1lbs
- Length w/ standard 20inch Barrel: 31.1 inches or 790mm
- Magazine: 30,42, and 100
- Action: Gas-operated rotating bolt
- Rate of Fire: 680RPM - 750RPM
- Barrel Lengths: 13,16,20, 24
What is the AUG?
Designed and developed by Austrian firearms & truck marker Steyr-Daimler-Puch (which later was spun off into its own arms company: Steyr Arms in 1989) during the 1970's by Horst Wesp, Karl Wagner, and Karl Möse with direct input and guidance from Colonel Walter Stoll of the Office of Military Technology for the Austrian Army. The AUG is a bullpup 5.56mm assault rifle that was designed to feature quick release barrels to create the AUG to be a modular platform, which is featured in its full name: Armee-Universal-Gewehr or "Army Universal Rifle". When released and formally adopted by the Austrian Army in 1977, the AUG would become known as the StG-77, where it still serves the Austrian military to this very day in a 3rd generational update. The weapon is noted for being one of the first bullpup service rifles, its futuristic design, the translucent waffle magazines, the 1.5x standard optical sight, and the heavy use of polymers and aluminum components. The AUG is a popular modern military assault rifle that is current used on and off of the battlefield around the world by regular and irregular forces.
The History of the AUG
During the post-war years, much of the NATO member nations and the Commonwealth members used variants of the 7.62x51mm FN FAL battle rifle, the “right hand of freedom” that went up against the other big dog: the AK47 (AKM actually). At this time, NATO’s standard rifle cartridge was the heavy 7.62mm round and all NATO nations based their service rifles around the iconic round…that was until the Stoner arrived on the scene. When the FN FAL was being adopted by most western militaries, the US was using the M-14 7.62mm battle rifle and in 1957, the U.S. Continental Army Command (CONARC) put forth a call for an lightweight rifle that used a smaller, high-velocity cartridge. During this time, Fairchild industries would develop both the 5.56x45mm round and another division of Fairchild, Armalite, would develop the weapon: the AR15. Another weapon that was part of the AUG story was the British post-war bullpup .280 service rifle: the EM-2. This bullpup assault rifle was centered around an intermediate cartridge that was developed after witnessing the 3rd Reich StG-44 7.92x33 “Kurz” round in 1945: the .280 British (7.2x43mm). This was the first bullpup assault rifle officially adopted by a military around 1951…and then it wasn’t. The Churchill government repealed the EM-2 due to the .280 cartridge to favor the NATO 7.62mm.
This led to the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations adopting a version of the FN FAL: the SLR. The story begins to change when the 5.56mm round was being used in Vietnam with the M16 and this was a break from the NATO standardization protocol. During this time, around 1971, Steyr and GIAT were both working on next-generation bullpup assault rifles that were chambered to fire the 5.56mm American round. When it comes to the development of the AUG, it was around 1975 that the Austrian military was looking to replace their own FN FAL clone, the StG-58 battle rifle. It was also around this time that Colonel Walter Stoll of the Office of Military Technology for the Austrian Army was working with the team at Steyr to develop something new and revolutionary in military small arms. Steyr used Col. Stoll's advice and combined it with some of the work already undergoing at the time. Since the 1960's, it was clear to most military planners and military arms companies that the era of the FN FAL with the larger 7mm cartridges was coming to an end, and thus, Steyr and the Office of Military Technology for the Austrian Army was looking at at a modern assault rifle in 5.56mm.
What Makes the Steyr AUG Futuristic?
Since the AUG emerged in 1977-1978, it has been framed as a futuristic weapon. When the western press got a hold of the AUG, they also framed in a future gun mindset. Why do so many, including me and FWS, consider the Steyr AUG a sci-fi daring? Honestly, just look at the weapon! It terms of style, color, and being a bullpup, the AUG is striking and was not like anything else on the military firearms market, save for the GIAT FAMAS. The AUG had a standard installed optic, a foldable forearm vertical grip, OD polymer, swappable barrel system, being designed to be a modular weapon system, the unqiue trigger guard, and these cool see-through magazines. All of these were either new or seen rarely on another weapon, but not all of the features, especially on a weapon built by a noted firearms marker for a member of NATO. When seen in the hands of anyone, it just somehow screams that it is a gun from the future. Even when seen in films like Die Hard or in TV shows like The A-Team, it space age design stood out against the typical guns of the era.
