I became a fan of the Steyr SSG rifle almost 40 years ago when I got my SSG 69 rifle. At the time, it was generally rated the best sniping rifle in the world, though soon Accuracy International would challenge Steyr for that honor. U.S. Remington and Winchester sniping rifles tuned by military armorers were also very good. But my SSG 69 was great right out of the box.
I shoot it a few times a year and still find it precise. I know military and LE snipers who have shot the barrels out of their SSG 69s. If I remember correctly, they had to be sent back to Steyr in Austria for replacement barrels. That was considered a disadvantage. In my case, I’ve shot a few thousand rounds through my SSG 69 over the years, but the barrel seems fine.
Steyr introduced the SSG 04 about the time I decided to try a .300 Winchester Magnum sniping rifle. The combo proved an excellent choice. Its empty weight of ten pounds, six ounces isn’t bad, and the overall length of 42.6 inches isn’t unreasonable for a .300 Win Mag sniping rifle.
Its eight-round detachable box magazine allows multiple repeat shots. And accuracy has been excellent. I have shot some of the best groups I’ve shot with any rifle using the .300 WM SSG 04.
Since I got the SSG 04, I haven’t tested any other .300 Win Mag rifles, though I have tested more than a dozen other sniping rifles. Some have been in 7.62x51mm NATO and some in .338 Lapua Magnum, but none in .300 WM.
Among the rifles I have tested are Steyr SSG 08s in 7.62x51mm NATO and .338 Lapua. Both are excellent rifles. Their folding stocks make them easier to transport, and the ability to adjust that stock for fit makes them easier to shoot. But the 12-pound-plus weight is a bit much for the 7.62x51mm NATO rifle.
Having said that, when firing prone from the bipod or some type of rest, the heft makes the SSG 08 7.62x51mm steady for the shot. I usually shoot around one MOA with that rifle but have done 1/2 MOA on really good days and often ¾ inch.
The SSG 08 in .338 Lapua Magnum is a big rifle: 27.2-inch barrel, 50 inches overall with stock extended (41.8 inches with stock folded), and 13 pounds, 4 ounces in weight. The barrel length and weight of the .338 LM SSG 08 are appreciated, and with stock folded, the rifle can still be transported readily.
Sling swivels are available, but since this is a long-range precision rifle, transport in a case slung over the shoulder is recommended to prevent jarring the scope out of zero.
A few issues ago, I discussed countersniping and mentioned that the .300 Win Mag has a lot of advantages for this mission. As part of my consideration of the .300 Win Mag’s advantages, I thought testing the SSG 08 in that caliber might be useful. Here are my conclusions.
First, let me mention the scope I chose to maximize the SSG 08 .300 WM. I wanted a variable-power scope that would offer a good field of view at shorter distances but still have the magnification to shoot at 800+ yards.
My choice was one of my favorite optics: the Nightforce F1 3.5-15X50 Zero Stop MD2 C360. I’ve used this scope on other rifles and found that it performs to the level I expect of Nightforce optics: excellently.
Its reticle incorporates see-through dots rather than black mil dots, allowing small targets to actually be ranged through the dots. I especially like the reticle when illuminated, as a red cross-hair is visible, as are the clear mil dots.
At 15X, the field of view is 8.7 feet. Turret adjustments are in .1 MRAD increments (roughly 1/3 inch), allowing precise zeroing. This scope is 14.8 inches overall and weighs 30 ounces, but to maximize a .300 WM rifle, a scope with some length and weight is necessary.
I have used Nightforce scopes on one of my .338 Lapua Magnum rifles for years, so I know that they stand up to recoil. I have also found Nightforce mounts especially sturdy.
Currently, Nightforce offers three 3.5-15×50 NXS scopes designed for a low mounting profile—an advantage on a tactical rifle. These scopes are milspec and have reticles and other features designed for military contracts, but they still offer Nightforce quality and precision. These scopes have superseded the version I used in this review.
The SSG 08 is relatively heavy, but every effort is made to keep weight down. Barrel length is 23.6 inches—a good tradeoff between range and portability.
The folding stock is of Eloxal-coated aircraft aluminum. Eloxal (electrolytic oxidation of aluminum) is a process that converts the aluminum’s surface to a dense oxide layer offering enhanced corrosion resistance. The stock allows the rifle to be fitted to the individual shooter through adjustments of the cheek piece and recoil pad. An adjustable rear monopod permits the rifle to be kept on target for extended periods without fatiguing the shooter. A comfortable pistol grip may be adjusted with interchangeable backstraps.
One of the most useful features of the SSG 08 is its heavy-duty bipod, which provides a much more stable shooting platform than more fragile ones.
A feature I’m used to with Steyr sniping rifles is the Safe Bolt System (SBS) with its roller safety. A shooter new to this system may take a few minutes to get used to the two safe positions, but operation does become instinctive with use.
The SSG 08’s bolt offers a ball that allows rapid manipulation, another feature I like about the SSG rifles.
One Steyr feature I have mixed emotions about is the two-stage magazine locking system. When the magazine is inserted to the first stage, it locks into place but is below the point where rounds can be fed.
The advantage is that this does allow a full ready magazine to be inserted, while specialized rounds can be fed by hand into the chamber. Pushing the magazine past the first locking point lets rounds be fed from the magazine.
Even though I’ve used the SSG 04 and SSG 08 rifles quite a bit, sometimes I still neglect to push the magazine all the way to the second locking point.
Although a rapid reload and re-engagement are rarely necessary with a sniping rifle, when they are necessary, the shooter of an SSG 08 must be certain the magazine is thrust all the way into loading position.
I took 40 rounds of Black Hills 190-grain Match BTHP and 40 rounds of SIG Sauer 190-grain Sierra MatchKing ammo when I shot the SSG 08. Once I had zeroed the Nightforce scope at 200 yards, I fired three 3-shot groups with each load.
Groups ran about one MOA, with the best at 200 yards going into 1 3/8 inches and the worst into 2½ inches. All but one group with each load was two inches or less. I’ve shot one-half MOA with my SSG 04 and have little doubt that with more practice I can do that with the SSG 08.
I also shot a three-shot group with each load at 300 yards. With the SIG Sauer ammo, I managed 3 1/8 inches, and 2¾ inches with the Black Hills load.
The rifle is heavy enough, the muzzle brake is good enough, and the stock/recoil pad combo is comfortable enough that recoil is barely noticeable, certainly no more than with a 7.62x51mm load in a lighter rifle. As I have typically found with Steyr bolt guns, operation of the bolt was very smooth and fast.
There’s a lot to like about the SSG 08. Steyr makes precision rifles, of which the SSG 08 in .300 Win Mag is a perfect example. It’s beautifully crafted and accurate. The buyer will get a quality product.
I would make two points, however. It is heavy for a .30-caliber rifle, and its MSRP is $6,015. An SSG 04, such as the one I’ve been using for over ten years, is lighter and has an MSRP of $2,345.
I believe that the SSG 08 is worth the price for the highly skilled long-range tactical marksman. It is also worth the price to the serious long-range shooter willing to spend the money for one of the finest rifles in the world.
I plan to shoot the SSG 08 to at least 500 yards, but I know I will face a dilemma: Keep my SSG 08 as my only .300 Win Mag sniping rifle, replace my SSG 04 with an SSG 08 .300 Win Mag, or purchase the SSG 08 and keep both of them. I have a feeling the more I shoot the SSG 08 .300 Win Mag, the more tempting choice will be to keep both.
BLACK HILLS AMMUNITION
NIGHTFORCE USA, INC.