Testing a firearm is a lot like getting to know someone. The longer one spends with it, the more acquainted one becomes. Steyr Arms let Law Enforcement Technology test its Steyr Elite for about a year. Firing hundreds of rounds through it, testers gathered a significant amount of data in a variety of weather conditions, shooting the rifle hot and cold. The rifle was even entered into a benchrest competition. By the time testing concluded, testers knew the Steyr Elite intimately -- this is a rifle worth knowing.
The Steyr Elite is a medium-weight law enforcement precision rifle with a hammer forged match barrel, one of the longest, most usable picatinny rails in the business and a unique synthetic stock. The Steyr Elite has features similar to the Mannlicher Scout, designed after Col. Jeff Cooper's "Scout Concept" rifle.
Steyr Arms Inc. entered the firearms industry while military arms were still being loaded from the muzzle. Founded in 1864, Steyr Mannlicher provided one of the first military bolt-action rifles and autoloading pistols in the industry. Both patents are more than 100 years old, preceding the 1900s. Currently, Steyr Mannlicher has a commanding presence in two markets: sporting firearms under Steyr Mannlicher, and firearms manufactured exclusively for law enforcement under Steyr Arms Inc.
Where the Scout is 6.6 pounds, the Steyr Elite is 9.1. Placed on a bench at 200 yards, it holds stable like a 13-pound benchrest rifle. The synthetic stock proves effective in dampening vibrations. When allowed to recoil freely, the rifle directs its energy straight back, rather than causing the muzzle to rise.
Materials and profiles
The stock is made of a stippled non-reflective material. Several anchor points for sling swivels are included, one can simply push them into the spring-loaded anchor points and twist lock. There is a central rail underneath the barrel that can hold standard rifle fixtures like a tripod or a window mount.
The Elite has a easily recognizable profile, due to the fully adjustable stock. The cheekpiece is adjustable for height, using a large thumbscrew. The buttplate adjusts for length of pull and offset. This feature doesn't just allow the rifle to fit anyone, it accommodates the full range of shooting positions for any build. If anything was to be changed about this stock, testers would have put clicks in the adjustments.
The five-round box magazines fit into a recess in the stock, unlocking by a squeeze on both sides -- 10-round magazines are optional. During tests, magazines fed reliably and functioned smoothly, providing excellent fire continuity. The ejection port is too small for single feeding, which is unnoticeable due to the magazine design.
The Elite comes with an integrated bipod. If this was not illustrated in the manual, no one would know. It flips out readily and stows invisibly, using clever recessed levers. Testers rarely used it, the rifle was steady enough for a clean shot but deliberate positions called for sandbags. If needed, the bipod is there, however, they were ideal for keeping the bore steady for cleaning.
Parts and ammunition
The bolt throw is about 90 degrees, which is a fairly wide arc compared to similar bolt action rifles. It has the signature gearshift-like bolt knob with a tapered bolt cap and two-lug bolt. The lugs have a center channel machined to add additional locking surface. What sets it apart are the features designed to protect the shooter from overpressure. Steyr not only over-engineered the rifle, it appears a channel was designed to redirect gases in case of cartridge failure.
The extractor is a pivoting type with an unusual loop spring that holds it in place. It looks similar to extractors on the latest model handgun, with the fulcrum set back a little further into the action. Testers attempted to stress it by reloading the same fired brass dozens of times. After hundreds of law enforcement cartridges, they came to the conclusion that this rifle will extract any cartridge reliably. Additionally, whether one worked the bolt -- quickly or slowly -- it always felt smooth.