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The eternal debate rages on about just how useful the bullpup design is in modern firearms. Some people really like it, especially those who need a compact firearm for close quarters fighting. Some people also really hate it, usually those who need to hit things at a slightly longer distance. While the discussion continues, a number of countries have already adopted bullpup style rifles for their military, and today I would like to present you with one of the lesser-known examples. No, it’s not The Stig Steyer Aug, it’s his Singaporean cousin the SAR 21.

There are some definite similarities between this rife and the Austrian wundergun, but there are some major differences as well. Whether they are improvements, though, is up to you.

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The most obvious difference is the charging handle. Where the AUG or the Tavor has the charging handle on the left side of the gun, the SAR 21 places it in the middle, more like the G36 rifle. It also borrows the concept of a floppy design for the actual handle bit from the G36, allowing either left or right handed shooters to get a good grip. However, unlike the G36 the SAR 21’s handle doesn’t seem to want to snap back into line when you release it. The G36’s handle has a tendency to wobble like a flaccid penis and eventually come to rest in the middle of the gun, but the SAR 21’s handle just sits there staring at you.

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Difference #2 is the sighting system. The SAR 21 comes with a fixed power integrated scope and a distinct lack of rail space for anything else. The design is almost identical to the original AUG, but ever since 1982 the later edition (the AUG A2) features a Picatinny rail instead of the scope. The SAR 21 was designed in the mid-1990s so they were well aware of the change, but decided to go with the fixed scope anyway.

A nice feature of this fixed scope is the addition of a set of iron sights along the top of the tube. You don’t really notice them unless you are looking for them, but they could prove useful if the scope is damaged or the target is too close.

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The last major difference is in the forend. Instead of just having a slim handguard, the designers fitted the rifle with an integrated laser. The aperture is on the right side of the barrel (bottom in this picture) and the battery compartment is easily accessible on the left. Unfortunately, while the charging handle is more ambidextrous than the AUG, there’s only one activation pad for the laser and it is on the left side of the gun. Lefties might have a hard time hitting that.

Enough with the good, now for the bad.

The gun feels like a cheap knock-off of a mainstream bullpup. The quality of the plastic reminds me of the cheap “Made in China” toys that you’d buy in the morning and would be broken in time for lunch. It’s not exactly the high-quality polymer that we’re used to in the United States. That cheap feeling continues in almost every aspect of the gun, from the magazine to the trigger and even the sights. It feels like a gun that was designed and built in the early 1980s, not 1999.

Out on the range, however, the gun does have its appeal. Specifically, the gun has an extremely slow rate of fire in fully automatic mode — and by “slow” I mean somewhere in the 500 rounds per minute range. The Thompson SMG is my yardstick when it comes to cyclic rates of fire, and this thing is 100 rounds slower than that gun. It makes for an exceptionally easy to control firearm and excellent accuracy in fully automatic mode.

Switching between full auto and semi auto, however, is very awkward. The safety selector is a cross-bar design by the trigger guard, but the fire control selector is in the buttstock of the gun. So to switch from semi to full, you need to take the gun off your shoulder and push the cross-bar style fire selector with your weapon hand. Definitely not something you’re gunna do in the middle of a fight, so I would just leave it on full auto.

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There’s no doubt that the SAR 21 is an ugly duckling. The crappy looking plastic combined with the awkward controls and odd choice of an integrated laser sight drop it straight out of my list of desirable rifles, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its charm. A slow rate of fire is something I enjoy, and for that I’m grateful. I just wish the package was better thought out. Thankfully Singapore is coming out with an updated version that fixes all these gripes and more, but there’s no word on when exactly that will happen. Soon, hopefully.

Singapore Technologies SAR 21

Specifications:

Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Barrel: 20 inches
Size: 31.7 inches
Weight: 8.42 lbs empty
Capacity: 30 round magazines
MSRP: $???

Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
All ratings are relative compared to the other weapons in the gun’s category.

Accuracy: * * * *
A slow rate of fire makes for an accurate machine gun.

Ergonomics: *
Ugh.

Ergonomics Firing: * * *
Awkward to hold, but the slow rate of fire makes it easy to hold on.

Customization:
There is literally no way to customize the gun. I haven’t even been able to find replacement magazines.

Overall Rating: *
It’s cool to see it from a “hey look at this obscure object” perspective, but it’s definitely not my favorite thing in the world.

33 Responses to Gun Review: SAR 21

    • That’s what I look for in a gun review, a floppy penis reference. I guess that means it’s long enough to flop.