The AUG Combat Record
Garand Thumb video, Plaid Daddy reached out to combat users of the AUG, and he found that many Aussie and Kiwi veterans that used the AUG in service, the trigger was a source of complain due to long pull and the semi-and-full-auto in one trigger to be problematic. This could be said of most bullpup style assault rifles. Plaid Daddy stated it was one of the worst triggers he'd ever used and it was a plastic mushy mess. Some have discussed issues with the incorporated vertical handgrip moving around during combat movements. However, many praised the reliability during terrible conditions and the AUG has seen a fair amount of combat and the great balance with the weapon, especially when reloading using the shoulder.
The Users of the AUG
While many may assume that the Steyr AUG is just a futuristic plastic-fantastic gun with its magazine in the wrong place, but the AUG is a hardened military service rifle that has been on the frontlines of combat and law enforcement since 1978 and it continues to be the standard service for several major military organizations. Steyr-Mannlicher was working on the weapon that would become the AUG since the 1960’s and in 1977 the final design was tested and approved to be the 5.56mm standard assault service rifle for the Austrian Army with the first delivers of the AUG with the 20-inch standard barrel and 30-round waffle magazine in 1978. This was around same time that the French Army was getting deliveries of their own futuristic bullpup 5.56mm service rifle, the GIAT FAMAS. It should be noted that the Armee Universal Gewehr (known as the StG-77 in the Austrian military) was developed by and for the Austrian military and not for the export market originally. As stated above, much of the western world was using variants of the 7.62mm FN FAL battle rifle, like the Austrian StG-58 and British Self-Loading Rifle, and the AUG was part of the NATO allied nations move toward the 5.56mm and 9x19mm cartridge for the Small Arms Standardization Agreement (STANAG) (this is why the US adopted the Beretta 92FS 9mm).
With this trend in military small arms, other western nations in orbit of NATO or in NATO began exploring the possibility of switching from the 7.62mm battle rifle to an 5.56mm assault rifle. For about 10 years, the Austrian military was the only one to field the AUG…and then the flood gates opened. In 1988, the Australian military adopted the Steyr AUG A1 as their standard service rifle. The first rifles were delivered in 1989 to 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. Quite recently, the testing report of the M16A2 vs. the AUG was released by the Australian Defense Force and from the report, the AUG bested the M16A2 in nearly every category. However, some have leveled that the real reason that the Steyr AUG was selected was due to the fact that Steyr would allow a licensed copy of the AUG to be made Down Under by Lithgow in New South Whales as the F88. Colt would not allow this for their M16A2. Also in 1988, New Zealand would also follow the example of the Aussies and adopt the Steyr AUG with the majority of their bullpup service rifles being sourced from Lithgow in the form of F88 rifles.
However, from the the 1985 article is clear and is seems that just eight years after the AUG was accepted by the Austria military, it was accepted by several Middle Eastern and Asian nations as their weapon-of-choice. The AUG usage was just confined to military organizations. Various law enforcement bodies have adopted the AUG and even the 9mm SMG AUG Para as seen in Austria. In the United States, several police departments and government agencies would select the AUG for their service rifle over the AR15 platform. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement used the AUG from around 1987 to 2003 when it was replaced by the Colt M4 carbine.
The AUG Variants
The AUG A0/A1/A2/A3
The original StG-77 adopted by the Austrian Bundesheer in 1978 is know as the AUG A0, and by 1982, Steyr came out with a variant called the A1. There is little on the difference between the A0 and A1, however, I do believe that one of the modification was from the clear magazine to the smoke-olive drab and that the gun was available in the original OD color as well as black. It was the A1 that became the AUG we know and love today, as well as being the model adopted by governments around the world, like Australia and Ireland. One of the interesting variants of the A1 is the “StG 77 A1 MP” that is used by Austrian military police force and was put into service in 2018. Where the two rifles differ is the A1 MP uses an Picatinny rail to fit a variety of attachments like the Aimpoint Micro T1 Red Dot Sight and magnifier, an Ase-Utra flash hider and the Rheinmetall Vario Ray laser and light module mounted on the right side.
The AUG HBAR & HBAR-T
The AUG PARA/PARA XS/ PARA 40
In 1988, one of the more famous variants of the AUG came about, the submachine gun or “Para”. Chambered in 9x19mm and using the 25-round magazines from the Steyr MPi 69 SMG and TMP machine pistol, the AUG Para was envisioned as a way for a military to use the AUG platform for all roles. For the AUG assault rifle to go to an sub-gun, there is a conversion kit that is used that includes the special bolt, special 16.5inch barrel with recoil compensator, stock adapters, and a magazine. Unlike the HBAR and the HBAR-T, the AUG Para has its users, mostly European Law Enforcement and some CT units. In popular culture, the AUG Para has been a darling of the shooter video game world and is seen in games like R6: Vegas and COD: Warzone.
