Bored with your dime-a-dozen Remington 700 PSS? Looking for a sniper rifle that has some European panache, but without the price tag of a Blaser Tactical II, Accuracy International AW or Steyr SSG-08? Well, Steyr-Mannlicher is still producing the classic but now overshadowed SSG-69, and it’s still a competitive choice 43 years after its release. I was one year old in 1969 when legendary Austrian Arms manufacturer Steyr-Mannlicher released the Scharfschützengewehr 69 (literal translation: “Sharp Shooter Gun 69”). While the hippies where dropping acid in the mud at Woodstock, the engineers at Steyr were creating what was, for its time, a revolutionary production sniper rifle . . .
With its iconic cold hammer-forged barrel, ergonomic and lightweight synthetic stock, detachable rotary 5-round magazine and double set trigger, the SSG-69 was the ZL1 Camaro of the gun world. Simply put, it set the standard for decades to come. Hell, the Steyr SSG-69 still turns heads when folks see one at the range. We tested the PIIK (K = “Kurz” or short), which is the 20-inch bull-barreled version to see if it’s as good under the hood as it looks.
A Very Short (and Incomplete) History of Steyr-Mannlicher
The history of Steyr starts with Josef Werndl (b. 1831, d. 1899). Not only could young Josef rock a ‘stash, he was also a member of the lucky sperm club: his father owned an armaments factory. But Josef was an innovator who thought that dad’s business was stuck in the past. After a couple of apprenticeships and a stint in the Austrian army, he went abroad in 1852 to tour and work at various German and American arms factories – including Colt and Remington. Returning to Austria a year later armed with new ideas, he started an arms workshop in Wehrgraben, Austria. In 1855, Josef’s father died, and 24 year old Josef assumed control of his father’s 500-person firm.
In 1864, Josef and his brother transitioned to a new firm that would eventually become Steyr-Mannlicher: the “Josef und Franz Werndl & Comp. Waffenfabrik und Sägemühle in Oberletten” (Josef and Franz Werndl & Partners Weapons Factory and Sawmill in Oberletten). Despite the boring windbag name, the firm soon developed a historically significant rifle: the 10.7 mm “Werndl-Holub rifle, Model 1867.” The M-1867 was an innovative single-shot breech loading rifle featuring a moveable cylindrical breech block.
The firm scored a lucrative government contract to manufacture 100,000 of these rifles for the Austrian military. Cha-ching! Bolstered by its new street cred (and perhaps a new marketing department), the firm changed its name in 1869 to “Österreichische Waffenfabriksgesellschaft” (OEWG), which translates to “Austrian Arms-Manufacturing Company.” Foreign orders for the M-1867 started pouring in, and young Josef was on his way to fame and fortune.
In 1875, Josef again got lucky and began working with another dude with a cool hipster moustache (and a bad tie) – a 27-year-old German railroad engineer named Ferdinand Mannlicher (b. 1848, d. 1904). Despite his premature death at age 56, the highly talented Mannlicher would become the John M. Browning of his era.
Besides inventing some fugly-but-functional semi-automatic pistols, Mannlicher designed an en bloc clip and a long-stroke gas piston system which were inspirations for the M-1 Garand. Collectors of mil-surp rifles will also undoubtedly be familiar with the straight-pull Mannlicher M-95 rifle, which Steyr produced in vast quantities in WWI. And hunters know the Mannlicher name due to his signature full-length elegant stock designs.
By 1886, Mannlicher was working full time for OEWG. Capitalizing on his designs, OEWG became the leading European producer of small arms. The company expanded over the next 30 years and became well known for the manufacturer of light bulbs, dynamos, electric motors, and bicycles. By 1896, a Mannlicher protégé named Otto Schonauer was the CEO.
During the “war to end all wars” (until the next one), OEWG employed over 15,000 workers, and the firm churned out millions of military small arms – including the iconic straight-pull Steyr M-95. Unfortunately for OEWG, they were working for the wrong team, and after WWI, OEWG was prohibited from making firearms. So OEWG focused its production on trucks and automobiles. Eager to shake off the “loser” stigma, in 1924 OEWG renamed itself after its hometown: “Steyr Werke AG.”
But the gun-making bug never really died and Steyr eventually worked around those pesky Versailles Treaty restrictions by making military arms in neutral Switzerland, cooperating with the Swiss weapons manufacturer Solothurn AG. Solothurn had been purchased by the German firm Rheinmetall-Borsig A.G in April of 1929. Steyr became a subcontractor to Rheinmetall for the production of German-designed weapons, including the S2-100/MP34 sub-machine gun. Though somewhat obscure, the S2-100/MP-34 Steyr-Solothurn will be familiar to students of the sub-gun as an improved sibling of the MP-19 and MP-28 designs. Designed by Rheinmetall’s brilliant engineer, Louis Stange, the MP-34 is by far the most controllable and accurate sub-gun of the WWII era.
As a result of a merger that occurred in the early-1930s, the firm became known as “Steyr Daimler Puch AG.” Yeah, that’s the same “Daimler” as in “Daimler Benz” (i.e., maker of the Mercedes Benz automobile). And speaking of Germans, the krauts annexed Austria in April of 1938 – and Steyr was incorporated into the Hermann Göring Werke armament conglomerate.
As a result, Steyr began producing Mauser K98s and MG- 34s for that fat-ass, toenail-painting, cross-dressing, morphine addict in 1939. Steyr even got their buddies in the SS to loan them some slave labor from the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. Today, Steyr’s BNZ-marked K-98 rifles are highly sought after by collectors, esp. when they are adorned with the single SS rune. Maybe less well known is the fact that Steyr was also a major manufacturer of the familiar Erma-designed MP-40 sub-machine gun.
The allies overran the Steyr factory in 1945, effectively putting it out of business. Once again, being on the wrong team had severe consequences for Steyr Daimler Puch, and the post-WWII years proved to be difficult for the marque gun maker. Nonetheless, in 1950, the Allies realized that the USSR was a bigger threat than Germans or Austrians, so it allowed Steyr to manufacture firearms again. Relying on the start-power of their old designers, Steyr focused its production mainly on hunting rifles made under the name “Mannlicher-Schonauer.” Although Austria has never been a member of NATO, by the late-1950s Steyr was back on the map and producing innovative military small arms to confront the “Red Beast from the East.” Steyr also produced a licensed copy of the FN-FAL known as the Stg-58. While perhaps best known for its iconic 1970’s-era AUG, Steyr’s line of SSG-69 sniper rifles cemented Steyr’s reputation as one of the world’s top manufacturers of precision small arms. The Steyr SSG 69 P1 has been the standard sniper rifle of the Austrian Army for the past 40 years.
By 1969 standards, Steyr’s SSG-69 was state-of-the-art: it was the world’s first purpose-built, out-of-the-box sub-MOA factory police/military sniper rifle. All sniper rifles prior to 1969 were either based on modified hunting rifles or modified standard GI-issue infantry rifles. Prior to the SSG-69, if a civilian or police agency wanted a true sub-MOA sniper rifle, they had pay a gunsmith to fine-tune a hunting rifle.
Steyr wanted to produce a highly-accurate factory-built rifle in a lightweight package. To accomplish this, Steyr needed to forego the use of wood and non-essential steel in favor of lightweight synthetic materials. The SSG-69 featured a cold-hammer-forged barrel, an adjustable trigger, a high-impact Cycolac® ABS stock, a 5-shot polymer rotary magazine, dedicated quick release scope rings and integral scope rails dovetailed into the receiver to eliminate the need for scope bases and tapping.
One of the first things you notice when you pick up a Steyr rifle is the signature spiral hammering marks left on the exterior of the barrel. A hammer-forged barrel is made by pounding a steel tube over a mandrel that has the lands and grooves imprinted into it. This process forms the barrel with a very high degree of precision and increased hardness compared to traditional cut rifling methods. Steyr’s hammer forged barrels have a reputation for long-life and ease of cleaning.
Some folks will tell you that hammer forged barrels are not as accurate as cut or button rifling. I’ve only been shooting for 35 years, so I don’t have enough experience to assess that claim. Maybe it’s true as far as the benchrest guys are concerned. But it seems to me that there are so many factors that go into the determination of barrel accuracy that it would take some very controlled studies to draw any apples-to-apples comparison. So in my estimation, the argument is merely geek-fodder for gun store commandos. Nonetheless, if anybody thinks that hammer-forged barrels aren’t capable of extreme accuracy, here’s a photo of a three-shot 100 yard group using factory match ammo with a 24-inch hammer-forged barrel made by Blaser:
On the SSG PIIK, the barrel is 20 inches long, and is slightly contoured. At the muzzle, the barrel is .862 inches in diameter. Rifling is a 4-groove, RH, 1 in 12 inch design. Contrary to internet rumors, the barrel is not chrome lined. A 25.6 inch version is also available, and is in fact the more commonly encountered version. The crown is recessed to protect it from accuracy-robbing dings and dents.
