CLASSIC ARMY: Steyr AUG A1

When approached to test and write an article about Classic Army Steyr AUG A1 by kind folks of ASG I certainly jumped at opportunity. ActionSport Games has close ties with Classic Army and were kind enough to lend a specimen to test it out. Regardless, this test is -hopefully- free of bias and as objective as possible. This said, who is ASG?

ActionSportGames A/S was founded in April 2003 as a merger of the two largest suppliers of Air Soft Guns and accessories, Pedersen & Grobelnik A/S (founded 1992) and Vestergaard ApS (founded 1960).ActionSportGames A/S is specialized in development, distribution, sales and marketing of 1:1 scale Air Soft Guns and all related accessories of own brands and most of the established brand names.
ActionSportGames A/S is the exclusive worldwide licenses for the following firearm manufacturers ArmaLite Inc., Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ), Steyr Arms, Austria Cobray Company, Eagle Arms, USA, STI International,Franchi S.p.A., Br?gger & Thomet AG, Arsenal Inc., Zastava Arms, DSA Inc.
ActionSportGames and Classic Army have a worldwide co-operation agreement. In Europe ActionSportGames A/S holds the exclusive distribution rights in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, Austria, United Kingdom, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, Luxembourg, Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Steyr AUG
Bullpup is relatively old concept (first weapon on this platform was introduced in 1901- without much success, truth to be told), where trigger mechanism is located in front of the magazine. This permits longer barrel with compact measures. Modern mechanized warfare with cramped interiors of fighting vehicles dictates increased use of bullpup concept. Which is true in theory, but bullpup concept has some glaring deficiencies. Most often criticized problem is shell ejection (left hand dominant shooters will receive hot brass in the face). Other relevant criticism is sluggish trigger pull, because of mechanism design with rod. Other problems are poor balance and awkward magazine change, among others. Most popular designs are French GIAT Famas, Belgian Fabrique Nationale P90 and FN2000, British Enfield SA80, Israeli IMI TAVOR, Singaporean ST Kinetics SA21, Austrian Steyr AUG, Chinese QBZ-95 and others. On purely human, subjective level: some swear by this concept as savior of modern rifle engineering, others hate it with passion.

The Steyr AUG (Armee Universal Gewehr – Universal Army Rifle) was developed by Steyr-Mannlicher AG & Co KG as replacement for FN FAL, which was at the time battle rifle of Austrian Army. It was adopted in 1977 with official designation of Stg.77 (German designation for Assault rifle, model of 1977). AUG is one of the most commercially successful recognizable and popular bullpup rifles, adopted by armed forces of Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and others. It is also used by various law enforcement agencies worldwide. Not to mention Karl, the European terrorist (from Die Hard)…

Steyr Arms homepage describes AUG A1:
The Steyr AUG A1 is a gas operated semi- and fully automatic assault rifle with locked actions, quick changeable barrel and integrated optical sight. The” Bull Pup” design makes it a short, handy rifle with high reliability and accuracy. The AUG is famous for its modular concept which permits field stripping into the main groups within a few seconds. The AUG is the standard weapon of many armed forces and special units around the world since 1977.

Classic Army Steyr AUG A1
AUG replicas are no stranger to airsoft world. Classic airsoft replicas aside, Tokyo Marui presented versions TM AUG A1 and A2 (with flattop receiver; also named Special Receiver Type; some just love to call it “Civilian Type”). Several critical flaws of Marui AUG models became apparent during skirmish use.

Classic Army has made a very serious commitment to deliver quality airsoft replicas from the box. I remember first and second series of their Armalite (Colt) series, which were sub par in every aspect. However, they have learned that unreliable product hurts good name of the company and sales. Replicas, announced and consequently released in last two years are quality-wise, price-wise and performance-wise one of the best options for new or seasoned airsoft player. Business plan is simple: take Tokyo Marui product, address the flaws and offer customers additional value with only little increase in overall cost. How does Classic Army Steyr AUG A1 fare, than?

Visual inspection and parts description
“Space age” shape aside; this is visually very pleasant replica. Body is made out of dark green, textured polymer, which is much more pleasant to hold than Marui’s. Outer metal parts are: outer barrel with flash hider, back and rear sling mounts, upper receiver with scope, take down latch.
Markings are becoming more and more important issue in airsoft. CA AUG A1 does not disappointed: it has discrete CA markings (Classic Army; Hong Kong; AUG) on the butt and not so discrete Steyr Arms marking near the ejection port. Sadly, this replica does not have individual serial number. However, just in time of preparing this article Classic Army announced that new series of CA AUG A1 will in fact come with individual serial number.

Body is made out of two polymer shells, bolted together. Attention to details is great- no sharp edges. Overall, this is one sturdy replica- no rattle and only slight movement of upper receiver, due to fast take down feature (more on that later). Only thing I’m not entirely sure about is the fore grip- it has some lateral wiggle which worries me. This was well known problem with Marui AUG and I’m not entirely convinced that CA will stand test of time. Truth to be told, I snapped Marui in first skirmish, whereas CA is still holding strong after third. And no, I’m not going it to try snapping it. Again, be cautious.