When the Aussie Defense Force selected the AUG A1 over the M16A2 as their new service rifle after retiring the FN FAL in 1988, they began something that altered the AUG into their own…much like Australia in general. The AUG Down Under became the F88 Austeyr. From 1988 onward, the F88 was produced by a local Aussie gun company called Lithgow Small Arms Factory. This was one of the reasons for Australia to go with the AUG over the M16A2, due to Colt refusing to allow Australia to manufacture the weapon locally. One of the most interesting variants of the F88 was the training variant for cadets that fired .22, the F88T.
The AUG A3 SF
The AUG A3 CQC
The AUG USR and the “P”
The 2017 AUG "Survival Kit" Prototype
During the 2017 SHOT Show, Steyr Arms displayed am interesting prototype at the "Steyr AUG Survival Kit". In the Pelican watertight/floating case was a AUG A3 M1 with a 3x optic painted a garish high-visibility orange that it makes it look a sci-fi prop gun. In the case besides the Fanta AUG were a survival knife, flare gun, whistle, streamlight, 2x42 magazines, and 2x30 magazines. This was all to be sold for around $3,295 and was designed to be used in waterborne evac emergency that likely would involve piracy. This likely would be used in concert with emergency kits that contained food, water, and first aid. This would be cool for a sci-fi setting as well. For the research conducted, Steyr did not move this AUG Survival Kit beyond the prototype stage.
The Future of the AUG
What Doesn't the Steyr AUG use the STANAG Magazine?
The AUG A3 in .300 Blackout?!
Did the US ever Test the AUG for Adoption?
During the 1980's, some gun and military publications issued rumors that the US military was testing the AUG as a possible replacement for the M16A2. Of course, there is no actual truth to these rumors from what we can find and it is highly likely that some elements of the US government may have informally tested the AUG given that it was the weapon of choice for allied nations. What some of the magazine's sources may have been seeing is the Steyr ACR advanced flechette high-velocity dart firing rifle for the US Army Advanced Combat Rifle Program.
Began in 1985, the ACR Program was testing the newest small arms weapons and ammunition for a changing battlefield. Several companies offered their most cutting-edge designs for consideration and by the time of the field testing in August of 1989, there was four candidate rifles. For their candidate to the US Army ACR trials, Steyr-Mannlicher of Austria of Austria sent a weapon that was designed by Ulrich Zedrosservery and stylistically similar to their famous bullpup futuristic-looking 5.56mm assault rifle. The Steyr ACR was the most compact of the ACR candidate of the other candidate rifles and had the lowest magazine count at 24, but it has the longest barrel due to its bullpup configuration. It was noted by the evaluators having the lowest cost of production in both weapon and ammunition along being simple in operation. The ACR bullpup assault rifle fired a high velocity 1.6inch long 9.85 gain finned flechette projectile from a synthetic casing that was rough the same size of the M16 5.56x45mm round. These SCF darts were aimed by the shooter by either an iron sight or a low-power 1.5x optical sight. One of the standout features of the Steyr ACR was that the flechettes had a velocity of 4,700-4,900 feet-per-second (an M16 M855 5.56mm round travels at roughly 3,100 feet-per-second). For the Phase III testing at Ft. Benning, Steyr sent 15 rifles with 90,000 flechette rounds and it provided to one of the top two ACR candidate rifles. If you are interested in learning more about the ACR Program FWS has written a very in-depth article on the program
The AUG in Popular Culture
For many, their introduction to the futuristic AUG assault rifle was when Karl assembled his AUG A1 in 1988’s Die Hard to average his brother’s death. It was here and, in some ways, continues to be one of the introduction media for the AUG. However, this was basically the Austrian future gun’s 7th major motion picture appearance! The AUG would first be seen in 1983’s Octopussy in the hands of Soviet soldiers(!) and this would be followed closely by an appearances in the Arnold-kill-fest Commando in 1985 in the hands of warlord scumbag Arius and in the vampires-from-outer-space Lifeforce. Then came 1987 and the Steyr AUG would be seen in three major films: The Running Man, RoboCop, and Who’s That Girl. Yes, that’s right gentle readers of FWS…the AUG is in Who’s That Girl, the Madonna vehicle film. Fucking crazy. In the Running Man, the Resistance would be armed with AUGs and some ICS soldiers. In 1987’s RoboCop, some of the Detroit Police Department SWAT officers that we charged with hunting down Murphy used the AUG in the parking lot firefight. Oddly, the actors playing the SWAT officers, turned their AUG on their side to prevent the brass from ejecting on their fellow actors while in the advancing firing line.