Good authoritative data on Steyr barrel life is hard to come by — even the good folks at Steyr USA couldn’t really give me a firm number. But anecdotal reports typically peg the number well in excess of 10,000 rounds. In reality, the figure is kinda useless, as it depends on what you consider to be acceptable accuracy. I have not put that many rounds through any one specimen, but the few thousand rounds through I put through one sample did nothing to affect its accuracy.
The Action & Bolt
The receiver on the SSG-69 is copied from the proven Steyr-Mannlicher hunting rifle. It is similar to the Remington 700 insomuch as it is cylindrical in shape. But the Steyr receiver is much longer (8 & 1/2 inches vs. 6 inches) than the Remmy short action. And as they say, size matters.
On the other hand, the ejection port is rather small, which helps accuracy but makes it a bit difficult to access the chamber when you need to.
The long receiver serves a purpose: with the exception of the 16 inch SSG-PIV, SSG barrels and receivers are not threaded, but rather are press fit into place for a distance of 57mm (2 & 1/4 inches). According to Steyr USA, the receiver is heated and then the barrel is inserted into the receiver using a jig that ensures very precise alignment. This process makes for a very accurate rifle, but has the downside of being very difficult to re-barrel.
So once the barrel burns out (yes, barrels burn out, they don’t typically wear out), you’ll likely have to send the action back to Steyr in Austria. As a practical matter, that means buying a new rifle, since the costs and permits associated with sending it back are prohibitive. Although I’m sure a few intrepid state-side gunsmiths will re-barrel an SSG, I personally know of none. Comments and referrals from anyone with experience in this area would be helpful.
The SSG-69 bolt reminds me, in some ways, of the British SMLE’s bolt, with its characteristic rear locking lugs. Unlike the SMLE, however, it’s a cock-on-open affair, and it lacks the SMLE’s ubiquitous removable bolt heads. A polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) (aka Teflon®) coating combined with first-class machining results in a very smooth action.
The length of pull is shorter than a Remington 700 PSS’s bolt, and in theory should be faster to cycle. I’m not sure that it makes much difference in practice. However, the 60° bolt throw is clearly faster and in all ways superior to the Remington 700 PSS’s 90° bolt throw.
The SSG-69 PI is typically found with European style butter-knife bolt handle, but the SSG-PII has a tactical bolt handle similar to what you find on high-end American tactical bolt guns.
According to David Fortier, the SSG-69 has somewhat of a reputation for breaking firing pins. (See D. Fortier, “Steyr’s Latest Sniper: the SSG-04, Shotgun News, Vol 59, Issue 27, Oct. 3, 2005, at p. 4). To be fair, however, I have never experienced a broken firing pin despite putting thousands of rounds through SSG-69s, so I’m skeptical that there’s a systemic problem. Mr. Einer Hoff at Steyr USA informed me that they don’t see many requests for SSG firing pins, and the requests they do get are usually from guys that just want to squirrel away a spare “just in case.”
The Double Set Trigger
Although the military and police versions of the SSG-69 are typically equipped with a standard trigger, an optional double set target trigger is available. This system consists of two separate “triggers.” The front shoe is the only trigger that can actually fire the rifle. When used in isolation, it’s a two-stage trigger that breaks very crisply at an adjustable range of 2 to 6 lbs. More interestingly, however, is the fact that the rear trigger can be used to “set” the front trigger to break at 2 to 8 ounces…which means that the front trigger becomes a “hair trigger.” The trigger is adjustable for weight of pull.
Unfortunately, the manual that comes with the gun doesn’t explain boo about how to adjust the double trigger. I’ve tinkered with it a bit so I think I’ve figured it out – but don’t take my word as gospel. There’s a small screw located on the underside of the trigger assembly between the front and rear triggers. This screw controls the sensitivity/weight of the front trigger. There’s also a nut located on the front of the trigger assembly that regulates the trigger’s length of pull.
On the single trigger versions, there are two screws located on the bottom of the trigger well. The rear screw (located behind the trigger) adjusts the sear for sensitivity/weight of pull. The front screw adjusts the length of trigger travel.
Although crappy Tenite™ stocks had been around since the mid-1940s, the 1960s saw the development of many high-quality synthetic stocked rifles, such as Brown fiberglass stock, the Armalite M-16 stock and even the decent Remington/Dupont Nylon 66 stock. The stock on the SSG-69 broke new ground because of its use of plastics for a precision rifle.
Experience from Vietnam had proven that wooden stocks weren’t cutting the mustard in that wet humid environment. While the U.S. military went with heavyweight fiberglass stocks, Austrian engineers decided to go with Cycolac,® which is a type of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) thermoplastic resin. At the time, this material was commonly used in football helmets, boat hulls, and recreational vehicle bodies. Although more modern plastics now exist, it still is used in many applications.
The stock’s length of pull is adjustable from 12 3/4″ to 14″ via the use of four removable spacers in the butt. The stock also features a sling attachment point that is very similar to one found on the HK G3. The pistol grip doesn’t have a palm swell similar to what’s found on McMillan stocks. However it does have a very nice convex curve on the handgrip that ends in a vertical alignment. Opinions will vary, of course, but I fund this much more comfortable than the Remmy 700 PSS’s H-S Precision Stock. FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi apparently endorses the H-S Precision stock, for whatever that’s worth.
The SSG-69’s stock has an integral UIT (Anschutz) rail: a rail system that is common on many European precision rifles. This system may be losing some ground to Picatinny rails, but the advantage to having a smooth bottom UIT rail on a sniper rifle should be fairly obvious.
Although rare, some wood stocks were made for the SSG-69. My guess is that they are impossible to find nowadays. Currently, the Cycolac stock is only replacement stock available from Steyr USA. Like all Steyr replacement parts, the stock is expensive: $420.00. Nonetheless, the price includes the spacers, buttplate, UIT rail and sling swivels. Two colors are available for the heavy barreled version (PII): green and black. In addition, McMillan makes high quality aftermarket fiberglass stocks for the SSG-69, but its uber-expensive at $800(+).
One word of caution on the factory Steyr plastic stock, trigger guard and magazine: they are very vulnerable to many types of solvents, such as Birchwood Casey Gun Scrubber and Sweet’s 7.62 bore cleaner. Even Browning Gun Oil can do a number on them. So you do have to exercise some caution when cleaning your Steyr SSG-69. I usually just take the barreled action off the stock, and I try to use something mild like Hoppe’s No. 9.
The 5-Shot and 10-Shot Rotary Magazines
The SSG-69 is unique insomuch that it uses a Schoenauer-inspired flush-mount detachable rotary magazine. Detachable box magazines came into vogue in WWII, but for some reason the idea did not initially catch on for hunting and sniping rifles in the WWII era. The only common WWII bolt-action sniper rifle with a detachable magazine was the British SMLE No. 4, No. 1(T). Thus, when Steyr released the SSG-69, the detachable rotary magazine was a very big deal. Having owned a Remington PSS, I can say without any doubt that the SSG-69’s external magazine is a huge step up when compared the PSS’s annoyingly clumsy and hard-to-load 4-shot internal box magazine.
If you love your 10-shot rotary magazine on your Ruger 10/22, then you owe a bit of thanks to Mr. Otto Schoenauer. Unlike the Ruger mag, however, the SSG-69 mag has two spring-loaded buttons that can be pressed inward to release the mag from the stock/mag-well. It’s easy to load all 5 rounds into the magazine. The magazine is designed to protect the tips of match bullets from damage caused by recoil or other jarring.
The Steyr SSG-69 magazine is black with a clear plastic window in the rear that allows the operator to see how many rounds are loaded at any given time. It’s made out of a lightweight polycarbonate resin called Makrolon.® According to the research I have done, this material is supposed to be stable under any humidity or wetness variation, and over temperatures ranging from a minus 150° Fahrenheit to 275°F above zero. At $60-70 bucks a pop, however, I’m not about to test whether any of that is true.
Having said that, I’ve been shooting the SSG-69 off-and on for over twenty-five years, and I’ve never had a problem with the magazines. Admittedly, my usage has been under range and mild hunting conditions. I strongly suspect that the SSG magazines are somewhat vulnerable to sand, mud, and would not be as robust as steel magazines under hard combat conditions. There’s a fair amount of anecdotal evidence on various internet boards that both the 5-round and the 10-round SSG magazines have some vulnerabilities in this area.