      But it’s a bullpup, which means that the barrel is recessed within the body of the weapon. So that would made it a grower vs. a shower. Right?

      Am I over-thinking this?

      • No, I don’t think so.

        Fact: RF & the TTAG writers (as well as the NRA, NSSF, et al) are all trying to recruit more women into the shooting sports.

        Fact: Lots of anti-gun writers liken gun users’ hobby to men’s obsession with their penis.

        So… add in the following analysis and you get what we have here: floppy weiners being marketed to women as “non-threatening.”

        • That is quite true, it is indeed non-threathening. What got me confused is; are you watching South Park?

        • Yes. Sometimes, SP puts out some of the most subversive comedy out there.

  1. One star? You could get a Keltec RFB & it would be better than that (with a bigger caliber).

    • I have also noticed several reviews of weapons civvies can’t own while weapons like the RFB (to the best of my knowledge) haven’t been covered.

      Hmmm

    • Have you even fired the sar 21 in the first place? You can never experience something through looks and reviews. Shoot it first before talking trash

  2. It looks like you used a template to write this from, and left “Heckler & Koch G36C” as the header for the wrap-up.

  3. Looks useful to me. 20 inch barrel is optimal for 5.56 and bullpup offests the length, + the scope makes up for less sight radius inherent in bullpup.

  4. I honestly don’t think it looks half bad, minus the scope. If it had a rail, it would look pretty decent. About as good as all of the other bull-pups.

  5. I think it’s sharp looking. Sounds like the cheap controls really take away a lot of the joy in shooting it though. Thanks for the review. I knew of it, but nothing about it. I’ll keep reaching for that Tavor, FS2000, or RFB to scratch my bullpup itch.

  6. So if a G36 and an AUG A1 had wild unprotected sex one enchanted evening, and months later decided to abort the result and leave it in a dumpster that was promptly shipped on a barge to a Chinese plastics factory…

    Man this thing is proper fugly and cheap. I’m not crazy about bullpups, but just for novelty I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on an RFB, AUG, Tavor, or KSG (maybe) assuming a decent smith can do something about the reported trigger problems. The Singaporeans can keep their toy.

  7. Heckler and Koch G36C? Eh?
    Not a fan of the penis metaphor, I prefer the Israeli supermodel links. THAT puts a nasty image in my head (Thank f**k not a nasty taste in my mouth).
    The gun looks like a POS, but hey, it IS a knock-off, after all. When will we get a review of the actual AUG? I’d also like one of the Colt Python, the F2000 and the Galil rifle and the Heckler and Koch USP compact. And some non NFA reviews would be nice, hardly anyone can get these rifles and sub-guns.

  8. Nick:

    It seems you’ve recently been granted access to a bunch of actual assault rifles. What gives?

  9. I was a conscript in the singapore military for 2 years and used this rifle for a few months in basic. (then i got a desk job, whatever). My question is: how the heck did you get your hands on this?? the singapore military did not do any export sales, and something like a complete rifle is not something that can just be nicked out of the armoury. do the serial numbers match? so many questions.

    • While the SAF may not export our service rifles, ST Kinetics does indeed ship them to USA. I have recently spoken to a representative of ST Kinetics and what I got was that ST not only manufactures firearms for the SAF, but also for the US market. The principal designer behind the newly unveiled Multirole Combat Rifle series said that one of the reasons behind the CMCR was due to demand from the American market. But for me, I personally prefer the ergonomics and modularity of the AR-15 series.

      If ST wishes to design another service rifle to replace the current SAR-21, I hope they retain the 20-inch barrel length as 5.56x45mm has drastically terrible ballistic performance when fired out of shorter barrels like the 14.5 inches of the new B/CMCR, and 16.5-inch would be the shortest they should go to not compromise on accuracy and lethality at ranges 100m or beyond. Another design aspect to bring over would be the long-stroke gas piston operation, which is far cleaner and more reliable than the direct gas impingement operation in the AR-15/M16 family of assault rifles.

      That said, the charging handle needs a serious overhaul, I hate how the shooter has to waste precious seconds ensuring that the charging handle is flipped back in line after racking it. I would strongly suggest a simple, non-reciprocating bar or hook (such as the one on the FAMAS) that is more user-friendly. Having handled and fired both the M16S1 (M16A1 variant) and SAR-21, I agree with Yankz on the sluggish trigger pull and bulkiness of the LAM of the SAR-21. ST should also do away with these for their next service rifle design.

