Safety positions and a test
The three-position safety sits on the center of the stock behind the bolt cap. It's tactile confirmation allowed officers to maintain visual contact with the target at all times. The safety looks like the tuning dial on an old transistor radio with added color coding. Rotated all the way forward, a flag pops up. Pushing the bolt handle down a few degrees then locks the action.
The "safe" position displays the same color, but not the flag. The bolt is unlocked, but the rifle will not fire. For police work, this is ideal. A cartridge can be cycled in and out of the chamber without the risk of firing. When clicked to "fire" the safety displays a red dot.
The Steyr Elite has a heavy bull barrel with subtle spiral fluting and a recessed target crown. It free floated off the stock while the picatinny rail encompassed the top of the barrel all the way to the forend. This had a hidden benefit: The barrel resisted the mirage effect.
The 22.4-inch long and 1/12-inch barrel favored the lighter 165- to 170-grain .308 cartridges, although it had no problem stabilizing heavier rounds. Rather than publish group sizes based on cartridge brand, testers prepared an easily duplicated demonstration: Using a Black Hills 175 GR BT-HP, Federal 165 GR TRU, Hunting Shack Munitions 168 GR Glass Punch and Cor Bon's 168 GR HPBT, testers fired two eight-round groups, two bullets each at 100 yards. The results were both groups could be covered with a quarter. When moved out to 200 yards, multi-brand groups rarely strayed more than 1.25 inches. Throughout the test, the rifle consistently averaged .52-inches at 100 yards and 1.1 at 200 yards. Several sessions produced five-round groups that were only slightly larger than its caliber.
The Elite shows an inherent lack of vertical stringing. The holes appear in a vertical line, rather than a tight radiating group. There are a lot of reasons that would cause vertical stringing, but the most critical for a police precision rifle is when the rifle fails to resist changes in temperature. As the rifle heats up as it is fired, higher temperature causes changes in expansion and flexibility.
If the barrel is of good design and material, temperature has less of an effect. All rifle barrels shoot differently as they heat or cool. The best ones handle this so subtly changes are unnoticeable.
The Steyr Elite easily held the less-than the 2 MOA standard during 40- to 60-round sessions. For example, one 40-round, 20-minute session did show signs of vertical stringing, but the lengthened group still had nearly every bullet touching.
A police precision rifle must be robust enough to survive rigorous training. It must be engineered to shoot consistently, regardless of weather conditions. It must have predictable and repeatable accuracy. Its design, including attached fixtures, must agree with the current training and doctrine of the department.
The Elite can handle prolonged incidents or prolonged training sessions. It is not a product designed to save in production costs. Rather, it is a precision instrument that obviously handles abuse and puts bullets downrange wherever commanded. Do the Law Enforcement Technology testers recommend the Steyr Elite? Yes. In fact, testers rate this rifle in the top 1 percent of tactical rifles worldwide.
Rifle optic testing
It is impossible to test a rifle without reliable optics and accessories. Law Enforcement Technology selected Nikon's Monarch UCC dual illuminated Mildot 6.5-20x44 rifle scope for this test. Testers felt that this scope was perfect for several reasons. First, it has an adjustable objective, which compensates for parallax, beginning at 50 yards. This meant the rifle could be used at the average law enforcement engagement distance and still provide accuracy to extreme distances. Second, it had a mil-dot reticle that could be illuminated either red or green. This guaranteed a high contrast reticle on anything sighted. Third, the one-piece main body tube gave reliable service while testers pounded it with full recoil tactical loads all day long. It was a perfect rudder for the Steyr Elite ship.
The Nikon Monarch UCC Riflescope was mounted on the Steyr Elite using Precision Reflex Inc. tactical rings, designed especially for law enforcement/military use. These rings are two to three times as heavy as hunting rings. Once mounted, the scope becomes a permanent part of the tactical rifle. This is exactly what a police agency needs.