24 December 2021

Guns from the Future: The Steyr AUG

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.
In 1977, the Steyr AUG was adopted by the Austrian Army as their service rifle with the first AUG coming into the hands of the Austrian soldiers in 1978 as the StG-77 or the AUG A0. At around the same time, the French Army was beginning to get their first FAMS bullpups into their hands as well. Given its revolutionary design, construction materials used, and integrated optic; the AUG was an immediate star in the realm of military small arms. Within the first 10 years of service, the AUG was being adopted by military organizations around the world as well as law enforcement like the US Customs in 1987. Within the first years of the AUG, it was slightly updated, from the A0 to the A1 in 1982. The A1 is the most commonly scene-used AUGs of the classic design. During the 1980's, the AUG would also take starring roles in TV and film around the world as well in comic books, anime and manga. 
During the run of the A1 AUG, several variants were used, but it was clear by the 1990's, that it was time to update the bullpup platform. The first major change came in December of 1997 with the AUG A2 arrived on the scene. The A2 improved from the A1 with a redesigned charging handle along with replacing the integrated scope system with a Picatinny rail. This was followed by the further improved A3 in 2007. During this period of the AUG's life, it was facing the new crop of weapons more heavily based on the M4 carbine and the greatest innovation came to the AUG platform not from Austria, but from Australia. While the ADF and NZDF adopted the AUG A1 in 1988, the local licensed producer of the Aussie/Kiwi AUG is Lithgow Small Arms. 
They have been altered the AUG for decades under the name of the F88 Austeyr to met their needs. The latest installment to the Aussie AUG is the Lithigow F90 (AKA the EF88), which still looks the AUG basically, but it altered and could show a path to the AUG 2.0 design...if there is one. Since the First Gulf War in 1991, the AUG has been used in direct combat, law enforcement, by criminals, by rebels, by terrorists, and by civilians in actually real world uses. With the War on Terror and the civil wars in Syria and Libya, we have the various AUGs being used more than they ever have in its operational history. In addition, millions of virtual AUGs have been used in video game combat. Also, the AUG is a popular airsoft design with several very good, nearly 1:1 copies of the iconic future gun being sold and used the world over spraying 6mm BBs. What is the future of the AUG? It is likely that the Aussie F90 will be used for the next decade, but Austria is another story. There have been some reports and rumors that the Austrian Army is looking at replacing the AUG with the H&K G36. However, from a combat operational record, the AUG is better gun and has a better history. However, we shall see.  
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
With the AUG being accepted into military service by a number of military and law enforcement organizations around the world, this futuristic weapon would be used in combat situations up this very day. So, what is the combat record of the AUG? Like many of the weapons of this time period, the First Gulf War of 1991 was the first test of the AUG in actual combat. Several of the nations carried the AUG into that 1991 war and we know little about its usage in combat. Then came another battlefield in Somali. From 1992 through 1993, the Unified Task Force operated in the wartorn nation to create peace and stability. 
The forces involved were from a variety of nations, including New Zealand, Irish, Bangladesh, Australia, and Morocco...who were using the AUG. In 1999 and 2006, the Australians forces deployed to East Timor during a time of crisis via a UN mission of peacekeeping. Here is where the AUG was used in street combat and being carried around on long patrols. In 2006, the instability again in East Timor caused the deployment of UN forces. Besides Australians, there was also Kiwi soldiers, Irish, and those from Malaysia, all used the AUG. During the wars that came about due to the attack on America, the AUG was used by allies of the United States in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The AUG, mostly in its F88 variant was carried into battle in these nations by the New Zealand, Austrian, and Aussie soldiers. The interesting thing about the combat history of the Steyr AUG and its variants is that nation that developed and first fielded the space age AUG, Austria, has barely used the AUG in combat missions, but the Australians and the New Zealanders have used in their AUG variant, the F88, in various battlefields. 
Then the combat story of the Steyr AUG goes to a dark moments in Middle East history: Syria and Yemen. During the bloody civil wars in those nations, we began to see a number of unique weapons in the hands of the fighters of these conflicts. Everything from the FN F2000, the FN P90, and even an STG-44! In larger numbers was the AUG in the A1 and A2 variety. This maybe one the largest and longest combat usage of the AUG in its operational history. In the 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. 
The likely earliest foreign nation to field an AUG to some element of their military was Argentina in 1986, if the old photo is to be believed. However, according to the February of 1985 AUG review in Soldier of Fortune magazine, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Oman, Tunisia, Malaysia, and Morocco all HAD already adopted the AUG into their military ranks. From the Wikipedia page on the AUG states that Tunisia adopted the AUG as their standard service rifle in 1978...the same year as the Austrian Army...which would make Tunisia the winner for the first foreign nation to use the AUG. While we had confirmed dates for Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia adopting the AUG, I cannot locate confirmed dates for much of the nations on that Wikipedia list. 
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. 
In December of 1997, the AUG was updated again with the A2 variant that redesigned the charging handle and provide a MIL-STD-1913 rail that allowed for various optics to be used instead of 1.5x Swarovski Optik “Donut of Death” scope. The A3 model in service with the Austrian military is known internally as the “StG-77 KPE” with a upgraded A1 to the A3 housing that was official accepted for use in 2017. The latest variant of the Steyr AUG is the A3 and this variant came about in 2004. One of the most visual changes was that the A3 is a “flat-top” AUG, like the Colt M4, and an external bolt release along with the NATO kit that allows for the AUG A3 to accept STANAG Magazines. There is yet no word on the A4 variant from Steyr or if there will be one.  