When checking preproduction model on IWA 2006 I was impressed with optical sight. I was also doubtful- in order of keeping the cost as low as possible it will be hard for manufacturer to keep high quality in production run. Long story short, I was wrong. Build in 1,5x magnification optical sight has impressively clear picture, with cross and circle reticle. Size of circle is no coincidence, since it is used for basic range estimation: a man sized target that fits in the circle would be about 250 meters away. Top of the optics housing has cast back up iron sights, intended for shorter engagement distances (MOUT). Holes for luminous (glow in the dark) paint are drilled, but empty. Add them yourself, target acquisition time will drastically shorten.

Trigger mechanism is something special- in a very good way, that is. There is no fire selector lever. Two stage trigger design allows precise fire control with simple squeeze of the trigger: first stage (shallow press, half centimeter) allows semi auto fire, fully depressed trigger it is full auto. Thankfully (and another problem with TM AUG solved) Classic Army AUG has very clearly pronounced “step” between semi- and full auto. Soft “click” denotes that you are entering full auto country. Safety is engaged by lateral push trough lever. When engaged, it digs into your (index) finger and it takes only fraction of the second to disengage it and open fire. System is extremely clever and well thought out and designed to give user a split second advantage when reacting to threat.

Battery compartment is hidden under thick rubber butt plate. There is only enough space to store a small-type battery. That was major turn-off in the past, with small 600 mAh batteries, which lasted couple of HiCaps most. However, this is today a moot point, since new, high(er) capacity batteries are more and more common. Butt plate is very securely attached to the butt, which that means that it is relatively stiff and you need a good set of fingernails to pry it off. Battery compartment also stores fuse and fuse housing.

Magazine is made out of semi transparent plastic material, which allows you to check how much ammo you have left. AUG magazines have ribbed (“waffle”) surface. They are wider than Armalite magazines, which means storing problems with tactical equipment, intended for M16 Type magazines.
Magazine is despite plastic appearance very sturdy. At this point I’d like to commend HiCap (past experiences with Marui were traumatic). HiCap magazine with capacity 330 BBs was working flawlessly and reliable out of the box. Its hatch closes with reassuring click, which prevents accidental opening. Markings on the magazine (10,20,30) denote number of rounds left. This is purely cosmetic, however, but you can judge number of BBs in HiCap magazine just by glancing.

Magazine catch is ribbed and big, hidden at the bottom of the mag well. Design prevents accidental discharge of the magazine (FAMAS, I’m looking at you!).
Inserting is very simple and straight forward. Think M16-style of insertation (means straight into the well). Magazine catch secures magazine with loud “click,” which denotes that magazine is properly seated. Magazine catch is positioned in central position and easily acessable. Also, you won’t be loosing your magazines across the simulated battle field (again looking at general direction of FAMAS!)

And now something that really bothers me. Magazine has 2-3 mm lateral movement in the mag well. It doesn’t interfere with function, but it gives an unpleasant feeling that magazine is not secured. Despite Marui having has similar problem, this is not an excuse. As expected, magazines are fully compatible with Marui’s.

HopUp is accessed through ejection port. Secured cocking handle reveals rotary dial and HopUp adjustment is matter of simple adjustment. Marui AUG HopUp has annoying tendency to loosen itself over a day in the field, and CA seems to corrected this problem- it won’t come undone, even after couple of day-night skirmishes. Sadly, the hop up chamber is plastic. HopUp is known weak point of Marui AUG and users regularly report of broken units. Metal -even if it means higher price- would be much better decision on CA’s part.

Most brilliant feature of Steyr AUG is quick barrel assembly swapping. Guess what? As with Marui AUG, Classic Army’s engineers also reproduced this feature. In order to remove barrel assembly you should:

1. pull back cocking handle and lock it in the back position
2. press barrel lock lever and rotate barrel assembly 20 degrees counterclockwise.
3. Firmly pull barrel assembly out of the upper receiver. Be careful- this will reveal the (plastic) HopUp chamber. Be extra careful not to damage it!

Assembly is performed in opposite order. Closer inspection of outer barrel reveals that it is actually made out of two pieces- metal and plastic. Here is a little idea for guys at CA- please introduce various length barrels, ranging from Commando (305mm) to Carbine (407 mm) and Light support weapon barrel with bipod (621 mm). Airsoft players will be delighted with additional choice.