Some shooters won’t like the rotary magazine because it’s not ideally suited to single-shot loading operation required on some ranges. At one time, Steyr (or somebody) made an adapter that allowed the 5-shot rotary magazine to more easily function in single shot mode, but I haven’t seen those around in quite some time. With a little practice, it’s possible to load one round at a time over an empty mag inserted into the weapon. YMMV, as they say. My personal view is that the ability to quickly jack a new mag containing 5 or 10 rounds into the rifle far exceeds any value of single shot loading.
Steyr also produces a 10-shot magazine for the SSG-69. It retails for $220, making it a very expensive addition. The 10-shot mag is easy to load to capacity, but it doesn’t share the rotary design of the 5-round magazine. Apparently, earlier versions of this design were not always reliable, but I have had no issues with the test sample. But for the price, I’d opt for 3 5-round magazines instead. I especially like the small size of the 5 round magazines – two extra mags will fit in a Blackhawk ammo cheek pad.
Two Position Safety
The ergonomic two-position safety is a definite high point on the SSG-69. It’s a large intuitive tactile safety that can be manipulated in bolt directions with the right thumb. The weapon is on safe when the safety is toward the rear. It is smooth in both directions and can be found in the dark without any hesitation. It is a loud safety, but it can be moved quietly by adding inward pressure towards the receiver and move the safety forward slowly. The safety also locks the bolt down so that the action cannot be opened while the safety is to the rear on a closed bolt. The detachable magazine can be removed while the safety is on, however.
The (Plastic Crap-tastic) Trigger Guard
Like all rifles, the SSG-69 is not perfect. In an effort to keep the weight down, Steyr engineers compromised on durability is a couple of key areas. In particular, the plastic trigger guard/magazine well is a flimsy, delicate part that is easily broken. In particular, the screw holes cannot handle very much compressive stress: I managed to break one simply by tightening the rear trigger guard screw too tightly. Replacements with reinforcing in the vicinity of the two screw-holes are available from Steyr USA, but like everything that carries the Steyr logo, they are expensive ($72, shipping included). If someone ever gets around to making an aftermarket part out of aluminum and can keep it around $150-250 or so, I think sales would be brisk.
Having dissed Steyr a bit, let me also point out that the standard trigger guard on the Remington PSS is fairly crappy as well, perhaps just not as crappy. Both manufacturers are clearly cost-cutting on the one part that they believe is not essential for good accuracy. Aftermarket options are reality available for Remington 700, however, included an excellent replacement by Badger Ordinance.
The Factory Scope Rings
Back when SSG-69s were imported by Guns South, Inc. (“GSI”), they were often sold as a package that consisted of the rifle, a military-grade scope and scope rings with serial numbers matched to the rifle. Although these two rings looked the same, they aren’t. The front ring was engraved with the rifle’s serial number. In addition, the rings were intended to be mounted with the quick release levers facing the right side. If you reverse the rings or install them backwards, the rifle will not zero.
According to Steyr USA, the modern production SSG-69s do not come standard with factory rings included. Accessory rings fitting the dovetail are available in three sizes: 1 inch, 26mm, and 30mm. From a visual standpoint, there is very little difference between the 1 inch rings and the 26mm rings, and I have seen instances where guys encountered problems because they were trying to mate a 1 inch scope to 26mm rings, and vice-versa. Be advised.
Although accuracy is important for a military sniper rifle, durability and repeatability are probably more important than – say – the difference between .25 MOA and .75 MOA groups. As an Army officer, I saw military sniper rifles suffer use (and, in some cases, abuse) in ways that no one would do to a gun if they actually owned it. So military rifles need to be bomb-proof. Most civilian and police shooters baby their sniper rifles, and so durability is not tested nearly as much. Thus, the focus for civilians tends to be on accuracy.
And out-of-the-box accuracy is where the SSG 69 really shines. I’ve shot at least 5 different sample guns, and every one of them was a .5 MOA shooter, or better, if the shooter does his part. Some are .25 MOA guns.
The batch of test targets pictured above were shot using Federal Gold Match 168 grain BTHP at the 100 yard range at Tri-County Gun Club, in Sherwood Oregon. Wind was variable, with gusts between 5 and 15 mph, and I made no effort to time the gusts or dope for the wind. I tried a variety of different targets to see if that made a difference for my eyes.
As it turned out, accuracy varied a bit more that is typical for me, but the set trigger takes a certain amount of time to get used to if you don’t use it regularly. Some groups were simply spectacular (.19 in., .275 in, .33 in, center to center), but most averaged in the .5 in to .6 inch range. A few groups were closer to the 1 inch mark, but even then, the first two shots were typically right on top of each other – and then I would choke and the third shot would open the group up to .90 in. and .94 in. Grrr.
Overall, the 20-inch barreled Steyr SSG-69 PIIK is not as consistently accurate as my 24-inch barreled Blaser LRS II, but it’s more accurate than the Remington 20-inch barreled 700 PSS.
Most SSG-69s were sold with one of following scopes: (1) the Kahles ZF69 (6 x 40), (2) The Kahles ZF 84 (10 x 40); (3) the Hensoldt ZF 500 (10 x 40), or (4) the Hensoldt ZF 800 (10 x 40). The Kahles ZF 69 scope was the scope originally issued to the Austrian army in 1969. It was eventually replaced with the more powerful ZF 84.
The rifle being reviewed came equipped with the Hensoldt ZF 500 with Mil-dot reticle. In its day, this scope sold new for around $1,000.00(+/-), depending on currency exchange rates.
The Hensoldt ZF series scopes employ a Bullet Drop Compensation (“BDC”) top turret. The ZF 500 has hash marks labeled “1” through “5,” which corresponds to 100 meters to 500 meters. According to John Plaster’s book, “The Ultimate Sniper,” these scopes are intended to be used with NATO spec 168 grain BTHP 7.62 x 51 rounds. In my experience, those rounds have a somewhat different trajectory than factory 168 grain .308 Win BTHP rounds, and so in practice it can be tough to get the turret dials to work with surgical precision. If you are trying to hit an apple at 500 yards, the BDC turrets will often give you fits. If you are shooting big watermelons at 500 yards, it’s still a pretty fast and efficient system.
It had been many years since I had used an old-school BDC scope of this type, and I completely forgot how to calibrate the zero on the BDC turret. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an operator’s manual anywhere –even after exhaustive Google-fu. I called Zeiss/Hensoldt and they couldn’t even provide a manual. Or maybe they couldn’t be bothered. (Either way… WTF?)
I also posted on the “Steyr Club” net boards with no luck. Grrr. I finally figured it out on my own, and I’m embarrassed to admit how simple it really is. All you have to do is shoot at a target, and then use that group as a reference to adjust the two turrets X number of clicks until you are shooting bulls at, say 100 meters. Then loosen the top screw and gently remove the turret cover and reposition it so that the “1” hash-mark is flush with the white dot on the scope tube. Re-tighten the top screw and repeat with the side turret. Viola- you are pretty much done. To confirm that your scope is centered, run the turret up to the 5 hash-mark to make sure that you have the full adjustment range. Engage targets at 200, 300, 400 and 500 meters to confirm zero, and note any differences between scope setting and bullet strike.
If you want a scope that will be used as a shooter (as opposed to a collector), then these are really nice quality – if you can get them cheap. From what I can tell from my internet research, these scopes typically sell for 500-600 dollars. Honestly, for that kind of money I’d try to find a product that’s still being manufactured. Not only will Hensoldt/Zeiss not service these ZF 500/800 scopes anymore, they apparently can’t even provide you with an owner’s manual. How lame is that?
And to be honest, the quality of the glass isn’t up to modern standards. Thus, the Hensoldt ZF series scope is more of a collector’s item for folks that are looking for period-correct glass. BTW, the logo’ed Butler Creek Scope covers are pretty cool:
Anyone considering buying a Steyr SSG-69 has to consider the alternatives. First, for $300-400 more, you can get a much more modern and superior Steyr SSG-04 (assuming you can find one). Second, for a $100 more, the CZ 750 is also a very nice rifle, although it lacks a weatherproof finish and doesn’t come with a 20-inch barrel. Third, Savage has a number of competitive choices in the $1000-2300 price range, including the Model 10 FCP-SR. Although Savages shoot really nicely and have excellent triggers, I’ve always thought that they have a rather cheap and unrefined feel to them.
Fourth, you can buy a Remington PSS for around $800. But with the Remmy, price is deceiving: it doesn’t come with scope rings ($50-200), scope bases ($50-100), an oversized bolt knob ($100), detachable magazine ($300 plus labor, $200), and the stock will likely need to be sent back to H-S Precision to add an extra inch or so to the buttstock if you plan to shoot it prone or from the bench ($125). The Remington is typically a .7 to .9 MOA gun with factory ammo, whereas the Steyrs and CZs are typically .5 MOA or better. In my opinion, it comes down to weight and durability: if light weight and accuracy are big issues, then the Steyr wins hands down. If durability is the deciding factor, the Steyr probably loses.