The Heavy Barreled Automatic Rifle (HBAR) was one of the original variants of the Armee-Universal-Gewehr modular service weapon platform concept proposed by Steyr and the Austrian Army. With the swap of the standard 20inch barrel for the heavier 24inch barrel complete with bipod and 42 round magazine. For better fire, there is the open-bolt option along with a few other modifications to allow the HBAR to be more of an light machine gun. 
While this variant was promoted by Steyr, tested by gun magazines and YouTubers, along with being seen in video games like COD:MW2, I cannot find much actual military usage of the AUG HBAR. Most military organizations use more standard LMGs like the very popular FN Minimi and the RPK. Then there is the HBAR-T (heavy barreled automatic rifle with telescopic sights). This is a variant-within-a-variant that takes the 24inch cold hammer-forged heavy barrel with integral bipod of the LMG variant and pairs it with a Kahles ZF69 6×42 optical sight. Much like the HBAR LMG, I cannot find anyone that uses the DMR AUG…

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 A3 came out, there was a new version of the Para, the Para XS with the features of the A3 and a 12.8inch barrel. At some point, Steyr decided to gift the world with an .40 SMG variant of the Para XS with a 13.1inch barrel that uses the Glock .40 double-stacked extended 31 round magazines. One of the users of the AUG Para 40 is Sao Paulo, Brazil Police department. One of the issues with the AUG Para is that it is a 9mm sub-gun that is battling for operational space with the Godzilla of 9mm sub-guns: the H&K MP5…the best that ever was. If you need a 9mm SMG, you are going to use the MP5 because it is the best in every way. To demonstrate how rare the Para was, one vintage 1980's article stated that only 175 9mm kits were in the United States.

The F88/F90
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. 
One of the biggest changes to the F88 Austeyr was the F88A2 in 2009 fueled by Australian forces experiences in Afghanistan deployments. For operational use, the gas system was modified to allow the US military 5.56mm ammunition to be used along with a longer rail. Improved sight housing and color changes to khaki. Then came the F90 AKA the Enhanced F88 (EF88). This was a major change to the AUG platform that had been used since 1988 by the ADF and looks very different than the standard AUG A3 with several changes including a 15mm shorter trigger pull and there are several variants of the F90 as well. For the export market, the F90 can use the STANAG 5.56mm magazines which was a major feature for Steyr and Lithgow to go after contracts with NATO nations. One government interested in the F90 is France, as a replacement for the aging FAMAS.

In 2007, the A3 was given a “Special Forces” or “Commando” variant that is used by the Austrian Jagdkommando as the StG-77 A2. This variant can be modified for a variety of tactical uses and situations with 13.8 (with a sound suppressor) and 16 inch barrels. The SF A3 could be thought of as the Steyr attempt at the SOPMOD kit for the Colt M4 assault carbine and given its clients for the A3 SF, it makes some senese.  

