Steyr’s SSG-08 .338 LM Sniping Rifle is the tool of choice for counterterror and other special ops units
Story and Photos by Leroy Thompson
A few years ago, I was hired to work on a documentary about the Munich Olympic hostage incident. My job was to look at the incident, walk the ground involved and offer opinions on alternate tactics to rescue the hostages. One thing I discovered was that there had been Steyr SSG69 rifles available to the Bavarian State Police at the time of the hostage incident, so I set up a scenario with the film crew to show how accurately the SSG69 could be used at 100 meters, the longest shot Munich Police had to take during the incident.
And accurate it is indeed.
When the Steyr SSG (Scharfschutzengewehr) was first introduced in 1969, it became the benchmark for sniping rifles for much of the world. Most commonly found in 7.62x51mm NATO caliber and with a 25.6-inch barrel, the SSG69, as the rifle is generally designated, shot ½ -MOA groups right from the factory. More than four decades after its introduction, the SSG69 is still in production and serves as the sniping rifle for many military and law enforcement agencies.
I have an SSG69 with a Swarovski scope, a standard combo used by many foreign military and police units with which I’ve worked. I take it out to the range a couple of times a year to stay familiar with it. It is a great rifle, and the foundation for the newer versions that have followed, including the subject of our test: the SSG-08.
REFINING A WINNER
In what I consider a very sensible marketing move, Steyr has kept the SSG69 in production while also offering improved versions of the basic design. The first of these was the SSG-04, which is available in 7.62x51mm NATO or .300 Winchester Magnum. Combining some features of the SSG69 with those of the Steyr Tactical Scout Rifle, the SSG-4 incorporates a Picatinny rail, adjustable cheek piece and length of pull, and a 10-round magazine capacity (in 7.62 NATO). It retains a heavy match barrel available in either 20 inches or 23.6 inches.
The SSG-04 uses the SBS action, which is designed for extreme safety in the event of a ruptured case. A cold hammer-forged barrel and a single-stage match trigger all combine to create a more modern rifle capable of accuracy equal to that of the classic SSG69.
I have owned two SSG-04 rifles: a 7.62 NATO version with the 20-inch barrel and a .300 Win. Mag. version with the 23.6-inch barrel. Muzzle brakes are available for both calibers, and I found having one on the .300 Win. Mag. especially useful.
I no longer own the 7.62, as I replaced it with the .308 SSG-08. However, I still own the .300 Win. Mag. SSG-04, and despite the fact I write extensively about sniping rifles, their scopes and their ammo, it is the only .300 Win. Mag. I own. It shoots so well (one-third MOA at 300 meters) that I haven’t seen the need for another.
The full version of this article appeared in Gun World’s January 2012 issue.