I’ve owned both the Remington PSS and the Steyr SSG-69. Although I like the Steyr better for my current needs (recreational shooting, hunting, etc.), the Remington 700 PSS is a more durable rifle overall. The Steyr’s long-term durability is hampered by the use of the plastic for the stock and trigger guard. If you’re going to be careful with it, it should be good-to-go. If you’re going to jump out of airplanes with it (or you’re a klutz), opt for the Remmy. Maybe I shouldn’t hold my breath, but I remain hopeful that someone will design and market an aluminum trigger guard for the Steyr.
Caliber: .308 Win. The SSG-69 is also available in .243 Win and .22-250 Rem, although these are fairly rare.
Barrel: 20” heavy contour, 4 groove, with a 1 in 12 twist. A 25 ½” version (1 in 12 twist) also available, as is a 16” version with a 1 in 10 twist.
Length: 39 & 1/4 inch overall length
Weight: 4.81 kg (10.6 lbs.) empty
Operation: bolt action
Finish: parkerized metal.
Capacity: 5 and 10 round detachable magazines.
Price (MSRP): In the mid-1990s, the retail price for a SSG-69 was under a thousand dollars. Due mainly to the weak U.S. dollar against the euro, the current retail price is in the $1,900 range. Street price tends to vary quite a bit, so be sure to shop around.
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Accuracy: * * * * *
I’ve fired quite a few samples of this particular rifle and they were all .5 MOA shooters at 100 yards and beyond.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Opinions will be all over the map on this rather subjective issue, but I think this is one area where the Steyr really blows away the Remington 700 PSS. The stock’s more comfortable than the H-S precision stock on the PSS, especially with regard to the handhold for the shooting hand. The Steyr has noticeably less felt recoil than the Remmy.
Reliability: * * * * *
There’s an element of durability inherent in the notion of reliability, but I have separated out these two categories to differentiate a gun that breaks from a gun that just tends to jam a lot even though no one part is broken. Viewed in this light, the Steyr SSG 69 is a very reliable firearm – it cycles ammo very smoothly and is less likely to jam as compared to a Remmy PSS. The Remington has a flimsy internal box mag that can be tricky to reassemble after cleaning: incorrect alignment will cause failures.
Durability: * * *
This is the one area where the Steyr SSG-69 suffers. The rifle has a well-deserved reputation for having shockingly crappy plastic trigger guards. In addition, although I have not had any issues, the stocks are said to warp in extreme heat. Finally, the 5-shot polymer rotary magazines can break and seem to be more susceptible to jamming than a typical box magazine if subjected to sand or dirt.
Customization: * *
There’s not much to “customize” on a typical bolt gun of this caliber. Unlike the Remington 700 PSS, however, the Steyr does not need to be customized. Nonetheless, aftermarket accessories for the Steyr SSG-69 are surprisingly lacking. Factory rings and a 20 MOA offset picatinny rail are available. McMillan makes a nice heavy duty fiberglass stock for the SSG-69. However, I’ve had no luck trying to finding bolt-on muzzle-brakes, steel/aluminum trigger guards, which are two things that the Steyr could really use.
Overall Rating: * * * *
Virtually unchanged after 43 years, the Steyr SSG 69 is still top of the class in terms of accuracy. The detachable magazine, 60 degree bolt throw and double set trigger seal the deal for me. I deducted one star because of the polymer trigger guard and the stock. Price is also an issue. The weak dollar makes the competition, such as the Remington 700 PSS and Savage 10 FCP McMillan, worthy alternatives.
Beautiful photography there. I’d like to go shooting there.
Great article, too. Worth my morning!
The “cover shot” was taken on the Clackamas River, Oregon. Beautiful country!
“As a result, Steyr began producing Mauser K98s and MG- 34s for that fat-ass, toenail-painting, cross-dressing, morphine addict in 1939.”
You forgot fighter ace, hunter, and conservationist.
Nice review though! I’m happy to see TTAG covering rifles more frequently. I’ve been wanting this rifle for ages after reading some mercenary sniper tales set in the Yugoslav war. True or not the SSG just has that look. Like M4s without aftermarket parts and MP5s. Shame about the plastic parts though…
Göring may have been all those things, but let’s not diminish what he really was.
Don’t believe everything you read, unless, of course, you knew him personally. Did you?
American war propaganda ran rampant during the war and still, to this day, molds the malleable minds of the American masses; PsyOps at it’s best.
Aside from my opinion on human behavior, I love my SSG 69.
My package deal did not have the scope mentioned. It was a Kahles ZFM 6×42 Z. I emailed Kahles and this is their reply: Hello and thank you for contacting Kahles Optics,
This is a early scope and a great one at that. unfortunately regarding the manufacturing info, I can say that this scope was built in the early to mid seventies but that is as small of scope as I can produce.
Great news however, I have attached a user manual for this optic that should greatly help with the setup and application. If this does not help or adds to the confusion, please let me know and we will take it from there.
Regards, and have a great day,
Aside from Kahles, here is an operators manual that supposedly came with the rifle:
This article is so encyclopedic, it should have its own Library of Congress number! Wow…
And BTW it’s also an extremely accurate and comfortable gun. It blows the test Remington 700 all to hell in those categories.
I adore my Steyr m95 Stutzen Carbine. 8x56r is a hard caliber to find, but the recoil and muzzle blast are like no other. No fancy buffer tubed stock; no muzzle break. Just the cold comfort of a steel butt plate giving your shoulder some love. This rifle looks just as awesome with those 2 triggers. So glad they brought that back.
For the money, I don’t think this blows away a Remington 700 LTR, but that’s just my opinion. It certainly is a unique piece, and I appreciate the article and high level of shooting experience by the author.
It looks to me like the dollar is doing very well to the Euro right now. You may be a bit confused, but the Euro has been down vs the dollar since the financial troubles started in Europe several years ago. Outstanding comprehensive review.
I was thinking about the issue from a long term standpoint. The Steyr SSG-69 used to sell for about $870 back in the 1990s. Now its $1899 MSRP. Maybe I’m wrong, I can’t think of any other reason to explain the difference – other than currency exchange rates.
Thanks, I like how you mixed in the gun maker’s background history with your review. I think I’ve seen one of these guns somewhere…
Brilliant article, Joe, and a great history lesson. My only complaint is that you wrote “I was one year old in 1969.” That made me feel very, very old.
For the record, this is the kind of article I come to this site for.
I don’t know if I’ll ever own a rifle like this, but after reading this, I feel like I already do, or at the very least I’m qualified to shop for one. Absolutely awesome writeup.
Well said. I’m with you in that this is the type of quality article I come here for too. I also prefer articles that cover 2A issues with depth and intelligence.
The trigger bow and magazine being made out of plastic have little to nothing to do with weight, and everything to do with reducing costs – same as the pressed-in barrel.
I own both a PII and a standard SSG69, both have doubleset triggers, and once served as sniper rifles for a large city police dept. I know of one gunsmith who tried to rebarrel one of these, it was a major fail, and he ruined the action. It is my understanding that the barrel is supercooled in nitrogen, and then pressfitted into the action. The police dept. got rid of these rifles because they weren’t winning enough police competition matches, and wanted Remington 700’s custom built. ( I got them for a steal) I figured they were idiots. By the way, they both came with 10 rd mags, which proved to break easily. I have never regretted my purchase. Steyrs are beautiful weapons, in my opinion, and I own both the modern ones and the older ones.
I inherited my P1 when my best friend died in an accident. I would rather have my friend back, but I think of him whenever I take that marvelous rifle out to the range. I’m pretty unschooled in marksmanship yet sub-moa shooting is a breeze. I plan to attend an NRA workshop or Appleseed course or something to see the true potential of this rifle. I’m taking my trigger guard to the machine shop where I work to see how costly it would be to duplicate it in aluminum or steel.
These rifles may be dated, but are still worth it if you can get your hands on one. I’ve never seen another one at the gunshows around here.
Best review I’ve encountered on the SSG 69. I have a pristine version without the accessory rail, vintage is 1982, green stock, Steyr mounts. It’s very accurate with Federal Match ammo. I plan to replace the Zeiss 3×9 with a Leupold tactical version, 30 mm, so I’m shopping for mounting solutions to avoid paying Steyr $275!
I’ve actually spent a little time online regarding a replacement trigger guard. Some b/s about the company not being permitted by the feds to manufacture gun parts…. Guess I’ll keep looking. I think just about everyone who owns one would spend $150 for a new trigger guard!