One of the interesting variants that was explored is the A3 CQC. Designed as a prototype in 2005-6, it as displayed at the SHOT Show in 2006 and it was unique among the AUG variants. The CQC had different handguard that were railed for your pleasure and this caused issues with field stripping. There was weight issues, extra cost, and reliability concerns. By 2008, Steyr had abandoned the failed CQC prototype with only five being made for sales and promotion activities. 
Four of the five prototypes were fitted with the 18inch barrel and one was fitted with the HBAR 24inch barrel and a smaller 20 round magazine. While the prototype died, an American company, PJA brought the five prototypes around 2012, pulled them apart and designed AUG A3 CQC conversion kits. The CQC A3 was also featured in the Battlefield Bad Company games along many of the Tom Clancy games including: RAINBOW 6: Vegas 1 and 2 (where I was introduced to the AUG , Ghost Recon: Wildlands, the Division 2, and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2.  

The AUG USR and the “P”
During the early days of the AUG A1, semi-auto versions of the AUG were imported to the US firearms market and they were stars of local gun shows and they were expensive. That original variant was called the "AUG P" (maybe also the SA?) and it was marketed to civilian and Law Enforcement markets in semi-auto only with a 16inch barrel. With the Federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1989, there was an attempt by Steyr to continue to import the AUG assault rifle to the US market like many other foreign arms makers. The Steyr attempted was via their 1997 “Universal Sport Rifle (USR)” as the federal law had banned the importation of foreign made assault weapons and the AUG was just that. This conversion from semi-auto assault rifle to sporting rifle was in part in cosmetic and part mechanical. The USR is noted for being a grey color and not an OD and have a funny loop on the handle along with the flash hider being removed. Under the grey plastic, the USR is actually an A2 and this has caused collectors today to pick up the USR cheaper than a current AUG A2 and alter it to be an A2.

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
At present, the AUG is nearly as old as I am, and at nearly 50 years old; it is becoming time for most military organizations to look at the future. At present, Steyr undertook three generational changes to the AUG platform and there is no news about an A4 update to the AUG. Most of the military organizations that have been adopted variants of the Colt M4 platform, like the LMT MARS-L for the  New Zealand defense forces, to replace their F88 AUGs. Part of this is due to long-term experience with bullpup rifles, the issues with the 40mm grenade launcher, and the pornstar status of the Colt M4 carbine system since the beginning of the global war on terror. Due to this trend, it is likely that the last holdouts that still use the AUG: Austria, Australia, and Ireland will adopt a different service rifle in the next 10 to 15 years. Some of these cracks are seen in those above military organizations with the Irish Rangers using the H&K 416 and the Aussie SAS using the Colt M4. The last holdout with likely be the Austrian army and bottom line, this means that despite the years of faithful service, the future of the AUG is dim.      

What Doesn't the Steyr AUG use the STANAG Magazine?
One of the unique features of the AUG is the translucent waffle magazine that allows the user to see their round count, however, these magazines were not compatible with the AR15/M16 30-round 5.56mm STANAG (standardization agreement) magazines. Why? The olive-yellow hued waffle magazines (the original clear plastic magazines were replaced soon after the AUG release due to issues with the magazines) were designed during the 1970's and the STANAG magazine did not come about until October of 1980, which was just a few months after NATO approved the 5.56mm cartridge for standardization over the 7.62mm for service rifles. The idea for the Standardization Agreement was to allow all NATO nations to share munitions for logistical and battlefield effectiveness during a war with the Warsaw Pact. While Steyr-Mannlicher of Austria did use the 5.56mm round for their AUG, the idea of using M16 magazines did not occur to them and it makes sense in some ways given the time period. Ian McCollum stated in one video that Steyr developing a magazine just for use in the AUG was due to the fact that Austria did not have spare M16 magazines around due to the Austrian Army using their FAL clone, the StG-58 and that the AUG was developed, originally, solely by Stery for the military for Austria. With this, the Austrian military was converting over from 7.62mm to 5.56mm already and the idea of replacing all of their old magazines was already considered. It wasn't until nearly 10 years later that the AUG was selected by other nations as their service rifle. There are NATO magazine conversion kits for the A1 and A2 AUGs on the market and the AUG A3 that arrived in 2004 did have a variant that accepted STANAG magazines for the export market.   

