September 15, 2010

Steyr Arms SSG69 PII 308 Winchester, $1899

Tactical bolt-action rifles are pretty easy to spot. Typically, they utilize a composite stock with pronounced pistol grip, oversize bolt handle and fire from a heavy barrel. The military models are camouflage or earth tone in color, and the law-enforcement models are usually black. Accuracy, strength, and simplicity are key attributes. Can a tactical rifle serve as a hunting rifle? We're not saying one can't. It's just that a tactical rifle typically weighs more than a hunting model. The heavy barrel enhances the ability to maintain accuracy throughout repeat fire and excessive heat.

In addition, tactical rifles tend to be more suitable for longer distance shots and offer ergonomics that favor the prone position or other means of support. Compared to hunting rifles that feature adornments such as engravings or fancy wood, the tactical rifle is stark and businesslike. In this test, we evaluated a 308 Winchester aimed at the law-enforcement market and the $1899 Steyr Arms SSG69 PII 308 Winchester.

Its flat-black Parkerized 25.6-inch barrel was the longest of the trio, and its muzzle was double-crowned, recessed and polished. The outer edge of the muzzle was beveled about 45 degrees. This contour was designed to reduce the chance of foliage grabbing on and perhaps fouling the bore. The top of the Parkerized steel action was milled to accommodate a quick detachable scope mount (supplied). The bolt handle was oversized, and the throw was short and positive. The action was housed in a one-piece synthetic stock that was understated if not somewhat ominous in appearance. It gave off a hollow sound when we tapped on it. But before we could be turned off by this characteristic, we began to appreciate what this stock had to offer. The sides of the stock from the inlet for the bolt handle forward were nearly vertical. Checkering was molded in along the first 10 inches of fore end. The barrel was distinctively floated, leaving a gap of about 0.10 inches between the fore end and the barrel. The tip of the fore end was fit with a sling loop that swiveled a full 360 degrees beneath the barrel. The bottom side of the fore end was fit with an internal rail suitable for mounting another sling stud or attachment for a bipod. The rail was long enough to mount multiple accessories. Given the long barrel, we think the SSG69 PII was the best bet for some really long shots, and this rail could also be used to mount a thumb stop for competitive shooting.

Steyr Arms SSG69 PII 308 Winchester

The SSG69 PII offered sophistication and simplicity. The long barrel helps produce additional velocity, favoring longer-distance applications.

The pistol grip was liberally checkered, flaring outward at the cap on the lower end. The comb of the buttstock was flat rather than raised and neutral in profile from the comb downward. But the left side of the stock was relieved with a channel and connecting point for a sling. A sling the width of one inch or less should fit flush, but this could still interfere with the cheek of a right-handed shooter. The buttpad consisted of a plastic mount covered by a thin convex layer of rubber. Nevertheless, we rated shock absorption as being adequate. Beneath the buttpad were three shims that meshed to produce a maximum length of pull (LOP) measuring about 13.8 inches. Each shim added about 0.33 inches to LOP. We tried removing all three shims and replacing the buttpad, but the two slot head screws that held the butt pad in place were too long and protruded from the rear. Shorter screws were not supplied, so a trip to the hardware store would be called for to solve this.

Steyr Arms SSG69 PII 308 Winchester

Thanks to three removable shims, length-of-pull adjustment was substantial. But shorter mounting screws would be necessary for securing the buttpad at minimum length.

The safety was located directly behind the arm of the bolt on the righthand side of the receiver. It had a rather long, hard throw to it, at least before any break-in that might ease its movement. The motion was back for Safe, exposing a white dot, and forward to Fire, leaving a red dot visible on the receiver. The rear half of the lever-face was lined and raised to accept being pushed. The forward half was scalloped to create a hook-like surface so it could be pulled more easily to the rear. Safety-on not only seized the trigger but also locked down the bolt. Once in action, movement of the bolt was piston like, short and smooth. There was really no way to be sloppy with this bolt or bind its motion by jerking it up, down, or side to side. Removing the bolt required dropping the magazine and clearing the chamber. With the safety in the fire position, the bolt was pulled to the rear. Pressing the trigger released the bolt. Installing the bolt was as simple as re-inserting it into its channel.

Steyr Arms SSG69 PII 308 Winchester

The two-position safety featured separate contours for pushing forward to Fire (shown) and pulling back to the Safe position. The red dot signifies the Steyr is ready to fire. Note the removable scope mount secured to the top rail with two set screws to the rear. Another pair of screws was seated at the forward end of the mount.

The Steyr featured a two-stage trigger which, as delivered, presented about 3.75 pounds of resistance. The weight of the trigger pull could be adjusted by turning a screw located directly behind the trigger. The owner's manual warns that too light a trigger pull may cause unintentional discharge. The amount of slack in the take-up of the trigger can also be adjusted by turning the screw located on the front of the trigger. Too little slack could also produce an unintentional discharge. We liked the trigger as delivered. There was plenty of feel and feedback from the moment of taking up slack to the point of let-off.

