I consider myself a pretty good marksman, but it took only a few hours in an abbreviated sniper shooting class to face an ugly reality. I could be better, a lot better. Apparently, some of the rifles I wrote off as dogs were innocent victims of habits I'd accumulated in decades of hunting—unconscious, accuracy-compromising leftovers.
Those thumb-wrapping, fore-end pressured nuances return every time I shoulder a hunting rifle, but put a stout, bipod-mounted gun chambered in.308 Win. in my hands, and everything becomes crystal clear. Such was the experience with the new Steyr Elite 08.
At 13.7 pounds naked, this rifle's primary mission is obvious. It even comes with the additional weight of a 1.2-pound foldable Versa-Pod—with spring-loaded adjustable legs and quick-detach mount. For accuracy testing, I mounted a Leupold VX-7 2.5-10x45 mm scope. I didn't bother weighing the scope, because by now if you don't get my point you need to put down this magazine and renew your subscription to TV Guide. Like a good beer, this rifle is stout and designed to really hit the spot.
The two-stage trigger on the Elite 08, which the company terms a direct trigger, is a delight. The manual warns, "The weapon has been factory-set to optimal trigger characteristics. Thus, the shooter need not perform any changes or adjustment." Oddly, right under that entry, the locations of two adjustment screws, which are recessed in the trigger, are disclosed. One adjusts take up and the other let-off weight. As shipped,the test rifle's trigger pull was a crisp31⁄4 pounds.
The 23.6-inch, free-floated barrel has a diameter of slightly more than 3⁄4 inch. Although the barrel sports a racy-looking, flat-stainless finish, it ends with a black muzzle brake. In testing, the weight combined with the brake proved extremely effective in mitigating recoil.
On the other end an aluminum folding stock allows for compact storage and transportation. This stock and its locking mechanism are built for years of maintenance-free abuse. It positively locks into position and there is no instability, shake, wobble, rattle or roll.
To ensure positive cheekweld, the cheekpiece can be raised up to 1 7⁄8 inches and numbers on the stock make it easy to return the rifle to its original configuration. The buttpad is also adjustable to suit clothing, a shooter's physique or optic height.
No sights come with the rifle, but the factory-mounted 16-inch Picatinny rail on top made installation of the Leupold a breeze. If you need more gear, there's a 43⁄4-inch rail on the left side available, and another 2 incher is on the right is just the right size for your iPhone. Both can be easily moved for and aft on the stock.
Overall length is 45 inches, but with the stock folded it squats to 37 1/4 inches. The pistol grip is comfortable and has a small compartment underneath for storing spare batteries or small items that have a tendency to disappear at the worst possible moment.
Operation was smooth and the bolt ends in a very nice contoured shroud designed to keep dirt and dust invasion to a minimum. A small indicator protrudes at the rear of the bolt when the gun is cocked, giving a shooter both a visible and tactile means of checking condition. A three-position safety also allows the bolt to be locked closed, in addition to its more traditional functions. To remove the bolt, which has four locking lugs, you must close it, squeeze the trigger, unlock the bolt and rotate the safety to the bolt-locking position.
The 10-round magazine has witness holes to check when you're ready for a reload, but it's also my only complaint. In a rifle that sings of heavy-metal toughness, a polymer mag seems like sacrilege—although it loaded with ease.
Regardless, the gun feels and handles like a real precision rifle. It didn't disappoint me at the range, either. There were no malfunctions or failures to fire. Feeding was smooth and effortless, and so was ejection.
It showed a slight preference for Hornady's 155-grain TAP FPD load, averaging .8-inch groups at 100 yards. The tightest group was also produced by this load, although the rifle performed extremely well with all the tested ammunition, regardless of bullet weights that varied from 155 grains to 175.
If you're in the market for a precision rifle, give the Steyr Elite 08 some serious consideration. With my admittedly unpolished skills, did I really witness the rifle's inherent accuracy? Probably not—yet another reason you should take one out for a spin.