The AUG A3 in .300 Blackout?!
For years now, Steyr Mannlicher AG has been teasing the possibility of an AUG A3 being offered in the .300 Blackout cartridge. In 2012, Steyr became making their own AR15 clone, the Steyr STM556 with some AUG-DNA injected into the AR15 platform. This is being offered in .300 Blackout and from the mockups at IDEX 2019, ideal with suppressor usage. On the table was an blacked out AUG A3 with the words "300 BLK" on the body of the bullpup rifle. Steyr has been teasing the possibility of the 3rd generation AUG chambering the .300 Blackout caliber since 2017 and has not yet yielded fruit. While the AUG in .300 Blackout is certainly real in one sense, it is not yet released and may never be. 

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. 
The first appearance of the A1 AUG on the American airwaves was in the 4th season (1985-1986) of The A-Team in the hands of Dirk Benedict during the 3rd episode of the 4th season, "Where is that Monster When You Need Him" first airing on October 1st, 1985. This likely was where many Americans first witness the AUG.  Finally, the AUG would appear in Die Hard on July 22nd, 1988. From this point on, the AUG would be forever linked to Die Hard and being futuristic as well. It would be August of 1999 in the sequel to Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear before the AUG would arrive into the realm of video games, but it would be Counter-Strike that really showed off the AUG in video warrior combat. In the realm of Anime, the AUG would take longer to be seen than one might figure. Originally, some sites credit 1989's Riding Bean OVA has the first appearance of the AUG in Anime, however, I cannot see it when I review the OVA. It could mean, that the first appearance of the AUG could be in 1995's Gunsmith Cats. When researching the AUG within the public consciences, I read a thread from an Aussie who put things with the AUG's look and style into context. He said that while the AUG is a future gun to most of the world, to those veterans of the Australian army, it was their service rifle and the weapon they depended on in combat and in training.   

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
Gunslinger Girls is an anime and manga series that details the deeds of a team of cybernetic girls that were constructed for combat by the Italian government to deal with the right-wing  Five Republics Faction that is a threat to the Italian government via acts of terrorism. From 2002 to 2012, the Shonen manga ran in Dengeki Daioh and was developed by Yu Aida. Two anime TV series were developed in 2003 and 2008 along with a series of video games. The cyber CT girl teams uses a vast array of real-world firearms included our beloved Austrian bullpup. 
One of the cyber-girls, Angelica, uses an AUG A1 and A2 in both the HBAR and assault rifle variants along with an Steyr M9A1, TMP. She was the first cyborg developed by the "Social Welfare Agency". The cool elements of this MSF anime  that is this conversion from assault rifle to DMR to LMG is extremely rare for AUGs in media. Often one or another is seen and used, with video games being one of the media forms that allows users to switch to different variants of the AUG. In the 2008 anime sequel, Gunslinger Girls II Teatrino, Angelica switches her A1 from the standard assault rifle to the HBAR complete with 42 round magazines. Gotta love the Japanese! This is one of the only on-screen conversions of an AUG that I can find.   

The Steyr AUGs from the Call of Duty Games
While the AUG was featured in many games prior to being first seen in COD: Modern Warfare 2, the AUG has become a gun featured many times in the series of FPS games and one of the guns use a great deal in the multiplayer. The first appearance of the AUG was in 2009's COD:MW2 as the "AUG HBAR", making the AUG in the game to be really the light machine gun variety. However, in the original and remaster versions, the COD: MW2 version was a mashup of the AUG A2, the A2 HBAR-T, some elements of the A1 and even A3. 
At times, the COD: MW2 AUG has the traditional Swarovski scope or a red dot optic. It would reemerge in Black Ops, but its appearance was not accurate to actually history as the AUG was not even in prototype form in 1968 and it would not be released for another decade. There are these iron sights seen in the game were not on the original A1 weapon. It is a hot mess, but the Black Ops AUG was one of my all time favorites in the game during online play. In the two most recent modern setting COD games, the AUG Para and the classic AUG would be available for use. Oddly, in the very cool weapon customizer in the 2019 Modern Warfare, you can alter the 9mm AUG SMG Para into a regular 5.56mm AUG assault rifle.  

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
In the newest installment of 343 Industries of attempting to make HALO great again while attempting to get us to collective forgot about how unbelievably bad HALO: 5 Guardians was. While watching a review of the game, I noticed that the newest variant of the UNSC Battle Rifle from Misriah Armory, the BR75 loads from waffle-patterned magazines that look like the AUG magazine. Sadly, the BR series of burst-fire rifles is not based on the Steyr AUG, but the FAMAS and the XM8 assault rifles, but it is interesting that for years the BR series was loaded from an magazine that looked like a normal STANAG magazine, and now...waffles. The screenshot comes from this video.   