Why was the AUG Included into Die Hard?
For many of my generation, their introduction to this Austrian bullpup with the waffle magazine was the 1988 magnum opus Die Hard. About midway through the best Christmas movie of all time (suck it It’s a Wonderful Life!), the main muscle of Hans Gruber gang was Karl and when his brother was killed by NYPD cop John McClane, he seeks vengeance. When that opportunity arises when McClane is on the roof, Karl is tossed a black gym bag. When riding the lift up to the roof, Karl assembles an A1 Steyr AUG as says: “Nobody kills him but me”. This element of theater with the weapon being assembled caused many of us to take notice and it was here that many asked to themselves “what is that gun?”
From here, the AUG would achieve a status among other guns of the time and for future creators, they wanted to include an AUG due to Die Hard…like in Counter-Strike and COD. It is odd that Die Hard was not the first, second, or even third appearance in a major action film, but it likely the most memorable due to the gun being in one of the best action films ever made. So, why was the Steyr AUG in Die Hard? The film armourer was Michael Papac and he is a bloody legend among Hollywood Weapon Masters. He has been the armourer for such films as Terminator 3, RED, Lethal Weapon, We Were Soldiers, Predator, and Iron Man; along with founding his own film armory company: Cinema Weaponry. He likely used the AUG due to the look and the place of manufacture. The weapons that the terrorist carry are European made and speak of them being separate from the American characters in both speech, dress, and weapon choice. In the film, to me, the AUG informs us that Karl is a badass with military training and the AUG adds to that along with its own outlandish appear.
The Steyr and Sci-Fi
For film and TV productions, weapons like the Steyr AUG, the H&K G11, and the FN P90 occupy a solution for the issue of designing a futuristic weapon that does not need to be designed from the ground up. For many productions, this why the AUG was inserted into the production due to just how futuristic and different this assault rifle appeared. For the AUG, it was all about the looks and the this worked for the AUG to be included as a “future gun” in all forms of media including sci-fi book cover-art! For some other inclusions in science fiction, the AUG served as foundation for a futuristic weapon and more sci-fi bits and pieces were added, as we witnessed in the terrible sequel to Pacific Rim. The AUG was also an inspiration for creators as well that allowed them to rift off to create something new. With newer AUG variants, like the Aussie F90, it appears that the Steyr AUG will continue to be a part of sci-fi productions for some time.
Please note that the AUG appears throughout TV and movies since the 1980s and there are a great deal of examples that could be listed. For the purposes of this article, I picked a few examples of the AUG and left the cataloging to IMFDB.org.
In the Hands of Angelica from the Gunslinger Girls Universe
The Steyr AUGs from the Call of Duty Games
In the Hands of Major Cyril McKendrick from Space: Above & Beyond Episode "Pearly"
During the opening months of the Earth-Chig War of 2063-2064, the Human colony of Minerva was hit hard by Chig forces and the British Forces and US Army US Calvary on Minerva were routed during the bloody battle of Mandrake Ridge, During this battle, Logistics Major Cyril McKendrick of the Cold Stream Guard was separated from his unit and using a radio as able to learn the Chig language, the only Terran known to do so. During this run in with the retreating 58th in an 7th Cav APC, Major McKendrick came unwilling with the 58th. In his hands was an A1 Steyr AUG. It is presumed, given the lack of evidence that the AUG is either the official issue British service rifle or that the Major took the weapon from a dysfunctional Silicate unit. This appearance of the AUG in this military sci-fi show is due to its futuristic look.
The UNSC BR75 Waffle Magazine from HALO: Infinite
The F90 from Alien: Covenant
I've been a fan of the ALIENS universe since I first watched the CBS airing of the film and an original 1986 poster of ALIENS hangs above my desk as I write this. I love ALIENS, but I hate all of the movies that have come after it. All of them are broken promises and one of the worst was 2017's ALIEN: Covenant. Dumb, dull, and without soul, this film is bad in all ways that even Prometheus wasn't. For the film, there was more of an armory than in Prometheus and legendary film armourer John Bowring was in charge of the film's futuristic weaponry. According to an interview with John Bowring by Adam Savage, he said that director Ridley Scott wanted the weapons to be real and modern than the pulse rifles.
