I recently reviewed the new U.S. version of the Steyr AUG/A3. At the time I noted that Microtech Small Arms Research (MSAR), which has spent several years rolling out its “STG-556” AUG clone, would probably retain a pricing and innovation edge over Steyr. During the recession MSAR cut its wholesale price from above $1400 to $1050. Then, in just the last few weeks, MSAR dumped their entire inventory on distributors at even lower rates, allegedly because they are moving their operations from Bedford, Pennsylvania to Raleigh, North Carolina.
Since I was already thinking about getting another receiver or barrel, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to get an entire bullpup carbine for under $1100. Following are observations on the fourth-generation STG-556 I purchased, shown here below my Steyr AUG/A3 USA.
I was struck by a number of small but clever improvements MSAR has made to the AUG design:
- The MSAR 16″ barrel uses 1:8 rifling, which is sufficient to stabilize up to 77gr bullets. (The AUG only comes with 1:9 twist, which is marginal for bullets over 70gr.)
- The MSAR is more than half a pound lighter than the AUG/A3.
- The MSAR has quick-detach sling loops on both the receiver and the stock pin. (In contrast, the AUG’s front sling loop is held in by a coil pin so it cannot be easily removed when not in use. Its rear loop can be switched from side to side by removing the entire stock pin, but cannot be completely removed.)
- The MSAR stock has two QD sling loop attachment points molded into the stock, underneath the pistol grip and under the toe.
- The MSAR trigger pack actually locks into the stock. You have to press the bolt catch to release it. (The AUG’s trigger pack just falls out.)
The MSAR beats the Steyr not only on price but also with these design enhancements. The only two things the AUG has going for it are (1) the support and reputation of Steyr-Mannlicher, and (2) the fact that it has met the production and performance standards of many professional militaries for many decades.
- A new MSAR is tighter than a new AUG in a several dimensions: You actually need the help of the recoil spring to get the receiver to pop out of the stock during disassembly. And magazines do not drop free when released unless nearly fully loaded.
- The MSAR bolt locks open on an empty magazine, after which it can only be closed using the bolt catch just above the magazine release. In contrast, the AUG bolt can also be released using the slide-cocking handle.
- The Gen-4 MSAR has no forward assist. The AUG’s slide-cocking handle can be used as a forward assist.
- Sadly, like the AUG, the standard STG-556 barrels use metric muzzle threads, so you’ll have to buy an adapter to use your American suppressors.
Important notes when purchasing an STG:
- MSAR’s fourth generation starts with serial number 6500. MSAR has manufactured at least five thousand Gen4 STG-556 guns.
- Earlier STG-556 versions have a Stoner-style Forward Assist (“FA”) and some compatibility problems. Therefore I would avoid serial numbers lower than 6500.
- Don’t confuse the STG-556 with MSAR’s STG-E4. The E4 is a Gen4 variant compatible with AR-15 magazines — quite like the Steyr NATO conversion I described previously. It comes with many more rail mounting positions and runs at least another $250.
- The Gen4 STG-556 works with AUG magazines. (It also appears to work with Steyr’s NATO conversion kit, although I only confirmed that its receiver fits in mine; I haven’t test fired it.)
- It ships from the factory with 5 MSAR magazines.
- MSAR STG-556 magazines do not work with AUGs without some extra machining.