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.
Several of the rifles used by the Covenant crew were based on the F90, the update to the Aussie F88, and these were given to the production by the factory themselves. To "future up" the F90, Bowring's crew developed a rail system that was so good, Lithgow Arms, took a hard look at it. According to some sources, the F90 weapons used on the production were actually the export market civilian legal F90 Lithgow ATRAX. However, two years after the film was released, Lithgow cancelled the ATRAX bullpup rifle due to "ethical concerns". One of the reasons for the Aussie AUGs being included in the film was that ALIEN: Covenant was filmed in Australia and New Zealand.    

The Monican Rebel Sniper Rifle from the live-action Aeon Flux 2005 Film
Okay, the original Aeon Flux animated shorts on MTV's Liquid Television were odd and very cool, and the popularity of Aeon Flux caused MTV to order an TV animated show that ran for three seasons with 21 episodes total. Given this popularity and the associated style with the character and her world, Hollywood came knocking. What resulted was the unholy 2005 Aeon Flux film starring Charlize Theron as the female Monican assassin. In the "film", Sophie Okonedo plays Sithandra, another Monican agent as she is backing up Aeon during a critical moment, which was based on one of the animated shorts. In her hands is a rather odd take on the AUG. Along with Sithandra are other Monican rebel snipers armed with the same AUG-patterned "sniper rifle". 
It seems that the AUG used in the film were maybe patterned after the Steyr AUG A2 Special Receiver with a working scope attached. to add the sci-fi elements, the buttstock was reworked to be a looped expanded stock, a specially designed barrel, and painted black. One feature that caught my eye when viewing the prop was that the Monican sniper rifle was based on the AUG A2 Para 9mm due to the 9mm magazine in the prop weapon. However, IMFDB.org has the prop being based on the AUG A2 SR, which were chambered in 5.56mm. To me, given the nature of the other weapons in the 2005 film, the AUG sniper rifles could be an AirSoft copy or modified A2 Para to be an sniper rifle...for reasons? There is limited information due to the poor performance of the film and how bad the film was in general. 

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
During the 1980's, the toy gun industry reached an apex, and it was a good time to be a kid with the stores being packed with an array of plastic armories for hunting your friends in the woods. However, this did not last long...the more militaristic designed motorized water guns and toy guns were being phased out due to accidents with police mistaking these toy guns for real guns resulting in some deaths and stores being held up with toy guns. To solve this, many of the toy gun markers started to paint their toy guns in some garish unnatural colors that were the most unnatural colors that could be placed on a gun. It was shocking to me, to grow up with black toy guns and then be subjected to these garish neon-hues in the closing year of the 1980's.  
In  the 1980's, noted toy gun and water gun marker Larami  (who invented the Super Soaker in 1990) came out with a line of motorized water gun that feed from a removable magazine along with Entertech as well. These motorized water guns by these two companies were in the fashion of SMGs and pistols like the Colt 1911, the M16A2, the MAC-10, the H&K MP5, UZI, and even the RPG-7! For the Larami 1989 lineup, Larami would release a motorized water gun that looked like a compact Steyr AUG complete with waffle magazine and powered by 4 AA batteries in the handle. I actually owned one of the lime-green models that I bought from a Target store in Tulsa on Memorial and it was a cool mini-copy of the Austrian weapon. However, it was odd to me at the time that this thing actually existed. There was an orange-colored model as well that I never knew about until it came up for sale on eBay recently. Wished I still owned it. One my brother's friends, Alan, called told me that AUG stood for "Awfully Ugly Gun" when he was inspecting my water gun collection.  

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. 
While the film has been given much praise in the last few years for showing some elements of our current reality in 1987, it has also uncomfortable with the some other predictions that are still unfulfilled. This is not one of Arnold's best films, but it is memorable. When it comes to our Austrian bullpup rifle, our Austrian star does not wield one in the film, that goes to a H&K HK94, the rare civilian-legal MP5, which he used in Raw Deal as well. The AUG is used by ICS security guards, the Resistance cell fighters, and the police as well, making this weapon likely the standard issue assault rifle for the US at the fictional time, according to the film. 