I just acquired some Lapua D46 bullets in both the 170 grn and 185 grn so I’m anxious to see how they do compared to the Federal Match. The 1:12 twist may or may not prove slow for the 185s. Just have to see. These bullets supposedly were some of the best available. Lapua. What else would you expect! FMJ with a rebated boat tail design.
I have had to open the barrel channel slightly. Apparently the stock isn’t as stiff as new composite material so it flexed just enough to open a group. Easy fix.
The double set trigger is about as good as you can get. Unset it breaks clean at 2.5#s Set it breaks at probably 2-3 oz! Basically you just touch it.
Sometimes you’ll see an SSG 69 sold by an auction house that is liquidating an estate. One with the rare wood stock in about 98% condition sold for under $1000 about 6 months ago. These places usually specialize selling collectible firearms and the Steyr SSG 69s from the collector’s estate just did not have the right crowd bidding. I think the other version with the composite stock went for $1200! Both deals.
In your comment you mentioned the Lapua D46 170 and 185gr bullets. Every gun has it’s sweet spot and reloading will allow you to find this and fine tune it. When you do, the gun will settle down, the barrel whip will be resonant and the gun will shoot tight groups like you have never seen before. I used to own an SSG-04 and the sweet spot round was a Berger 155.5gr. BT Fullbore with 45.0grs. of Vihtavuori N540 at 53794psi pushing 2705fps seated .010″ off the lands. This round consistently put 10 rounds in a group .750″ at 300yds. all day long. It took almost 2 years to develop that load. The SSG-69 that I have now likes the D46 185gr. bullet even with a 1:12 ratio. This sweet spot load still needs further developing though to refine it. Right now I can consistently put 5 rounds in a 3/8″ group at 200 yards all day long. The load is as follows: .308 Win Lapua D46 185gr., Lapua Palma .308 win brass with 40.0grs. of IMR4895, Federal 205 Small Rifle Match primer, at 46088psi pushing 2447fps. seated touching lands. Gun headspaces at 1.630″ Extremely tight chamber dimensions. If you would like more load data, I have 5 years worth of load development for .243 Win, .308 Win, 45 ACP, 45 LC, and 44 Mag. Send me your email address and I will send you everything that I have so you do not have to re-invent the wheel. [email protected]
Any chance you still have that ballistic reloading data available? Your email is no longer active and that data is priceless!
The Steyr SSG 69 PII is a wonderful rifle. I’ve shot several dozens of 1000 yard NRA F-Class Tactical Rifle matches with her. Using a Nightforce NXS 5×22, she gives me consistently 92% accuracy using 175 gr. Sierra BTHP using 45 gr. of Varget, 2645 fps. She is a standard rifle besides using a McMillan stock and a Picatinny rail mount.
On the plastic issue, it states clearly on the operating manual that any exposure of solvents will make the plastic brittle. Avoid splashing around the Hoppes #9 you will be just fine. When Styria Arms exports their new trigger guard I will be happy to give it a try.
Usings Frog lube will make your bolt as smooth as silk.
The SSG 69 is far superior to any factory Rem 700, but it is on par with a high quality custom Rem 700 that has been well tweaked. If you require greater than 92% accuracy at 1000 yards (which is Sharp Shooter and not an Expert). If you want to make Expert (better than 92% accuracy) it is better to get a custom Rem 700 where you can get change out to a custom match barrels. It is virtually impossible to change the barrel on the SSG. Besides that I love my SSG.
I was wondering about trying F-Class Tac matches with my SSG 69. Did the switch to a MacMillan stock affect the accuracy in a significant way? I’m a little reluctant to spend the money as the accuracy of mine is already decent……..just like in the article, .5 to .6″ consistently.
Update on the accuracy. I had the rifle glass bedded and the accuracy improved markedly. Using Federal GM Match with the Sierra MK 168 gr bullets 4 consecutive three shot groups at 100 yards measured .442″, .372″, .195″ and .129″ Went to 200 yards and was getting consistent groups of .75″
I haven’t yet tried to improve on this with handloads. I have many, many Lapua D46 bullets both in 170 gr and 185 gr and a decent number of Lapua Palma brass (small rifle primer used with these). I’m not sure if the rifle will do well with the heavier bullets but I’ll try. I also have some Sierra MK’s 190 gr that I’d love to try. If anyone has experience using heavier bullets with the SSG 69 I’d love to hear about how they did.
I have a 95 short rifle,with Hungarian crest,shoots really good from a rest,love that straight pull.Got lucky a few years ago,when a friend of mine had found two crates of ammo at a gun store,Nazi markings,approximately 2200 rounds in cardboard boxes like I said with Nazi markings year 1938,the wooden crates have German writing,and painted stencil eagle,with leather handles on both ends.Only paid $65.00 for both,now you have a very hard time finding it.Oh by the way only paid $25.00 for the rifle in 2000,in very good condition.Would like to install a rail and scope on it.Keep your powder dry.
I have had a Steyr SSG P1 for a nunber of years now, It came as issued with the Kahles Helios 69 6×42 scope calibrated for the standard Nato 7.62×51 round which uses a 143grain fmj head. The bdc turret has double alignment marks which allow you to use a heavier bullet instead of the standard head, although this scope is calibrated to 800 metres I find that it will adjust beyond that and I regularly use it competitively at 1000yds with a 155gn Lapua Scenar vld, it shoots easily to within 1 minute of angle off a front bag or wrist rest. It has a shotgun style single set trigger which pushes forward to set or can be used as normal, there is no uit style rail under the forend so I’ve fitted it with a qd stud to accommodate a bipod. Drawbacks – I find that the issued scope while spot on for elevation with the right round has limited adjustment for windage being calibrated to 1 centimetre at 100 metres with no click stops, however you can zero this thing very easily by spotting the bullet strike and bringing the German reticule onto it, with practice it can be done in two shots. Some of the ranges in Scotland can have sidewinds which are very tricky, the Kahles isn’t always ideal so I adapted a BRNO one piece mount to fit the SSG it’s not hard to do and it means I have a choice of scope depending on conditions both of them on qd mounts that keep their zero. I could go on about how good the SSG is but I won’t; suffice to say that I’ve won my share with it. Btw it came with the manual (in German) and with a little suprise bonus hidden inside the buttplates this was an Austrian army knife something like the Swiss multi-tool thing but with sideplates in the same Green plastic as the stock and bearing the Austrian two headed eagle insignia (nice). Good article Joe; just one thing though, you missed the Enfield L42 issued to the Brits in 1970 – Enfield action, box mag; heavy barrelled tack driver in 7.62 nato easily capable of sub moa accuracy. Oh and I’m a fan of the 700 I would give my eyeteeth to get hold of an m40….Cheers
I’d take the Rem anyday as long as it’s a SSG.
The company listed sells about the best chamber guide you’ll find for the SSG. Mine came just a tad too tight but with a little sandpaper work it fit perfectly. It will keep out any solvent used in cleaning from dripping onto the plastic parts. Cleaning solvent is claimed to be the culprit that results in the plastic trigger guard becoming brittle and cracking.
I laughed all the way through this article. I am on my 2nd SSG. What I allways enjoyed, was taking it out of the case and guys saying WHOA! Then the Butt kicking would start.
Guess mine is a rare bird with the Walnut stock. Thought I missed out by not getting the Cycolac stock but the wood on this one is beautiful. Measured set trigger pull at 1.9-2 ounces. People think I’m full of BS. Oh Well ! It’s my favorite, even over my full autos.
My SSG is so awesome I just can’t get tired of it. Currently I’m shopping for a new scope. Has anyone out there mounted a Leupold 4 x 14 50mm LR/T? If so which rings work. My current 30mm rings are medium height. Don’t know if they’ll work or if I need high rings.
The SSG 69s I’ve seen on GB lately are being given away IMHO!
Ken, thanks for your load data.My SSG LOVES the Lapua D46 in both 185 and 170 grn versions. Also you mention the Lapua brass. It’s worth every penny of what you pay!
Are there any other types out there that put this one to shame? I’d like to know so I could buy one!
I don’t think there are many that compare for the price. And at that, even the reviews I’ve read on the $5k+ rifles don’t impress me with consistently better accuracy or better triggers. Considering what the ones sell for on GB I’m tempted to buy a second one!
I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it!
Have you found one yet? If not try a company called Talley Manufacturing.com they are highly recommended by people who has experience with this. If you are still interested in up grading to a larger more powerful scope I think they can help. Good luck.
I ended up finding a Picatinny rail accessory that Steyr offered. Mounts right onto the dovetail on the receiver.
Using just medium height mounts the 56mm Nightforce NXS fits perfectly and I had a set of these rings laying around.