  10. @Reggie, you are wrong, Singapore Technologies do export this to the civilian market worldwide. They also come in variats with heavier barrels and slightly higher rate of fire compared to the ones we used in NS. The cost of the SAR-21 is pretty cheap compare to the newer Tavor anyway.

    Anyway the review on the rifle is superfical. It’s obvious the reviewer didn’t really get the full hand-ons on the rifle. And I sense abit of a prejudice here just because it looked like an AUG, and is of Asian origin.

    The reviewer’s knowledge is also questionable. Bullpups having lower range? BS! Cheap plastic? I can assure you they are tougher than they look. No P-rail? Come on do your research first before blasting, the SAR-21 do have the tactical version with P-rail with a side charging handle, at least get a hand of those before you start blasting it as been “non-customizable”.

    However he did get some things right, like the awkward firing selector and safety switch that even the Singaporean Soldiers are pissed off about. And missed out a few other minus points.

    Anyway the SAR-21 is built with conscript Army in mind. The concept was done since the early 90s and that was the trend that time. It was tailored to suit the singapore Army as their previous M-16 rifles with LAD attachments were a logistical nightmare, not to mention the amount of time needed to zero the rifle..

  11. Just my 2 cents (I’m a currently serving my 2 years of national service in the Singapore army)

    The army does have rifles equipped with picatinny rails, but they are reserved mostly for special units (like the commandos) that usually have a high number of professional soldiers.

    For the rest of us conscripts, we have the basic model, probably because the higher-ups do not trust us with all the wonderful gadgets that come with the rail. I’ve seen troops who lost parts of their gun (the gas regulator, the brass deflector, the list goes on) during basic training, which kinda justifies the douchebaggery of the higher ups.

    While the selector switch is a pain in the arse, one must realise that our training disapproves the use of full-auto fire (unless you are the SAW or GPMG gunner). It’s a waste of ammunition and your barrel will hate you for it. Double taps are more than enough IMHO, even during CQB. The selector placement is probably a way to prevent any panicky trainee from going Rambo during an exercise.

  12. I was in Singapore last year and remember there navy having steyr Augs but I guess in the haze I was walking on base with it could have been these. I’m really not a big fan of the place. Something about making extra sure we aren’t carrying knives out in town because they are illegal really got to me. Knives, guns, non Singapore taxed cigarettes, porn, all illegal. It’s ok you can pick up a hooker no problem. Seems like they are a country with there priorities sorted out.

  13. I use this rifle (amongst others), currently serving in the military. Ergonomics suck, yes, who the hell puts the selector back there, sights suck, the reticle is only good for short range but the objective diameter is only good for tapping stuff far away (or maybe I’ve been spoilt by Schmidt and Bender’s PM 2), the LAM in front is unnecessary and adds to the weight, there’s nowhere to mount a flashlight, yes the trigger is crap, lots of slack, lots of creep, no clear break (maybe SAKO spoilt me too), yes lots of parts break, and the front hand guard is shit, etc

    No the plastic is neither cheap not Chinese, it’s supposedly Kevlar (oh and if I heard right, one of the guys in my camp drove an IFV over one by accident and it’s not broke), no it’s not a knock off, we designed this in parallel with the Israeli Tavor with input from their guys (but shh I didn’t tell you that), no it is customizable, there’s an even shorter version with lots of rails, an Eotech, a front handle and flashlight but grunts don’t touch those, it’s long stroke piston and much easier to clean than a DI (I shot an M110 for a period of time and HATED cleaning), it strips easy (personal record: 12 seconds), actually not that bad really.

    I for one am glad I’m done with my days of handling assault weapons. Now, there’s a version called the SAR-21A coming up with lots of changes in place, who knows how that’ll be…

    Knowing the arms procurement of my country, however, I can safely say that it’ll be out for export before our soldiers even get the news.

    • There is a SAR-21 MMS version, MMS meaning modular mounting system. They removed the sight and replaced it and some other things with rails to enable better customisation.

  14. Because we all need our rifles to look beauti~ful. Real dorks… Btw, check out the YouTube videos, this rifle shoots excellently. Also, light doesn’t mean cheap. The plastic is pretty durable but crazy light, it’s made from kevlar. Lastly, Google image search ‘SAR21 Rail’.

  15. Seems like a biased hate review. No plusses, all negative means it would have flopped the tests designed to validate the weapon in the first place, leave alone production.

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