The Bullpup rifle, designed with the magazine and action behind the pistol grip, seems like an excellent solution to the constant military demands of shorter, and lighter. But, after decades of service in major militaries, the verdict is still out on bullpups. Why should that be?
The Steyr AUG, an Austrian acronym for universal army rifle, burst on the scene in the 1970s, and seemed poised to finally give the bullpup its day in the sun. It was short, light, fully modular for different tasks, and had superb handling characteristics. Adopted by the Austrian army and a number of other militaries around the world, the civilian semi-auto version of the AUG hit a snag, when in 1994, the Clinton Assault Weapon Ban was passed.
Recently, the latest generation of Steyr AUGs is the A3 Semi-Auto, is once again available in the American market, and selling extremely well.
One of the longest serving bullpups is the French FAMAS, adopted in 1978 and still in use. Oddly, and perhaps very French, although the FAMAS is in NATO Standard 5.56, the action will only function with steel-cased French ammo. Thus, negating the whole idea of a single ammo for NATO forces. France is currently considering a new rifle.
The Israeli Tavor, the Hebrew name for Mount Tabor in northern Israel, is the standard military issue for the Israeli Defense Forces. The bullpup went through an impressive multi-year evaluation before its adoption in 2003. Designer, Zalman Shebs, was specifically looking to design a carbine more suited to urban combat than the M4 platform.
Because of the semi-auto Tavor’s tremendous popularity with American civilians in its first year of introduction, aftermarket trigger manufacturers, such as Timney and Geissele, are addressing the bane of bullpups: the long, clunky triggers.
Every few years, savvy gun writers announce that the bullpup’s time has finally come. Maybe that time has come. Or, maybe not. Only time and battles will tell.
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