Regarding your comment on the accuracy potential of hammer forged barrels vs button rifling, I could not agree more! There are so many factors that affect the accuracy of any rifle that finding perfection is a constant challenge. Perhaps the barrels used by benchrest shooters simply are button rifled and there is no way to compare that method to a hammer forged benchrest barrel! We’ll never really know but one thing is for sure, the SSG 69 is one package that is tough to beat on a regular basis unless you’re willing to up the ante considerably and even then external factors could influence any testing.
A very useful review of this interesting rifle with good historical background. But I am surprised by the characterisation of Ferdinand Mannlicher (b.1848 d.1904) as “the John M. Browning of his era.” I would suggest that John M. Browning (b.1855 d. 1926) was the John M. Browning of his era.
Here is a manual I found online for the SSG 69s. Hope its useful to you.
SSG 69 – VERY RARE WOODEN STOCK
A “hens teeth” stock for an SSG. Only 300 or so were ever made and are hugely sought after. Only 3 makers hand carved these stocks, and this one was made by the chap who only made the 75 best ( arguably) . The stock is perfect and unblemished.
I own a PIIK with a 1k round count thus far (yes, I keep a log). It has the 6×40 Kahles fixed power, post and horizontal line scope. I have zeroed it so that the exact top of the post is for 100m, the point where the post would connect (if it were longer) with the horizontal line is 200m. I have used the BDC function and it works perfectly for me.
This is my only .308.
I have used this gun for 20 years after purchasing it new. It resides in a Pelican gun case along with a bore guide and solid cleaning rod, spare 20 round box of ammo, three mags and a small pair of Nikon binos.
It is the perfect gun for me – I use it for coyotes (out to 600 yards) and it works perfect with Federal 168gr BTHP Match rounds. (I don’t save the hides).
I have three 5 round mags for it (the legal limit for center fire rifles used for hunting in Oregon). One in rifle, two in my vest. Love the balance, have the trigger adjusted perfectly for me.
This gun shoots .5 inch groups at 100 meters all day long.
Had to switch my Leopold 1000 range finder to “meters” from yards for hunting.
Love it, love it, love it.
Can you please tell me something about my rifle…22-250 REM STEYR MANNLICHER MOD. L double triggers with 8×56 Schmidt and Bender scope…how old is the rifle, what year it was produced e.g….I live in Namibia, can’t find any info around here…I inherited the rifle
I’ll be greatfull
Its one of these models:
MODEL L 5.6x50mm, 5.6x57mm, .22-250, .243 WCF, 6mm Rem., or .308 Win. cal., available in carbine (20 in. barrel), rifle (23.6 in. barrel), and heavy barrel (25.6 in. barrel) varmint rifle, double set and single trigger, 5 shot rotary mag., 6.38 lbs. Mfg. 1968-1996.
Model L Carbine same calibers as L rifle, 20 in. barrel with full stock, early models possess a slimmer stock design, 38 1/2 inches overall, approx. 6.2 lbs.
Model L Varmint Rifle same calibers as L rifle, 25.6 in. barrel, two heavy barrel varmint versions with either traditional stock and heavy barrel square forearm vented stock, double set or single trigger, no sights, 7.92 lbs.
Model L Luxus same calibers as L, stock design, magazine, and safety are different from other Steyr-Mannlichers, full or half stock with better checkering, rotary thumb safety, single set trigger, and in-line, non-rotary 3 shot steel magazine, open sights, available in full stock and half-stock versions. Mfg. 1980-1996.
Model L Luxus Carbine (Full Stock) similar to L Luxus rifle, except has full stock and 20 in. barrel. Disc. 1996.
Not sure about the twist rate. It’s either 1 in 12 or 1 in 14. With a 1 in 12 you could use bullets like the Barnes TSX 53 grain for small antelope if the law allows.
How are you, sorry to bother…
I would like to find out something about my rifle
inherited..Serial number 85108.STEYR
MANNLICHER MOD.L .22-250
Rem.double trigger fitted with 8×56 Schmidt &
year were they produce, what’s it worth
today….other markings -ONORM
M3170 STLF3 (INORISI)
Please help me, I can’t find anything. helpful on
the internet or here
I’ll be very thankful
I AM VERY INTERESTED IN BUYING A STEYR SSG P11 WITH 26IN BARREL OR A SSG P11K WITH 20 IN THREADED BARREL AND EITHER WITH A SINGLE TRIGGER OR DOUBLE SET TRIGGER . MY QUESTIONS ARE THESE : WHICH IS BETTER OR MORE WANTED THE SINGLE TRIGGER OR THE DOUBLE SET TRIGGER ? ALSO WHICH IS MORE ACCURATE AT 1,000 YARDS THE 20 IN OR THE 26IN ? IM SURE THE 26 IN BARREL IS BUT I GUESS WHAT IM REALLY ASKING IS THIER REALLY THAT MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE AT THE 1,000 YARD MARK . IS THE 26IN REALLY ALOT BETTER OR JUST ALITTLE BETTER ? BUT MY MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION IS THE DOUBLE SET TRIGGER BETTER OR MORE SAULT AFTER THAN THE SINGLE TRIGGER ? I THINK AS A TARGET RIFLE THE DOUBLE SET TRIGGER IS BETTER BUT IF YOU WHERE A SNIPER THE FASTER SINGLE TRIGGER IS BETTER . ON THE SINGLE TRIGGER WHAT IS THE CREEP OR TRAVEL BEFORE IT FIRES AND PRESSURE IN POUNDS WHEN IT FIRES . ALSO WHEN IT COMES TO RESALE WHICH IS BETTER OR MORE SAULT AFTER ? I HOPE YOU ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE BECAUSE I CAN GET WHAT I THINK IS A GOOD DEAL FOR EITHER ONE AT $1,600 NEW IN BOX BEFORE THEY ARE SOLD . THANKS
RANDAL F: I can’t answer most of your questions, but if you are going to ‘hunt’ with your SSG I’d suggest a single trigger unless you have a VERY long range shot — I have a P-II full length bbl, and double trigger. I find it as accurate as described – for plain ‘hunting’ I’d spend my $$ on a Rem 700 + very good glass, INSIDE of 300 yards there’s no difference, if I stick with ANY high grade 130 grain bullet (HPBT — that’s what she loves, 120 flys everywhere 140 flies everywhere, 130 she’s too happy to move). At 400-500 yards I begin to see a difference, my 1″-2″ groups open up to about 3″-4″ or so. And I attribute that to a standard out of the box trigger set. After about 100 rounds the 700 settled down to a solid rifle with a good point of aim hit group. Beyond 500 yards she’s pretty much of OK for deer if you aim for that ‘sweet spot’ by the front shoulder, you’ll hit it, with enough energy to bring down the deer, but it won’t drop in it’s tracks like it does at say 300 yards, but no good for smaller game like Antelope which tend to stand off farther (one reason they’ve been around since the Mammoth). The SSG, on the other hand, will place the bullet nearly exactly where I aim when I take my time, and still inside what the 700 will shoot ‘standard’. (see below)
I work a lot in and out in the ‘Great Basins and Ranges’ – so for example deer are good with my 700 in 130 gr .270 off the shelf ‘good’ ammo. But for Antelope or when I’m needing a shot across a couple of gullies – I use a Mark 4 Leopold on my SSG (yeah, costs about as much as the rifle, mounts/rings can be had through asking a couple of gun shops – I found mine through a local, small town shop) — The first (‘set’) trigger you pull when you are ranged and scoped in – the second trigger goes off on the ‘Seee . . .. ‘ part of ‘send’. THINK ‘send’ and the bullet has cleared the muzzle – for my SSG I use Horniday match HPBT 168 grain (.308). I can shoot a group that covers an area the size of my thumb at 500 yards consistently, at 800 yards the fault is MINE not the rifle, and the groups are about the size of a 50 cent piece. I can’t group worth crap beyond 850 yards for some reason – groups are in what looks like 6-8-9 inch groups and I want a 1″ at 1K yards so I’m good at 500, and barely OK at 800 yards – like I say it’s ME not the glass or rifle. I did get amazing groups when I shot a few boxes of hand-loads 800 yards shrunk to width of palm, so call that about 5 inches I’d guess.
The second trigger is the trick (for me). no time to flinch, move, waver, have the trigger pull my rifle bbl fractions of a mm off target – So for things like Antelope that – even in the middle of nowhere — stand off a good 300-500 yards I can bounce along doing my work, pull out my SSG, set it up on the ground, rock, or hood of my FWD – and make that long-range (to me) 500+ yard shot – and I can recycle fast enough that if I have someone with a tag who doesn’t mind me using it, take down a second antelope out of the same herd of animals – and yes, the first trigger does slow me down by about 1 second, but that second shot is only 3+ seconds or so away when I line up and wait for that pause in my heart – the second trigger will also help compensate for that – and when he says a couple of ounces, he’s right – I THINK ‘send’ – and before I can finish the word, the bullet has cleared the muzzle and is on it’s way.