Receiver takedown is again very simple matter of pushing the button (actually, it is a takedown lever). It is very stiff at the first, later it will soften up. First couple of times just use enough force (or blunt instrument) to move it one centimeter (in will click into position). Be careful not to over press it- you will spend 10 minutes aligning small metal plate and lever.
Next step is again simple pull out of upper receiver and that is it. This concludes regular, maintenance takedown, which you’ll make 99% percent of the time.
I tried to use Marui’s upper receiver on CA’s replica with no success. It seems that the measures are 1-2mm off, which prevented me from combination of green furniture with flattop upper receiver.

As we already discussed, ambidexterity is very important feature in bullpup designed weapons (and replicas!). CA AUG has all the features from the original:

– rear sling mount can be moved from left to right, since it is locked in place with toothed washer (front sling mount is already in central position)
– rubber port cover can be easily swapped from left to right.

As discussed, all other levers are designed in such way that left/right hand dominant shooters won’t have problem adapting.

Shooting
Please observe all security precautions when using airsoft replicas. Use them in designated place and take all safety precautions. Again it shines in ergonomy- AUG is “linear” gun in it takes very little effort to align in general direction of the target. Bullpup also proved to be very handy in thick undergrowth- just as advertised.
Quick magazine change is possible, but it will take some practice. As discussed somewhere at the beginning of this article, bullpups have sluggish triggers. CA AUG is no exception, with added bonus of being AEG replica, where such problems are more pronounced due to concept of AEGs.
Overall shortness and long barrel guarantee that shots at 40 meters will land in 30×30 cm area.

Chrono
We chronoed replica in brand new condition, out of the box. High initial speeds can partially be attributed to this, but more on that later on. For testing purposes we used:

– Custom Cronograph X Radar for chronometer
– Classic Army .20g BB
– fully charged GP 1100mAh 8,4V NiMh battery.

Testing protocol: 10 consecutive shots will yield average speed. As this type of Chronograph permits reading of ROF we also collected this data with 5 consecutive series of three second bursts.

Individual shots (in fps 343, 343, 343, 347, 342, 347, 342, 346, 348, 349) gave high average of 345 fps. Measuring rate of fire gave similarly interesting numbers. Five series of 3 second burst (14,13,15,15,15) gave (theoretical) average of 14,4 BBs per second, which is expected.

Conclusion? Surprisingly high initial speeds. So high, in fact, that X Radar was accused of misreading. Quick check of CA MP5 gave accurate reading of 312 fps (which is correct speed for said replica). However, this statistics is only half of required data. This data would be even more interested with follow up reading in six months time to see just how much fps were lost due to weakening of the spring.

Internal inspection
We decided to open up and take a closer look at gearbox of CA AUG A1; mainly because to inspect for any visible wear and tear after approximately 5000 fired BBs. We didn’t spare it: we fired long bursts (100 BBs and more). 5000 shots is relatively low, however any hidden mistakes on the gearbox (mostly wear and tear of the most stressed parts) would become apparent.

Takedown
Take this steps ONLY of you feel confident enough in what you are doing. Otherwise, don’t open your gearbox and save yourself a big heap of problems. Again, safety precaution: make sure you know what you are doing and don’t loose anything.

Getting to the gearbox is fairly uncomplicated. You have to unscrew battery compartment plate, which locks gearbox into position. Ocassionaly check this screws, because they assure proper working of the gearbox. Slowly pry gearbox out of the body. It is tight fit, but it is possible.

Good old V3 gearbox (arguably the best design of all) is revealed. AUG gearbox seems visually most appealing of all CA V3 gearboxes and I’ve seen my share of them (CA36, SLR105). This is maybe irrelevant but this is the cleanest, best die casted of them all. No visible seams, dull metal color. 6 screws and top plate later we are observing exposed gearbox. We were mostly looking for traces of wear and tear and therefore concentrated on following:

– how well are moving parts lubed
– wear and tear of the piston
– wear and tear of gears.

In the past CA has serious issues with properly lubing of gearboxes. They were either over lubed (means that moving parts were having trouble moving) or under lubed (more friction, more wear and tear). This problem is now solved and Classic Army’s QC deserves two thumbs up. Proper amount of grease on strategic places assures problem and wear free working of the gearbox.
Piston is from “yellow” series, and very similar to Systema’s pistons. I have extensive experience with this version of pistons (first few series were ridden with problems, which were later ironed out). There is slight wear on the toothing, but nothing major.
Gears seems excellent. Since they are advertised as “steel” any trace of wear would be surprise. And no surprise, no wear was to be found. As all late series of CA gears they are stamped as with letters CA.

I’m tempted to write more about the gearbox, but there is really not much to be said. It works, and it works perfectly.

The End
Perfect replica? There is no such thing. Very good replica? Definitely. Better than Marui? I was never into CA or Marui bashing and I’m not to start with one now. Read this article again and make your own conclusion. My is- it is at least as good as Marui, but not without its own share of (possible) problems.
Not to mention that CA is only manufacturer with rights to use Steyr name and vastly more important, only manufacturer of A1 version, since Tokyo Marui stopped production of this model.

Test item was provided by ActionSportGames.com

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