It is common to point to characteristics such as rate of barrel twist when explaining that one rifle or another is better with say, lighter bullets rather than heavy ones. Certainly the Steyr hammer-forged barrel did its job, but we think the consistent trigger rich with feedback was the reason why all three of our factory-loaded rounds with bullets ranging in weight from 165 grains to 180 grains produced five-shot groups measuring between 0.8 inches and 0.9 inches across. Our handloaded ammunition did underline the Steyr's preference for medium- to heavier-weight bullets. The 150-grain bullets printed about a 1.2-inch wide group on average. But our 165-grain handloads delivered groups measuring 0.5 inches and 0.6 inches across.

Comments (11)

@PVB~ Hey brother! Glad to see you still hanging around! GT hasn't been the same since they changed their site and format. I sure miss the great discussions we had with the old school fella's such as yourself, the Colonel and Lee W (aka Gaviota). Seen any of those old goats lately? Regards!


Posted by: gunsdontkill | January 16, 2015 2:33 PM    Report this comment

I bought one in the early '80s. What a joke. We soon started calling them "crew served weapons". Three of us were shooting 3 of these all bought following positive write-ups in national publications. None of them grouped well. Getting 3-5" groups at 100 yds. was common. Even one fitted with a Kahles 8X scope (THE scope of the era, for serious shooters) grouped poorly. Off the shelf Remington M700s with Leupold scopes shot better than this internationally known set up.
Worse was it often took two people to work the bolt. The barrel is not screwed into the receiver, it is a press fit. That extra long front receiver ring was said to be adequate. Except there was so much bolt compression that one man had to hold the rifle, while a second man moved the bolt. Contrary to gun magazines of the era, the three SSG69s at the range proved that you should never trust a gun magazine. Same goes for the HK M1 121 shotgun. Junk.

Posted by: Kivaari | January 8, 2015 8:46 PM    Report this comment

I am not a fan of plastic trigger guards or plastic magazine parts. Maybe I am just old fashioned. I guess I am old fashioned as only one of the 6 rifles I own is younger than I am.
That said Steyr makes outstanding weapons and in the right situation I am sure these would make outstading hunting rifles.

Posted by: Fletchman | January 8, 2015 5:15 PM    Report this comment

I have a Steyr Mannlicher Model M Professional in 30.06. I had and sold a Model L in 243 Win. Both had the plastic trigger guards which deteriorated and broke, probably due to the solvents and oil that I used. The plastic rotary magazines broke, I assume for the same reason. Additionally, while elk hunting in deep snow and sub-freezing weather, I took a tumble and got snow in the receiver. I thought I had cleared the snow but later the cylindrical bolt was frozen closed. While both are sub-moa rifles, I would not recommend any Steyr bolt action rifle with these plastic parts. In my older age, I have learned to stick with proven designs like a Mauser, Sako, Remington, etc.

Posted by: gibo | January 8, 2015 3:07 PM    Report this comment

The 165 gr boatail bullet is my favorite.
I use it in all my 30cal rifles.

Posted by: studejong | September 17, 2010 8:15 AM    Report this comment

Good point on the rings Barry - I forgot to mention that one.

Posted by: PVB | September 17, 2010 6:14 AM    Report this comment

The only complaint I have ever had is the 1 inch rings that came with rifle were in fact 26 MM. After my first match I found myself with some brass shim stock to fix the problem, I still use them. I have in fact used the iron sights after falling backwards, with the rifle slung on my ruck, landing on it after falling about 6 feet. The scope was busted real good, but I killed several more Black Tail with the iron sights.

Posted by: Barry W | September 17, 2010 1:18 AM    Report this comment

My Son and I once visited Jeff Cooper on his training ranch, he showed us one of his Scout Rifles down stairs in his Gun Room VAULT!

When we were leaving he put his arm around Michael's shoulder "Your Dad is quite a nice Guy, despite his penchant for that pip sqeek calibre, the 9mm"

Posted by: Scouse | September 16, 2010 4:58 PM    Report this comment

I 've always wanted one of these after I read an article years ago, by Jeff Cooper/Guns & Ammo
I think, where he hit a 5 gallon can at a mile like 12 times out of 20 shots in .308.

Posted by: WADE M | September 16, 2010 2:30 PM    Report this comment

I have a P-I from years ago, which differs in barrel profile. The P-I has a tapered barrel and comes with iron sights. Its main limitation is the lack of aftermarket products. I find the iron sights are pretty ineffective, but few shooters are using it without a scope anyway. The trigger guard is made of plastic, which is susceptible to deterioration from some cleaning chemicals and over-torquing of screws. U.S. Optics makes a 20 MOA Picatinny rail, and I found them a pleasure to deal with. McMillan makes a stock, though only in the A-3 profile.

It is an awesome rifle out of the box, though if you are looking for something to trick out with gadgets, buy something else. Be careful with your solvents.

Posted by: PVB | September 16, 2010 12:44 PM    Report this comment

Working for Steyr, in Ontario Canada, selling the AUG in Semi-Auto to tactical teams, I was given a Rifle that was turned back from the USA, less than 16" Brl. A tinny smigen! But enough. The flash hider was tig welded as a temp; measure, but was not picked up! Blew off on the 50th shot, WOW! cutme over the eye, the company rep in Austria panicked, wanted a full report, he almost fainted when my report was "put band aid on it" fixed it, it was a tack driver. I sold it, because it was a bonus.

Posted by: Scouse | September 16, 2010 10:02 AM    Report this comment

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