Also what he does not point out, with good glass, twilight looks like early evening. I let a friend try it, and I was AMAZED that the flame out of the muzzle was a nearly perfect candle flame shape and nearly NO ‘flash’- I didn’t see gas igniting off to the side of the bbl like I do my 700. That means when hunting in darker conditions — pre dawn, post-sunset — the ‘muzzle flash’ does not do a trick on your eyes – the burnt gas and powder burn in that perfect candle-like flame that doesn’t light up the entire world for 10-20 yards around –
Last piece of advice, the 5 round mag is FAR superior to the 10 round box-mag. I hear NOTHING but grief about the 10 rounder (breaking, a LOT) – and the 5 round mag doesn’t get in the way when you need to ‘level’ your rifle on uneven dirt or rocks.
So, sorry I can’t answer most of your questions, but I can tell you that the double trigger is the best thing to happen to me – EVER in the accuracy of my shooting. I mostly ‘Zen Target Shoot’ – pick a rock out many hundred yards, use ‘Kentucky windage’ to line up my scope – and even a rock the size of my fist, across a couple of ‘ridges’ that predominate the Great Basins and Ranges mountain systems, will get say a two second fly time, and a puff of dirt within inches, or that dead ‘thunk’ you hear and the rock skitters when I’ve hit it.
I’ve had mine for – 10? 15? years and treat her very well – nothing down the bbl except copper coated bullets, cleaning fluid on soft cleaning cloth pushed by wooden dowel to keep the lands pristine. The accuracy with the double set trigger system (twin set) is even better than some of the fancy ones I’ve used on custom .30-06’s, .270’s. .243’s – and other .308’s (by mm or inch) — so for ME, the double set trigger makes ALL the difference in the world – even off-hand, I can still hold a pretty good solid point of aim, but that ‘think and she fires’ feature can still give me a 3 finger group at 500 yards (slow fire).
Hope this helps – and like I said, inside 300 yards, a Rem 700 give ME about the same results as the SSG-II. It may have helped that the bbl out of the box when all I had to do was slip the ‘always zero’ come-with-the-rifle scope was a sub .25 MOA — I was off the 10 ring by about 1.5 rings at 100 yards, but my group was .5 inches for the first two mags, then settled into about one hole, that was about the size of my little fingernail. And that was with what I considered a ‘crappy’ scope – I just didn’t like the huge area in the reticle, when I got my Leopold and a Night Force mounted, I was happier since I had each calibrated to MOA’s so I could think less and the scope matched what I saw with my spotter scope – now I simply use a range finder if I need one. But that hair-trigger is what makes all the difference in the world – and it helps you get on target, not take your eyes off the target, and when the point of impact is there think ‘now’ and before you finish the thought, the recoil is about gone and you can reacquire your target and watch through your scope (or take the time to rack a second round) and see the bullet hit. A small joy, but with age small joys become far more important than the big ones.
I love my set trigger. Like you say just think “send” and boom! It’s almost like cheating because it kinda takes the trigger pull aspect of good marksmanship out of the equation.
Unset mine breaks at 2#s
As far as accuracy past 800 yards a book by Anthony Ciricione, Long Range Precision Rifle. I have the 2013 book and just received the newer one, Expanded Edition, 2015. Tons of info especially on shooting at 800 yards and even beyond 2000…….not with the 308 however LOL
He does F Class with a 308 and mentioned that the 190 gr SMK is the bullet of choice for many shooters. However the Steyr SSG 69 has a barrel twist of 1 in 12 which may or may not properly stabilize it. Using the Berger twist rate calculator it’s marginally stable at 2600 fps mv but on their scale it’s close to being “comfortably stable” My SSG has the longer barrel so I should be able to coax out that mv. It’s under the ballistics heading on the Berger website. You enter bullet length, weight, BC, etc and push “calculate” EZ to use
Anyway I’d suggest that book. About $25 from Amazon
RANDALL F: — for what it’s worth – a few years ago I was doing some reading on the SSG-69 PII (like mine) — didn’t say single or double trigger set – but the article DID mention two things worth repeating with the proviso that this WAS from the Web, and while the article and web site are no longer in memory – but did have a credible source (I’m an academic so I kind of pay attention to that, but can be wrong) – this MAY be just ‘internet lore’ – but it was talking about rifles used by ‘insurgent ‘ groups in Latin America (maybe S. America, Bolivia/Peru?) or perhaps in SE Asia (eg Burma/Miramar) — but it mentioned two things you might be interested in since you seem to be into ‘sniper stuff’ — the SSG-69 P-II (over the P-1, though no reason was given that I recall) – .308 (7.62) cal. was trading on the ‘black market’ at 1 SSG-69 for 5-8 depending on condition and what-evers USMC M40’s. So for some reason the older SSG had the higher value in areas where you know there was rough treatment of the rifle.
Also it mentioned that one sniper on a hill top over looking a village square (in what ever country) shot beyond it’s ‘kill’ range. I want to say that the line of sight range was stated as being ‘close to 1.5 miles’, but can’t confirm that even from my memory – the one thing that sticks out in my mind is that ‘several’ people had head shots where the bullet was stopped by the bone – so only part of the bullet was inside the brain. Thus some were ‘kills’ others were just brain-damaged at best – but that is a testimony to what a good shooter with good glass can do with a .308 at a VERY long range where the foot-pounds of energy delivered to the target was SO low that the bullet would not penetrate the bone – and “many people suffered from ‘low to moderate’ gun shot wounds to various parts of the body.” (paraphrase from memory, not a quote). Being a Corpsman in ‘Nam, that can mean nearly anything – from a bullet barely grazing someone, to a ‘pull the bullet out because if you dab the blood you can see it’.
Don’t forget that over half of that ‘equation’ is the person using the firearm – AND the ‘glass’ that the person is using to pick the point of impact’ – but the rifle did trade 1 SSG for 5-8 M40’s — and that, by itself, should tell you something. But remember, IN GENERAL – a ‘Tactical’ rifle is more accurate than a ‘sniper’ rifle because the ‘sniper rifle’ has to be able to take the abuse of a battlefield – and a ‘Tactical’ rifle can be built with VERY fine tolerances (read: accuracy) because it doesn’t need to be protected from being thrown around, beat upon (think close-quarters combat) or subjected to weeks of dirt, dust, mud, water, heat, etc. Slap a 1903-A3 around and hear it rattle. Yet that rifle sure can be accurate, and a .303 is THE longest used battle rifle EVER made – it still finds use (I am told) in ‘close range’ ‘sniper’ roles in Iraqistan. I heard that as a rumor from an Afgahan Vet so it’s just a rumor. Though he swears he’s seen it used in such a role. And the .303 rattles like a snake all the time. Tighten up the parts so they fit well, and you have a better rifle (in general) – So there you have it – but remember you can buy a couple of VERY good ‘Tactical’ rifles for the cost of a SINGLE SSG — WITHOUT GLASS – and Glass can cost the price of the rifle or more. You can’t shoot what you can’t see.
ALSO CAN THE SINGLE TRIGGER AND DOUBLE SET TRIGGER BE SET FOR TRIGGER PULL AND TRAVEL BY A SCREW LIKE MY SAVAGE 12 FTR AND CZ 750 SNIPER RIFLE OR BY SOME OTHER MEANS ? THANKS AGIAN
I have yet to find a place that sells the 2-set triggers and the 10 shot mag…. Can anyone help?
And Randall F … Stay off CAPS… Just say “NO”
Back in the late ’70 or early 80’s Don Wood, then owner of GunSouth, Had 10 Steyrs in 308 made with special scopes and drop cases to compete in trying to get the sniper contracts with army and marines. Does anyone know anything about these? He had the whole gun, scope, extras and drop case on sale for $10,000. He did not get the contract Probably done deal with Remington at the time. Just wondered what happen to them?
I was a municipal LE sniper in a moderately-sized major university city and I utilized a 69 Match, which had a much faster twist rate, being made for UIT long-range shooting. I still have not seen another one out there. If anyone can bring me up-to-speed about the Match, please contact me. My duty rifle had been seized from a citizen who lost mental control and it sat in a SWAT (SRT) locker for years. Upon getting onto SRT, I was told to go dig out a rifle. The team had two new PSS packages that had full-length barrels, but they were spoken for. When I went to retrieve one of the older, wooden stock .223 PSS’s I saw the muzzle of the 69 sticking up out of a sock. I immediately knew that it was a 69. It was Magnum’s rifle (remember that episode?). I asked and learned about it and I was able to send it off to GSI in Georgia, the firm that did Steyr repairs at the time. They rebuilt it and performed a few recall actions on it. It came back essentially new and they said that the barrel was 99%, so I had a new 69 essentially.