The Monican Rebel Sniper Rifle from the live-action Aeon Flux 2005 Film
In the Hands of Lt. Col. T.C. McQueen from Space: Above & Beyond "Choice or Chance"
During the way-too-short run of the best military science fiction show on TV, Space: Above and Beyond had a wonderful two-part arch of 58th on a hostile planet during E&E operations following a failed bombing run on a Chig world. Colonel McQueen and Hawkes were able to avoid being captured by the Silicates and endeavored to rearm and recon the prison site where the rest of the 58th were being held in the Kazbek Penal and mining colony that is controlled by the Chigs, but run by the Silicates. When McQueen took out several Silicate patrols, he was able to gain the use of an Steyr AUG A1 and used to hold off the Silicate guards during the prison break. It is easy to see that the AUG was chosen for its instant-no-need-to-add-water sci-fi look and it was easy to add for a scene with a number of firearms and a limited budget. This same AUG prop weapon was used again for the episode "Pearl".
Bullhorn from G.I Joe: Real American Hero (1990)
By end of the 1980's, the G.I Joe: A Real American Hero toyline by Hasbro had run its course and it was failing to capture the current imagination and wallets of kids that were into heavily armed martial arts trained talking pizza loving turtles. In addition, the G.I Joe toyline had been becoming more and more extreme with the soldiers to the point of near-mockery. By the 1990's, the party was over for the animated series, the toys, and the Marvel Comic series (Transmedia approach). During the last years of the original 3.75inch figure line, we finally got an Steyr AUG in the hands of an Joe: Bullhorn. It is odd to think that the AUG, a futuristic and celebrated rifle of film and TV was not given a plastic gun doppelgänger sooner than 1990. Criminal it is because I would have loved an AUG when I was buying GI Joes. The AUG is used by Bullhorn, who is a "intervention specialist" with a shoulder-mounted bullhorn for blasting Guns-N-Roses to force out ex-Panamanian dictators from Catholic embassies. The AUG that Bullhorn is armed with is an Steyr AUG A1 that seems to be equipped to be an DMR with the longer HBAR barrel, the large scope and a sound suppressor. He was remade in 2016 with a improved and more dynamic AUG for his role has an "crisis negotiator". To me, the name "bullhorn" will always be linked to the character in the film Black Dynamite.
The Larmi "AUG" Motorized Water Guns from 1989-1990
From the Running Man (1987)
During the Gold Age of Arnold Schwarzenegger films, there is a standout among his core film: 1987's The Running Man. Very loosely based on a 1982 book by Stephen King under his nom de plume "Richard Bachman", Ben Richards is a former police helicopter pilot is framed for the killing of civilians in a Bakersfield food riot, he was tossed into a government labor camp in near-future America that has been transformed into a totalitarian police state in 2017(!). The number one TV show is "The Running Man" on the ICS network that pits criminals running from killer bounty hunters for a chance at a fresh start on life.
Cindy and her AUG from Jackie Brown's "Chicks that Love Guns!"
In the hands of Det. John Schaefer from Dark Horse Predator: Concrete Jungle (1989-1990)
In the hands of Major Grace Pedersen in Combat Hospital
The Peacekeeper "Pulse Rifle" from the Farscape UniverseMade of fibreglass, the weapon features elaborate detailing across the receiver, grips and barrel, and features a cast-in scope running along the top of the receiver. The futuristic rifle is finished in metallic gunmetal grey paint with washes and distressing applied to make the weapon appear well-used. The piece displays some minor wear from production use, including scratches to the left side of the scope and grips. Dimensions: 58 cm x 9 cm x 24 cm (22 3/4" x 3 1/2" x 9 1/2")
The Nerf/Fortnite B-AR Dart Blaster
In the Hands of the "Governor" from the Walking Dead
Here is the entry for the AUG A1 used in the 3rd Season of the Walking Dead from IMFDB.org: "The Governor opens fire with a Steyr AUG A1 in "Home" (S3E10), hitting one of the prison survivors in the head (an impressive shot, considering it was done at a long distance with a 1.5x magnification scope). Despite his right eye being useless, he still fires right-handed instead of left. The weapon is likely meant to be a full-auto conversion of an AUG SA, a semi-automatic variant of the A1 which was imported to the US for civilian use before being banned in 1989. Fully-automatic AUGs are extremely rare in the United States, as unlike the M4A1 they are not military issue and are not used by any law enforcement entities apart from US Customs and Immigration Enforcement. The civilian variant of the AUG is the STG-556 which has a different design than the A1."
Next Time on FWS...