September 2010

Bullpup Showdown: Steyr AUG Vs. MSAR and the FN FS2000

These carbines are famous for their fast-handling qualities, but they take some getting used to, our team said. Is one of these $2,000 5.56x45mm rifles a good buy for you? Perhaps.

There are certainly some aspects of the bullpup rifle that make sense. For instance, the shorter overall length of the bullpup, gained by having the action and magazine located behind the trigger in the buttstock, improves maneuverability and reduces weight. Overall, a bullpup is about three-quarters the length of other battle rifles and is often lighter, two attributes many firearms consumers want. The Steyr AUG, one of the best-known bullpups, is 28 inches long, just 10 inches longer than its 18.4-inch barrel. In a more conventional rifle, such as the Ruger Mini-Thirty, a standard semiauto action housing an 18-inch-long barrel makes the gunís OAL 37.5 inches. On an M4-length AR-15, such as the Stag Arms Model 2T 5.56x45mm NATO with its 16-inch barrel, that overall length can still stretch out to 32.25 inches. So if youíre worried about knocking over lamps, a bullpup may be the way to go.

But which one? We recently tested a trio of bullpups that we were prepared to like because, in part, they are cool: the Steyr AUG/A3 SA USA Bullpup Rifle 5.56x45mm NATO-223 Remington, $2000, the U.S.-market semiauto version of the full-auto AUG; an AUG clone, the Microtech Small Arms Research (MSAR) STG-556 5.56x45mm NATO-223 Remington, $1750; and the non-AUG-inspired FN FS2000 Tactical 5.56x45mm NATO-223 Remington, $1995.

We got the lightly used MSAR and FN at Collectorís Firearms in Houston (, [877] 214-9327), and the prices cited for them are what were on their hang tags. The FN and MSAR were both in "excellent condition" according to the Collectorís descriptions. A new MSAR at Collectorís ran $1895, and a "like new" FS2000 with its shipping box and other items was the same price as our FN test gun, $1995. Our Steyr was NIB, and we averaged five retail sources to arrive at the price we listed. In any case, we didnít assess any cosmetic downgrades on the two rentals because they werenít new, nor did we award any advantages for the AUG because it came with a case and other items common to new guns.

In many respects, this test could be called AUG vs. FN, since the Steyr is the fraternal twin brother of the MSAR. Though all three are bullpups, they arrive at their work destination in two different ways. One of the problems with AUG-bullpups is, that without modification, the ejection ports would send spent cartridge casings into the face of a left-handed shooter. In contrast, the FS2000ís design pushes spent casings out a port on the front of the rifle. But the bolt and ejection-port cover can be reversed in the AUG/MSAR, making them suitable for lefties.

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