I got it back and took that gun to five sniper schools and it always got attention from snipers and instructors who knew rifles. It was balls accurate with 168g GMM. Then, one day at a school in ’99, it wouldn’t hold anything less than 2-MOA. The instructor blamed me. Having shot a whole hell of a lot of rounds in my lifetime up to then, I felt it wasn’t me and we inspected it closely. The magazine/trigger assembly had more than ten cracks in it and it adversely affected the accuracy, as you could see the plastic flexing as you bolted the gun. The cracks would open up as the stock flexed under the action of bolting the gun into battery. GSI rebuilt it, for free, but it was too late. I had used very aggressive action cleaners on it and destroyed the plastic components. Ignorance on my part killed the parts. The bosses learned of the issues and I was forced to retire that gun, in favor of a new-then LTR. With burned-in barrels the LTR shot like a champ too, but it just didn’t have the sexy feel of the 69. If I could find that rifle now, I’d pay a fortune for it. Instead, CDNN has threaded models, but not in my baby’s green stock, so I will pull out the airbrush and Duracoat. That was my favorite firearm of all during my LE career. It just kicked ass and I felt like a sniper when I carried it.
These rifles are incredible. Get one if you can and you will be amazed what they can do.
Stay safe and happy…. Jim in Florida
I have an 84 vintage SSG 69 with double set triggers and a Nightforce 5.5 x 22 scope.
Using Federal Match King 168 grn ammo I shot 4 consecutive 3 shot groups.
Average was .291″. Smallest was .127″ and largest .442″
I had the green stock rebedded and these were the results.
When set the trigger breaks at about 2 oz. Almost cheating! Set it and touch the front trigger and BANG!
I’m interested to see what it does with handloads using Lapua D46 bullets, 170s and 185s
I remember that Magnum PI episode. He was going to take a shot at some N Vietnamese officer but couldn’t pull the trigger. I have all 8 seasons of Magnum PI on DVD. They’re fun to watch! I think my favorite episode is Can You See The Sunrise, a double episode, and at the end he does shoot a Russian who tortured and killed POWs. Used his Colt 1911 I believe.
I can’t believe that I missed your reply three years ago, almost to the day. I TOTALLY loved Magnum PI and even Simon and Simon that came on after it on Thursdays. Everytime I hear that intro music and see that Hughes 500 T-Tail go into a dive it does something to me. My old baseball coach use to play that intro music as our team would hit the field at the beginning of a game and it would just pump us up.
Who would know that a show like that could have such long-term effects. That episode was absolutely fantastic and indeed their best. The last two seasons brought back real writing.
I envy you having all the seasons. Regards and stay both safe and happy.
Jim in Florida
I have two ssg 69’s, one a .308, the other a .22-250. Both rifles five round magazines failed at the clear plastic rear cover, that holds the mag latch secure. I also had two others that failed similarly, in the factory steyr packaging, never in a rifle. Additionally, the .308 trigger guard cracked at the front screw. Steyr did replace the magazines, and sent replacement trigger guards with the reinforcement inserts. To date none of these have failed. I was scrupulous in keeping solvents off these parts. It was just bad plastic. To Steyrs credit, they stood behind the rifles. Otherwise the performance of both has been excellent. I do wish there was a replacement trigger guard, that converted to a steel box, instead of the factory plastic rotary magazine.
They make a metal replacement trigger guard mag assembly for the SSG69
It’s set up to use AI mags instead of Styer mags. I think the cost is about $600 and includes a mag. I’d pop for it since my SSG69 last four 5 shot groups averaged .291″ including one at .129″. Plus I have 4 good 5 rd mags and a replacement trigger guard.
Hope this helps. The only other alternative is knowing someone with a CNC machine who is willing to break federal laws and make you a trigger guard modeled on your plastic arms.
Apparently Styria sells their replacement parts to the numerous police and military units that still use the rifle.
How does one order the replacement? It’s in German.
Your computer should allow for translation. Send an email and they’ll respond in English with an order form
They sell extra AI mags also.
Can’t do the translation bit on my iPhone 5 but can on my laptop.
Send him an email and he’ll respond
Cost at the time
359 or 369 euros depending upon 5 or 10 rd mag
Extra AI mags are about 70 euros
Shipping and customs total 90 euros.
I’d get one 5 for hunting or shooting off a bench and two 10s
I think that totals about 590 euros deld. So roughly $750. Considering what the plastic Steyr mags cost, its a fair price if your SSG is a shooter.
Many thanks…I also have a PIV. Same trigger housing correct?
I’m not the guy to ask on that.. Ask Styria.
The Styria website translated from German says it’s what Americans call “drop in”
Can’t imagine the PIV is different than the P1
Not sure Ask Styria
In the mid 80’s New Zealand Police evaluated the SSG69 PII (with other rifles) when looking for a replacement for the Parker Hale Model 82 sniping rifle which was being used by the Special Tactics Group marksmen. The Steyr shot extremely well until one day on the range the 100 metre zero on the test rifle suddenly dropped 65 mm (about 2 1/2 inches). Initially we couldn’t figure out why but it had rained heavily whilst we were on the range and the ammunition we were using had got wet. We did some experimenting and found that when firing wet ammunition in the Steyr SSG (we had 3 SSG’s for evaluation) the zero would always consistently drop 65mm. The groups were still very tight but you basically had a dry and wet zero for the rifle. We contacted Steyr about this issue and they were initially dismissive. However we eventually demonstrated this aberration to some Steyr salesmen who were talking to NZ Army about adopting the Steyr AUG. That made them sit up and take notice ! They eventually got back to us and explained the reason for the drop in zero was due to two factors. The fact the bullet case had water on it prevented it from adhering to the inside of the chamber (you can’t compress water). Consequently only the bolt was holding the round in place when it fired. The fact the SSG had a rear locking bolt meant that without the round adhering to the chamber there was a fraction of a mm (inch) movement of the bolt which changed the head spacing of the round, which resulted in the change in zero. Steyr’s advice to remedy the situation was to keep our ammunition absolutely dry. Good advice but given NZ’s ‘ pluvial ‘ climate not very practical. Consequently we ended up adopting the Accuracy International. Pity, as the SSG was a really nice rifle to shoot (as long as the weather was dry !).
That is very interesting and neat to know. I was operational with an SSG-69 II for just over five years as a municipal police officer in Florida. I never once deployed with it in rainy conditions and I only trained with it twice in foul weather, but the rifle and ammunition were under a poncho, so that was never my experience. Imagine having to take a hostage shot in rain and not knowing that. It could have been catastrophic.
My particular unit was seized from a long-range competitive shooter and in pristine shape, except that it wasn’t recognized for what it was and it was left in a locker, free-standing and unprotected, which likely led to its stock and magazine well receiver group, which was a very hard plastic, cracking and separating some. It wouldn’t hold a group for anything, until GSI in Georgia performed recall work on it and it became the hit of any and all sniper schools I attended with it.
It’s the original and it’s still a sexy gun.
The ‘water issue’ still didn’t stop me buying one of the SSG trial rifles (complete with Khales ZF69 scope) when they went up for auction at the end of the evaluation !
I have since lugged it around on various hunting down to the Southern Alps hunting Thar and Chamois and it never missed a beat – however a combination of its weight and my dodgy knees mean it is now confined to the occasional long range shooting competition where it still shoots like a champion.
I recall we were carrying out the evaluation with the NZ Army School of Infantry at their training ground in Waiouru (pronounced Why-u-roo) and the change in zero situation caused a lot of head scratching amongst the experts until we finally got the answer.
Reloading data? Not sure which folder it’s in. I’ll look.
That said, try getting your stock glass bedded. Cheaper than a McMillan. My groups were cut in half!
Federal Premium 168 grn SMKs
I don’t know how I could improve on 1/4” groups handloading.
There is a very nicely crafted anodized aluminum trigger guard/magwell for the SSG 69. We’re looking for anyone interested in purchasing for the next batch order. See details at the bottom of page 6 here: https://www.snipershide.com/shooting/threads/any-interest-in-steyr-ssg-69-aluminum-trig-guard.104687/page-6
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What a great article even 10 years later, thanks so much for the work! I just got a SSG 69 with set trigger handed down from my Dad. Very lightly used. It has the original Kahles 6 x and mounts. I’m really tempted to put on some more modern and powerful optics for fun at the range and maybe some deer/elk, I’d guess mostly within 400 yards. Any recommendations for a scope that matches well with the SSG?