SASR WO Criticizes the AUSTEYR F88

Photo: Australian DoD

In a recent issue of the Australian magazine “Contact: Air, Land & Sea,” a serving Warrant Officer of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment has criticized the issue F88 assault rifle. Based on the Austrian-designed Steyr AUG, the F88 is produced domestically in Australia. Specifically, the anonymous author, writes that the weapon should be withdrawn from use.

Specifically, he mentions:

“The Steyr requires a more difficult magazine change under stress as well as diverting the operator’s eyes for a longer period while reloading, taking away valuable awareness of what is happening around him.

“The size of the butt on the Steyr is not conducive to good weapon placement into the shoulder, especially with body armour. This affects sight alignment, eye relief, cheek weld and a stable firing position with the weapon in the shoulder.

“There are a raft of other reasons, however, I will leave it there. But our soldiers, particularly our infantry, could be far better served with a new, improved, personal primary weapon system.”

Photo: Australian DoD

This isn’t really all of that big of a news flash. The SASR first adopted the M4 in 1998 after their F88s didn’t perform to expectations in 1 Squadron’s deployment to Kuwait in support of Operation Desert Thunder. However, prior to this, the unit had been modifying M16s left over from Viet Nam service to serve as carbines. Unfortunately, the guns were old and not really intended for the in-house mods and were not as reliable as purpose built guns. The Squadron’s complaints made their way back to the Australian Department of Defence who sent out a team of Infantry requirements officers. At the time, they thought perhaps they could modify the F88 to perform as well as the M4A1 SOPMOD being carried by the Australian contingent’s American counterparts. Not long after this came the Picatinny rail section add-ons for the AUSTEYR. But, ultimately, Australian special operators got their M4s and the rest of the ADF kept the F88. Since then, the issue has festered.

Regardless, it is always interesting when a service member of the SASR speaks out about operational capabilities or the lack thereof.

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6 Responses to “SASR WO Criticizes the AUSTEYR F88”

  1. Dev says:

    Common fact.

    There’s a few reasons why the SASR use the M16/M4 family.

  2. Dev says:

    Sorry, I’ll elaborate.

    For starters, the Austeyrs are not STANAG compatible, despite the plastic magazines easier to maintain and keep from rusting.

    Secondly, fixing the standard in-service night aiming device requires an Allen key (which is very easy to misplace), an adapter bracket, and awkward unscrewing and rescrewing (again, easy to misplace).

    Thirdly, related to the above, the bullpup design prevents modularity. The M203 version, despite almost identical to the standard Austeyr, does not allow for interchangeability of parts. The latest service version despite incorporating a picatinny rail, only allows for the interchangeability of scopes and sights, nothing more.

    Fourth, the standard sight is useless at night, and the backup sights, despite having tritium, is next to useless at night.

    Lastly, i’ve heard (anecdotal evidence) that the Austeyr is built to lower quality standards compared to the Austrian version. I have, however, never used the Austraian version before.

  3. JT says:

    I think pretty much all bullpups suffer from user-friendliness issues.

    I’m in the Singapore Armed Forces reserves and have transitioned from the M16 to the SAR21. The bullpup configuration has never felt right. I’ve ran into a variety of problems ranging from not being able to reload quickly at night coz I can’t see anything, to getting my sleeve cuff caught while inserting a mag. Most of my peers who had used the M16 before transitioning to the bullpup agrees.

    I can’t comment on the Austyer F88s nor the AUGs because I’ve never shot both, but having used both the AR and bullpup platforms, my preference is towards the former.

  4. tomaso says:

    time will tell…id bet bullpups will be the future….but moving from a standard mag in front weapon to a bullpup is going to be an issue.

    ergonomics of a bullpup arnt different enough to exclude them…and the fact that you can have a 16″ barrel in the same Length rifle as a 7″ barreled M4 speaks pretty loudly.

    the only real negative with a bullpup is coplexity…having the trigger and controls forward of the breach takes extra parts.

    Its funny how many complain about mag changes in a bullpup…for i have seen many a green horn fight to get the mag in an M4 style plaform..practice makes just matters were you start.

  5. gman says:

    The standard optic sight that has a large thick reticle in the centre that obscures targets at 200m, and completely covers them at 300m. Not to mention the practice of zeroing from the prone unsupoorted. Urgh

  6. Ben says:

    Another point that was raised to me on an Australian Army Cadet weapons course was that during river crossings, a non-bullpup design was more practical as it was easier to keep the action out of the water whilst mataining the ability to fire. It’s also due to the logistics of often operating of US bases, easier to accuire mags, parts, etc