|Rogak P-18, Steyr GB|
|Place of origin||Austria|
|Used by||See Users|
|Designer||Hannes Kepplinger and Hermann Schweighofer|
|Manufacturer||LES, Inc., Steyr Mannlicher|
|Number built||LES, Inc.: 2,300
|Variants||Rogak (stainless steel), Steyr commercial and military (matte blue)|
|Weight||845 g (unloaded)
1285 g (loaded)
|Barrel length||136 mm|
|Feed system||18-round detachable box magazine|
The Steyr GB, is a double-action 9×19mm Parabellum caliber, large-framed semi-automatic pistol employing a gas-delayed blowback action. It was designed in 1968, intended as a replacement for older handguns in Austrian military service.
The weapon went into general civilian production in 1982, and in 1988 production ceased.
Both weapons are now regarded as collector's items, the original (Steyr) model commanding higher prices in the American market.
The original design introduced numerous novel features never before combined in a handgun: double-action mechanism (without safety); a gas-bleed delayed-blowback system; fixed barrel (that theoretically yields greater accuracy); polygonal rifling; and a reduced number of working parts. To this list the Rogak variant added newly-fashionable stainless steel construction, but despite the list of new features - or because of it - the Steyr design did not prosper in the USA any better than in its country of origin.
Steyr's expectations of an Austrian military contract were upset with the victory of the Glock 17, which won military trials despite the novelty of its extensive employment of large high-strength polymer components. In 1983 the US military pistol competition, in which the Steyr GB competed, was won by the Beretta M92F, and Steyr decided to re-focus on the police and civilian market.
In summary, it seems that while much appreciated by those users who are familiar with and trained in the use and care of the weapon, and well received by customers who appreciated and understood the mechanism, the reality seems to be that as the weapon was intended to be a robust, accurate functional weapon when used with standard military (full metal jacket) ammunition, civilian sales remained low - while the anticipated major official (police) sales never materialized.
(In general terms, the American military's selection of the Beretta 92F, coupled with European military and police forces' selection of the competing Sig Sauer 226 full-size and 228 compact high-capacity pistols (the latter adopted by the US Army as the M11) led to a cessation of manufacture of the Steyr GB in 1988, after a total production of between 15,000 and 20,000 pistols - most of them commercial models. Of the military models, 937 examples were exported to the United States.)
In the early 1970s, Morris and Michael Rogak, a Steyr importer, received a set of preliminary engineering plans for, and established a factory to produce, the new pistol under license.
The reception of the American-manufactured version was close to entirely negative. Anecdotal accounts, including customers (for both weapons) returning them to dealers were as follows:
Among other reasons, some asserted that the polygonal rifling (a development of the oval-bore Lancaster pattern, first publicized at the Great Exhibition of 1851, later developed into the polygonal barrel proposed in 1853 by Sir Joseph Whitworth, and patented in 1854) was a manufacturing defect - while others criticized the cosmetic finish (particularly of textured, non-slip surfaces), the fact that propellant gasses exited at the muzzle, (a necessary feature of a gas-delay system that depended on gas pressure in a sealed space between barrel and slide until the bullet exited and blowback forces were reduced to safe levels), and the absence of familiar features such as ejectors and extractors that had been eliminated by the basic design.
It later emerged that the basic design could accommodate wide variations in military ammunition - a feature inherited from the gas-delayed blowback system intended to cope with late wartime difficulties in the ailing Nazi munitions system. Nonetheless, whether there was no perceptible difference between ammunition formulations or when experimenters tried reloading slow-burning revolver powders, the weapons refused to cycle; doubts regarding the 'muzzle blast' and the absence of extractor and ejector were blamed.
Despite having maintained an enviable reputation for reliability and consistent performance in Austria, the consensus opinion was formed that the design was flawed - rather than that it was ill-suited to the purpose of experimenters who were focused on creating hand-made ammunition. In consequence, despite finding favor among professionals (including members of the US military who appreciated an accurate, robust, reliable weapon that would function in the face of inconsistent ammunition quality) the reputation of the pistols never recovered from the drubbing received at the hands of enthusiasts, and this polarization is still evident in online-sources.
Both versions of the weapon were variously dismissed as useless by hobbyists, respected by professionals, and valued by collectors.
Commentary from a seemingly widely ignored constituency, namely those American shooting pundits who actually test-fired the novel weapon using standard ammunition (as opposed to the other way around) observed that the Steyr GB had remarkably low perceived recoil for a pistol of its caliber, and that it was commendably accurate and reliable. Based on these reactions, it is reasonable to say that while generally well-received, a lack of government endorsement (in the form of large-scale orders) meant the design was properly understood only by those service personnel who were trained and experienced, or the minority who took the trouble to research the weapon and then employ it for its intended purpose.
The Steyr GB is a semi-automatic, blowback-operated firearm. It features a unique gas-delayed blowback locking system (the Barnitzke system), first used in the Volkssturmgewehr 1-5, and subsequently in the Swiss Pistole 47 W+F (Waffenfabrik Bern) prototype pistol.
The Barnitzke system uses gas pressure from the ignited cartridge and feeds it through a small port in the barrel in front of the chamber to retard the rearward motion of the slide. This is accomplished by means of a fixed piston formed by the outside of the barrel, inside a moving cylinder formed by the inside of the slide, that opposes the rearward motion of the slide until the gas pressure has declined — after the bullet has left the barrel — thereby allowing the slide to continue its rearward motion, opening the breech and ejecting the empty cartridge case.
- Lebanon: Police forces
- Pakistan: Police forces
- USA: United States special operations forces (US SOF)
- Arsenal P-M02—another pistol using the Barnitzke system
- Heckler & Koch P7—another pistol using the Barnitzke system
- Grossfuss Sturmgewehr—using the Horn system, more efficient than Barnitzke's
- Fjestad, S. P. (1992). Blue Book of Gun Values (13th ed.). Minneapolis, Minn.: Blue Book Publications. ISBN 0-9625943-4-2.
- Gangarosa, Gene, Jr. "Steyr's GB; Too Good Too Soon?". Originally published in: Warner, Ken (1993). Gun Digest 1994 (48th ed.). Northbrook, Il.: DBI Books. ISBN 0-87349-141-6.
- Popenker, Max R. (June 29, 2010). "Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr VG.1-5 rifle (Germany)". Modern Firearms. Retrieved July 29, 2010.
- Hogg, Ian V.; John Walter (2004). Pistols of the World (4th ed.). Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. p. 45. ISBN 0-87349-460-1. OCLC 56714520.
- Popenker, Max R. "Steyr GB (Austria)". Modern Firearms. Retrieved July 29, 2010.
- Hogg, Ian V.; John Walter (2004). Pistols of the World (4th ed.). Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. p. 329. ISBN 0-87349-460-1. OCLC 56714520.