Cindy and her AUG from Jackie Brown's "Chicks that Love Guns!"
In the overblown follow-up to Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, we do get to see an AUG in the lovely hands of "Cindy" for the movie-within-a-movie "Chicks That Love Guns". During the best scene in the film, Sammy J is discussing his gun business and the various guns seen in the VHS tape as they discuss to his business. According to him, the Steyr AUG is not a good seller partly due to the bullpup not being in an iconic film(!) and it is expensive. According to Quentin Tarantino, the "Chicks that Love Guns" was fully filmed and only parts were used in the final film . From the limited information on the model that used the AUG, her name is actually Julia Ervin and she was mentioned in the Deathproof credits.  

In the hands of  Det. John Schaefer from Dark Horse Predator: Concrete Jungle (1989-1990)
Before ALIENS or Predator got sequels of various quality, there were the years that fans of the films got to fill in part of that dark world via comic books. At the time, up-&-coming Chicago comic book publisher Dark Horse was able to secure the rights from 20th Century to Predator and ALIENS. The comics that would follow were some of the best and the ALIENS vs. Predator comic is better than anything done via those shitty films. In June of 1989 through March of 1990, Dark Horse would release their first Predator comic called Concrete Jungle that was written by one of the greats of comics: Mark Verheiden. The comic is set in current times with the central character being NYPD Detective John Schaefer, who is the brother of Dutch Schaefer, the Schwarzenegger character from the first film. The comic story is centered around the Yautja hunting during a hot New York summer. Schaefer was able to acquire a Yautja helmet and use during the climax battle on the streets of NYC as the hunters invade. During this street battle, Schaefer uses an illegally acquired Steyr AUG A1 from the Police heavy weapons lock-up. He would lose it during the battle. 
In the hands of Major Grace Pedersen in Combat Hospital
In 2011, the American TV network ABC aired Combat Hospital and I tuned in a few times and was impressed by this Canadian produced Global show about a combat hospital in Kandahar Providence, Afghanistan in 2006. While the show was not fully formed when the 2nd season was cancelled, it had promise. One interesting element that I noticed was that attention was paid to various uniforms, equipment, and weaponry of the various nations working at the combat hospital. In the hands of the female Aussie Major, Grace Pedersen, was an Steyr AUG A1 and it was nice to see it there given that most shows would have missed this. 

The Peacekeeper "Pulse Rifle" from the Farscape Universe
In the Farscape series, the primary directed energy weaponry of the Peacekeepers and those that acquired their armaments was the pulse rifle and pulse pistol. These were powered by Chakan oil which the Tannot root was one of primary sources of the oil. A single oil charger could power a pulse DE weapon for hundreds or even thousands bolts. The rifle of the Peacekeepers was seemingly based around the Steyr AUG with some sci-fi attachments and covering, but it seems that for the prop sci-fi DEW rifle, it based on the design and not a "futured-up" AirSoft or prop gun. I want to thank an FWS reader Leon Cranson for catching this example that I missed when the article was originally released. One of these Pulse Rifles went up for sale on a British auction site with this description: Made 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
Since 2003, Nerf has been putting out all manner of toy projectile weapons that now form a vast arsenals for playtime and "Nerf Wars". Over the years, the line has been split off into several sub-brands and such and one is a licensing agreement with the extremely popular video game Fortnite. The designs are so good that these Nerf Blasters are used by science fiction films and TV shows for their futuristic weaponry. While at my local Dallas Target, I noticed while my daughters where in the toy section a new addition to the Nerf Blaster line: an AUG...or in the case of Nerf Fortnite line: the 10-dart flywheel semi-auto B-AR. Painted up in garish red-and-white, this bulky (& noisy!) weapon looks mostly like an AUG with a few changes, including an odd-looking optical scope that has attachment rails. Of course, the AUG was added in digital form as well to the game. It is crazy to think that in 2021, there is a toy AUG in the stores. Crazy world...

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...
One of the up-and-coming Military SF franchises of the 21st century was to be Respawn's TITANFALL universe. However, the master plan of how TITANFALL was to become of the key players in the realm of military science fiction is now broken and lost. In the next installment of Military Science Fiction Oddities, FWS will examine just how odd the world of TITANFALL was and continues to be.